. by koronba

hatsune miku holding a gun to her mouth like a saxophone

YouTube reupload of song

PDF of lead sheet

Technology, and the internet in particular, has lowered the barrier of entry for new composers and given them a playground of sorts to carve niches and rapidly deconstruct and build off of existing ideas.

Let’s talk about stories.

the song’s story

Due to the nontitle, the song is also called クラゲ (jellyfish). An earlier YouTube repost has 2.7 million views as of May 2022 - a sizable audience, not even counting the other versions.

The scratchiness of the computer generated vocals is the signature sound of UTAU (2008), a voice sythesis shareware program that found popular usage piggybacking off the popularity of Vocaloid (2004) and by working alongside it as a free DIY alternative to the more polished but restricted voice samples by Yamaha. The voicebanks used are 唄音ウタ (Utane Uta/Default) and ころんば4号 (Koronba No. 4), which as the name implies, is based off of koronba’s own voice. There are no photos or recordings of koronba that I know of, so we’ll have to make do with his personal touch on the backing vocals.

The original version was uploaded in 2013 on Niconico, the japanese compliment of YouTube. The culture of Niconico aligns very closely with the otaku (consumer interests, like anime, manga, video games) image board 2channel or Futaba (or 4chan here in the states). 4chan has been known here in the states - negatively as an anti-social, right-wing hivemind whose anonymous nature has facillitated the organization of hacker groups and hate crimes, and positively as the breeding ground of fresh memes and internet culture. This is the kind of people that koronba had in mind when making this song - nerdy, perhaps malajusted people that share the same pop culture background and aesthetic.

Tying closely in with the audience koronba was aiming for is the genre of mashup and hyper-editing know as YTPMV, or in Japan, MAD. Both are a rich tradition of lonely shut ins with varying levels of musical ability painstakingly isolating samples from their favorite sources and placing them in an NLE (non-linear editor) in sync with any song. Each video is a labor of love, or at the very least a labor of sheer autism, which gives them a chance to share their favorite TV shows, movies, and idols with their small circle of friends. There are also inside jokes up the wazoo; in all honesty, I’m as lost as you are when I gaze at this wall of virginity

the composer’s story

Koronba is most famously known for being the sole creator, developer, and composer of LcdDem (2010), a fan game based off of Yume Nikki (2004). It is an indie retro adventure game built with a ubiquetous game engine (RPG Maker 2000). The storyline is built on the premise of an innocent young girl who has secluded herself from the world and seeks catharsis from some supposed trauma through her dreams and her sometimes violent confrontations with them. There is no goal (no items to collect, no bosses or enemies to defeat), no dialogue, and no action; this, the surreal imagery, and the sparsely orchestrated, hollow sounding music add just the right kick of existential dread to leave an impression on people and gather a cult following.

In May of 2013, Koronba nuked his personal and promotional sites, including any download links to his game, leaving only a short landing page politely yet bluntly asking his loyal fans to never talk about LcdDem ever again. With that, he also deleted his Nico Nico account and any other site that hosted his music, including his non-game music. Naturally, this sent his fanbase into a frenzy trying to find a reason, many speculating personal problems or a desire to flee from his unexpected popularity. A common consensus is that LcdDem was an intimate window into koronba’s psyche and that he regretted ever opening up and being so vulnerable in the first place.

Koronba would return in 2016 to post 2 albums on his bandcamp, and added to his testament of sorts to not refer to him by name but gave permission to anonymously share 4 sanctioned songs now informally known as the Fish Market Series, of which Jellyfish is one of them. His return ended up being counterproductive to his intentions, and ended up nuking every last social media account, but not before aggresively berating his rabid fans on Twitter. Some of the highlights include (translation courtesy of this thread):

My mental condition is so worn out that I’ve been rehearsing suicide by hanging, since I feel I can’t take more than this, I’ve deleted all my music. Thanks for everything until now.

