This is in direct correlation to my Top Ten Favorite Anime OSTs. I’ll take a track from each of them and note an impactful scene that uses that track, and talk about how the music made the scene even more memorable. Needless to say, there will be spoilers.
I’m also thinking of doing a similar list for my favorite TV soundtracks…
This will also be in the same order as my favorite OSTs. If this was a more subjective list, the order would be really different.
Scene: “I was born in a town straight out of a fairy tale…” (The burning library)
Track: Angel Hand
The whole “burning library” scene is enough to chill anyone (particularly book lovers) down to the bone. But it is Johan’s speech that truly makes this sequence memorable. The way he says it makes it sound like a dark fairy tale, which may sound like it should be out of place in a grim psychological thriller, but isn’t. The way the actors in both the dub and sub say the lines is so incredibly intense. But it is also the music, a strange haunting melody, that also drives in the whole, “dark, twisted, horrific fairy tale” vibe. Combined with the song, the voice acting, and some of the best visuals in the series, this is a sequence that I won’t forget for a while. And even the lines alone are chilling; just read them.
Track: Bottled Angel
With Bottled Angel, I had many scenes to choose from, so why this one? I thought this was an interesting scene on its own, but after reading some trivia I rewatched it, and it stood out. At first glance, Izaya’s crazy theory about Dullahans being Valkyries and needing a “war” to be awakened was ridiculous. But then I read that Celty’s last name, Sturluson, is actually Icelandic. A Celtic fairy with an Icelandic last name is weird, but then you remember the Valkyrie theory, and then wonder if Izaya may actually have a point, and if his insane rambles have a ring of truth. The song itself is strange, bizarre, and mystical, much like DRRR itself. The tune may be repetitive, but that just gives the scene a more strange, off feel.
8. Psycho Pass:
Track: …Shogo Makishima
This is a famous scene from the show for a reason; the animation, voice acting (both sub and dub), writing, and music make an incredibly intense scene (unless you’re my mom, who said, “Can’t she shoot him in the kneecap like Reese [from Person of Interest]? It doesn’t have to be lethal.” Thanks, mom). Here, Akane meets Makishima, who has manipulated many into becoming murderers. When she tries to stop him with the Dominator, she realizes that it won’t work on him; his Crime Coefficient even goes down. He tries to goad her into shooting him with a real gun to save her friend, and to “open her eyes” to the truth of the Sybil System. She is shocked by this turn of events and can’t bring herself to shoot him, and is forced to watch him kill her friend. The music is a recurring theme: Makishima’s theme. Unlike most of the soundtrack, it doesn’t have an synthetic beat, which is fitting considering the Sybil System’s “rejection” of him. It uses a swelling orchestra and a distinctly gothic sound when put in comparison the rest of the OST.
Track: One Shot
This is likely one of the most emotional battles in the series, as both Yato and Bishamon are at extremely emotional low points: Yato believes that Bishamon has had Hiyori kidnapped as revenge against him, and Bishamon has been continually blighted by her Regalia again and has also banished Kazuma. They have been pitted against each other and can’t think logically, due to their past together and their present. Yato is enraged, and Bishamon is grieving and even (likely) frightened. The music is the usual mix of modern beats and oriental, traditional melodies, but with the addition of a strong violin in the background as the lead instrument. In fact, it is the violin that makes the song stand out out. It is a familiar instrument, which only adds to the emotional intensity of the scene. The contrasting of the two most notable sounds match the scene in general: an electronic beat for the fight itself, but the violin for the emotional undercurrents. It helps to heighten the emotional tension, along with the amazing fight choreography.
Track: Gate of Steiner
To think that in the image above, Okabe will soon come to a tragic realization… This was one of the most gut punching scenes in the anime, simply because he and the audience make a realization we should’ve all known right away. In this time travel series after episode 12, Okabe is desperate to save his best friend, Mayuri, from being killed by the organization SERN after the Future Gadget Lab gets involved with time travel. He realizes the mode of time travel, D-Mail, are the cause, and that he needs to undo each of the D-Mails that were sent. After undoing all of them and experiencing plenty of heartache, we think it’s over. But then we remember the sent D-Mail was the one that saved Kurisu from being killed. The synthesized song starts playing just as he realizes this. The worst part is that this isn’t even a twist…it’s a detail we all forgot. The eerie first notes will always be associated with this scene now; I can’t hear this song without remembering his look of horror.
