Gia's List: The 8 Most Intriguing Uses of Western Music in Anime

by Gia Manry, Oct 15th 2011

While the inclusion of western music in anime— particularly by popular artists —may make North American licensees groan at the prospect of the legal arrangements, but sometimes a particular tune from a western band best suits the anime in question. Here's a collection of some of the best and/or most surprising western music and anime match-ups.

8. Gunslinger Girl Opening "The Light Before We Land" - The Delgados
How do Japanese anime producers wind up working with an indie Scottish band? It's a bit of a mystery, but the melancholy feel of the song matches the show flawlessly: four young girls are cared for by the privately-owned Social Welfare Agency in Italy, which fits them with cybernetic body parts, brainwashes them to obey and care for their handlers, and uses them as covert assassins. It sounds like a horror/thriller, but the tone of the show is considerably more sedate, revolving around the girls' awareness of their situations and their individual reactions to it— and the song's own sad-but-hopeful feel suits the girls perfectly.

7. Hellsing Ending "Shine" - Mr. Big
No one should be surprised that Hellsing (the original television anime, in this case) might be a bit cheeky. In addition to having probably the best soundtrack to ever feature kazoos, the producers decided to select the song "Shine" by the late '80s/early '90s American band Mr. Big, who some may better know for their tune "To Be With You." The lyrics ("But all I want is for you to shine / shine down on me / shine on this life that's burning out") are, of course, a wink to the lead's vampiric nature. The tune is also pretty catchy. Fans may wonder how the producers got hooked up with the band, but while Mr. Big fizzled in the U.S., its star continued to rise over Japan until their breakup in 2002, though their 2010 reunion album hit #7 on Oricon's charts.

6. Mushi-Shi Opening "Sore Feet Song" - Ally Kerr
The second Scottish performer on this list, Ally Kerr's "Sore Feet Song" is a charming acoustic love story in which the singer talks about his lengthy journey to find the object of his affections, which ties naturally in to the anime's story of Ginko. Ginko is a traveling "mushi-shi," a man who searches for and helps people deal with the supernatural creatures known as mushi which tend to impact the lives of humans (sometimes for better, sometimes...less so) as part of the creatures' own survival. The song has a folksy feel that aligns with the settings of Mushi-Shi, which are primarily rural villages, forests, fields, and other natural/outdoorsy locations.

5. Hanada Shonen-shi Opening "The One" - Backstreet Boys
Did you know that around the same time that the boy band was feuding with its management in the U.S., the Backstreet Boys allowed MADHOUSE to use a couple of their tunes as the opening and ending themes for an anime? That anime is Hanada Shonen-shi, which revolves around a boy named Ichiro Hanada who, after being hit by a truck, gains the ability to see ghosts. "The One" works surprisingly well with the watercolor limited-animation style MADHOUSE sets it against; the group's tune "Drowning" serves as the show's ending. The original soundtrack for Hanada Shonen-shi also includes instrumental versions of both tunes composed by Yoshihisa Hirano (who did music for Death Note and Ouran High School Host Club, among others).

4. Gankutsuou Ending "You Won't See Me Coming" - Jean-Jacques Burnel
Gonzo had the clever idea to furnish its intensely visual futuristic/space take on Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo with opening and ending music by Jean-Jacques Burnel, who shares the novel's French origins (although Burnel is best known for his work with the British band The Stranglers). The result is particularly striking in the show's ending theme, an appropriately malicious-sounding ode to the vengeance that the Count intends to inflict upon his romantic rivals. Burnel also wrote and performed the show's opening theme, "We Were Lovers."

