Why We Watch Anime, Part 2: Music

Creativity in Music

Building upon the principle of creativity, the second distinct reason why people watch anime has nothing to do with the eye. Rather, it has to do with the ear, filling our minds, and souls, with music that is entertaining on many levels.

All samples are STRICTLY for EDUCATIONAL purposes, to provide cultural insight. At any rate, they’re from YouTube so it’s not my neck on the line. – J

Genres Without Limit

Taking just one example, the work of Yoko Kanno has ranged from Gregorian Chant, to American Jazz, classical symphony, straight up J-Pop (the Japanese version of pop(ular) music), and futuristic rock music. This is a fraction of this notable composer’s incredibly vast and varied work. In regards to her music evoking American Jazz in Cowboy Bebop, she seemed to have a better finger on the pulse of American musical traditions than Americans themselves.

Yoko Kanno – Know Your Enemy

Kanno Yoko: Europe

Yoko Kanno – Aqua

Perhaps my personal favorite is Yuki Kajiura, who I know best for taking music that sounds “foreign” in very mystical, spiritual sounding ways – particularly from let’s say, South-East Asia – and going from themes of great depth and tranquility, to high energy action scene music of a power and intensity that puts most things to shame. Yet what I remember most about her is her ability to compose some of the most positive, upbeat, fun modern pieces I’ve ever heard, even considering the strength of Kanno’s resume. She might be considered less even, but her best works are absolute top notch.

Yuki Kajiura – Grandpa’s Violin

Re: Yuki Kajiura – Aura

Sacrifice – Yuki Kajiura

These are but two of the more famous composers, and I use them to illustrate the broader principle: the music used in anime is extremely diverse, knowing no limit based on culture and drawing on musical concepts from all over the world.

For example, one relatively recent phenomenon is the rise of Japanese rap music. By this, I mean the mixing of strong musical rhythms with strongly rhythmic speech, combining to create a beat-heavy string of sounds and words. However clear or unclear the words of the rappers themselves, the throwing in of English loan words tends to throw natives off the chase sufficiently that, like many Americans appreciating J-Pop, they simply listen to the flow.

Here’s two examples: one from anime, and one that’s simply “Japanese rap” in a sense that’s closer to American rap.

Eureka Seven 2nd Opening

Sorry, embedding was disabled on the YouTube end for this one, but I highly recommend it. There’s rap that is tolerable in this world, and I felt this was one example. The Japanese rap that has made it into mainstream anime has tended to be very catchy, easy to stick with, easy to listen to (yes, seriously!), and highly entertaining.

HIME , Female Japanese Rapper , DJ Honda Records

Finally, there’s always room for tossing in music that indulges in the deep, rich musical tradition of Japan itself, ranging from stringed instrument music by geisha to music used at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. In my own humble estimation, there are few more beautiful sounds on this Earth than Japanese flute music.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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2 Responses to Why We Watch Anime, Part 2: Music

  1. Daniel R. says:

    LOVE your posts Mr. J Sensei, I have only been exposed to Japanese culture through the tidbits in anime or manga, and thanks to this blog I’m becoming more fascinated by it every day. There is so much to enjoy or experience if you just dig a bit deeper, which is exactly what you do.

    Also, now I know that several of my favorite soundtracks were from Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura. I’ve definitely heard their works here and there and loved most of them, guess it never occurred to me they were all by the one or two people!

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