3rd Annual Anime Music Awards – The Best of 2012

Sakamichi no Apollon


by Yu
Despite the relatively sparse pickings in comparison to past years, 2012 still managed to produce its fair share of memorable favorites. In fact, the sheer variety on display appeals to many different tastes, and it shows in terms of how divided we were in regard to our selections. The soundtrack department saw the return of big names like Michiru Ooshima who scored the majestic Zetsuen no Tempest, a classically inspired tour de force of powerfully romantic themes and we were happy to see several composers rarely seen in the anime-sphere contribute some unexpectedly good music. Taking us all by surprise, Takagi Masakatsu’s Wolf Children delivers a minimalistic but nonetheless heartwarming tale of hardships and happiness alike. Quite a few gems surfaced in the year’s OP/ED collection as well, with fan favorites Kalafina performing the Fate/Zero OP. From such a list of respectable achievements, Anime Instrumentality is glad to present yet another round of awards to show what we thought were the most memorable works of 2012.

Soundtrack of the Year – Tsuritama

by Jen

The previous Soundtrack of the Year winners can be summed up nicely with the word ‘spectacular’. If we were at a pageant, Fairy Tail would be the one to strut in, proud and brash; Chihayafuru would saunter in, poised and graceful. This year, Tsuritama’s soundtrack marches forth in all its quirkiness and eccentricity, and clinches the title. Truly, in an anime about fishing and aliens, what more can we ask for?

By just being the way it is, Tsuritama depicts the lifestyles of our protagonists perfectly. We get a taste of the laidback and carefree island of Enoshima through tracks such as ‘Tsuritama March’ and ‘Benten Kyou no Wataru’. The playful tunes of ‘Tsuritama March’ weaves the mischief and escapades of our protagonists into a light and cheerful backdrop, while ‘Benten Kyou no Wataru’ hits all the right notes, using its folkish tune and instrumentation to bring the image of a seaside town to life. Among that, the soundtrack also touches on more poignant moments through tracks like ‘Kirei na Hana’, and captures the anime’s idiosyncrasies in tracks like ‘DUCK Honbu, Ootou Seyo!’.

With that, 2012 sees an endearingly humourous and lighthearted soundtrack clinching the title of Soundtrack of the Year because it reminds us of how, at its core, good soundtracks provide (along with many other things) a pleasant listening experience. And honestly, who can’t help but smile upon hearing ‘Kakeashi March’?

Tsuritama March

[audio:Tsuritama – Tsuritama March.mp3]

DUCK Honbu, Ootou Seyo!

[audio:Tsuritama – DUCK Honbu Outouse yo!.mp3]

Kakeashi March

[audio:Tsuritama – Kakeashi March.mp3]

Composer of the Year – Yoko Kanno

by zzeroparticle
This year’s composer selection proved to be hotly contested. We had Yasuharu Takanashi continuing his fine form for Fairy Tail and the PreCure franchise while others like Shiro Hamaguchi made inconsistent splashes, doing terrifically well with Tari Tari’s soundtrack, but less so with Girls und Panzer’s. In our for a composer who was both solid and fresh, perhaps it’s a tad ironic that the prize goes to none other than Yoko Kanno.

Honoring Yoko Kanno’s efforts in 2012 feels like we are honoring her discography as a whole; in a sense, her musical efforts this year proved to be a throwback of sorts. The Aquarion franchise continued under her musical vision, where new efforts like “Aquaria Mau Sora” and “a jealous flapper” find themselves at home with glorious, yet familiar themes like the ones shown in “Genesis History #2” to yield an eclectic and enjoyable work. And then there’s her work on Kids on the Slope, which showcases the kind of jazz music not seen since Darker than Black and, if we go even further back, Cowboy Bebop. The caveat: many of the pieces from Kids on the Slope are taken from the jazz canon. Nevertheless, her original compositions are no slouch either as pieces like the eponymous “Kids on the Slope” stirs one’s hearts and warms us to the newfound friendship between Kaoru and Sentaro and “Jazz for Button” is light and whimsical, reminiscent of the tunes from Kanno’s Napple Tale and, ultimately, providing unto us a very memorable musical experience.

