Koichi Sugiyama, the acclaimed yet controversial composer for the Dragon Quest series, passed away on Sept. 30 at the age of 90 from septic shock. The official Dragon Quest blog reported that a private funeral and ceremony was held by his family and friends. A public celebration in Sugiyama’s memory will happen at a later date.
Sugiyama had composed music for the Dragon Quest series since its inception. His final project, unfinished at the time of his death, was composing the soundtrack to the upcoming Dragon Quest XII. He leaves behind him an oeuvre of phenomenal video game songs, as well as a number of complicated and harmful viewpoints that have marred his reputation in recent years.
Remembering Koichi Sugiyama
Koichi Sugiyama was already a well-regarded composer by the time he first reached out to Enix in the early 1980s. He had previously composed for commercials, musicals, and anime. After joining Enix in 1985, he created the soundtracks for many games and series produced by the company with his music for the Dragon Quest series being his most notable.
His artistic contributions are no doubt legendary, but Sugiyama is also infamous for his problematic beliefs and statements. He has promoted many ultranationalist views such as denying the Nanjing Massacre and promoting the idea of a civil war between “Japanese and anti-Japanese.” In addition, his stance against LGBTQIA+ rights and education painted him in a darker light in recent years even if he has backed away from some of these positions.
Even when disregarding his politics, Sugiyama was reportedly difficult to work with. Dragon Quest fans have consistently criticized him for what some consider an egregious abuse of copyright to boost sales of his work.
Koichi Sugiyama leaves a complicated legacy in his wake, and his beliefs will (and should) continue to be discussed. Yet artistically, he is also responsible for delivering many unforgettable soundtracks of the years. His music will rightfully live on forever.