Warning: incoming bangers.
In my humble and generally mistaken opinion, we don’t praise anime soundtracks enough. We rent live action soundtracks like Stranger Things or western animated soundtracks like The Lion King. But when it comes to anime, we usually only talk about things that don’t make firecrackers like story and animation and dubbing. But when I’m in the car on the way to the club, I don’t want to put on a recording of the cast of kill her kill her screaming one after the other (even if it would make me quite hyped), I want to listen music it takes me ready at throw ass. So that’s it, gang. In my humble and generally mistaken opinion, these soundtracks are some of the best anime has to offer.
Well, that’s just fucking obvious. This is cowboy bebop. Music is a character in this series. Without the music, this series would not have achieved the levels of critical acclaim it enjoys. It is an essential part of what cowboy bebop does better than all other anime: style. The series is cool, contemplative, and fun, and the music is the main reason for that. First, the main theme “Tank!” makes me want to throw ass in a jazzy way. It is a triumph of modern jazz composition. After the jazz greats spent their days in the sun, jazz took a downturn and became an often meandering, esoteric, and downright pretentious style of music. Seatbelts, the composers of “Tank!” said, “fuck that” and instead did a fun, frenetic, infectious jazz track that be bop viewers will hum along for decades. The series also features beautiful, sweeping, and heartbreaking works like “Space Lion,” a drum and vocal piece that closes the end of Season 1. Cowboy Bebop’s soundtrack is a triumph of composition and is (arguably ) the best anime soundtrack. all time.
HERmUrai ChamplooThe soundtrack of features the work of one of the pioneers of the Lo-Fi hip hop genre, a Japanese producer known as Nujabes. Born as Jun Seba, Nujabes is known as one of the godfathers of lo-fi hop, alongside American producer J Dilla. Through clever uses of sampling, these two men helped shape a genre that went against traditional songwriting and prioritized mood and atmosphere over lyrics and song structure. Just like its predecessor, Cowboy Bee-bopthe music of Champloo allows the series to maintain a contemplative, fleeting atmosphere that is beautifully juxtaposed with the austere violence of many of its storylines. The soundtrack often plays against its laid-back nature at key moments to great dramatic effect. Take “The Million Way of Drum” sequence from “Misguided Miscreants Part 2”. Just when the antagonist, of this particular episode, thinks he’s safe after fucking Mugen’s favorite anti-hero, Mugen shows – to the soundtrack of a whirlwind of drums – to call back to the guy why he shouldn’t have played with him. To his favorite, Samurai ChamplooThe soundtrack of is whimsical, dreamy and most complimentary: chill af.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Confession: I don’t remember too much Neon Genesis Evangelion, but that doesn’t matter, because Yoko Takahashi’s intro song “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” is perhaps the greatest anime intro music of all time. It’s catchy at the ABBA level. A baroque pop earworm with gorgeous vocals, stunning melodies, and possibly the most impactful horn section of any anime song of all time. It’s a triumph of songwriting, and its carefree melody contains a sinister undercurrent. On the surface, the song sounds happy, but something about the composition leaves me nervous every time I hear it. It’s the sound of a crazy dance on the edge of an abyss. The title alone is enough to send shivers down your spine. “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” is the ultimate theory of a malevolent divine being. It’s the perfect piece of music for a series that reconciles with the sense of being human in the face of a god-like otherworldly power.
Another confession: I cannot enter naruto. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome. The world building is phenomenal. The characters are deep and nuanced. The millions and one ninja techniques are each creative as hell. But there’s just too much filler. There’s too much. I can’t follow. I tried so many times to watch the show but I got exhausted. But one aspect of this series that never fails to disappoint me is the music. It kicks ass. When Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s “Haruka Natada” plays over the first opening sequence of the series, I get chills. When Naruto is about to take over in battle and his theme music starts playing, I get chills. When Sasuke utters the phrase “demon wind shuriken: windmill of shadows!”, in his fight with Zabuza and this piano music starts to play. I have chills. The music of naruto is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s bold, badass and creative as hell. Writing about this makes me want to check out a filler episode guide and give the series another shot. And I might.
