Anisong, The Key to Beautiful Anime: 10 Anime Songs You Should Know & 10 Anime About Music

WeXpats
2022/08/10

High quality music is one of the qualities that characterises anime. Anime songs include not just opening and ending songs, there’s also soundtrack and more which we will cover in this article. Also, discover the close relationship between J-pop and anime. We’ve also compiled lists of 10 J-pop artists that sing anisong, anime songs you should know, and anime about music each. 


Table of Contents

  1. What is anison? 
  2. Types of Anime Song (with examples!)
    1. Opening and Ending Themes
    2. Insert Songs
    3. Soundtrack
    4. Image Songs
  3. Jpop and Anime, 10 Jpop Artists that Sing Anisong
  4. 10 Anime Songs You Should Know
  5. 10 Anime About Music

What is Anison?

Anison or anisong (アニソン) is short for anime song (アニメソング). Anison consists of anime theme songs, insert songs, original soundtrack, and image songs. 

The popularity of anime can be attributed to many reasons; interesting plots, multiple genres, high quality animation, targets many people, and also the beautiful sounding music. BGM or soundtrack for anime is characterized by the usage of classical instruments like piano and even orchestras

Anime soundtracks are very important to set the mood of scenes. The effect of using the right BGM is that character’s can better express their feelings and the mood of the anime scene can be better impressed on viewers. There are many Japanese anime songs that are known worldwide even by people that don’t watch the anime. It is not uncommon to hear people say, “I know this song! But I don’t know where it's from.”

Types of Anime Song (with example music)

Introducing the different types of anime songs. Some of these like theme songs and soundtrack are obvious enough, but you might not know what insert songs and image songs are. 

Opening and Ending Themes

「チキチキバンバン」| Chiki Chiki Ban Ban by QUEENDOM, OP Song from Ya Boy Kongming!

When talking about anime songs, most people immediately think of anime opening songs and ending songs. At the beginning, anime songs were limited to songs created by people who exclusively made songs for anime and voice actors. But as anime songs grew in popularity, they became mainstream music and eventually famous singers started to become involved. In recent times especially, the lines between anime songs and J-Pop have become blurred (more on this below). 

Anime opening and ending songs are on average 1.5 minutes long. Quite obviously, the opening song runs at the start of the episode followed by a commercial break and sponsor message, and the ending song runs at the end of episode before the next episode preview. There are anime that do not follow this norm and are instead creative in their inserts of opening / ending themes - for example, playing the opening song halfway through the episode or after a flashback scene. The anime One Piece is especially known for its unique take on this. From Episode 279 onwards, One Piece no longer has ending songs but has a longer opening song of around 2 minutes duration. 

Anime opening songs are also known for being cliche with many anime having similar style of animation to match the song. Cliche animations include the protagonist running across a field, camera panning upwards to see the sun or sky, preview of antagonist and allies, and everyone gathering together for a group shot. 

Anime theme songs are usually available as artists’ single albums. 

Insert Songs

Insert songs are songs with lyrics that are played within the anime. In many cases, insert songs are only played once throughout the entire anime or at the least no more than a handful of times. There are also cases where insert songs, to further carry the mood of the scene, are played as the ending song for that episode in lieu of the usual ending song. At times, insert songs may be performed by the anime characters, which means songs are sung by their voice actors called seiyu (声優) in Japanese.

Insert songs can be available in OST albums or artists’ single albums. 

「aLIEz」by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] from Aldnoah Zero

Examples of Anime Insert Songs:

  1. 「God Knows」by Suzumiya Haruhi (CV. Hirano Aya) from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

  2. 「Glassy Sky」by Donna Burke from Tokyo Ghoul √A

  3. 「Stories」by Kuroishi Hitomi from Code Geass

  4. 「Sis puella magica!」by Kajiura Yuki from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

  5. 「Last Stardust」by Aimer from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

  6. 「Before My Body is Dry」by Kobayashi Mika and David Whitaker from Kill La Kill

Soundtrack

Anime soundtrack or BGM is better known as anime OST, OST standing for Original Soundtrack. Usually after an anime is completely released, an OST album will be released that includes all the soundtracks used in the anime in full length. 

People that buy OST albums are usually fans of the anime, the anime’s music, or the music composer. 

Here are 3 famous anime composers to know:

1. Kajiura Yuki (梶浦 由記)

Musically talented Kajiura Yuki is one of the most famous composers in the anime industry. Her music has a distinct feel to it that many fans can recognize after hearing a few of her works. She is also involved in making game soundtracks, opening/ending themes for anime, musicals, and other works. 

