Our Top 10 Anime Composers… of all time!

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:

Number zzeroparticle Yu Pointblanket
1 Joe Hisaishi Joe Hisaishi Yoko Kanno
2 Michiru Oshima Toshihiko Sahashi Joe Hisaishi
3 Yoko Kanno Yoshihisa Hirano Taku Iwasaki
4 Kousuke Yamashita Michiru Oshima Yuki Kajiura
5 Yoshihisa Hirano Taku Iwasaki Michiru Oshima
6 Toshihiko Sahashi Yuuji Nomi Makoto Yoshimori
7 Taku Iwasaki Kousuke Yamashita Kousuke Yamashita
8 Shigeharu Sasago Ken Muramatsu Hiromi Mizutani
9 Tsuneyoshi Saito Tsuneyoshi Saito Jun Maeda
10 Yuki Kajiura Yoko Kanno Masumi Ito

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!


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.

13 thoughts on “Our Top 10 Anime Composers… of all time!

  • November 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    No shoutouts for maestros Masamichi Amano and Naoki Sato?

    Amano’s resume doesn’t feature many high-profile titles, but his scores for the OVA Giant Robo, OAV Super Atragon and shows such as Princess Nine all showcase his flare and the magic he can conjure when working with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Sato’s writing style is more simplistic and feature influences from Hollywood blockbuster scores such as Hans Zimmer’s King Arthur, Prince of Egypt and Lion King, but his work for Eureka Seven, Sword of the Stranger, Stand by Me Doraemon and Assassination Classroom were all diverse in styles and very energetic.

    Also, I’ve come to know and respect Toshihiko Sahashi from his work for Gundam SEED and SEED Destiny, especially his partnership with London Symphony Orchestra in producing three top-of-the-line albums for the former two series and the 30 anniversary.

    • November 29, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Giant Robo was pretty spectacular and gets a lot of listens from me even now. Amazing orchestrator indeed and I just wished he wrote more. Quantity is important (at least, based on my biased criteria).

      Sato is pretty solid and diverse. I’m not sure whether I’m a big fan of his non-orchestral tracks. Hard to deny how amazing some tracks like Nirvash Type 0 can be!

  • November 25, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Ummm.. Not even one of you mentioned Tsuneo Imahori.. How can you even forget the those funky beats from Trigun and that emotional score of Ippo.

    • November 29, 2015 at 2:03 am

      Imahori had a strong place in my Honorable Mention list, though I’m not familiar with Ippo!

    • November 29, 2015 at 11:10 am

      One area I did consider was how much they’ve done (a reason Ken Muramatsu didn’t make my list). Imahori just hasn’t touched too many OSTs that have entered my radar. Perhaps time to dig deeper!

  • November 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    No Hiroyuki Sawano or Shiro Sagisu? Sawano’s can be quite grand and rockin’ at the same time, and also sombre and touching to invoke sadness and hope. Gundam U.C, Kill la Kill, Sengoku Basara, Attack on Titan, Seven Deadly Sins, Aldnoah.Zero

    Sagisu has done Megazone23, Kimagure Orange Road, Black Bullet, Bleach, Attack on Titan live movie, and most importantly Evangelion. He can do haunting and intimidating music quite well!

    • November 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Yup. Neither of those composers would get into my list now, what with the exposure I’ve had to other composers to push them out.

      If I made a list of Top 10 anime composers rather than merely listing my favorites, those two are shoo-ins. Easily.

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  • December 23, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Sinfonia on the Battlefield must have been inspired by Vivaldi’s Winter. Yoshihisa Hirano is always a joy to listen to.

    • December 24, 2015 at 12:18 am

      Hirano knows how to deliver a wonderful classical sound that’s well-suited for the anime he scores without overdoing it. Well, except maybe in Ouran’s case where the exaggeration made for a nice touch! šŸ™‚

  • January 1, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Hi, love your reviews! Could anyone recommend a good store (online) to purchase anime soundtracks from for people who don’t live in Japan? I ask because when I check on Amazon, they list them expensively as imports for $50 – $200. Thanks!


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