In keeping with the musical theme of my earlier post, an anime does not need to be about music to produce stunning music worthy of many repeat listenings.
Oftentimes the OST will have the extended version of something only hinted at in the show. These gems slip by if you don’t love the show so much you run out and buy the OST CD.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is not specifically a music anime but it has a musical arc. Since it is an incredible anime even without the music, I wanted to include it here. Just listen to this. It has my hands thrumming and wishing desperately I could sing in Japanese even if I can’t understand the words.
I love to hear good vocals. It doesn’t matter what the language is. The human voice is an instrument, the most versatile and impactful instrument in existence. Its purest form is independent of content. This is why we can love a Rock ‘n Roll song without being clear on the lyrics. You can think he sings, “Lit up like a douche another rotor in the night” when he’s really singing, “Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” and still enjoy it as much.
Let me give you a couple of non-anime examples of what I mean. When a song is originally written in a foreign language, translating it to English simply doesn’t sound as nice as the original language, even if you don’t understand the words.
Here’s a great example of it. “Conte Partino” is Italian for “Time to Say Goodbye”. Even if I didn’t know the meaning, even if I couldn’t make out the exact words, singing the Italian version is just as beautiful – or more – than the English version. Sometimes tossing in a few English words among the other language makes it even better. (A LOT of Japanese music does this.) Listen to this, the most moving version I have ever heard by the vocal immortals Brightman and Bocelli.:
BTW, IMHO Sarah Brightman has the most beautiful voice in the world.
Do you agree that tossing in those few words of English made it even better?
Here’s another example. In the 80s. the German group Nena had a hit song. In German it was 99 Luftballons and in English it was 99 Red Balloons. Same song but I enjoyed the German version much more even though I didn’t understand what it was saying. That is because I was enjoying the voice as an expressive instrument rather than trying to understand the lyrics. (As it turns out the English lyrics poorly approximates what was going on in the German. Even Nena didn’t want to perform the English version.)
Not to mention almost nobody understands what the reference to balloons in the song means, even in the English version. (Brownie points if you can tell me without googling it!) You still enjoy it.
Oh well, back to anime.
One of my favorite OSTs belongs to Rurouni Kenshin. Listen to Kaoru’s Theme from Rurouni Kenshin and tell me if it doesn’t melt your heart!
This is Aoshi’s theme, Warrior Blue. Does it not fill you with sadness?
Kenshin’s theme is extremely calming. It makes me feel at rest in a crazy world.
And this makes me think of strong men in war. Wouldn’t even need to know the title or where it comes from. War of the Last Wolves.
And there is the musical jazz wonderfulness of Cowboy Bebop.
Ballad of Fallen Angels, however, is my personal CBop favorite. Enjoy the contrast between the brutality of Spike’s life and the innocence of the “angelic” music.
Lastly, I’ll mention one of the most popular anime franchises of all time and two opening songs. Inner Universe and Rise, from Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell S.A.C., respectively. When I’m worried or insecure about something I’m about to do, I’ll often put Rise on loop and crank it through my headphones. It solidifies my determination.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. Very many anime can boast of a great song or two or even a great OST. These are my favorites for the moment. What are yours?