10 Notable Examples of Irish/Celtic Music in Anime

Nearly 3 years ago, TWWK over at Beneath the Tangles wrote about Japan’s connection with Irish/Celtic music where he observed how many anime series also use music from that broader Celtic region. The biggest takeaway for me was why the music appeals to Japanese listeners: its ability to evoke a nostalgia tied to simpler times, be it childhood or a romanticized past.

In short, Celtic music, with its yearning tones, evokes images of that romantic past remarkably well and popular fare like “Danny Boy” made inroads amongst the Japanese pretty easily. Not surprisingly, many Celtic conventions have crept into anime music, particularly traditional Celtic folk music and dynamic dance music. With that in mind, I decided to search through anime titles for instances of Celtic music. And this is what I came up with.

All pieces are in their entirety. If you want to just sit there and listen to this curated playlist, you can do so below:

Master List

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The Twelve Kingdoms – Fuushun

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Celtic music touches on a broad spectrum of subgenres, but its most basic form lies in traditional folk music. This form is exemplified by “Fuushun” from The Twelve Kingdoms by Ryo Kunihiko. Throughout this piece, many Celtic instruments and conventions are heard. Early on, the Irish harp strums the rhythmic foundation for the piece. The fiddle and the flute duet build off of this foundation, sounding their characteristic drawl when they play in unison. As the piece progresses, there’s an entrancing flute solo worth listening to in the middle, especially the lilts which carry a yearning for fantastic worlds based on Earth’s nostalgic past.

The Borrowers Arrietty – Our House Below

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This drive towards nostalgia takes on a more localized feel in Cecile Corbel’s “Our House Below” from the soundtrack to Arrietty. Unlike the wider-ranging sort of nostalgia in “Fuushun”, Corbel dispenses with a peaceful, homey piece. Its simplicity is sublime; in listening to it, the yearning melody evokes imagery of a wonderful childhood in the countryside. I especially love it when the accordion combines with the backing harps and guitars to let the melody flow with love and warmth. In doing so, the music as a whole sets the tone for Arrietty’s life with her parents under the old country home.

Victorian Romance Emma Second Act – Silhouette of a Breeze

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Celtic pieces need not be as serious as Twelve Kingdom‘s “Fuushun”. There’s a lot of exciting Celtic-styled tracks to be had, and this next example comes courtesy of Twelve Kingdoms‘ composer, Ryo Kunihiko. In this example from Victorian Romance Emma Second Act, Kunihiko arranges the somewhat somber “Silhouette of a Breeze” opening theme from the first season by giving it a Celtic flavor. The harp carries the early part of the melody, then cedes it to the flute and, later, the accordion. These instruments gives off that Celtic backdrop, one that rises to its best when the whistle draws out its elongated, yearning drawls between 1:32-1:47. Through all that, the piece’s upbeat melody and the exciting atmosphere gives us hope that the show’s eponymous character will find happiness as she seeks to reunite with her lover.

My Otome – The First Town, a Lovely Encounter

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And before we depart from Celtic folk music, this piece, My Otome‘s “The First Town, a Lovely Encounter” is a perfect segue into the next section: Celtic dances. And the reason is because the measured delivery by the fiddle in the introduction sets the tone for what sounds like a slow Irish dance. The flute joins the fiddle after that section to lend a folksy air to the piece before the two alternate by letting the fiddle introduce the theme, letting the flute take over, and then having the two play in unison to create a charming melody. It’s a pleasant surprise too: you get to see Yuki Kajiura step away from her usual melancholy pieces, suspenseful music, and tense themes to compose something that’s light and heartwarming.

Someday’s Dreamers – Home Country of a Water Imp

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One of the most dynamic, exciting parts of Celtic music is the reel, a type of Irish dance that is a bit faster than its better-known counterpart, the jig. And nowhere is that better represented than in “Home Country of a Water Imp” from Someday Dreamers‘ (Mahou Tsukai Taisetsu Koto) soundtrack. While the soundtrack is eclipsed by “When the Sky and Earth First Meet”, it’s the reel present in “Home Country of a Water Imp” that makes this soundtrack come alive. The piece is thrilling, especially once the flute comes in to nudge you into motion with its endless store of energy and vivacity.

