Please don’t tell me that I’ve been the only one holed up in my room binge-watching shoujo rom-coms since COVID-19? More specifically, have you also been rolled up in a blanket or basking under your AC, crushing on 2D men, wondering why the ending song doesn’t slap as much as the opening and feeling bad about not feeling bad for cancelling plans? Or have you been watching the “Top 100 anime songs of all time” videos on YouTube and sitting there wondering when A Cruel Angel’s Thesis is going to come up? 

Or are you simply curious to give anime songs a try? If any of that sounds familiar, no fear, you are not the only social reject looming on the web. Here is a shoulder to cry on — oh, and also a list of underrated banger songs handpicked by music writer Takahiro Kanazawa that even the junkies on My Anime List may have overlooked.

This Season

Summer ‘21 opened with an amphitheater where Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S and HameFura X battled to their death for the top spot for: “the best comfort anime sequel with a random alphabet at the end.” Yet the battle has been outshined by the appearance of a new sci-fi series, Sonny Boy which has enchanted the otaku community simply for how confusing it is. 

  1. GING NANG BOYZ “Shonen Shojo” (Sonny Boy 2021)

Story

36 students go on a psychedelic trip when they find themselves in a void of nothingness apart from their school and their fellow peers. Now think, “Lord of the Flies” but replace privileged white kids with depressed Japanese highschoolers with family problems and super powers they cannot control. 

Song and Artist

Manga artist, Hisashi Eguchi, designed the characters from the anime and also happened to have designed the album jacket for GING NANG BOYZ’ acclaimed second album “Kimi to Boku no Dai-san-ji Sekai Taisen-teki Renai Kakumei.” Coincidence? I think not. GING NANG BOYZ rocked up the toon “Shonen Shojo” meaning “boys and girls” for an anime about — you guessed it, boys and girls. While the punk-rock band were given the spotlight for the anime’s theme song, an array of up-and-coming artists have also been featured in the soundtrack (Mitsume and Taiwanese synth-pop band, Sunset Rollercoaster to name a few).

This Year

2021 is the year of the ox and generally a good year for shonen anime. However, if you are struggling to keep up with the who’s gonna say it — underwhelming season of My Hero Academia, tired of face-palming every episode of Tokyo Revengers for how useless Takemitchy is, or are currently writing a letter of complaint to the producers of Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan: The Final Season for leaving us hanging, please take a seat. Have a break from TV shows that deceive you into sitting in front of a screen for six hours and, instead, spare your poor eyes by watching a movie. 

 

  1. Hikaru Utada “One Last Kiss” (Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time 2021)

Story 

If five films were not enough to help explain the most intellectually challenging series down anime avenue, here is the sixth and final film to the Evangelion franchise. 155 minutes is allocated to concluding the futures of psychologically terrorized teens after 26 years since the first release of this monumental mecha series. Be reminded for the last time that christianity, schopenhauerian philosophy and cyborgs DO cross paths. 

Song and Artist

While we aren’t basic enough to include A Cruel Angel’s Thesis, we are basic enough to bring Evangelion into the list. Hikaru Utada, Japan’s R&B and Pop icon makes an entry with this theme song for the movie. Her soft vocals are weaved into the film’s grand finale, adding a sentimental touch to the ending of the film, but also the franchise. What better strategic marketing is there than to bring Japan’s two national treasures (Utada and Evangelion) together for a collab of a lifetime? After six attempts, this really is the end of Evangelion. Let’s blow this cross-century masterpiece “One Last Kiss” goodbye.

 

  1. millennium parade × Belle (Kaho Nakamura) “U” (BELLE 2021) 

Story

In the golden age of the internet that we live in now, we have two versions of ourselves: our existence in the real world and our online presence. Which is the real version? This complex idea of identity is explored in Hosoda’s 2021 film when an introverted high school girl juggles her life in a rural town while simultaneously being an internet idol on a social media platform called “U.”

Song and Artist 

The theme song “U” features Kaho Nakamura, who voiced Belle in the movie as she collaborates with a group of collective artists named millennium parade. What better fit is there for a modern themed film than a group of creatives who take music production to the next level? This musical group is not simply a band but a collective of producers, film-makers, designers and illustrators of the digital native generation. If there is one way to describe the millennium parade, it would be “digitally stimulating.” Have a look at a few of their music videos on YouTube; they will have your eyes and ears glued to the screen. 

