What is an anisong? Why do Japanese artists record theme songs for anime? What's the hottest anisong in Japan right now? Join us on a tour of anime music since the 1960s to the present day and find out all the answers to these questions and more!
Podcast- Anisongs and the History of Anime Music with Laurence Green
Tracks in discussion
1. Astro Boy theme - From: Astro Boy (1963)
2. Space Battleship Yamato theme - From: Space Battleship Yamato (1974)
3. Make-Up - Pegasus Fantasy - From: Saint Seiya (1986)
4. L'Arc-en-Ciel - Driver’s High - From: Great Teacher Onizuka (1999)
5. FLOW - Colors - From: Code Geass (2006)
6. LiSA - Gurenge - From: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019)
We’ve put together a playlist of anisongs we have on constant repeat.
Does it include any of your favourites??
Read about the tracks list below to find out more.
Did we miss out any of your favourite songs? Tell us your recommendations!
1. Departures! (Masatoshi Ono) from Hunter X Hunter
There couldn’t be a better song to kick things off with than Departure! - This super-upbeat anthem really pulls off the feel needed for Shonen anime (series aimed primarily at young boys) and lets you know you’re in for a real adventure.
Fun fact: Masatoshi Ono is the lead singer for heavy metal band Galneryus, who provided one of the ending themes for Hunter X Hunter too.
2. Peace Sign (Kenshi Yonezu) from My Hero Academia
Going from one Shonen opening theme to another, My Hero Academia has become one of the most universally popular anime of recent years, and with its bright, pop-art styled superhero antics, it’s easy to see why.
Singer Kenshi Yonezu also recently wrote the song Kite for famous boy band Arashi, which is being used as the theme song for Japanese national broadcaster NHK's coverage in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics.
3. This Game (Konomi Suzuki) from No Game No Life
No Game No Life has an incredible premise - imagine living in a world where games decide the outcome of everything.
Accompanying this high stakes series, Konomi Suzuki’s vibrant theme tune has become a real fan-favourite - so much so that there are now many cover versions across YouTube, as talented pianists provide their own take on the song’s unforgettable melody.
4. Black Catcher (Vickeblanka) from Black Clover
Black Clover is another current Shonen smash hit - and while the series was initially greeted with a lukewarm response, by the time Vickeblanka provided this opening theme (the 10th of the series so far), viewers had warmed to the remarkable battle sequences between the show’s heroes and villains.
When it comes to getting you fired up for drama and spectacle, Black Catcher really does the trick!
5. Blue Sky Rhapsody (Fahna) from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Japan’s love for all things cute (kawaii) is well known, and they don’t come much cuter than Fhana’s Blue Sky Rhapsody.
Soundtracking the daily antics of a friendly dragon who just happens to also be a maid, the four-piece band’s cheery, catchy melodies are guaranteed to fill your heart with a warm, fuzzy feeling.
6. Kiss of Death (Mika Nakashima, Hyde) from Darling in the Franxx
Darling in the Franxx was one of the most exciting new shows of 2018, with opening theme Kiss of Death every bit as thrilling as the series blend of heartstopping action and emotion.
It should come as no surprise that the song’s as good as it is; it’s the brainchild of famed musician Hyde, best known in Japan as the singer for iconic rock group L'Arc-en-Ciel.
7. Closer (Joe Inoue) from Naruto Shippuden
There are so many amazing opening themes for the long-running Shonen series Naruto that it’s almost impossible to pick just one, but Closer has always been a standout.
Japanese-American singer Joe Inoue blends both Japanese and English lyrics to great effect in this super-catchy number, making it the perfect intro to Naruto’s exciting ninja adventures.
8. Ranbu no Melody (SID) from Bleach
Back in the early 2000s, both Naruto and Bleach were the introduction for many to the world of anime. Running for nearly ten consecutive years, the Bleach anime dazzled fans with its compelling world and often dark plotlines.
