Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse!
I don’t know about any of you, but ever since I started getting into the world of anime, I have been slowly phasing American music out of my life and have been replacing it from the sounds found on a rather large island across the biggest of the five big ponds.. also known as Japan.
I grew up on bands like Tool, Megadeth, Pantera, and so-on. Hard rock and metal are my favorite genres with some techno/techno rock thrown in there. In the 80’s, metal was the big thing in America.. in the 90’s it was alternative rock, in the 2000’s, it was punk rock and pop music, and today it’s pop music and hip hop/rap that are topping the charts. The music scene has really moved away from my interests to the point where I sour on it completely. I had to find something different and lo’ and behold, anime has provided that something different.
J-pop has its own style to it and, perhaps, it is because I don’t completely understand what they are saying (but I can pick out certain words as I’m making an effort to learn Japanese), however, I find their style of music better than that of American pop music. Of course, they do have bands that have an “American” sound to them, but for the most part, it seems they put a greater deal of effort into the music themselves. A lot of J-rock and metal songs make use of instruments such as pianos, violins, or even choruses. Sometimes they mix electronic synth in it, but do it in a way where it compliments the overall track nicely. The lyrics, when translated, offer different layers of expression versus the run of the mill lyrics you hear today in the States.
Overall, I think I’ve found my second love of music as the genres I love are, tragically, becoming a dying breed here in the United States. Don’t get me wrong… I still love me some American metal and I’m always trying to find new bands that have kind of gone dark due to lack of exposure to sate my appetite for some good metal, but it’s a lot easier for me when watching anime to pick out songs I hear and love and just wait for those release dates to hit.
So with all of that background laid out for you, time to get to the actual meat and potatoes w/gravy of the column. Of course, I’m going to talk about some of the most epic openings and endings I’ve heard in anime. Now, I want to make something pretty clear here… I’m not judging these by the artwork.. that can be an entire column in and of itself… and yes.. I do have a column planned looking at how art has transitioned in the anime industry and picking out my favorite styles and whatnot, but right now, I’m focusing on what has given me the best eargasms over the years… and I might throw in a couple of “fun” tracks for you guys to look up and cringe over because for as many good tracks I’ve heard, there’s also some really bad ones, too. To make this simpler, I will do this in the form of a Top Ten list.
10. “Period” by Chemistry – Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OP4
I saw a live performance (not in person) of this song performed and Chemistry nailed it… in fact.. they knocked it out of the park. Very rarely does a live performance sound better than the original, but this one did. It’s also one of the songs I was, proudly, able to sing despite my vocal range being much lower than this song’s intended range. I have a deep voice so I’m more suited to singing on the level of Metallica, Disturbed, or Sentenced. This was a challenge for me, but I loved it so much I had to go ahead and give it a try. It’s not the first song I’ve memorized and sang, either. Yes… the fact that I’ve sang some Japanese songs (and recorded them), raises my geek power level up a few notches!
09. “Sign” by FLOW – Naruto Shippuuden OP6
Arguably one of the best openings in Naruto’s history, the lyrics of the song also conveyed what was going on in the story arc as well (which was the Pein vs Jiraya arc). This was actually the song that got me into memorizing and singing Japanese songs although this wasn’t the first song I memorized. That one will be a little bit later on the list, but FLOW has always done some great songs in and out of anime and they are one of my favorite bands out there.
08. “Gekka Reijin” by BUCK-TICK – Shiki ED2
Shiki in and of itself has some amazing opening and ending songs, but out of the four that they’ve had, this one stuck out the most. I remember initially calling this song “hauntingly beautiful” and that description fits it to a “T.” Someone also went through the trouble of doing a pretty accurate English translation for the song and was able to match up the English lyrics to the song nicely so that it flowed seamlessly. This song actually remains on my data cd that I have in my car!
07. “Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku” by Yui Sakakibara – Steins;Gate ED
While Steins;Gate is my favorite anime of all time, the ending theme isn’t among my top five despite its epicness. The song has the right mood and tone to hit at the perfect moment when the show comes to a close. Nothing is more impactful then the end of Episode 9 when Okarin realizes that sending the D-Mails changed the entire city around him. The song started off in the background, ramped up, and then faded into the credits just leaving you with a “DAMN” moment. Songs like that are amazing to help with the atmosphere of an anime and this one does that job nicely.
06. “Be as One” by w-inds. – Fairy Tail ED6
Okay.. I know I stated at the beginning of this column that I’m a Rock/Metal enthusiast, I will also listen to whatever I feel sounds good. I’m not into the boy band scene, but for whatever reason, this song is one I just like. Plus Fairy Tail pulled the same thing Steins;Gate did with this theme and timed the beginning of the song with that “DAMN” ending moment and it meshed beautifully. In fact, it’s the only Fairy Tail song that sticks out in my mind that does this. Not to say others have accomplished the same goal, but this one just sticks and it grew and grew and grew on me until it became one of my favorites.
