Anime Composers

I don’t know why I write about this; perhaps because Anime News Network had that casual poll, or maybe I read a few blogs that talked about it. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve hit a dry spell and I always have a lot to say when the topic rolls to anime music. But perhaps more than usual what I have to say is a lot, and disproportionately a lot of that is baseless, subjective observations, unschooled in the normative language of the relevant arts. It doesn’t stop me.

I think everyone has to make some kind of decision, conscious or not, to make music a part of their lives. It’s not that you become a fan or anything, but much like drinking tea in the afternoon or taking a nap, it’s just something that has long been with human beings for a long time.

Let’s start with Joe. Joe Hisaishi is one of Japan’s most celebrated composers, not so much because of his Studio Ghibli works, but his soundtracks for live action films. It also helped that Beat Takeshi is one of those very liberated film types? Nonetheless, I enjoy his work in a very casual capacity. I think my favorite theme from him is Summer, from Kikujiro. I think Laputa‘s main theme (track 2 on the OST, or this image album) comes next, and I especially like this re-arranged version.

Friends and I call him by an endearing term, “Hesushi.” To mock yet another friend who’s a Hesushi fanatic, of course.

I think the first soundtrack musician in anime that I endorsed with money is Hayato Matsuo. I bet most of you have never heard of him, and his anime soundtrack career is a long but spotty one. I still really like some of his works, like Magic Knight Rayearth and Rescue Wings, but it’s fairly casual involvement here too.

One more before Yoko Kanno…I think Toshihiko Sahashi is the second person I gave money to as an anime soundtrack person. The instrumentals in Rayearth OAV was dark and dreary, but alone on disc it sounded actually thoughtful and it flowed well, and that’s what I bought. I think because he actually have a long list of shows that he wrote for–Tsukikage Ran, Smash Hit, Simoun, Gundam Seed, Gunslinger Girls and Full Metal Panic are just a few–I saw his name pop up here and there. It’s fresh in the mind. He kept up, too, with a lot of good stuff.

But of course, there’s always Yoko Kanno. I think it was love at first (few) listen; somewhere between Macross Plus and Escaflowne I was sold for good. But somehow I never figured out what was so great about Bebop’s soundtrack, aside from showing her diversity. I thought Macross Plus was already pretty darn good, even, at showing diversity. Yet nonetheless I bought a ton of Cowboy Bebop crap. It was the thing to do back then. I think I even got that one DVD with Seatbelts live. They put on a good show.

But we all know about Yoko Kanno, and Yuki Kajiura as well. I think I took a liking to her once I realized I was playing Aquarian Age TV OST over and over again, yet somehow this was before she got huge from doing .hack and what not. I think at some point I listened to her Shin KOR soundtrack, and found that while unremarkable, very solid and charming.

I think however Kajiura has that whole pop-synth aspect to her music which made it very enjoyable. To me the two YKs are most distinct between repeated listenings. I think I still can stand .hack OSTs and Aquarian Age OST repeatedly today, but OTOH I run through all of Kanno without any irritation. I’m not sure if that says anything objective… Maybe that is why I spend more money on Kanno?

That and Kajiura’s stuff is domestically available!

I think if you look at my collection you’ll also realize I’m somewhat a big Taku Iwasaki person. It’s actually not so true. I do enjoy his works but I’m fairly casual about it. Although, I think I like his Witch Hunter Robin works the best. The second OST is oozing with goodness… Any of you Oban Star Racer fans enjoy the music?

At any rate, I think I can continue on for some time, so I’m going to call it for now. People like Kunihiko Ryo deserves more than a terse blurb at the end of a random anime blog, but I hope at the least that gets you curious. I remember seeing him playing the piano during a demo reel for Emma @ AX2005. That was sweet. Studio Pierrot retained him for the project because they love his music so?


6 Responses to “Anime Composers”

  • BluWacky

    Emma Season 1 had already finished airing by the time of AX2005, hadn’t it?

  • Karura

    Oddly enough, that poll on ANN makes me want to write a post like this too, I was debating whether I could justify it when I already review individual soundtracks most weeks. Oh well, might as well give it a go…

  • omo

    Yes, Emma just ended before AX2005. Studio Pierrot was pushing it around hoping to get a license…and I also remember they were pushing it in Japan as well, trying to reach a wider audience (rather than just the late-night otaku crowd).

    I think anime (industry-wise, I guess) is special compared to most animation types especially in the broadcast TV format because often they spring the big bucks for quality musicians. So in a way I think there is a lot to be said under this topic.

  • Os

    Ah. Joe. He IS the man when it comes to anime composers. I first found out about him when I was looking for a copy of “Kids Return”. I’m a major Beat Takeshi fan so when I noticed how awesome the music was in the movies I went to check it out. As it turns out, my favorite song is Summer. I’m sure if I listened to it without the ending scene in Kikujiro in my mind, it wouldn’t be as powerful, but whenever I hear it now, I think of that awesome scene and I just stop whatever I’m doing just listen to it for a while.

  • TheBigN

    I wish you went on, or better yet, maybe had someone else continue to expand on the list? :P

    In terms of Taku Iwasaki, there’s always a piece in a soundtrack he does that sounds similar to some of his other work (like a piece from NTHT wouldn’t seem “out of place” with ROD the TV), but he tends to have a lot of pretty good variety as well. I loved his work on Black Cat and Witch Hunter Robin, and it’s interesting to find out that he worked on EDs for SoulTaker and YKK. :3

    In general though, I have “favorite” composers, but I don’t feel that one is better than the others I listen to. It’s just a matter of what I can listen to over and over again while feeling something important from it. That’s what I hope music can do for me.

  • dm

    I’ve never been very good about noticing composers’ names (inability to read kanji contributes to this). I just go by the anime titles. It turns out that I’m a Taku Iwasaki fan, too.

    As TheBigN mentions, a lot of his work has a stylistic consistency — music from the first Rurouni Kenshin OAV would easily fit in ROD, too.

    There are a few composers whose names I look for. In addition to Kanno, Kajiura, and Hisaishi, I’m also quite fond of Kenji Kawai. In fact, his Ghost in the Shell soundtrack was the beginning of my soundtrack downfall, even before the Ghibli movie soundtracks. His Vampire Princess Miyu soundtracks also caught my ear (and his soundtrack is probably the best thing that came out of the ill-fated Vampire Princess Miyu TV series).

    Kawai, like Kanno, can deploy a great many styles, so it’s sometimes surprising that a given work is by him. However, he also has some reliable tropes, generally to do with instrumentation. There’s a snatch of the Higurashi no naku koro ni soundtrack that would fit in Miyu (perhaps unsurprising), and there are bits of the Fate/stay night soundtrack that just say “Kawai” to me.

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