Friday, February 3, 2012

Top Ten Anime Soundtracks

Two top tens within the same week? Have I gone mad?! Well, as longtime readers of SuperPhillip Central very well know I have always been mad. Despite this, we are trekking forward and capping off the week with a non-video game related entry into SPC history. As you may or may not know, I love imposing my taste in music on my readers and forcing them to adhere to my tastes. Part of that previous statement is not true. Can you guess which? Anyway, today's list is all about anime soundtracks and the best of the best that I have heard. Of course, I have not listened to every anime soundtrack there is, and even I will admit my bouts of anime fandom are limited at best. That won't stop me from making this list, though! Each anime soundtrack listed is accompanied by six songs. I felt that was the right number to show off the better themes and songs of each soundtrack. I hope through listening to these pieces that you expand your musical tastes outside of your comfort zone. Enjoy!

10) Macross Frontier

Starring a popular pop star, a rising pop star, and a military pilot, Macross Frontier is the latest in the long-running franchise. This go around Yoko Kanno lends her compositional talents and leads the musical crusade to craft an epic-sounding score to accompany all of the onscreen action. Since there's a duo of pop stars to work with, Kanno needed to create some pop-ish sounding tunes, and she delivered with songs like "What 'bout my star" and "Welcome to My Fan Club's Night!" Her other efforts add to the buffet of musical tastiness Kanno dished up for fans of her work and of the Macross Frontier anime. Especially listen to Zero Hour, her best work on the soundtrack.

9) Brain Powerd

Just to get this out of the way, you will most likely notice that half of the soundtracks on this list are composed by Yoko Kanno. With that mentioned, her work on Brain Powerd (no, I did not leave out a letter) is full of mellow melodies and gentle tunes. The majority of the soundtrack is orchestrated with a sensational use of strings and Kanno pounding away on the keys of her piano as shown in Power of the Light. One of her vocalist staples, Steve Conte, appears in True Love and once again delivers a stunning performance.

8) Darker Than Black

After delving deep into jazz with her Cowboy Bebop soundtrack (posted later on this list), Yoko Kanno returned to the genre with Darker Than Black. Full of tunes reminiscent of her work on Bebop, Kanno shines like a shooting star with tracks like GO Dark, Highheel Runaway, and Guy. Then there's non-jazz tracks to complete the soundtrack, rounding it out, and give it even more amazing music. There's no doubt that Yoko Kanno knows her stuff, and Darker Than Black is yet another piece of evidence to prove just that.

7) Fullmetal Alchemist

Is Michiru Oshima a name that rings any bells for you? Perhaps some of her works would shed some light on her. She has written music for several anime, video games, movies, and television shows. Her works spread from Godzilla movies to even having a hand in crafting one of The Legend of Zelda themes in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Her compositional creations in Fullmetal Alchemist are not to be taken lightly either. Gentle melodies at one time, powerful at others, Mrs. Oshima really knows how to tug at the heartstrings with her music.

6) Wolf's Rain

Yoko Kanno takes a more subdued approach with her Wolf's Rain soundtrack. Unlike Darker Than Black and Macross Frontier, there's little if any in the way of loud rock or peppy jazz pieces. Instead we get more rustic flavors of music and orchestra cacophonies. Wolf's Rain follows the story of a pack of wolves who can shape-shift into human forms to fit in with society while struggling to survive. I caught the show on Adult Swim back when anime was still relatively popular in North America. Scope out some of the sounds with the links below.

5) The Big O

Toshihiko Sahashi penned one doozy of a score with his The Big O soundtrack, made up of a rich range of styles like electronica and jazz. The entire score sounds like something from a combination spy film/film noir/sci-fi epic. What else could it be when you're concerning a show about a negotiator who dabbles in being a detective, has an android, a butler, and a big giant mecha known as Big O? Then you have several of the battle themes with bombastic brass and strings which come off as compositions for some kind of monster movie or something. See... er... hear what I mean by listening to these six fine examples.

4) Outlaw Star

Koh Otani is the man behind the music for this anime and the next one on my list. Outlaw Star is heavily made up between rock and orchestral pieces. A great soundtrack is one that can be heard outside of the anime and you still enjoy it. Outlaw Star is just that. I loved the score so much that I "borrowed" some of the themes for my RPG Maker 2003 game, SuperPhillip RPG: The Crystal Quest (Away for the battle theme and Power for the boss theme; see below examples). What I consider to be the main theme of the series, Flight, is an exceptional piece that you can imagine Gene Starwind and the gang taking off into the great unknown. A tremendous soundtrack for a tremendous anime.

3) Gundam Wing

The other soundtrack on this list from Koh Otani (he also did the music for the PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus), Gundam Wing takes both real instruments and synthesized instruments to create a soundtrack that is both rocking and harmonious. Taking cues from Outlaw Star (or was it the other way around?), Gundam Wing is mostly built upon rock and orchestral themes, sometimes even a combination of the two. One of the better themes is To Beauty, To Elegance, and To Noble-Mindedness which is a waltz version (played in 3/4 time as is customary of waltzes) of Relena Peacecraft's theme. This 50+ episode series is my personal favorite form of Gundam even though it is a spinoff. Regardless, enjoy these following samples.

2) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

If you are in desperate search for a soundtrack that encompasses the genres of techno, rock, rap, jazz, symphonic pieces, and a plethora of others, then look no further than Yoko Kanno's Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack. Full of memorable themes, catchy riffs, and toe-tapping tunes, Kanno's masterpiece knows no bounds. Whether you're rocking out to Yakitori, listening to the female vocals of Gabriel Robin in Cyberbird, or bopping your had to the jazzy wonders of 3tops, you cannot deny the impressive amount of content Yoko Kanno dished out for this 52 episode series.

1) Cowboy Bebop

Yoko Kanno was listed as my number one favorite composer, beating out Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears). She even got a top five (one of the most popular posts in SPC history) devoted to her. The reason for this is that her range is impossibly incredible with her work on Cowboy Bebop being a testament to this. Yoko Kanno and her band The Seatbelts comprised the majority of tracks with several vocal themes from singers like Mai Yamane, Steve Conte, and Gabriel Robin. Whether you like jazz, funk, heavy metal, country, or anything else, there is most definitely a song or theme on the soundtrack that has your name on it. Cowboy Bebop doesn't just stand as the anime with my favorite score, but it's also the anime that I admire the most.

Car 24
Space Lion
Bad Dog No Biscuits
The EGG and YOU


This concludes our dip into the deep, expansive ocean that is anime music. Did you find a song or soundtrack that you especially enjoyed? Great! Let me know about it in the comments section. Have a great weekend, everybody.

1 comment:

Alex Himself said...

Awesome list. I also really love Full Metal, Outlaw Star and of course the Beebop. You know what else I really love that you didn't list? Evangellion! It has some cool takes on classical and orchestra music. Check it out sometime.