Marina’s Favorites – Anime Soundtracks that Rock my Socks

Music has always been a major part of my life, so when I picked up anime in my undergraduate years, I was highly interested in what sort of music was used/composed.  I typically lean towards classical music, since that was what I listened to and performed all my life growing up, but I also hold great appreciation for music of all different kinds of genres.

With anime, much like with any other form of media, you can go in several different musical directions: orchestral, J-Pop, J-Rock, seiyuu work, and much, much more.  What follows are my personal favorites for anime soundtracks, as opposed to stand-alone artists.  If you’re familiar with any of them, let me know what you think, and if not, go ahead and give me a heads up on your own favorites!

Ghibli Films, featuring composer Joe Hisaishi
The first on my list is a bit of a cheat since it encompasses multiple films from one production company–Studio Ghibli.  Pretty much any soundtrack orchestrated by the composer, Joe Hisaishi, gets on my iTunes playlist on repeat.  I’ve fallen asleep many a night to the following movie titles’ music:

Spirited Away
Year: 2001
Genre: Orchestral
Performed by: New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
Thoughts: This movie and soundtrack makes me feel very nostalgic since Spirited Away was the very first anime I had ever seen.  I love the mixture of classic orchestral music and traditional Japanese instruments, which lends the perfect atmosphere for the bathhouse setting.
Notable Track: “One Summer’s Day”

Princess Mononoke
Year: 1997
Genre: Orchestral
Performed by: New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
Thoughts: Similiar to Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke blends orchestral music and traditional Japanese instrumentals.  This particular song plays in the American version during the ED credits.  I actually watched the dubbed version before the subbed one, so I’m partial to this English song, though I still greatly appreciate Yoshikazu Mera’s original Japanese theme.  I also love how grandiose, but peaceful, the orchestral sections of this song sound, especially when you compare them to the rampant anger in “The Demon God.”
Notable track: “Princess Mononoke Theme Song” (sung by Sasha Lazard)

Nodame Cantabile
I’m a huge fan of both the anime and live action versions of this great story about two musicians who go through music universities in both Japan and France and struggle to find their places in the competitive music world.  While this show primarily features classical music–both solo and orchestral works–there are fun jazzy arrangements of Gershwin’s well known Rhapsody in Blue.

Nodame Cantabile Original Soundtrack
Year: 2003
Genres: Classical, Orchestral, Jazz
Performed by: Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, and Berlin Philharmonic
Composers: Various Composers, including Beethoven, Liszt, Gershwin, Chopin, etc.
Thoughts: Both of the anime and live action soundtracks feature some of the best orchestras and performers up to date.  This show fulfills my hunger for classical music, a hunger that is rarely fulfilled in anime TV series.
Notable track: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18”
Below was the best track I could find on YT, but I’m not a big fan of some of the fan art >.<

Macross Frontier
This show was a huge, huge surprise for me since I very rarely enjoy mecha anime; however, Macross Frontier does not center solely around mecha, but instead around an  exciting tale of both galactic war and love.  The two female protagonists front the music that pervades every aspect of this show.

Macross Frontier Original Soundtrack
Year: 2008
Genres: Orchestral, J-Pop
Composer: Yoko Kanno
Performed by: Various Artists, including singers Nakajima Megumi, Sakamoto Maaya, and May’n
Thoughts: The soundtrack has a vast variety of music sounds, from more orchestral pieces, to inspirational vocals you can imagine a singer performing on stage to a huge crowd of die-hard fans.  There are also the very different voices for the characters, Ranka and Sheryl, represented by singers Nakajima Megumi and May’n/Sakamoto Maaya, respectively.  Their contrasting sounds creates equally contrasting emotions when either of the voices sing.  Whereas Ranka’s voice sounds much younger, and higher-pitched, the voices for Sheryl give off distinctly more mature tones.
Notable track: “Diamond Crevasse,” featuring May’n

Sora no Woto
When I first watched this anime, I didn’t really notice the music.  Maybe it was because I didn’t watch it wearing headphones, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but when I finally got my hands on the soundtrack, I was surprised at how detailed it was.  Were these songs really in the anime? Going back, I found that, yes, they were–hidden beneath the moe characters and gorgeously drawn setting.  And while the anime doesn’t come close to getting on my top anime list, its soundtrack easily makes this list.

