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Best of the Best - Soundtracks

I'm an anime soundtrack junkie. These are my personal favorite anime soundtracks. I highly recommend everyone give them a listen.
1 Akira


Music by Geinoh Yamashirogumi

Genre: Experimental World Folk Fusion 

Unless you listen to a lot of world fusion music (in which you've probably already listened to this anyways), you've probably never heard anything that sounds quite like the Akira Soundtrack. Just like Japan, it's a soundtrack where traditional meets futeristic and blends in the best way possible. It captures the chaotic, dystopian feel of the movie perfectly. It's also the #1 reason I think any Hollywood live-action adaptation would fail, it wouldn't have this soundtrack and literally no one could do it better. 

2 Aria the Animation

Aria the Animation

Music by Choro Club

Genre: Choro-Inspired (Brazilian) Acoustic 

I've never actually seen anything in the Aria franchise, so I can't say how well the soundtracks (all of them are amazing), fit the anime. The easy-on-the-ears melodies make you feel like you're sitting at a cafe in France or Brazil near the sea while reflecting on past summers and times you're glad that happened even if they won't come back. It's very relaxing and impossible to stay mad when you're listening to these simple, but beautiful songs.

3 Berserk


Music by Susumu Hirasawa

Genre: World Folk Infused Experimental Electronic

Yeah, I've got no clue what that genre really means either. Truthfully, I've never heard anything like Susumu Hirasawa's work, but you know your awesome when your works include soundtracks for Berserk and most of Satoshi Kon's movies. There aren't many songs, but every single one of them is a masterpiece that perfectly captures the hellish landscapes of Berserk with surprisingly beautiful pieces too. 

4 Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

Music by Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts

Genre: Experimental, Jazz, Blues, Ballads, Rock, Country, Funk, Electronic

The better question is what genre isn't included in this soundtrack. The soundtrack for this anime is so good, it's almost as famous as the anime itself and spans across multiple releases. Various kinds of jazz serve as the foundation for the soundtrack, which fits the anime's cool, classy vibe. Due to having such a wide range of music, it might not all be for you, but just about any music fan will find something they love on this soundtrack.   

5 Death Note

Death Note

Music by Yoshihisa Hirano & Hideki Taniuchi

Genre: Mellow Alternative Post-Rock 

The sounds of the Death Note OST conjure up images of rainy modern city scapes, both comtemplative and melancholy at times. It's spruced up with songs inspired by ancient choral church music and some songs heavier on the rock and lighter on the mellow. Strangely, many songs really feel like they capture what thinking might sound like. They perfectly capture the feeling of a slowly escalating apocalyptic event thanks to the mixture of choral and mellow rock music.   

6 The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words

Music by Daisuke Kashiwa

Genre: Classical Inspired Ambient 

Music is used sparingly in this movie, but the few songs on this OST are some of the most beautiful in anime, and the music is just as subtle and beautifully mellow as the movie. The majority of this soundtrack is made up of a single piano, with occasional accompaniment from other instruments. They truly reflect the sound of rain gently falling while two people fall in love.

7 Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Music by Yoko Kanno

Genre: Alternative Rock

When Yoko Kanno wrote this music, she said she wanted to create something the complete opposite of the 'manly' and 'formal' world of GITS and adding 'tangible fuzziness' and songs with 'delicate emotional feelings' like 'poetry.' If you ever wanted to know what 'tangible fuzziness' or 'delicate emotional poetry' sounds like, check out this soundtrack. (turns out, that sounds REALLY good). 

8 Haikyuu!!


Music by Yuuki Hayashi & Asami Tachibana 

Genre: Alternative Rock/Pop

At first, I thought I was including Haikyuu because I just really like the series. But I love lots of series that I didn't put on this list and don't listen to the soundtracks of nearly as often. This OST has a little less obvious flash to it compared to others, but it's suprisingly good. The songs evoke a wide range of emotions and is very easy to listen to. 

9 Hotarubi no Mori e

Hotarubi no Mori e

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Genre: Classically Inspired Acoustic 

This soundtrack is beautiful, emotional, and evokes a bitter-sweet nostalgic feeling, just like the movie it belongs to, with some heavier on the acoustic side and others on the classical. Anyone who appreciates classical-inspired instrumental music should listen to this. As a matter of fact, you might just want to give all of Makoto Yoshimori's stuff a listen. 

