Yoko Kanno

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Yoko Kanno
Born March 18
Occupation(s) Composer, Musician
Years Active 1986–present
Genre(s) jazz, classical, orchestral, electronic, new age, blues, folk, pop, art rock, ambient, post-rock
Website Official Website

Yoko Kanno (菅野 よう子) is a Japanese composer, arranger and musician best known for her work on the soundtracks for many anime films, television series, live-action films, video games, and advertisements. She was born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan on March 18.[1] She has written scores for famous animated works, including Darker than Black, Macross Plus, Turn A Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, The Vision of Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf's Rain, Kids on the Slope, and is the most trusted composer by veteran and new-wave directors such as Yoshiyuki Tomino, Shinichiro Watanabe and Shoji Kawamori.[2] Kanno has also composed music for pop artists, the most notable being Maaya Sakamoto and Kyōko Koizumi. She is also a skilled keyboardist, and is the frontwoman for the Seatbelts, who perform many of Kanno's compositions on the various original soundtracks for which she is responsible.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Professional life[edit | edit source]

Some of Yoko Kanno's most famous soundtrack themes include "Kiseki no Umi" (Lodoss War), "Voices" (Macross Plus), "Tank!" (Cowboy Bebop), "Yakusoku wa Iranai" (Escaflowne), "Gravity" (Wolf's Rain), "Inner Universe" (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex O.S.T. In regards to making the Stand Alone Complex soundtrack she said:

I had this image of a formal and rigid 'manly' world for the original comic. So I tried to think of ways to destroy that world. The theme I had in mind was, 'be human.' It represented the sentiment of 'why don't we take it easy and be more like a human being?'—instead of being a workaholic salaried man working for his company. Or be it Tachikoma wishing to become human. I wanted to express these 'tangible fuzziness,' sort of. For the opening theme song called 'inner universe,' I had an image of digital bits and composed a score consisting of recurrent quick beats.


Having composed in various genres, including blues, classical, jazz, techno, and J-pop, she was once asked if she favored a particular genre:

Ah ... I hear everyone talk about how many genres [I work in] like classical, jazz and others, but personally, I don't divide music by genre when creating. I don't create by saying, 'I must create a classical piece here,' or 'I must create a jazz piece here.' When I create music, I don't consider at all which genre I like best, but what the scene or the anime calls for, like a love [theme] or a mood. There isn't one genre I like more than the others. I find all of them satisfying and all inspire me in different ways.


Since she works in the animation industry, she only receives instructions and storyboards from directors which helps her with composing. However, it is uncertain if all of her works are to be included in the finished project. She once said that this is a way she likes to work, for she does not have to deal with rules during composing.[5] In reference to this, she once stated:

In my case, the creators talk to me and ask me to do a soundtrack a year or two before the animation is finished. At that time, I think of the plot in my brain, when the characters' names—everything about the characters—has not been decided yet. This is even when the title has not be decided yet.


She was the lead member of the project band called Seatbelts, which regrouped in the year of 2004 to compose the soundtrack of the PlayStation 2 Cowboy Bebop video game, released in Japan in 2005.

She has composed for many Koei games released during the late 1980s to early 1990s and for Napple Tale, a Dreamcast game. Due to her close involvement in the Cowboy Bebop anime, the game released by Bandai also features her work.

Apart from anime and games, Kanno also composes for live-action films and television commercials. Some popular brands she has composed for are Canon, NTT DoCoMo, Fuji Xerox, Seven-Eleven, Microsoft, Nissan, Toyota, Shiseido, Avon Products, Inc., and Master Card to name a few. Grand Funk Inc. is her recording studio of choice in producing for these two media. Contributions to films started in the 90s but only since 2002 has there been a trend towards the medium. Most of the latter were shown in international film festivals.

She attended Otakon andAnime Expo in 1999, as well as Anime Expo New York in 2002. In 2010, she made a surprise appearance at Anime Expo. Yoko Kanno performed her solo PianoMe concert at Otakon 2013.[7]

On many of Kanno's tracks, a woman named "Gabriela Robin" was credited as a lyricist and vocalist, but whenever these songs were performed in concert, either Maaya Sakamoto or Origa would perform them instead. In a 2009 written interview, Robin proclaimed that she would perform for the first time live at Kanno's 2009 Tanabata Sonic concert, but at the end of the concert, which featured Kanno directing the Warsaw Philharmonic, Kanno turned to the audience and sang "Moon", a song previously attributed to Robin from the Turn A Gundam soundtrack, revealing that "Gabriela Robin" was simply a pseudonym Kanno used to write songs mixing English and Japanese freely. In a later interview, Kanno said she had picked the name because the first orchestral recording she had heard was the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and at the time Yitzhak Rabin served as Israel's Prime Minister.[8]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

In addition to Japanese, she speaks very little English and some French, but claims that her English is "poor" and she needs translation help to converse in French.[9] In regards to spirituality and religion, she said:

I'm not religious at all. But Japanese don't believe in one God, but in gods everywhere in plants and animals. That's right. In Japan, Christianity has a wonderful image. People enjoy the image of Christ and Christianity in picture books, but not as a religion.


