Introduction | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-2 | 1 | Honorable Mentions
"Music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley
Music soothes the savage beast. Coincidentally, the average anime fan is a beast, so it works out real well, doesn't it? One minute you're sitting there in front of your laptop, its keyboard covered with Cheeto crumbs, raging over "Endless Eight" episodes while listening to a random mix of mp3s on your hard drive or iPod, the next you hear Scott Matthew sing "Be Human" and your frenzy wanes. (I'd cry at sad movies and laughed 'till it hurt, too, Scott... if I could just be more human.)
Let's be a little more pleasant, for a moment, though. If you asked me which had a better soundtrack, Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers or Darkwing Duck, I wouldn't know which to choose. If you asked me to choose between the soundtrack to Ben 10 and, say, Yoroiden Samurai Troopers/Ronin Warriors, I have an answer (it's the latter). What separates American cartoons from their Japanese counterparts? Well, a lot. Here, though, I'll concentrate on the music.
Anime soundtracks are generally pretty excellent and memorable. Even when a show is awful, a soundtrack can make it a bit more tolerable to sit through, e.g. Wolf's Rain. They don't just sit there over the dialogue and action. The music builds atmosphere, it helps connect the audience to the happenings of the television show or movie. It doesn't replace good writing, it amplifies it to a sublime state.
For instance, what's the difference between Shunsuke Kikuchi's original Dragon Ball Z score and Bruce Faulconer's tracks for the same series for the English dub? Kikuchi's music becomes ingrained into the scenes themselves, part of the atmosphere. His music becomes as natural a part to the footage as the sound effects. You could even replace the voices before you could replace the music, and it would still be DBZ. Faulconer's music signifies a mood, but it fails to weave itself into the fabric of the show.
Let's not just leave it to orchestral/instrumental background music, either. Opening/closing themes, insert songs, and the like, also become part of the experience of watching anime. They become the calling cards of their respective product. When you think "Cowboy Bebop", your mind goes to "Tank!" by the Seatbelts. When you're watching an episode of FLCL, twenty something minutes in, you know "Ride on Shooting Star" is coming.
Would Cowboy Bebop be interesting without it's soundtrack? Maybe. But would it even be Cowboy Bebop anymore? You've read the Cowboy Bebop manga, haven't you? Can you get through a single silent issue? Of course not.
Here's a list Falldog and I put together after much debate, hurt feelings, third degree burns, and some damaged egos, of the best anime soundtracks of all time. (With a few comments from Brett Chalupa) As a collaborative effort, this may not necessarily reflect our personal top lists, but a combination of them made through compromise. If you ask us each our favorites, we may give you slightly different versions, and for that reason, there is an "honorable mentions" section.
We also decided to limit the list to series and OVAs. It was hard enough to agree on a top 15 list without throwing obvious additions such as Akira and Spirted Away in without nixing more obscure works like Super Atragon.
Normally it's preferred when lists are all on one page. But due to the content we though it best to split up the list. Sorry for any inconvenience.
(Note - Text written by Penguin Truth but formatted and posted by Falldog)