By Rachel Moulden
Anime original soundtracks can sometimes make or break a series. The role of a score is to immerse the viewer in a world that transports them from their own, adds to a scene’s intensity or gives each character their own personal theme.
For me, anime soundtracks have always made a long-lasting impression. Whether I’m singing karaoke to an opening theme or listening to an instrumental piece from the score, there’s always something powerful.
Let’s take a look at some anime with standout music, from original themes to opening and ending songs. And while you should watch them anyway, maybe this will give you an extra push!
When I think about this series, the first words that come to mind are “hip-hop” and “samurai.” These are two things you might not think would mesh well together, but make total sense when you watch Samurai Champloo.
From the jump, a powerful opening theme describes the ferocity of a samurai’s mission—and viewers know exactly what awaits them. This amazing soundtrack, produced by the legendary Nujabes and Fat Jon, makes for a tracklist that I can listen to on repeat even when I’m not watching.
It’s also probably the reason I was introduced to hip-hop lo-fi music and now consume it on a daily basis.
The soundtrack is striking, from its fusion of smooth jazz and soulful R&B melodies with traditional Japanese arrangements. And these hip-hop beats blend together, illustrating the mission to find the samurai that smells like sunflowers.
The Samurai Champloo OST manages to enrapture viewers with fast-paced songs that mirror a real-time rap battle, like when Mugen and Jin get into head-to-head showdowns. On the other hand, it also showcases the series’ quieter, more cinematic moments of self-reflection, as each character grapples with internal discovery.
And the final piece of the puzzle? “Shiki No Uta” from Minmi. Perfection.
Inuyasha was one of the first anime series I watched, and it introduced me to the world of J-Pop. With music from Ayumi Hamasaki, BoA, Do As Infinity and Namie Amuro, it showcased a variety of pop music that also manages to tie in with the show’s core themes.
It provided me with many go-to tracks for karaoke sessions at home or with friends. In addition to its themes, the instrumental score by Kaoru Wada leaves a long-lasting impression, helping to submerge fans in the show’s world. The music is reminiscent of the Sengoku period, using traditional instruments to capture the emotions of our lead characters.
Whenever I would hear the triumphant brass horns from the symphonic orchestra in “Inuyasha’s Theme,” I knew it was time to go to battle against an evil foe and save the day. Or in the score track titled “Evil Spirits,” which captures the sinister sounds of Naraku trying to lure a demon to capture a piece of the Shikon jewel for himself.
It’s an extensive anime series at 193 episodes across the Inuyasha and Inuyasha: The Final Act, but the combination of score, characters and sense of adventure is what keeps you coming back for more. As I hear the OP and ED themes playing in my head, they remind me of when I was first introduced to anime in junior high through watching Toonami’s late-night TV block. Ah, memories.
Fruits Basket (2001)
Every time I hear the opening lyrics to the dub theme song go, “I was so happy when you smiled. Your smile breaks through the clouds of grey,” I’m left feeling bittersweet.
There is just something about “For Fruits Basket” and the rest of the original anime’s soundtrack that makes me supremely nostalgic when I listen to it. The show’s background has a tenderness to its light, uplifting feelings. It’s shoujo, but it also leads the viewer to reflect on simpler times.
The music is sweet, sorrowful and reflective of my youth—times when my worries were few. The OST definitely has a way of pulling at your heartstrings and expressing the conflicting emotions of the characters of Fruits Basket as well.
Though the series may seem light and fluffy on the outside, it’s actually a profound story about hardship and the healing of emotional wounds that have been ingrained in its characters for so long.
The soundtrack manages to capture this array of emotions that we all face while growing up. Fruits Basket and its score remind me that we will always have more growing, learning and discovering throughout our lives in order to truly find ourselves.
FAIRY TAIL follows the adventures of Natsu Dragneel, a member of the wizard guild called Fairy Tail, as he scours the fictional world of Earth-land for the dragon Igneel.
This shounen series takes us on an exciting journey filled with mystical creatures, magic and, like other series on this list, it also has a memorable soundtrack. Invoking a heavy sense of adventure, the music of FAIRY TAIL guides viewers through dozens of story arcs as it showcases the depth of its world.
The core of FAIRY TAIL‘s OST that stands out the most is its medieval feel—one that completely enhances the viewing experience. It evokes a genre similar to Celtic rock paired with traditional Japanese instruments.
It’s this unique identity that allows it to stand out among other shows of its kind. I can listen to the OST totally separate from watching the series to get hyped up for a long workday or intense studying session.
Whatever your preference, music can spark the adventurer in all of us. And even though life might be full of obstacles that weigh heavy on the soul, we can overcome them.