FictionJunction is a group of singers that exclusively sing songs produced by her. Kalafina, a group that has since disbanded, famous for singing anime songs was also formed by her and sang songs exclusively written by her. 

Famous anime titles whose music Kajiura Yuki worked on:

  • Sword Art Online

  • Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer)

  • Fate/Zero

  • Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel Trilogy Movies

  • Boku dake ga Inai Machi (Erased)

  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Music-wise, these anime are famous for their music: Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Pandora Hearts, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel

Yuki Kajiura Official Website

2. Sawano Hiroyuki (澤野 弘之)

Another big name music composer is Sawano Hiroyuki. His music career started in the mid 2000s but he made a quick rise to fame with big titles like Guilty Crown and Gundam. His portfolio includes collaborations with many Japanese artists including Aimer, LiSA, EGOIST, and Sukima Switch; the latest with rising J-Pop star Ado for a song featured in One Piece Film: Red.

Sawano Hiroyuki has quite a number of awards for his music under his belt. His involvement in music isn’t just limited to anime. One of his greatest works is the soundtrack for video game Xenoblade Chronicles X

「"Guilty Crown" suite」by Hiroyuki Sawano under Project【emU】

Famous anime titles whose music Sawano Hiroyuki worked on:

  • Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

  • Nanatsu no Taizai (The Seven Deadly Sins)

  • Aldnoah Zero

  • Kotetsujou no Kabaneri (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)

  • Guilty Crown

  • Owari no Serafu (Seraph of the End)

  • Kill la Kill

Anime famous for their music: Guilty Crown, Aldnoah Zero, 86, Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan

Sawano Hiroyuki Official Website

3. Hisaishi Joe (久石 譲)

Hisaishi Joe is a professional name, his real name is actually Fujisawa Mamoru (藤澤 守), and he has a long history of working in the music industry. Joe Hisaishi is best known for his contributions to many Ghibli films. He is a holder of many awards, a testament and recognition of his musical prowess. He is involved in many industries including video games, films, documentaries and events.

「One Summer's Day」by Joe Hisaishi from Spirited Away

Famous anime titles whose music Hisaishi Joe worked on:

  • Laputa: Castle in the Sky 

  • Princess Mononoke

  • Kiki’s Delivery Service

  • Spirited Away

  • Howl’s Moving Castle

  • My Neighbour Totoro

  • Ni no Kuni

Joe Hisashi Official Website

Image Songs

「翼をあげたい」| Tsubasa wo Agetai by Fujiwara Chika (CV. Konomi Kohara (小原好美)) 

Image songs or character songs are sung by voice actors of anime characters. They are released in tie-in singles or albums which are also called image/character singles or image/character albums. Original illustrations are commonly provided to appeal to fans and to improve on an anime’s success. Special content like early character design sketches may be bundled together. The single/album may also include a voice message from the voice actor as himself, or as the character. 

Image songs may be original songs or covers of the anime’s theme songs. The difficult part of creating image songs is singing whilst retaining the character’s personality and “feel” in the voice. Image songs are sometimes used as insert songs and even opening / ending theme songs.

Examples of Anime Series with Character Albums are:

  1. 「黒子のバスケ」| Kuroko no Basuke | Kuroko’s Basketball - Character Solo and Duet Singles

  2. 「K-On!」- Character Singles and Mini Albums’ Ho-kago Tea Time

  3. 「テニスの王子様」|Tenisu no Oujisama | Prince of Tennis - Singles, Duets and even Singing Groups

  4. 「進撃の巨人」| Shingeki no Kyojin | Attack on Titan - Character Singles

  5. 「かぐや様は告らせたい?~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~」| Kaguya-sama wa kokurasetai? ~Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen~ | Kaguya-sama Love is War - Character Singles

J-pop and Anime, A Growing Trend

A question people may ask is, “Does anisong count as J-Pop?” Years ago the answer would be a clear no with singers and song groups only singing songs for anime (like Kalafina and FictionJunction mentioned above), and record labels that only produce anison. This is no longer the case nowadays.

「逆夢」| Sakayume by King Gnu from Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Movie

These days, mainstream and big name artists have started providing songs for anime. Some of these songs go on to be incredibly popular, hitting charts and making it to the top of best songs listings. At that point, the lines between Jpop and anison become practically non-existent.

