Michiru Yamane :: Biography
Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on September 21, 2007.
Michiru Yamane is a classically-trained Konami composer who currently leads music production for the Castlevania franchise. Having taken piano lessons as a child, she started to learn to compose in high school and begun to enjoy the compositions of Maurice Ravel. She subsequently studied musical composition at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music and learnt Baroque counterpoint among other disciplines. After taking a Masters, she was offered at teaching job at a high school but wanted to continue composing. In 1988, she went to a job fair looking for work and, learning Konami were one of the only companies looking to hire composers, applied to them. After accepting, she underwent a period of training as a game composer resulting in her working under Motoaki Furukawa on 1988's Gradius II Gofer no Yabou Episode II for the MSX. Subsequently, she led the score to 1989's Ganbare Goemon 2 for the Nintendo, endearing to listeners with bouncy interweaving compositions ideal for representing its hero's adventures. She also contributed to the Game Boy's Nemesis, maintaining the old-school melodiousness of its Gradius predecessors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, creating light techno compositions for each stage, and SD Snatcher, a large multi-composer project.
One of Yamane's most praised early projects was the Arcade's cutesy shmup Detana!! Twinbee. While crafting its delightful score she met producer Koji Igarashi, then a new Konami employee. Other Arcade games she worked on around the same period were Trigon, Crime Fighters 2, Astérix, and Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa, all but the last of which featured in the 'Konami Game Music Collection' series. Yamane co-composed the lively scores for the Mega Drive's Rocket Knight Adventures and its Super Nintendo sequel Sparkster shortly after. For the highly successful Contra: Hard Corps, Yamane and two others crafted an infectious techno accompaniment to the futuristic game's action. In 1994, Yamane made her Castlevania debut with Castlevania: Bloodlines. For the first time, she was responsible for all composition, sound effects, and sound programming, demonstrating excellent competence manipulating the Mega Drive's FM sound modules. Presented mostly on synthesized acoustic instruments, the score maintained the quality of its predecessors while exuding a darker, more ambient, tone. It appealed for its memorable stage themes and arrangements of four of the series' classic themes, packaged with Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood in its soundtrack release.
Yamane's name came to mainstream attention with his work on 1997's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Often regarded to be the greatest Castlevania score, each of its compositions was elaborately and intricately crafted, enhancing the atmosphere of the game. Its soundtrack was a best-seller and received two arranged albums dedicated to it. Other responsibilities included a large amount of voice editing and sound effects design. She solidified a relationship with producer Koji Igarashi here, whom she would work alongside in her other major Castlevania projects. Subsequently, she co-composed the score to the run and gun PlayStation title Gungage with Sota Fujimori, mixing rock, techno, and funk to produce an exciting action-packed score. The following year, she worked on her first traditional RPG score for Elder Gate. Yamane's work largely derived its musical ideas from other quasi-orchestral RPG soundtracks to represent the world's diverse settings, though she attained some individuality in the action themes. In 2001 and 2002, she co-composed the fifth and sixth instalments to the soccer series Winning Eleven (adapted as the Pro Evolution Soccer series in the West). Four of her orchestral opening and ending themes for the game are commemorated in the series' 'best of' album.
Subsequently, Yamane was assigned to lead the score 2002's Suikoden III after Miki Higashino, the main composer of the previous instalments, retired from Konami. Joined by Keiko Fukami and Masahiko Kimura, Yamane crafted a mellow score that retained the series' organic and ethnic flavour and pleasantly fitted the game. The soundtrack was nevertheless mostly unpopular with those familiar with its predecessors, criticised for lacking highlight pieces, elaborate musicianship, or a particularly endearing core. It nevertheless appeared extensively in series' arranged albums, including its own 'Music Collection' with a jazz and ethnic theme, and, in conjunction with music from its two predecessors, Celtic, Asian, piano, and vocal albums, among others. For Suikoden IV, Yamane's role was reduced while Masahiko Kimura and Norikazu Miura created most of the compositions. Its diverse score was better received, appeasing fans with its main themes and ending compositions, but was regarded as an inconsistent effort. Only with Suikoden V, scored entirely by Miura, did the series restore the quality it was previously renowned for. Yamane's role was limited to reprises from previous titles and a piano-based contribution to its arranged album.
Yamane's Game Boy Advance Castlevania contributions were relatively small. On Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, two of her Bloodlines works were reprised, and on Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance she made three contributions while Soshiro Hokkai led. She made a larger contribution to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow's diverse soundtrack, joined by Takashi Yoshida and Soshiro Hokkai. In 2003, Yamane scored the PlayStation 2 and Xbox's Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. As the game was a prequel, she decided it would be inappropriate to use the classic themes and rock-tinged sound, instead opting for a mostly symphonic score. She created a mixture of Baroque setting themes, catchy beat-supported anthems, modernist boss themes, and ambient themes that predominantly used percussion and atmospheric noises. For its associated album releases, she made an 'inspired by' series of tracks featuring arrangements of the game's music and four Aria of Sorrow arrangements. In contrast, Yamane's score for 2005's Castlevania: Curse of Darkness restored the series' rock flavour and was created so that most tracks could be hummed. An exuberance here was the creation of a vocal composition sung by the people's tenor Russell Watson.
In recent years, Yamane has continued to balance Castlevania projects with other commitments. In 2005, she scored the action title OZ alone. Here, she offered a mixture of orchestral, rock, electronic, and, by arranging Alexandre Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances", vocal compositions. In bitty roles, she contributed two action themes for the fighter Rumble Roses, "Start" for the Wii title Elebits, and the song "Kamiro Una Mendesu" for beatmania IIDX 14 GOLD. Her latest major titles were the DS' Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. These well-balanced scores built on the successful formula Yamane established with previous titles to the series, the latter celebrating the series' 20th anniversary in style with the inclusion of Yuzo Koshiro as a guest musician. Other recent roles including produced two new themes for the port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in the PSP's Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles and some voice editing work on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Her next major project is the DS' Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. For 13 years, Yamane has meticulously crafted the Castlevania series' soundtracks such that their quality, popularity, and consistency is rivalled by few other series. Though her contributions elsewhere are mixed, Yamane is evidently a versatile musician with a talent for creating music that complements their games.