Jump to content

Koichi Sugiyama

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Koichi Sugiyama
すぎやま こういち
Sugiyama in 2011
椙山 浩一

(1931-04-11)April 11, 1931
Tokyo, Japan
DiedSeptember 30, 2021(2021-09-30) (aged 90)
Tokyo, Japan
Alma materUniversity of Tokyo
  • Composer
  • conductor
  • orchestrator
Musical career
Years active1968–2021
LabelsSUGI Label

Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやま こういち, Sugiyama Kōichi, April 11, 1931 – September 30, 2021) was a Japanese composer, conductor, and orchestrator. He was best known for composing for the Dragon Quest franchise, along with several other video games, anime, film, television shows, and pop songs. Classically trained, Sugiyama was considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers and was active from the 1960s until his death from septic shock in 2021.

Sugiyama was also a council member of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC), board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and honorary chairman of the Japanese Backgammon Society. Prior to his death, the Japanese government honored him with Order of the Rising Sun and named him a Person of Cultural Merit. Sugiyama was also active in politics and activism, promoting ideas such as Japanese nationalism while denying Japanese war crimes.


Early life and television career[edit]

Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan, on April 11, 1931.[1] While growing up, Sugiyama's home was filled with music, which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to write various small musical works.[2] He attended the University of Tokyo and graduated with full honors in 1956. He then went into the reporting and entertainment sections of Nippon Cultural Broadcasting.[2] He joined Fuji TV as a director in 1958.[2] He left the station in 1965 to become a freelance director but had begun concentrating solely on musical composition and orchestration by 1968.[2]

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Sugiyama composed for several musicals, commercials, kayōkyoku pop artists, animated movies, and television shows, such as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child, and Cyborg 009. He also assisted Riichiro Manabe with the composition for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, composing the record single of the soundtrack and conducting for some of the tracks.[3] Sugiyama also wrote the 1976 single Heart Dorobō for the Japanese pop trio Candies.

Dragon Quest and other video games[edit]

Sugiyama's first contact with Enix was by a fan letter he wrote them regarding a PC shogi game in the early 1980s. After Enix's staff overcame the shock of receiving a handwritten postcard from a celebrity of Sugiyama's stature, they were so impressed by his depth of knowledge and appreciation of games that they decided to ask Sugiyama to create music for their games. Sugiyama started composing for the PC-8801, and was working for Enix at the time. His first project with the company was the 1986 game Wingman 2. Later that year, he composed for his first major project, Dragon Quest.[4] His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.[5]

Sugiyama was one of the first video game composers to record with a live orchestra.[6] In 1986, the CD, Dragon Quest Suite, was released, utilizing the Tokyo Strings Ensemble to interpret Sugiyama's melodies. The soundtrack's eight melodies (Opening, Castle, Town, Field, Dungeon, Battle, Final Battle, and Ending) set the template for most role-playing video game soundtracks released since then, many of which have been organized in a similar manner.[7]

In 1987, he composed for Dragon Quest II. Music from the first two Dragon Quest games was performed at one of the first game music concerts, "Family Classic Concert". It was arranged and conducted by Sugiyama himself and was performed by the Tokyo Strings Ensemble on August 20, 1987, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo. "Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite" and "Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite" were performed.[8] He subsequently held the "Family Classic Concerts" annually in Japan until 2019.[9]

From 1987 to 1990, Sugiyama continued to compose for various other Enix games. In 1991, he introduced a series of video game music concerts, five in all, called the Orchestral Game Concerts, which were performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.[10] The performances included music from over eighteen different video game composers, such as Koji Kondo, Yoko Kanno, Nobuo Uematsu, Keiichi Suzuki, as well as Sugiyama himself. These concerts were held from 1991 to 1996; during this time, Sugiyama composed for other video games and arranged for some of them to be performed in the Orchestral Game Concerts. He served as a sound producer on 1991's Master of Monsters, composed by Hayato Matsuo.

