Listening to Anime OSTs Standalone

Anime Girl Violin
The love and joy that countless hours of anime music have brought me were what led to Anime Instrumentality being founded. While the J-popping OP/EDs are enjoyable, it’s been the BGM, especially those that are so rich in energy and emotion that they transcend the context entirely, that continue to endure in my consciousness and enrich my life as I marvel at their beauty.

Kai of Deluscar definitely feels the power that great BGM can deliver unto listeners. Here are his thoughts on how his interest in anime soundtracks has enriched his anime viewing experience and provides a touch of inspiration outside of anime so that he can pursue his passions while overcoming the obstacles that lie in his path.

The Aspect of Listening to OSTs Standalone

Ever listened to some great music tracks in anime? If you did, I’m sure a majority of you would get the anime’s OST albums and listen to them standalone. Chances are, listening to them standalone won’t be much different; they retain the same high-quality music, as though you are listening to them in the anime itself, or it might evoke different feelings and opinions you had toward those very songs.

Anime Headphones Mac
Is the ability to listen to these music tracks standalone necessary? Before we dive into the question, we need to have a look at a certain element – immersion. One of the main aims of anime OSTs is to help bolster the feeling of immersion towards the show – the mood of the settings, the atmosphere of the scenes, or even the characters’ emotions – all these intangible emotional facets can be strengthened through music alone, creating a better sense of immersion.

For example, Aria, which features one of my most favorite soundtracks, bolsters the relaxing ambiance of it’s setting. While the world of Aria already feels magical and fantastical by itself, the music pulls you in further. In contrast, songs from anime like Death Note feel incredibly different – the tracks seem to spark off negativity, delivered through somber guitar chord progressions, mysterious melodies and creepy ethnic vocals. Most noteworthy however, are the pieces which play during intense psychological scenes where Light tries to outwit his opponents. Usually in such scenes, orchestrated pieces paired up with ethnic vocals are used, and when you add the timing of the rhythm and the animations – results in a dramatic effect, heightening the viewer’s sense of thrill and excitement. Indeed, who can forget that epic potato chip scene?

However, this is when both these soundtracks are matched hand-in-hand with their respective shows. What if we listen to them standalone?

Aria Akari
This is when subjectivity and personal circumstances come into play – affecting the quality of soundtracks when listening to them standalone. I find myself inclined more towards relaxing music; Aria‘s OSTs are definitely the main choice but a few more relaxing OSTs that I really like and listen to frequently comes from anime like Anohana, Hanasaku Iroha and Tamayura. This is another thing I find interesting, which deals with immersion: when I close my eyes and listen to these relaxing soundtracks, I can somehow, just somehow, feel myself inside their respective anime worlds. And that’s only through casual listening of their soundtracks without watching the anime. Aria‘s soundtrack is a particularly strong case in this regard. This sense of immersion is why I very much prefer relaxing soundtracks nowadays. After all, I don’t want to immerse myself in a psychological battle with Kira, nor to immerse myself in a fight against the titans, especially when just I want to relax.

Anime Fairy Tail
Aforementioned, personal circumstances also comes into play, and during very difficult and stressful moments when I want to strengthen my fighting spirit against said ordeals, I like listening to adrenaline-pumping rock songs. My favorite soundtrack to hear during these times would be Fairy Tail. Fairy Tail‘s folk/Celtic rock, in spite of being “heavy” songs, nonetheless contain melodies that inspire hope, accompanied with powerful electric guitar chord progressions that strengthen one’s fighting spirit and willpower. This is why I like Fairy Tail‘s music so much: aside from the unique fusion of Celtic/folk and rock, the general atmosphere of Fairy Tail‘s music really gives me a positive morale boost, or as Natsu always says, “I’m fired up!” Outside of anime, during these times, I also like listening to songs from a video game music composer: Daisuke Ishiwatari, who composed the music to Guilty Gear and Blazblue and stuffed them with hard rock and metal music.

Anime Piano
What do you usually listen to when listening to anime OSTs standalone? Do you consider the ability to listen to anime OSTs whether in context or out of context to be important?


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.

16 thoughts on “Listening to Anime OSTs Standalone

  • July 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I listen to anime-OSTs pretty regularly. Usually it’s some moment in an anime when I feel like the soundtrack is actually enhancing the experience of the story instead of just accompanying it, when I’m motivated to check out the soundtrack of that particular series. Guilty Crown’s soundtrack certainly was such a case. The series was kinda stupid but the good soundtrack still pulled me into the action from time to time and sold moments that had no right to have an impact in any other way.

