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The Game Changers

29/11/2022

The Game Changers Metal Gear Solid and Halo composers Nobuko Toda '03 and Kazuma Jinnouchi '02 talk about the paths to their careers and what it takes to level up in the video-game industry.

By

Kimberly Ashton

November 26, 2022

Nobuko Toda 03 and Kazuma Jinnouchi 02

Image by James Day

In 2006, Nobuko Toda '03 was working on the music for the fourth installment of the blockbuster video game franchise Metal Gear Solid when she called her former classmate Kazuma Jinnouchi '02 to ask him to help her score the project.

Jinnouchi, who at the time was an arranger and indie pop-rock guitarist gigging around Tokyo, hadn't done any professional work as a screen scorer. Moreover, years prior, as a new student at Berklee, he had dropped any nascent idea he had harbored of pursuing film scoring after feeling overwhelmed by an introductory class. Sure he wasn't up to the task, Jinnouchi declined Toda's offer.

But Toda knew what Jinnouchi could bring to the project. As students, the two often had found themselves in the same classes and would listen to each other's music and give feedback. After graduation, they stayed in touch and occasionally worked together. In addition to knowing the quality of Jinnouchi's musical ideas, Toda knew that he was capable of working long hours in a demanding production environment, which is just what she needed in a collaborator on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

All the orchestral things I could just teach him afterward, Toda said during a recent interview from Tokyo.

Swayed by his friend's insistence, Jinnouchi went through the demo process at Konami Digital Entertainment, makers of Metal Gear Solid, and got the job. The only thing left to do was to learn how to score a game. All these scoring things were so new to me, so Nobuko pretty much taught me how to write to the visual, Jinnouchi said.

The game was a hit, and the two continued to work together for the next five years as in-house composers at Konami subsidiary Kojima Productions. In 2011, Jinnouchi left the company to join the team making the latest Halo game, one of the industry's most famous franchises, at Microsoft's 343 Industries. A member of the in-house audio team, Jinnouchi served as an additional composer, music editor, music director, and music programmer on Halo 4, and brought in Toda, who was by then a freelancer, as an orchestrator and score producer.

For the next release in the franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, Jinnouchi was the composer, and Toda was the game's orchestrator and executive music producer. That game was the biggest Halo launch at the time, bringing in over $400 million in sales in its first week. (For comparison, the highest-grossing movie in history, 2009's Avatar, had an opening week of $137 million.)

Jinnouchi left Microsoft in 2018. Today, he and Toda both work as freelancers, and have collaborated on Marvel's Iron Man VR and many animated series, such as Ultraman, Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045, and Star Wars: Visions. They're currently working on a Japanese animated film as well as a major superhero franchise video game, due out in 2024.

Kazuma Jinnouchi 02

Image by James Day

During a busy August that found one or both of them in Tokyo, London, Prague, Kuala Lumpur, or Seattle, Toda and Jinnouchi dialed into a video call to talk about their music backgrounds, scoring a franchise game, trends in video game music, advice they'd give to aspiring video game composers, what they listen to when they drive, and more. Jinnouchi, who's lived in Seattle for 11 years, provided some translation for Toda, who's been primarily based in Tokyo. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about your early experiences with music. How old were you when you began playing instruments? Kazuma Jinnouchi: This goes back to elementary school, but I originally wanted to start taking piano lessons just because I was fascinated by the instrument by watching my teacher play. I was really small at the time so my parents didn't know if I would continue to be interested in that kind of musical instrument, so that request got rejected. Later, when I was in the third grade, I was looking at this picture of the flute. I think it was in the newspaper. And I thought it looked really cool I made the request again: Hey, if its flute, can I go take lessons? and then they said yes.

Nobuko Toda: I grew up in a very poor family. My father reduced his own allowance so that I could learn to play the piano and organ. When I started attending classes, my father picked up a small foot-pedal organ from somewhere and I played it every day. I had an electronic organ and the piano. I don't exactly remember how I started playing those instruments, but my mother told me that when I was very young I pointed out a picture of an electric organ in the newspaper and said I wanted to play it. I started playing for fun. I also would read picture books and then write original music to the book. I really liked to make storybooks too.

For quite a while I was self-taught on the instrument. The same for composition, for writing music. But when I wanted to enter a competition for electric organ performance, the requirement was also to perform my own music so I was writing for that every year.

How old were you then?

Nobuko Toda 03

Image by James Day

NT: From middle school to high school, so from around 11 or 12 to 16 or 17. My dream was to be a performer who toured abroad.

Kazuma, what was your involvement in music at that age? KJ: I was continuing to take my flute lessons throughout the rest of my elementary school and middle school years, and then I started getting into coding, [into] programming things, because all my friends were playing video games on the Nintendo system and I had asked my dad if
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/the-game-changers...
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