Music makes the world go round
New season, new anime – and also new RC Patreon commissions! That’s right, we’re back at it, this time for our amazing subscriber Nicc, and the topic of choice is our favourite anime OPs, EDs, and OSTs. Unlike our earlier top three anime Patreon post this one wound up be being hard for a few of us, because hey, nothing says challenging like picking music. Very challenging indeed. Also as a reminder, if you’d like to get us writing about something like this, consider becoming a Random Curiosity Patreon supporter!
Contrary to what most fantasy series would have you think, an S rank quest isn’t finding treasure, rescuing a princess (I can rescue myself just fine, thank you very much), or defeating the final boss. In my opinion, it is choosing a favorite anime OP, ED, and soundtrack. In all honesty, I can’t choose just one, so what I have listed is just one of many favorites.
OP: JUST COMMUNICATION by TWO-MIX, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
This is one of those songs I love to jam out and dance to with the peppy, catchy tune. This song is also near and dear to my heart because of the nostalgia factor. I grew up with my dad and younger brother watching Gundam Wing, and while I didn’t pay attention to the story itself, I was particularly drawn to this OP (as well as the ED, “It’s Just Love!”). When I watched Gundam Wing a few years ago after getting into anime as an adult, as soon as the opening bars of JUST COMMUNICATION played, the memories hit like a ton of bricks. Memories of sitting glued to the screen as a small child, fascinated by the gorgeously animated robot fights and smoking ruins paired with a song unlike anything I had heard or seen before. To this day when I listen to it, I feel lighthearted, getting in touch with the little girl of long ago. While JUST COMMUNICATION ultimately won out because of nostalgia, I was also torn between the Kaen from Dororo, Usurahi Shinjuu from Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, and Here from
ED: Otome no Policy by Ishida Yoko, Sailor Moon R
This category was actually pretty easy for me because of how inspirational this song has been to me. Around the time I encountered this song in Sailor Moon R, I was revisiting the Japanese I had studied in way back in high school. Naturally, I took to looking up the words, translating and memorizing the song as practice. The more I learned the song, the more the lyrics about keeping your chin up and doing your best no matter the difficult circumstances resonated with me, especially at a time when I was going through the hell of grad school. It encouraged me to remain cheerful and continue working hard pursuing my dreams in the face of challenges, that what mattered was not everything going smoothly, but the attitude I carried. I would sing along to the song on my way to school every day to help energize me. To this day, when I get discouraged from time to time, this song still lifts my spirits.
OST- Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE
The contenders in the ring for this bout were Made in Abyss, Spy x Family, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Yofukashi no Uta, and Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. The at times dramatic, at other times melodically wistful soundtrack of Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE set the tone of the series for me, drew me into the action and the tragedy. Kajiura Yuki’s beautiful composition acutely conveys Syaoran’s desperation to save Sakura and the emotional pain of his sacrifice. I love to bask in heart-achingly beautiful music and this soundtrack has it in spades.
OP – Silhouette by Kana-Boon, Naruto
Silhouette is a certified classic. And not just because of Filthy Frank, believe it! Optimistic with rising spirits and melodic harmonies, it coincided with arguably the most climactic arc in Naruto, and the animation sequence reflects on the culmination of Naruto’s journey as a character
ED – Kimi ga Sora Datta by Aki Misato, Mai-Hime
Kimi ga Sora Datta is an emotional love song that evokes these nostalgic feelings for bygone days. When I hear it, I feel echoes of the bygone Golden Age of Anime, where stories came from the heart and animation from the soul, unblemished by the mechanical rigidity of modern CGI techniques.
OST – Little Busters!
Little Busters is an OST that seems lively and playful at first. But when you scratch past the surface, there’s tension belying this unsettling feeling about the ‘truth of the world’. Inevitably you come to realise there’s a lot of emotive depth and psychological trauma deep down there, as expected from one of Jun Maeda’s works.