    But, when I’m listening to such a soundtrack on its own, I actually don’t try to relive the anime’s setting or atmosphere through it. The soundtracks that only seem to be effective within the context of the series’ setting or its story don’t really stick with me. At least, that’s what it’s like for me.

    Instead, the anime-soundtracks that stick with me are those that tell a story of their own or at least seem to “live” in a particular setting, like for example the Spice & Wolf Soundtrack. For me personally, it’s important that the soundtrack seems to make a decision independent of the series it’s scoring for, so that it feels more like the interpretation of that series instead of “This is sad tune A for sad scene Y.”.

    • July 9, 2014 at 4:36 am

      Yes, that’s exactly my point. Sometimes, good OSTs can really enhance the atmosphere of the anime, be it thrill, relaxation or pure hot-boiled action scenes. Guilty Crown is indeed quite a difficult show to feel any love towards it, in fact, I think it’s a show with good visuals and music, accompanying with a bit too much disarrayed substance within. The music is good like you said, and indeed sold some moments which would initially not have much impact whatsoever.

      That’s actually an interesting thought to take account of. I seem to focus on the aspect of relieving he anime’s settings, atmosphere or relevant emotions through music that I haven’t thought of what interpretting “outside” of the anime’s settings the music could possibly bring to us in an emotional value. And now that when I think about it, I personally think some anime movies seem to take that direction with their OSTs you mentioned.

  • July 5, 2014 at 2:39 am

    The anime songs I listen to are mostly from OP and ED plus some insert songs. Nevertheless, there are still some anime OSTs that stick in my mind and I try to search for and listen to them independently from the anime.

    For that I find myself gravitating towards soundtracks that accompany epic moments in an anime series. For example, the song Madder Sky from Code Geass which never fails to make me feel elated yet sad at the same time every time I hear it. I’m also a sucker for soundtracks that evoke melancholy and profound feelings of sadness in me. An example would be the soundtrack in Jigoku Shoujo. Whenever I listen to it, the feelings just seep into every single pore of my soul, reliving the story of Ai Enma, the titular Hell Girl in my mind.

    For me, I don’t find the ability to listen to anime OSTs without the context of the anime series is very important. I find that most of the soundtracks I listen to portray significant and memorable moments in the anime series, or moments that evoke strong emotions. Therefore each time I listen to these tracks, I try to relieve the moment in the anime. There are some tracks that can transcend that barrier that I know off but I think without the connection with the anime series, the soundtrack will feel less meaningful or less satisfying to me. Much like how I think some anime OP and EDs that I think are awesome when I watch it in the show, but feels lacking when I just listen to the song by itself.

    • July 9, 2014 at 4:38 am

      Ahh yes, Madder Sky, one of the songs in Code Geass which just evokes so much different emotions at the same time^^ Admittedly, I haven’t watch Hell Girl, and indeed just like you, I don’t listen to OSTs from anime I haven’t watch, but I’ll probably get into it sometime soon.

      And indeed, I think we are in the same boat with this. I find connection with the songs and the anime itself a particularly important element. Without watching the anime, listening to the songs just feel less meaningful. For example, like the aforementioned Madder Sky we just discussed, without watching the anime, I’ll probably just comment “Oh, a random anime
      orchestrated piece that actually sounds pretty good”. Listening to the songs just somehow feel lacking without the emotional investment of the show. There is another similar example I could think of for a certain visual novel (and it’s actually an OP, with very sentimental lyrics relevant to the title’s context), but eh, I digress…

  • July 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    An interesting topic you’ve brought up here, Christopher.

    It’s obvious that every piece in the good OST should suite the scene it’s written for. Whether the good OST should be good as a stand-alone musical piece is not so trivial. For an example, Shinsekai Yori OST is pretty useless being separated from the anime itself, while Soukyuu no Fafner OST is magnificent as stand-alone.

    • July 9, 2014 at 4:39 am

      Indeed. There are actually quite a lot of anime I can think of with songs that ONLY make sense if I were to listen to them while in conjunction with watching the anime.

