10 Notable Waltzes in Anime

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It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that waltzes are the pop-music of the Classical genre (the dance music before Dance music!). There’s something about them that effortlessly catches the ear and makes them easy to like. Maybe it’s the soaring melodies or the trademark OOM-pah-pah, but a waltz done well has a characteristic sensation of movement that’s addicting and catchy. And given anime music’s proclivities when it comes to incorporating diverse genres in its body, waltzes pop up too. The ten tracks below (in no particular order of preference) are selections that have especially stuck out to me throughout the anime I’ve watched and the soundtracks I’ve listened to and are definitely worth sharing.

The first waltz hails from an unexpected source – original mecha anime Mazinger Z. If you were to attempt to characterize oversized machines beating each other up with a piece of music, this piece wouldn’t be too far off. Extravagantly grandiose, the music immediately smacks you upside the head with a powerful fanfare. A fearless melody is quickly picked up by the strings as they are peppered relentlessly by bursts of bombast from the percussion and brass. The battle ends in a crashing finale as the waltz draws out an overly theatrical ending. Excessively affected in every way, “God Scrander’s” enthusiasm is a great track to start off this particular listening exercise.

God Scrander

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Contrasting with “God Scrander’s” straightforward grandiosity, “Waltz #5” from Ashita no Nadja takes a subtler approach. With the grandeur of the earlier waltz still reverberating in the air, it takes a moment to even realize that this waltz has started. The music takes its time to diffuse into the atmosphere – distant echoes of a harp haunt the air as the strings filter in like a slowly shifting mist. The ephemeral wisps gradually gain substance as they coalesce into a more tangible entity with the addition of more voices. Nevertheless, it feels like attempting to reach out for the airy notes would still scatter the fragile melody. As much as I would have loved to experience the dream for longer, it dissipates back into silence, leaving a strange feeling of having experienced something that wasn’t quite there.

Waltz #5

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Indeed, I’ve always found it to be fascinating that pieces which capture such different sentiments could all fall under the same category. Hunter x Hunter’s “Ginpatsu no Shounen”, while remaining a waltz, has a distinctly different flavor than the previous two. A piano leads the ensemble, performing an elegant solo that soars over waves of rolling swells. Imbued with a graceful purpose, the piece unerringly voyages forward as countless landscapes slide past. The placid journey is briefly interrupted by a moment of exultant brass which quickly fades as the adventure begins anew and the music resumes its meanderings.

Ginpatsu no Shounen

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It speaks to the versatility of the waltz as a musical genre when you realize that most of the waltzes presented so far aren’t really the stereotypical type you’d dance to. “Akari, Waltz, Odoru”, from Battle Athletes finally brings about an upbeat and cheerful atmosphere more typical of archetypal waltz (besides, it’s got ‘dance’ in its name!). The piece opts for a more whimsical atmosphere, beginning with the dreamy tinkling of bells and piano keys. The melody has the storybook childish warmth, featuring a flute that skips from place to place, blithely bathed in warm sunshine and flowers. The flute takes a moment to frolic with a sprightly violin before commencing with a playful back and forth between the flute and a sluggishly stolid section of French horns. Wearied from the day at last, the instruments settle down for a night of rest.

Akari, Waltz, Odoru

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The next selection remains one of my favorite tracks of all time. “Rekishi wa Kataru”, from Simoun, establishes a provocatively unsettling mood like no other piece. Starting off on a minor key, the violins immediately evoke a tense atmosphere with a precarious motif that is periodically punctuated by ominous strokes from the lower strings. The thick uneasiness is cut by a saxophone that introduces a treacherous yet entrancing melody. As the brave saxophone waltzes perilously close to the ensemble, the agitated atmosphere is abruptly interrupted by a glorious trumpet call, spurring the instruments to a frenzied rush with our solo saxophone leading the way. The moment of triumph is nevertheless brought to an end – the piece ends on a sinister note as the solo saxophone is drowned by the heavy crashing of trumpets from which only the strings emerge, gradually dying on a grim note.

