People’s Choice Top 20 Anime Composers… of all time!

After much delay since we did our broadcast of the People’s Choice Top 20 Anime Composers Awards, here’s the post in text form with all of the bells and whistles and the music clips that we weren’t able to host on Youtube.

So if you remember, back in November, we put a poll together asking for your top 10 anime composers of all time. You all voted, we were able to pull in over 100 votes, and here’s how the rankings tallied out.

So in this edition of the Anime Instrumentality Live Show, our writers got together to talk about your favorite anime composers, figuring out why you liked who you liked. The commentary did get a bit carried away at times, but me, Yu, and Pointblanket went through to discuss the list in brief detail. You can check out the live show below. Do note that I did make a mistake: Tatsuya Katou did not score Rinne no Lagrange. I was thinking of Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. 😛

If you just want to see the results panned out, here are the People’s picks along with some anime soundtracks and tracks that we think are representative of the composer:

Number Composer
1 Yoko Kanno
2 Yuki Kajiura
3 Hiroyuki Sawano
4 Joe Hisaishi
5 Taku Iwasaki
6 Michiru Oshima
7 Jun Maeda
8 Kenji Kawai
9 Yoshihisa Hirano
10 Satoru Kousaki
11 Susumu Hirasawa
12 Toshihiko Sahashi
13 Shiro Sagisu
14 Yasuharu Takanashi
15 Yuuki Hayashi
16 Makoto Yoshimori
17 Tatsuya Katou
18 Shigeharu Sasago
19 Tenmon
20 (tie) Nujabes
20 (tie) Shinji Orito

Composer blurb by last name:

Yuuki Hayashi – A fairly new composer. Also pretty young, so the soundtracks that he has under his belt is already pretty impressive. His earliest work was for Robotic;Notes which featured some inspiring melodies, and he’s only grown stronger, especially with the stuff he’s written for Death Parade.

Death Parade – Moonlit Night

[audio:Death Parade – Moonlit Night.mp3]

Yoshihisa Hirano – We’ve talked about him in the previous post when we went over our Top 10s. His orchestral soundtracks really stand out strongly and his classical music background really shines in his soundtrack to Ouran High School Host Club.

Ouran High School Host Club – Sinfonietta C-dur

[audio:Ouran – Sinfonietta C-dur.mp3]

Susumu Hirasawa – Known for his weird-sounding soundtracks that combines many diverse genres ranging from electronica to experimental and progressive rock where he throws psychedelic melodies wildly, making it a wonder to behold. His work in conjunction with Satoshi Kon’s movies are where he’s made his mark in the anime realm. Well-known for his music to Paprika and Berserk.

Paprika – The Girl in Byakkoya – White Tiger Field

[audio:Paprika – The Girl in Byakkoya – White Tiger Field.mp3]

Joe Hisaishi – 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. Here’s something from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Helping At The Bakery

[audio:Kiki’s Delivery Service – Helping At The Bakery.mp3]

Taku Iwasaki – Solid through and through and people are still discovering how awesome he is as a composer. Probably best known for some pretty epic soundtracks, particularly those for Gurren Lagaan, Gatchaman Crowds, and the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs.

Kenshin Seisouhen – The Duel in the Name of Love

[audio:Kenshin Seisouhen – The Duel in the Name of Love.mp3]

Yuki Kajiura – An icon in the realm of anime music who got on people’s radar with the soundtrack for Noir. Her compositions for anime like Madoka Magica, Kara no Kyoukai, and Sword Art Online. We’ll put in something from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle since that’s always been looked upon highly.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle – a song of storm and fire

[audio:Tsubasa – a song of storm and fire.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 as well as beautiful stuff for Macross. A versatile composer who can also whip up excellent pop music, again, evidenced in the stuff she does for Macross.

Turn a Gundam – Final Shore

[audio:Turn a Gundam – Final Shore.mp3]

Tatsuya Katou – May have had an unfavorable start, but has since grown into his role as a composer, doing a serviceable job in capturing the heat of the swimming competitions, particularly in Free. Don’t count him out in Shougeki no Soma either!

Shougeki no Soma – Meat Sonata

[audio:Shougeki no Soma – Meat Sonata.mp3]

Kenji Kawai – Very much a notable composer who’s made his mark since the early days with the original Ghost in the Shell movie but also works like Maison Ikkoku and Fate/Stay Night. I like his more recent work on Barakamon.

Barakamon – Shima no Kodomo Naru

[audio:Barakamon – Shima no Kodomo Naru.mp3]

Satoru Kousaki – His minimalistic works are a very good match with the shows that he composes music for, particularly his work on Star Driver and Bakemonogatari. However, don’t count him out for pop music since he’s very adept in that genre, writing “Hare Hare Yuukai” for the Haruhi series.

Bakemonogatari – jinchiku

[audio:Bakemonogatari – jinchiku.mp3]

Jun Maeda – His music, like his writing, tend to be simple but touching. And 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. Just don’t listen to his stuff for Girls Dead Monster from Angel Beats.

CLANNAD – Nagisa

[audio:CLANNAD – Nagisa.mp3]

Nujabes – Knows his way around R&B, hip hop, and jazz though his work was cut short by his untimely death 5 years ago. A shame since his best known work in the anime realm is the excellent soundtrack to Samurai Champloo.

