Anime Tunes to Push My Pen

Several years ago when my dream shifted from teaching others how to write to creating something of my own to share, writing about anime started as a way for me to keep my chops sharp. No writing session was without music—I needed it to focus and get into my flow of thought. Much of the music I listened to back then remains with me to this day, though I have added to the playlist over the years. If you have the time, I encourage you to listen to the works I link in this post.

Call it what you will, but I tend to listen to anime music when blogging about anime. Somehow the two work better together than with any other type of melody. I also favor instrumentals to vocals, though there are many exceptions.

Soundtracks make up the bulk of my playlist, and among my first choices were Ghibli films. Notable movies included Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso, and Castle in the Sky, which were all composed by Joe Hisaishi. Another favorite was Cecil Corbel’s The Secret World of Arrietty with its Celtic inspiration. It was these works that propped me up through my college days, serenading countless papers and assignments. I would even set them to play at night when I had trouble sleeping.

Other favorites were the Macross Frontier Original Soundtracks, with their playful mix of orchestral compositions and pop idol themes. The grand swell of the gong and strings at the start of “Frontier 2059” gets your heart pumping and ready to tackle any long writing session. The upbeat vocals also help when I’m already in the zone. Since my understanding of the Japanese language is still at an intermediate level, I can push the words to the background to prevent them from distracting me.

There are times, however, when the multitude of instruments and vocals are still too much for me to find my peaceful state. When this happens, the first thing I do is pull up piano-only compositions. The first addition to my piano playlist was the Kanon AIR Piano Album Re-Feel. Despite the simple and repetitive melodies, you’ll find yourself swept away in the emotions of each piece, like in “A Girl’s Prison,” which evokes Mai Kawasumi’s inner turmoil.

This is partially why I gravitated so strongly to the ARIA piano collection. While the soundtracks for each of the respective anime series hold special places in my heart, the piano arrangements in the ARIA ~Piano Collection~ Stagione best capture the the love I have for this anime, its world and characters. I spoke about it in length in my collaboration blog post with Anime Instrumentality’s zzeroparticle, where I described the pieces from ARIA I chose for my own wedding.

The past year of anime has produced plenty of notable works, one of which I immediately inserted into my writing playlist. The song that captured my attention was “Underground River,” which played at the beginning of Made in Abyss’ first episode. Australian composer Kevin Penkin did a phenomenal job with the soundtrack, including poignant vocal pieces as “Underground River” and “Hanezeve Cardhina,” as well as memorable ensemble pieces that sound much fuller than they are in reality. He also includes plenty of percussion instruments to satisfy my percussionist soul. I listened to the two-disc soundtrack on repeat for weeks on end, and still frequently return to it when blogging.

One exception to my usual routine is YUC’e, a Japanese EDM artist who produces and sings her own songs. I discovered her at Anime Expo’s Neon District event in 2017, and was immediately addicted to her bubbly and catchy tunes. She is phenomenal live with her cheerful energy. It’s admittedly rare for me to leave my usual playlist of writing music, but YUC’e is just unique and repetitive enough for me to feel more motivated than distracted by her music. Her songs also work great for running! Try listening to “Future Candy,” “POISON,” and “Night Club Junkie.”

For those of you curious about what I listen to outside of writing and blogging, I do own a wide range of genres, from classic rock to trip hop, and of course classical music. Artists with the highest play count include Massive Attack, Blue Sky Black Death, Elsiane, Radiohead, and Daft Punk.

What artists or genres do you choose to listen to at work or play? Do your tastes align with mine, or differ greatly? If you have any particular albums you think I’d like, please let me know!


This blog post is in coordination with OWLS and the April Blog Tour featuring “Melody.”

In one way, music is form of healing and self-expression. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of our favorite musical pieces (anime/drama OSTs, movie soundtracks, music genres and etc.) and how it has impacted our lives and/or reasons why we enjoy listening to it.