Opening Theme of the Year – Sakamichi no Apollon – Sakamichi no Melody

by maskerade

Can a song be so familiar and different at the same time? Kanno’s “Sakamichi no Melody” is certainly very distinct from her previous Jpop outings, or her more exotic pieces. The gentle drumming march, light guitar tones, that trumpet. It’s a little slow for an opening surely? Then, the pace picks up with a snap of the fingers, the strings come in and suddenly, we seem to have stumbled upon something that is quintessentially Kanno. A nod to her Escaflowne and Card Captor Sakura days, the theme is less showy certainly, but maintains a welcome child-like exuberance we don’t often see in openings.

For a veteran Jpop singer, YUKI hasn’t really done that many anime openings. Those she does though, have been very memorable. We know her. She has a voice that’s hard to forget. You listen to that voice and always wonder, ‘What comes next?’ And here, her ability to convey intense emotion and sly whimsy doesn’t disappoint. Paired up with Kanno’s layering, the song bursts into colour and just flies as a standout among the openings in 2012.

Ending Theme of the Year – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita – Yume no naka no Watashi no Yume

by Aftershok

Masumi Itou is a member of a rare breed of anime composers, almost in a category of her own. How many old solo artists compose soundtracks and feature in OP/ED’s for anime? This, combined with her particular brand of airy, fluttery soprano vocals and bold, unpredictable songwriting truly puts her in a class of one. To our ear, she’s outdone herself with Anime Instrumentality’s pick for best ED for 2012: “Yume no Naka no Watashi no Yume.”

The song is a chaotic clutter of awkward instrumental contradictions and rapid shifts in tonality; it seems to be ceaselessly at odds with itself. Hints of elegant Arabia soaring through the harmony are betrayed by a crackling electric distortion guitar carelessly belting out chords; a pulsating shuffle drum kit and a dainty, sparkling string section constantly threaten to make the other realize it’s in the wrong song.

But, oh, how Itou pulls it off. “Yume no Naka no Watashi no Yume” comes together in a beautiful, beautiful mess of clashing ideas and sudden changes of mind. The way Itou plays with your expectations, how she leads you gently by the hand and then pushes you off a musical cliff – that’s as good as it gets. It’s a master work by a master worker whose artistic vision drove the conception, composition and arrangement all the way through to the performance. Such a thing is rare in anime music, and we’re not afraid to give credit where it’s due.

Omake – Best Musical Moment – Girls und Panzer – Katyusha

by zzeroparticle

Musical moments that take your breath away are so rare that when it does happen, there’s a tendency to cherish it all the more. 2012 had more memorable musical moments than most, but the one that totally stood out as being the best in its class is none other than Girls und Panzer’s rendition of the Russian war song “Katyusha.”

Girls und Panzer doesn’t do much to toy with expectations; its story is about as straightforward as can be. But the manner in which it was able to worm into our hearts lies in the earnestness in which it presents itself as it sought to capture the thrill of battle and the incredible depth of knowledge in the realm of tank warfare. So amidst the heavy-duty nerdery in the field of tankery, the anime never neglects the proud, musical tradition that keeps the troops soldiering on, inspiring them every step of the way. And in the scene in which the Pravda girls sing “Katyusha”, their earnestness and relentlessness are on full display. They surge forward, hearts united, spirits and heads held high in their pursuit of nothing but total victory, as they place their stamp upon the year in a way that will never, can never be forgotten.

Note: Feel free to drop your two cents. Do keep in mind that as always, we do intend to touch upon the awesome soundtracks that 2012 offered up in a later post, so until then, stay tuned!

Anime Instrumentality Staff

A collaboration between the staff members at Anime Instrumentality to bring you the best of all the anime music out there! Or silliness, whichever it is that happens to come first.

29 thoughts on “3rd Annual Anime Music Awards – The Best of 2012

  • April 28, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Funny I never got the impression that Sakamichi’s OP was that well liked. I thought generally the opinion was that in a show that was supposed to be about jazz an OP that was largely a light poppy affair seemed misplaced. If you were desperate to pick Kanno I would have rather pointed at her offerings in Aquarion and the triumphant return of Bless4 and Akino.

    I’m also not a big fan of the ED choice but that one I can at least understand.

