My Top 20 Songs from Anime

We’ve done a few lists now, haven’t we? I think they’re a fun exploration of a genre or form. And in the spirit of Lists: let’s try one that’s a little bit different: we’re going to be discussing in no particular order, the music of various different anime! This includes opening themes, background songs, ending themes and more. I’ll give you the series and a brief reason why that song means the world to me.

Let’s jam.

Oh, and you’ll likely see plenty of overlap between the music I like and the anime I like: reading over that list may give you a vision of the future. You’ll likely also see some repeats from a few core series: that’s likely for a reason.

Funny Bunny, The Pillows

FLCL

FLCL is one of my favorite series of all time and it has one of the best soundtracks I can think of. Don’t be surprised to see this series on the list more than once. Funny Bunny is sweet, sentimental and emotional: The Pillows as a band are good about using puns, wordplay and most importantly: heart. This song has made me cry too many times and one of my favorite moments of all is driving down the highway with Carlos singing this little song during A-Kon. It’s a love song for the ages.

Hybrid Rainbow, The Pillows

FLCL

I told you FLCL would appear on this list more than once. Even though this was just a background song, this was my anthem in college. A song about disillusionment, overcoming the sameness over the world and how what appears is not always as it is was the perfect song for the angsty college kid that I was.

Anti-Nostalgic, Kotani Kinya

Gravitation

Who knew an anime about music would have great music? This song still makes me super emotional and as a ballad to a lover, it doesn’t get much better. I always really related to how Yuki Eiri felt about love, time and relationships and how trauma colors your perception of all of those things: because of that, this was one of the first songs I remember committing to memory as a young fan.

Shining Collection, Iceman

Gravitation

Now, this is the real song from Gravitation that sold me. In the OVA, this song is the last thing Shuichi has to sing and he has the privilege to sing it with his idol, Ryuichi. Now, traditionally, the OVA says that this is a song that Yuki wrote for Shuichi. But that’s when my fangirl senses began to tingle. Yuki wrote a song with Ryuichi Sakuma and it made Shining Collection: one of the least romantic love songs possible. Here’s my theory, and this for all of us who still know this old anime: this song is about Yuki’s former lover and tormentor: Kitazawa. The tone, the feverish pace and all seems to add up more to this being a song about Kitazawa rather than the somewhat useless Shuichi: but that’s just an Amanda Theory. I love this song and it’s frantic pace keeps me typing away: you’ll often hear it while I work on my blog posts, my fiction projects or my panels.

Sleepless Beauty, The Seeker

Gravitation

Last one from this series, I promise. The confidence that Ryuichi Sakuma has when performing this song is a strong motivator for me. I’ve used this song to get me through some of the toughest patches in my life and the fact that it has an almost lullabye-like acoustic version that ramps up into an electrifying dance track only ensured that this song stayed in my heart for over a decade.

Fukai Mori, Do As Infinity

InuYasha

I’ve gone on record saying that this anime is the one that made me sell my soul to fandom and this beautiful ending theme is part of the reason I was ready to make that leap. I listened to this song on repeat before going to bed as a teen and I was so happy when I learned even a part of it in Japanese. I picked up a CD copy of InuYasha’s OST and Amber and I sang along the entire time. This song is a part of my childhood and a part of who I am as a fan.

My Will, Dream

InuYasha

Not to be outdone by Fukai Mori, My Will is beautiful, amazing, haunting and more. It had a stunning key visual, too that cemented to many Americans into anime. What more can be said about one of the most iconic songs in all of fandom?

Wind, Akeboshi

Naruto

This song makes me cry. This song comforts me when I am sad. This song helps lift me up. Naruto’s themes of not always fitting in, finding your family and your worth and being more than a painful past always hit home with me and a song as reassuring as Wind was vital to helping me cope as an angsty teen and even now as a sometimes melancholic adult.

Blue, Mai Yamane

Cowboy Bebop

Now is where things get serious. Bebop is probably a close attempt at number one for me as far as anime go. And this song, wow. It is in my actual will that this will be played during my funeral service. It is that serious to me. This song is haunting, emotional, raw and just…so powerful. I had a moment while driving to visit my mother’s grave and this song came on thanks to my phone’s cursed shuffle. I sobbed. I cried just over and over again repeating: “I’m so free.”

