Good music can greatly enhance the viewing experience of an anime and these anime have some of the best soundtracks in recent history.
While plot, dialogue, and animation are undoubtedly crucial, good anime soundtracks also play a considerable role that is often overlooked. A good soundtrack can not only express underlying themes and emotions but also amplify and communicate them in a way words may not be able to. In fact, the music in a particular scene can tell a whole story of its own.
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Over the years, a good deal of anime have gained recognition for their stellar soundtracks. That said, the anime on this list have some of the best soundtracks composed by some of the most talented individuals in the industry in recent years, as well as some emerging artists who have made a name for themselves. In that regard, this list includes some truly iconic soundtracks as well as some underrated gems that deserve more recognition.
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As an anime that follows the journey of an amateur rock band, Given has plenty of catchy music that falls mostly within the spectrum of alternative rock. Composed and performed by Centimillimental with some stunning vocals from Shogo Yano, Given’s songs feature plenty of catchy guitar riffs and genius lyrics. An excellent example is Fuyu no Hanashi, the song that takes centre stage in Season 1, which not only has some beautiful lyrics but is also easily one of the most tear-jerking performances in the series. What’s more interesting about Fuyu no Hanashi is that it helps tell Mafuyu’s struggle with grief simultaneously through its music as well as its lyrics.
The soundtrack uses the circle of fifths, which in theory can go on endlessly, symbolising the endless circle of grief Mafuyu is stuck in that forms the central conflict of the first season. That said, Given has much more to offer beyond its main songs in the way of a charming score by Michiru which only gets better in the movie. While the score in Season 1 is mostly tranquil and nostalgic with just a hint of sadness, the movie has a more diverse score including some calming acoustic lo-fi pieces that really embody the springtime feel of the movie.
Other than its repertoire of nostalgic openings, the music in Naruto is best known for its catchy chanting, iconic flute melodies, and energetic electric guitar, particularly in the main theme. Composed by Toshio Masuda, much of the series’ original soundtrack features the blending of Western and traditional Japanese instruments such as the shamisen, and many more which give the soundtrack that distinct feel. Look no further than Masuda’s most well-known composition and one of the series’ most iconic melodies, Sadness and Sorrow, which comprises a haunting flute melody accompanied by the mournful plucking of a shamisen.
While the music in Naruto starts out strong right off the bat, it only gets better in Shippuden with the entry of Yasuharu Takahashi, the same genius who composed much of Fairy Tail’s soundtrack and even the infamous Akatsuki theme, Ritual. In all, Naruto has a soundtrack that is consistently good and never fails to give listeners goosebumps.
8 One Piece
Iconic opening themes aside, One Piece has always had a strong soundtrack and easily displays the most potential in this list. Composed by Kohei Tanaka and Shiro Hamaguchi, the music in One Piece is charming and timeless. The fact that Overtaken is still being adapted and used even twenty years later, is solid proof. Moreover, the soundtrack uses a wide array of instruments ranging from trumpets to saxophones best seen in each of the Straw Hats’ signature themes.
That said, the soundtracks for Wano and One Piece Film: Red have proved that One Piece is capable of much more, not only in terms of animation but also its music. Film: Red‘s diverse range of music together with Uta’s clear-as-water vocals felt like a breath of fresh air. Luckily, it seems that this experimentation has carried on to the anime with some truly amazing music making an appearance towards the end of Wano. Overall, while One Piece does not have as vast of a soundtrack as some of the others on this list, it is undeniable that it makes use of what it does have exceptionally well.
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7 Yuri On Ice
While catchy openings are a given with every anime, Yuri on Ice‘s History Maker manages to be catchy, dramatic, and timeless. It’s no surprise the theme has even been featured at the Olympics. History Maker starts as a charming waltz with clear expressive vocals by Dean Fujioka which crescendos into a swirl of intense emotions. In this sense, the opening very much conveys the show’s passion for skating. However, the true star of the show is the soundtrack composed by Taro Umebayashi and Taku Matsushiba. Of these, Yuri’s free skate soundtrack, Yuri on ICE, easily stands apart from the rest. Simple and complex at the same time, the soundtrack features a hypnotic piano motif that is gradually built on with strings and drums and perfectly conveys Yuri’s growing passion for skating as well as Viktor.
The soundtrack adds just the right amount of tension and hopefulness to Yuri’s performance while its quiet moments only make the climax all that more powerful. In all, Yuri On Ice has a truly diverse soundtrack. Each skate within the show has a beautiful, original soundtrack that reflects the athlete skating to it. From the sensual, exciting Eros to the hypnotizing Agape, each soundtrack has its own unique flair. For a prime example, simply take a look at Yuri Plisetsky’s Welcome to the Madness which sounds like something straight out of a Led Zeppelin album.
6 Demon Slayer
Although Demon Slayer mostly rose to popularity for its stunning animation, its music is easily just as impressive. Composed mostly by Go Shiina and Yuki Kaijura, the series starts off strong with amazing vocals from LiSA and Akano and some top-notch lyrics from Kayako Kusano, especially in Gurenge. Moreover, the OST only gets better as the series progresses, and arguably hits a new peak in the Mugen Train Arc with the masterpieces that are Akaza and Rengoku’s themes. The show ingeniously blends Rengoku and Akaza’s very contrasting motifs to create a soundtrack for their fight which is just as awe-inspiring and spectacular as their battle. In fact, upon closer listening, the music alone seems to tell the story of their battle.