OP – One Day by The Rootless, One Piece
Cut back to the end of 2020, it’s the middle of the pandemic, businesses are closed, everyone’s online, I’m going through an intensive introspective period in my life, and I’ve decided to binge-watch One Piece. There were days that I’d sit in front of the television for seven to eight hours. For three whole months I did not read, watch or listen to anything else. Out of all OP openings there were a few I listened more than once, and One Day by The Rootless was one that made its way into my Spotify playlist. It’s also the opening, in my opinion, for the best arc we’ve seen so far: Marineford. Not only is the musical arrangement in this song beautiful, but Nobata Makoto’s talents as a vocalist are exceptional and were perfect for conveying the sentiment and weight of this arc. Marineford was Luffy’s coming of age, it’s the biggest emotional violence he goes through, a trauma that shapes him into the man who will become the Pirate King. “Every time I look at the sky after the rain I think of the past when I was only a crybaby, I was frantically going after someone’s back and saying ‘I wanna become stronger’ (…) like an island that floats in the sunset, I’m looking for the tomorrow I cannot see, yet while I falter, even if I’m afraid (…) the words of giving up are coming out, but there’s only one goal I can’t give up on. The overcoming of the happiness and the sorrow will go on little by little.”
ED – Shout Baby by Ryokuoushoku Shakai, My Hero Academia
I was quite late for the Heroaca bandwagon. And the reason I joined wasn’t even because the voices of the internet (or someone) finally threw pertinent arguments my way. Not at all. I’m subscribed to a YouTube channel called The First Take which has a simple enough concept: one song, one take––and it recommended me (Shout Baby.
I clicked out of curiosity because I thought the lead singer, Nagaya Haruko, was cute. But I left blown away by the melody, vocals, arrangement and lyrics. In the description I found out the song was the ED to My Hero Academia, a show I’d sort of been aware of. So I went to watch the actual ED and found that it featured photos of the main characters with their parents, and that got my attention. Because parental and familial relationship dynamics are not usually a point of focus in Shōnen anime and manga. The song and visuals also do a beautiful job to illustrate Izuku’s journey and his relationship with Katsuki. Just read the translation, “(…) These feelings of mine will never reach him. How much longer should I go on with this? I have no idea, I merely keep holding on this admiration that sets my heart aflame, like it erases my everyday worries, it won’t disappear, I want to change.” Gosh fans herself. It’s their hymn. There was a period of a few months that if you ever crossed scooters with me in Bali you’d hear my awful singing of Shout Baby or One Day.
OST – Cowboy Bebop
My favorite uncle is also one of the most eccentric people I know. He’s an architect and product designer. He and my aunt are also contemporary art collectors, theater people, horror and European films aficionados, heck, the door to their home used to be a bunch of realistically sculpted boobs––you get the gist. Back in the age of Walkman and Discman, I would go to my uncle’s once a week to watch his Pink Panther VHSs, and he’d select 1-3 albums for me to listen to and exchange the following week. He’d give me small briefings about what he liked about them, but would ask my impressions upon our next meeting; he was the one who introduced me to jazz. Davies, Marsallis, Ellington, Brubeck, Waits, Monk, Armstrong, these were some of the names I grew up listening to. On the possibility of sounding extremely pretentious, I have to say: there are few anime soundtracks that truly impress me. It’s easy enough for me to like some songs and tracks because I create an emotional connection with them due to my attachment to the story/characters/themes. It’s harder for me to be blown away by musicality itself. But such was the case of Yoko Kanno’s Cowboy Bebop. To borrow Murakami’s words from “Absolutely on Music Conversations with Seiji Ozawa”: “I have been a fervent jazz fan for close to half a century, but I have also been listening to classical music with no less enjoyment, collecting classical records since I was in high school, and going to concerts as often as time would permit. (…) Listening to jazz and the classics has always been both an effective stimulus and a source of peace to my heart and mind. (…) As Duke Ellington once said, “There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.” In that sense, jazz and classical music are fundamentally the same. The pure joy one experiences listening to “good” music transcends questions of genre.”
Princess Tutu’s soundtrack came to a close first, but I wanted to give the podium to an original score (so I rank PT OST as my 1.5), in second place is, of course, Samurai Champloo by Nujabes.
As soon as I saw this one came across the chat from Pankeeki I cussed, because I instinctively knew it would be stupidly difficult. And it was. I can only preface this by saying if you ask me tomorrow I’d probably give you three different answers. This is a snapshot, not a monument.
Also, interestingly, it seems I tend to like EDs better than OPs…
OP – Cruel Angel’s Thesis, Neon Genesis Evangelion
I chose this out of a pool that could have included FLCL, Uchouten Kazoku S1, Hunter X Hunter 2011, Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus, and Major S1 among others. Somehow this one feels like the soundtrack to my becoming an anime fan. Library borrows on VHS, Baby.
