It’s Top 7 List time! WOOHOO! I had trouble thinking of a good one. I realized that I hadn’t done a music-based list in a long time. It was just as good a time as any to make a unique list.
Having an anime theme song list is tricky. You’ve seen plenty of general lists like favorite or least favorite songs. For the former, it’s also a cliche to put “Tank” from Cowboy Bebop and/or “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” from Evangelion on there. I mean, they’re good songs, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so overdone and they’ve been overplayed for so long, let’s be honest here. I thought I would change it up with anime theme songs I like from series I either dislike, don’t care about, or thought were average at best. Am I the only one who feels that way about anime that have good theme songs, but the series is just meh at best?
Here are the rules I set for myself:
I had to have watched at least part of the series at some point.
Only anime series and OVAs are on this list. No movies.
Not so much a rule, but I decided not to put “Heart of Sword ~Yoake Mae~” from Rurouni Kenshin on this list. It’s a great song and arguably THE song people think about when it comes to that samurai anime, but I’m not putting it on there after what the creator Nobuhiro Watsuki did even if it was super tempting to mention that ending theme from TM Revolution. The less said about it the better.
Let’s listen to some anime songs I like from series I’m not a fan of!
7. Kizuna by Yoshinori Shabana (Ending Theme to the anime remake of Sukeban Deka)
Some of you might remember me mentioning this song when I reviewed Sukeban Deka a while back. Yes, it does scream early 90s cheese, but at least it’s good 90s cheese. This song works as a breather between both episodes and for the finale. I really like the saxophone solos peppered throughout. Yoshinori Shabana just sells the emotion with his gritty and dramatic tenor. I almost expected this song to be in some kind of shonen or mecha show instead of a shojo piece (I’m still shocked even after all these years how Sukeban Deka can actually be a shojo work of all things). While I found that OVA to be average as an adult rediscovering it, I still enjoy this ending theme.
6. Tori no Uta by Lia (Opening Theme to the Air series)
Ooh, I could see some scorn from hardcore Key and KyoAni fans. I did watch Air TV when it came out and it had so much hype behind it. I sadly drank the Kool-Aid at first before realizing how it wasn’t as great as others have hailed it to be. With that being said, I still like this theme song. It has the right mix of ambient, dream pop, and tasteful trance elements attached to it as a great piece of J-Pop. Lia’s airy vocals work so well with the instrumentation and aesthetics. “Tori no Uta” is easily my favorite theme for a Key project even though I’ve only seen some of the anime adaptations and reviewed one of them (Angel Beats! for those scoring at home. How appropriate, Lia did “My Soul, Your Beats”, too.).
Side note: Did you know this song got plagiarized by a Singaporean musician named Shaun Yu and he got sued for ripping off this song? Wow, I think I may like “Tori no Uta” even more now!
5: Kohaku by Mikuni Shimokawa (Opening Theme to Grenadier)
I have sadly seen this anime when I was in high school. After watching stuff like Noir, Gunsmith Cats, and Gunslinger Girl, I thought this would be another watchable entry in the “girls with guns” subgenre. It wasn’t. If you’re into tons of fanservice with your action anime, then more power to you. Trust me, the fanservice aspect with Rushuna’s gun technique is improbable as well as ridiculous. That said, I still enjoy the opening theme. While I wouldn’t call myself a Mikuni Shimokawa fan, most of the songs I’ve heard from her I liked. She’s the same person who did the theme to the original Kino’s Journey anime and has also done music for Full Metal Panic! if you recognize that voice. This has nice usage of dynamic changes with pleasant verses, but with a powerful chorus. While Grenadier was trashy, “Kohaku” still holds up as a song.
4: Over Soul by Megumi Hayashibara (1st OP to Shaman King)
Okay, I only saw the garbage severely edited 4KIDS English dub when it was on FoxBox (FKA Fox Kids), but this still counts. The Japanese music is infinitely better than that in-house garbage 4KIDS did in their sanitized version. Why don’t I like Shaman King? Well, I’m not into as much shonen stuff as I used to for starters. Besides that, it got into the cliched fighting tournament territory (it IS a Shonen Jump anime, you know) most characters weren’t interesting, and as one can probably guess my opinion on this matter: Chocolove has such a racist character design and everybody knows it. I just wished this song wasn’t attached to the anime which is kind of hard since the title refers to one of the attack modes in Shaman King. Megumi Hayashibara is a talented voice actress as well as a singer, so when she gets to do a theme song, chances are it’s going to be great. “Over Soul” really pumps you up with its upbeat tempo, synths, build-ups between the pre-chorus to the choruses, backup choral voices, and it has a fun guitar solo near the end. Definitely a choice cut from Hayashibara. If only it was for a different anime instead…
3: Warriors by Yuichi Ikusawa (4th OP to Yu-Gi-Oh!)
If this isn’t proof positive that Japanese youth are spoiled with music in their cartoons, then I don’t know what is. So many of the Japanese themes blow the 4KIDS crap out of the water and I was genuinely shocked when I randomly stumbled across this song after watching Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged during my teenage years. My jaw dropped hearing it and thought “This song is way too good for Yu-Gi-Oh!”. Seriously, this has an explosive chorus, urgent vocals, and the mix between rock, techno, and pop was spot on. There’s also a blistering guitar solo and some dynamic changes in different sections. That key change in the final chorus really packed a punch. “Warriors” works as a song by itself, but I’ve also worked out to this song on a playlist and it just really pumps you up while exercising. Yuichi Ikusawa, you almost made me want to get a Duel Monster starter pack. ALMOST.
2: Migite by Ellegarden (1st ED to I’ll/CKBC)
I actually mentioned this song on here despite not reviewing I’ll/CKBC. That’s a 2 episode OVA that’s based on a Shonen Jump basketball manga. It was way too short and could certainly use a remake. I first heard of this song from the trailer on an Anime Works DVD and I was really impressed by this song. Even though I don’t listen to as much indie rock or real emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, or Texas Is the Reason instead of Fall Out Boy), “Migite” really hits that 90s emo sweet spot with the huge guitars, thunderous drums, passionate vocals, and sweeping dynamic changes. My favorite part of the song is the bridge where it starts slowly with just the guitar while all the other instruments start creeping in in order to build up to a meteoric final chorus that would make Driver Eight proud. This anime deserved so much better and it had a phenomenal indie rock/emo song to make an otherwise unfinished OVA seem a bit better.
1: Life Is Like a Boat (1st ED to Bleach)
Let me get this clear. I don’t like Bleach. Sure, it started out good, but it dragged on way too much and had way too much filler later on. But dang it all, Bleach had some great theme songs, and “Life Is Like a Boat” was my favorite tune despite being way more mellow than most other themes. This is such a beautiful mid-tempo ballad from Rie Fu who is really talented at singing and playing the piano. The half English/half Japanese lyrics worked so well as they actually mesh with each other without her repeating what she said in either language. The song has a pleasant message and it’s certainly relatable. Also, I figured out how to play this on guitar and was able to nail both the English and Japanese lyrics. When I first heard of this song, I thought this was an American singing this. Interesting fact: Rie Fu despite being born in Japan and currently living there, has actually lived in Maryland (I lived in that state when I was a baby!) for years which explains why she can speak perfect English. Bleach may be overrated and typical shonen stuff, but it contained easily one of my favorite anime songs. I would certainly listen to this and my other top 3 choices even if they weren’t anime songs.
Are there anime theme songs that you like even though you may not be a fan of the anime they’re associated with? Let me know in the comments.
All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The music note picture is from Pinterest.