Hey there, fans! This week in Happy Fun Thursdays, I’ll be continuing from my last post on Japanese Music. This time, however, I’ll be focusing on music found in anime. Of course, there’s always some semblance of music happening in the background of some shows, but these, I believe, not only have decent music keeping up with the action flashing on screen, but are very well synced with the show. So, hold to to your drumsticks and keep your guitar picks handy… here’s a shortlist of great anime with great music!
Rock: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
With its great opening song, “Hit in the USA,” to open the show, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad delivers not only in great rock music, but also in musical references, sprinkled sometimes subtly, sometimes liberally about the show. As for plot, the show is as realistic an experience to forming a band as anime can get, including the troubles within the group and the growing pains experienced by the main character, Yukio Tanaka, as he develops into an awesome guitarist.
Classical: Nodame Cantabile
Classical music has never been treated as respectfully and skillfully as it has been in the show Nodame Cantabile. The show is about the lives of college students in the Momogaoka College of Music, namely that of the ditzy piano student Noda Megumi, a.k.a. Nodame, and the strict conducting student Shinichi Chiaki. As they ARE in a music college, several classical pieces from all parts of classic musical history, from Bach and Mozart to Gershwin and Rachmaninoff, are showcased in each episode, and even analyzed! I’ve honestly never learned so much about classical music from anywhere else as I did from this series.
(As a side note, the anime was turned into a J-Drama that features the actors and actresses actually playing the music featured in the episode. That, and it’s twice as fun too!)
With the first few notes of the opening song (which I’ve featured before), you immediately have a feel for the intense 1920s bebop-style jazz that is the musical backbone of Baccano! Which totally appropriate, as the anime follows the insanity, mishaps and coincidences that drive the characters! What’s great about the anime’s music is not so much the individual songs themselves, but the consistency thereof; as it is based in 1920s USA, the music style keeps to the era of jazz and bebop. It’s nothing short of awesome.
Indie Rock: FLCL
Indie rock was never my thing, until I heard the distinct sound of the Pillows, the awesome rock band from Hokkaido, narrating one of the best short animated series in the industry. FLCL has a story that doesn’t make sense, allusions that only a few people will get, and an animation style that seems to have a life of its own on screen! Strangely enough, it works. And, the soundtrack of awesome songs that could stand on their own as decent rock songs are only complimented by the animation playing on screen.
Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Cowboy Bebop
I’m going to go ahead and say I “borrowed” this descriptor directly from TVtropes.org (and linked to it) as it is the only title worthy enough of music that came out of this anime, and of the band The Seatbelts (because they rock so hard they need seatbelts to keep themselves strapped to their instruments). Well, technically out of the mind of Yoko Kanno, known as one of the most famous anime music composers in the business. The curious mix of rock, jazz, bebop, country and so many other genres that resulted in the creation of the wide range of music in Cowboy Bebop is what gives the music and the anime a distinct and original flavor. While the anime focused more on style than substance, I believe that half of that aforementioned style came from the music and how it drives the show. That, and pure awesomeness.
And that’s my two cents on anime with great music! See you next week, on the next installment of Happy Fun Thursdays!