Electronic Music & Anime
When Vangelis, Giorgio Moroder, and Kraftwerk picked up their first synthesizers, they embarked on a journey that would change contemporary music forever. These early pioneers made major inroads in the realms of film composition, dance music, and popular music that inspired generations of musicians, bedroom producers, and DJs across the globe.
These luminaries may have set the ball rolling, but many electronic artists that followed took things in a different direction with plenty of love for anime!
GIF of Kraftwerk depicted as wireframe models
The Ryuichi Sakamoto Effect
Still of Shirotsugh Lhadatt in the pilot's seat from Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise
Many people think that electronic music is cold and mechanical. Some even doubt that it’s real music because of the production method, which involves computers and synthesizers instead of traditional instruments (in most cases). Of course, these people are wrong, as there are plenty of electronic musicians that create rich, dynamic, and emotive music - that will blow anyone’s socks off!
One musician that has created soul-stirring electronic soundscapes is Ryuichi Sakamoto. In 1977, he was part of a trio that formed Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) and was hugely influential in the electropop, synthpop, and cyberpunk scenes of that time. They were true innovators that enjoyed a significant amount of international success. However, Sakomoto’s solo career is just as interesting when one considers that he composed Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise's soundtrack.
There’s no denying that The Wings of Honneamisse’s production values were sky high, with some mightily impressive visuals. But Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score is so masterful that it encapsulates every scene in the film perfectly. His bizarre ambient sounds harmonize with the melancholic piano chords and percussive elements of the score, to the point where it seems almost otherworldly. And that’s also the reason why it’s so damn memorable!
A Change in Space and Time
Still of Cobra smoking a cigar from Space Adventure Cobra
The 1982 theatrical release of Space Adventure Cobra featured a soundtrack that was typical of anime productions of that era. The opening theme "Daydream Romance" by Shigeru Matsuzaki was jazzy and melodic, but also incredibly cheesy to the point where it would make one cringe. But to be fair, that suits the persona and antics of a certain playboy space pirate!
When Manga Entertainment released Space Adventure Cobra in British theaters back in 1995, they dubbed it with a different soundtrack by the Swiss electronic band Yello.
So, was this a bad idea? Not quite, as Yello’s opening theme song “"Drive / Driven" set an entirely different tone. It’s a far sexier, sublime, and listenable song when compared to the original opening theme, while also working incredibly well with the visuals. Ultimately, Yello’s contributions helped to make the film more palatable to the tastes of a western audience and elevate its status in that market.
Still of a happy and bewildered Daft Punk from Interstella5555: The 5tory of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
There’s no better love letter to anime than what Daft Punk managed to create. The French duo worked closely with Leiji Matsumoto on their sci-fi music epic, Interstella5555: The 5tory of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem for two years. And that was time well spent, as the final product was just superb!
Daft Punk’s anime musical is truly an original piece of work that combines the very best aspects of sci-fi anime and electro house music with a French touch. The production values of both the film and music are unparalleled for a project of this scope. It’s seldom that musicians will go to such great lengths to produce an entire feature of their music videos, especially one that’s so prohibitively expensive.
While Daft Punk’s music may not be every anime fan’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that their Interstella5555 music videos helped to expose more people to anime. Folks that only cared about dance and pop music finally saw how insanely cool anime truly is!
An Underground and Experimental Flavor
Still of Kuro from Tekkonkinkreet
Daft Punk are massively mainstream and appeal to a wide demographic due to their catchy songs, and ability to market themselves effectively. However, there are artists that eschew the limelight for a less commercialized sound. The British electronic duo known as Plaid has always produced experimental music within the intelligent dance music sub-genre. They were also formerly part of The Black Dog, an ambient techno group that developed a cult following in the underground rave scene of the 90s and beyond.
With such a pedigree, Plaid are certainly no lightweight music producers. And as such, it’s not surprising that they were approached by the director of Tekkonkinkreet, Michael Arias, to produce the soundtrack of his edgy anime film. He definitely made the right choice, as Plaid’s composition is mesmerizing in its execution and originality.
Anyone that has seen Tekkonkinkreet realizes what a chaotic and strange anime it is. An ordinary cookie-cutter soundtrack just wouldn’t have cut it. But Plaid’s impeccable mishmash of ambient, jazz, ethnic, and motorized sounds meld together perfectly to produce a score that’s fitting for Tekkonkinkreet. At times, it sounds soothing and other times just diabolical!
The New Kids on the Block
Clip of Japanese text with Greek statue and pillar defining the Vaporwave aesthetics [Source]
Not every musician has the opportunity to create music for anime. But a new breed of electronic music producer has emerged from the depths of the internet. Synthwave and vaporwave artists are popping up all over the place and they have no qualms about showing their infatuation for the 80s, 90s, Windows 95, Greek statues, and anime.
It’s all about the A E S T H E T I C !
While most synthwave and vaporwave artists derive inspiration from similar sources, they’re two different sub-genres of electronic music. Film and video game soundtracks from the 80s mainly influence synthwave. On the other hand, vaporwave borrows heavily from muzak and is a statement against the consumerist culture. But it’s common to find both synthwave and vaporwave music videos on YouTube that are using clips from anime - copyright laws be damned!
At MAL, we don’t endorse the use of copyrighted materials for such purposes. However, we won’t hate on artists that are producing awesome music and showcasing their love for anime.