Music can give life to an entire story and can define a character to deeper extents. A great soundtrack can not only make an average anime a little better but it can also make a good anime great. A simple yet melodious background score can take you on a rollercoaster of unforgettable emotions. When Shichiro Watanabe came out with anime like ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and ‘Samurai Champloo‘, he made sure that even the music in these shows was topnotch, in order to make them even more impactful. The music in these anime shows not only manages to make the anime better in a lot of ways, but the heavy influence of hip-hop music in their tracks makes the shows even more appealing to an international audience.
An anime soundtrack can be considered to be great if it either gets you all fired up; if it truly moves you with its emotional melodies; or if it simply makes you feel something really deep and profound. Great music can either make or break an anime and has the capability of elevating the experience to a whole new level. So we decided to make a compilation of some of the best anime OSTs that will probably stay with us forever and from time to time, we’d find ourselves going back to these tracks with nothing but the memories of all the scenes they were played with. The list below does not include any intros or outros, as we’re talking about actual background scores here that remind you of a particularly special moment of the show. Without further ado, here’s the list of top anime OST:
13. Cowboy Bebop (Bad Dog No Biscuits)
This is one anime that I’m sure most viewers would be expecting, as firstly, it is known to be Shinichiro Watanabe’s best work and secondly because, as mentioned earlier, Shinichiro always makes sure that the music in his anime shows is perfect. ‘Cowboy Bebop‘ is known to have some of the greatest anime OSTs that are heavily influenced by Jazz and blues music with a touch of lo-fi backgrounds. Out of these tracks, the best one is “bad dog no biscuits” performed by the Jazz band ‘Seatbelts live’. The track will give you goosebumps with its upbeat electric vibe that fits right in with the “futuristic 90s” feel of the anime. Anyone who has seen the anime will be able to visualize Hakim and Spike chasing Ein around every time they hear this track.
12. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (The Intrepid)
‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood‘ is known to be one of the best anime ever made and no anime can ever have that reputation without having the most incredible soundtracks. Out of all the amazing OSTs in the anime, “The Intrepid” performed by Akira Senju is simply the greatest as it makes you go through a roller coaster of emotions. For those who have seen the anime, it is deeply moving in its own majestic way but even for the ones who have not seen the show at all, this score can make you laugh and cry at the same time. Every single time I listen to it, I can’t help but think about Alphonse’s noble words of wisdom – “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of equivalent exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the world’s one and only truth.”
11. Naruto Shippuden (Despair)
The entire ‘Naruto‘ franchise is known for having some of the greatest soundtracks popular in the anime world. As a long-running multi-genre anime, it has OSTs ranging from being absolute tear-jerkers to tracks that can pump your blood and hype you up for some kickass action sequence. Out of all these OSTs, it is really hard to choose one but for some reason, “Despair” resonates with all the feelings of true Narutards who probably know the characters of the anime more than the people around them in real life. This nostalgic and slightly sad soundtrack plays when Hinata finally tells Naruto how she feels. That scene is sure as hell quite memorable but this music just makes it even more intense.
10. Samurai Champloo (Obokuri-Eeumi)
Now that we have already mentioned Shinichiro Watanabe’s ‘Cowboy Bebop’, this list would be incomplete without its sister series ‘Samurai Champloo‘, that again has some very unique, unforgettable soundtracks that perfectly fit in with the creative visuals of the anime. The soundtracks of this one have a heavy hip-hop music influence on them that is mixed with traditional lo-fi Japanese backgrounds. Most of the soundtracks in ‘Samurai Champloo’ are a work of Nujabes, who are known for “shaping the future of hip hop music”. But the most impactful track in the series is “Obokuri Eeumi” by “Ikue Asazaki”. What’s really special about this track is that it plays along with a scene that is probably one of the most moving anime scenes ever. It turns out that Shinichiro Watanabe had also claimed in an interview that even before producing the anime, he specifically wanted this scene to play out exactly the way it did.
9. Your Lie In April (Uso to Honto)
‘Your Lie In April‘ is an anime that proves to be better than its source material, solely because it is music-centric and for obvious reasons, music can be portrayed in a much better way through an audiovisual medium. Every single music piece in the show has been played out perfectly along with its visuals, from original tracks to classical musical pieces. Out of all these deeply touching tracks, the one that will make you bawl your eyes out is “Uso no Honto” composed by “Masaru Yokoyama”. For some reason, this piece reminds me of the soundtrack “Arrival of the Birds” from the movie ‘The Theory of Everything‘.
