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Obituary: Koichi Sugiyama, Dragon Quest composer, has died

The composer of the music behind Dragon Quest—also known for vocally denying war crimes committed by Japanese forces in World War II—has passed away.

Square Enix has informed the world that Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama passed away on September 30, 2021. He was 90 years old.

Sugiyama enjoyed a long career composing music for the video game industry. He first composed the music for Square Enix’s World Golf in 1985, before going on to compose over 500 pieces of music for the Dragon Quest series over the last several decades. Some of his work will be in the upcoming Dragon Quest XII.

Outside of video games however, Sugiyama entertained a much more controversial career as a right-wing political commentator and television host. He was known in Japan for denying the existence of the Nanjing Massacre in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

In 2007, he co-signed an open letter taken out as an advertisement in the Washington Post that accused the West of exaggerating the Japanese army’s exploitation of “comfort women” in World War II. (“Comfort women” is a phrase used to describe women forced into systemic sexual slavery, particularly from territories Japan had colonized, including Korea, China, and the Philippines.)

In his political work, he also made multiple comments denigrating women and LGBTQ+ people in modern Japan.

Dragon Quest’s popularity in Japan led to the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics using Sugiyama’s music as part of the event’s opening ceremony. Community organizers who are still advocating for surviving comfort women protested the score’s inclusion.

In Square Enix’s statement, president and CEO Yosuke Matsuda expressed his sympathy for Sugiyama’s friends and loved ones. “Words cannot express the scale of the contribution made by Koichi Sugiyama from the birth of the Dragon Quest series until now,” he wrote.

“I thank and honor him for his long years of service and the many wonderful pieces of music he has written for our games, and offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of his soul.”

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