Besides music, Kanno also enjoys photography and writing. She has written a number of journals for Newtype magazine of which photos for illustrations are done by Kanno herself as well,[11] and a selection of photos taken by Kanno of her protégé and former production partner Maaya Sakamoto were featured in the special event program for Sakamoto's 2010 thirtieth birthday concert at Nippon Budokan.

In 2011, Kanno expressed her support and wishes to the victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, composing a song titled "Kimi de Ite, Buji de Ite". Later, she composed NHK's official support song on the occasion of the first anniversary of the earthquake entitled "Hana wa Saku" ("Flowers Will Bloom") featuring lyrics by Sendai film director Shunji Iwai. The song features notable natives from the affected areas of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate.

Discography[edit | edit source]

Solo studio albums[edit | edit source]

Date Title Notes
January 1, 1998 Song to Fly Track 8 performed and all songs composed, conducted by Yoko Kanno.

(Tracks 1–7,9–11 performed by Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra,
Warsaw Chorus, Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch, Franco Sansalone, Krzysztof Ciupinsky,
Steve Conte, Jadwiga Rappé & Gabriela Robin.)

May 22, 2002 23-Ji no Ongaku All songs composed, conducted by Yoko Kanno, ft. Maaya Sakamoto, released by JvC Victor.
Translates as "11:00 pm Music".
May 2, 2008 CM Yoko Compilation album of music for commercials done by Yoko Kanno over the years. All songs composed by Yoko Kanno
April 22, 2009 CM Yoko 2 Compilation album of music for commercials done by Yoko Kanno over the years. All songs composed and/or arranged by Yoko Kanno
May 27, 2009 Space Bio Charge Yoko Kanno & the Seatbelts's album
June 8, 2011 Yoko Kanno produce Cyber Bicci Credit: ILA. Compilation album of previous works with Ilaria Graziano, along with new materials.

Anime works[edit | edit source]

Anime Title Year Kanno's Role(s)
Porco Rosso 1992 Arranger for ending theme:
"Once in a While, Talk of the Old Days"
Please Save My Earth 1994 Composer
(other tracks by Hajime Mizoguchi)
Macross Plus 1994 Composer
Memories: Magnetic Rose 1995 Composer
The Vision of Escaflowne 1996 Composer
(other tracks by Hajime Mizoguchi)
X Clamp Characters File Vol. 1–4 1996 Composer
(one track for each album)
Clamp School Detectives 1997 Second ending theme
Noiseman Sound Insect 1997 Composer
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight 1998 Composer for Opening theme
Macross Dynamite 7 1998 Composer for "Angel Voice"
Cowboy Bebop 1998 Composer
See also: Music of Cowboy Bebop
Cardcaptor Sakura 1998 Composer for Opening 3 "Purachina"
Brain Powerd 1998 Composer
Turn A Gundam 1999 Composer
Jin-Roh 1999 Pianist
Escaflowne 2000 Composer
(other tracks by Hajime Mizoguchi)
Earth Maiden Arjuna 2001 Composer
Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door 2001 Composer
Pianist for the Seatbelts
RahXephon 2002 Composer for Opening theme for TV & OVA
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2002 Composer
Wolf's Rain 2003 Composer for TV & OVA
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG 2004 Composer
Genesis of Aquarion 2005 Composer
(other tracks by/in collaboration with Hogari Hisaaki)
Ōban Star-Racers 2006 Composer for Opening and Ending theme songs
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society 2006 Composer
Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha 2007 Composer
Genius Party 2007 Composer for "Baby Blue"
Genesis of Aquarion 2007 Composer
Macross Frontier 2008–2011 Composer
Ring of Gundam 2009 Composer
Aquarion Evol 2012 Composer
Code Geass Gaiden: Bōkoku no Akito 2012 Theme song composer
Kids on the Slope 2012 Composer
Space☆Dandy 2014 Composer
(ending theme and 4 tracks)
Zankyō no Terror 2014 Composer

Video games[edit | edit source]

