When doing manual labour for incompetent overseers, one often finds oneself searching– desperately– for means of entertainment. Inspiration can come from unlikely places, and in unusual forms. This post is the product of one such evening.
I have literal days’ worth of music on my phone, but even so, I’ve heard each song several times before, and despite staring at a veritable trove of music, I can sometimes draw blanks as to what I feel like listening to. So one night, as I was
stalking stocking the aisles of my evening purgatory, mind divided between pondering what to listen to and which overhead support beam would be prettiest to hang myself from, I hit the shuffle button on my phone. A song started playing, and a single thought crossed my bleary mind.
Damn, I thought. This song would make a fuckin’ banger of an anime intro, wouldn’t it? I may have expressed this sentiment aloud, and received a few grumbles of affirmative non-dissent from a particular zombie I work with. I can call him a zombie here, because I know he won’t read it. He hates fun. Also, zombies can’t read.
One thing led to another, and soon I had at least five different songs selected that sounded anime AF despite being sung (mostly) in English. I have hundreds of Japanese songs on my phone as well, roughly 50% of which aren’t anime-related, but those felt like cheating. Most westerners think you can play any Japanese song from the past two decades and, bam, instant anime. So we won’t be talking about those. It’s too easy.
Also, this isn’t really a “Top 5.” They’re in no particular order, and it’s all subjective. I just called it a “top” five because I’m curious to see what, if anything, it does for me in the search algorithms. A little experimental SEO, if you will (that sounds way cooler than, “I just wanted to see what would happen,” right?).
5: Sumo Cyco – Bystander
This was the one that I was listening to when my mind got onto this train of thought. You hear it too, right? The opening for an anime about a bunch of quirky but rakishly-charming characters who at first seem like punks, but turn out to be righteous rebels against an Orwellian Authority? Yeah, you know the type of anime I’m talking about. They also probably have a cute mascot like a pink rodent with a Mohawk or something?
Anyway, I like this song. Apparently the band originated from Hamilton, ON, a town not far from mine, so I’m also promoting (or condemning, depending on how much respect you lost for me after that previous paragraph) some local talent.
I haven’t actually watched the music video for this song yet, or even posted it here, because I know there’s some sensitive folk out there, and just looking at the thumbnails is enough to tell me that they be wiiildin’ in all of them.
4: Bring Me the Horizon – Kingslayer
Yeah, I know you saw this one coming. And yes, it does feature Babymetal quite extensively, which is indeed a Japanese band. But I’m still arguing that it counts, because it’s mostly in English. The rest in this list will be less obvious, I promise.
This one would definitely be the intro or outro for a gritty action/adventure fantasy along the lines of Arslan Senki or Akame ga Kill!. There would be lots of blood and edginess, and Crunchyroll and/or Funimation or whichever localisation company gets its greasy hands on it first would probably take offense that the song features some gratuitous cursing so we’ll obviously need to edit out all the coolest screamy vocal sections.
I jam out to this song a lot, and, judging from the fact the video has upwards of 13 million views as of my writing this, so do many others. I was late to discover BMTH. They’ve been around for a long time, and I recall a lot of the emo kids from my high school years blasting their songs pretty heavily. I think that’s what threw me off them initially– Teenage Me was all like, Pfft, I ain’t some whiny emo bitch.
Flash forward some ten years or so, and here I am, a 26 year old, whiny, emo bitch. Oh, how the turns have tabled.
3: The Raven Age – Fleur de Lis
I was wondering which Power Metal song I was going to include for this section for a hot minute because, honestly, nine out of every ten songs within the power metal genre sound like anime intros. I love power metal for the inspiration it commonly draws from fantasy and history, and the shameless amount of passion and energy that goes into every aspect. Great for getting hyped up before or during a workout, or… y’know, the polar opposite: before or during a sedentary hour or so of writing a story or stupid blog piece. Generally speaking, the songs I listen to fall into two categories: Songs I Listen to to Get Hyped, and Songs I Listen to to Escape. Rock, metal, hip hop, EDM, etc. are typically on the former side of the spectrum, with genres like classical, lo-fi, dungeon synth, folk, etc. on the latter. Power Metal, to me, can be a rare and potent hybridisation of both.
I wanted to pick a band most people probably haven’t heard of, so Powerwolf, Dragonforce, Nightwish, Amaranthe, and Sabaton, as well as a bunch of others were struck off my list. There are also loads of amazing and underrated Japanese Power Metal bands that would of course have been perfect fits for this category– but again, off limits, too easy, you know the game by now. But if you want to hear me talk about Japanese Power Metal in another blog post, I’ll happily do so!
