How Can I Get Anime Soundtracks on Vinyl?

by Justin Sevakis,

Kyuubei the 3rd asks:

I recently got back into vinyl. I was wondering who do I ask to get an anime soundtrack on vinyl? I know Wicked City's BGM is getting a release soon, but who do I talk to about getting a recent soundtrack on vinyl (such as Madoka Magica's music, which is one I'd like to own in vinyl form!)?

Vinyl is fun. I've bought quite a few records over the last few years, and they're fun to collect. Vinyl offers a tactile relationship with music that digital just doesn't, and many people, myself included, like the warmth that analog noise adds to electronically produced music. (Just don't fool yourself into thinking it's more "pure" of a sound or anything. No professional would ever use vinyl rips for anything, but digital formats are used in production constantly. There is something to be said for analog mastering tape, but vinyl just introduces too much distortion and pops and crackles to be taken seriously by pros.)

So, as you noticed, a new boutique record label called Tiger Lab Vinyl has started releasing classic anime soundtracks. So far they've released Wicked City, and announced plans for Devilman Tanjou-hen, the first of the two-part OVA released by Manga Entertainment way back in the VHS era. To be completely honest, I'm puzzled by this selection. Neither of these shows is particularly well remembered for their soundtrack, and although Devilman's is by Kenji Kawai, it's hardly one of the better selections from his extremely broad catalog. Surely the licenses were cheap, but how many people are going to buy those?

That said, Tiger Lab is so far the only small specialty record label that has shown an interest in anime. There have been two vinyl releases of Studio Ghibli soundtracks: one from Warner Jazz, which includes selections from Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke called Hisaishi Meets Miyazaki Films (which is still available), and a selection of cover versions of Ghibli themes performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, entitled Studio Ghibli Kokyo Kyokushu. That was released as a limited edition by Mondo Tees a few years ago and is now quite hard to find. (I snagged a copy of that, myself).

But that's pretty much it. Aside from a promotional run of Haruhi Suzumiya 45s that Bandai Visual produced (and Bandai Entertainment sold at cons), that's pretty much it for recent anime soundtracks on vinyl. They're not even something you see in Japan. The vinyl resurgence that's become a thing in the US and Europe hasn't really taken hold in Japan for whatever reason. Recent Japanese vinyl pressings have mostly been aimed at the audiophile set and club DJs, not anime otaku.

Anime soundtracks have never been big business in the States, which is why they're mostly just given away with premium DVD/Blu-ray releases these days. I don't have any idea how much it would cost to license vinyl rights from an anime music publisher, but given the low expectations, surely it can't be too much. Whether it'd be profitable or not is an open question.

I would encourage you to reach out to Tiger Lab, and perhaps find some other small boutique publishers who seem interested in obscure soundtracks, like London-based Data Discs (who recently released Streets of Fire and Shenmue soundtracks), or Sumthing Else Music Works (publishers of recent American game soundtracks). Tell them what you'd hope might become available, and give them a few titles you think might be popular. You never know.

Personally, I would kill for some classic Yoko Kanno on Vinyl...

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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