Akame Ga Kill!
An action-packed, heart-breaking anime needs a soundtrack apropos to the feels it produces, but none do it quite like Akame Ga Kill! By and large, soundtracks take the back seat and toe the ‘if you can’t hear it, it’s doing its job’ line.
Akame Ga Kill’s soundtrack says “fuck your shit, listen to this” as the action ramps up, and the soundtrack moves from the role of hype man to the main event. A sitar-like instrument feverishly quivers as Akame starts chopping heads, and fucking hell, is it a rush.
More cowbell is lame; we need more sitar.
It’s no coincidence that all the greatest science fiction movies of all time are accompanied by some of the best scores of all time, so it’s no surprise that Akira sports one of the most hypnotic scores in cinematic history. Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterful 1988 film Akira has had a long-lasting impact on the both anime and sci-fi cinema as a whole, and the unforgettable soundtrack from collective Genioh Yamashirogumi is certainly part of the reasoning behind its legacy.
With its eerie otherworldliness, Tsutomu Ōhashi’s compositions go hand in hand with the haunting dystopian imagery. Few feature-length anime films possess a score as unique as Akira’s, but few films in general match the its incredible atmosphere. As beautiful as it is distressing, Akira just wouldn’t be the masterpiece it is without its mesmerizing music.
As an anime that relies heavily on emotional dialogue to keep you invested, the background music often chooses to keep things simple, but when Angel Beats pulls out a proper vocal track, it’s truly a special moment. From the thrilling, energetic riffs of school band Girls Dead Monster to the heart-breaking final scene soundtracked by a soft yet captivating piano ballad, these tracks always manage to compliment the moment impeccably.
Angel Beats most powerful track is undoubtedly ‘My Soul, Your Beats!’ by Lia, the kinda op that refuses to be skipped and a perfect example of one that characterises the whole anime perfectly. Thanks, in part to a combination of mysterious opening piano rings, to the extraordinary highs of its immensely emotional chorus.
Do you like space? Do you like westerns? Do you like jazz music? Then trust me friend you want to get on board the Bebop for the time of your life. Widely regarded as one of the best animes ever made by the anime community, both its original Japanese and its English dubs are praised.
Cowboy Bebop features one of the most recognisable opening themes in anime, if you play this song around a group of fans they are guaranteed to know the words at the beginning. The piece in question, ‘Tank!’ was made for the show itself and it encapsulates everything the show is, leaving you feeling like a true Space Cowboy.
Cyber City OEDO 808
Whilst syndication often causes bad things like awful dubbing and subtitles, the 1995 syndication of cult favourite Cyber City OEDO 808 for the UK features an exclusive soundtrack full of synth laden soundscapes and chuggy, grooving, thrash metal goodness. Said goodness perfectly complements the show’s 80’s action movie-centric one liners and straight talking, hungover ex-cops.
In much the same way the show leaves behind many of the more ponderous, artistic overtones of the cyberpunk genre, the tension built by the lavish synth stabs and the release provided by the relatively simplistic thrashing is the perfect accompaniment to the ‘I HAVE A HANGOVER SO I’M GOING TO SHOOT EVERYTHING AND PRETTY MUCH SPEAK SOLELY IN ONE LINERS AND NOT WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT TRANSHUMANISM’ style of Cyber City OEDO 808.
Ghost In The Shell
Ghost in The Shell or, as it’s known in Japan, Mobile Armored Riot Police needs no introduction, alongside Bladerunner, the 1995 full length anime is arguably one of the best big screen interpretations of the notoriously difficult to put to screen Cyberpunk genre, in no small manner due to it’s flawless soundtrack.
Taking steadfastly acoustic, traditional Japanese choral arrangements and weaving seamlessly with Vangelis-esque synth design, opener ‘Utai I – Making of Cyborg’ perfectly sets the scene for the juxtaposition inherent in the the meeting of the two worlds. The meeting of warm, traditional Japanese Music and the cold, machinated embrace of the synths perfectly represents the transhumanist themes abound in the film.
Hunter X Hunter
The Hunter X Hunter (2011) OST features a variety songs which are upbeat and exciting to signify adventure – as well as daunting, suspenseful tracks which signify danger, mischief and loss. HxH 2011 makes incredible use of some of these tracks in some scenes of the anime which further amplify the emotional impact of these scenes, more so than most other anime ever seen (especially for a shōnen).
The most incredible songs from this particular OST however, are the memorable and highly impactful opening and endings, with the opening perfectly suiting the anime overall and the endings (at least after the first) complimenting the themes and happenings of the story arcs at which they appear after.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Simple isn’t a word that many would associate to the plot of the 7 manga volumes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or its anime counterpart, of which the 4th series has just started to air. This favourite among the anime community gained incredible popularity over the past few years, and it has to be said, the soundtrack helped it out a lot. The opening for the first season sets up the story of what is to follow perfectly, but the big dog of this soundtrack isn’t original, but a licensed track.
This track is the 8 minute long ‘Roundabout’ by Yes. A classic prog rock track beloved by many. The first bass riff alone is so popular that in the past few months it has spawned thousands of videos, firmly cementing its memetic status. Internet culture aside, this song is used perfectly in alignment with the bombastic affair of an anime that is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
Part of the magic (heh) of the Madoka Magica series is its ability to sucker you into an initially hopeful world of hopeful, cutesy character and the colourful, totally bizarre witches’ realms. However, Mami’s fate in episode 3 begins the pit of despair that earned such acclaim, and this complete tonal shift is heavily supported by the anime’s exceptional soundtrack.
Composed by Yuki Kajiura, the ost features a number of overwhelmingly evocative pieces like the flute laden, fantastical ‘Sis Puella Magica’, the joyful piano skips of ‘Desiderium’, the ambient, eerie chimes of ‘Puella In Somnio’ and, as hype-generating battle music is essential, the hurried orchestral track ‘Credens Justitiam’. Without this accompanying soundtrack, it’s unlikely that Madoka Magica would’ve had quite the same vast influence on the magical girl genre.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full episode of Mushishi because the soundtrack always sends me to sleep. Obviously not in the ‘boring af’ sense, but the soft, soothing lullaby sense.
Equally ambient and twinkly, the Mushishi soundtrack glides around the animation and guides you into an alternate reality, where it feels like you’re wrapped in a warm blanket – a feeling which, I’m told, is similar to heroin.
Apparently heroin is quite bad for you, but I know for sure the Mushishi soundtrack has no side effects, with the exception of extreme drowsiness.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Imagine something big, like really big. I bet you’re thinking something like the moon. No mate, bigger, waaaaay bigger. Something so big you’d look at it and go, “Fuck me that’s big” but you wouldn’t because it’s so fucking big your mind wouldn’t comprehend it! Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann gets that big and even bigger.
I know what you’re thinking “What music could ever do this story justice?” Well take a second to get the dog jizz out of your ears and I’ll tell you! The two standout songs are the first opening track ‘Sorairo Days’. This riff laden track gives us just a taste of what is to come, with an energy that is genuinely tangible every listen. The instrumentation of multiple synth layers, guitars and steady rock drums works incredibly well for this Mecha based anime.
A song heard at the most important moments of the story is ‘Libera Me From Hell’, which is a hip hop track that starts with and heavily features operatic and orchestral themes throughout. The lines in the chorus have become synonymous with the show and are seen by many fans as the perfect accompaniment to the stories underlying morals. “Do the impossible, See the Invisible, Row Row, Fight the Power”