Game Title First Released Original System(s) Kanno's Role(s)
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 1985 NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1, FM-7 Composer
Nobunaga's Ambition Zenkokuban 1986 NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, etc. Composer
Genghis Khan 1987 NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801 Composer
Nobunaga's Ambition Sengoku Gunyūden 1988 NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801 Composer
Ishin No Arashi 1989 NEC PC-9801 Composer
Uncharted Waters 1990 NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801 Composer
Nobunaga's Ambition Bushō Fuunroku 1990 NEC PC-9801 Composer
Nobunaga's Ambition Haōden 1992 NEC PC-9801 Composer
Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons 1993 NEC PC-9801 Composer
Nobunaga's Ambition Tenshōki 1994 NEC PC-9801 Composer
Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream 2000 Dreamcast Composer
Cowboy Bebop 2001 PlayStation Composer
Cowboy Bebop]]Cowboy Bebop: Tsuitou no Yakyoku 2005 PlayStation 2 Composer
Ragnarok Online II: Gate of the World 2007 Microsoft Windows Composer
Continent of the Ninth 2011 Microsoft Windows Theme song Composer
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second 2012 Microsoft Windows Composer

Movie works[edit | edit source]

Film Title Year Kanno's Role(s)
Yamato Takeru 1994 Composer
Asalto 1996 Composer
Boku wa benkyo ga dekinai (I Can't Study) 1996 Composer
Natsu jikan no otonatachi 1997 Composer
Tokyo. Sora 2002 Composer
Mizu no onna 2002 Composer
03 + 2003 Composer
Shimotsuma monogatari (Kamikaze Girls) 2004 Composer
Ashurajo No Hitomi (Blood Gets in Your Eyes) 2005 Composer
Su-ki-da 2005 Composer
Honey and Clover 2006 Composer
Elegant World (The Show Must Go On) 2007 Composer
Say Hello! 2007 Composer
Surely Someday 2010 Composer

TV work[edit | edit source]

TV Show Year Kanno's Role(s)
Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari – Mama Shinhatsubai 2001 Composer
Mayonaka Betsu no Kao (The Other Side of Midnight) 2002 Composer
X'smap~Tora to Raion to Gojin no Otoko~ 2004 Composer
Chichi ni Kanaderu Merodi 2006 Composer
Camouflage 2008 Composer
Kaze ni Mai Agaru Vinyl Sheet 2009 Composer

Works for associated acts[edit | edit source]

Band Album Year Kanno's Role(s)
Tetsu 100% Tokyo Taco Blues 1986 Composer for one track
Tetsu 100% 1987 Composer for four tracks
Ato3cm 1987 Composer for five tracks
Jack in the Box 1988 Composer for three tracks
Manatsu no Santa Claus 1988 Composer for one track
Sunao 1989 Composition credited to band
Samply Red Perfect Rouge 1996 Composition credited to band
Ah-ra ii Kimochi 1996 Composition credited to band
(with Riyu Konaka) Kiseki to Taitsuku 1996 Composition credited to band
Happy Go Lucky OST 1997 Composer for 8 tracks
Kemeko no Uta (Happy Go Lucky) 1997 Arrangement credited to band
It's for my Ego 1997 Composition credited to band
Perfect Rouge I, II, III 2002 Composition credited to band

Works for pop albums[edit | edit source]

(In Order of Starting Year of Affiliation)

Artist Album Year Kanno's Role(s)
Chiyono Yoshino Montage 1988 Composer for two tracks
Song Bird 1989 Composer for three tracks,
arranger for two tracks
Melanger 1990 Composer for one track,
performer on two tracks
Keiko Nakajima Keiko Nakajima 1990 Composer for all tracks
Kyoko Endo Renai 1990 Arranger for seven tracks
Kobitori ni Naritai 1993 Arranger for all tracks
Fuyu no Miwa 1993 Arranger for all tracks
Hashire Hashire 1999 Arranger for two tracks
Aki Okui Lost Melodies 1994 Arranger for two tracks
Straw Color 1997 Arranger for one track
Tsuki no Mayu 2000 Composer for all tracks
Hitomi Mieno Hajimari no Boukenshya-tachi
~Hikari no Chizu~
1995 Composer for two tracks
Miki Imai Love of my Life 1995 Arranger for four tracks
Thank You 1996 Arranger for four tracks
IMAI.MIKI from 1986 1998 Arranger for one track
Blooming Ivory 2000 Arranger for one track
Yuri Shiratori Atarashii Kutsu 1995 Composer for two tracks,
Lyricist for one track
Caramel Pop 1995 Composer and lyricist for two tracks
Kyoko Koizumi Otokonoko, Onnanoko 1996 Composer for eight tracks,
arranger for all tracks except 9 by Samply Red
For my Life(Single) 1999 Composer for two tracks
Maaya Sakamoto Grapefruit 1997 Composer for all tracks
DIVE 1998 Composer for all tracks
Single Collection+ Hotchpotch 1999 Composer for all tracks
Lucy 2001 Composer for all tracks
Easy Listening 2001 Composer for all tracks
Single Collection+ Nikopachi 2003 Composer for all tracks
Shōnen Alice 2003 Composer for all tracks
Kazeyomi 2009 Composer for two tracks
You Can't Catch Me 2011 Composer for one track
Akino Arai Sora No Mori 1997 Composer for five tracks
Sora No Miwa 1997 Composer for two tracks
Hiru No Tsuki 1998 Arranger for two tracks
RGB 2002 Composer for one track
Yasui Inoue Kyuu Dan 1998 Composer for one track
Crystal Kay Eternal Memories 1999 Composer for two tracks
Komichi no Hana 1999 Composer for one track
C.C.L Crystal Lover Light 2000 Composer for one track,
Arranger for one track
Kei Kobayashi Nagashime Play 2003 Composer for all tracks
SMAP Say What You Will 2005 Composer for two tracks
super.modern.artistic.performance 2008 Composer for one track
Yukawa Shione Yuki No Waltz 2007 Composer for one track
AKINO from bless4 Lost in Time 2007 Composer for all tracks
Hajime Chitose Cassini 2008 Composer for one track
Origa The Songwreath 2008 Composer for one track
YOSHIKA The World 2008 Composer for one track
May'n May'n☆Street 2009 Composer for two tracks
Natsumi Kiyoura Juuku Iro 2010 Composer for one track
Megumi Nakajima Be with You 2012 Composer for one track
Clammbon yet 2015 String arranger for one track