The attack of the Titans
The music of The attack of the Titans is often like the show itself: bombastic, terrifying and melodramatic in the best possible way. The main theme of the first season has all the gravity of the famous “Duel of The Fates” by John William of Star Wars. Every piece of music in this show fills the listener with a tremendous sense of dread. And since it is The attack of the Titans, this fear is never unfounded. Even the “peaceful” music in the end credits is often chilling. Take a look at the end credits of Season 2 and you’ll know what I mean. The series also experiments with the genre in various creative ways, sometimes within the confines of a single track. It’s not uncommon for an AoT song to transition from orchestral and operatic to alternative rock and heavy metal in a time gap between a verse and a prechorus. The score isn’t without its finest moments either, and often features sweeping string arrangements with delicate acoustic guitar. In a spectacle that can go from triumphant to terrifying in the span of a second, Attack On Titan screams for a score to sonically reflect that juxtaposition. And by God, I think they succeeded. Now excuse me while I’m having nightmares.
Written almost entirely by Japanese rock band The Pillows, FLCL has a delightfully “uncomposed” soundtrack. What I mean by that is that they don’t stink of classical arrangements or music school teaching. They feel down to earth, gritty and raw. As if they were written by four kids in a garage (and maybe they were?) FLCL’s soundtrack captures youthful angst the same way the garage/indie rock opus does. which was the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It’s a show about being young, dealing with crushes, and growing up. It also deals with a bass-playing alien girl Rickenbacker, sent by an intergalactic police force to fight off an invasion of alien robots. But indie rock has been dealing with themes like this since the early 2000s! Listen to the album The Flaming Lips Yoshito fights the pink robots and you will hear what I mean.
kill her kill her
As The Cruel Angel Thesis before that, kill her kill her is in possession of a banger jewel, I am of course talking about “Don’t Lose Your Way”. It’s an absolute alternative rock hit. And it plays only the most badass moments of kill her kill her (usually when Ryuku regains the upper hand in combat with a particularly tough enemy). This happens more often than you might actually think, and while any lesser song would certainly lose its impact – due to the law of diminishing returns (i.e. if you repeat it too much, it ages) – “Don’t Lose Your Way” is never a victim of it. I’m really not tired of it. It’s so moving. So young girl against the world. So hopeful and powerful and triumphant. It’s just a great fucking song. And the rest of the soundtrack is no exception either. It was composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, who also composed the music for The attack of the Titans and a number of other popular anime titles. As The attack of the Titans, the soundtrack is a genre sonic mutt, borrowing from electronica, orchestra and rock and roll. It really makes you want to grab a pair of scissors and fight the person who killed your father. Do not run while you are doing this, for safety reasons.
This somewhat obscure anime about a traveling doctor, who cures people of complications caused by spirits, has an absolutely stunning soundtrack. The main theme is a superb acoustic guitar ballad with the structure and complexity of an Elliott Smith song. While many anime soundtracks on this list are a masterclass in drama and bombast, this soundtrack is particularly ingenious for its use of subtlety. Watch an episode of Mushishi in many ways feels like a meditation. The pacing of the episodes is slow and easy, like watching a flower grow. Don’t get me wrong, there are life and death situations in nearly every episode, but one can’t help but feel a sense of calm, contemplative calm while watching the series. The soundtrack only adds to the hypotensive effect of the episodes, with soothing chimes, whistling flutes and shaky acoustic guitars. It’s a series to unwind after a long hard day. Maybe watch it to decompress after stabbing your father’s killer to death with scissors (which I hope you weren’t running around with).
Featured Image Credit: Sunset
—The Mary Sue has a strict commenting policy that prohibits, but is not limited to, personal insults towards somebodyhate speech and trolling.—
Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]