ED – It’s Gonna Rain, Rurouni Kenshin
Even more stupid good choices here. FLCL (again), Seirei no Moribito, SSY, Cross Game, Red Data Girl, Petopeto-san, the list goes on forever. But damn, I just love this one so much. It’s forever linked with the best arc in one of the best shounens ever in my mind.
OST – FLCL
Again, so many choices. Could be Moribito, TTGL, Made in Abyss, or many others. But in the end I can’t argue with The Pillows. I mean – it’s The Pillows. So many great songs, so many great memories, so seamlessly integrated with the story.
OP – Shounen Heart by Home Made Kazoku, Eureka Seven
Eureka Seven was such an influential anime for me, and its second OP is something that I will never forget, because to this day, in my honest opinion it’s the textbook version of how an OP should be, from the floating Bollywood heads, showing estranged relationships metaphorically linking the two characters via visuals. To the way the Itano Circus takes place amongst the mechs, back in 2005 it was way too cool for my simple childish brain to understand. Eureka Seven was both my first mecha anime and the first anime I watched simply because I was interested in its plot. Furthermore Renton spoke to me in more ways than one. Shonen Heart will forever be engraved in my memories and my heart. Plus the song is simply a banger, even to this day.
ED – Kesenai Tsumi by Nana Kitade, Fullmetal Alchemist
Is this cheating? Maybe a little bit. Endings for me as of recent late have become less and less important, it’s the part of the show where I pick up my phone and track whatever episode I have just watched into my MAL or equivalent site of your choosing. It’s something I haven’t really paid attention to as of late. However, Kesenai Tsumi was something I always paid attention to after an episode of the original Fullmetal Alchemist ended. And it really captures the vibe of those first episodes of the series, dark and gritty but with just enough spunk and attitude to make you want to watch the next bout. Accompanied by the OP Melissa this ending was certainly something that stuck with you, and still has to this day, it’s one of the reasons I’m unable to watch Brotherhood, the nostalgia for the songs and OST is simply not there.
OST – Naruto
Ah~ Don’t hate on me for this one. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, maybe it’s just that the Naruto fight scene music was something I had on repeat for days when I first watched the series. Or maybe it’s that Sadness and Sorrow still makes me cry to this day. Maybe it’s the mix of traditional tools with modern compositions that does it for me, as I have always loved the sound of traditional Japanese instruments. Or maybe it’s simply the emotions the music portrays. Maybe it’s the fact I was so engrossed in Naruto’s ninja world as a teenager that still to this day I can’t help but feel things as I relisten to the music. Maybe it’s just that good and I should stop trying to justify it. Whatever the case the Naruto OST and BGM are still to this day something I hold dearly and close to my heart.
OP – Exist by angela, Soukyuu no Fafner: Exodus
Considering just how many bloody OPs I’ve wound up loving over the years (and how often my favourite winds up changing), I’m going to use my spot to give some deserved attention to Fafner: Exodus’ first season. Besides arguably being Xebec’s last great hurrah (I’m a sucker for their art direction in Fafner) Exodus’ OP was also pretty damn catchy and well-animated to boot. Female vocals after all are typical for anime music, but vocal power and presence are not easy to pull off, especially for choruses which makes angela’s work here all the more impressive. Chalk up some neat sequences too – Emery running with the damn shoe and the rocket launch have forever stuck with me – and it’s one mecha OP I always enjoy coming back to.
ED – Hunting for your Dream by Galneryus, Hunter X Hunter
To be honest anime EDs aren’t usually my thing, however that hasn’t stopped me thoroughly digging Galneryus’ feature for HxH’s 2011 adaptation. Catchiness here is a given – power metal do be tasty and I’m a metal fan – but it also was a perfect fit for the Phantom Troupe arc and the sheer chaos it evoked. No other track could get you as pumped to watch the next episode, no other bit of music more capable of stopping you from skipping over it. Sure, Madhouse maybe didn’t go all out with the animation for it, but the choice of music for this part of the anime was simply put perfect. There’s a reason music is so critical to the overall success of a show, and this ED for me helps reinforce why.
OST OST Composer – Kevin Penkin!