And now we move onto the top five.
05. “Makka na Chikai” by Fukuyama Yoshiki – Busou Renkin OP
Maybe because Yoshiki-san looks like he’s straight out of the 80s or maybe it’s because this power rock song is actually a love ballad.. I don’t know… but what I do know is listening to this song will pump you up and almost guarantee that you will gain the power to punch through mountains. Yoshiki also KILLED it… I mean absolutely KILLED it at Animelo Summer Live with a performance of this song. This remains as one of my all-time favorite openings.
04. “Soultaker” by JAM Project – The Soultaker OP
Speaking of power metal and punching through rock… GOD was this anime terrible.. but the opening song redeemed it just a little bit because anything JAM Project touches is usually pure gold. This was also the very first Japanese song I memorized and still know it to this day despite not hearing it for a while. Even if you hate the anime (which in all honesty, you should), this is definitely one song you have to check out if you’re into that 80s style power rock.
03. “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” by Linked Horizon – Attack on Titan OP2
The first opening was epic, but it gained massive exposure through AMVs and user-created content to the point where I think it lost its luster. The second opening didn’t really get that much fanfare and I think that it served as this song’s saving grace. The song mixes Japanese, German, and English lyrics into it which is pretty hard in and of itself. A latter portion of the song gives a nice nod to the first opening as well which hits as a surprise if you’re listening to the song for the very first time. I love the lead into the nod as well as it sounds like a melody you would hear straight out of a Level5 created RPG. Still not my favorite though, but we’re getting to that, but first….
02. “Again” by Yui Yoshioka (or YUI) – Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OP1
Not only is she the most beautiful girl walking the planet (in my humbled opinion), I just simply loved this song from the very first moment I heard it. It has a nice alternative flow and she can really spit out some pretty fast lyrics to the point where no amount of memorization on my end is going to allow me to sing this song effectively. FMA is also one of my favorite series and when this song hit, it was one of those must-haves for me. Stereopony, which did a nice opening for Tegami Bachi, actually covered this song on the YUI tribute/cover album and they did an absolutely amazing job, but YUI’s live performance of this song was one of the best I’ve seen to date. It made an already epic song even more epic.
But speaking of epicness, here is my number one favorite song right now.
01. “Unravel” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure – Tokyo Ghoul OP1
At first, I was like “WTF” when I heard the singer’s voice… but the more I listened, this song really grew on me. When the full version came out and that solo hit in the middle, my jaw dropped to the floor and stayed there even after I repeated the song over and over and over and over again. Then I looked up the English translation of the song and saw just how dark and emotional the song was. It tugged at the heartstrings and while it is far from perfect, this song just screams epicness on so many levels that it is currently my favorite song in Japanese music today.
Now… before you write in and say “Hey.. you left out a TON of classics”… I want to reiterate that these are CURRENTLY my favorite. I’ve heard a LOT of songs that could easily fill a Top 50 or maybe even a Top 100 list. I’m also only doing Anime Openings and Endings as there are artists out there like Last Alliance, AKIAKANE, Eiko Shimamiya, Kotoko, exist trace, and many others that have done amazing work… some of which are not even associated with anime… that I love and enjoy very much.
On the flipside of the coin.. I do have a couple of songs … namely two… that will make you completely cringe.
“Tell My Why” by the Penpals, which was the opening to Berserk (The anime series.. not the movies… thank GOD they did something MUCH better for the movies), would be the first of the two. If you’re a fan of bad English… sour notes… low production quality.. and just all around ugliness, then that song should be added to your collection. If you can make it from the beginning of the song to the end, you have my utmost respect.
“Under Star” by Shocking Lemons is also pretty cringe-worthy. It’s the first opening to Hajime no Ippo. It was one of those songs I immediately fast forwarded past whenever it came on. ROLLINGU GO!
I don’t think there are any songs in anime that I have completely turned off more than those two, but the opening to Tokyo Ghoul Root A is quickly making its way onto this short list. That’s all I have to say about that one.
That’s going to bring us to the end of this column. I could go on forever about all the songs I love as well as even delve deeper into anime soundtracks (because there are some VERY epic soundtracks… like all four volumes of Fairy Tail for example). but if I did, we would be here for a very long time and that would just exceed the scope of this column.
So this brings us to this week’s reader questions: Do you listen to Japanese music? Do you prefer it over American music? What are some of your favorites? What are some that made you cringe? If you want to submit your answers, you can by sending them over to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter, if you feel so inclined by going over to @pulsein and hitting that Follow button.
Until next time,