Anime is mainly known for its animation, in fact, that’s where the term comes from, but there is another aspect of anime that many people overlook: the music. Unlike western animation, which tends to use music composed by small-time artists, anime aims for the best and sometimes manage to bring in some of the biggest names in the Japanese music industry. Of course, this results in anime with soundtracks that any J-pop or J-rock fan would appreciate. Many of these songs not only make it to the Oricon charts (Japan’s equivalent of America’s Billboard charts), but some manage to make it to the top 10. Below are 10 anime series with music that is sure to please your ears.
The Macross franchise has long been known for bringing popular music to the anime industry, beginning with its first series, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross back in 1982. Macross Frontier is the latest installment in the franchise and features the voices of Maaya Sakamoto, Megumi Nakajima, and May’n in its theme songs and insert songs. Below is a list of Macross Frontier’s accomplishments on the Oricon weekly singles chart.
“Triangular” by Maaya Sakamoto peaked at #3.
“Diamond Crevasse” by May’n peaked at #3.
“Lion” by May’n and Megumi Nakajima, and “Northern Cross” by May’n were released together and peaked at #3.
Macross Fontier’s first soundtrack album also peaked at #3 on Oricon’s weekly albums chart.
Key is well-known in the anime world for the anime adaptations of Kanon and AIR, both of which were visually and acoustically appealing. It’s no surprise that Angel Beats would have the same qualities with Key joining in the production. What’s interesting about the music in Angel Beats is that the popular in-series band “Girls Dead Monster” released singles in the real world using the voices of Marina and LiSA. Angel Beats also had theme songs sung by Lia and Aoi Tada. Here is how their music performed on Oricon’s singles chart:
“My Soul, Your Beat! / Brave Song” by Lia and Aoi Tada peaked at #3.
“Crow Song” by Girls Dead Monster peaked at #7.
“Thousand Enemies” by Girls Dead Monster peaked at #4.
“Little Braver” by Girls Dead Monster peaked at #2.
“Last Song” by Girls Dead Monster peaked at #2.
“Ichiban no Takaramono (Yui final ver.)” by Girls Dead Monster peaked at #3.
“Keep The Beats!” by Girls Dead Moster peaked at #6 on Oricon’s weekly albums chart.
The Angel Beats original soundtrack peaked at #9 on Oricon’s weekly albums chart.
Girls Dead Monster has proven that even if you are a bunch of anime characters in the afterlife, you can still make it big in the 3D world.
The insanely popular light music and cake anime K-ON proved that you could combine cuteness with random silliness, and then add some music by singers no one had heard of and come out with a huge hit. The main cast of K-ON (consisting of Aki Toyosaki, Yoko Hikasa, Satomi Sato, Minako Kotobuki, and Ayana Taketatsu) actually does sing their own music, and their success on Oricon’s weekly singles chart is highlighted below.
“Cagayake! GIRLS” peaked at #4.
“Don’t Say ‘Lazy’” peaked at #2.
“GO! GO! MANIAC” peaked at #1 (the first strictly anime song to do so).
“Listen!!” peaked at #2.
“Utauyo!!MIRACLE” peaked at #3.
“No, Thank You!” peaked at #2.
It’s amazing to think that a band that premiered in an anime was actually more popular than most other Japanese bands for a time.
Guilty Crown might not be the most unique or exciting anime out there, but they deserve some credit for promoting one of the hottest music groups in the anime industry right now: Supercell. Having played a role in Miku Hatsune’s success and the creation of Black Rock Shooter, the members of Supercell were hired to create the character designs for Guilty Crown and write the theme songs as well as the insert songs for the fictional band, Egoist. The first opening song “My Dearest” peaked at #10 on Oricon’s weekly singles chart, while the ending song “Departures” peaked at #8.
An interesting anime that takes to the streets of Ikebukuro, Durarara takes several characters that couldn’t seem any further apart and drags all of them into a conflict over control of the district. Durarara might have a weak showing when compared to the other titles on this list, but if it can get hordes of fangirls raving about its theme songs, then it certainly deserves a look. Below is how well its music performed on Oricon’s weekly singles chart.
“Uragiri no Yūyake” by Theatre Brook peaked at #12.
