While much of our staff’s focus tends to fall on the BGM/instrumental tracks, the vocal stuff isn’t forgotten since a lot of it does serve as a first impression of sorts as to what we should expect out of an anime. So with that thought in mind, we shall strive for completing the musical experience by sharing some of our favorite songs to come out of 2010. We’ve already collectively given our opinion on what we thought was the best of the best; these are the rest that we thought were pretty enjoyable and are worth checking out if you haven’t heard them already. So let’s jump in!
As much as this writer’s memory of Hanamaru Kindergarten has turned hazy with time, that the image “Kigurumi Wakusei” planted in his mind still has not faded is a testament to its timelessness. A parody of space opera, “Kigurumi Wakusei” opens with the chorus cultivating the grand scale of the on-screen conflict, followed by Ayahi Takagaki’s forceful delivery in her Hiiragi voice, which gives the whole song an odd dichotomy, but one that is definitely memorable in the way it strangely fits together.
Sora no Woto
While Kalafina’s music is frequently marked by Kajiura’s typical mysterious style, “Hikari no Senritsu” departs from this by incorporating an atmosphere of antiquity into its melody. It could very well be a traditional folk song, perhaps recalling a traveler burdened with long memories searching a vast land for something of importance. All of this is only enhanced by the folksy instrumentals and the vocalists’ (Hikaru especially) pure vocals that swell with nostalgia and emotion. For anyone who has watched the first episode of Sora no Woto, the song is crucial to setting the opening atmosphere of rusticism. “Hikari no Senritsu’s” seamless unity with the anime makes it one of the most immersive OP’s of the year.
As much as Giant Killing’s opening theme tickles this football fan with its hilariously effusive engrish introduction, the overall feel is perfect in bringing the excitement of a football match to his ears. Rather than reflect the actual football match itself, “My Story ~Mada Minu Ashita e~” is more of an homage towards football fans everywhere. The Irish melodic introduction sets the tone for revelry, a feeling reinforced once the boisterous vocals come in, carrying that undercurrent of excitement that matches the electric atmosphere at any important match where fans get whipped up in a frenzy in support of their favorite side.
Eve no Jikan
When I first heard the ending theme for the Time of Eve movie was called “I Have a Dream” done by none other than Kalafina, you can’t blame me for getting excited for a darkly scored, moody, emotional take on a musical version of a certain famous civil rights speech. What I got instead was something very different, but nonetheless just as fulfilling. Kalafina, thankfully, doesn’t overdo it for this one, and manages to sound dramatically uplifting without sounding like depression on a rainy Sunday afternoon and you’re all out of Zoloft. It has this caring immediacy to it, like an embrace from a mother assuring her child that everything will be OK and that dad will get help for his drinking problem. With a hint of Celtic flavor, it does remind me of “My Heart Will Go On,” except instead of an ocean liner catastrophically colliding at sea, “I Have a Dream” has connotations of people treating each other equally, whether you’re white, black, or robot.
Through the short OP sequence alone, viewers are taken on a journey, from the serenity weighed down with tones of despair in the opening stanza, the pulsating sense of hope and belief in the chorus and the slow crescendo at the end of the chorus which ties it all off with an optimism against all adversity. This is the strength of KOKIA’s vocals, which carry the march of the instrumentals onwards, creating a slow but deeply entrancing OP.
I don’t know whether others are of the same mind as I am, but between the two songs that Angel Beats! features for its intro and outro, I really like the way the ED, “Brave Song,” turned out. Moreso than the opening theme in fact. Aoi Tada’s voice brings out an air of calmness to it all as she delivers her soft, longing, wistful tones to end each episode of the anime; tones that are altogether fitting with the show’s focus on the regrets that plagued the characters in their former lives as they enter this purgatory.
But one shouldn’t discount Lia’s efforts on “My Soul, Your Beats” either as she consistently delivers time after time. While her inflection is lyrically pleasing, I can’t say I really love the way the background instrumentation partners up with her because of it’s lack of cohesion. It’s still a solid opener though, but to get the best effect, you’ll want to check out the unofficial duet between Lia and LiSA.
A good amount of explosive energy (projected the right way, by the right people) is an amazingly effective attention catcher. And who can do it better than Angela, with the powerful and flexible vocals of atsuko and imaginative composition of KATSU? The generous sprinkling of brasses (and other orchestral instruments in the full version), the lack of any reservation with the heavy percussion beats and the energy from a group of children chanting along with the vocalist firmly place this ED at the top in term of sheer craziness.
When this writer listened to “Aoi Haru,” his mind directly made the jump from that song to Theatre Brook’s OP theme to Durarara, with its harder rock sound that brings to mind the urban cityscape and the uncertainties that lurk within Ikebukuro. There’s a sense of desperation to be had from the tempo and through its rhythm, an image of a flurry of activity comes to mind as the sun begins to set. For as they say, night time is the right time if you’re looking to do some major plotting and the vocals and instrumentals do have that sneaky, almost chaotically conspiratorial vibe to it all.
