If only all of the incredible music in anime could be routinely acknowledged.
With all of the music related articles that I have somehow already written, I think I have said more or less everything I adore about music and what I believe it is capable of doing. It is an unseen force - an unheralded juggernaut with a greater frame of influence than I think any of us can realistically comprehend.
Luckily, dialogues revolving around music in anime have become noticeably more frequent and prominent within the community. As for me, I can only wish and pray to the anime gods that these discussions grow exponentially in terms of frequency. Every time I see a new article or video emerge onto the internet stage, I can't help but have a cooky, psychotic grin slither up my cheek, regardless of whether or not I actually agree with the stances taken.
However, even with the up-tick in social popularity, there are some soundtracks I still never see mentioned or at least not with any form of consistency. This list is a shoutout to the 10 soundtracks that I believe have been gravely overlooked or haven't had the time to garner a sizable amount of praise yet.
Because of their evident lack of recognition, I would like to grant them the spotlight.
This list will be abiding by the same criteria as my past few lists:
Firstly, this list is only of anime that have both concluded as a series and that I have completed myself. That means all shounen - minus Fairy Tail - will not be making a guest appearance on this list and neither will half-finished shows like Ancient Magus' Bride. Also, due to the drastic variances in budget, anime films will not be included on this list (sorry Joe Hasashi). I deem such a comparison unjust.
Secondly, this list will not be ranked. With every added moment of watching anime, I grow less and less fond of numerically ranking and scoring anything in a creative medium.
Last but not least, this article is indicative of my sole, subjective opinion. If you find yourself disagreeing with me, congratulations! That means you're a sentient being capable of formulating your own, endemic thoughts.
With all that crap out of the way, lets begin, shall we?
My Top 10
This first entry on this list may end up being the shortest lived. As I understand it, Made in Abyss was, at bare minimum, nominated for best original OST on the Crunchyroll anime awards for 2017. So at least a few people agree with me on this front.
That being said, Made in Abyss is still a young child in comparison to most of the other anime on this list and hasn't had same length of time to incubate in the brains of viewers. Not to mention, being imprisoned behind the impregnable walls of Anime Strike until quite recently doesn't help it's cause.
However, I'm sure Kevin Penkin's mesmerizing and atmospheric musical score for this series will more than likely burrow its way into the souls of anybody who experiences it. The haunting vocals are comparable to Yoko Kanno's Icelandic masterpiece in Terror in Resonance and the tone and blend with the orchestral numbers is simply gorgeous. Whether it's for the music or just because of the resounding hype surrounding this series, all anime fans must give this series both a watch and a listen.
Like Made in Abyss, this series is brand spankin' new to the anime scene. However, unlike its cute, yet unexpectedly dark sibling, I've observed next to nobody saying anything about the music in this series which I think is abhorrent.
The musical score in this series is subtle and unabrasive. Its mixture of instruments and childish vocals do a beautiful job of conjuring up a whimsical, yet bleak tone reminiscent of the series itself. It stands out just enough to make itself known while simultaneously focusing on creating a unique ambiance. Generating contrasting emotions such as isolation and joy while making its own identity known is something that is extremely difficult for an OST to accomplish and this soundtrack manages to do it with a majority of its pieces.
The OP will also get stuck in your head for the next century, so watch out.
Just because this series was made 13 years before the previous two doesn't make it any more represented in terms of musicality.
I know Ouran has been gushed over by anime fans for more than a decade and is deeply loved by members in the community. Nevertheless, I believe the musical score in this series is often only glossed over by viewers, if that. As much credit as this series gains for its humor and reverse-harem storyline, I feel those are the only areas in which I see praise openly presented to this series. That saddens me seeing that it's one of my favorite anime OSTs...not even joking. Go look at my favorite anime soundtracks article. It's right there.
Here's a little known fact:
You know Yoshihisa Hirano - the dude who composed the godly scores for both Death Note and Hunter X Hunter? Yeah...he composed the soundtrack for this series first. The neo-classical orchestral numbers in this OST are vibrant, complex, and lively and are an absolute pleasure to listen to on their own. The intonation and movement in each piece is also meticulously done. This OST is one that has to be experienced without the accompaniment of visuals to be properly appreciated.
Seriously, just listen to "Scherzo for Orchestra" and see what you think.
If I ever write a follow-up article about underrated composers, Taku Iwasaki will be planted firmly somewhere on there. The man's musical expertise has made its way into anime such as Katanagatari, Akame ga Kill!, Gurren Lagann, Noragami, and even Soul Eater. Somehow, proper praise appears to be surprisingly fleeting when it comes to his soundtracks.
Well, not anymore - at least not from me.
