The talent to sing is nothing short of a gift from the divine spirits above, but for those that can master the arcane secrets of musical instruments are nothing short of exceptional. Too much praise in that one sentence? Well, as someone that has learned and use to play 3 different types of instruments over the years, there is something admirable about those that can easily pickup man-made devices and make them produce sound that no mere words can accurately describe. Having only performed once in a orchestral arrangement during my high school years, it really did color my experience and appreciation of what music is and can be. For that reason, this 3rd edition of Anime Alcove List Tuesday will be something of an “ode to joy” to the best anime openings and endings (mainly openings) that really put instrumental skills on display. Yes, feel free to praise me for that clever reference….or don’t.
After going through my music collection to tag and backup some of my newest arrivals, the idea for this post came to me. Originally, I wanted to write a comprehensive post detailing anime instrumental music and composers, but after realizing it was a large endeavor and had far more research to do than what I ran across, I decided to delay it for now. The idea is still in the works, so please do look forward to that starting in late May or early June. As for this one, the only rule is that the following themes do not contain any vocals (aside from a short chorus or refrain), so this one is all instrumental for the most part. Believe it or not, while I mentioned mainly openings, for the life of me, I couldn’t find a single ending theme that is all instrumental as of yet. Onto the list!
5. Gun X Sword (Opening theme: “GUNXSWORD” by Kōtarō Nakagawa)
What does every old Western styled / mecha anime that is totally not inspired by Kill Bill need? Well, if you guessed a cool and dramatic opening theme, look no further than Gun X Sword. Starting off a little bombastic thanks to the lead in brass instruments, the song lets the interplay of flute and piano create a nice harmony and caps it all off with the refrain of brass and percussion. The result is beautiful piece of music that stirs up both wonder and a sense foreboding, especially as the series continues on not only to introduce more of the characters that show up in the opening, but the final showdown between Van and The Claw. Plus, I can never turn down anything with giant robots beating the life out of one another. I’m a simple and easy to entertain soul.
4. Gad Guard (Opening theme: Boomerang Boogie ~Nanpudou no Ojisan~ by PE’Z)
Even though Japanese music has clearly inherited European style and sensibilities for orchestral music, I have to say that the Jazz game most composers have gained is just as endearing. In fact, I can point to more than a handful of artist and composers (Yoko Kanno and Shoji Meguro are two favorite examples) that do the genre proud. That includes the “Samurai Jazz Band” or better known as PE’Z chiefly for the work on Gad Guard’s opening number. Sweet and swinging brass section, chill percussion keeping the tempo…it is truly a gem. Also…there happens to be robots in this anime series, too. What can I say, I love me some mecha.
3. Wild Arms: Twilight Venom (Opening theme: Main theme by Sho Wada)
Conjuring up imagery of barren wastelands and mounds of adventure, Sho Wada creates a dramatic and stellar opening for Wild Arms: Twilight Venom. Designed more to be a marketing tie-in for Wild Arms: 2nd Ignition (Wild Arms 2 for the rest of the world), it actually had some decent music like the opening theme. Like with Gun x Sword, it does have a small vocal refrain, but still important where counts. Also, the sound effects is a nice throwback to anime themes that used to have them back in the day. As a special note, the video above features the original opening theme, but I believe that it might also be apart of a promo reel since there are a few added in scenes. Feel free to compare it to this one.
2. Speed Grapher (Opening theme: “Shutter Speed” by Shinkichi Mitsumune)
Not too much to say on this one…aside from the fact it almost never happened. Originally, “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran was used for the opening, but since Funimation couldn’t get the rights for the United States release, Shinkichi Mitsumune was called upon to substitute. Despite it having sort of a generic and lazy guitar droning the main section continuously with some synth help, it actually provides some nice atmosphere and captures the series well. Then again, I have to admit, Duran Duran version isn’t that bad either.
1. Baccano! (Opening theme: “Gun’s & Roses” by Paradise Lunch)
If the opening theme from Baccano! doesn’t ooze good vibes and infectious timbre that makes you want to tap your feet….well, check your pulse. I could spend hours picking apart the sound selection and how everything from the brass to string sections create a rich harmony or even how it perfectly emulates the music from the 1930-40’s era. Then again, there is a time and place for everything…sadly, not enough time to do it here. The take away here: the music is just plain awesome!
In hindsight I realize that I probably overlooked Cowboy Bebop in this list. How very tragic and criminal of me…but think many of you will forgive me, right? Anyway, have any opening, ending, or purely instrumental tracks in anime that make a big impact? Feel free to share them in the comments. Until next time!