3. Neon Genesis Evangelion Ending "Fly Me To the Moon" - Bart Howard
It was hard to decide whether this song belongs on the list— it's a classic American standard from the 1950s, but in the original Neon Genesis Evangelion television series it's sung by the show's various characters. In the end, though, it's western music, even if the performer isn't. Doubtless essays have been composed at least in the minds of fans, if not in their word processors, speculating on why Hideaki Anno chose to end Evangelion with a sedate version of what is probably best known as a swing song (Frank Sinatra included it on his 1964 album "It Might As Well Be Swing"). On the other hand, it's not the only jazzy (or English-language) song in the show's repertoir, either. Maybe he just liked it.

2. Ghost in the Shell (film) Ending "One Minute Warning" - Passengers
In 1995, U2 and Brian Eno joined forces to record an album called "Original Soundtracks 1." The album was originally intended to serve as a soundtrack, but when these plans fell apart the musicians decided to keep on writing music for imaginary films, often improvising them. In the end though, one of the tunes was used in Mamoru Oshii's 1995 film Ghost in the Shell, where it was matched with the film's ending credits. The eerie instrumental track provides a perfect closing to the famous futuristic film. Considering that Ghost in the Shell is considered one of the works that really got the ball rolling on the western anime fandom, this is another match-up where one wonders how Oshii got hooked up with the musicians.

1. INTERSTELLA 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem Soundtrack - Daft Punk
Yes, it's the obvious choice, but while the Passengers album above was inspired by films, the movie INTERSTELLA 5555 is a film inspired entirely by music. Specifically, the movie is a visual representation of the 2001 Daft Punk album "Discovery," and the band teamed up with famed Space Battleship Yamato creator Leiji Matsumoto, who the duo proclaimed to be a "childhood hero," to produce it in 2003. The film is classic Matsumoto, from the design of the blue-skinned aliens to the story about the humans who attempt to subjugate them. Daft Punk's label EMI licensed the movie for North American release, and by coincidence (no, really), it's just been released on Blu-ray.

Each list is accompanied by a new reader poll, as well as the results from last week's poll.

The new poll: Last week we wanted to know what fall shows you're excited about— so this week we want you to look back on shows that started in the summer and tell us which one you liked best. Take the survey here and check back next week for the results!

The previous poll: The decidedly most-anticipated show this fall is, unsurprisingly, the adaptation of the popular role-playing game Persona 4, which took 13.6% of the vote, followed by the Fate/stay night prequel Fate/Zero with 11.2% and the Last Exile follow-up Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing- with 10.6%. Rounding out the top five are two more familiar titles: the reboot Hunter x Hunter (7.8%) and sequel Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi 2 (5.8%). Every series got at least one vote except the children's shorts Chibi Devi! and adult novel adaptation Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!. Here are the full results:

  1. Persona 4 The Animation - 13.6%
  2. Fate/Zero - 11.2%
  3. Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing- - 10.6%
  4. Hunter x Hunter - 7.8%
  5. Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi 2 - 5.8%
  6. Guilty Crown - 5.6%
  7. Shakugan no Shana III (Final) - 5.2%
  8. Mirai Nikki - 5%
  9. Un-Go - 5%
  10. Bakuman. 2 - 3.7%
  11. Kimi to Boku - 3.2%
  12. Mobile Suit Gundam AGE - 3.2%
  13. Shinryaku! Ika Musume - 3%
  14. Working'!! - 2.4%
  15. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai! - 2%
  16. Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere - 2%
  17. Chihayafuru - 1.9%
  18. Tamayura - Hitotose - 1.9%
  19. Digimon Xros Wars: Toki o Kakeru Shōnen Hunter-tachi - 1.5%
  20. Ben-To - 1.1%
  21. - 1.1%
  22. The New Prince of Tennis - 1.1%
  23. Phi-Brain - Kami no Puzzle - 0.9%
  24. Sengoku Paradise Kiwami - 0.4%
  25. Battle Spirits: Heroes - 0.2%
  26. Cross Fight B-Daman - 0.2%
  27. Maken-Ki! - 0.2%
  28. Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 0.2%
  29. Chibi Devi! - 0%
  30. Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!! - 0%

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