    My pics of the year in no particular order:
    Aquarion Evol – OP 2 Parodoxical Zoo
    Rinne no Lagrange – OP 1 Try, Unite
    Jojo OP 1 JoJo (Sono Chi no Sadame)
    Nisemonogatari OP 3 – Platinum Disco
    Jintai OP 1 – Real World

    Shinsekai Yori – ED 1 Wareta Ringo
    Space Brothers – ED 2 Kokuhaku
    Aquarion Evol – ED 1 Gekko Symphonia
    Thermae Romae – ED 1 Thermae Romae
    Joshiraku ED 1 – Nippon Egao Hyakkei

    • April 28, 2013 at 6:24 am

      I have to say I like your inclusion of Nippon Egao Hyakkei (Joshiraku ED). For one thing it has some killer shamisen, but I think Momoiro Clover Z is pretty interesting in general; if you look over the various songs they have contributed to anime, there is a large variety in the styles. Nippon Egao Hyakkei is nothing like “Symphony Movement VII «Infinite Love»” (Fierce Space Pirates OP).

    • April 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

      It was a face-off between “Sakamichi no Melody” or Kalafina’s “to the beginning” so… so much for us departing from the norm. I am pleased to see that you agree with me as far as the ED goes (but no one else did, heh). Also, I tried to lobby for Nyarko-san’s earworm of an OP, but that got me nowhere :<

    • April 28, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Paradoxical Zoo? Really? I thought it was awful, a huge downgrade from Kimi no Shinwa.

      I’d say my favorite OP’s from 2012 are (in no particular order)
      – Non-Stop Road (Natsuiro Kiseki)
      – Marshmallow Justice (Nisemonogatari)
      – To the Beginning (Fate/Zero)
      – Kimi no Shinwa (Aquarion Evol)
      – Taiyou Iwaku Moeyo Chaos (Haiyore! Nyaryko-san)

      – All Alone With You (Psycho-pass)
      – Days of Dash (Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo)
      – Enter Enter Mission (Girls und Panzer)
      – 100% Chuugakusei (YuruYuri 2)
      – Neguse (Tamako Market)

      • April 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        I liked Kimi no Shinwa until 1:00 in aka the Chorus. I thought the chorus didn’t fit with what the song had been leading up to. It felt like it was suddenly a different song. The rhythm change and loss of guitar turned what could have been an interesting song into a generic sound I could find anywhere. I lost the climax of the song and as such I ended up skipping it.

        I never skipped Parodoxical Zoo. It opens with a bang in the same way as Kimi no Shinwa it launches the song and builds momentum. The echoing verses increase the tension. Then Akino goes high again at the beginning of a mini-bridge that builds to the chorus which gives the payoff by using the initial launch as a additional thrust to a great climax.

        I can’t speak for the lyrics though.

      • April 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

        I guess taste is taste. I found Kimi no Shinwa to be unique and energetic. The chorus brings the song into the next level, adding the intense melodies characteristic of Kanno’s very best songs.

        I couldn’t listen to Paradoxical Zoo. It felt like a mess of trying to do too much and throwing energy into a song without much melodic structure.

        Music is a huge crapshoot, though. Listen to what you like.

      • April 29, 2013 at 1:24 am

        I thought about All Alone With You for my voting rolls except it came out in 2013, so I’ll have to write this here to remind myself next year!

  • April 28, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I’d say Tatsuya Kato is the composer of the year. Soundtracks released by him in 2012:
    – Horizon 1
    – Horizon 2
    – Mirai Nikki
    – Medaka Box 1
    – Medaka Box 2
    – Campione!

    I’d honestly not heard of him before 2012 but in only a year he’s made a pretty big splash. Surprising is that, despite composing so much music in such a short amount of time, his soundtracks are pretty good and easy to listen to. And he has a good variety of styles too. I think Horizon shows this off the best – it’s probably the soundtrack I listened to the most last year. It’s gotten praise from many others too, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    He seems to be continuing at full steam this year and is already set to compose for 3 shows next season. I can’t fathom how one person can do that alone. For a guy that showed up out of nowhere 4 years ago, he’s certainly one to watch.

    (I’ll post some more thoughts about 2012 later)

    • April 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Do look forward to more of your thoughts on 2012. On our side, we’ve yet to warm up to Katou’s works. In looking at our voting rolls, none of his OSTs made any of our lists (yeah, spoiler alert for the upcoming OST list).