In September 1995, Sugiyama composed the Dragon Quest Ballet. It premiered in 1996, and has since been performed regularly over the years by the Star Dancers Ballet.[11] During those years, he also released several Dragon Quest Symphonic Suites. In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII soundtrack. In 2005, Sugiyama was holding a series of concerts in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra with music from Dragon Quest VIII, as well as his classic compositions from the past.[12] In August 2005, his music from Dragon Quest was performed live at the European Symphonic Game Music Concert, marking the first time that his music was performed by a live symphonic concert outside of Japan.[13] Sugiyama also composed the score for Dragon Quest X[14] and its expansions, as well as Dragon Quest XI.[15]

Throughout his work Sugiyama repeatedly used motifs to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the different installments. Each of the Dragon Quest games that he worked on included a nearly identical, upbeat theme track titled "Overture". Sugiyama composed more than 500 pieces of music in the 35 years he was involved in the Dragon Quest franchise.[16] Sugiyama's style of composition has been compared to late Baroque and early Classical period styles.[17] Earlier on in his career, Sugiyama said that his process for making music for games was based on seeing initial drafts on its setting and story.[18]

Sugiyama's non-work related hobbies included photography, traveling, building model ships, collecting old cameras, and reading.[19] He has opened a camera section on his website,[20] and also founded his own record label, SUGI Label, in June 2004.[21] Sugiyama also composed the fanfares for the opening and closing of the gates at the Tokyo and Nakayama Racecourses. He was given the Order of the Rising Sun, 4th Class, by the Japanese government in 2018 before also being named a Person of Cultural Merit by them two years later.[22][23] Sugiyama died from septic shock at the age of 90 on September 30, 2021.[24] A television drama played by actor Ken Yasuda detailing Sugiyama's involvement with Dragon Quest aired on Nippon TV on August 27, 2022.[25]

Political activities and beliefs[edit]

Sugiyama was a Nanjing Massacre denialist, stating that the facts regarding it were "selective" in nature. He was one of the signatories on "The Facts", a full-page ad published by The Washington Post on June 14, 2007, that was written by a number of Japanese politicians and academics in response to the passing of United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121, which sought an official apology from the Government of Japan regarding their involvement of using comfort women, sexual slaves used by Japanese soldiers during World War II.[26][27][28] Sugiyama was also a board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.[29]

In 2012, Sugiyama wrote an editorial saying that he thought Japan was in a state of "civil war between Japanese and anti-Japanese". Giving examples, he argued that the Japanese media portrayed acts of patriotism negatively, such as performing the National Anthem of Japan or raising the Japanese flag. He further thought that the demands of the Japanese anti-nuclear movement to immediately dismantle all nuclear energy facilities without offering any alternative solutions would affect the country's ability to defend itself.[30]

In 2015, Sugiyama made an appearance on the Japanese Culture Channel Sakura television program Hi Izuru Kuni Yori where he was shown agreeing with views shared by Japanese politician Mio Sugita who said there was no need for LGBT education in Japanese schools, as well as dismissing concerns about high suicide rates among the community. Sugiyama added that the lack of children born from LGBT couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea.[31][32] He later recanted his statement by saying that LGBT couples have existed throughout human history and he supported the use of governments to occasionally help them.[33]

Selected works[edit]

Only works featuring original scores are included.

Video games[edit]

Games primarily featuring re-used compositions from older works are omitted

Video game scores
Year Title Ref.
1986 Wingman 2 [4]
Dragon Quest [4]
1987 Dragon Quest II [34]
Jesus [35]
Gandhara: Buddha no Seisen [35]
Animal Land Murder Case [36]
World Golf II [36]
Wingman Special: Saraba Yume Senshi [36]
1988 Dragon Quest III [34]
Angelus: Akuma no Fukuin [35]
1990 Dragon Quest IV [37]
4.6 Billion Year Story [38]
World Golf III [36]
1991 Akagawa Jirou no Yuurei Ressha [35]
Jesus 2 [35]
Tetris 2 + Bombliss [35]
1992 Dragon Quest V [34]
Hanjuku Hero: Aa, Sekaiyo Hanjukunare...! [35]
E.V.O.: Search for Eden [35]
1993 Monopoly [35]
Torneko's Great Adventure [35]
1995 Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer [35]
Dragon Quest VI [34]
1996 Shiren the Wanderer GB [35]
1998 Dragon Quest Monsters [36]
1999 Torneko: The Last Hope [35]
2000 Dragon Quest VII [39]
Shiren the Wanderer 2 [35]
2001 Dragon Quest Monsters 2 [36]
2002 Torneko's Great Adventure 3 [36]
2003 Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart [36]
Kenshin Dragon Quest
Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest [36]
2004 Dragon Quest VIII [40]
2005 Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime [36]
2006 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker [36]
2009 Dragon Quest IX [41]
2010 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 [42]
2011 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3
2012 Dragon Quest X [14]
2017 Dragon Quest XI [15]