Rekishi wa Kataru

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Speaking of favorites, what’s a waltz post without a mention of one of the most famous anime waltzes of all time? The main theme of Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle is, in fact, a waltz. It’s practically impossible to miss – the tune surfaces in the BGM for at least a third of the movie. That said, I ended up choosing “Stroll through the Sky” as the track to include, mostly because it captures the waltz nature of the theme particularly well. The piece begins rather unassumingly (as unassuming as Hisaishi conducting the New Japan Philharmonic can be), with pizzicato that is unpretentious to the point of being shy. The modesty of the pizzicato undergoes an uncanny metamorphosis as the piece takes an ominous turn, unsettled by the strange, scurrying calls of woodwinds. Nevertheless, the music takes another unexpected turn after a circus-esque drumroll, where the piece decides to break out in grandeur. Unlike the first segment, the theme now embodies everything extravagant, capturing the soaring whirls of multi-colored dancers.

Stroll through the Sky

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Ghibli aside, anime music is prone to having gems show up in unexpected places. While a good soundtrack can always be expected from Ghibli’s high-budget movies, not everyone has the studio’s budget. Sometimes a piece will get extra bonus points if I didn’t expect it to be good given the circumstances. “Youjinshou no Asa”, from Otome Youkai Zakuro, is one example, coming from a standard-looking seinen anime with a composer I’d never heard of before. Despite its humble origins, the piece is extremely pretty, setting the mood with an ensemble of shimmering strings. As the bass playfully traipses along, it evokes a delightful promenade through a sunshine-bathed garden. The relaxed pace works well to set the mood, instilling a pleasant feeling of sedately refined cheer.

Youjinshou no Asa

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Things turn from the mundane towards the eccentric with the next track. “Mawaru Karakuri Tokei” from the xxxHolic movie, is weird, but uniquely so. It features only bells (perhaps they’re mallet instruments; I’m not very good at identifying percussion) playing a tune one would expect to hear in an amusement park on a merry-go-round. The entire time, chromatic scales undulate through the piece in a haphazard fashion, giving the whole piece an intricately off-kilter atmosphere. Due to the incongruity between the childish melody and the dissonant scales, the whole thing becomes rather creepy. It’s as if the piece were just a veneer of innocence thinly veiling something twisted and sinister.

Mawaru Karakuri Tokei

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“Sequentia”, from Meine Liebe, also opts for an eerie sound. At first glance, the piece is a cultivated and stately waltz – the sort that would accompany an old fashioned upper-crust party. However, if one listens closely, woodwinds can be heard furtively bubbling in the shadows of the string theme. Instilled with subterfuge and spiteful gossip, they watch on from the darkness. The scheming is momentarily silenced by the dignified entrance of an esteemed sovereign, arriving in the form of an uplifting interlude. Nevertheless, the machinations of the court inevitably resume from the darkness, bringing the music to a head with an almost circus-like finish as cymbals crash and the scheming rises to a flustered pitch

Sequentia

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The last waltz is one I hold dearly to my heart for nostalgic reasons. Long before I had come across any of the tracks I’ve already mentioned, I watched The Cat Returns. Out of the rest of BGM (which is also excellent, might I add), one particular track attracted my attention. “Waltz Katzen Blut” stuck with me long after I watched the film, prompting some of my earliest attempts to find music to use as standalone entertainment. The music begins unassumingly with a pair of accordions that introduce the theme with their own little duet. The scope abruptly zooms out from the duo as the ensemble joins in. A whole ballroom of dancers suddenly appears as the enchanting theme blossoms into a majestic dance of grand proportion. While perhaps the most standard of all the selections so far, “Waltz Katzen Blut” is pulled off beautifully, establishing itself as an iconic example of the waltz as a genre.