“Trust Me” by Yuya Matsushita peaked at #10.
“Complication” by ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D peaked at #11.
“Butterfly” by On/Off peaked at #15.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Mention Madoka to anyone who has seen the anime and they will most likely think of Kyubey or Mami’s unfortunate accident, but it also has pretty good music. Puella Magi Madoka Magica combined the talents of ClariS, Yuki Kajiura, and Kalafina to create a perfect balance of cute girlish-ness that you expect from a magical girl show and of the dark mood from the realization of what it means to sign a contract with Kyubey. Their music ranked on the chart as follows:
“Connect” by ClariS peaked at #5.
“Magia” by Kalafina peaked at #7
Haruhi will probably be most remembered for her craziness, if not for the Endless Eight arc in the second season, but there was another part of the series that made a big impact among fans: the school festival concert. Some fans have even claimed that Angel Beats copied the concert scene in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but that’s hard to say. All of the anime’s singles were led by Aya Hirano, who was the voice of Haruhi. Considering that Aya’s only single before being cast on Haruhi only reached #79 on the Oricon chart, it’s amazing that her singles as Haruhi reached the positions below.
“Bouken Desho Desho?” peaked at #10.
“Hare Hare Yukai” peaked at #5.
“Suzumiya Haruhi no Tsumeawase” peaked at #5 and remained on the chart for 133 weeks.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
One of the things that Nanoha is known for is its action-packed battle scenes combined with superb animation quality and cute girls. Another thing that Nanoha and its sequels is known for is having Nana Mizuki perform all of its opening music and Yukari Tamura perform all of its ending music. Both singers are hugely successful in the music industry and voiced that two main characters: Nanoha Takamachi (Yukari Tamura) and Fate Testarossa (Nana Mizuki).
“innocent starter” by Nana Mizuki peaked at #9.
“Little Wish ~lyrical step~” by Yukari Tamura #32.
“ETERNAL BLAZE” by Nana Mizuki peaked at #2.
“Spiritual Garden” by Yukari Tamura peaked at #10.
“SECRET AMBITION” by Nana Mizuki peaked at #2.
“MASSIVE WONDERS” by Nana Mizuki peaked at #4.
“Hoshizora no Spica” by Yukari Tamura peaked at #7.
“Beautiful Amulet” by Yukari Tamura peaked at #11.
When you think of the Gundam franchise, you normally don’t associate it with music, but it has some surprisingly popular songs in its lineup. Gundam Seed took this a step further by taking a nod from Macross and introducing a character that sung: Lacus Clyne, voiced by Rie Tanaka. It’s no exaggeration when I say that Gundam Seed has dozens of singles that have made it to the Oricon charts. Below are just some of the higher-ranking ones.
“INVOKE” by T.M.Revolution peaked at #2.
“Realize” by Nami Tamaki peaked at #3.
“Ignited” by T.M.Revolution peaked at #1.
“Pride” by HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR peaked at #2.
“Bokutachi no Yukue” by Hitomi Takahashi peaked at #1.
“Wings of Words” by CHEMISTRY peaked at #2.
“Reason” by Nami Tamaki peaked at #2.
“Vestige” by T.M.Revolution peaked at #1.
For a while, Inuyasha seemed like one of those anime that would never end as Inuyasha and Kagome could never really get ahead of Naraku. The series eventually spanned 10 years between its first and last episode (although non-continuous). That’s not a bad thing though, especially when you consider that the series used some of the best artists in music to perform its opening and ending songs. The list below shows the rankings of the TV series’ top theme songs.
“Change the World” by V6 peaked at #3.
“One Day, One Dream” by Tackey & Tsubasa peaked at #1.
“My Will” by Dream peaked at #6.
“Fukai Mori” by Do As Infinity peaked at #5.
“Dearest” by Ayumi Hamasaki peaked at #1.
“Shinjitsu no Uta” by Do As Infinity peaked at #5.
“With You” by AAA peaked at #2 as part of the single “Hide-Away”.
These are not the only musically inclined anime out there, but I thought they were worth mentioning. If you have more anime titles that you think have great music, feel free to share in the comments or discuss it on our forums.