Film and television[edit]

Film and television scores
Year Title Role Ref.
1967 Skyers 5 Opening theme [35]
1971 Return of Ultraman Opening theme, "MAT Team no Uta", "Kaiju Ondo" [43]
Godzilla vs Hedorah "Defeat Hedorah" [44]
1975 Kum-Kum Opening and ending themes [35]
1976 Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi "Watashi O Yobu No Wa Dare", "Memoir" [45]
1978 Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie Music [35]
Gatchaman II Music [46]
1979 Cyborg 009 Music [35]
1980 Space Runaway Ideon Music [35]
Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy Music [47]
1981 The Sea Prince and the Fire Child Music [35]
1982 The Ideon: A Contact Music [35]
The Ideon: Be Invoked Music [35]
1983 The Yearling Music [35]
1989 Godzilla vs. Biollante Music [35]
1991 Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai Music [35]
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - The Great Adventure of Dai Music [48]
1992 Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Avan's Disciples Music [48]
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Six Great Generals Music [48]
1994 Magic Knight Rayearth "Setsunakute" [49]
2019 Dragon Quest: Your Story Music [50]


  1. ^ "すぎやまこういち". King Record Official Site (in Japanese). Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Profile". Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2004.
  3. ^ "すぎやまこういち氏が9月30日に逝去、『ドラゴンクエスト』シリーズなどで多くの楽曲を手掛ける。90歳(電ファミニコゲーマー)". Yahoo!ニュース (in Japanese). Archived from the original on October 7, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Gifford, Kevin (February 24, 2010). "Dragon Quest Composer Reflects on 24 Years of Games: Kouichi Sugiyama on Japan's most recognized game music". 1up. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  5. ^ Gifford, Kevin. "The Essential 50 Part 20 – Dragon Warrior". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  6. ^ "Dragon Quest 30th Anniversary Special". NHK TV Specials (in Japanese). December 29, 2016. NHK General TV. (Translated by Shmuplations. Archived on 2020-01-20. Retrieved on 2023-03-15)
  7. ^ Patrick Gann (November 29, 2008). "The "Eight Melodies" Template: How Sugiyama Shaped RPG Soundtracks". RPGFan. Archived from the original on October 16, 2011. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Concert index". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  9. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Family Classic Concerts Listing". Archived from the original on November 25, 2016.
  10. ^ "Unofficial Koichi Sugiyama Biography". Archived from the original on October 27, 2009.
  11. ^ "Star Dancers Ballet Performances".
  12. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Concert announcement page". Archived from the original on September 20, 2006.
  13. ^ "Symphonic Game Music Concert Official website". Archived from the original on February 14, 2005.
  14. ^ a b すぎやま氏「『DQX』の曲はかなりできあがりました」――恒例のコンサート前取材でコメント (in Japanese). Famitsu. October 7, 2011. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Alexandra, Heather (August 30, 2019). "I Keep Quitting Dragon Quest XI Thanks To Its Atrocious Music". Kotaku. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  16. ^ Orpheus, Joshua (October 7, 2021). "Dragon Quest Composer Koichi Sugiyama Has Passed Away". Noisy Pixel.
  17. ^ Gibbons, William (February 1, 2018). "8 Little Harmonic Labyrinths: Baroque musical style on the Nintendo Entertainment System". In Cook, James; Kolassa, Alexander; Whittaker, Adam (eds.). Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen. Routledge. ISBN 9781351975513.
  18. ^ Kasai, Omasu (January 1994). Gēmudezainā nyūmon ゲームデザイナー入門 [Introduction to Game Design] (in Japanese). Tokyo, Japan: Shogakukan. ISBN 978-4-09-220205-4. (Translated by Shmuplations. Archived on 2022-01-22. Retrieved on 2023-03-14)
  19. ^ Nich Maragos (July 20, 2005). "Gaming's Rhapsody: First Movement". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on March 29, 2006.