Waltz Katzen Blut

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Waltzes are catchy and easy to like, making them a great choice to share with others. As such, I’m hoping that these ten waltzes worked to stir up some interest in the related OSTs and in waltzes in general. Of course, if I missed anything beyond say… Ouran, feel free to share in the comments!

Yu

A musician with a fondness for anime, I love listening and talking about the music accompanying the shows I watch. I'm fond of classical styled music, but any piece regardless of genre can tickle my fancy. On the other hand, I'm awful at discussing anime because I'm so terribly easy to please.

37 thoughts on “10 Notable Waltzes in Anime

  • August 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm
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    Shadow of Sorrow from Haibane Renmei though I think quite a few songs on that OST could classify as waltzes, Shadow of Sorrow is the closest to a traditional waltz.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm
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      Shadow of Sorrow is a pretty, melancholy piece, but its composition is a bit on the simplistic side. I think I’ll have to finally kick myself into watching Haibane Renmei to fully appreciate the piece’s emotional impact.

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  • August 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm
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    I love Howl’s Moving Castle D: So lovely I could cry hearing that song. I need to have it uploaded on rawrAnime.tv. Staff are super nice there!

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm
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      I believe that Howl’s Moving Castle of the better scores Hisaishi has written (though that’s very disputable when they’re all so good!). Hisaishi really milks the theme for all it’s worth in the soundtrack, but I didn’t mind at all because the theme was so beautiful.

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  • August 30, 2013 at 6:03 am
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    This was such a lovely post! I really really loved it! Please, do you think you can do one more like this with tango?

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:46 pm
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      A tango post would be a little harder, since they aren’t quite as common as waltzes.. I might do a little digging to see how feasible the idea is. There are a few really good ones I can think of off the top of my head. I think you’d enjoy this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0_QnRGA6wE, if you haven’t heard it already.

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  • August 30, 2013 at 6:58 am
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    Great pieces, I like that percussion piece (vibrophone, marimba?), Mawaru Karakuri Tokai, kind of Hugo feel to it. Märchentic. Also, if include vocal, I like Fruits Basket ED. And Princess Tutu’s OP for waltz.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm
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      Ahh. I wasn’t thinking about vocal songs when I wrote this post. I do really enjoy Okazaki Ritsuko’s songs though.

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  • August 30, 2013 at 8:04 am
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    Very interesting article as always. I don’t often think…”Oh that’s a waltz” when I hear them in the anime, but listening to it here, I can recognize them.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 6:09 pm
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      Always happy to expand awareness of anime music!

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  • August 30, 2013 at 9:45 am
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    Meh. Quite strange article. There are far more notable Waltzes. I will not go in details, but you don’t even have “Waltz for Zizi” in your article. Sorry, but It looks like epic fail to me, not good article at all. “Princess Tutu” also easily beats many of mentioned…
    But even if step back from selection, I think you made weak work, there very much water in your words. Superfluous, unnecessary words. Just telling you my sincere and frank opinion.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm
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      “Quite strange” language you use. Your criticism looks like “epic fail” to me, “not good” comment at all.

      Seriously, don’t call someone out for “unnecessary” words when you can barely speak English yourself.

      Also, what’s wrong with her selection? She doesn’t even call it the “Top 10” waltzes in anime–she’s just providing some selections to get people interested.

      “Superfluous,” “unnecessary” comment. Just telling you my “sincere and frank” opinion.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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      “Waltz for Zizi” has a misleading title. It’s not actually a waltz. If anything, it’s a lightly embellished version of the traditional Scottish folk song “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”, which by all means isn’t a waltz. Plus, since Yoko Kanno more or less copied the melody, I didn’t want to include an unoriginal work in the post.

      Besides what Doesn’t Like Gripers has already said, I’m always open to discussion. Please do go into details next time, because I’d like to hear them.

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      • August 30, 2013 at 10:14 pm
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        You could construe both Waltz for Zizi and My Bonnie it as a slow waltz akin to the Tennessee Waltz. After they all have the right time signature with the accent in the right place.