10 House of Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves

Music by Kayo Konishi

Genre: Jazz & Traditional Japanese Classical Inspired Fusion

I noticed the music in this anime right away. Who wouldn't? It's jazzy at times, infused with sounds from traditional Japanese music, and anchored with traditional classical styled music. It suites the off-beat world and mood of House of Five Leaves perfectly and is one I find myself listening too over and over again. I haven't found anything else that sounds quite like it. 

11 Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Genre: Classical and Romantic Inspired

Joe Hisaishi is probably Japan's most celebrated and well known composer for a reason. That reason, he's incredibly good at composing stunning classically inspired music, and Howl's Moving Castle is a prime example. From the quieter, simpler songs to the full-blown orchestral arrangements, every song on this soundtrack is a work of art. 

12 K


Music by Mikio Endo

Genre: Nu Jazz/Electronic Jazz

The people at Go Hands made an interesting aesthetic choice when they decided to use 'elevator music' as the backdrop for their action-heavy series rather than a more traditional sound. And it works. It helps the series feel more modern and makes it stand out among other soundtracks. If you like downtempo, electronic music, or nu jazz then check this out.

13 Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Music by too many Orchestras and Composers to list

Genre: Classical 

The most grand-scale anime ever written deserves a soundtrack that can match it. Thankfully, the LOTGH's OST delivers. Instead of creating original pieces, LOTGH opted to use masterfully arranged classical pieces. Literally every single track (the full OST has close to 700 of them) is a songs that has stood the test of time. If you're looking for the most epic soundtrack in all of anime - you found it.

14 Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Genre: New Age Influenced Contemporary Classical

This is by far my favorite OST from Yuki Kajiura. In a word, it's beautiful. There isn't a track that isn't wrought with emotion, created by the stunning instrumental performances occasionally accompanied with choral-like vocals. Everything from the fight themes to slow piano-only songs is worth listening to. 

15 Millennium Actress

Millennium Actress

Music by Susumu Hirasawa

Genre: World Folk Infused Experimental Electronic

I haven't seen this movie yet, but being familiar with the kinds of movies Satoshi Kon makes, I can't imagine a more perfect fit for them than Susumu Hirasawa. His music sounds otherworldly, like a futuristic yet beautiful dreamscape. If you liked any of his other stuff, you should check out this OST too. 

16 Monster


Music by Kuniaki Haishima

Genre: Jazzy & Mellow Contemporary Instrumental

The mellow, jazzy, and at times angelic sounds on this severely underrated soundtrack suit the masterpiece anime it belongs to perfectly. But that's not why it's on this list, neither is fact every single track is beautifully put together. Lots of soundtracks are that way. What sets this one apart is how every track evokes emotion, whether it be fear, peace, or nostalgia, you'll feel something while listening to it. 

17 Mushishi


Music by Toshio Masuda

Genre: Ambient New Age

If I had to pick a favorite anime soundtrack, I'd probably pick this one 90% of the time. The soundtrack is haunting, beautiful, relaxing, nostalgic, and easily brings about images a rain-soaked green forest or of recently fallen snow and expecting to see mysterious lights flickering about. It's the closest thing I've ever heard to what I'd imagine a fairy woods would sound like.   

18 Natsume's Book of Friends

Natsume's Book of Friends

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Genre: Classically Inspired & Experimental Acoustic 

Natsume is bitter-sweet, nostalgic, and relaxing, and so is its soundtrack. Many of the songs feel like you'd want to listen to them during a relaxing summer day while reflecting on things. There is a decent range of songs on the OST though, ranging from tracks infused with traditional Japanese music to flat-out experimental ones. Despite this, they all stay true to the tone of the show. 

19 Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile

Music by Suguru Matsutani

Genre: Classical

Nodame, if you didn't know, is a show about classically trained musicians that attend an elite music school. So it's something of a no-brainer when figuring out why it's on this list. The background music is alright, but what really stands out is the beautiful renditions of famous classical works played expertly on a wide array of instruments, varying from single piano performances to full-blown orchestras. 

20 Paprika


Music by Susumu Hirasawa

Genre: World Folk Infused Experimental Electronic

More Susumu Hirasawa! Back is the futuristic/dream-like/psychedelic/world folk-infused sounds you'll find on any work with Susumu's name attached to it.  What's really nice about this artist, is that while he sounds different from the norm, it isn't so weird that he forgets to make it sound nice. The same holds true on this soundtrack. 