 

  1. スカート&PUNPEE “ODDTAXI” (Odd Taxi 2021)

Story

What is weirder than an antisocial taxi driver who is a walrus? Let me tell you; the anti-social walrus taxi driver’s conversations with his passengers. Be ready to see an alpaca nurse, a wannabe-famous hippo and a boar-horse comedian duo who go by the stage name “homosapiens.” What seems like a series of humorous conversations between animals adds up to solve the mystery of a missing high school girl. It is indeed odd, to say the least.

Song and Artist

J-Pop artist Skirt and rapper PUNPEE chill in the backseat of a taxi as they bob their head to their own song playing on the radio. Skirt’s smooth vocals and PUNPEE’s bars melange into a vibey tune that I would totally play on a night drive in the city. Apart from the honor of opening for Odd Taxi, PUNPEE has established himself by featuring on “Sarashi-mono,” a track by Gen Hoshino, one the most recognized names in the industry.  

 

All-Time Best

Now, let’s have a look at a few timeless bangers that you may have shamefully looked past. Keep your Spotify open as you scroll, because I’ll bet my dignity on this — you will want to add a few of these songs to your playlist. (We actually already made it for you here). 

 

  1. eastern youth “時計台の鐘” (Golden Kamuy 2018)

Story

Now it’s time to put on The History Channel for a second and take a trip down memory lane to the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese war. I am unfortunately too young to tell you what went down in history from my own recollection, but Golden Kamuy does a fairly good job at shedding light upon the Ainu in the early 1900s. Hunting for gold with snow up to my thighs is not something that sparks much joy for me, but ex-soldier Saichi Sugimoto seems to have a different perception of joy. If you like adventure, history or want a break from the 21st century, this anime may be for you. 

Song and Artist

If you saw two middle aged men, one with a mohawk and the other with a flat cap walking downtown with a lady, what would you do? I’d call the police, that looks suspicious. But before dialling 110, make sure to check that it isn’t the punk-rock trio, eastern youth going out for a drink. Vocalist Yoshino looks like any average uncle at first glance but give him a mic and a guitar and he will scream at the top of his lungs that you would second guess his age. Age has nothing on punk rock. Eastern youth made that clear.  

 

  1. Shinsei Kamattechan “My War” (Attack on Titan: The Final Season 2020)

Story

If you consider yourself an otaku and haven’t watched AOT, I think you should stop reading right now and go educate yourself before coming back. Funny thing about this final season is that the protagonist gets virtually no screen time. But that is probably the only thing funny about this mega-dark series. While the past seasons have focused on the dynamics between humans v.s. titans, the final season touches upon the themes of human cruelty as Isayama closes his renown series by unveiling the war between humans. 

Song and Artist

La-la-la-la-la ri-ras-ra-ra-ti-ti-ti-tas. For those of you who have not watched AOT this may sound like pure gibberish to you. If you have watched AOT, this is still gibberish but I know you sang that in your head anyway. Given the show’s S-tier openings from the past seasons like “Guren no Yumiya” or “Shinzou wo Sasageyo,” the bar was set high. Chiba’s rock trio Shinsei Kamattechan took the challenge and nailed it with “My War.” The song has hardly any audible lyrics but still manages to embrace violence and eeriness at the same time, which fits right into the general mood of the series. 

 

  1. Tokyo Incidents “永遠の不在証明” (Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet 2021)

Story

Just in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, our favorite seventeen year old detective stuck inside the body of a seven-year old journeyed to solve the mystery kidnappings at the World Sports Games. The film’s release date was delayed due to the pandemic. Coincidentally, so were the Olympic Games…Is this by pure chance or is an underground crime group also behind this as well? I’ll leave it to Conan to investigate.

Song and Artist

After their dissolution in 2012, Tokyo Incidents made a comeback in 2020 with a reunion EP News. That perhaps set the engine running because they’ve been dropping song after song to the delight of fans since. Their recovery into the rock scene of Japan caught the attention of the Conan film producers, who gave them the spot for the theme song “Eien no Fuzai-shoumei” which translates as “Eternal Alibi.” 

 

  1. CHAI “Tenkorin no Theme” (Oshiete Hokusai – THE ANIMATION 2021)

Story

This is just your usual lazy girl who wants to become a painter, so decides to pray to the thunder god who then invites an array of historic Japanese artists to teach the girl how to sculpt her inner artist, kind of anime.  

