Music is as integral to a piece of media as visuals or plot, which is why for as long as The GLORIO Blog has existed, we have done some variety of a feature about our favourite anime songs. With the New Tens — which is what all the cool kids call the last ten years — having come to a close, we’re taking a look back at all the memorable songs that graced the shows we’ve been chronicling, presenting the most memorable tracks of them all right here, with all the pithy commentary from yours truly you’ve come to expect.
What makes an anime song memorable, though? Is it popularity? Staying power? Musical quality? I believe it can be all of these things, or none. In this list, you’ll find thirty songs that have somehow left an impression on us, whether they’re the kind of music we’d listen to when not subjecting ourselves to anime, whether they’ve wedged themselves in our heads for the rest of our lives, whether they were so ridiculous they persisted while the songs they belonged to faded form the collective consciousness, or whether they simply remind us of all the fun we had watching an anime we love.
Before we get started, though, keep in mind that music is my field of expertise, and as a result it will be the songs I’ll be focussing on, rather than the animations accompanying them. In fact, for some songs on this list, I’ve opted to include the official music video, rather than the opening or ending sequence they were featured in, simply because those are at a far lower risk of getting taken down and making this post all but unreadable mere months after publication. Hi there, future people! You’d better be grateful!
Anyway, let’s get going, shall we? Plug in your favourite pair of headphones, and start scrolling!
“No, Thank You!” by Ho-Kago Tea Time
K-ON! was a rarity — an anime about music that actually had the songs to back up tooting its horn about it. Its three ending themes especially, all sung by Yoko Hikasa as Mio and showing a mature side to the characters that was all but absent from the actual anime, contributed to its staying power, and as the last one of the bunch, “No, Thank You!” is also the best. From the simple, but effective main riff to that earwurm of a chorus, everything about this song just clicks.
“Theme for Scanty and Kneesocks” by Teddyloid
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, 2010
Panty and Stocking was the id of the team that would later move on to form Trigger unleashed, and in hindsight, a lot of that id should have stayed well locked away. One of the exceptions to this critique was the show’s excellent sixth episode, which introduced Panty and Stocking’s evil counterparts along with their lurid floor-filler of a theme song. Teddyloid’s production may be as trashy as the show’s most nauseating moments, but there is a reason why this is the only anime soundtrack I regularly revisit.
“Magia” by Kalafina
Puella Magi Madoka Magia, 2011
Madoka Magica did not really start out as an innocent show by any stretch of the imagination, but suffice to say it wasn’t exactly the show we remember it as until it let this juggernaut of a track loose. Saving “Magia” for after the third episode’s shocking twist was one of the all-time power moves in anime history, and with its eerie chants, church bells, chugging guitar grumbles and touches of Middle Eastern mystique, this song hasn’t lost any of its luster just yet. With Kalafina’s perfectly harmonizing voices snaking around Yuki Kajiura’s trademark bombast like a coven of witches wishing ill upon the world, it’s bold, grandiose and utterly terrifying.
“Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi – C” by Hyadain
Nichijou – My Ordinary Life, 2011
I’m on record as a Nichijou skeptic and this song kinda gets on my nerves, but it’s hard to deny it a place on this list. Enjoy this one concession I’ll grant you, you plebes.
“JoJo (Sono Chi no Sadame)” by Hiroaki “Tommy” Tominaga
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, 2012
The head tells me it must have been an impossible task to encapsulate the distinct magniloquence and knowing winks to classic rock that characterize JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in a single one-and-a-half-minute sequence, but Hiroaki “Tommy” Tominaga pulled it right the heck off. My heart, on the other hand, tells me this song is good because the man passionately declares the name of the show as if his life depended on it.
“abnormalize” by Ling Toshite Shigure
The more I listen to this song, the more I fail to understand why I like it because it essentially sounds like a man hyperventilating on helium set to the noise made by a guitar being pushed through a meat grinder. It gets the job done, though. Against the odds.
“Platinum Disco” by Yuka Iguchi
In a genre all too often dominated by phoned-in performances and algorithmically smoothened fluff, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a song just oozing with the fun all parties involved had making it.
“Mouretsu Uchuu Koukyoukyoku Dai 7 Gakushou ‘Mugen no Ai'” by Momoiro Clover Z
Bodacious Space Pirates, 2012
Though arguably released when Momoiro Clover’s gimmick was already starting to wear thin, their collaboration with former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman outlasted its parent show’s relevance by being essentially patient zero for a trend that would all but define what J-pop would sound like in the 2010s.