      • April 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

        When I thought “composer of the year” I simply tried to think of the composer I noticed the most this year. I don’t think he’s the best composer of 2012 or anything. Just that he had many works that were above average. It isn’t really complex music but it is fun and very listenable in my opinion. I’m sure you chose your composer of the year based on quality which is why Kanno’s there. To be honest, though, I don’t think too highly of her scores for Aquarion EVOL and Kids on the Slope (at least compared to her other works)

        EVOL didn’t compare to her score for Genesis of Aquarion. I guess it’s that she didn’t really write much new music for EVOL. It’s not mediocre music or anything. No, it’s great, the first season just set the bar really high. Aquarion is one of her best soundtracks to date, in my opinion, and EVOL just didn’t live up to it. I hoped until the very end that she would deliver a grand finale piece like “First love Final love” for EVOL but it never came.

        Kids on the Slope was supposed to be Kanno’s glorious return to jazz. Or so I thought. I was expecting original compositions by Kanno and what I got was a arrangements. There were a number of original tracks not composed Kanno too. Of the original compositions by Kanno they were either too short or simply not very memorable (mostly). Perhaps I set my expectations too high.

        I’m not sure who I would say delivered the best music in 2012. I’d have to think about it some more. I’m trying to think of quality composers that did more than one soundtrack last year but not turning up many names. There was Sagisu, I suppose, with the Berserk movie trilogy, Evangelion 3.0, and Magi.

      • April 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

        Sagisu is one that definitely merits consideration for the works that you cited. In fact, I’m kind of annoyed at myself for not having him on my roll since that pick should have been a no-brainer. I did enjoy what I’ve heard out of the Berserk movie trilogy after all and Magi’s orchestral stuff is solid. More impressive than Kanno? Well, maybe (though I’d be wont to lean Sagisu). It’d be a tight race depending on how other staffers weigh in.

      • May 6, 2013 at 5:15 am

        Yessss, someone else who thinks Kanno wasn’t all she was chalked up to be this year.

      • May 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

        A bit late. Now that I’ve re-listened to some of this year’s soundtracks I’d definitely give Sagisu the trophy over Kanno. There were no other contenders. I bet you guys would have chosen him too if you hadn’t forgotten(?) about him. I particularly liked his Berserk music which seemed to get better and better with each movie. I hope they continue making more movies if only so we can hear more of it. Oh, and Masamichi Amano deserves a part of that trophy too. His skillful orchestration really improves on Sagisu’s work. It’s too bad he rarely gets to do soundtracks on his own.

        As for more thoughts about 2012…

        For the opening theme I’d have to go with Aquarion EVOL’s 1st opening theme. I loved AKINO’s songs for Genesis of Aquarion. She has such a great voice and it still blows my mind that she sung those songs when she was only 14. When I heard she was returning for EVOL I remember declaring that it would be the OP of the year. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even 2012 at that time but that didn’t matter. The song was perfect in that it gave off the same feeling as the songs in the previous anime did. This was the one thing from 2012 where Kanno lived up to my expectations.

        For the ending theme I agree with your choice of Jinrui wa Suitaishimashita. You are very right about it being a master work. I especially love the arrangement – it’s wonderful. Masumi Ito is a very skilled musician. Anime singers that write their own songs are rare so it’s great to see her active again. At the time this single was released it had been 3 years since her last work. She has now gone on to release her first album in nearly a decade and perform the ending theme for RDG.

        As a runner up I’d give a mention to PSYCHO-PASS’ first ending theme, which is one of ryo’s best songs to date in my opinion. His recent supercell work hadn’t really been doing anything for me and I kept finding myself drawn back to his earlier work. And then this song came along. The song itself is extremely catchy and I find chelly’s voice easier to listen to than Koeda’s. Even though it came out at the very end of 2012 it’s quickly became my most listened to anime song from 2012.

        For the best soundtrack of 2012… I’m not quite sure. I really want to say Zetsuen no Tempest but because of stupid Aniplex the soundtrack STILL isn’t fully released. Can I choose it anyways? I’m choosing it anyways. This is one of Oshima’s best works to date. What a brilliant way to return after a two and a half year absence. It’s also her first soundtrack recorded in Russia since Fullmetal Alchemist. You know you’re in for something just from that. I express how much I love the main theme. It’s such a sad and beautiful piece of music and perfectly fits the anime it was created for.