Sora no Woto Original Soundtrack
Year: 2010
Genres: Orchestral, Folk
Performed by: Kalafina, Haruka Tomatsu, Matthieu Ladouce, Makoto Hirahara, Ikuo Kakehashi, Hitoshi Watanabe, Takashi Asahi, Junko Hirotani, Kaori Nishina, Thomas Dunford, and Orchestre des Virtuoses de Paris
Composer: Michiru Oshima
Thoughts: Not only do I love classical musical, but also folk music of various cultures.  The haunting strings in this piece make me think of an older, rural Europe where time runs by the seasons and harvests.  It reflects the European feel of the show’s setting and local peoples.
Notable track: “Une lumière envoûtante”

Kara no Kyoukai
I wasn’t looking out for these films at all when I stumbled across them.  In fact, I found it through a forum vote for “Best Anime Music.”  Since the title was strange to me, Kara no Kyoukai: Garden of Sinners, I decided to hunt it down.  The first film succeeded in grabbing my attention and respect, and I proceeded to watch its sequels, both films and epilogue.

Kara no Kyoukai Original Soundtrack: Overlooking View
Year: 2008
Genres: Instrumental, Ambient, Vocals
Performed by: Yuki Kajiura
Thoughts: Most of the tracks possess a haunting quality; you find yourself breathing slower, almost like when you’re asleep, or just awake.
Notable track: “M17”

Year: 2008
Genres: Instrumental, Ambient, Vocals
Performed by: Kalafina
Thoughts: I really like the lower vocals of the women, instead of the typical, high-pitched, pop-like vocals I’m used to hearing with plenty of Japanese female singers.  Kalafina does a wonderful job on the ED themes of each of the Kara no Kyoukai films, and this one in particular closes out the first, Overlooking View.
Notable track: “oblivious”

6 thoughts on “Marina’s Favorites – Anime Soundtracks that Rock my Socks

  1. All of the Ghibli music is fantastic.

    Oh, and Nodame Cantabile was what got me into classical music. That Rachmaninov piece was one of my faves.

    I love Megumi Nakakjima’s voice. It’s so pure and clear sounding. Love the concerts in Macross Frontier, too.


    • Yeah, I had to stop myself from including the Ghibli soundtracks from Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso. I also have the Nausicaa soundtrack….but it’s an odd mixture of orchestral and 80s sounding techno.


  2. My taste in music is all over the spectrum. I’ll pretty much listen to everything from classical to metal. Though I won’t touch rap.

    My favorite anime soundtracks as of recently that I like would probably be Panty & Stocking’s and The World God Only Knows’. I can’t really explain why other than “it sounds good to me” because I don’t really know anything about music theory, but I like pretty much every piece/song on both of those soundtracks.
    Oh, and Monochrome from Star Driver. But that doesn’t really count, because who doesn’t like Monochrome?


    • Hmmm, of the ones you name, I’m only familiar with TWGOK, and I admit that i don’t really pay attention to the music. I’ll have to do so now! Music Theory knowledge is not necessary to appreciating music, and I find that it can actually hinder people from liking pieces they would normally like if not hindered by what they “think” is or isn’t good music.

      And, I also admit to..uh…not knowing Monochrome….*goes to look*


      • It’s kind of funny, because I remember just really liking one of the piano pieces from the TWGOK soundtrack, but I just went ahead and imported the soundtrack. Then after listening to it I loved pretty much every piece on it. It’s hard for me to not like piano pieces and orchestra music.

        Ah, I didn’t mean anything about liking music due to music theory, I just meant I couldn’t explain it. “The crescendos complimented the meter perfectly with the falsettos.” I can’t explain my tastes like that at all.

        Monochrome –>
        Ignore the awesome background for it. All the ones with decent backgrounds keep getting deleted.


        • Thanks for the link 🙂 I listened and agree; it’s a pretty nice piece! And I wasn’t saying that you were one of those who discussing music in theoretical terms. I was merely referencing friends who do that from personal experience.


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