Poll: Who are Your Top 10 Anime Composers? (2015 edition)

5 years ago, we were curious about what people thought about anime music. More specifically, we wanted to know what people thought of the people behind the music in anime, the composers who toiled in obscurity to deliver moods that heighten the emotions on screen. We wanted to know that of those composers, which ones you all loved most by letting us know and rank-ordering your favorites.

Well, you all responded, and how! We received an overwhelming number of responses that encompassed over 90 anime composers. When the dust cleared, the top 5 anime composers based on point totals were Yuki Kajiura, Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisaishi, Taku Iwasaki, and Kenji Kawai.

So do these selections represent a bygone era? Since then, the anime music landscape has changed significantly. A new crop of composers who were on the bubble back then have risen to become rousing successes. Other composers who dabbled in the medium dropped out, never to be heard from again. There still are veterans who continue to explore, experiment, or stick to their guns, but still write soundtracks that capture the attention of anime fans both old and new. And we want to know who your favorites are.

So here’s how this works. We’ve set up a poll accessible here or below this post. Your job will be to write in a minimum of 3 but up to 10 of your favorite anime composers. When I say anime composers, I mean any composer who’s written any music for anime (including OPs/EDs/insert songs). In terms of who you select, the extent to which you enjoy their music is the primary criterion for your list. You can also consider other things like their quantity of work they’ve done, but when you put together your list, rank order them from your favorite to tenth favorite. Easy enough. You’re also welcome to comment in this post by indicating who you chose, why, and which of their soundtracks you really really liked.

Lastly, do try to come up with ten. I specifically stress the word try, because it’s perfectly OK if you aren’t able to come up with that many. If you’re stuck, it does help to look through some of your favorite shows and see who composed their music. That’s totally fine.

Yes, I will use the results for an upcoming project and I realize that this method will not yield an objective measurement of who exactly are the ten best anime composers out there. But the results should be interesting either way. Do fill this out by December 1, 2015. I’ll be scattering reminders every so often!


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.

30 thoughts on “Poll: Who are Your Top 10 Anime Composers? (2015 edition)

  • November 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    What fun! I put in my top three anime composer favorites. We’ll have to see how much that list has changed since 5 years ago. 😃

    • November 2, 2015 at 1:25 am

      I’m already predicting 2 new names entering the list for this year. I’d be surprised if there’s more, but you never know!

  • November 1, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Oh, fun idea! However, I started listening (as opposed to just “hearing”) anime music quite recently, and I quite often discover “new” things from ages ago ; I’m therefore going to fill this with artists in my “most played” list even if some of them come from well before 5 years ago. We’ll see how that goes!

  • November 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    @zzeroparticle: I just noticed that your top 3 from five years ago is the same as my top 3 today. Have any of those changed? :p

    • November 1, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      I’m planning to get the Anime Inst staff together to do a live show where we’ll reveal our Top 10. So you’ll have to wait and see!

  • November 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I can’t get over Michiru Oshima (Blast of Tempest, Snow White with the Red Hair, Rokka). I think she does incredible work that has a noticeable enhancing effect on the shows she composes for.

    • November 1, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I wasn’t aware she did all those shows, but I loved what she did with FMA and Little Witch Academia. Going to look into her!

    • November 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      My favorite anime composer. It’s amazing that even after two decades she’s still getting better and better.

    • November 8, 2015 at 1:38 am

      Also my favorite! There’s something about Ooshima’s soundtracks that are so stirring and emotional – she’s done amazing dramatic tracks, but her quieter, slower and melancholy ones have even more impact. I discovered her first through FMA, and I was struck by how much better the soundtrack was than Brotherhood, which I watched before the 2003 anime. Then I noticed how amazing Nabari no Ou’s soundtrack was – it was the only thing part of the anime that made me feel anything towards series the end and basically saved it from total mediocrity. Zetsuen no Tempest was one of my favorite overall soundtracks, although my favorite tracks are the variations of Brother and Rakuyou from FMA. I loved how different Akagami no Shirayukihime was from Zetsuen no Tempest. I haven’t listened to all of Ooshima’s soundtracks to be fair (I’ve probably listened to Sawano’s/Kajiura’s a lot more), but now I would gladly watch a series just because she’s composing for it.

  • November 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Yuki Kajiura forever!!! Her music is so awesome, whether it’s with an anime or her two groups, Kalafina & FictionJunction. My personal favorite anime OST she did would probably be PandoraHearts, with Fate/Zero being a close second.