Turn A Gundam – Guin Lineford’s Limousine

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Given Yoko Kanno’s propensity towards diving into many varied genres, it’d be shocking if she left Celtic music untouched. But indeed she has with Turn A Gundam‘s “Guin Lineford’s Limousine” which also takes the form of a spirited reel. Without knowing too much about the context in which the piece is used, I can only say that I love how Kanno opens the piece with Turn A Gundam‘s primary motif before letting the violins and whistle loose to shower the listener with their lively atmosphere. The piece only gets better, especially once the tempo’s slow increase leads to a full-blown sense of exuberance that makes you want to get up and dance in celebration!

Kemono no Souja Erin – Ginyuu Gakudan

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Although this list’s dance forms have been dominated by reels thus far, Kemono no Souja Erin‘s soundtrack gives us a change of pace through an example of the other well-known Irish dance: the jig. In “Ginyuu Gakudan”, the jig form appears right away in the introduction’s motif as the melody swings up and then returns back to its origin. Its atmosphere is initially solemn and takes a while to build to the lively section. But once the piece introduces the flute, the dance becomes much more animated as a cavalcade of instruments ride in to bring the piece to a nostalgic, but rousing finish.

Fairy Tail – Fairy Tail Main Theme

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Like with many folk music, Celtic music gets blended with other musical genres. So for all the relaxing or nostalgic fare you’ve heard here, Celtic music can still take its pent-up energy and release it with the power of rock. When those two genres are combined together in an anime context, I can only be referring to the music to Fairy Tail. The ass-kicking vibe required of the show is channeled perfectly through the harsh percussion and electric guitars which accompany the the fiddle, flute whistle and accordion. It works to set the stage for endless battles and larger than life personalities.

Ah! My Goddess TV – OPEN YOUR MIND ~Chiisana Hane Hirogete~

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And after Fairy Tail‘s Celtic-rock blend, it shouldn’t surprise you to find that Celtic music also blends well with J-pop. Yoko Ishida’s performance on Ah! My Goddess TV‘s opening theme, “OPEN YOUR MIND ~Chiisana Hane Hirogete~” is a beautiful example of that. Her singing is where the pure J-pop surfaces. The parts where the fiddle steps in, particularly during the bridge, is reminiscent of an Irish reel. So when the Celtic and the pop combine, you get a dreamy, optimistic song that stands out on the strength of Yoko Ishida’s clear vocals and the instrumental’s ability to draw you into the song’s hopeful atmosphere.

Durarara! – Green Memories

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But as appealing as the modern fusions are, I find that Celtic music’s biggest strength is in invoking images of the Emerald Isles. And so, I return to tracks like Durarara!‘s “Green Memories” which makes use of a slow fiddle and flute duet to let you drift back into times long past. The yearning introduction instills a wondrous sense of nostalgia. Through it, you can imagine Celty, the motorcycle-riding dullahan in Durarara!, dreaming of her past life. What seals this piece for me is the lovely violin solo halfway through which proffers a flowing melody to capture your heart and send you back to those verdant lands.

And that’s the list of 10 notable Celtic pieces in anime. Being restricted to 10 tracks means there’s a whole lot more we can’t cover. If you have any suggestions or other pieces you’d want to highlight, feel free to do so in the comments section.

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

17 thoughts on “10 Notable Examples of Irish/Celtic Music in Anime

  • April 20, 2015 at 9:13 am
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    Thank you for this list, I’ve been trying to find celtic anime soundtracks for awhile but was failing miserably. 🙂

    Reply
    • April 20, 2015 at 8:39 pm
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      Yeah, that’s pretty understandable since the Celtic themes are generally not all gathered on the same disc unless that disc’s name is Arrietty. 😉

      Glad I can help!

      Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 10:56 am
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    you may want to check out the soundtrack to seasons 1 and 2 of horizon in the middle of nowhere. alot of the soundtrack has celtic inspired music blended in. do not be dissuaded by how many genres of music the sondtracks have as they pull from every genre that exists. also thanks i have been needing a good list so i can add to the celtic side of my music collection.

    Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm
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    I realize it doesn’t quite fit the list, but I feel that Fractale’s use of Down by the Salley Garden by Hitori Azuma as an ending theme is worth a mention.

