In keeping with the musical sensibilities of Tuff Gnarl; I’ve decided to rank 5 of my very favorite anime soundtracks. My choices have been drawn from a plethora of sources (movies, TV series, specials, etc.) and are accompanied by a few YouTube links leading to selections I find particularly enjoyable. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the soundtracks I recommend, but it does represent what I consider to exemplify some of the best that anime original soundtracks (OSTs) have to offer.
5.) Samurai Champloo
(Image Credit: Geneon Entertainment)
The soundtrack to Samurai Champloo provides a powerful accompaniment to a series that showcases an aesthetic rooted in both tradition and modern sensibilities. Benefiting from contributions by such artists and producers as the late Nujabes, Fat Jon and Shing02 this collection has strong instrumental hip hop and jazz undertones. This style provides a solid and cohesive body of work that manages to deliver an enjoyable journey without needing to be tied into the series that spawned it(although it is certainly worth a viewing).
4.) Ghost in the Shell (GitS)
(Image Credit: Shochiku)
Between two original motion pictures, two TV series and an OVA, Ghost in the Shell has benefited from the work of two very talented composers, Yoko Kanno(who has had a hand in many of the picks on this list) and Kenji Kawai. While both had fairly different approaches to scoring the property, each managed to capture the atmosphere of this seminal cyberpunk tale. From the haunting and mystic sensibilities of the original that juxtaposed high technology with a diminished respect for life to the explosive energy and thoughtful reflection of the recent TV series, GitS’ music provides just about something for everyone.
3.) Tegen Toppa, Gurren Lagann
(Image Credit: Sony Music Entertainment)
Gurren Lagann, the show, represents one of the most meaningful animated works released in recent history. It is a series that caught me, and I suspect many other viewers, by surprise. What began as an over-the-top, almost ridiculous, action packed mecha show evolved into an emotional tour de force. At its core, it is a thoughtfully crafted bildungsroman that spoke to the inner hero in its audience and reminded everyone what a joy the genre it represented could be. It is only fitting that such a fine work be complemented by an equally overblown and sublime score. This soundtrack has so very much going for it. It runs the gamut from ostentatious with rap opera “Libera me From Hell” to rousing with “With Your Drill, Pierce the Heavens”. Perhaps my affection for this OST is driven by the high regard in which I hold the show but, make no mistake, the music of Gurren Lagann does exactly what the series does: it exudes excellence.
2.) Macross Plus
(Image Credit: Victor Entertainment)
Macross has always, by virtue of its story line, had strong ties to music. It is practically its own leitmotif when it comes to this series. Still, few soundtracks, even under the aegis of this flagship work, have touched me quite like that of Macross Plus. This is such an impressive offering that I would argue it becomes its own character; it is a nearly omnipresent being that is not only capable of standing on its own, a feat that I would argue even the superb OVA that engendered could not accomplish unscathed, but should be taken as such out of respect for its “muchness”.
1.) Cowboy Bebop
(Image Credit: Victor Entertainment)
Perhaps the most predictable entry on this list, the music of Cowboy Bebop is as much a soundtrack to the show as it is its own thing. This such an amazing collection of music that it spans no less than 7 studio recordings – each one of them outstanding in its own right. The sheer variety and quality on display here is a testament to what has made its composer Yoko Kanno (told you you’d see her name again) the legend she is today. It is with no reservation that I say this is the very best anime OST of the last two decades – it an inextricable marriage of animation and music so perfect that it is nearly impossible to consider one without the other. You absolutely owe it to yourself with check this soundtrack out.
Slider Image Courtesy of Geneon Entertainment