(Disclaimer: I know a small handful of wiseguys are probably going to want to ahktchooally me on my Power Metal designation of some or all of the bands aforementioned and instead classify them as alt-classical-neopostpresent-nu-gothic pop metal, and, listen, I’m sure you’re correct and very clever and all that, but I’m not here for it. They sound like Power Metal to me, so that’s what I’m calling ’em. It’s a done deal, sorry.)
There are already a few anime and characters out there inspired by the legend of Jeanne d’Arc, AKA Joan of Arc, with Saber from the Fate series the most prominent of them. I also watched a lesser-known anime that aired maybe a year and a half ago that seemed pretty infatuated with Joan of Arc, but I can’t remember the name. I think the main heroine ended up getting her heart transplanted with Joan of Arc’s heart or something after an attack on her village? Please shoot me a comment if you know the anime I’m talking about. At any rate, this song would make a pretty great pick for the next great Joan of Arc inspired anime.
[ADDENDUM 2021/04/24: I’m, like, 90% sure at least one version of Saber is indeed inspired by Joan of Arc. Then again, I’m not by any means up to speed on all my Fate lore. Am I tripping? Please let me know in the comments if I’m tripping.]
4: Cold Kingdom – The Moon and the Fool
This song is definitely outro material– the slightly melancholy vibe with still enough leftover to jam to that gets you (just me?) into a slightly contemplative state about the episode you just watched and life in general. These sorts of contemplative outro themes work especially well for shows that like to kill off major characters– take Dreamcatcher by Nano or Be by Song Riders for example. I’m not going to say which anime outros feature those songs, for fear that my description of them is vaguely spoilery. IYKYK. You can do some cursory Google searches if you’re curious. Otherwise, suffice it to say that those songs hit hard as outros for the anime they represent.
This is one of the stranger songs on this list, I think, for the simple fact I’m not sure if I’m the only person who feels the way I do when I listen to songs like this one. I get all sentimental and philosophical n’ shit, like I just hit a blunt. I start thinking about all the ways life is good, and all the ways life is bad. Weird, I know. Anyway, I encourage you to give this band a listen, as they’re highly underrated.
5: Mechina – The Worst in Us
With an album cover like that, how could this not be an anime OST??
Mechina are a very new discovery for me, and, so far, they have consistently gotten me in the mood to pick up one of my old space opera projects I’ve had on the back burner for a while now. I’m always excited to discover new bands, but the discovery of these guys feels like an epiphany to me. The artistry present in this album gives me chills. I would include the entire album in this section if I could, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll give you only one song to listen to.
I chose this song in particular because it gave me a bit of a Sawano Hiroyuki soundtrack vibe the moment I first heard it, maybe like a heavier version of something you’d hear in Aldnoah.Zero? Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe all the songs I included here are stretches. I spend waaaay too much time in my own head when I’m at work, so these could indeed all be artifices of a creative mind desperate for something to occupy itself. You tell me!
…But regardless of my personal sanity, you have to admit this album cover is fantastic. I mean, look at the detail. Goes way above and beyond the line of duty. Kudos to the artist.
Anyways, that’s gonna do it for this installment of Poplar’s Picks (I’ve used that title on this blog before, right?). There’s honestly a gazillion other songs I could have included in this list, but this is a blog post, not an encyclopaedia– I wanted to keep it relatively short so as to be more accessible to a general audience. If you enjoyed this post, hit the like button and consider following my blog. It’s free, and I post whenever I feel like it, which means your inbox won’t be spammed with my posts every day. I’m only tolerable in small doses, I get it.
I might do a continuation of this post just because there’s so much music I left out, and it was actually kinda fun to write. What about you? Did you have fun? That’s what I’m here for, mostly.
Might be interesting to focus on music that isn’t rock/metal centric in my next installment. It’s just that Rock and Metal, IMO, bridge the shortest gap between western and Japanese culture in terms of musical genres pertinent to anime. Choosing, say, a western rap song as a theoretical anime intro would be difficult indeed! But maybe I’m up to the challenge.
Do you have any additional suggestions for this list that I left out? I’d be curious to see what would be on your list of Anime Songs That Aren’t Anime Songs. Leave me a comment, or maybe even steal this idea and write your own post! You don’t even need to credit me if you don’t want to, as I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to come up with this idea. Just make sure you link me your own post so I can read it! Until next time, cheers.