At the start of the month, we put a poll together asking for your top 10 anime composers of all time. And now, we’re exactly a week from when the poll is set to expire. If you haven’t gotten around to doing so, you have one more week to go if you want to get your favorite anime composers tallied into the system!
Because we didn’t want to leave ourselves out of the poll, our writers got together to talk about our favorite anime composers, launching our Anime Music Live Show in the process. So in the inaugural episode of the Anime Instrumentality Live Show, me, Yu, and Pointblanket go through and talk about our favorite anime composers and why we enjoyed them so much. You can check out the live show below.
But if you just want to see how we ranked things, here are our picks along with some anime soundtracks and tracks that particularly resonated with us:
Composer blurb by last name:
Yoshihisa Hirano – Most known for his orchestral soundtracks that reflect his classical music education at Juilliard, delivering the silly elegance of Ouran High School Host Club and the grim “O Fortuna” sounds for Death Note.
Break Blade – Sinfonia on the Battlefield[audio:Sinfonia on the Battlefield.mp3]
Joe Hisaishi – People should know him, but if they don’t, he’s the one behind many a Miyazaki film soundtrack. Works too numerous to mention, but highlights include Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Spirited Away – One Summer Day[audio:Spirited Away – One Summer Day.mp3]
Masumi Ito – Known for a high-pitched singing voice but is also quite a formidable composer, with works like Canaan, Chrono Crusade, and my personal favorite: Bungaku Shoujo.
Bungaku Shoujo – Sorezore no Asa[audio:Bungaku Shoujo – Sorezore no Asa.mp3]
Taku Iwasaki – Always willing to experiment with new styles, from classical to jazz in the older days to dubstep nowadays. Probably best known for some pretty epic soundtracks, particularly those for Gurren Lagaan, Gatchaman Crowds, and the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs.
Oban Star Racers – Aikka’s Theme[audio:Oban Star Racers – Aikka’s Theme.mp3]
Yuki Kajiura – You should know who she is if you’ve touched the anime music scene with any depth at all. Got on people’s radar with the soundtrack for Noir, went on to write music for the J-pop group Kalafina, and is widely known for scores to anime like Madoka Magica, Kara no Kyoukai, and Sword Art Online.
My-Hime – Himeboshi[audio:My-Hime – Himeboshi.mp3]
Yoko Kanno – Most people know her for her works on Cowboy Bebop, but she’s done some fine work with orchestral scores to anime like Escaflowne and electronica in Ghost in the Shell. A versatile composer who can also whip up excellent pop music, especially when paired with Maaya Sakamoto.
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex – Inner Universe[audio:Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex – Inner Universe.mp3]
Jun Maeda – His music, like his writing, tend to be simple but touching. And definitely genuine. That trait has served him well working at Key Visual Arts where he’s written the stories and composed music for Air, Kanon, and Clannad and threw some stuff into Angel Beats for good measure.
Air – Natsukage[audio:Air – Natsukage.mp3]
Hiromi Mizutani – A good composer to listen to if you’re looking to relax, most notably in the soundtrack to Non Non Biyori. Although he’s written music to Sunday Without God, Non Non Biyori is his biggest masterpiece.
Non Non Biyori – Sunny Road[audio:Non Non Biyori – Sunny Road.mp3]
Ken Muramatsu – Light piano and jazz serve as his trademark. Though his anime scores are few and far in between, they’re certainly worth listening to. Check out Kurenai and Sketchbook ~Full Colors~ for the blend of lightness coupled with some traditional Japanese fare.
Kurenai – Suiheisen no Mukou ni[audio:Kurenai – Suiheisen no Mukou ni.mp3]
Yuuji Nomi – His lesser-known soundtracks were for two equally lesser-known Ghibli films: Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns (the latter has a killer theme). However, he’s also done pretty decent work on the puckish Nichijou with its strong melody. A shame the tracks aren’t longer.
The Cat Returns – Baron[audio:rt1 – Baron.mp3]
Michiru Oshima – A veritable giant, even if not as well-known as some of the big-name composers. She does orchestral and melancholy and does it well, most notably in Fullmetal Alchemist. But don’t forget: she’s also done some amazing violin and piano music for Zetsuen no Tempest, Tatami Galaxy, and even Little Witch Academia!
Tatami Galaxy – Watashi no Theme (Piano ver.)[audio:Tatami Galaxy – Watashi no Theme (Piano ver.).mp3]
Toshihiko Sahashi – A solid orchestral composer, one whose melodies fit the mood for whatever show he scores. The Italian setting comes to life in Gunslinger Girl‘s soundtrack but he arguably outdoes himself in the memorable Simoun score, one that warrants some very high praise.
Gunslinger Girl – TEMA IV[audio:Gunslinger Girl – TEMA IV.mp3]
Tsuneyoshi Saito – Mostly known for the Fafner series of soundtracks, but has also done work for Dennou Coil and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia. We mostly adore the piano concertos he sprinkles in his soundtracks and he’s one of the few composers to touch upon that genre.
Fafner in the Azure – -SHOKO-[audio:Fafner in the Azure – -SHOKO-.mp3]
Shigeharu Sasago – Mostly for his work with the Choro Club, a group that does laid-back music in fine form for shows like ARIA the Animation (the franchise really) and the relaxing Yokohama Kidaishi Kikou ~Quiet Country Cafe~. But this composer has also worked with the band ko-ko-ya, whose equally relaxing fare surfaces in Ristorante Paradiso and Croisee in the Labyrinth.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou – Cafe Alpha – Main Theme Orchestration[audio:Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou – Cafe Alpha – Main Theme Orchestration.mp3]
Kousuke Yamashita – Our love for him really hit a high with the jaw-dropping Chihayafuru soundtrack, whose main theme just captures the anime so well. Digging into the past, you’ll also find some equally enjoyable soundtracks for Glass Fleet and Shion no Ou. The latter showcases tension really nicely.
Chihayafuru – Chihayafuru Main Theme.mp3[audio:07.Chihayafuru Main Theme.mp3]
Makoto Yoshimori – The Mr. Weird of anime music since his tendencies to add weird noises and sounds to his soundtracks can be off-putting. But look past that and you’ll find some very heartwarming melodies for the heartwarming Natsume Yuujinchou. His music for Kuragehime and Durarara are noteworthy too, so don’t miss out on those.
Natsume Yuujinchou – Kimi ga Yobu Namae ~Natsume Yuujinchou no Theme~[audio:Natsume Yuujinchou – Kimi ga Yobu Namae ~Natsume Yuujinchou no Theme~.mp3]
That’s all we’ve got! Once again, you have about a week to submit your polls and have your votes be counted for the People’s Choice awards!