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7 Times Western Music Invaded Anime

by Lynzee Loveridge,

A recent article about the potential death of the 90-second anime song intro got me thinking about some of my favorite opening and ending sequences. I realized that while the vast majority of anime credit songs are in Japanese (with a few English flavor words thrown in) are rare few are in English. Some are even tracks by mainstream artists. This week, I'm going to look at some of the few times where Western music worked its way into anime series.

Radiohead – “Paranoid Android” (Ergo Proxy) If you're going to pick a band to best fit the eyeliner-heavy, sci-fi mystery Ergo Proxy, look no further than Radiohead. Thom Yorke's creeping vocals hang over the abstract ending sequence, laying down the show's heavy mood. The song's lyrics are also a perfect match for the show's overarching themes of class warfare and uprising. "When I am king, you will be first against the wall" is sung somberly, foreshadowing the anime's robots new-found self-awareness and how it leads to the murder of citizens within the utopian domed cities.

Backstreet Boys - "The One" (Hanada Shōnen-shi) American super boy band The Backstreet Boys isn't the first group I'd peg to lend a theme song to Hanada Shōnen-shi. Most of the group's chart-topping singles centered on romance, but the 25-episode anime by Madhouse is anything but. The anime follows a young boy who obtains the ability to see and interact with the supernatural after getting hit by a truck. The anime's opening sequence reframes The Backstreet Boys' song as a track about youthful spiritedness and it kinda works if you can get Nick Carter's bowl cut out of the forefront of your brain first.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Series Music is a huge inspiration for Hirohiko Araki's manga and each entry in the anime series is endcapped by a fitting, popular song from its corresponding era. The staff have tapped "Roundabout" by Yes, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles, "Last Train Home" by Pat Metheny Group, and "I Want You" by Savage Garden. The songs usually are not revealed very far in advance and are an anticipated part of each new season. I'd be remiss if I didn't pick a personal favorite, but it's a tough call. Maybe "Roundabout" followed closely by "I Want You" but I'm totally biased; I played that Savage Garden CD to death in middle school.

Duran Duran - "Girls on Film" (Speed Grapher) The English language release of Speed Grapher does not include its original opening theme song due to licensing costs. It's not a huge loss aesthetically to the sequence. Yes, the start of the opening was timed intentionally to match up with the shutter sounds from the song, but otherwise the rest of the OP is one of those series clip-show style sequences. The song was also a pretty on the nose reference to the story's main character, war photographer Tatsumi Saiga. The story itself is Gonzo's stab at making a scandalous and shocking sex thriller with themes about money and corruption.

bôa - "Duvet" (Serial Experiments Lain) This opening sequence got me really obsessed with BoA in middle school and also really annoyed that the British indie group shared its name with a very popular K-pop singer at the time. The group ended up garnering a fanbase in Japan after being scouted by the Japanese label Polystar, leading to the Japan-exclusive album Race of the Thousand Camels. "Duvet" comes from that album, and while it was written as a love ballad, its lyrics about pain and destruction of the self ties in nicely to the anime.

Franz Ferdinand - "Do You Want To?" (Paradise Kiss) Paradise Kiss is all about fashion, creativity, coming of age sexuality, and the emotions that get all mixed up in it. The anime's ending sequence eschews the romantic, shōjo imagery for a funky bass line and super-deformed characters having a ball. Franz Ferdinand's track seems a nice fit from George's perspective. The song has a sense of swagger to it, and George was nothing if not full of himself.

Oasis - “Falling Down” (Eden of the East) The English rock band's track from Dig Out Your Soul serves as an eerie backdrop for the mystery anime. The song's lyrics invoke a sense of desperation and anger at God for one's circumstances. Given the scenario Saki and Takizawa find themselves through seemingly random set of circumstances, you could connect the song's message to the characters' circumstances pretty easily. At least, I'd be pretty upset if I had amnesia and got wrapped up in a giant conspiracy involving the livelihood of an entire country.

The new poll: Which guitarist would win at a Battle of the Bands?

The old poll: What Shojo Manga Would You Recommend to Male Readers?

  1. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun by Izumi Tsubaki
  2. Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi
  3. Natsume's Book of Friends by Yuki Midorikawa
  4. Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
  5. My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
  6. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
  7. Card Captor Sakura by CLAMP
  8. Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu
  9. Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida
  10. NANA by Ai Yazawa
  11. Magic Knight Rayearth by CLAMP
  12. Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura
  13. Kimi ni Todoke - From Me to You by Karuho Shiina
  14. Kaichō wa Maid-sama! by Hiro Fujiwara
  15. Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya
  16. Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda
  17. Kare Kano by Masami Tsuda
  18. Honey and Clover by Chika Umino
  19. Basara by Yumi Tamura
  20. Love*Com by Aya Nakahara

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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