I cried, I put the flowers I got for my mom on her headstone, I spoke to her and visited my grandparents. And all the while I just kept repeating: “I’m so free.”

Space Lion, The Seatbelts

Cowboy Bebop

Didn’t think a song with almost no lyrics could bring me to tears but it did. Space Lion is a beautiful song that so perfectly bookends season 1 of one of the most perfect anime to ever exist. The song pulls elements from another part of the OST, Goodnight Julia, a song attached to Gren (who we meet during the last two episodes of season 1). Space Lion is the song we see Gren  die to. It’s the song that closes this part of a chapter and it’s just stunning.

Shiki no Uta, Minmi

Samurai Champloo

Champloo has an energetic opening that deserves an honorable mention but as soon as I heard the first bars of the jazzy closing, Shiki no Uta I was in love. The vocals are top notch and the whole vibe is calmer, more collected and more mellow than the high energy of the anime.

Who’s Theme, Minmi

Samurai Champloo

Watanabe-sensei can do no wrong when it comes to picking music and this mid-season finale song for Samurai Champloo is a stunning piece of music that I simply cannot skip if it starts playing.

Viva Namida, Okamura Yasuyuki

Space Dandy

Okay, Dandy is another Watanabe-sensei special and honestly, this song sold me on this weird anime about a dandy guy in space. The lyrics are deeper than you’d think, so be sure to pull up the English lyrics and simply enjoy.

Life Goes On ~Side K~, Chemistry

Antique Bakery

Have I told you lately how much I love this anime. Within moments of this opening song I was sold. It’s an anime about cake, pretty boys, emotional drama and had an amazing art style and the music, god this song did it for me immediately. It’s upbeat and fun and matches the energy of the series just right in places.

Life Goes On ~Side D~, Chemistry

Antique Bakery

If I ever get married, I want this to be my first dance with my new life partner. This is true and has been true about me for years now. ~Side D~ is the slower ending to Antique Bakery and while the lyrics are the same, the beat is way slowed down and turns an upbeat J-Pop song into a loving ballad. It stole my heart immediately.

Ranbu no Melody, SID

Bleach

I don’t think I can impress upon you all how much I love Bleach as a concept and show but am disappointed by its narrative choices. I fell in love with the characters almost immediately (Famously, I watched a fair amount when the show was first released and then fell out of it when the show started to bloat in the middle. I fell back in love during the Espada Arc because it’s some of the best writing the series has ever done and some of the best character design and arcs given in shonen anime.) and the music has always been top-notch. Even when the music isn’t firing all on cylinders, it’s some of the best in the shonen genre. So when I had to pick just a handful to represent this series on this list, it was difficult but only so. Ranbu no Melody is a stunningly beautiful song, it’s easy to see this as maybe a movie theme or something rather than just one of maybe 30 openings for the series. And it happens to be one of my favorites because of its unique feel: I’m also a little biased by the fact that the animation that goes with it may be some of the most stunning in the series’ history.

Life is Like a Boat, Rie Fu

Bleach

Of course I like this song. Of course I like this melancholic song with a little twinge at the end that even the heaviest of burdens can be shared with the right people. The vocals on this one alone are some of the best in anime and even though, yes, this song does feel melodramatic and sappy for those who haven’t felt the cold embrace of a tough life, for someone like me, it was and still is exactly what I need to hear after a difficult day.

The World, Nightmare

Death Note

In the theme of melodramatic, I happen to love Death Note and in this week’s entry in the category of: Someone really should have listened to young Amanda when she said she related to Light Yagami. The whole season one soundtrack is powerful and brooding and made my young vampire heart sing.

Alumnina, Nightmare

Death Note

Okay, it may be cheating to put an opening and a closing from the same season but come the math on! This song is moody, misanthropic and really helps to put you in Light’s headspace: he has a terrible but great responsibility to be the god of a new world and Alumina perfectly illustrates the miserable yet tantalizing burden that being a human shinigami carried with it.


Okay, it may be cheating to put an opening and a closing from the same season but come the math on! This song is moody, misanthropic and really helps to put you in Light’s headspace: he has a terrible but great responsibility to be the god of a new world and Alumina perfectly illustrates the miserable yet tantalizing burden that being a human shinigami carried with it.