      • August 31, 2013 at 12:50 am
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        I’m not sure what exactly qualifies for a ‘slow waltz’. My definition/personal interpretation might just lean more towards the conventional. There is an accent on the first beat of every measure, but there’s no anticipation for the second beat.

      • September 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm
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        Have to agree with Taka here. Waltz for Zizi is more of a Country waltz (and I can hear the similarities with Bonnie, but for me, changes quite a bit past the first line), not a conventional one, but yeah, there’s no anticipation for the 2nd beat. Your definition might mean the more conventional, Viennese waltzes, and that shows in the article so it’s all good :)

        But Despair, it’s not a top 10 article, was never mentioned as a top 10, more of an offering of 10 waltzes which I’ve not heard of more than half, so I really love the mix in there!

        Also, might be wrong but most of Tutu’s work are actual ballet pieces from past classical composers? It’s not about songs beating songs as well, so let’s not lose our heads over what was included or not. There are quite a lot of waltzes out there.

        And finally, Despair, there’s a difference between criticism and being a bit of an ass.

      • August 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm
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        The Utena selection is certainly nice track (the whole OST is pretty good), but being in 4/4 time, it’s not a waltz.

    • August 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm
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      “Margaret” is a Yuki Kajiura piece that I will actually admit to enjoying a lot, even though I probably hold the most anti-Kajiura viewpoint out of the AniInst staff, haha.

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  • August 30, 2013 at 11:41 am
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    Small correction, God Scrander does not come from the original “Mazinger Z” anime. It actually comes from “Shin Mazinger Z,” which is a retelling of the original story released in 2009. It does have an amazing score, though.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm
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      Thanks for the correction! I hadn’t noticed the title difference.

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    • September 1, 2013 at 12:22 am
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      I’d totally forgotten about the first one! Whenever I think of the Piano no Mori soundtrack, I always think of the piano pieces first (probably a fault of the title)…

      I wonder what Souhei Kano’s been doing. Fractale was too good for him to just disappear.

      Reply
  • September 1, 2013 at 4:20 am
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    After reading (and listening) to all these waltzes, I have realized that many of my favorite tracks from anime series are in fact, waltzes. Popped up ‘Waltz for ARIA’ right after.

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    • September 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm
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      Waltz for ARIA! A piano waltz! ARIA has such a good soundtrack.

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    • September 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm
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      While named a waltz, it doesn’t have the second beat anticipation that marks waltzes of the Viennese sort. Consequently I felt that it didn’t have the dance-like feeling that personally defines a waltz for me.

      Reply
  • September 2, 2013 at 8:45 am
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    Nice selection! I already knew most of them, but I enjoyed the others as well.
    Anyway, although there are already two tracks by Hirano, I would have added the gorgeous “Misa no Uta (Orchestra version)” too.
    I admire almost everything Hirano did and this is no exception: its tasteful dissonance, sophisticated harmony and instrumental colour are so expressive!

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    • September 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm
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      Out of all composers, Hirano contributed the most to the pool of tracks I was considering (I guess that’s how the final roster ended up with two of his works). Since this post was more intended to stir up interest, I ended up choosing pieces from anime I felt that he is not so frequently associated with.

      Reply
  • September 2, 2013 at 10:13 am
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    Intersting post!
    Speaking of Waltz in anime, this piece pops up immediately and is surely my favourite:

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    • September 5, 2013 at 1:05 am
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      The FMA theme will always be one of my favorite melodies from Ooshima.

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    • September 3, 2013 at 5:42 am
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      It seems like the reply thing never works for me, always starts a new comment branch instead. Intended for this to be a a reply to two posts above.

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    • September 5, 2013 at 1:14 am
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      I feel like HIrano always ends up scoring the weirdest things (Chu-Bra, and now a mobile game adaptation?). Regardless of what he’s scoring, he always pulls out all the stops. I guess that’s a good thing :)

      Reply

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