Traditional Japanese instruments and modern synths come together to create an immersive and respectful experience of Japanese music.


As an afterthought in storytelling the duo dubbed Pep Magic is behind the music for Netflix’s new animated program “Oni: Thunder God’s Tale.” The tale is based on Japanese mythology and depicts Onari the girl who is independent who lives among mythical creatures and gods in the mountains of Mount Kamigami. Her father Naridon is also on the mountain, and he wields his power through his the taiko (Japanese “drum”) Johnston and Roberts worked together alongside Daisuke Tsutsumi Daisuke Tsutsumi, who was the creator of Oni. This allowed the visual and musical ideas to spark one another’s imagination and enrich the other.

“We think of visuals almost musically in an odd way and we require their help to even write a story or make art,” Tsutsumi tells Variety in a revealing interview, highlighting how Johnston and Roberts are as good filmmakers as composers. They blend traditional Japanese instruments with contemporary synths to create a musically driven score. Johnston says “Our primary concern when we started it was to honor Japanese music, yet make it ours.” Pep Magic are longtime collaborators of Tonko House co-founders Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo, first scoring the animation.

Using Tsutsumi’s support and guidance and guidance, the composers felt secure enough to discover the mythological universe of Oni by way of music. They spent endless hours studying the art of taiko drumming , as well as the traditional Japanese scales. Tsutsumi gave the composers with personal reference materials in the form of traditional songs and chants that which he was taught as a kid in Japan. “I think that when they bring back their distinctive method and solution oftentimes, it feels genuine,” Tsutsumi says. The reason is that I’m nostalgic to hear their melodies.

It was essential to Tsutsumi to bring in a wide range of Japanese musicians for the animation masterpiece, Johnston says. “We had the privilege to have a dialogue with them and give them feedback on each of their takes,” Johnston says about the musicians. It was great to let the musicians do what they want, but it was also very enjoyable taking a few shots as they let the musicians have their way.

Roberts declares, “She brought such emotion to the piece that I thought we were all trying to not be tearful when she first started her playing.” “Both the taiko, and the flute added so much emotion and passion to the score.

Visuals and music were essential in conveying the mystery and fantastical elements of Oni, from Mount Kamigami’s scenery to the residents. “I am really enjoying watching the themes change as the characters develop – it’s really rewarding and really emotionally,” says Johnston. “I feel like we spent more than two years watching these characters and they’re etched into our brains.” Tsutsumi says “They are storytelling masters.” As a director, the thing I really care about is that the scenes are genuine. They will always focus on the emotions of the scene, which is what I react to in my role as an audience member.

Everyone can learn from each other

It’s obvious that Roberts is a huge fan of both the taiko as well as the flute, and she considers that they bring lots of emotions and humanity to the music. Additionally, she believes they play effectively together, making powerful and warm sound.