“Wareta Ringo” by Risa Taneda
From the New World, 2012
Of course, when someone asks you to compose the theme song for an ambitious, yet messy adaptation of a book that is part dystopian fantasy, part social parable, part myth and part slash fic, the first thing that would come to your mind would be “a song Madonna would release around the turn of the century”, too. No? Anyone?
“Guren no Yumiya (Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen)” by Linked Horizon
Attack on Titan, 2013
Y’know, mister Isayama, this song isn’t exactly helping your case when you try to argue that Attack on Titan isn’t just fascist propaganda.
“Before my body is dry” by Hiroyuki Sawano ft. Mika Kobayashi & David Whitaker
Kill la Kill, 2013
Let’s be honest, this thing is just a vastly inferior rip-off of “Bios”, the version of the only song Sawano knows how to write he wrote for 2011’s disastrous Guilty Crown, but half the internet would be out for my blood if I reminded it of that show in any way, shape or form, so I guess we’ll have to make do with the version featuring a rapping school uniform now.
“Sakura No Ato (All Quartets Lead to The?)” by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta, 2013
I guess what exactly all quartets lead, lead to will be forever one of rock’s greatest mysteries, second only to what exactly it is Meat Loaf won’t do for love.
“Respect for the deadman” by Pay Money To My Pain ft. Ken and Teru from Crossfaith
I love songs that could only ever be from one specific point in time, and this song, with its unholy fusion of metalcore and dubstep, is as 2013 as they come. Funimation actually has an official version of the Nobunagun OP up on Youtube, but I insist you listen to the full version of “Respect for the deadman” and experience for yourself just how angry one man can get at being unable to open a goddamn window.
“Kaze ga Shitteru” by Akai Ko-En
The Pilot’s Love Song, 2014
No one remembers The Pilot’s Love Song, but I remember when Akari Ko-En were one of the most exciting bands on the Japanese music scene. On “Kaze ga Shitteru”, the eerie piano motif invokes the haunting chills of winter winds, while Maisa Tsuno’s distortion-fueled guitars and Chiaki Sato’s husky vocals provide a warm bed of safety amidst the cold. Mesmerizing stuff.
“ME!ME!ME!” by TeddyLoid ft. DAOKO
Japan Animator Expo, 2014
The video above is Not Safe For Work!
Copious digital ink has been spilled already about “ME!ME!ME!”‘s provocative music video, one of the most memetic events in recent anime history. While the jury’s still out on its status as either a scathing indictment of otaku culture’s objectification of women or one of the most egregious examples of that very problem, one thing we should agree on is that it proves like no other why DAOKO became one of J-pop’s absolute superstars in its wake. Her versatile voice easily catching up with TeddyLoid’s eclectic genre-busting and the video’s wild mood swings, the fingerprints then then still anonymous rapper/singer/whisperer left on the genre are still recognizable in today’s big hits.
“Database” by MAN WITH A MISSION ft. Takuma
Log Horizon, 2014
In a genre overcrowded with stupid, embarrassing songs performed by stupid, embarrassing bands, this might just be the most stupid and embarrassing. So of course it’s on this list. By the way, shout out to guest vocalist Takuma, who saw the guys in the band wearing those masks and somehow thought to try and look even more ridiculous than they do.
“Ano Mori de Matteru” by Bonjour Suzuki
Yuri Kuma Arashi, 2015
The video above is Not Safe For Work!
Some of the songs on this list I picked because they are good songs. Some of them I picked because they are memorable songs. But this song I picked because it so perfectly encapsulates the show it accompanied. While the hazy, dreamlike arrangements of Bonjour Suzuki’s debut single captured Kunihiko Ikuhara’s feverish fairytale world well enough, it’s above all that voice that will forever chain “Ano More de Matteru” to Yuri Kuma Arashi’s sensual, yet somewhat disturbing vibes. Like virtually any song on this list, it’s so utterly over-the-top you’ll all but expect people to start getting it on as soon as Suzuki opens her mouth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was exactly what Ikuhara, the master of subtlety, wanted out of her in the first place.
“von” by Yoko Kanno ft. Arnór Dan
Terror in Resonance, 2015
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Arnór Dan could sing the phone book to me and it would still drive me to tears. Terror in Resonance marked the first attempt Shinichiro Watanabe made to extensively recruit from foreign star power to spice up his soundtracks — a trick he’d later milk for all its worth on Carole & Tuesday — but this collaboration between the anime’s most beloved composer and the Agent Fresco frontman is also his best, translating the urban anxiety characterizing the show’s best moment into song so well it even got an in-universe acknowledgement.