Overall, Demon Slayer has an amazing score throughout that never feels out of place regardless of the tone of the scene. From sad heartfelt moments to the menacing shots of demons and exciting action sequences, Demon Slayer’s soundtrack has just the thing to enhance any moment and continues to impress with every new season, particularly with the Hashira themes.
5 Your Lie in April
Aside from a spectacular opening and a really good selection of classical pieces, Your Lie in April has a score that is just as mournful and heartbreaking as the story it tells with piano and violin solos that will take your breath away. While a good soundtrack is a given in an anime about musicians, the music in Your Lie in April does much more than fill up the silences. Rather, it tells Kaori and Kousei’s sad yet hopeful tale in a more subtle way.
From the beautifully tragic lyrics of the ending theme, Orange, to Kousei’s final performance of Chopin’s Ballad in G minor, every part of the score reflects how Kaori brought colour and playfulness to Kousei’s life. The music also reflects how he had to eventually move on not only from his past but also from the grief of losing Kaori. As a whole, Your Lie in April’s music speaks for itself. Simple as it is, words fail to describe the tragic beauty of this soundtrack. Look no further than the beautiful OST, Uso to Hontou for proof of the soundtrack’s spot on this list.
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4 Kamisama Kiss
Kamisama Kiss has a soundtrack just as magical as its story, which follows Nanami Momozono, a high school student who gets turned into a god. Hanae’s soft, entrancing voice lends a constant nostalgic feel to opening and ending themes while the score which is also composed by Toshio Masuda really lets his use of traditional instruments shine. Compared to his previous works, Masuda lets the traditional Japanese instruments take the spotlight as they compliment the Japanese folktales, myths, and legends that the series draws inspiration from.
The result is a unique, mystical, romantic soundtrack as mesmerising as the romance between Nanami and her familiar, Tomoe, in the anime. Overall, Kamisama Kiss’ soundtrack embodies the epitome of shojou music. Soft and feminine, but also light, airy, and silly at times, the soundtrack is everything you’d want from a heart-fluttering shojou romance. The music adds such an inextricable charm that it is fair to say the series might not have been such a success without it.
3 Fairy Tail
With easily one of the most iconic soundtracks of the last two decades, Fairy Tail is known for its feels that never miss the mark. However, it isn’t the storytelling itself that hits viewers, but the somber twinkling of a piano accompanied by a haunting flute melody that stabs the viewer in the heart. Composed by Yasuharu Takanashi, Fairy Tail’s soundtrack uses a mixture of haunting vocals, flutes, strings, and even a pipe organ to create the most epic, soul-stirring melodies. The soundtrack not only make the darkest moments of the series all that more heartbreaking, but also excellently sets up and maintains tension during action sequences making every moment even more epic.
Additionally, Fairy Tail has some of the most diverse openings and endings ranging from energetic to wistful. From the highly nostalgic and magical Snow Fairy by FUNKIST to energetic one-of-a-kind themes like Fiesta and Rock City Boy, Fairy Tail’s openings are hard to skip and only get all the more impressive as the series goes on with something new to offer each time.
2 Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan easily has some of the best opening themes in anime in the last decade. Composed by several artists, Attack on Titan’s opening themes, particularly the ones by Linked Horizon, are a treat for the musically inclined with several key switches and interwoven melodies and elements waiting to be unraveled. More importantly, these openings also convey the general tone and events of each season, be it energetic and hopeful like the first few, or tragic and even unsettling like the last few openings.
Moreover, Hiroyuki Sawano’s compositions add depth, tension, and atmosphere to scenes throughout the series using a peculiar mixture of haunting, choir-like vocals with energizing drums, orchestral instruments and intense electric guitar riffs. Unusual as these sound on paper, Sawano somehow makes it work, and the result is an ethereal, otherworldly soundtrack that gives the series its distinct feel.
1 Your Name
Of all the anime on this list, Your Name easily has the best soundtrack. The film stands out as one that truly cannot be separated from its music and even if it could exist by itself, it would hardly be a fraction as good without its stunning score by RADWIMPS. Your Name’s music goes beyond language and cultural barriers with resonating vocals that touch the soul. One can almost feel Mitsuha and Taki reaching out for each other just by listening to the music alone.
The strong sense of longing and nostalgia felt by both characters is felt throughout the score which is so evocative that each track evokes a clear image of the scene it is featured in and the general mood of the scene. In all, Your Name has a truly iconic soundtrack that is highly evocative and hits all the right feels. Not a single track on the set is worth skipping and despite being mostly orchestral, the soundtrack manages to be fresh and trendy at the same time. Simple as it is, Your Name’s soundtrack has truly left a lasting impact, so much so that it’s hard to imagine a Makoto Shinkai film not scored by RADWIMPS in the future.
All things considered, these are only a few of the many of the great and unique anime soundtracks out there. However, each piece of music can often tell a completely different story of its own and the anime soundtracks on this list do not disappoint in that regard even in the slightest. After all, these anime soundtracks have stood the test of time as some of the most popular and most loved in recent years.