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    • April 20, 2015 at 8:41 pm
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      Indeed, that’s the track that started it all! If you read TWWK’s post, that was what inspired him to dive more deeply into Celtic music in Japan. But always good to mention it again. Thanks!

      Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm
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    Have you seen Brain Power’d? Yoko Kanno did the music, extremely celtic stuff!

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    • April 20, 2015 at 8:43 pm
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      I haven’t seen the anime, but I’ve definitely listened to the soundtrack and it’s a very solid Kanno work. Basically, when I cobbled this list together, I was trying to decide between her work on Turn A Gundam or use “Ark” from Brain Power’d. In this case, Turn A Gundam won out since I wanted to highlight the dance bits.

      And yes, Brain Power’d is an awesome listen.

      Reply
  • April 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm
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    When I first found your site, one of my favorite articles to read was TWWK’s Celtic/Japanese exploration; this “round two” builds on the connection by providing great samples, which I always welcome! I’m really glad to see “OPEN YOUR MIND ~Chiisana Hane Hirogete~” featured, as I loved the theme back when Ah! My Goddess TV was airing.

    As mentioned above by you and Daquan, Brain Power’d is a fantastic soundtrack. Years later, I couldn’t imagine not knowing it, and I’ve never watched a second of the anime aside from seeing the OP/ED themes on YouTube. “Ark” was the first piece that came to mind when I saw the title of the article.

    In addition to what’s been mentioned, I’d also like to suggest Yuki Kajiura’s “le grand retour” from the second Noir OST. Although not ENTIRELY Celtic, the flute/bagpipes in the opening/closing minutes differentiates this piece from the other European flavor found in this series, and I love the shifts in musical narrative through the 6+ minutes. “Colosseum,” from the same album, is another flute/bagpipe combo and the inclusion of the sax is an unexpected touch. However, given the same composer I can definitely understand why you included “The First Town, a Lovely Encounter.” It’s more clearly in line with the theme, and as you stated, “you get to see Yuki Kajiura step away from her usual…pieces.” 🙂

    Reply
    • April 27, 2015 at 8:10 am
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      One of my semi-criticisms of Kajiura is that most of her stuff isn’t different enough, so I’m always happy to see happier fare from her. I just wish anime directors would try to exploit that side of her because she can do happy stuff really well too!

      Reply
  • April 28, 2015 at 4:59 am
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    “Hakuoh Jogakuin,” the sailing theme from Mouretu Pirates, is nice, lively Celtic-style piece.

    Reply
    • April 28, 2015 at 5:43 am
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      Not quite “anime” music but worth noting in this context: the circle “Floating Cloud” specializes in Celtic arrangements of Touhou music. You can find many of their videos in the usual places.

      Reply
      • April 30, 2015 at 12:09 am
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        Awesome! I’ve been looking for Celtic music in the Touhou franchise but never wanted to wade through all the crap, so thanks for making the process much easier.

  • September 19, 2016 at 1:41 pm
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    “Country Lane EX” from Clannad incorporates the celtic style very well.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm
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    Fairy Tail got me into celtic music and it’s amazing, all these tracks sound really beautiful to me.

    Reply
  • December 22, 2016 at 2:51 am
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    Have you heard Yoko’s Ragnarok II tracks? Three of my favorite tracks are from that album just so happen to be celtic (I think). When I listen to them I can imagine myself traveling the highlands of Ireland.

    Im not entirely sure if it is celtic but here they are:

    Sailing – my favorite
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15iov9WPzeo

    Din Don Dan Dan – more upbeat
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae940xjLBIk

    Hodo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdTqZQORucQ

    And thanks for the list! I’ve been trying to find more japanese celtic music!

    Reply
  • February 14, 2017 at 10:54 pm
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    I’d like to add the track “Ana” from CLANNAD:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWMxAli3l_U
    If you ignore the cringy lyrics, this sounds quite similar to the Irish band Clannad, who also often did these slow ballads. For me, it’s a bit too melodramatic, I prefer faster celtic music.

    Right now, I’m looking for musical connections between Japan and Irish/Scottish folk music, after stumbling over this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pR_LWPNxpw
    If anyone has suggestions, please let me know!

    Reply

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