Iwasaki always manages to find a way to cater his musical scores to the series he's composing for and Jormungand is no different. This OST is brimming with a distinct combination of driving techno pieces, aggressive orchestral numbers, and some darker atmospheric pieces, all of which mirror the grittier nature of Jormungand. Tracks like "Cul De Sac" (as mentioned in my top atmospheric tracks article) set the tone and pace for the series while others such as "H.W. Complex No'5" and "Time to Attack" are absolutely bumpin'.
This OST has flare, personality, originality, and variation. Honestly, there's not much one can ask for.
Speaking of underrated composers...
I'll tell you straight up who my top 3 favorite composers are:
Number 1 is Yoko Kanno, obviously; Number 2 is Hiroyuki Sawano; Number 3 is...
Naoki Sato? You mean that dude who composed the OST for shit like Blood-C?
While that is unfortunately true, he also composed the absolute marvel that is the Sword of the Stranger OST and also the gem that is the soundtrack for Eureka Seven. Eureka Seven's soundtrack is pure, unadulterated brilliance. Sato injects this series with a balance of more lax and solemn pieces such as "The Place You Live" as well as driving, attacking, orchestral tracks like "Aerial Combat" and "Final Wish".
It's difficult to definitively say what makes Sato's soundtrack rise above its competition. The blend and movement in each piece is just expertly crafted along with the fact that none of the individual tracks sound the same. I humbly advise everybody just to listen and more than likely, its grandeur will become apparent.
When watching this series, I was absolutely baffled with how much I was devoting my attention toward the musical score. Moreover, I legitimately haven't seen this soundtrack mentioned anywhere. For whatever reasons, Akatsuki no Yona in general never pops up in conversation and it's puzzling.
The usage of more traditional instruments is executed impeccably in this soundtrack to really ground the viewer in the era which Akatsuki is taking place in. It is gorgeous and immersing, adding the intensity and feeling that the series thrives on. I could imagine a select few people panning the OST for coming off as a bit campy, but nevertheless, it lands on this list for being relatively unknown.
Along the same lines as Akatsuki no Yona,
Last Exile is never discussed anymore which sinks my heart a little. This is a wonderful, creative, and original steampunk series - at least the 2003 adaptation.
The soundtrack reflects the series beautifully with its dichotomy of lively folk tunes and progressive rock. Honestly, "Brave and Willing" and "To the Race" are some of my favorite light, acoustic tracks in all of anime. The biggest gripe I have is the fact that the score isn't available to view on YouTube in America and Soundcloud has only a miniscule selection of its tracks. Either way, it's a damn shame that the OST is so regulated and hard to come by state side. Otherwise, there is a slight chance it may not be as overlooked as it is.
Have you ever heard of the composer, Ko Otani?
Well, if you haven't, now you have.
I recognized his name on the staff list of this series from his work on one of my all time favorite games, Shadow of the Colossus. To me, that also explained why Haibane Renmei's musical score was so gentle and tranquilly atmospheric. The inner beauty in this musical score lies in the sweet simplicity of each track. Every track is primarily composed of a few melodic strings such as the violin, mandolin, or harp.
In other moments, vocals are used to an incredible effect in tracks such as "Wondering" and "Ethereal Remains." This musical score is almost a prototype to those utilized in Girl's Last Tour and Made in Abyss.
As much as I love Yoshitoshi ABe, it looks to me as if a majority of his fame stems from Serial Experiments Lain while everything else he's been a part of flies under the radar, soundtrack included. So, I thought I'd highlight one of them here.
As much praise as I've given Girl's Last Tour, Made in Abyss, and Haibane Renmei for their embodiment of peacefulness and atmosphere, there is still more competition to be had.
Barely anybody I know has actually heard of Scrapped Princess, let alone watched it. I pity them to an extent for depriving themselves of one of the best conceived fantasy anime on the market and one of the most inventive plot twists in a series. This also implies they haven't been graced with the musical score.
Essentially, this soundtrack encapsulates everything I've already described in prior paragraphs about simplicity and atmosphere. I wish there was more to say that I haven't already, but I'll just suggest to listen to the tracks entitled "Episode" and "Syugosya-Tachi." It'll be worth your while.
How did I not catch how perfect this OST was the first time around?
Welcome to the NHK is a drama/dark comedy that thrives on its portrayal of utter nihilism and worthlessness through the antics of a hikikamori and an eccentric young girl. What's even more astonishing is how it's possible to feel this concept through the music.
The musical score is mainly comprised of solemn and melancholy indie rock tracks. It's somewhat reminiscent of the score to FLCL only with a polar opposite tone and an apparent lack of vocals like in tracks such as "Youkoso! Hitori Bocchi" and "Hitori no Tame no Lullaby."
Though Welcome to the NHK may have made a name for itself as a series, I haven't witnessed its score being touched upon nearly as much.
That's it for this list, guys!
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And until nest time...keep watching anime!