Song and Artist

The opening of this net animation series is performed by CHAI, a Sub Pop Records-signed girl group. The bubbly song adds to the cutesy art style of the animation. Three of the four members were part of the same light-music club in high school, which sounds like an all-too-familiar plot line of our favorite girls from the K-On! anime series. While this is CHAI’s only anime contract, their up-beat, alternative rock music has enthralled the internet. An exciting future lies ahead for the quartet Ho-kago Tea Ti— I mean CHAI. 

 

  1. SUPER BEAVER “突破口” (Haikyuu!!: TO THE TOP 2020)

Story

Haikyuu!! is the epitome of sports anime (Kuroko’s Basketball fans, catch me outside). 2020’s release of the most recent season follows our favorite setter-spiker duo to the court of nationals (surprise, surprise). Let’s ignore the first half of the season, even I don’t remember what happened and I’m a hard core Haikyuu stan. The second half of the season sets the scene for yet another dramatic volleyball match between highschool boys featuring Mamoru Miyano’s attempt at kansai-ben (dialect of the kansai region). 

Song and Artist

SUPER BEAVER is no stranger to the world of anime music. The rock band has even contributed a soundtrack for Naruto, the king of shonen anime. This time round, SUPER BEAVER has stepped onto the court of a sports anime. Music is the cherry on the top for any sports anime as it sets the whole dramatic atmosphere. Without it, it’s just a clip of sweaty high school boys playing ball. For the second opening to the series, SUPER BEAVER gives us a strong e-guitar presence, a fast beat and ultimately a shout towards youth and well, sweaty high school boys playing ball.

 

  1. Asian Kung-fu Generation “Re:Re:” (ERASED 2016)

Story

What does a pizza delivery guy do when his mother gets stabbed to death? Go back in time so it doesn’t happen again, of course. Once sent back to the past, Satoru, the protagonist, figured it wouldn’t hurt to switch up a few minor details of history to prevent a kidnapping incident from happening while he’s at it. With a not-so-subtle reference to the butterfly effect, keep an eye out for a recurring blue butterfly during critical moments of the plot. 

Song and Artist

We might as well call this list “the best anime rock music” at this point. If that is the case, Asian Kung-fu Generation has to make the cut. Active since 1996, these Yokohama boys— now fully grown men, have left absolute bangers in the anime industry. They have essentially played for the anime hall of fame including Naruto, Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist. Yet, “Re:Re” is an all-time-fan favorite amongst both the ERASED fans and Asian Kung-fu Generation fandom alike; simply for how catchy it is. 

 

  1. Galileo Galilei “Summer Sky” (Big Windup!: Summer Tournament Chapter 2010)

Story

In case one sports anime was not enough to get your blood pumping, here is another one. While it often gets thrown in the shadow of Ace of Diamond or Major in terms of baseball anime, we decided to give Big Windup! some screen time. As far as baseball anime go, it gives the audience what they are looking for: the pitcher catcher bromance, heated team rivalries and the cliché message that practice makes perfect.

Song and Artist

Galileo Galilei, a rock band which has nothing to do with the astronomer, heated up the boys for their summer tournament in 2010. The band apparently has a thing for sports anime as they also have a track record for doing an ending song for Haikyuu!!. While disbanded, they will always remain in the memories of Big Windup! fans.

 

  1. Nujabes feat. Shing02 “Battlecry” (Samurai Champloo 2005)

Story

Ukiyo-e painters, American baseball players declaring war and the samurai who smells of sunflowers, all in the context of the Edo-period. Champloo meaning “stirred” or “mixed” in the Okinawa dialect is an accurate description of this chaotic anime which follows a traveling trio who encounter famous historical events in Japan, with a twist. 

Song and Artist

Another champloo-ed aspect of Samurai Champloo is the mixing of hip-hop music in the backdrop of a traditional Japanese scenery. Enter Nujabes, producer, lo-fi hip hop pioneer and sample God to mix the best beat in anime history. The opening song, “Battlecry,” featuring Nujabes’ partner-in-crime rapper, Shing02, made it big outside of Japan and was popularized in the hip-hop community in the U.S. Who would have thought that samurai and hip-hop would make such a power couple? This is a tribute to you Nujabes, Rest in Peace. 

 

 

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