Even now I’m still receiving messages and tweets from fans but for me the words of fans is what me hurts the most. I’ve been killed by my fans. I don’t need any kind of propaganda. I hate when people make a fuss out of me. It’s your selfish propaganda what killed me.

If you were to find unauthorized reproduction or thoughtless propaganda, please give them a warning. (about what I said)

What’s with the “That person doesn’t really talk too much”? Don’t go deciding on your own about the personality of other people, improvised shitty newbie believer.

It’s just as bad as posting a link of a game that stopped publication some years ago I’m telling you to stop digging around so irresponsabily fucking stalker.

Are you so stupid that if I don’t tell you “Don’t talk about me” directly you don’t understand it? For all I care “if it’s not talking about me” = the happiest kind of message I can get.

There’s also a bit where he nitpicks someone’s writing style, and I bring it up only to reinforce the hostile nature of his parting words. He was never heard from again.

my story

I first encountered the song a little after the fact, in 2015. I’d have a routine of coming home after long and sweaty marching band practice and dicking around online until I’d eventually warm up to doing homework. I had grown up with YTPMVs and rewatched my favorites often; therefore, my feed started recommending me this new wave of otaku-infused mashups. I saw the thumbnail for the mashup of Jellyfish mashups, and I saw enough shiny anime glitter to get me to click on it, despite not speaking a lick of Japanese.

It was definitely a slow burn; I thought nothing special of it and moved on with my life. But later, the other three sanctioned pieces would find their way to me, and I started to really latch on to koronba’s approach to composing. At the time, I had been playing music for 8 years and I knew my way around the clarinet enough to start thinking bigger picture, beyond just playing the right notes at the right time. I also picked up guitar at a local estudiantina (traditional mexican ensemble for youth) and started to see chords as a composition device for the first time. I wanted to know the chords of everything, so I started with transcriptions of my favorite boleros (mexcian love ballads) and built my vocabulary from there.

My ear was magically drawn to extended harmony and ii-V-Is, and I had a hell of a time wrapping my head around all the naming conventions and modulation tropes. Jellyfish came at the perfect time as I had just built an ear for these rapid changes and knew enough theory to hack my way through on guitar.

As of recently, I also picked up Japanese in community college and have been slowly chipping away on my own ever since, and coming back to the same song and having more jump out at you clear as day is very reassuring.



The meter stays in 4/4 at a perky but not brisk 135 bpm with an eletronic dance beat resounding throughout.

The nature of the japanese language results in more notes per bar than the average song in English, usually as sixteenth note pickups, resulting in a bouncier, almost light-hearted mood.


Here, I have listed the literal sound sources with their closest acoustic alternative.

I am by no means a synthesizer expert, but from what I hear, variety in timbre is achieved through different oscillators (sine, sawtooth, pulse wave with varying duty cycles) and variety in articulation, as well as allusion to real life instruments, is achieved through manipulating the envelope (ADSR, attack-decay-sustain-release)

The way the vocals are mixed, they are barely audible in a mono mix, but are present enough in a stereo mix to create a sense of intimacy and “leaning in to hear more.”


Sometimes, what you leave out is as important as what you leave in. In this case, there is no 4th scale degree (FA) and there is sparse use of the 7th scale degree (TI), which I would consider pseudo-pentatonic. This hearkens back to the name of these collections of songs (Fish Market Series) as the kind of melodies humble fishermen in their 60s would hum along to during their daily work on the boat, but maybe a subversion of said trope.


There is a strong jazz influence behind the chord changes; I have never heard such constant shifting in tone colors in the commercial music sphere.

tonal center common chord/justification
G none, instead a brute force chromatic shift to vi
D G:vi = D:ii
E subversion of D:V/VI back into iii, D:iii = E:ii
C#mi relative minor
B c#:i = B:ii
Bbmi B:iii = bb:iv
Db relative major
Gb none, whole tone down, but bVII(ma7) is canon
Db Gb:I = Db:IV

Circle of Fifths

If you plot these tonal centers on a circle of fifths, you see a sudden jump a tritone away (Db-G) followed by increments clockwise (G, D, E, B, C#) save for one shift counterclockwise to Gb in the chorus. In general, movements clockwise sound brighter (think of classical music) and movements counterclockwise sound darker (think of brass heavy incidental stings from the golden age of television), so the fact that the only darkening happens in the verse, where the gore and killing actually happens, is word painting.

