Progressive Labor Party Organizes Solidarity March With Harvard Yard Encampment


Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard


Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response


Harvard Yard To Remain Indefinitely Closed Amid Encampment


HUPD Chief Says Harvard Yard Encampment is Peaceful, Defends Students’ Right to Protest

Anime Music Think Piece: How Anime Music Marks Emotional Journeys

Anime collage featuring shows "Attack on Titan," "Haikyu!!" and others.
Anime collage featuring shows "Attack on Titan," "Haikyu!!" and others. By Samantha Simpson
By Ashley Y. Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

When it comes to assessing musical elements within anime, the same thematic questions emerge time and time again.Why does anime music so often fall within a category of its own? Why do listeners experience such a connection to music from a completely foreign language and culture? Why is it that in any conversation about anime and its most compelling features, musical matters invariably remain at the heart of the discussion?

Anime is defined as hand-drawn and computer animated TV series that are either original screenplay or adapted from manga Japanese comics similar to the manhwa of Korea and manhua of China — all of which all mean “comic” in their respective languages. The true heart of anime, however, lies beyond its technicalities. It’s better defined by its attention to art and emotion. Oftentimes, these motifs are spurred and propelled by the musical elements that have developed into a genre of their own, grasping the attention and appreciation of many.

In discussing the nature of anime music itself, one need only look towards a specific anime’s soundtrack, a series’ opening theme. Unlike most Western television counterparts, anime’s opening credits play a much larger role in any given show’s plot. These openings expertly introduce the anime’s main characters, relevant recurring motifs, and set the tone for the anime all through visual cues. Throughout the lifetime of a series, openings may change to reflect the characters’ growth, different plotlines and themes, and the music in particular can often reflect a wholly different mood for the subsequent anime arc.

Take pop culture favorite “Attack on Titan,” for example. From the very start, the show’s first opening, “Guren No Yumiya” carries a strong beat and catchy tune; almost like a national anthem, it sends the reader into a state of excitement and anticipation for this standout anime. And like an anthem indeed, “Guren No Yumiya” is quite distinctive and recognizable especially within the anime-loving community, despite the song containing a mix of Japanese and German lyrics. The song’s author, Linked Horizon, uses a unique rock palette that blends together elements of fantastical musical beats and swelling melodies. Much like a rallying cry or patriotic tune, anime openings, when recognized, can serve as a great distinguisher for fans in the U.S. trying to recognize other fans of a particular anime. There’s a level of exclusive appeal in being able to know a song in a foreign language, not to mention feeling like a part of a greater subculture of anime lovers by being able to discern a melody or phrase and, ironically, “speak the same language” of anime with others.

Not only do these opening tracks serve to rally hearts, but they also change to reflect the dynamic development of the plot and characters. Take “Attack on Titan”’s fourth opening, “Red Swan” by Yoshiki featuring HYDE, with its entirely different musical tone. The grand percussion and soothing piano chord progressions opening the song are not overwhelmingly powerful like “Guren No Yumiya,” but rather bring a more poignant and surging melody. Rather than rock, “Red Swan” has more pop elements, its melody littered with twinges of sadness and longing. This parallels the more emotional and wistful plot points of the anime where many main characters' backgrounds and past traumas are more fully fleshed out and explored than ever before.

Indeed, there’s a wide spectrum of emotionality that anime music can convey, from adrenaline-pumping marches to calming swells and serene diminuendos. Similarly, openings like “We Go” from globally renowned pirate adventure manga and anime “One Piece,” and “Gurenge” of the beautifully animated and heart-wrenching “Demon Slayer” are other examples of livelier and spurring anime music that give voice to the tumult of each journey’s exciting trial and tribulations. On the other end of that narrative, “Unravel” from psychological horror anime “Tokyo Ghoul” and “Fuyu No Hanashi” from romance and music anime “Given” possess a quality of dynamic emotion and melancholy that make the sound addictively nostalgic.

And why is it that anime music touches so many hearts with its variety and assortment of sound? The quality of the music itself is not so different from music that most U.S. audiences are accustomed to listening to on the radio or in other TV shows. However, when examining what makes anime music so moving, there emerges the shared pattern of a heavy emphasis on the melody, the arrangement of chords used, how each melody progresses and weaves back to interplay with each other, and how the lyrics add a spoken dimension to the emotional component of the composition. You’d be hard pressed to find an obviously static and flat musical motif within any of these anime pieces; everything is intentionally fluid and masterfully composed with freedom and creativity in mind. And the constant shift in melodies and tunes in anime music are not there simply for the musical aesthetic and listening purpose. As alluded to before, the music changes frequently to mark the change of story and character development within an anime.

The aforementioned anime “One Piece” alone currently has 24 different openings and counting! If anime characters are constantly leading the development of the show and exploring their own personal progression, then the music of the show should reflect those changes. As long as anime continues to depict life in the fantastical, sentimental, and brutally honest way as it has done since its inception, then its equally relatable music will constantly be an accompanying partner that elevates that entire emotional experience.

—Staff Writer Ashley Y. Lee can be reached at

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.