Introduction | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-2 | 1 | Honorable Mentions
10. .hack//SIGN (Yuki Kajiura)
Yuki Kajiura, like Yoko Kanno, is a massive talent. Her compositions, as well as her group See-Saw's work for .hack//SIGN are pretty much the soul highlight of an otherwise boring and fruitless television series. There seems to be a Irish and Celtic influences on much of the soundtrack, as well as use of string instruments. There is a very "new age" feel to the music, but it feels a lot more richly evocative than a lot of new age I've heard. Emily Bindiger, who contributed to the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, also provided vocals here, such as in a favorite track of mine, "Key of the Twilight". Another favorite is "Fake Wings". If only the show was as good as the soundtrack.
9. Gurren Lagann (Taku Iwasaki)
When was the last time you watched a mecha program with a soundtrack that included jazz, rock, rap, and opera? I'm guessing the last time was 2007's Gurren Lagann, a Gainax show that taught you that being loud and reckless is a virtue and going to 2ch was like breathing in ass. Taku Iwasaki, who also scored anime like Now and Then, Here and There and Getbackers, produced an unconventional blend of several types of music which underscores the frantic transformations and bizarre nature of the world the series takes place in. But perhaps Gurren Lagann's biggest musical stand out is Tarantula's "Rap wa Kan no Tamashii da!", introducing the chant of "ROW ROW, FIGHT THE POWER" into the lexicon of a million fat, sweaty nerds who think "fighting the power" consists of downloading fansubs and "hot gluing" Yoko figurines.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shiro Sagisu)
Is there any other anime that has produced as much music as the 26-episode phenomenon Neon Genesis Evangelion? Well, maybe, but I don't know of any. I certainly can't name any other show that's produced more versions of Bart Howard's "Fly Me To The Moon" (though none of them are as good as The Chairman of the Board's, natch). Shiro Sagisu combines liberal use of classical music and big orchestral pieces with low-key piano, country guitar, and even a track that sounds suspiciously like John Barry's "007" from the James Bond movie franchise (the track in question is "Decisive Battle"). Where else can you hear Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Ode to Joy" alongside cute little elevator music ditties that accompany beer drinking and penguin antics? But perhaps as remarkable is the judicious use of the music throughout the shows. Or even more remarkably, how much mileage Gainax and Starchild has gotten out of stuff like the "Aki Jungle TV Size Version" of "Fly Me To The Moon", or maybe the "Yoko Takahashi Acide Bossa TV Size Version". My personal favorite is the "Aya Bossa Techno TV Size Version". Or is it the "Aya London Beat Version"? Maybe it's the "4 Beat TV Size Version"...
7. Trigun (Yukako Inoue and Tsuneo Imahori)
Guitar dominates in the soundtrack to this sci-fi Western, with music director Yukako Ionue, who worked alongside Yoko Kanno in Cowboy Bebop and Wolf's Rain. Said guitar is in the hands of Tsuneo Imahori, a member of Kanno's group, The Seatbelts. So it's no wonder that the music in this show is so excellent. While given a very old country-like sound, it also makes use of dissonant sound and experiments with percussion and wind instruments. One of my favorite tracks, "Stories to Tell" is a flute piece by Hideyo Takakuwa, who did flute work both in Bebop and Shoji Kawamori's blatant eco-maniacal Arjuna. A group called Akima & Neos sings the beautiful song "Sound Life", an insert song heard a few times in the series, associated with Vash's mentor Rem. But the most hard-hitting pieces tend to be Imahori's work, tracks like "Blood and Thunder" and "Scattered Rain". Trigun's music just might get you in the mood for a good old fashioned showdown at dusk.
Trigun is the first manga I ever purchased. I remember buying volume 1 at my local Waldenbooks in the mall because 1. the name sounded awesome and 2. it was was a pretty large volume (like the omnibus collections that are becoming more popular). This lead me to watching the show on Adult Swim, back when they did anime alright. Trigun was my first anime obsession, and to this day I have very fond memories of it. Hell, my username on most websites in the anime community is gunshottrigun. Well none of that had to do with the soundtrack, but I am getting there! The guitar rifts, western styled music, and H.T. made the show awesome. There are some other softer tracks, but I just get pumped when H.T. or guitar riff starts playing.
Trigun really has some nostalgic tunes, and when you hear them you want to watch the show. I think what really really makes Trigun's music exceptional, in a way similar to Cowboy Bebop's, is that the music adds to the atmosphere and setting of the show. - Brett Chalupa
6. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Yoko Kanno)
Much like the fusion of machine and man in series, the fusion of different sounds of music form a complex matrix of new age, electronica, alternative rock, hip hop, and classical orchestral that can be best described as a genre called "Kanno". Yoko Kanno, with collaborators such as Maaya Sakamoto, Steve Conte, Scott Matthew, Ilaria Graziano, and Origa create a mad machine of music that adds emotional punch to the though-provoking narratives of the show. Kanno even performs vocals of her own, under her "Gabriela Robin" pseudonym, in tracks like "Cyberbird", "Siberian Doll House", and "Torukia". But perhaps most striking is that a good number of vocal pieces in the soundtrack aren't in Japanese, but rather in English, Japanese, and even Italian. Perhaps this is the world network created by technology. The Tachikomas might argue that where language fails, data prevails, and damn is this some sweet data.