Commercial music[edit | edit source]

This is a list of companies that have commissioned Kanno for commercial music.[12]

  • AEON
  • AGF Maxim
  • Ajinomoto
  • Asahi Glass Co.
  • Avon Products
  • Cafe Noevir
  • Citizen Watch Co.
  • Canon
  • Cosmo Oil
  • Daikin
  • Daio Paper
  • Daiwa House
  • FamilyMart
  • Fancl
  • Fuji Xerox
  • Fujitsu
  • Google
  • Ezaki Glico
  • Gravity
  • Half Century More
  • Haus Ten Bausch
  • Hisamitsu
  • Hitachi, Ltd.
  • House
  • IBM
  • Japan Medical Association
  • Japan Railways
  • Japan Telecom
  • J-Phone
  • Kanebo
  • KDDI
  • Kirin Brewery Company
  • Kincho
  • Kubota
  • MasterCard
  • Meiji Seika
  • Microsoft
  • Mister Donut
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
  • Mitsui Home
  • Morinaga & Compan
  • Nagatanien
  • National Ionity Nanocare
  • Nikon
  • Nintendo
  • Nissan
  • NTT DoCoMo
  • Ono Pharmaceutical
  • Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.
  • Pioneer Corporation
  • Platinum Guild International
  • Pola
  • Seiko Epson
  • Sekisui House
  • 7-Eleven
  • Sharp Corporation
  • Shimura
  • Shiseido
  • Sony
  • Suntory
  • Taiyo Life Insurance
  • Takano Yori Beauty Clinic
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company
  • Tirol Choco
  • Tokyo Gas
  • Tokyo Metro
  • Tombow Pencil
  • Toyota
  • Try Group
  • UFJ Bank
  • Vodafone
  • Yukiguni Maitake

Hired vocalists[edit | edit source]

  • Aceilux
  • Afra
  • Aimer
  • Aki Okui
  • Akino Arai
  • Anna Tsuchiya
  • Aoi Teshima
  • Arnór Dan Arnarson
  • Artur Stefanowicz
  • Carla Vallet
  • Chinatsu Yamamoto
  • Chiyono Yoshino
  • Chris Mosdell
  • Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria
  • Crystal Kay
  • Donna Burke
  • Egil Olsen
  • Emily Bindiger
  • Emily Curtis
  • Etsuko Yakushimaru
  • Feather and Down
  • Franco Sansalone
  • Hajime Chitose
  • Hanna Berglind
  • Hassan Bohmide
  • Heartsdales
  • Hitomi Mieno
  • Ilaria Graziano
  • Jadwiga Rappe
  • James Wendt
  • Joyce
  • Kaoru Nishino
  • Kei Kobayashi
  • Kyoko Endo
  • Kyoko Katsunuma
  • Kyoko Koizumi
  • Makino Yui
  • Mari Iijima
  • Maryanne Murray
  • May Nakabayashi (May'n)
  • Maaya Sakamoto
  • Mai Yamane
  • Masaaki Endoh
  • Masayoshi Furukawa
  • Megumi Nakajima
  • Mem Nahadr
  • Miki Imai
  • Motohiro Hata
  • Origa
  • Pierre Bensusan
  • Raiché Coutev Sisters
  • Raj Ramayya
  • Reynada Hill
  • Ryo Nagano
  • Scott Matthew
  • Seika Iwashita
  • Shanti Snyder
  • Soichiro Otsuka
  • Steve Conte
  • Sydney Thiam
  • Tim Jensen
  • Tokiko Kato
  • Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch
  • WISE
  • Wuyontana
  • YUKI
  • Yuho Iwasato
  • Yuuki Ozaki

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]