Rather than give a specific OST I’m instead going to cop out and provide an OST composer: Kevin Penkin. I’m firmly in love with this guy’s work, whether it be the dramatic swings in Made in Abyss and his uncanny ability to maximize that series’ emotions, or the subtle, almost sinister suspense he provided in Kami no Tou. The skill he has is quite honestly top tier for anime, and in a way reminds me of another favourite composer of mine in Michael McCann for his talent in seamlessly matching music to story and art. While some of Kevin’s other work (e.g. Shield Hero) doesn’t rise to the same level as his famous OSTs, it doesn’t take away from what he has created or how impactful these creations have been on their parent shows. As mentioned in my ED bit music is essential to any show’s success, and Kevin Penkin emphatically indicates why that remains the case.
OP – Hanaji by Yuu Kobayashi, Maria Holic
I vastly prefer Season 02 of Maria Holic, but the music from Season 01 is more than worthy of a revisit. I love the cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Kimi ni Mune Kyun” as the ED, but I have to give all my kudos to “Hanaji” for being one of the most sinister OP’s out there. If you could imagine the anime equivalent of a Disney villain song, this would be it. It acts as a gleeful ode to Mariya Shidou’s sadistic desires with its lyrics reading Kanako like an open book. Kobayashi’s vocals waver between cheeky cutesiness and biting mockery, which is also played out through the animation as it dedicates itself to showing Mariya’s outright contempt in full display. It’s pure chaos as Mariya is shown wreaking havoc and painting the world with Kanako’s bright neon nosebleeds. Grungy guitar riffs are fused into a chaotic jazzy beat to create a vulgar, sleazy vibe that goes perfectly with Kobayashi’s aggressive vocals.
I think what makes “Hanaji” perfect for me is that it’s not so much of an opening as it is a declaration of war. It’s a similar kind of vibe I get from “Dance with the Devil” from Kakegurui and “Hito Toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru” Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei where it acts as a celebration of the macabre, grotesque, and twisted atmosphere they wholly embrace. But because Maria Holic is a very difficult, mean-spirited show as it is, it makes “Hanaji” all the more effective in getting you to squirm in your seat and second-guess if you clicked on the wrong video.
ED – Uso by SID, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
My favorite genre of ED is one that makes what you just saw in the final moments of an episode one of the rawest scenes you’ve witnessed. DEAR FUTURE by Coaltar of the Deepers was THIS close because of how it made every next step Himari’s brothers took a desperate one. But one experience that stuck with me the most was when I finished the Nina episode of Brotherhood. I watched the original Fullmetal Alchemist so I knew what happened, but when that episode happened in Brotherhood, it was devastating. Edward’s betrayed fury, Dr. Tucker’s disgraceful fall, and then, the ending credits. Once “Uso” hit, I bawled. It was one of the only times I ugly cried during the credits of an anime.
There’s a poignant sadness that comes through from “Uso” that I only get occasionally from anime endings. The picture book aesthetic from the animation contrasts between the innocent art style and the melancholic sorrow of the boys’ journey through life after their mother’s passing. The instrumentation has this grand, sweeping feeling to it that swells and storms through the song’s turbulent lyrics about casting aside the grief of a broken promise to carry forward. Mao’s vocals are as powerful and booming as they are vulnerable and soul-bearing. The inquisitive “Nee?” in the chorus never fails to stop me in my tracks and tear my heart in two. At the same time, there’s a sliver of hope in the song that reminds you never to let go of the feelings and experiences you carry with you. As if to say, yes, life will be full of farewells and goodbyes, but just because a chapter ends doesn’t mean the story is over.
OST – Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
The most memorable anime soundtracks for me transcend background music and aim to act as a panorama of a diverse, underground subculture built around the text. It’s a tough choice, but I can’t help but adore how the music of Panty & Stocking captures a bold, provocative sound as a celebration of EDM’s potential to be remixed, reinvented, and retooled into the new hotness. The soundtrack to Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is a legit electronic album jam-packed with powerful pop anthems, club bangers, and some of the horniest EDM in anime. Thanks to TCY FORCE, Teddyloid, Hoshina Anniversary, and many more, it’s an OST with just about everything: Tooth-rotting synth, bubblegum pop, funky grooves straight out of Jet Set Radio, pop rock, sentimental ballads, and even just straight-up orgasms.
In our contemporary musical landscape of Hyperpop and EDM-flavored ballroom music, Panty & Stocking feels like it’s even more relevant than ever. Even with the early 2010’s poptimism leaking through its more upbeat tracks, the soundtrack carries many of the same dark, raunchy, aggressive beats you could catch from the latest Hyperpop artist. It’s the kind of lustful, candy-coated atmosphere that’s perfect for Panty & Stocking’s debauched quest to regain entry into paradise.