Anime Instrumentality at Anime Expo – A Panel on Music and Its Impact on Notable Scenes

Last year saw me attempt to run an Anime Expo panel that focused on Yuki Kajiura’s music. It was my first time running a panel at a major convention and overall, things turned out OK aside from some technical glitches in the video. Either way, it was a good learning experience and I did get plenty of feedback that I was able to apply to this year’s presentation.

This year, I managed to bring Yu into the mix of it to help me out and, together, we decided to focus on a more general topic dealing with music and the role it plays in some notable and memorable scenes. The presentation was geared so that it was more accessible to anime fans. That is, we weren’t going to go all-out and pull something from a relatively obscure show like One Outs (which has one of the most underrated soundtracks ever!) and so, ended up picking titles that people had a chance to recognize (Death Note and Ouran High School Host Club, for example).

So even though it was the last day of the convention and was held in the afternoon, we still managed to get a sizable audience and were pleased by that prospect. With that, the presentation got underway where we opened off with this piece as people were filtering into the room, filling it up:

Princess Mononoke – The Legend Of Ashitaka Theme

[audio:Princess Mononoke – The Legend Of Ashitaka Theme.mp3]

What follows is the presentation and my written commentary. Do note that we did show actual video clips from the anime we selected, but due to the room layout, we weren’t able to include them in this recording:

So in this first bit, we introduced ourselves and talk a bit about the role anime music plays in the anime viewing experience and in short, we see it as an experience enhancer. It’s a tool that serves well in accentuating the visual experience by capturing a character’s state of mind, their emotions, or their personality, depicting a setting with broad strokes, or immersing us into the thrill the action provides.

After that, we moved into a discussion of music’s role in sculpting the setting and drew examples from Summer Wars’ soft, synthy music to describe OZ, Romeo x Juliet’s depiction of a busy cityscape through the layering of instruments, and Ouran High School Host Club, with its use of borderline-pretentious classical music to illustrate rich people doing rich things in rich ways.

Tracks used:

Summer Wars – Cyber City OZ

Romeo x Juliet – Neo Verona

Ouran High School Host Club – Sinfonietta C-dur

Music, of course, also plays a major role in developing the action on screen. Better yet, there’s a lot of leeway that goes into depicting the scene, ranging from epic orchestral swells and grand choruses to more tragic-sounding themes. In this segment, we talked about Kajiura’s ability to sculpt a beautiful scene through Kara no Kyoukai’s music, Taku Iwasaki’s mix of electric guitar and orchestrals to create a badass moment in Witch Hunter Robin, his magic in combining orchestrals and rap for the battle between the Spiral King’s generals and the Dai-Gurren Brigade in Gurren Lagaan, and the sobering, tragedy inherent in Gunslinger Girl’s music used in the action scenes.

Tracks used:

Kara no Kyoukai – M12+M13

Witch Hunter Robin – Flame

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan – Rap wa Kan no Tamashii da! (Short Start Edit)

Gunslinger Girl – TEMA IV

Finally, while the music used in setting and action scenes only form components of an anime, a point we made was that music can be used to encompass the tone and mood of a series as a whole. To that end, we touched upon DEPAPEPE’s work on Honey and Clover and how their slow guitar melody captures the twists and turns that life throws at you, the excitement of creating not just bread, but a wonderful work of art in Yakitate!! Japan, the exaggerated tones of horror and doom to depict the cat and mouse situation that Light and L find themselves in in Death Note (we took the infamous potato chip scene for this example), the sorrow and tragedy that forms the foundation for Ed and Al’s journey in Fullmetal Alchemist, depicted in “Brothers,” sung in Russian, and finally, the feeling of regrets channeled through 5 Centimeters Per Second’s “One More Time, One More Chance.”

Tracks used:

Honey and Clover II – Pastel Street

Yakitate!! Japan – Yakitate!! Japan

Death Note – Low of Solipsism

Fullmetal Alchemist – Brothers

5 Centimeters Per Second – One More Time, One More Chance

All told, this year’s presentation went much better than last year’s (increasing confidence and a little help goes a long way) and it was well-received by the people who came up to talk to us afterwards. That said, we didn’t get much feedback in how to improve the presentation. Think ARIA should have made the cut somewhere at the expense of another series? Is there enough material here for a podcast? If you were there or somehow watched all the videos posted above and have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them!


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.

5 thoughts on “Anime Instrumentality at Anime Expo – A Panel on Music and Its Impact on Notable Scenes

  • July 9, 2012 at 12:27 am

    I still think one of the best uses of music was the ending of the Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion series (second season). The music for the montage at the end……amazing.

    Also, Elfen Lied? No mention of that? Nor Cowboy Bebop? No Gundam (which usually has great music, though the last series I didn’t see)?

    Another good use of music and stuff was I think Episode 21 of RahXephon where the girl is dying while fighting the main character’s avatar and she is trying to tell him she loves him. or Heroic Age? That had some great symphonic scores in it.

    I’ve seen Gurren Lagaan and the music didn’t do anything for me. The whole series didn’t really do anything for me. I haven’t seen Witch Hunter Robin in years. Don’t remember. Princess Mononoke, that is sorta like pointing out music like John Williams does. Of course the music is good…’s Joe Hisaishi…..sort of the John Williams of Anime music. I guess Yoko Kanno would be up there too…

    • July 9, 2012 at 12:50 am

      Do keep in mind the time constraints we were up against. Given the chance, a lecture that gives a good overview of what anime music has to offer can go on for 3 hours easily. Convention schedules, being what they are, would not have allowed us to do a 3-hour presentation.

      Bebop certainly was under consideration, but ended up getting edged out by others that we wanted to cover. Same goes for all the series you’ve listed =P

  • July 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    It was a really good panel ^_^ Thanks for putting it together! I look forward to your next one, whenever that may be.

    • July 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks! It was a lot of fun digging through all those anime clips just to find the songs that we were planning on showing for the panel but it paid off since the audience did look pretty engaged. I do think this will become a yearly tradition from here on out though it’ll be tough thinking up of new material to cover. We’ll come up with something though!

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