Samurai Champloo – transcendence

[audio:Champloo – transcendence.mp3]

Shinji Orito – Alongside composer Jun Maeda, the two have composed quite a few pieces for Key Visual Arts. While Maeda is more of the melodic person, Orito does well in sculpting the atmosphere through his music, especially in Kanon.

Kanon – Yakusoku

[audio:Kanon – yakusoku.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! We’ll feature another solid vocal piece in Sora no Woto.

Sora no Woto – Une lumiere envoutante

[audio:Sora no Woto – Une lumiere envoutante.mp3]

Shiro Sagisu – Is very much notable for his works in conjunction with Gainax. You know, stuff like Neon Genesis Evangelion? Some of his later works branch out into stuff that’s fairly epic and he delivers that pretty strongly in his music to the Berserk films.

Evangelion – Angel Attack

[audio:Evangelion – Angel-attack.mp3]

Toshihiko Sahashi – A solid orchestral composer, one whose melodies fit the mood for whatever show he scores. He’s got solid music for Gundam SEED and Full Metal Panic but his best work is in the memorable Simoun score, one that warrants some very high praise.

Simoun – Josei Kokka Dai Yon Gakushou – Josei Kokka Kakuritsu

[audio:Simoun – Josei Kokka Dai Yon Gakushou – Josei Kokka Kakuritsu.mp3]

Shigeharu Sasago – His relaxing fare with the Choro Club features well 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.

ARIA the Animation – AQUA

[audio:ARIA the Animation – AQUA.mp3]

Hiroyuki Sawano – Big, bold, and maybe over-the-top, but there’s no denying the power his music brings to the anime he’s featured on. You’ll know him for his titanic work on Attack on Titan, but his earlier works are worth a look, especially Gigantic Formula.

Gigantic Formula – MAIN THEME (ver. 0)

[audio:Gigantic Formula – MAIN THEME (ver. 0).mp3]

Yasuharu Takanashi – An eclectic composer who does really well in capturing the mood of the anime, whether it’s the badass Celtic themes in Fairy Tail or the darker horror themes in Shiki and Hell Girl.

Shiki – Epitaph

[audio:Shiki – Epitaph.mp3]

Tenmon – His work with Makoto Shinkai is very well-known, given the music he’s written for 5 cm/sec remains one of his most exquisite soundtracks. Limiting yourself to just the Shinkai collaborations would mean missing out on his music for ef, music which is equally solid.

ef – a tale of melodies – A Moon Filled Sky

[audio:ef – a tale of melodies – A Moon Filled Sky.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.

Kuragehime – Yugatairo no omoide ni

[audio:Kuragehime – Yugatairo no omoide ni.mp3]

We’ll probably do a followup post for people who like stats. Mostly because I’m someone who’s into that sort of thing.


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.

9 thoughts on “People’s Choice Top 20 Anime Composers… of all time!

  • January 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

    >3. Hiroyuki Sawano
    >4. Joe Hisaishi

    This is why good anime music will eventually be a thing of the past.

    • January 6, 2016 at 12:29 am

      I fear that the big brash Hollywood-type sound is infecting anime as well. Hopefully it’ll be contained to just Sawano and that none of the other composers have to resort to that just to find work.

      Man, whatever happened to nuanced music that doesn’t get in your face? 😛

  • January 5, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I would like to see hideki taniuchi in this top 20, he did a great work in death note songs.

    • January 6, 2016 at 12:28 am

      Hideki Taniuchi’s collaborations with Hirano do deserve a mention because they’re pretty solid on the whole and the two complement each other well.

      And in case you’re wondering, Taniuchi placed 79th on the rankings. He managed to get two votes though!

  • January 31, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Love the article and love that samples are provided of each composer’s work. I severely underestimated a few of the composers in here.
    Side note though, Shiro Sagisu is not in the blurb/audio sample section.

    • February 9, 2016 at 2:00 am

      Thanks for catching that! I’ve added Sagisu to the list at the bottom section. And yeah, there were a few surprises within the People’s Choices. Like Nujabes being ranked so low!

  • April 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I’m a little disappointed with Kajiura being in second while Michiru didn’t even got into top 5. Kajiura can make some really good works, but most of them are just remixes of other works she made. Swordland (from SAO) and You Are My King (from Fate/Zero) are good examples of this. I love the melody, but they are the same melodies from two works that are totally different in every way possible and this happens with a lot of her works.
    Besides that, her work in Erased is top notch, really different from almost everything she did and shows that she’s trying to change the same old patterns.

  • October 25, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    I’m thinking of Go Shiina cuz he’s so good in kyousougiga, tales of zestiria, god eater. I’m a fan of itou masumi and shikata akiko. But speaking of anime composers, I’ll say elements garden and MONACA. I especially love fujima hitoshi from elements garden, his work for owari no seraph ED and musics for le grisaia series is breathtaking. I wonder why no one mentions these names. maybe they’re too new lol

  • June 24, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    Um, where’s Kōhei Tanaka? Even if you haven’t seen the less popular stuff he’s worked on, how can you forget One Piece and G Gundam?
    Also the likes of Kō Ōtani, Hayato Matsuo, etc?


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