10 Famous Artists that Sang Anime Songs:

  1. LiSA - Demon Slayer, Sword Art Online, The Irregular at Magic High School, etc.

  2. Aimer - Demon Slayer, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Vinland Saga, Fate Series, Natsume Yuujinchou Go, etc.

  3. milet - Vinland Saga, Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia, Ousama Ranking, etc.

  4. Amuro Namie - One Piece, Inuyasha, Pokemon: The Movie 2000

  5. Sayuri - Ranpo Kitan, Boku dake ga inai Machi, Kuzu no Honkai, Golden Kamuy, Yesterday wo Utatte, etc.

  6. King Gnu - Banana Fish, Ousama Ranking, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Movie

  7. Yonezu Kenshi - Boku no Hero Academia, 3-gatsu no Lion, Uchiage Hanabi, Children of the Sea

  8. KANA-BOON - Naruto: Shippuden, Boruto; Naruto the Movie, The Perfect Insider, Enen no Shouboutai, etc.

  9. Hoshino Gen - SPY x Family, Saint☆Young Men, Doraemon

  10. UNISON SQUARE GARDEN - Soul Eater, Kekkai Sensen, Ballroom e Youkoso, Tiger & Bunny, etc.

Learn more about J-Pop in our dedicated article:

J-pop: Defining Japanese Pop Music, its Genres, and Songs & Artists You Need to Know

10 Anime Songs You Should Know

「怪物」| Kaibutsu by YOASOBI from BEASTARS

These are 10 anime songs that many people know regardless of whether they watch anime or not. Do you know all of them?

  1. 残酷な天使のテーゼ」| Zankoku na Tenshi no Teeze | A Cruel Angel’s Thesis by Takahashi Yoko (高橋 洋子) from Neon Genesis Evangelion

  2. 「Butter-Fly」by Wada Koji (和田 光司) from Digimon 

  3. 「ムーンライト伝説」| Moonlight Densetsu by DALI from Sailor Moon 

  4. 「We Are!」by Kitadani Hiroshi (北谷 洋) from ONE PIECE

  5. 「*~アスタリスク~」| Asterisk by Orange Range from BLEACH

  6. 「紅蓮華」| Gurenge by LiSA from Demon Slayer

  7. 「紅蓮の弓矢」| Guren no Yumiya by Linked Horizon from Attack on Titan

  8. 「怪物」| Kaibutsu by YOASOBI from BEASTARS

  9. 「ルパン三世のテーマ」| Theme from Lupin the Third written by Ohno Yuji(大野雄二) from Lupin the Third

  10. 「微笑みの爆弾」| Hohoemi no Bakudan by Mawatari Matsuko (馬渡松子) from Yu Yu Hakusho

Bonus because it got memed,「unravel」by TK Ling Toshite Shigure (TK from 凛として時雨) from Tokyo Ghoul

10 Anime About Music

Medley by Belle (CV. Nakamura Kaho (中村 佳穂)) from Belle 

Looking for anime with music themes? There are anime about idols both female and male groups, classical music, bands, and even traditional Japanese music, though very rare. Here’s 10 to get you started. 

  1. 「のだめカンタービレ」| Nodame Cantabile - a romcom anime focusing on orchestral music

  2. 「 四月は君の嘘」|Shigatsu wa Kimo no Uso | Your Lie in April - a romance drama about a pianist and a violinist

  3. 「Love Live! School Idol Project 」and spinoffs - a slice of life anime about a group of high school female idols

  4. 「IDOLiSH7」- a drama about a male idol group 

  5.  「キャロル&チューズデイ」| Carole & Tuesday - a Netflix production anime about two girls and the miracle of music they bring to the world

  6. 「この音とまれ!」| Kono Oto Tomare! - a rare anime focusing on the traditional Japanese instrument koto 

  7. 「 マクロスF(フロンティア)」| Macross Frontier - a mecha anime where two girls’ singing holds the key to saving the world

  8. 「K-On!」- a slice of life anime about members of a light music club

  9. 「ギヴン」| Given - a BL anime about a 4 member band 

  10. 「 ゾンビランドサガ」| Zombieland Saga - an interesting twist to idol anime with zombie female idols

Bonus anime movie:「竜とそばかすの姫」| Ryuu to Sobakasu no Hime | Belle about a virtual social media platform where “Belle” a gorgeous avatar entrances everyone with her beautiful singing voice.

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