Ranbu no Melody is one of the later theme songs (released in 2010), but it’s also one of the best - no surprise when alt-rock band SID are anime theme pros, also contributing tracks to the likes of Black Butler and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
9. 99 (Mob Choir) from Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 has become one of the most acclaimed series of recent years for its dazzling use of some of the most innovative visual techniques in anime, with many of the most skilled animators in the industry working on the show.
The theme song makes for a punchy one-and-a-half-minute showcase of everything the show has to offer, and proves a powerful point that you can make a great song out of counting down backward from 100!
10. Answer (Bump of Chicken) from March Comes In Like A Lion
Indie-rock four-piece Bump of Chicken have history when it comes to Chika Umino’s much-loved manga series March Comes In Like a Lion - teaming up with the manga author to create a collaborative music video for their song Fighter back in 2014.
When the manga was adapted into a fully-fledged anime series in 2016, they - of course - returned, and theme song Answer makes for a great soundtrack to the show’s depiction of shogi (Japanese chess).
11. Lupin Trois (Yuji Ohno & Lupintic Six) from Lupin The 3rd Part 5
The original Lupin III theme tune, dating all the way back to the 1970s, is one of anime music’s all time classics.
For this latest series, set in France, the theme takes on a fittingly French feel and this new version captures every bit of the retro spirit the show is beloved for. When it comes to swagger, style and showmanship, you just can’t beat Lupin.
12. Talking (Kana-Boon) from The Perfect Insider
Kana-Boon are anime song pros, providing the opening themes for a multitude of series over the past five years. Talking is one of their best - illustrating their typically catchy, up-beat pop-rock style. But it’s not just the song that makes this opening theme such a winner - in stark contrast to The Perfect Insider itself (a moody crime-thriller), the opening is a fireworks display of colour and eye-catching animation technique.
We love it when opening sequences use the opportunity to get creative, subvert expectations and think outside the box!
13. Into the Sky (SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Tielle) from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
Sawano Hiroyuki is one of the most successful composers working in the anime industry today, soundtracking iconic shows like Attack on Titan. But he also does opening songs - typically inviting a different guest vocalist to sing the track each time.
His work is always epic in scale, with big anthemic choruses that make you want to sing along at the top of your voice.
14. Youthful (99RadioService) from Chihayafuru
Like March Comes In Like a Lion, the popular series Chihayafuru is based on a manga that aims to capture the appeal of a classic Japanese competitive past-time; in this case karuta.
If you’ve never heard of karuta before, it is well worth investigating further; it has a rich, fascinating history, and involves the players of the game having to memorise over 100 poems (known in Japanese as the Hyakunin Isshu - or ‘one hundred people, one poem each’).
15. Harukaze (SCANDAL) from Bleach
You’ll have to excuse us for including two opening themes from Bleach. Firstly, we just really love Bleach, and secondly, four-piece all-girl group SCANDAL totally rock.
The band have actually contributed two tracks to the series, but Harukaze (spring breeze in Japanese) is our favourite; an uplifting, melodic number that really showcases the band’s vocals at their best. SCANDAL have even visited the UK on a number of occasions as part of their frequent world tours!
16. Battlecry (Nujabes feat. Shing02) from Samurai Champloo
Now for something totally different. Those seeking hip-hop influences in anime need look no further than Samurai Champloo, which many see as a kind of spiritual sequel to the iconic Cowboy Bebop.
In Samurai Champloo and its sleek opening theme Battlecry, we get a powerful cocktail of creative influences as traditional Japanese imagery meets contemporary rap; DJ and record producer Nujabes crisply spelling out the ‘way of the samurai’. Nujabes was sadly killed in a traffic collision in 2010, but his music lives on in classic tracks like this.
17. Colorful Box (Yoko Ishida) from Shirobako
When SHIROBAKO first aired in 2014, it was immediately acclaimed by fans everywhere for its accurate, behind-the-scenes look at the anime industry itself. It is, in essence, an anime series about making an anime series - and for those interested in how anime ends up as the finished product we all know and love, you’ll come away knowing loads after watching it.
Rather fittingly, theme song singer Yoko Ishida is a veteran of the anime industry too; her first anime song was for Sailor Moon, all the way back in 1993!