Whether working on a theme song or a song within an episode, the first thing you’re going to need is a translation of the Japanese lyrics, provided by our awesome translation department, which is then assigned to an adaptive lyric writer. We have many talented people available at Funimation who have handled these adaptations over the years: Brina Palencia, Mike McFarland, Vic Mignogna, and the list goes on. The adapter will take the translation and turn it into lyrics, much in the same way the episode’s translation is adapted into a script, matching the original song’s rhythm, melody, tone and intention, just with English words. The goal is for the song to sound like it was written in English from the beginning. It’s not always easy, as the Japanese language often takes more time to express what we can say very quickly in our own language. The advantage of song lyrics is that, unlike words spoken to mouth flaps, words in a song can be stretched and sung over many notes. Also, due to the poetic nature of lyrics, there is more freedom when adapting.
Kiss, kiss, fall in love anyone?
There are a few things we try to keep in mind during the adaptation process. More often than not, if the original version of a song contains some English words in the lyrics, we will maintain those words in our adaptation hopefully keeping them right where they were originally, but sometimes moving them around if needed, and also adjusting them for grammar and pronunciation. Also, if the Japanese version rhymes, we attempt to maintain that, both internally and at the end of musical phrases. Often, we can’t use the same rhyming sound as the Japanese version, but we will use the same scheme, like A B A B, A A B B, etc. For example, from Kimi to Are You Ready, Show By Rock season 1:
Tsumazuitari — One day you trip and fall
Tachidomattari — Then you don’t move at all
(Translation: You stumble and come to a stop)
Subete no hana o sakaseru koto ga — We can give it the love and the life and warmth that makes it go,
oshigoto sa – Makes everything grow!
(Translation: Our job is to make the flowers bloom)
On that last one, you get a glimpse of how many more syllables there are in Japanese versus the English translation. We have to add quite a bit to the English adaptation to fill it up. Check out some completed lyrics for the SHINGANCRIMSONZ song, Falling Roses, from Show By Rock season 1:
You can see here in the chorus how much embellishment is required. The translation of “O God, save me…Give me a beam of light…” becomes the much more elaborate, but still appropriate, “Save me from this pain untold, Give me the warmth of light I’ve never known.”
Comparing the translation to the adapted lyrics in Seishun wa Non-Stop by Plasmagica, you can see how many English words and phrases are maintained from the original version:
Before the lyrics and music can even be passed off to a performer, oftentimes they must first be approved by the Japanese client. The client may want something changed, or give us some additional insight to the translation that could make for a better adaptation. Once lyrics are approved, then our singers can start practicing. Well, they can almost start practicing, but some lyrics on a page and an mp3 of the original Japanese song aren’t going to be enough for a singer to really catch how the new lyrics are supposed to fit. The adapter will need to come into the studio and record what is called a scratch track for the singers to practice with, and also use as a guide while recording. This is where the musical skill of the adapter really comes into play. They don’t receive sheet music from the original songwriters. Everything has to be figured out by ear. The precise melody and rhythm, any harmonies or countermelodies, all have to be sung on the scratch track. Specific tracks can be given to the singers so they can focus on just their parts. Plasmagica often sing in two and three-part harmony, and Criticrista do a lot of call-and-repeat, as seen here in the lyrics for YES! Idol Sengen, Show By Rock season 1:
Here’s a bit of YES! Idol Sengen’s scratch track, followed by the final mix of the same section:
Brina Palencia adapted the majority of the music for Show By Rock. Trichronika’s song was adapted by Vic Mignogna, since he also plays Shu⭐︎zo, and the closing theme, Have a Nice Music, was adapted by Ricco Fajardo, who plays Kai in the show. Since Plasmagica is an all girl band, I recorded the scratch track in the studio based off of a rough scratch Ricco sent me. His version let me know how the new lyrics fit the rhythm, and then together we picked out the harmonies so I could lay down a scratch for Alexis (Chuchu), Bryn (Cyan), and Monica (Moa) to rehearse with.
Hear the progression from Ricco’s scratch (full disclosure- he was under the weather!) to my scratch and then the final mix:
Next week we’ll take a look at the actual recording process and see what happens going from the recording booth to the mixing studio. Stay tuned for more info about a live stream recording session with a very special guest!