Hidamari Sketch x★★★
Though this writer has expounded at length on why marble’s music continues to be a source of enjoyment, their mellow stamp that they’ve made upon the year can be so easily forgotten sometimes, especially when placed alongside the bolder, high-octane J-pop tracks. So here, I’d like to give a nod at how their works for the Hidamari Sketch franchise have always been stellar and each subsequent followup continues to get better. So with little surprise, “Sakura Sakura Saku” has risen to become my favorite. The impact lies in the delivery; during the course of the music, micco’s voice blooms absolutely radiantly, bringing with it an air of optimism and reassurance for what the future holds, fitting in the way it nails the anime’s sentiments.
Arakawa Under the Bridge
Of all the artists to have entered my radar this year, I think Etsuko Yakushimaru has me the most entranced, quite possibly taking the award for being the best of the best as far as new anisong artists go. Her performance on “Venus to Jesus” is just so engaging. Her soothing voice, coupled with the catchy rhythm and chorus, keeps me hooked as it draws me into the dreamy world that she sculpts.
And don’t even get me started on “Cosmos vs. Alien.” While that’s a song that, on paper, defies every single element I value musically, it still manages to reel me in hook, line, and sinker. From the engrishy opening in “See her?” “No I don’t.” “Now you see her. Now you don’t.” to the off-tune-sounding-but-not-really chorus line, the first reaction is to be baffled, but as you continue to listen more, Yakushimaru’s mysterious vocal powers exert themselves once more. Though I somehow doubt this song falls under the denpa genre, I do say that Yakushimaru does well in channeling that denpa onna vibe here. Perhaps that quality is what’s so addictive about this particular song?
Bonus points go to Miyuki Sawashiro’s fantastic delivery which reeks of pure dismissive, verbally-abusive bliss. Her portrayal of Maria’s personality really comes out in full force through “Title Nante Jibun de Kangaenasai na” and though it might be second to “Venus to Jesus,” it’s still fairly engaging all the same.
The World God Only Knows
OK, let’s get this straight. With any other singer, “Koi no Shirushi,” probably wouldn’t warrant a mention. It is, after all, a catchy, but run-of-the-mill love song at best, until you factor in the amount of enjoyment I derive from Kana Hanazawa’s musical delivery. With her on the pedal, getting drawn in by her rendition of “Koi no Shirushi” was pretty much an inevitability given how addicting “Renai Circulation” turned out to be. Yes, the song is heavy on the autotune, but come now! Autotune, no matter how well-applied, doesn’t come off that moe. Also, as much as Ayahi Takagaki’s rendition might be better technically, my tastes flow towards Hanazawa, so on that count, this version stands out as my favorite of all the girls’!
Tales of Symphonia Tethe’alla Hen
The highly effective opening of the ED with the flute melodies, Shikata’s light vocals and the trickle of the rainstick just beckons one to dive deeper into this ED. Even though the ending animation does absolutely no justice to the song as a whole, it definitely stands out as one of the best singles based purely on how beautiful, elaborate and magical it is.
As much as Chatmonchy’s waifish voice didn’t appeal to me during other times, I have absolutely no problem with its presentation in the opening, which provides us the kind of happy-go-lucky energy that’s been absent in her other works and, when coupled with all those movie references, makes for an engaging watch altogether. But between the opening and ending, nothing beats the sheer emotive power behind Sambomaster’s “Kimi no Kirei ni Kizuiteokure” which wins purely for being so expressive in its loving sentiments while packing a rock sound with strings to keep you rapt at attention.
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
Finally, allow me to really reminisce here. Youngster, let me tell you about a time when men were men, jazz was king, and those confounded bloggers wrote articles on time. They were simpler times. More honest times. Happier times, with music with real class and gumption. None of that beepin’ or boppin’ stuff made by those computing machines! Real music! Take that “Down Town” from the opening of that Japanese animation television program Soredemo something or other. Boy, they sure don’t make them animu openings like that no more. Real happy-go-lucky, with a dash of pluck and jazz band brass from the gut, you know, sonny? And it’s got this quirkiness, see, with all these string instruments whirlin’ about like them city folk and their crazy flyin’ machines. Old folk like me don’t like nothin’ too heavy, you hear, but this song, it’s got this lightness, like it wants to tell you that everything’s gonna be dandy and those calls from the man from the insurance company don’t mean a thing. That Maaya Sakamoto gal is great, too. I get the feeling that earthquake fella from that anime music blog really liked this here song. Like it was his favorite openin’ song last year or somethin’. Just the feeling I’m gettin’ in my bones. Not enough morphine these days.
Final Notes: Yes, we did leave out Sphere’s best song of 2010, “Now Loading… Sky,” but that’s because on closer listen, there’s not a whole lot that really stood out about that particular track. Beyond that, we’d like to think we’ve covered all of our bases, but if you’ve any others to share that you think were unjustly left out of it all, be sure to let us know!