5. Tokyo Ghoul:
Scene: Ryoko sacrifices herself to save Hinami
Track: Licht Und Schatten
It’s important to note that since this scene was only on episode 6, I didn’t have much time to become emotionally attached to these two, but Ryoko’s death still managed to hit me hard. Anyway, Hinami and her mother Ryoko hid at Anteiku for a short time due to the CCG targeting her father for being a Ghoul. They manage to be there for a time, but the CCG eventually tracks them down, even using Hinami’s father’s kagune as bait. Ryoko reveals her kagune, but before attacking, hugs her daughter and tells her to run, even giving her one last smile. Hinami finds Kaneki, but by the time they get back to Ryoko, they are only able to see her murdered. It’s a horrifying scene, and even though I didn’t know either of them well enough to truly be emotionally invested, I was shaken up. The music sets the scene perfectly, with its synthesized beat and the emphasis on the strings. It’s the strings that make this song and the scene so impactful, they imitate the sound of a breaking heart in a way.
4. Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
Track: Sis Puella Magica!
This theme is one of the most recurring ones in the whole series, so thinking of just one scene was hard enough. But this scene is one that truly stood out to me. However, I haven’t seen this series in over a year, so my memory is a little fuzzy. This is how I remember it: Shortly after Sayaka’s funeral, Kyubey appears before Madoka again. Madoka demands to know why the magical girl system only leads to despair, and eventually turns the magical girls into witches. Kyubey decides to show Madoka the story of the magical girls, and the relationship between the incubators and humans. This is not only a big “woah”, moment, this offers some of the best and most surreal animation of the series, becoming even darker and stranger than usual. But it is the recurring theme of Sis Puella Magica that helps make it stick in our mind; the choir in the background and the soft instruments are so subtle, and lend a strange beauty into an otherwise grim scene, making for a strong juxtaposition that only drives the point of the scene home.
3. Attack on Titan:
You know you have a winning track when, after the episode airs, everyone is desperate to know the name of the song and wants to download it. This scene was a bizarre but perfect way to introduce the identities of the Armored and Colossal Titans: Reiner and Bertoldt. When Reiner has an apparent mental breakdown after revealing he and Bert, they promptly transform, which is when the song begins to play, emphasizing the drama and betrayal in the sequence. This is a new version of Vogel Im Kafig, which is a song that played during most of the sad moments in the first season. This also helps to make an impact; the familiar tune made harsher and louder help to emphasize the scope of the scene, and the emotions the characters have after this horrific reveal. The vocals also supply a steady amount of emotion, not only the hidden feelings in the characters, but the shock in the viewers (or non-shock, if you read the manga).
2. Death Note:
Track: L’s Theme/ Low of Solipsism
This was the first scene in an anime to make my jaw drop, give me chills, and let me know I would have a new addiction. This stands as one of the most memorable moments in Death Note. After L tricks Light into revealing his ability to kill someone without being physically present, (by having an inmate whose arrest was never made public pretend to be L and therefore killed by Kira) he begins to reveal his deductions, and is able to uncover yet another clue; that there are some people Kira seemingly can’t kill. This is all through a computer screen, although we do get glimpses of his face and real voice. During this part, L’s theme plays in the background, creating emphasis with its beautiful piano and sudden bursts of guitar. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. But after L finishes his deductions and “signs off” the screen, Low of Solipsism begins to play, and the best part of the scene begins: L and Light declaring their own challenge to find the other and do away with them. All without seeing the others’ face or hearing their voice, yet saying the same words, and finally finishing off with some of the most iconic lines in anime; “I am justice!” It is only emphasized and made more memorable by the gothic, sweeping orceshtra and eerie chorus singing in Latin.
Track: Point Zero
Up until this point, I thought Fate/Zero looked interesting, but also a little slow and confusing. I wasn’t sure if I would like it. But then this part came up, and I started to think I had made a good decision to watch this show. It has six of the seven masters (Kiritsugu, Kirei, Waver, Kariya, Kayneth, and Tokiomi. The seventh summons his spirit the following episode) summoning the heroic spirits to serve them in the Holy Grail War. It starts slowly, as each of the masters begin to make their preparations for the spell. But once it gets going, it really gets going. The animation is gorgeous and fluid, colorful and bright without going overboard. The voice acting in both the sub and the dub are top notch (yes, I watched this scene in both the dub and the sub. I do that with scenes I like. Judge me, I dare you). In both versions, it has an ethereal quality that makes it all the more powerful. The reveal of each spirit is amazing as well; their appearances are nothing short of jaw dropping. The track, Point Zero, with its swelling orchestra and a beautiful choir, all serve to give goosebumps and to be memorable and impactful. I get chills just listening to the track. And who can forget the first appearance of Saber, and her words: “I ask of you: are you my master?”