8. Death Note (L’s Theme)
All of Death Note‘s OSTs are as good as the entire storyline of the anime. The most impactful soundtrack of the anime is probably “Low of Solipsism”, that plays along with the legendary “I’ll take a potato chip…and EAT IT!” scene. But for me personally, “L’s theme” has to be the best. It starts off with a piano solo that represents L in full control of the situation. Then suddenly, a bass guitar kicks in that shows that Kira is starting to take control as Kira’s theme is completely guitar-based. After this, a heavy electric guitar blazes that portrays that Kira is in full control. The music then keeps shifting its pace and an intense battle commences between the two. As the music suddenly comes to an end, L dies. ‘Death Note‘ is indeed a piece of art and Hideki Taniuchi is pure genius.
7. Attack on Titan (You See Big Girl/T:T)
‘Attack on Titan‘ is one of the most popular anime shows of this decade. Overall, it has received a lot of mixed reactions from anime viewers since its release. But one thing that we can’t help but admire about it is its Original Soundtracks. “You See Big Girl/T:T” composed by “Hiroyuki Sawano” is the best out of all of these as it perfectly captures the various emotions laid out in the entire anime. When you hear this track, the first thing that comes to your mind is Eren’s horror-struck face when he first realizes that the two people he trusted the most are the ones who are responsible for all the damage that has been caused. The song has a grand opera-like beginning that booms into an intense second part that portrays shock, astonishment and horror, all at the same time.
6. Wolf’s Rain (Heaven’s Not Enough)
‘Wolf Rain’ is a dark, emo-styled anime and all of its soundtracks go along perfectly with its lonely and depressing mood. The anime is set in a post-apocalyptic world where “nobles” have reached a point where they no longer have to do anything to stay in power as they already possess all of the world’s riches. Meanwhile, the common man, portrayed as wolves, struggles to survive every single day in a world that is dying with its destructive totalitarian ideologies. And as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, the noble rot holds on to nothing but immortality. “Heaven’s not Enough” by Steve Conte, as the name suggests, represents the miserable lives of these nobles who hide away in their heavenly places, but even that is not enough to fulfill their undying greed.
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5. Mushishi (Kotowari)
If you listen to “Kotowari”, composed by Toshio Masuda, from the anime ‘Mushishi‘, its lull tone will probably be enough to put you to sleep. For the ones who have never seen the anime, this might sound very soothing but only the ones who have seen the show will know that it plays along with one of the most sorrowful moments of its story. The song is, without a doubt, quite relaxing but at the same time, it has this gloomy undertone that can even scare you if you relate it with the sad scene it is played with. The song gives you that slow sinking feeling you get when someone close to you is no longer with you.
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4. Ghost in the Shell (Making of Cyborg)
‘Making of Cyborg’ is one of the most iconic anime soundtracks ever made. It plays in the opening scene of the anime movie and till date, it is known to be one of the strongest intros to any film, animated or not. This part of the original anime alone is enough to thrash the Scarlett Johansson live-action adaptation of it. As much as it might sound like traditional Japanese music, according to the creator of the anime himself, this song is inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Nosce” and ancient Tibetian traditional music. The lyrics of the song are typically based off a conlang that has Tibetian and European dialects. This anime is a masterpiece and it very well pushes all the boundaries of conventional storytelling.
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3. Clannad (Town, Flow of Time, People)
“Town, Flow of Time, People” from the anime ‘Clannad‘ is the kind of soundtrack that somehow creeps under your skin and evokes emotions even if you’re not at all familiar with the show. But for someone who has seen the anime, it arouses a sense of nostalgia, euphoria and sorrow, all at the same time. Ever had one of those days when you’d just sit and stare out a window wondering where your life is going? Well, this song right here is perfect for days like those and can drive you into your deepest thoughts and emotions.
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2. Kill la Kill (Satsuki Kiryuin Theme)
Satsuki Kiryun from ‘Kill la Kill‘ is by far one of the most badass femme fatales in the history of anime. She has the ability to command respect from everyone around her and she always manages to earn it. She has all the qualities of a natural leader and has a sense of compassion that drives her to make several crucial decisions. She completely owns her sexuality even when she wears her revealing perverted Junketsu, and does not let anyone dominate her. The upbeat and energetic nature of this soundtrack perfectly fits her personality and there’s no doubt about the fact that no other piece of music would be able to portray her as the Alpha Female that she is.
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1. Cowboy Bebop (Blue)
‘Cowboy Bebop‘ is an anime that has style, characters, story and undoubtedly, incredible music. And that’s the reason why it just deserves to be mentioned twice on this list. There are great soundtracks and then there’s this track from ‘Cowboy Bebop‘ that perfectly ends the series. While this song plays in the background, you do feel sad that an epic series has come to an end but strangely, you also feel uplifted at the same time. The OST “Blue” perhaps brings in an abstract happy ending to the anime.
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