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Totally Badass Anime Theme Music Stuff (From a Guy That Normally Isn’t a Big Anime Music Fan)

August 16, 2010

Yeah. I am guilty of one of the animeverse’s greatest sins: I’m not a big fan of anime music. At least most of the stuff that fans seem to gush over.

L’Arc en Ciel? Whatever. The Pillows? Decent, but not the greatest thing since forever. Maaya Sakamoto and all those other pop vocalist? Meh.

I chalk it up to the fact that my musical tastes were pretty well-defined by the time I got into anime. I grew up listening to jazz and classical music as a kid, since my dad was a fan of jazz (smooth jazz at that) and I had been in orchestra since fifth grade. When Batman Returns came out in 1992, I discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees on that movie’s soundtrack, and in no time I was a big fan of goth and post-punk shit. I spent my high school years watching shows like Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes on MTV.

So, yeah, by the time I got into anime halfway through high school, I wasn’t so keen on “converting” to its musical stylings. Guess you gotta get caught young to get into the bulk of it.

But there’s still a hell of a lot of good anime music, and that’s what this list is for: To show what I, a dude who can take of leave anime OSTs, likes.

Let’s get the most “mainstream” song out of the way first. The opening to the Hellsing TV series. Logos Naki World. It pretty well encapsulates the entire series’ soundtrack, which is damn good save for the crappy ending theme. The way I always described the soundtrack to my friends was that it was “the blues fused with gothic rock,” which isn’t exactly true in the least bit but it sounds pretty cool. Damn good song. Damn good soundtrack, all in all.

It’s been forever since I’ve seen Serial Experiments Lain. I couldn’t even tell you where in the series (if at all) the songs from the Cyberia Mix soundtrack were used. All I know is that while I wasn’t all that infatuated with the actual series (cool, but… eh), I absolutely loved the electronic music used in the series. The above song, Prayer, is my favorite off of the soundtrack. Very oppresive-sounding and shit. The closing track, Infanity World, is pretty great as well for completely opposite reasons, since it’s a good down tempo chill-out piece. Shame the anime wasn’t as good as the tunes.

Cowboy Bebop’s soundtrack, as a whole, is pretty damn brilliant. The catch is that TANK! gets way too much facetime. It’s a great instrumental, but it isn’t the best thing from the series. My favorite song from the series is See You Space Cowboy, the alternate rendition of The Real Folk Blues that plays during Spike’s final confrontation with Vicious and his gang. Love the way the song takes the basic idea behind the original and turns it into something completely different.

I’m going to commit another act of sacrilege: While I prefer Cowboy Bebop as a series, I think Samurai Champloo has a better soundtrack. Sorry, Yoko Kanno. Watanabe really knows his stuff when it comes to helping produce anime soundtracks. I’m not a big hiphop fan and I love Champloo’s soundtrack, especially the above ending theme: Shiki no Uta. I think that statement alone expresses my feelings for the series well enough.

Wow. Another series where Shinichiro Watanabe had a hand in the musical selection. Why this dude isn’t, like, making stuff on a regular basis I’ll never understand. At least, like, one series a year or something. Goes to show how much the industry sucks ass. Also: the group that did the opening theme to Michiko e Hatchin, Soil and Pimp Sessions, is pretty fucking amazing. Go listen to some of their other stuff. Paraiso’s pretty damn good too, since it has something of a 70’s big band jazz sound to it that I dig. Again, it’s a shame that Michiko e Hatchin wasn’t as good as the music.

Red Garden’s opening theme, Jolly Jolly by Jill Decoy Association, is easily my favorite popish anime theme from recent years. Love hearing j-pop where the woman’s voice isn’t on such a high octave.

Does every single ALI Project song sound the same? Pretty much. Then again, the same can be said about most songs by every band in the history of the universe, so I don’t see that as being much of a criticism of the band. The only reason why it seems to stick out for ALI Project is that they have such a distinct sound that the similarity between their songs is more pronounced. I’m rather fond of Mirai no Eve from Avenger. It was a pretty crappy anime that wasted its potential, but at least it had some awesomely ridiculous ALI Project songs. I dig Mirai no Eve in particular since it’s lyrics about androids and the Garden of Eden stuck in my mind long after I forgot about the plot of said anime it came from.

Fun Fact: A real life friend of mine always assumes that I’ll dig a series if it has an ALI Project opening/ending. Direct quote: “Is that ALI Project? No wonder you like Book of Bantorra so much!”

The above creepy music video is for the second ending theme from Maison Ikkoku: Cinema by Picasso. It has some snazzy lyrics about life being like a movie and blahblahblah. It’s pretty cheesy when you get down to it, both the lyrics and the song itself, but I love it. Hell, I love all of the endings they did for the series. I think Cinema stuck with me the most since it was the first one I heard.

So yeah, I’m capable of liking crappy j-pop. It just has to be a certain kind of crappy.

Now that we’ve crossed that threshold, I may as well subject you to the soundtrack from Project A-Ko. I love it with no degree of irony or MST3King.

And my all-time favorite cheesy j-pop song? No Brand Heroes, by Chika Sakamoto, from Here is Greenwood.

Damn. It’s, like, the cheesy stuff stopped being good after 1990 or something.

