A couple times a month, the Fandom Post community suggests and votes on a new top five list about something in anime, most often from the current season. It’s our way of highlighting something fun or interesting or strange—or even meaningful—about what’s airing now, or about anime in general.
If there’s one thing anime fans consistently purchase outside of an anime release itself, it’s an anime soundtrack. There is a long-standing and consistent pool of composers who work with anime and video games and other popular mediums to produce the melodies and themes and background music (and, of course, the multitude of opening and ending songs used for anime, when they’re not simply singles provided by the music publisher committee partner). But there are also soundtracks that are more eclectic, featuring multiple contributors, or that feature work by composers and musicians that do not ordinarily do work for anime. Our list this week, voted on by our usual, if unpredictable, group, features five of our current favorite anime soundtracks that are provided for the most part by members of that first group—those composers versed in the music required of anime. Nonetheless they are very much five different modes of music, fulfilling an always welcome and wide variety.
#5: Clannad (comps.: Shinji Orito, Magome Togoshi, Jun Maeda)
Sometimes impossible or even unkind to separate, many anime soundtracks are incomplete or inseparable from their opening and ending music. The soundtrack for Clannad, like Air and Kanon, is especially memorable for the effect of its opening and ending songs on the experience of the show. More so in these franchises as they were reversions of the original visual novel game music—composed by Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi—performed or sung by well-known singers Lia, Chata, or the group, Eufonius. Much of the series’ wistful and emotional background music was also reinterpreted and rearranged from the game’s soundtrack, expanding out characters’ themes to great effect.
#4: Attack on Titan (comp.: Hiroyuki Sawano)
In a story of heroes and monsters transformed into legendary, mythical proportions, Hiroyuki Sawano’s memorable and halting score for Attack on Titan is naturally and grandly operatic. Full orchestra blaring, chorus roaring, chords thundering. Like the story at times it does not relent or waver, throughout the series, in a robust tradition of complex, operatic scoring in anime, back at least to Masamichi Amano’s heralded score for Giant Robo. So, too, however, it is rarely subtle, but neither is a Titan at the gate, or a human hurtling through space towards its gaping maw as a heavenly chorus thunders its assent.
#3: Cowboy Bebop (comp.: Yoko Kanno; perf. by The Seatbelts)
Kanno’s soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop is arguably one of the most well known and referenced multi-song anime soundtracks. There is no central score, only the songs, preformed by Kanno’s rollicking handpicked band, The Seatbelts, which featured many other well known anime-affiliated musicians and composers, including the eclectic guitarist and Trigun composer, Tsuneo Imahori. That the rock, jazz, funk, R&B, and blues-themed soundtrack is a remarkable and surprising and always fun accompaniment to the ever and deservedly popular show is little in doubt. That several of those songs, like other portions of Kanno’s repertoire over the years, are unaccredited copies of mainstream songs, however, is its other legacy.
#2: Princess Tutu (comp.: Kaoru Wada, et al)
Princess Tutu is, oddly, in a unique class among anime soundtracks. Kaoru Wada, though composing some incidental music for it, is mostly an expert and ideal arranger for its long and detailed and sometimes obscure list of classical compositions—often but not always for ballet—that comprise the show’s music and very much make the show exactly what it is. (Ritsuko Okazaki composed and performed the show’s OP/ED.) Without Wada’s arranging, and the selection of befitting music for each character, theme, and climax, this shoujo classic from Junichi Sato and Ikoku Itoh would mean nothing. Instead it serves up—and for some viewers, surely serves as an introduction to—pieces from Tchaikovsky (of course), Mussorgsky, Johann Straus II, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Delibes, Bizet, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Saint-Saëns that define and anchor each episode as strong or stronger than any other piece of the presentation. (Furthering music (and ballet) education, there are additional pieces from lesser-known composers Mikhail Glinka, Bedřich Smetana, Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska, Jean Schneitzhoeffer, and Adolphe Adam. Hence “et al” above.)
#1: Aria (comp.: Takeshi Senoo; perf. by Choro Club)
Again from director/producer Junichi Sato, Aria, a show not quite as defined by its music as our #2 choice, but just as memorable for its effect on the experience. Takeshi Senoo’s minimalist score is light, airy, cheerful, and often easy going. Somewhat rare in anime soundtracks this is achieved with instrumentation and arrangement unique among the orchestral strings and heavy synthesizers familiar to many listeners. In this case, it is the soft guitar, mandolin, and bass of Shigeharu Sasago, Oh Akioka, and Jyoji Sawada, of Choro Club, performers of traditional Brazilian Choro music. Why this particular style suits Aria is both easy to answer—the slow, nostalgic, carefree pace of the story and its characters would be smothered by a larger, fuller sound—and mysterious, as Senoo and Choro Club’s music provides as many new perspectives and discoveries in its course as Neo-Venizia does down its meandering waterways.
And that’s Favorite Soundtracks. Join us next time for someplace to eat. To have a say in what makes it on that list, and the next list after that, check out the forum thread, read up on the rules, and join the Fandom Post Anime List Project today!