It’s Ringwormsherm, your favorite music junkie back again. This time, I’m revealing my top 10 favorite anime background tracks!
Music in any type of visual medium is an interesting concept to discuss. When people discuss music, whether it be from a visual medium or not, they usually talk about what stuck out to them. Music has the ability to make lasting impressions on people which affects how people perceive the world around them. However, when viewers acknowledge music from a visual medium, it’s more than likely in regards the either the opening and ending themes, or the one or two standout tracks that captivated them with flare and personality. I, for one, am somebody that tends to converse with others on standout background tracks. I love good and unique music in not just my anime, but anything I’m watching.
But what about what we don’t hear? What about the music that melds into the background like a chameleon?
I love my bombastic choirs, bass drops, and grandiose orchestral numbers as much as the next person. However, I’ve found that some of the best music is the music that manages to grab you by the collar and drag you face first into a series without you even noticing it. Music has the power to steer your train of thought in the direction it wants it to go. Music has the ability to coax certain moods and emotions out from the subconscious just by resonating at the correct frequency at the correct time. Personally, I love the places that music can take me and some anime soundtracks utilize this latent ability in music better than others.
The following list is a list of my personal favorite 10 background tracks in anime that I believe set tone, mood, and emotion better than most other tracks–or as I referred to it in my title–atmosphere. These tracks can manipulate your thought process to increase the effectiveness of a certain scene. Now, these tracks are not the flashiest pieces of music by any stretch of the imagination and they may not be the best pieces of music to listen to out of context. Personally, I can listen to most of these out of the context of an anime and still enjoy them; some of you may not. As with most of my other lists, I am only selecting 1 piece from any given anime so multiple pieces from the same series will not be on here. Moreover, no tracks on this list will be from any anime films. Also, with the exception of 1 piece, all pieces on the list and in the honorable mentions section are from shows I have finished. That means Hunter x Hunter will not be making an appearance. Lastly, unlike most other lists of mine, this one will not be ranked because I find it hard to rank atmospheric music for whatever reason.
So with all that info in mind, here are my top 10 atmospheric anime background tracks!
This is a series that I recently rewatched. Like a few other series that I rewatched–Spice & Wolf and Ouran High School Host Club specifically–it wasn’t until my second run-through that realized just how crazy good the soundtrack was. During my round two of this series, I kept finding myself becoming more and more immersed in what was occurring on screen. I kept on getting this feeling of underlying malevolence and I didn’t quite know why. Now that I’ve had time to mull it over, I’ve chalked it up to this track.
Though I believed it to be generic and repetitive initially, it really grew on me. I love the melody of the song; it’s almost reminiscent of Koko’s ticking mind. The EDM wubs and coarse vocals help to set an eerie undertone of mischievousness and malice with this piece and I freaking love it.
I found myself in a weird predicament with this spot. Technically, this spot goes to the track, Velle. It’s a gorgeous, mostly-choral track that really leaves me in awe. The chord structure of the chorale along with the organ playing toward the latter half sends ominous shivers down my spine. It just gives me the feeling of inevitability, like I’m waiting for something incredible to happen. The problem here lies with Sony Entertainment, which took down most viable links on the internet just to drive me insane. Luckily, you can still find it on Soundcloud.
Because of that, I added in the piece in my number 2 spot: Elan. It’s another wonderful piece from a soundtrack packed with wonderful pieces. Elan gives me more of a church vibe. It gives me a sense of radiance. It’s a good track, yes…but I believe Velle to be better.
Seriously, every time I heard this theme play in Higurashi, I knew shit was about to hit the fan. I love the potent feeling of foreboding this piece resonates with. The vocals are absolutely haunting and the accompanying instruments just amplify the creepiness that this piece emanates. There’s not a whole lot to touch on with this piece because I believe this piece to be the embodiment of what Higurashi is: haunting, yet incredibly gripping.
