This winter and spring we got involved in a real fun enterprise, the fruits of which you can now see out in the wild: the production of the first-ever official 100% Orange Juice character song “Ultimate Weapon Girl”, alongside the super cheerful Sora & Sham (Cuties) double character.
You can enjoy the full song on our YouTube channel with English captions.
I thought I’d write a few words about the whole project while it’s still fresh in our memories.
The whole idea came as the result of *cough* careful planning during the last Tokyo Game Show visit to Japan. The original pitch for an idol song to accompany the fabled “Cuties” character duo came from our lead programmer Tony, and as great ideas often do, it was conceived randomly in the wee hours of the night. He then casually mentioned the funny idea he’d gotten to myself the following day, supposedly expecting me to laugh it off. Joke’s on him – I immediately started discussing the logistics of such a possibility instead.
Not long after, it was time for Tokyo Game Show, and Miki Maruyama (the voice of Sora and Marie Poppo) was cosplaying as Sora at our booth. At one point during the long event, Tony went on to ask Miki if she had any interest in singing, and before he’d even finished the question, Miki was already enthusiastically on board with the idea. Our next voice recording was the very next week, and during that we pitched the idea to Orange Juice as well, and the discussion ended up taking a great deal of the evening. Although we had to get more realistic about production costs and modest sales expectations at this point, they were all up for giving it a try.
We wanted DEKU (whom most of you probably know to be the composer of all the SUGURI/Sora soundtracks) to make the song if possible, and lucky for us, he was also excited about the opportunity. Over the winter we first received some samples, and one was selected for further development. As Sham was up for getting a voice in the next recording session, Fukuyama Saori, who’s a singer and songwriter, was chosen to voice her and she also helped with making the idol song work. Hono laughingly mentioned to us that the first draft of lyrics was rejected as “too denpa”, but eventually a fully-fledged idol song was born!
Fast forward to April 2019, and the next recording session. Most of a day was set aside for the voice recording, and I’m happy I had the opportunity to be present for the unique event. It’s a magical experience watching professionals work on a song recording. With Saori’s directing, the song went incredibly smoothly and I couldn’t believe how wonderful it sounded right off the bat even before editing.
Hearing Miki smoothly deliver her Sora idol lines and sing, a new inspiration struck, and as soon as there was a break in the action I took Hono aside to ask what he thought of asking Miki to do a bonus Poppo version of the song as well, unreasonable as that was on such a short notice. Apparently Miki overheard the conversation, and as enthusiastic as always, practically jumped in to say she wants to do it!
Believe it or not, the “bonus track” was done in a single, flawless take without any script (repeating the ex tempore miracle from the core voice recording, where Hono made a last-minute decision to change Poppo’s announcer voices into Poppo-speak, after hearing her deliver the other lines)! Miki truly is one with the Poppo.
This has been an awesome experience, and we hope many people will enjoy the results. After going back and forth on many different ways to deliver the character song pack, we ultimately decided to separate it from the character into a standalone pack with no in-game tie-in, so those who aren’t interested in the music don’t feel they need to pay a lot for a “single character” in the game, and so we can also better evaluate the actual sales of the songs. It’d be amazing if the reception’s good enough to justify more character songs for the crew we love in the future!
– Jakke Elonen