It’s funny how the Internet works. The other day, I was doing on some serious research for something for work. And, one thing led to another, I eventually found myself just on YouTube listening to some of my favorite opening and closing songs in anime. Such is the way of the Internet; you start off doing serious work and you end up just doing something totally weird.
But it was great to kind of flash back to the days when anime was a huge part of my life. I still enjoy listening to their themes songs once in a while. But this did get me thinking: do I like the music because I attach them to my feelings for the show? There could be some truth to it but I do believe there are some songs that came from these animes that can stand out on their own.
There are a few rules, however. Only one song per anime is allowed and, two, songs that were already hits prior to the anime being shown are disqualified. So, no “Fly Me To the Moon” from Neon Genesis Evangelion or “Do You Want To?” from Paradise Kiss here!
Shame, really. I really like “Do You Want To?”
With that said, to the list!
“Tank!” by The Seatbelts (from Cowboy Bebop)
Let’s start the list with probably one of my favorite songs, anime or not anime: Tank! from Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is probably one of the best anime I’ve seen ever. It’s hard to put my finger on what makes the show so good. The characters are fantastic and I love how each of them have individual personalities and their own singular story arcs. While Cowboy Bebop is generally a sci-fi themed anime, it actually feels more like film noir than anything else, giving it a really cool vibe. And that’s just what makes Cowboy Bebop so much fun: it’s just cool!
But add to it the incredibly jazzy feel of Tank!, the show’s opening song and it just accentuates how awesome Cowboy Bebop already is. The song itself is reminiscent of old blues and jazz bands. In fact, The Seatbelts, the group that performed Tank!, was formed just to create the songs for the show! All of them are awesome… but Tank! is just the awesome-est one there.
“Hit in the USA” by Beat Crusaders (from BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad)
Never watched the show… but, man, do I like this song!
Like I said, I haven’t watched the BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad nor have I read the manga. As far as I know, it’s one of those “realistic” kinds of animes where a normal kid forms a rock band and they become international hits. Yeah, “realistic” is in quotation marks because, while it does sound far fetched, it doesn’t really transport you to a totally different world nor does it have massive action scenes. It’s more of a drama, which I don’t care for all that much. However, since BECK is a band, albeit a fictional band, they did put out Hit in the USA (which was actually performed by Beat Crusaders), which I really love!
Okay, it may not be the type of song who are sticklers for grammar… or clear pronunciation. But Hit in the USA does have a sound that is familiar to kids who grew up listening to alternative rock bands during the late ’90s and early 2000s. You can definitely hear the influence of Western bands like Weezer, Blink-182 and even Green Day. The tone is a great homage to those bands’ sound and, as someone who likes this kind of music, Hit in the USA is just candy to my ears. I just can’t help but smile while listening to it!
“Dogfight” by m.o.v.e. (from Initial D: Fourth Stage)
Hey! You got your Eurobeat Disco in my street racing anime!
I was late to the Initial D party as I wasn’t really into racing until much later. In fact, the only reason I got interested with the anime was because I watched the live-action/Chinese version first because of the Fast and the Furious films. But I got hooked by the anime because I love the concept of a kid who became an excellent racer because all he wanted to do was get home as fast as possible to get some extra minutes of sleep after making a tofu deliver! I also enjoy how they manage to dumb down the explanation of driving techniques to someone like me who doesn’t know a thing about cars!
But whoever thought of mixing a Eurobeat soundtrack with a racing anime has to be a genius! The two don’t seem to go together but, at least for Initial D anyway, the combination works! While I like all of the opening songs, my favorite is Dogfight, the opening for the Fourth Stage. The reason why Dogfight gets top honors is because it has a much “harder” sound than the previous songs in the series. I love the build-up at the start with the violins then reaching a cresendo with some angry sounding man rapping about… something. I don’t understand what they’re saying since I don’t understand Japanese. But it’s just a great song… and it’s a terrific song to drive on the freeway, which I’ve done!
“H.T.” by Dr. Donuts (for Trigun)
Sometimes, all you need are just mad guitar skills, a great drummer and a weirdo with wickedly fast hands on the bongo drums to make a good anime opening song.
Trigun was one of the earlier huge hits in the Philippines because it was one of the first animes that was dubbed in Tagalog/Pilipino/whatever we call the local language in the country nowadays (They kept changing it!). It was also one of the only animes that I watched on local television. I usually despise dubbed animes, especially ones that were dubbed locally because of atrocious voice acting and some weird translation issues which can cause problems, I trudged through Trigun because there was just something about the story that worked.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Trigun’s opening theme song, H.T., is one of the best hype-building songs for an anime out there. H.T. stands out as it isn’t some J-Pop song they licensed for an anime. It was written specifically for Trigun and, although it’s short and sweet (there are no extended versions out there), this song has one of the best guitar rifts bar none and, if you listen closely, you can hear some madman on the bongos just going crazy! What other songs to you know that uses a heavy metal guitar tune with bongos?
“You Won’t See Me Coming” by Jean-Jaques Burnell (from Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo)
It’s only fitting that the last song on the list would be the ending song for an anime. But, wow! What a way to close it out!
I pity the poor kid who thought that Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo was a faithful adaptation of the original book. Sure, it shares the more important plot points but there were some major changes (like there being a demon that possesses Edmund Dantes) and the sci-fi setting should be enough to clue even a kid that this isn’t like the book. Still,
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is a really great anime, with a stunning art style and great characters. It’s not going to be for everybody as, like the book, it gets really twisty in the middle. But it is a gorgeous anime with a compelling story.
Of course, the ending song, You Won’t See Me Coming, is pretty much a foreshadowing of Edmund Dantes/The Count’s slow and calculated revenge plot… but with a hard hitting beat to it. It’s one of those pop-punk songs that feels like it was plucked out from the late ’80s/early ’90s but it sound modern at the same time. It’s a powerful song with a lot of grit and it feels great if you’re walking down the street and you want to pick a fight with someone for no reason.
BONUS: “CHA-LA HEAD CHA-LA” by Hironobu Kageyama (from Dragon Ball Z)
Okay, this song is super catchy… but that may just be because it’s linked to the super popular anime, Dragon Ball Z.
I know a lot of Westerners grew up with Rock the Dragon… but face it. CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA is just the superior song!
What are some other anime songs non-anime lovers would appreciate? Let me know what they are in the comments section below!