Honorable Mentions:

Honestly, I could dedicated an entire blog to writing about anime music and its influence on me as a writer, human person and I found that this list changed depending on what day I wrote it. This list as it is now is far from the one it started as. But here’s where I want to give a shout out to the albums that you have probably heard me talk about but did not end up on this list. Namely the soundtrack for Axis Powers: Hetalia should have and needs to be mentioned.  You learn so much about the characters in these songs and I am still shameless in my ability to sing The Delicious Tomato Song or Paris is Indeed Splendid.

I’d also like to talk about the rest of the soundtracks to a lot of the animes I mention. Just because I picked one or two songs from each series does not mean the rest of the soundtrack is garbage. Bleach has amazing music, Naruto has amazing music: these series have fantastic soundtracks and you’re welcome to ask me more about it in the comments below. Additionally, there are songs particularly that are special to me despite not fitting neatly on this list that I’ll speed round here a little.

  • Haru no KatamiAyakashi Samurai Horror Tales
  • Genesis of NextCyborg 009
  • Most of the soundtrack to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and the original Fullmetal Alchemist
  • A good portion of the soundtrack of Naruto: Shippuden
  • Cruel Angel’s Thesis and Fly Me to the Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • The entire OST to Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt
  • The rest of the FLCL soundtrack
  • Most of the Code Geass soundtrack
  • The OST to Air Gear
  • Is it cheating to mention how much I love the music of nearly every Miyazaki movie?

Now, onto the main event.

Ready, Steady, Go!,  L’Arc-En-Ciel

FullMetal Alchemist

You know this was going to be the official, unofficial number one, right? You knew I had to do this. You knew that there was no way I could get through this list without mentioning the anime theme song to end all anime theme songs. This song gets me so hype and it ignites something in me that I’ve felt for damn near twenty years now. The opening animation only continues to sell the song as uplifting, emotional and powerful. There are so many memories of me and my friends singing this song on road trips, during conventions, on stage and more. It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The vocals sell the song and lifts me to greater heights. I could dedicate more to this song but I’m sure it doesn’t do this song justice. If you’ve somehow never heard it before, just give it a listen.


Thanks for sticking with me through this post! I like doing these Top 10s! What’s the next thing I should rank?

My Top 20 Anime List

-And what's the real lesson- Don't leave things in the fridge.-Cowboy Bebop Episode 12- Toys in the Attic.png

So this is an interesting challenge.

I’ve been a remarkably vocal fangirl and a friend of mine demanded that I finally put my money where my mouth is. He asked me to put on paper my top 20 list.

Now, this list is going to be weird because it’ll be heavily influenced by what influenced me. I’ve said before that I’m a Golden Age fangirl, so you’ll see lots of Golden Age series on this list. I’ll try to give a brief explanation as to why I like each series and if I don’t, it’s nothing personal and really I don’t even think it will be numbered so much as it’s just 20 anime that mean the world to me and I think if you haven’t seen, you should. So in no particular order, here’s my Top 20.

And while you read: enjoy a little mood music:

  • Cowboy Bebop

    • This is the perfect anime. Amazing story, amazing music and fantastic characterization, if you’ve never seen it: do it now. If it’s been a while, pop it in. Bebop is full of emotional twists and turns and some of the best animation ever put to screen. This one is a classic and won my heart almost immediately and very early in my anime career. Even though I said in no particular order, there’s a reason Bebop is top on this list. You won’t find a series I praise more than this tale of a few Space Cowboys looking to make their mark on a deeply fractured, imperfect but beautiful universe and find meaning, love and what it all means to be alive, human and happy.

      As far as favorite episodes:

      • Jupiter Jazz Parts 1 and 2
      • Sympathy for the Devil
      • Toys in the Attic
  • FLCL

    • What an amazing little series. It’s easy to discount it considering how crazy the story and lines are but upon each watch, I find something new to love about it. FLCL follows a kid trying to make sense of a world that makes no sense around him and I can absolutely relate. If you can’t get behind the story, get behind the amazing music provided by The Pillows and the beautiful animation that bridges plenty of influences and styles together for a witty, heartfelt and smart series.
  • FullMetal Alchemist

    • This series holds a very special place in my heart. I fell in love with all of the characters immediately. Can you imagine how I must’ve felt as a young woman dealing with the loss of my father? And then this serious little anime with characters that felt similar loss and handled their grief maturely and with conviction? Yeah, this one means the world to me. This series is heartbreaking and has some of the few episodes in anime that can make me cry every single damn time. That’s how powerful the connection is to the characters and to the story. On top of some serious research done into alchemy, religion and science, this is a series that if you somehow managed to miss it, watch it.