“EXiSTENCE” by SiM
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, 2015
Much like the show it was attached to, none of the individual parts “EXiSTENCE” is made up of on paper are good. The lyrics don’t make a lick of sense. The combination of nu metal and ska shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t. It should have been a complete farce, yet much like the show it was attached to, it turned out to work surprisingly well.
Well, no, not really, but I had to write something to justify putting this thing on this list.
“Flyers” by BRADIO
Death Parade, 2015
What’s to say about this one that hasn’t already been said? It’s incredibly catchy, it’s endearingly cheesy, it’s infamously inappropriate for the dark and often psychologically complex show that Death Parade was, and that’s why we love it so much we’ve all but made BRADIO our podcast’s house orchestra. Now, everybody, put your hands up and try to forget that this show will never get the continuation it deserves.
“Hito ni Yasashiku” by The Rolling Girls (Ari Ozawa, Rina Hidaka, Risa Taneda and Yumiri Hanamori)
The Rolling Girls, 2015
Any time The Blue Hearts show up in an anime warrants its own entry on this list — shout out to O Maidens in your Savage Season — but The Rolling Girls’ very existence seemingly revolving around getting four voice actresses to cover their most famous songs has to take the cake. Is it heresy to admit that I kind of prefer this more elaborate version over the raw, unrefined original?
“Orphans’ Tears” by Misia
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, 2015
I didn’t really know why Gee and Iro insisted on including this song in the list, so I asked, but all they did was yell “ORPHAAAAANS NAMIDAAAA” at me, so I guess we’ll never know.
“Ikenai Borderline” by Walküre
Macross ∆, 2016
Most people will remember this song because of its incredibly catchy chorus or JUNNA and Minori Suzuki’s impressive vocal tag team. I mostly just love it because it sounds like it was arranged by an entire bucket of bike horns and Game Boy Advances being thrown down a flight of stairs.
“Lay Your Hands on Me” by BOOM BOOM SATELLITES
While “Lay Your Hands on Me” is technically the theme song to 2016s forgettable tear-jerker Kiznaiver, it will go down in history as the final song Boom Boom Satellites released before singer Michiyuki Kawashima succumbed to a brain tumour. Listened to in this context, it is nothing but a life-affirming anthem, waving Kawashima and his unique mix of magnificant trance and rock good-bye with one one fist to the sky.
“History Maker” by Dean Fujioka
Yuri!!! on Ice, 2016
This song is kind of the opposite of “Flyers” in that it is this grandiose, sweeping pseudo-waltz slapped onto a show that was for the most part just a goofy, unambitious romp. It would still totally win the Eurovision Song Contest, though.
“Deal with the Devil” by Tia
Supercell kind of crashed and burned in a decade that started with them arguably being one of the new anime music bands capable of breaking into the mainstream, but that didn’t stop Ryo from broadening his horizons and composing this manic swing ditty, quite masterfully translated into a saucy fever dream by Yuri!!! on Ice director Sayo Yamamoto.
“Imawa no Shinigami” by Megumi Hayashibara
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, 2017
Its hard to find someone who would still go to bat for Sheena Ringo in the year of our Lord 2020, but the fact of that matter remains that the type of sultry, orchestral ballad the former iconoclast has defaulted to over the course of the last decade fits a show like Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju extremely well. Add an experienced vocalist in Megumi Hayashibara and you have got the scene set for a beautifully animated sequence that depicts death embracing an era with a distinct aesthetic as much as it does an aging man.
“Flashback” by MIYAVI ft. KenKen
With all due respect to Mr. MIYAVI, but perhaps there is such a thing as being too good at playing the guitar. I mean, if you can make a guitar sound like a clown honking without getting immediately directed to the nearest trash bin, you are too good at playing the guitar.
“Kaen” by QUEEN BEE (Ziyoou-vachi)
“Kaen” is a strange beast, because it is an incredibly dense, creative song that nevertheless uses that same obnoxious trick where the chorus is substituted for an instrumental hook that every pop song nowadays uses (see also: “History Maker”). It’s used effectively here, though, blending breakbeats and traditional Japanese instrumentation with cult icon Avu-chan’s impressive falsetto to build up to an explosive, guitar-driven climax.
“Wild side” by ALI
… and that’s called JAZZ!
Did your favourite make the cut? Did we overlook a massive hit? Would you do anything for love, except for, you know, that? Make sure to let us know in the comments!