Ok, so this has been driving me nuts. I decided to do a search to find some animes with good sound design, can I find any results? Nope. It's kind of sad, has sound design taken a back seat in anime or do the fan just not care? I've thought about it for a little bit, and I would say it is a mixture of both.
When I say sound design I mean far more than music and voice acting. I beleive that voice acting is generally rather important and that people don't ignore it. Bad voice acting gets ridiculed and good voice acting gets praised. While voice acting does play an important part in sound design, it's not quite everything. Then how about music. Music is really kind of meh in anime. Sure, there are series that do it well, but there are so many series with terrible music. I'm not talking about throwing the songs on my ipod after I've seen the series, god no, I have so much other far better music to listen to. What music needs to do is blend with the scene and enhance the mood and the feeling. This is an area where I find a lot of anime falls flat.
Here are the other areas of sound design that I really think fall by the way side in anime:
1) Sound effects. When is the last time you have watched an anime with great sound effects? Yeah, there are plenty that fit the bill, but I'm talking about when you stop yourself and you go "damn, that sounded awesome."
2) Background Sounds. We really don't get this an anime too much in anime. Sure, we get the cricket sounds in summer, the wind in some scenes, generic crowd noises, blah blah blah. I can't think of the last anime that did this really well. I bring this up because I feel that getting this area right can put you in a scene so much more than you would have been.
3) Dynamics. Oh god why does this area always suffer?!?! Really Clear high pitched highs or deep lows. This is something I care about a lot because when the dynamics are there is can really make the sounds stand out and feel real. Maybe the reason that this tends to bother me a ton is because I have spent a lot of time and money into building my sound system and frankley I think it sounds pretty darn good, but sometimes I feel like anime is making fun of it with the poor dynamics, making my system sounds a little flat.
4) Surround Sound. Maybe the least imporatant on the list because I really can't imagine too many anime being in 5.1 (or 7.1, but I realize that's pushing it) besides movies, but I can imagine that some scenes would sound great with some spatial effects and a lot of anime could benifit from moving the vocals to the center channel. However, you are not likely to ever find surround sound in a show and usualy only in movies. Sadly, many anime movies have rather lack luster surround sound effects, but meh, what ever.
So are the studios just neglecting these areas or do the fans just not care? Sadly, I would have to say both. But I would say it falls more into the area of the fans more than anything. I can't say I have really met many anime fans who find sound to be an important aspect to there anime, they will watch it on laptop speakers or $5 ear buds and be happy. Is that a bad thing? For them, no, for me, yes. The studios I think realize what they can get away with and they can slack of some of the ares I have mention,a nd thus I get stuck with mediocere sound design.
If anyone is reading this, I would love to hear your opinion on sound design in anime. How do you watch/listen to your anime and how do you feel about the different areas of sound design? Also, if there are any recomendations for any anime with great sound design, I am all ears! Pun intended.