      Now, this is a good time to mention that I mean the original anime. There is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which is closer to the manga and that one just doesn’t pack the same punch for me. I liked the manga, sure but I think the first pass of the anime was way more emotional and better done. But that’s just my opinion.

      Some favorite episodes include:

        • Fullmetal vs. Flame
        • The Flame Alchemist, the Mystery of Warehouse 13 and the Bachelor Lieutenant
        • Theory of Avarice
  • InuYasha

    • Now, I can’t say this one’s good anymore. It doesn’t always age well but if you wanna find the places where fangirl Amanda began to form? It’s with this series. The basic story shapes up like this: Kagome finds herself suddenly in Feudal Japan where she finds half-demon: InuYasha and hilarity, awkward romance and other much better side characters ensue.This series has probably some of my first serious anime crushes and at the time was beautifully voice acted, beautifully animated and had songs that are iconic now to the fan community.

      Episodes to watch include:

      • Only You, Sango
      • And basically just any episode with Sesshomaru
  • Naruto
    • I know, right? Another big shonen series? I didn’t say this list would be super original. This anime hit me at a time where I was finally finding myself and this show was full of great music, great characters and a wide variety of storylines if you can survive some of the filler nonsense.  What I loved in Naruto was a fantastic mix of characters that all had similar backgrounds. Many faced the similar fates of loss of families but everyone dealt with it differently. For someone like me who lost her parents at an early age, it was amazing to see what I could have become, what I was dangerously close to being and who I could aspire to be. Episodes to watch:
      • Assassin of the Moonlight Night
      • Kakashi: Sharingan Warrior
      • The Demon in the Snow
  • Big O

    • Remember how I said I don’t do mech? I don’t. But any time a series can be more than just overcompensating with giant robots, I’m sold. Big O centers around a main character, Roger Smith (who looks a lot like another eccentric, all-black wearing, playboy and detective). Set in a city without memories, Roger must complete his daily tasks as a negotiator and find out the many mysteries of Paradigm City and the sinister forces that keep the city clad in darkness. 
  • Code Geass
    • I don’t do mecha. I don’t do giant robots. Giant robots confuse me. Code Geass is so much more than just a mech series and it’s beautiful. The psychology, the tone and the drama all make this one hell of a great series. Code Geass focuses on a young revolutionary named Lelouch and his desire to free a captive Japan and restore the world to its proper state: ordered chaos. I can’t say this one always ages well and Lelouch is maybe up there in the top of the list of damn near insufferable main characters but this series transcended being a mecha and was a splendid chess match until the very end.
  • Bleach

    • This one’s strange. I didn’t actually like this series when I first saw it but upon further inspection and after hours, literally hours, of research I fell in love. The symbolism, the thought, the care put into this work is wonderful and if you’re like me and you love long shonen series, this one’s tops for a reason. Follow the daily adventures of a soul reaper in training, Ichigo Kurosaki, and his equally powerful (and some not so powerLookin’ at you, Renji +_+) friends as they battle Hollows, monsters and even other soul reapers. This series has some of my top favorite characters of all time (GASP! another possible list?) and despite the immense amount of tropes and cliches, I’m able to suspend my disbelief for fantastic music, fantastic action and beautiful character development.
  • Lupin III