  20. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official camera page". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  21. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official SUGI Label page". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  22. ^ McWhertor, Michael (October 7, 2021). "Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama dead at 90". Polygon. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  23. ^ Komatsu, Mikikazu. "Dragon Quest Composer Koichi Sugiyama Receives The Order of the Rising Sun Award". Crunchyroll. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  24. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama, Japanese composer of Dragon Quest, dies at 90". The Japan Times. Kyodo News. October 7, 2021. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  25. ^ "Controversial Dragon Quest Composer Gets TV Drama About His Life". July 10, 2023.
  26. ^ "Signatories to the June 14th Washington Post "The Facts" Advertisement – Politicians, Professors, and Journalists" (PDF). July 25, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 9, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  27. ^ "ワシントン・ポスト紙に「慰安婦意見広告」― その経緯と波紋 / SAFETY JAPAN [花岡 信昭氏] / 日経BP社". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011.
  28. ^ "The Complex Question". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on August 26, 2009.
  29. ^ "Japan Institute for National Fundamentals". en.jinf.jp.
  30. ^ Nakamura, Toshi (September 27, 2012). "This Aged Right-Wing Japanese Composer Is Betting On The Internet Generation". Kotaku. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  31. ^ Loveridge, Lynzee; Sherman, Jennifer. "Square Enix Responds to Dragon Quest Composer's 2015 Anti-LGBTQ Statements". AnimeNewsNetwork. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  32. ^ Hart, Aimee (August 7, 2018). "Anti-LGBT Dragon Quest Composer Spurs Square Enix Response". Game Revolution. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  33. ^ Sugiyama, Koichi. "Koichi Sugiyama's official stance on LGBT". Sugimania.com (in Japanese). Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  34. ^ a b c d Damien Thomas (2007). "Dragon Quest Game Music Super Collection Vol. 2". Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Greening, Chris (October 15, 2014). "Koichi Sugiyama Profile". Video Game Music Online. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Koichi Sugiyama :: Game Projects". Square Enix Music Online. January 1, 2010. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  37. ^ Lucy Rzeminski, Lucy (January 1, 2007). "Dragon Quest IV soundtrack". RPGfan. Archived from the original on August 21, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2007.
  38. ^ "Symphonic Synth Suite 46okunen Monogatari -THE Shinkaron-". Video Game Music Database. June 29, 2018. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  39. ^ Gann, Patrick. "Dragon Quest VII ~Warriors of Eden~ on Piano". RPGFan. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  40. ^ Wilson, Mike (2005). "Dragon Quest VIII OST". RPGfan.com. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  41. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (July 22, 2009). "Dragon Quest IX music composer gets angry when games are pirated". VG247. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  42. ^ Riley, Adam (July 25, 2011). "Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview". Cubed3. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  43. ^ "Return of Ultraman". Video Game Music Database. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  44. ^ "Godzilla vs Hedorah". Video Game Music Database. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  45. ^ "Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi". Video Game Music Database. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  46. ^ "Gatchaman Song Collection". Video Game Music Database. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  47. ^ "すぎやまこういち* – サイボーグ009 超銀河伝説". Discogs. January 1, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  48. ^ a b c Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (February 9, 2015). The Anime Encyclopedia, 3rd Revised Edition. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 9781611729092.
  49. ^ "Magic Knight Rayearth Original Song Book". Video Game Music Database.
  50. ^ Pineda, Rafael Antonio. "Dragon Quest: Your Story CG Anime Film Reveals 5 Character Roles". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 28, 2019.

External links[edit]