I recently joined the team and look forward to participating in future blog tours. “Melody” was a particularly fun theme for me to get into since music takes such a central role in my life. If you like this topic, please check out the posts of other participants in this blog tour, like Takuto’s discussion of composer Yuuki Hayashi, or  Shokamoka’s love for Jun Maeda. Next up on the blog tour is Kat with “The Melody of Heartstrings.”

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22 thoughts on “Anime Tunes to Push My Pen

  1. I mostly listen to rock with lyrics. There are very few soundtrack pieces that I care to listen to. Pretty much the only ones are from Hibike! Euphonium, although there’s one piece from the Junketsu no Maria soundtrack that I love (the piece that played near the end of the last episode when Maria and Joseph were walking along, aptly named 共に歩く道, trans. to Walking the road together). I love the Euphonium wind ensemble versions of classical orchestral songs, because wind ensembles are just better than a multitude of fiddles sawing away.

    But otherwise, it’s various rock and pop with lyrics. I like µ’s and Walkure a lot, and Sphere has a lot of good songs, as well as everything from K-On!. I also listen to some non-anime JPop, like Silent Siren, but not too many other bands.

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    • Oops, I didn’t address the main thing, tho. I listen to things at work, but not so much when I’m writing anything. My writing at work is usually short things like comments or brief paragraphs. If I need to concentrate, I probably don’t listen to music, because I get more distracted by music.

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      • The issue of concentration is probably why I gravitate so much to quiet, instrumental pieces when writing. Have you tried that? Not that you need to if you write just as well in silence, but I usually need some kind of background noise no matter what I’m doing.

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        • Really, I need a hook into music to want to listen to it. Otherwise I might as well have it quiet. It’s actually extraordinarily rare that I would play music just as background noise. I’m always actively curating what I’m listening to if I’m listening. For instance, I have a lot of music at work, and an auto playlist that picks 20 songs, and then I pick what I want to listen to from that. In the car, it’s random off my USB drive, and I’m always hitting “Next song” if I’m not into what comes up. I actually do better with sports as background noise, generally auto racing, soccer, or american football.

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    • Talking about the Hiibike! Euphonium soundtrack, I just picked it up while I was in Japan! I found the 3-disc OST at Book Off, a used media store. I’m excited to listen to it, though I’ll have to disagree with you on the orchestra versus wind ensemble issue. I’m a fan of both in their own styles! While I’m not too big on too much violin, I do love lower strings and playing percussion in orchestra was always more fulfilling to me as a timpanist than when in wind ensemble. The pieces in Eupho, though, may well sound better in wind ensemble form.

      Walkure is pretty good and I enjoyed the two girls I saw at AX last year. I remember you telling me about Silent Siren and did check them out. They have some fun songs, though I definitely need to be in the mood to listen to them. A bit too happy for my usual mood.

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      • I love the version of Orpheus in the Underworld on the Euphonium OST. They played the end part so well, just on the edge of raggedness, it really comes out at slightly higher volumes.

        To me, strings are just not enough definition, especially when you add more and more of them. Most of the time when you have a large orchestra, it’s muddy and imprecise. Plus I tend to like much more bombastic classical music, and winds can just do that much better than anything else. Plus, I played clarinets for years in wind ensembles, and never in orchestra. 🙂

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  2. I tend to almost completely tune out when I work or get creative, so if I listen to any music with actual lyrics then the chances are I won’t end up hearing them. For that reason, I’ve been listening to a ton of low-fi hip-hop lately. Hip-hop is usually not my preferred genre (to say the least), but I’m totally hooked on this low-fi stuff. Here’s one of my favourite mixes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQSljVL5ARA

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  3. I also have a long playlist of japanese songs when i write reviews. I dunno, it gets the creative juices flowing. If I listen to english songs, I often mix up the lyrics and my thoughts, while silence while thinking makes me sleepy. haha
    omg, zeroparticle and lol, i remember you asked twitter for some good wedding songs, lol. congats, btw.

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