FEATURE: What Are Your Favorite Musical Cues in Anime?


Whats up everybody, and welcome again to Why It Works. Someday final week, whereas scanning by way of current anime information, I realized that the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop, together with a number of different traditional anime, had simply popped up on streaming music companies. For those who’ve seen Cowboy Bebop, I’m certain you’re conscious of the ability of its music — however for individuals who haven’t, you must know that the present’s soundtrack is an unbelievable achievement, and simply as spectacular as its writing or animation. 



The soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop was written by Yoko Kanno, an excellent artist and composer who truly assembled a band often called “The Seatbelts,” purely to report this specific present’s music. Starting from jazz to funk to nation and much past, I feel it’s truthful to say that Cowboy Bebop merely wouldn’t be the phenomenon it’s with out Kanno’s musical assist. Each scene of Cowboy Bebop is elevated by its soundtrack, from the massive band blitz of the present’s opening, "Tank!," to the moody horns of its concluding "The Actual People Blues," to the numerous makes use of of music each massive and small all through the collection. Would "Ballad of Fallen Angels" strike as painfully with out its somber use of “Inexperienced Chicken?” Would "Waltz for Venus" work with out the tender, fragile melody of its signature music field?


A great musical cue — the time period for when a tune begins to play or is "cued" up — can do extra than simply set the tone for a scene. It might probably lead a narrative by way of a serious narrative shift, shut the gap between viewers and motion, or function a pure emotional articulation of the drama on-screen, lingering in your thoughts lengthy after the motion has handed. Nice musical course can elevate narrative drama into an emotionally tangible expertise, and most of our favourite reveals would really feel empty with out the music shifting, directing, and amplifying our response to the motion. However an excellent instance is mostly extra helpful than a rambling clarification, so with out additional ado, listed below are a few of my absolute favourite musical cues in anime!



First off, if I needed to choose only one musical cue from Cowboy Bebop, it’d truly be a special "Ballad of Fallen Angels" tune — “Rain,” which performs as Spike approaches his confrontation with former companion Vicious. Famend as one of many present’s easiest episodes, "Ballad of Fallen Angels" has to work extraordinarily effectively to arrange its ultimate battle; the episode compresses reflections on Spike’s previous and a full bounty investigation by Faye into its first two-thirds, which means it has little time to reset its temper for the melancholy, nostalgic ultimate act. Happily, the opening organ keys of “Rain,” mixed with the violet hues of the church, immediately transport the viewers into Spike’s somber headspace. Concurrently a nostalgic reverie and a funeral march, "Rain" gracefully leads the viewers into the temper of the "Fallen Angels" finale, and the episode can be far much less memorable with out it.


Shinichiro Watanabe is likely one of the most spectacular administrators in terms of integrating music into his productions, however there are different administrators who’ve an equally sharp ear for music and an analogous understanding of its significance in drama. Masaaki Yuasa, for one, at all times manages to combine music into his reveals in a compelling, emotionally impactful approach. All of his reveals use music in quite a lot of fascinating methods, however I feel my favourite instance is the diegetic Christmas tune that certainly one of Ping Pong’s stars, Wenge Kong, sings at karaoke.



After half a season of fruitlessly making an attempt to combine into his new Japanese workforce, the Chinese language-born Kong solely finds peace and companionship when his mom comes to go to. By the method of constructing conventional dumplings, he bonds together with his new teammates, and ultimately finds a supply of confidence and pleasure aside from his victories in ping pong. That pleasure, alongside together with his still-present eager for his dwelling, is elevated into epic theater by way of his karaoke tune, because the present pans over a medley of its stars, all bearing the loneliness of the vacations in their very own approach. It’s a transcendent second, and one other shining instance of the ability of tune to raise narrative drama.


Musical cues can do extra than simply set or elevate the tone of a scene, although — they’ll truly contribute to the narrative instantly, both by way of discordant musical distinction, repeated musical motifs, or songs that shift from one kind to a different to be able to illustrate the altering tides of a story. So it goes for the Monogatari franchise, the place every new arc focuses on a special character, with a special opening tune used to determine each that character's character and the narrative they’ll be experiencing. In Monogatari’s first season, the introduction of Nadeko Sengoku is accompanied by “Renai Circulation” — an upbeat, lighthearted tune about Nadeko’s crush, accompanied by goofy photographs of her prancing round, waving good day, and halfheartedly making an attempt to check.



"Renai Circulation" is a enjoyable tune in its personal proper, but it surely truly features much more significance looking back, after Nadeko’s second arc is launched with the brand new “Mousou Categorical.” Leaning on ominous piano keys and that includes actress Kana Hanazawa singing in a menacing whisper, "Mousou Categorical" inverts each the melodic tone and visible imagery of "Renai Circulation," viscerally implying Nadeko’s two-faced nature and egocentric needs. It’s one of many few examples I’ve seen of a personality arc actually illustrated by way of music, and in addition only a actually nice pair of songs.


Lastly, my very own all-time favourite musical cue in anime comes from, unsurprisingly, my all-time favourite anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion. Particularly, the concluding movie Finish of Evangelion, which turns the collection’ slow-building exploration of isolation and self-loathing right into a cathartic scream of “I’m right here.” And but, when that scream erupts, it’s by way of the just about tender descending keys of “Komm, süsser Tod” (German for "Come, Candy Dying"). Set in opposition to a scene of intimate violence between the present’s principal pilots, "Komm, süsser Tod" acts as a stark counterpoint to the on-screen chaos, like a lullaby set in opposition to the finish of the world.



The tune encapsulates the sensation of transcendent give up to the infinity that characterizes Finish of Evangelion’s final act, whereas its lyrics converse to the regrets of its solid, who solely want they might spend these moments with the folks they love. Annihilation, nostalgia, loneliness, belonging, and rebirth, , all captured in tune — by way of "Komm, süsser Tod," Finish of Evangelion reaches a peak of emotional catharsis I’ve by no means seen repeated.


These are my very own favourite musical cues in anime, however there are numerous extra reveals which might be elevated by way of their considerate use of tune. I hope you’ve loved this exploration of music’s energy, and please let me know all your individual favourite musical cues within the feedback!




Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too a few years now and is at all times able to cry about Madoka. You’ll find extra of his work at his weblog Flawed Each Time, or comply with him on Twitter.


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