Welcome to the inaugural edition of The High Notes, a column we are starting up to explore the sounds of our favorite games and anime. Since this is the first entry in our column, it seemed appropriate to take a look at a few awesome anime openings.
Start with Something Inspiring
Let’s kick off today’s article with the initial opening song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This particular opening ran for first 14 episodes in the 64-episode series before being replaced with “Hologram,” by NICO Touches the Walls.
Popular artist Yui sings this piece, which is called “Again.” It was a number-one single in Japan when it came out, and it is actually the third Yui song to show up in an anime. Two others, “Rolling Star” and “Life,” can be heard in Bleach. This song and the animation that goes with it are perfect for setting up the FMA: Brotherhood series. Even if you can’t speak Japanese, you’ll feel an intensity in the music that, when combined with the imagery, leaves a lasting impression of its meaning. This fan translation of the lyrics for the full-length single suggests that the song is about facing your inner demons to follow your dreams. I particularly like the part where Ed, Al, and Winry are each blown back by the wind and the two brothers lose themselves. It gives me chills every time I see it!
Don’t Forget Your Sense of Wonder
Instrumental anime openings can be just as awesome as those with lyrics. This one from The Twelve Kingdoms has beautiful illustrations and a sweeping score that suit the high fantasy series very well. The Twelve Kingdoms lasted 45 episodes, and this opening ran for the entire show.
The music combines with the artwork in this opening to tell a story of the world where the series takes place, evoking imagery of lavish landscapes and epic adventures. The end of the song has an exciting feel to it that often reminds me of the swashbuckling main themes for Oblivion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Titled “Jūni Genmukyoku” (which, according to a friend who can read Japanese, translates roughly to “Song of Twelve Dreams”), this piece was composed and arranged by Ryo Kunihiko. Kunihiko has also created music for anime series like Tegami Bachi and The Story of Saiunkoku, as well as NCsoft’s MMORPG, Aion.
Open Things with a Bang!
One of these days, we’ll probably end up with an article for this column that is dedicated entirely to the jazzy brilliance of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, but for now, let’s close off this edition of The High Notes with the show’s opening theme. This opening was used for the entire 26-episode series of Cowboy Bebop.
This instrumental track called “Tank!” is just one of the many fun songs composed by Yoko Kanno for Cowboy Bebop and performed by her band, The Seatbelts. Kanno herself is a well-known keyboardist, and she also composed the soundtracks for shows like Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and Wolf’s Rain. The opening for this series is a visual treat, with its wild colors and fast paced transitions, but hearing “Tank!” along with it creates a sensory explosion. If you enjoy jazz, you’ll definitely find yourself moving to the music every time you hear this one.
Obviously, these three examples aren’t the only amazing anime openings out there, but we’ll wrap up this issue of The High Notes here. Stay tuned to The G.A.M.E.S. Blog for more spotlights on video game and anime music, and don’t forget to leave suggestions in the comments!