It’s currently May 2020 and the Government has extended the lockdown in the UK for another few weeks, with most of the country still looking to work from home for the foreseeable future. For many people, who are used to commuting every day and going into the office, this is a huge culture shock. There are many guides and tips on how to work from home effectively and professionally, but Anime UK News is here to offer a different kind of help. Many people like to listen to music whilst working, and with the public now working from home – surrounded by family members needing attention, a house filled with chores to be done, and many other distractions we’re not used to – listening to music can really help tune out the outside world and get work done. So, grab your noise-cancelling headphones, your working laptop, and load up your chosen streaming music service, because Anime UK News has a few suggestions for you;
If you go onto YouTube and search for Yuki Kajiura, there’s a reason why you’ll find many hour-long videos of her works: it’s because her catalogue is filled with gorgeous music, many tracks that seem to transport you into a whole new world, get you pumped up or tug on your heart strings. I could recommend any of her soundtracks, but the one with the most variety and is also considered to be one of her best, is Garden of Sinners. The opening track itself (which you can find on a loop here) is stunning by itself and there’s so much music across all the films you can just play in the background as you crack on with your admin. You don’t even need to see the films to enjoy the music, but I’ve heard from many people who have gotten into the movies because of its gorgeous score.
Another soundtrack I recommend is from Tenchi Muyo! Composed by Seikou Nagaoka, it’s a wonderful mixture of carefree beats, sci-fi action and serene beauty. The opening track itself is a perfect example of the unique style and mood the composer created for the series, and why it’s so beloved by fans.
I also want to give a shout out to the soundtrack for From Up on Poppy Hill; it’s an often overlooked Studio Ghibli film, but the music by Satoshi Takebe is delightfully upbeat and the vocal tracks are some of the best across the studio’s filmography with the easy-breezy style and Aoi Teshima’s beautiful voice.
Some of my favourite soundtracks lately have come from Makoto Shinkai’s blockbuster hits Your Name and Weathering with You. Composed by popular band Radwimps, the music behind these films are fantastic listens that both have an up-beat, pop sound for the vocal tracks as well as more uplifting piano pieces. They’re well-balanced soundtracks that are easy to leave on repeat and not get sick of, which I think is always important when you’re working and don’t want to be switching albums a lot.
My other recommendation comes in the form of the Violet Evergarden soundtrack. Composed by Evan Call, this collection is a very emotional listen (especially if you love the show as much as I do!), but it’s also easy on the ears. The tracks are mostly piano and violin compositions, but there are also full orchestral tracks. The whole soundtrack is made up of beautiful pieces.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more oomph, then it’s worth taking a look at the soundtracks for My Hero Academia or Haikyu!! (composed by Yuki Hayashi), as those are driven by guitars and energetic sounds that my other suggestions don’t make use of. If you need to power through that last hour of work, then these are sure to fill you with that needed energy boost.
As my main occupation involves sitting at a computer all day, I listen to music a lot and anime soundtracks definitely make for good background music.
Like Darkstorm, one of my frequent go-to composers is Yuki Kajiura, with her soundtracks for both Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel movies being some of my most frequently played. Both offer similar vibes: mysterious and thought-provoking pieces that are good for concentration, mixed with those that are more intense and action-focused that, while are designed to highlight what is going on on-screen, make for good music for when you’ve got something you want to power through.
Sticking with the magical theme, I’d also heartily recommend Michiru Oshima’s delightful music from the Little Witch Academia franchise. When you’ve got a show that’s about the wonders and charm of magic you need music that matches that, and this does so and more, with pieces such as Chariot’s Theme that embody the heart of the story, to those that reflect on Akko and the gang’s wild adventures. If you want to escape from the real world and revel in magic and mystery, then this is the music to fly away with.
As a fan of idol anime, I couldn’t end this without at least mentioning the fantastic music from the Aikatsu! franchise, produced over the years by MONACA, onetrap and Digz Motion Sounds. The show’s music always puts a smile on my face, not just because of my fond memories, but because it’s just so charming and crosses a wide range of genres and moods. Music from the original series is often lighter and more comedic, while the more story-driven Aikatsu Stars! favours more dramatic tones; for example, Keisuke Yamasaki’s Subete wa Elza no Tame Ni! is an utterly electrifying bop, while other pieces are more tender and emotional.
Despite being an anime mainly targeted at children, the quality of the talent on display has always surprised me, ranging from Japanese video game composers to major Japanese DJs and music producers such as Teddyloid and PandaBoY; all the while being popular with remixers and having recently been performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in two live concerts. With the music from the show now being available internationally on music streaming services, it’s the perfect opportunity to recommend it to everyone, as I think it will surprise you!
Like Onosume, my work also involves sitting at a computer and over the years, I’ve assembled a number of favourite collections of anime music that I find inspiring when the going’s tough! There’s something unique about the relationship between anime and its music, whether it be that unique OP that nails the feel of a whole series (Hiroyuki Sawano’s Attack on Titan) or the subtle connection between the score and the imagery (Kevin Penkin’s Made in Abyss). Encountering Vision of Escaflowne on TV in France (a long time ago) sealed the deal for me; I was totally won over by Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi’s sweeping orchestral score. (Yes, it’s heavily indebted to Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, but so are film scores by Danny Elfman and John Williams, and Prokofiev’s a good master to emulate). But Yoko Kanno was also ahead of the others in her use of jazz, electronics and ethnic elements in her scores for anime as varied as GiTS SAC, Cowboy Bebop, Terror in Resonance and Kids on the Slope, to name just a few. In her music for Genesis of Aquarion (2005+) she returned to the big choral and orchestral sound for the aerial battles, as well as delivering a splendidly eclectic mix of styles to suit other aspects of the characters and story. In the anime itself, the quality of the music outshines the story (which is mad as a box of frogs IMHO) but, sadly, isn’t given the prominence it deserves, often drowned out by the sound effects. So what better way to enjoy the music than to listen to it without the explosions and distractions of a truly bonkers plot and imagine how it could have been…or even construct your own story?
Back in the day, I used to work to the amazing orchestral score written by Michiru Oshima (another talented female composer already mentioned by Onosume above) for the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime series. If you’re ever feeling down in these difficult times and in need of motivating to get on with what needs to be done, try the second OP by L’Arc-en-Ciel: Ready, Steady, Go!
What are some of your favourite anime soundtracks to work to? Let us know in the forums!