This is my singular exception to pieces I have finished on this list. I haven’t seen a single episode of Bleach (I know, sue me), but I sure as Hell know of this song. I couldn’t not put this piece on this list. I love the harp intro and how it perpetuates throughout the entire piece. The bass that is added later along with the strings really add to the feeling of loss that I feel is reminiscent in this piece. This piece creates a uniquely solemn tone that reminds me of something like To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X. Even though I haven’t seen Bleach, I still love this piece.
On a side note, the song, Invasion, is awesome…but a tad overrated in my opinion.
Madoka Magica is home to some of the most emotionally gripping pieces of music in anime. This piece is no exception. It has a lot less flare than say, Sis Puella Magica or Believing in Justice, but I believe it to be heavier than those songs in terms of emotion. It sets a atmosphere of lamenting, almost on the verge of despair. To me, this piece is the equivalent of being left in the cold rain, alone. Every time this piece played, whatever was occurring on screen was amplified ten fold. That is exactly what an atmospheric piece should do. It should make the viewer feel what is happening rather than just witnessing it happen. Luckily, that’s exactly what this piece does.
This piece is brilliant. The reason I know that is because I can’t put my finger on why I believe it to be a phenomenal atmospheric piece. It just makes me feel things. To me, this piece sets a mood of finality, like there is an ultimatum to be confronted. This is the Victory Road of anime music; it is the long, dark journey to the end. Personally, the intro of strings that transition into just string bass is as epic as music comes. But what is different is that it isn’t epic in a conventional fashion. It’s atmospherically epic…if that makes any sense. Seriously, the piece speaks for itself, so just listen to it.
It was between this piece, Pride, and Happiness~Requiem for the Blind Alchemist for this spot. Ultimately, I had to go with Lurking for it’s musical originality and just because I think it set an overall creepier atmosphere than Pride. This piece makes my skin crawl and makes me uneasy; it’s freakin’ beautiful in the way it’s able to do so. The melody is so innocent, yet unnerving. This piece makes every ugly reality and heinous secret that the Elric brothers unearth feel even darker.
FMA:B is filled to the brim with wonderful atmospheric pieces, but this takes the metaphorical cake because I believe this piece to be one of the best pure tone-setting pieces there is in anime.
This piece rivals the previous piece, Lurking, in terms of its pure ability to set a tone. This piece is super simple instrumentally. It’s almost solely composed of obscure percussion instruments. However, the sense of mystery that this piece creates is almost unmatched. It doesn’t create a sense of negativity, but more of the sense that something is off. It makes me think “something isn’t quite right here.” Even though it’s simple, it perfectly executes an aura of supernatural abnormality which is the focal point of Mushishi Zoku Shou.
Now some of you may not count this piece as atmospheric music. I couldn’t really fault you for thinking that either. However, I think that this is a brilliant mood piece in a series that aims to revisit a past era. Unlike the majority of other pieces present in the Baccano! OST, In the Speak Easy doesn’t have the same upbeat jazz solos or high octane melodies. It’s a more reserved piece of music that seems to want to recreate the feeling of a 1930’s speak easy only using music. To me, this piece definitely reminds me of what would be playing at a bar in pre-WWII America. It’s a lovely piece of music that I think sets a more delicate tone while also having the character to be listened to on it’s own.
Yet another series on my list of shows that I watched twice, only to focus more on the elements that I had missed beforehand. Though Ergo Proxy doesn’t have the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard, some of the tracks can be really immersive and help drive what’s happening in the plot. No track better describes that than New Pulse. It’s a gritty, sullen, atmospheric piece that I think perfectly frames the somber experience that Ergo Proxy is. Its techno beat mixed with the eerie vocals gives off a vibe of artificiality and emptiness in a series that is void of humanity in a lot of ways. This is another piece that anchors the series it’s in by providing a constant tone.
And that is what I believe all of the pieces on this list do. They provide their respective shows with a tone or mood that not only fits the series at hand, but also helps in immersing the viewer into what is going on within the series.
Well, those were my top 10 atmospheric pieces from anime. Feel free to start flame wars in the comments by telling my how shitty my opinion is or politely disagree and tell me what you believe I missed and/or what pieces of background music in anime you think provided a stellar atmosphere. That’s it from me!
Stay tuned for more and keep watching anime!