  • July 7, 2014 at 2:03 am

    My favorite OST to date is Chihayafuru. I played the entire album in my car for months after the first season aired. It’s a soothing and exciting piece of work. I also happen to like Fairy Tail’s BGM as well as most of its OP and ED songs. They reflect the energy and playfulness of the series very well, but I’m don’t like them as much as I like Chihayfuru’s. My current favorite is Pacific Rim’s soundtrack, but that’s not anime…

    Oddly, they don’t remind me of the series when I listen to the tracks. For me, they are just good music. Period.

    • July 9, 2014 at 4:41 am

      Actually, I have the same thoughts as you for the OSTs of some particular anime which I didn’t mention in my post. They likewise don’t remind me of anything from the anime itself, and the soundtracks just feel like simply good music. It’s still few and far in between, of cause, but I find that one genre of music which I generally have such views on is Jazz, and it is indeed few and far in between, considering the only jazzy anime OST albums I listen to (and watched respective anime) are Cowboy Bepop and Sakamichi no Apollon, and like you said, they are indeed good music. I know there are quite a number of Jazz re-arranged versions of some anime BGMs, in fact, I got quite a collection of them (I especially love my Studio Ghibli jazz re-arranged soundtracks) but then again, these aren’t really OSTs anymore right? (with extra emphasis on the “ORIGINAL” of the Original Soundtrack)

      • July 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

        Lupin the Third has tons of jazzy OSTs’; o.k., most are rearrangements of the same tunes, but I listen very often to those Yujii Ohno albums, I especially like the ‘Bossa Nova’ ones…

      • July 13, 2014 at 8:12 pm

        Thanks, I’ll have a look soon.

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  • August 1, 2014 at 5:42 am

    I wouldn’t say that it’s /necessary/ for an anime soundtrack to be good for standalone listening. If it were necessary, there would surely be many more high-quality scores released every season. Your typical soundtrack will do immersion just fine (see most Hollywood scores these days) while being downright boring musically, but it does the job at the minimum level.

    However, I am horribly sick of being told that “the soundtrack shouldn’t be the center of attention. A soundtrack is made for the media it goes along with. Promoting immersion is all it should do and as long as it does that you shouldn’t complain about it”. This is not true, A great soundtrack will add poignancy, baddasery, you name it. When you watch a scene or a character that’s accompanied by a great standalone soundtrack, you’ll think back with that music in mind and it’ll enhance the experience. Think of those grand battle scenes in Lord of the Rings, or Darth Vader’s characteristic march, or the symphony of rebirth at the end of Princess Mononoke… you get the idea.

    Frequently, I find that the very best soundtracks will have a distinctive personality that distinguishes them from other soundtracks. This can take the form of motifs that appear throughout the soundtrack, a recurrent theme, or maybe an instrument or ethnic influence that’s used throughout. Not only does this make it great for standalone listen, it ties the soundtrack to its respective media, enhancing its “identity”, you could say.

    Nevertheless, I’ve found that watching an anime is almost guaranteed to increase my appreciation for the soundtrack, especially if the soundtrack has some quality to begin with. I’ve even started making a point to not watch an anime until after i listen to the soundtrack to prevent unfair biasing of my opinion of the music. I suppose this is why I ended up an AniInst staffer 🙂

    • August 3, 2014 at 5:47 am

      Yes, but this does make for an ironic situation where it’s pretty much synonymous to listen to it only together with the anime, and listening to them standalone becomes a poorer experience.

      Hmm.. interesting situation. I actually also found some anime reviews which usually act pretty ignorant with their opinions on the music aspects of said shows, and commented on them very vaguely. I don’t know, but it just seems that in most cases I found, they just don’t really care much about the music? I seem to get that assumption reading their reviews.

      Yea, actually, what you said reminds me of Garden of Words, which I believe is exactly the case. Because the anime movie is quite close to a “silent film”, the background music is mostly filled with mellow piano pieces; and only piano, without any other instruments. It seems to enhance the idea of a “silent film”.

      Lol, that’s interesting. In my case, I prefer to watch the anime first, experience the soundtracks, and only then do I listen to them. Pretty much the same applies to other media.

      • August 4, 2014 at 5:04 am

        It’s funny that the topic of music direction seems to be a topic most if not all film critics seem to ignore entirely. It’s a pity they’re missing out on something important.

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I’m not doing things the right way, since the music is being written for the media and all… oh well.

  • March 16, 2016 at 1:47 am

    I always listen it standalone. If you can’t listen to music out of context of anime, then music is piece of shit for shiteaters (majority of people).

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