  • November 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Here are mine:
    1) Kajiura Yuki – my earliest favorite, and will always be mah #1. Love that signature music~
    2) Sawano Hiroyuki – music is so chuuni and easy to recognize; love it–esp the prominent loudness of drums
    3) Kanno Yoko – love the variety; pretty relaxing oftentimes and maybe hipster-ish but undeniably cool!
    4) KOKIA – so heavenly to my ears~ I can never get enough of her music
    5) Maeda Jun – melodramatic and just right for my FEELS
    6) Hayashi Yuuki – A bit less melodramatic version of Maeda Jun but a bit modern in taste
    7) DEPAPEPE – acoustic guitar finesse
    8) supercell/ryo – satisfies my Vocaloid cravings; cool Jrock #brand
    9) Shikata Akiko – similar to KOKIA, but her music is bit more fantastical
    10) KOTOKO – Best Jpop

    • November 2, 2015 at 1:28 am

      Flagging this comment for awesomeness. I particularly like your description for Sawano. That’s just so true to the core of his music.

  • November 1, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Hello there, everybody. I thought I should share my favourites which I was determinating for more than 20 years.

    Please, add points yourself, zzeroparticle, mate. Because it’s not like 1-2-3-4-5… You will understand from my message.

    My top 20 anime (and not only anime) composers of all time:

    1) Yoko Kanno
    2) Joe Hisaishi (Fujisawa Mamoru)

    3rd place:

    3) Sugiyama Takuo
    4) Noriyuki Asakura
    5) Kawaii Kenji
    6) Taku Iwasaki
    7) Taro Iwashiro
    8) Susuma Hirasawa
    9) Ko Otani

    4th place:
    10) Jun Maeda
    11) Shinji Orito
    12) OdiakeS
    13) Toshiro Masuda
    14) Tsuneo Imahor
    15) Takayuki Hattor
    16) Kajiura Yuki
    17) Hidetoshi Sato
    18) Tsutchie
    19) Nujabes
    20) Naoki Sato

    My other 15 top “anime composers” of all time:

    1) Jonathan Sebastian Bach
    2) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    3) Ludwig van Beethoven
    4) Sergey Rachmaninov
    5) Frederic Chopin
    6) Pyotr Chaikovskiy
    7) Grigoriy Sviridov
    8) Dmitriy Shostakovich
    9) Antonio Vivaldi
    10) Edvard Grieg
    11) Jean Sibelius
    12) Igor Stravinsky
    13) Franz Peter Schubert
    14) Richard Strauss
    15) Johannes Brahms

      • November 2, 2015 at 1:36 am

        Nice irony. I can’t edit message, so if you can, please, correct misprints and add some missing letters.

      • November 2, 2015 at 2:24 am

        Or actually it wasn’t very nice joke from you. Not pleasant at all. Just delete my messages, if all you want to do is to make jokes about my not perfect english and showing disrespect by that. My gratitude. Wanted to share esteem, even wanted to write about every of composers… But after such message, no. Fuck it. Better to leave all it just for yourself, as usual.

      • November 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

        Huh? I don’t think he was making fun of your English, just commenting on his surprise that Mahler didn’t make your list of classical composers 🙂

        The “I wa shock” was a play on the line from this great song (You wa SHOCK!):

      • November 2, 2015 at 5:40 pm

        Oh… Thank you for allusion, I didn’t knew such “meme” exist. Well, now I know.
        So, yeah, probably I overreacted a bit. Just in the very bad mood. Fucking depression :/ But it just coincided so well. Anyway need to edit and fix those missing “i” letters.

      • November 2, 2015 at 8:10 pm

        So, about Gustav Mahler, to say the truth I haven’t heard many of his compositions. Well, of course I heard some of his great compositions in, for example, “Legend of the Galactic Heroes” and “Nodame Cantabile” and some other non-anime stuff. But I never heard much of his music separately. Yeah, probably I need to fix it. Will do in nearest future. Downloaded some of his music right now. At the moment these are my favourites, I probably listened quite everything they composed. I’m not adding someone if I don’t know all works. Hope I explained it well. So maybe after 5 or 10 years you will see his name from me as well 😉 Of course, if we will have similiar poll topics in the future.

      • November 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

        My first anime-related experience with Mahler’s work came from Haruhi for what it’s worth. Led me to check him out at least a bit, even if he’s harder to get into than say…. Beethoven.