        Bonus section: Best new soundtrack composer of 2012 goes to Misa Chujo, the young composer who did the music for Nanoha 2nd A’s. A pretty solid debut if you ask me. It’s got a bit of everything including some nice orchestral tracks. She’s only 28 – definitely someone to watch. Here’s hoping she returns for the 3rd movie.

      • May 17, 2013 at 1:08 am

        Well, I certainly would have. Not sure how my other writers would have gone and they’d be able to represent their positions better than I would.

        As far as Aquarion’s OP goes, somehow, I feel like there’s a bit too much oomph in that one, though it is one of the more standout tracks in there. As much as Kalafina can be a bit old and tired in their shtick by now, I’d give them the nod.

        Best soundtrack… well, that’s what I voted for! Almost all the members had Zetsuen no Tempest on their voting rolls except for one person, which meant the prize was tilted in favor of Tsuritama. Oh well, that’s just kinda how it goes sometimes with voting, I guess. Also, a standalone soundtrack for that anime would be awesome, though if Aniplex is behind that series, I’m afraid it’ll be in limbo indefinitely.

        Listened to bits and pieces of Nanoha 2nd A’s. No opinion formed yet as of this writing!

  • April 28, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I want to add to the omake analysis this:


    Katyusha is actually a very iconic gun, with me even as a small child born in the falling-apart USSR knowing the name and the image of the launcher. It is seen as one of Russia’s best weapons in WWII, and some Russian kids idolize it like American kids idolize, say, a Mustang sports car or a cowboy. Consider how appropriate the gun is to the anime in question, I can’t say this was an accident. I was straight-up blown away; definitely putting Girls Und Panzer on my to-watch list.

    • April 29, 2013 at 1:20 am

      Thanks for that bit of additional information and glad I was able to point you in the direction of a show that certainly merits watching, especially if you’re into military hardware!

  • April 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Very happy to see the Jintai ED featured. I absolutely adore the song, the vocals and just how varied and interesting it was. Many hours of listening pleasure.

    • April 29, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Also, it does bring back the pleasant memories of Azumanga Daioh’s ED as well as Haibane Renmei’s. Her vocal qualities are pretty entrancing and dreamy, offering quite the nice change from standard intense J-pop.

    • April 29, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      Here’s a bit of trivia. She sang the ending song for the Zone of Enders game as well, Kiss Me Sunlight. Not the greatest song, but very unique and her vocals were key in it.

  • May 2, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Personally I completely agree with your pick for the ED, that’s a wonderful song. I’d say Jojo’s Roundabout is at odds with it – but then again, Roundabout isn’t “exactly” an original song, so I see why it should stay out of the competition.

    In general, musically I loved everything Jojo. Both OPs were great in their own way, the second one especially, but the visuals were part of that as well. I also loved the OST for the last part of the anime – the electro-rock-dubstep in Battle Tendency. And I’d argue that hearing Sono Chi no Sadame at the climax of the final battle was an even more inspiring moment than Girls und Panzer’s Katyusha – which however wins hands down in subtlety and sensibility of the choice.

    • May 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

      JoJo was quite the force of nature this year as far as music goes and the OP themes certainly left an impact visually while the music was an effective channeling of badassery. Now I just need to catch up on my JoJo viewing habits since I did stall halfway through the series after getting hit by a wave of work.

  • May 2, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Yoko Kanno’s definitely a great artist, and does make quite a few numerous great OSTs this year. I like the Aquarion OST as well, and Sakamichi no Apollon is a no brainer.

    • May 3, 2013 at 9:46 am

      It was a bit of a tough choice figuring out who to choose since few composers really stood out as heavy hitters. And in that field Kanno stood out most, which is odd since she’s done more throwbacking than most this year.

  • May 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    I’m still like Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita theme and its composer. So feel fantasy.

    • May 3, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Well, then stay tuned for our (exhaustive) post on all the good soundtracks from 2012 then! That one will definitely be covered.

  • May 13, 2013 at 8:42 am

    No mention of Jormungand whatsoever? An incredibly fitting soundtrack, one of the best openings of the year and definitely the most memorable insert song.

    • May 17, 2013 at 12:55 am

      Fitting yes, but count me on board as one of the few who wasn’t too enthralled with Jormungand’s soundtrack on a standalone listen :\ Not a bad Taku Iwasaki work, but not as engaging as it could be.

  • Pingback:Weekly Anime Music Releases: Space Brothers Soundtrack, AiRI, and more!

Leave a Reply