Wait. Nevermind. Nadia’s opening is from 1990. Make that 1991.

But the Gate Keepers theme was from 2000. We’ll just pretend they recorded it in 1990 and traveled into the future to release it. Yeah.

Yeah. Anime music liked by a dude that isn’t a big fan of anime music. I guess you could say that I do like anime music, but that would be a vicious lie and I’d have to hate you forever for saying it. Jerk.

And that Ah! My Goddess theme was posted at the beginning of this post because it is TOTALLY AWESOME AND STUFF. Yes.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Landon permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:10 AM

    What’s sad is that I totally forgot to talk about the Utena soundtrack, the Kemonozume soundtrack, all the shitty Ranma 1/2 songs I love, the uber-badass music from Bartender, and a bunch of other stuff.

    But I still don’t like anime music. Nope.

  2. gwern permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:50 AM

    The Utena soundtrack is amazing, I agree. One of exactly 2 OSTs I’ve ever actually bought.

    > Damn. It’s, like, the cheesy stuff stopped being good after 1990 or something.

    Alan Kay has a quote to the effect that ‘technology is anything invented since you were born’. I wonder if ‘cheesiness’ is similarly defined.

    • Landon permalink
      August 17, 2010 6:14 PM

      Not sure about that quote when transfered over to cheesiness. I can think of plenty of stuff that I find silly that was made before I was born. I find a lot of the bubblegum pop from the 60s and early 70s to be pretty damn cheesy AND bad and it’s about 10 years before my time.

  3. Aile permalink
    August 16, 2010 8:05 AM

    Pretty good collection, for someone who doesn’t like (“at least most of the stuff that fans seem to gush over”) anime music.

    I’m with you on that one. Generic dancepop tune #1042 doesn’t interest me much (usually because it’s coupled with generic highschool anime #1042, so I skip over both) and my tastes run more along the eclectic and adventurous fringes . Sometimes though a cute little popper catches your ear, maybe it has a good groove or a catchy hook. Doesn’t happen too often, though, since most stuff still sounds like pumped out of a factory of casio presets. Thankfully the music styles used in anime got more interesting with time, I usually stick with the soundtracks of series that are more “deep” and “dark” (where the music is also, well, more deep and dark, surprise).

    Throwing out some recommendations ?
    -You’ve mentioned “Red Garden” already, I don’t care much for the OP, but the general orchestral soundtrack by Akira Senju is sublime.
    -I don’t really have to mention Joe Hisaishi’s work on the Ghibli movies, do I ? Especially in the fattened symphonic concert editions. I know, totally different league than what is “anime-music” means in the context of your blogpost (mainly pop OP/EDs), but hey, you mentioned you like classical.
    -I always liked following Yuki Kajiura’s work since I’ve heard the Noir OST. Some real pearls in there.
    -guilty pleasure time: I jam out to the K-On tunes often (OP/ED, image character songs, etc. not the OST which is inconsequential elevator music), some really good rocking powerpop in there. Most shameful secret: I like the songs with Yui’s voice the most, which is otherwise the embodiment of “annoying high pitched japanese girl”

    • August 16, 2010 9:56 PM

      Season 1 K-On had pretty catchy tunes. And the Yui variants are fun. Say what you will, but the songs were very earwormy. Personally, I rather like Fuwa Fuwa Time, despite the lyrics apparently meaning the most mundane and inane possible things (which is a plus, actually).

    • Landon permalink
      August 17, 2010 6:20 PM

      Got the Noir soundtrack. Bought it just to get the ALI Project stuff, but I ended up liking the whole thing. Not a favorite, but it’s good.

      That’s part of what irks me about K-On. The music IS pretty decent for its genre, but they do their damnedest to avoid it in the series. It makes absolutely no sense to do that.

      Don’t remember much of Red Garden’s music outside of the opening and the songs the characters sung. I’ll have to check it out.

  4. August 16, 2010 9:58 PM

    Landon should be murdered, and his corpse raped. Kill! Kill! KILL!

    Only the crotch matters, Landon is a pig (of capitalism)!


    • Landon permalink
      August 17, 2010 6:21 PM

      You know I prefer the “swedish pop” bits from DMC over the metal bits. Because I AM a pig of capitalism!

  5. August 16, 2010 9:59 PM

    Aside note: I like rock-y music like the Air Master music, personally.

    Also: I’d mention the ROD OVA theme, but that’s like, just one song.

  6. August 17, 2010 12:41 AM

    The more I write about anime music, the more I stray from the stuff that people like. OP/EDs have been talked to death, and unfortunately, few leave the kind of lasting impression that I’d like from my music. Somehow, the soundtracks just stick with me that much more because there are few soundtracks I’d consider to be bad and if they’re done right, they channel the essence of the anime that much more strongly.

    Seconding Aile’s comment about checking out the Red Garden soundtrack. If there’s an album that’s gotten me hooked on Akira Senju’s compositions, it would be that. Beautiful, moving piano/orchestral pieces that hit all the spots just right.

  7. August 17, 2010 3:53 AM

    Love for anime music seems to decrease the older I get and not due to my tastes in music becoming more refined but just that I seem to care less about music as time goes by.

    Check out the Giant Robo OVA soundtrack, the entire shows is horribly underrated and its music is no exception.

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