      • November 3, 2015 at 2:20 am

        Hm, interesting, because “Haruhi” is kinda fresh work in comparing. I thought you started from earlier stuff 😉 But yeah, I totally forgot he was in “Haruhi” as well. Symphony No. 8 First Movement? Indeed. It’s great, but I can’t say it’s favourite to me. I bet you know the difference. Something like just not my cup of tea, if I can say so. But I will not make hasty conclusion. Yeah, totally agreed, harder than Beethoven, but still ‘losing’ in this to Sibelius, if we can say so. Also he took quite a lot from Beethoven himself, as I hear. I’m listening closely for 3 hours to his music right now. And I must say… Symphony No. 5 – what a real Masterpiece. This symphony totally can be added to my favourites. In nearest time I will listen all his symphonies. Overall we shall see later.

        P.S. So can you fix my misprints in my first post, mate?

  • November 3, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Man it was so hard to pick between so many great composers.

    10) Toshihiko Sahashi: His scores are often steeped in classical tendencies, and his big symphonic work can be so boisterous and fun. Great action music.
    Favourites include: Gundam Seed, Steel Angel Kurumi

    9) Akito Matsuda: I only recently discovered Matsuda, but Sound Euphonium blew me away this year, and I’ve been loving some of his previous work including his stuff as Nijine. He’s a master of small scale ensembles set to heartfelt personal drama.
    Favourites include: Sound Euphonium, Glasslip

    8) Takeshi Senoo: While Aria alone could put him at the top of this list, I dont know how much of that was him personally. Still his work on Inari Konkon was wonderful and proved his skill at creating relaxing Japanese influenced music.

    7) Taku Iwasaki: A master of writing unabashedly romantic music, Iwasaki’s soundtracks have some of the most emotionally devastating music I’ve ever heard. And then he mixes that in with some downright bizarre electronic experiments. Such a fun composer.
    Favourites include: Katanagatari, Gurren Lagann, Gatchaman Crowds

    6) Kohei Tanaka: Another composer that can write large emotional melodies, and also fantastic at light hearted everyday music. Some of his work was rock oriented, and it really shows in his orchestral stuff which remains full of percussion energy.
    Favourites include: Gunbuster / Diebuster, Hyouka

    5) Yasuo Higuchi: Hardly prolific, but Phoenix 2772 is one of my favourite soundtracks ever. Higuchi is a master of romantic style orchestration (I’m noticing a pattern here) and this soundtrack is just a nonstop glorious ride of wonderful melody. His work on After War Gundam X is also fantastic, and very different to traditional Gundam soundtracks.

    4) Kousuke Yamashita: It was just a show about a card game, but goddamn every single episode of Chihayafuru nearly brought me to tears. Yamashita’s main theme is such a beautiful piece of music. His work is always over the top and teetering on melodramatic, and I love every minute of it.
    Favourites include: Chihayafuru, Glass Fleet, Shion no Ou

    3) Yoko Kanno: It’s hard to describe Yoko Kanno. Her work is so varied that she barely has any consistent style. But everything she works on not only is wonderful to listen to, but fits the tone of the show itself perfectly. She is a master of atmosphere using actual melodic music, and both sweeping orchestral cues and multilingual vocal pieces.
    Favourites include: Macross Frontier, Wolf’s Rain, Macross Plus

    2) Yoshihisa Hirano: I think a lot of Hirano’s music could be described as chaotic, but it’s also incredibly large and heart pounding. He writes some of the most interesting and sometimes challenging work I’ve heard in anime. He has written some of the best action music ever along with many beautiful drama cues. I also love his choral work, which is so often wonderfully lyrical and varied.
    Favourites include: Broken Blade, Death Note, Ouran High School Host Club

    1) Michiru Oshima: An easy first pick, Oshima’s music is always so powerful, evocative, and most of all beautiful. She somehow churns out soundtrack after soundtrack, each as inventive as the last. Her music adds such emotion to so many shows she works on, often elevating the entire experience for me. The first anime soundtrack I scoured the web for was Fullmetal Alchemist and to this day I’m still in love with it and everything single note she writes.
    Favourites include: FMA, Sora no Woto, Tatami Galaxy

    Whew that was long sorry. I’ve been inspired to listen to some stuff I haven’t touched for a while though so cheers!

  • November 3, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I’ve read countless articles on blogs of all kinds in my life, but never have I seen a post where the blog comments surpasses the content of the actual blog post by this much as this one.

    BTW I filled out the survey and hated it, so I decided to stick to the rules and added multiple names in order to reflect a point system more consistent to what I feel is fair.

  • November 6, 2015 at 1:52 am

    Oh no I forgot a few of my favourites, I remembered the moment i hit submit. Oh dear, hahaha.

    Oh well some major favourites were still in the first few spots so that works for me.

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  • November 30, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Hummm not good I forgot about kawai kenji. Should not have done this pool at the last minute at midnight on my phone

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