21 Paranoia Agent

Paranoia Agent

Music by Susumu Hirasawa

Genre: World Folk Infused Experimental Electronic

So . . . there's a reason I've included almost every single soundtrack Hirasawa composed on here. Not only do I own every track on these soundtracks, but I own a good handful of his other works too. I doubt his music is for everyone, but I strongly suggest you give it a listen. 

22 Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Genre: Traditional Japanese Infused/Classically Inspired  

Joe Hisaishi takes traditional Japanese sounds and contemporary classical music and blends them so expertly it's difficult seperate them in any given song. If you're looking for a soundtrack with a distinct Asian, but epic feel, this is perfect for you. Even if you're not looking for that, you'll still want to listen to this. 

23 Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope

Music by Yoko Kanno

Genre: Jazz

An anime about jazz music with a soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. I mean, what else do you need to know about this? Not only are the traditional jazz renditions amazing, but the background music holds its own too. This is a must-listen for any jazz fan, or just a music fan in general. 

24 Samurai Champloo

Samurai Champloo

Music by Nujabes, Fat Jon, & Tsuchie

Genre: Downtempo, Nu Jazz/Electronic Jazz

This soundtrack introduced me to one of my favorite genres of music. Most of the songs on this soundtrack are so smooth you couldn't hold onto them to save your life. All of the OST (there's multiple CDs) is worth listening to, but Nujabes is especially God-tier level music. 

25 Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Music by Kana Shibue

Genre: Jazz & Classically Inspired 

Between the Shouwa-era type jazz, shamisen Rakugo jingles, and instrumental pieces that feel like they were inspired by looking at rain-soaked city streets, there's a lot to appreciate about this soundtrack. Every track feels like it belongs to the same world despite the variety of sounds. It perfectly suites the criminally underrated anime this OST belongs to. 

26 Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Genre: Japanese and Western Classical Styles Mixed

I love all of Joe Hisaishi's work, but this is my favorite of his. The songs range from highly emotional and beautiful melodies to ones that feel like a youkai is waiting around the corner. Yet again, he mixes classical styles from Japan and the West to create a work of art. But what else would you expect from one of the most lauded anime of all time?

27 Sword of the Stranger

Sword of the Stranger

Music by Naoki Sato

Genre: World Folk and Classical Inspired

I can't express how much I love the main theme that repeats throughout this soundtrack. It took all of a few seconds after I first heard the main theme for it to become one of my favorite songs, and still is. The rest of the songs are a work of art that, yet again, blends Asian and Western influences, including the some of the most beatiful fight themes that maintain an upbeat pace. 

28 Texhnolyze


Music by Keishi Urata & Hajime Mizoguchi

Genre: If You Have One, Please Share

Alright, so I can come up with a 'genre' for Akira and Susumu Hirasawa, but I give up for Texhnolyze. The soundtrack ranges from fairly standard instrumental pieces to bizzare experimental songs. And it does so across a huge expanse of various genre mash-ups. Being 'weird' or 'unique' doesn't inherently make something good. But when it is, like in Texhnolyze's case, it's awesome.  

29 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Genre: Traditional Japanese Influenced Contemporary Classical

If Howl's Moving Castle's OST is on the 'Western' side of music, then Kaguya's is on the 'Eastern' side. Some of the melodies use nothing but traditional Japanese instruments. Listening to it is a peaceful, relaxing experience everyone should try, and, of course, every song is beautiful (but what else do you expect from Hisaishi?). 

30 Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Quiet Country Cafe

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Quiet Country Cafe

Music by Choro Club

Genre: Choro-Inspired (Brazilian) Acoustic 

If you liked the Aria OST, you'll like this one too, done by the same band. Back are the relaxing, Brazilian inspired songs that make conjure up images of sunshine, summer days, and cafes. It's impossible to stay mad when listening to this peaceful soundtrack.  

31 Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri!!! on Ice

Music by Taro Umebayshi & Taku Matsushiba

Genre: Classical & Classically Inspired, Contemporary Pop, & More

The Yuri on Ice Soundtrack is the #1 best selling anime OST in a long time (a spot previously held by Attack on Titan). From Beethoven re-arrangements and contemporary classical to Christian R&B and cyberpunk, this is the most diverse anime OST I've heard. Some of the songs are beautiful and moving, others intense and sexy, and some slow and bittersweet. Really, they all only have one thing in common: they're good, really good.   


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