10 Great Anime Composers (& Where You’ve Heard Their Music)

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Anime opening and ending themes are often discussed at length, with there being some iconic ones over the years. However, a fact that is often overlooked is that anime soundtrack music, playing during scenes to capture and enhance the moment, is critical to the success of a series.

RELATED: 10 Unskippable Anime Openings In 2020 Anime, Ranked

There may be anime fans who don’t make an effort to listen out for the music, but the majority of people are more likely to appreciate a scene if its mood is appropriately supported by music that reflects and enhances whatever emotion the visuals are intending to portray. The men and women behind these soundtracks are always deserving of public praise for their work, with many of them contributing to some of the best anime series over the years.

10 Michiru Oshima Brought Masterful Music To The Original Fullmetal Alchemist And Little Witch Academia

little witch academia school, luna nova

Michiru Oshima is a Japanese composer who has contributed to a vast array movies, television, video games and anime over the years. She wrote an orchestral arrangement of a Zelda medley for the video game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, released on Wii and GameCube. Her anime contributions include the original Fullmetal Alchemist adaptation and Little Witch Academia, with the latter’s full soundtrack sounding like a Hollywood movie masterclass of orchestral music.

9 Taku Iwasaki Is Comfortable Mixing Up Genres, As Proven By The Gurren Lagann Soundtrack

Taku Iwasaki, a Japanese composer and arranger, has contributed to many well-known anime series over the years and has produced some outstanding soundtracks.

Gurren Lagann, Akame Ga Kill, Noragami and Soul Eater are but a few of the many anime that he composed music for. The Gurren Lagann soundtrack particularly stands out; it has heaps of different genres mixed and packed into it, from the obvious classical and jazz inspirations to some captivating rap like “Rap is a Man’s Soul.”

8 Shiro Sagisu’s Contributions To Evangelion Are Legendary

The End Of Evangelion Shinji

Shiro Sagisu is a music producer and composer whose career spans over 45 years, dating back to the early ’70s. He is best known for award-winning music contributions to Neon Genesis Evangelion, but he has also contributed soundtracks for Berserk, Black Bullet, and Bleach, among several others.

RELATED: 5 Saddest Musical Themes In Neon Genesis Evangelion (& 5 Happiest)

In regards to his producing role, he’s renowned for his work with choirs, and this experience is relevant to and present in his anime soundtracks, with multiple examples in the movie Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance alone.

7 Kevin Penkin Is Young For An Established Composer But Is Already Making Waves

Made In Abyss Netflix

Kevin Penkin is an Australian composer for both video games and anime. Born in 1992, he’s still relatively new to the anime industry but he’s already won the award for best score for both Made in Abyss and Tower of God at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards.

He has also contributed some extremely emotional music to The Rising Of The Shield Hero, and recently confirmed that he’d be composing the music for an episode of the upcoming Disney+ short animated series Star Wars Visions.

6 Jun Maeda’s Majestic Compositions Complement Angel Beats And Clannad Beautifully

Tomoya, Nagisa, and Ushio Okazaki Clannad After Story

Jun Maeda, the co-founder of the visual novel studio Key, is considered a pioneer for visual novels. Having well-rounded skills within anime creation, he would also go on to contribute and write music for anime like Clannad and Angel Beats.

His soundtracks for these series are mostly calm, beautiful, and jam-packed with emotion, and rightfully so, as they properly support the themes within each anime. The Clannad track “Nagisa: Parting at the Foot of the Hill” stands out as one of his finest, with it conveying raw emotion perfectly.

5 Yuki Kajiura Is To Thank For The Exemplary Demon Slayer And Sword Art Online Soundtracks

Dual Wielding Kirito. Sword Art Online

Yuki Kajiura is a Japanese musician, composer, and record producer who’s contributed to many anime over the years, arguably most notable of which are Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, Sword Art Online, and Fate/Zero.

RELATED: Sword Art Online: Kirito’s 10 Biggest Failures, Ranked

As evidenced by these three examples, her music is necessary for bringing out the best in fight scenes and action-packed moments as well as more serene and emotion-focused sequences. One such example is the Sword Art Online track “Luminous Sword,” played during a number of boss battles and featuring quiet melodies that quicken and increase to accompany specific parts of a fight perfectly.

4 Joe Hisaishi Has Been A Phenomenal Composer For Studio Ghibli

My Neighbor Totoro Mei, Satsuki and Totoro

Joe Hisaishi is a Japanese composer who’s become synonymous with Studio Ghibli and its music. He was great friends with co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and would go on to work on many masterpieces, including My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso among others.

The opening soundtrack to Spirited Away, “One Summer’s Day,” has gone on to become Hisaishi’s most famous and successful composition, with over 13 million streams on Spotify as of 2021.

3 Yoshihisa Hirano’s Dramatic Music Has Helped The Likes Of Death Note and Hunter X Hunter In Telling Their Stories

Death Note Light Ryuk

Yoshihisa Hirano is a Japanese composer best known for his work on both Death Note and the 2011 adaptation of Hunter X Hunter. His contributions to both have included many pieces that perfectly convey chaos, drama, and action.

RELATED: 10 Times Death Note Surprised The Entire Fandom

Intense and enjoyable to listen to separately, this type of music does wonders by perfectly supporting the action in the anime without taking attention away from what’s going on, whether it’s an intense staredown or simply simmering tension. He has also contributed to the Eden’s Zero (2021) soundtrack.

2 Yoko Kanno’s Brilliance Gave Tank! To The World

Yoko Kanno is a Japanese composer, musician, and arranger, considered to be one of the most legendary anime composers out there — and rightfully so.

She’s responsible for the extraordinary soundtrack of Cowboy Bebop, with the jazzy big band track “Tank!” being arguably one of the best and most iconic anime opening themes of all time. Kanno’s immense musical talent has also produced some different styles of music within anime, with the beautiful and chilling music of Zankyou No Terror (Terror In Resonance) being a perfect example.

1 Hiroyuki Sawano’s Captivating Music Makes Epic Scenes Even Better

Hiroyuki Sawano is a name that any anime-lover should know but might not. What they will know, at the very least, is the name of one of the many anime series that he has contributed to over the years.

The talented composer, pianist, lyricist, and musician is responsible for contributing to the likes of The Seven Deadly Sins, Kill La Kill, Blue Exorcist, Re:Creators, Attack on Titan, and many more. He has composed opening and ending themes for several of these series, not limiting himself to background music and general soundtracks. His music in Attack on Titan usually accompanies a particularly epic scene, as he’s really good at capturing a moment and supporting it with appropriate music.

NEXT: Attack On Titan: 5 Bleach Characters Mikasa Could Defeat (& 5 She Couldn’t)

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