    • This series is dated as hell now. But if you can handle this vintage humor and “unique” art style, you are in for a treat. Ever meet a character in an anime that’s smooth, cool and a ladykiller? He’s probably based off of Lupin. This series is based off of the titular character, Lupin, and his gang of thieves. They pull off some of the best heists seen in anime with a great deal of thought, humor and planning. We’re talking James Bond-esque gadgets mixed with Pink Panther levels of camp and absurd happenings. It’s perfect. It doesn’t always age well if you catch the original 1970s-1980s anime. But the reboot is grittier, prettier and is well-voice acted (as well as WAY more violent). I’m personally a sucker for the vintage model, much like Lupin would be himself, and it’s almost a must for any anime fan. You gotta know your history.
  • Trigun
    • One of the first series to really sorta break my heart with characters. Centered around Vash the Stampede and those who are fortunately unfortunate enough to be swept up by him, this series is more than just a gunslinger anime. There’s serious science, serious character development and one of the most interesting plots to come out of the earlier days of anime. It’s an oldie now, but worth a watch if you’ve never seen it.
  • Cyborg 009
    • Another mecha? I’m starting to sound like a hypocrite. But again, this was so much more than just cyborgs fighting. Notice how the number says 009? There’s 8 other fantastically interesting characters who all have amazing stories behind them.  Beautiful animation, great music and characters that you feel for as soon as you learn more. There’s not a single beat this anime misses.
  • Gravitation
    • Again, I don’t think this series is great. It does not age well. But heaven help me, this series did shape me as a fangirl and as a person. A huge amount of amazing characters, for the time amazing animation and a soundtrack: my gosh, the soundtrack. This one’s a boy’s love, so if you want to give it a spin, just be warned. This was one of the first times that I think I really connected to a bunch of characters in a series (which for a high schooler is probably a little worrisome since I found this series in my teens). I gotta say, the anime’s nice but watered down. For the real story, you have to read the manga. 
  • Antique Bakery
    • Another boy’s love but a wonderfully animated show with amazing voice acting and delicious looking cakes. I’ve cosplayed this series more than once and I fall in love with it every single time and If you love cake, slight drama and hopeless romance with some darker themes: this series is for you.
  • Axis Powers: Hetalia
    • What a funny and bizarre little series. It’s hilarious if you can get past some of the bright colors and fast talking but it’s worth it if you want to see the adventures or misadventures of a bunch of personified countries discuss their love lives, their history and the current state of the world.
  • Death Note
    • This show is dark, heavy and full of psychological twists and turns and I was alone for every moment of the ride. This anime was one of the last of the Golden Era series and what a way to close out an era. In a fantastic battle of wits, discover questions about ethics, morals and what it really means to be a god with genius, Light Yagami and the even more genius detective, L. I fell for the characters, the serious ethical inquiries and wonderful animation. 
  • Samurai Champloo

    • Talk about another perfect damn series. Just everything about this show is a plus and the flow and the story just takes it to the next level. Following Fuu, one of the few female characters I can stand in anime, and her unruly unwitting bodyguards Mugen and Jin through a beautifully creative Edo Japan. Combined with some splendid voice acting this series is inventive, new and has some of the best music in anime. I can’t recommend this hit enough. Episodes to watch:
      • Disorder Diaries
      • Cosmic Collisions
  • YuYu Hakusho
    • This anime sold me on the entire genre. Fast-pace, great character and animation that’s not to terrible made this a popular first for many up and coming otakus. Centered around a rather crass lead in Yusuke and his adventures as a Spirit Detective, solving all sorts of demon and ghost-related crimes, the plot’s pretty basic but I can never fault the series that sold me on this whole weird type of media. 
  • Dragonball and Dragonball Z
    • When I was a little girl, I had a religious experience with this show. I was 6 and with my aunts at a local college. Upon the biggest screens possible in that day, I saw this show. A kid with a monkey tail punched a dinosaur out of the sky and cooked and ate it. I was sold. I needed to know more and because of this amazing shonen anime, I gave my life to the genre and it began a now 20 year adventure in otaku life.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
    • What a beautiful series. What a beautiful, sad, dark series. If you haven’t seen this classic anime, give it a chance right now. It’s another almost mech but there’s so much more going on than just giant robots. I won’t reveal much because, seriously, if you haven’t seen this: just damn watch it. This one aged well but I wouldn’t recommend marathoning this one. Give it time. It’s heavy and you will feel things.
  • Pokemon
    • How many kids get to claim this as their first? Really, this one was a huge leaping point for me as a kid. I loved everything about the series, the game and the fandom as a child. Out of all the things in my life that has changed, Pokemon has been a beautiful constant.

Now, these aren’t the best anime in the world. These aren’t even all the anime that I like but these are the ones that if you had to sit down and put together the fangirl soul of Amanda, you’d find foundational pieces from all of these series. Now, these are opinions and aren’t meant to cause a flame war. But share any of your hits below. I may do another list because this is by no means all of the series I’ve watched and by no means all of the series I like to talk about.

Till next time.