Composer Kajiura Yuki and neo-medieval anime soundtracks


Kajiura Yuki

How to Cite

Jocoy, S., and H. Hoffer. “Composer Kajiura Yuki and Neo-Medieval Anime Soundtracks”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 11, Dec. 2023, pp. 3-25, doi:10.32926/2023.11.2.


This study semiotically interrogates the historical imaginary evinced in the neo-medievalist musical topoi found in Kajiura Yuki’s distinctive music for anime, which is easily recognised by its eclectic mix of sounds and styles gathered from across the globe. Her early scores employed a compositional method practised in Japanese popular music since the 1990s, which treated the creative act as a process of musical curation. This technique is evident in Kajiura’s handling of medieval Gregorian chant, which - as she has explained in interviews - she did not learn from studies in music history but rather from the German band Enigma and their hit album MCMXC a.D. from 1990, where samples of chant were mixed with Euro dance pop and French rap. The anime Noir from 2001 contains an excellent example of her approach, combining chant-based vocal tracks with energetic dance rhythms. Enigma used chant to call on modern neo-medieval tropes that highlight the pleasures of mysticism, religious devotion, and sexuality freed from morality, and Kajiura has replicated this imagery in Noir, making chant the symbol of an ancient criminal order that both worships and overtly sexualises femininity as embodied by the main female characters. Kajiura’s later style expands the technique of the Gregorian chant-influenced sound she developed in her earlier works: shifting away from Latin lyrics to her invented nonsense language of “Kajiurago” (literally “the language of Kajiura” in Japanese), with her ethereal chant delivered primarily by female voices. This shift is partially due to her collaboration with FictionJunction and Kalafina and is also a reflection of the strong female anime protagonists. Her signature sound enlivens the soundscapes of both Fate/Zero (2011) and the blockbuster anime, Demon Slayer (2019). The track “Brace up and run!” opens each episode of the latter, highlighting female voices chanting Kajiurago as a musically haunting reminder of the otherness of the past.
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Copyright (c) 2024 Stacey Jocoy, Heike Hoffer