There’s also something to be said of the bassline during the chorus; it starts on Eb and wriggles its way down, avoiding the tension of the V in any key. This chill color choice is in stark contrast to the highly active half diminished chords in the verse. It’s as if the protagonist is dissociating from the horrors happening right outside their window.

How do these characteristics work together?

This is a prime example of Japanese fusion; House/EDM in rhythm, jazz in harmonic color, pentatonic/folk in melody, indie in lyrics. If this song was personified, it’d probably be a “misunderstood” 36 year old new age hippie raised in the countryside of rural Japan who has moved to the city and frequents local raves in full hypebeast attire to abate his MDMA addiction. Hey, don’t we all know a koronba in our lives? If not having a picture of the artist was making you break out in hives, by all means, use this image.

There is also a stark juxtaposition between the happy, groovy rhythm and everything else that is pensive and moody. I like to imagine our imaginary frankenfriend gently weeping under his sunglasses in the middle of the dance floor, doing his darndest to just have a good time.

bringing it all together

the role of derivative work and an “open source” mentality

Koronba’s love child was his fangame. He might not have put out an amicable front, but at some point, he was moved by another human being’s creative output enough to take on the role of God and create his own world that he could share with like-minded people. He had the tools at his disposal and an online community of keyboard warriors eager to consume product and do his PR for him. This power a video game grants his creator, while slightly off topic, was the impetus for his reputation as a composer, as well as a useful metaphor overall for the glory of music making. This same herd of sheep got to work on his non-game music. If it weren’t for the dozens of mashups, and the mashups of those mashups, I would have never heard of koronba, and my life would have been all the more empty.

That isn’t even mentioning the cultural influences of the song itself. I have a hard time pinpointing one label/genre for this song (if you can, please let me know!). I doubt koronba paid for all the songs that went into influencing his taste; kudos if he did, but no reasonable educator would consider cost or licensing restrictions a roadblock to immersion.

easier to produce

Ever since the advent of personal computers, we have reveled in the era of the one man act. Granted, pop celebrities rarely mention who’s playing on the record, but we assume there was a team of engineers and studio musicians that went into each song. Someone like koronba, these days, can get away with a few google searches and some pirated software. I included a list of acoustic equivalents to every synth channel on the track to give a glimpse into what a solo act of yesteryear would need to either pay for or get their hands on in order to produce a work of this calibre. I imagine a shy college kid just like you and me dragging around their clunky, expensive 4 track tape recorder begging the department heads to give him some alone time with each instrument - either that, or getting over their social anxiety and rallying up a group of friends to record a few takes for free.

easier to distribute

Would a song like this have ever seen the light of day just two generations ago considering the composers intentions? Assuming of course that someone as anti-social as koronba would risk leaving his safety bubble to promote his music in the first place, how would he go about speading copies of his work, much less anonymously? Would he tell his friends to tell his friends to make copies, and so on? Could he have just chosen a pseudonym and carried on with his life in a way he could not today?

In the traditonal music industry (the one boomers teach about in community college), there needed to be middlemen with vested interests for every step of the music making process to reach mass distribution.

easier to discover

I am forever grateful that I was born when I was, because just two generations ago (Gen X), I would have most likely never run into music like this. My main method of music exploration would have been listening to the radio, frequenting music shops, and copying cassettes from my friends in some under the rug network of music nerds. Even then, whether or not I would have liked the 80’s version of Jellyfish (Yamaha DX7s!) becomes a chicken or egg situation; did the times mold my taste or did some inate taste latch itself onto whatever this music is?

questions to masticate