Thought I’d do this for fun.
Did I watch everything? No. This is just out of all the series that aired last year which made enough of an impression on me to form this list.
Nominees for Best OP are:
- “Theme for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid” – Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: one of the most wonderfully infectious themes I’ve ever seen or heard from an anime. This song is so fun, and catchy, and so full of personality, it’s magnetic for my love. “Chu-chu yeah! Please me!” It’s also one of the most visually impressive themes in this group. But most of all, I think about how sugary and sweet the vocal melody is, how the instrumentation is, and I just get a smile on my face.
- “TOMORROW” – KonoSuba S2: what better way to open up the year than with god’s blessing on this wonderful world? Banger beat, fun hook, really colourful and lively. It’s got some of the best animation, and has great timing between the movement in the OP and with the lyrics. It’s just as delightfully insane as the show.
- “gravityWall” & “sh0ut” – Re:Creators: I’ve already raved about both of these themes before, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see both appear as contenders here. Great production and amazing hooks on both of these things. Love the vocals and performances. Awesome use of engrish lyrical content that, as a non-japanese speaker / english listener, I feel gives a strong melodic character to them. Also I thought how the songs were arranged almost like a battle between vocals and instrumentation really helped highlight the emotions behind both songs and made the parts where the performances come to their shouting points feel a lot more powerful and meaningful. Super solid front to back, lots of highlights. To say I wore them out would be an understatement.
- “Aimai Moko” – Tsurezure Children: not really my style of music, but very fitting for the type of show it is. And on top of doing a great job at that, it’s very pleasing to the ear in a nice soothing way. At first it only barely made the list on the count of being only good enough to win me over to a more than considerably agreeable level, but now I feel like it’s gotten a lot better upon repeated listenings. And it’s got this great sugary taste to it that comes from its really lovely vocals, really sweet-sounding instruments, and generally being a great atmospheric piece for one of my favourite shows of last year.
- “Theme for Gamers!” – Gamers!: this one is really good at bouncing between different kinds of melodies while also sticking to the timing of the various kinds of imagery of games flashing by. I get such a strong retro vibe off of the combination between the song and visuals that I can’t displace them. The song just works so much better as an audio-visual experience as opposed to a purely audio one, in my opinion. And while the same could be said for the others on this list, I feel like most of them can stand on their own without the aid of any moving images and still be just as amazing.
- “The Other Side of the Wall” – Princess Principal: goddamn do I love this OP or what! Ryo Takahashi came through with one of his best bangers last year. Very cool, super dark, awesome flow on this track. It’s such a great, sexy, fun rock theme. Incredibly catchy. Sharp-ass hook on this thing. Love funky basslines on this thing. Love the old-timey feel it gives me, fitting perfectly with the aesthetic of the show and the action sequences in the OP. Any time I’m watching the show or listening to this outside, I just explode with the desire to jump around and move about with high energy. That is just how hard that song goes and how exciting that song is to me. I have too much fun listening to this.
- “Deep in Abyss” – Made in Abyss: carries out the concept of the show really well. I love how the baroque pop sounds blend with the absolutely gorgeous vocals. The performances are so lovely and the chemistry between the vocals and the instrumentation is so seamless that I almost forget about the splendid work the instruments are doing. It’s not enough for the OP to show me the unbelievably beautiful amazing environments, it has to entice me even further by making the music sound just as wonderful, just as dazzling bright. It’s so enchanting that I can feel myself being welcomed into the world by warm embrace of sunlight and shining vocal melodies.
- “Shadow and Truth” – ACCA 13: this is the second one by Ryo Takahashi on this list, and I hope he continues to drop high-quality material, because this theme is so cool, so funky, so enjoyable. And those engrish lyrics… “Let’s go! Come on, come on! On a journey!” It’s so enjoyable, it’s so groovy, I’m almost tempted to pick the show back up (I won’t, but it’s still a damn good song).
- “Ugoku, Ugoku” – Girls’ Last Tour: bravo GLT. You slowly roped me in, but you got me in the end with your nifty electro pop music and cute moeblob girls. I wish I had more to say, but considering this style of music isn’t something I have much experience with and/or generally haven’t been a fan of, it’s quite the accomplishment.
Nominees for Best ED are:
- “Tabi no Hidarite, Saihate no Migite” – Made in Abyss: this looks and sounds like something out of a children’s story in a very, very, very good way. I really mean it when I say that this is one of the best ending themes I’ve ever heard/seen in anime (not my favourite, but it’s up there). I particularly love the bit where Riko and Reg are falling on leaves and bouncing in rhythm to the vocal performances, followed by two very satisfying claps. It’s very pretty, very cheery, and full of character. This is a song for the ages.
- “A Page of My Story” – Princess Principal: vocal harmonies all the way, ladies and gentlemen! This is such a fantastic, pleasant-sounding theme, I have trouble not making the comparison to that of a lullaby or bedtime story. Even ignoring the visuals, I think the structure and cadence gives off a strong vibe (especially at the end) that this is the music equivalent to a short story you would read to kids before they go to sleep. What else can I say other than it’s really charming and I like it a lot.
- “More One Night” – Girls’ Last Tour: if the opening theme coaxed me primarily through its instrumental/computer sounds, the ending theme beguiled me with the vocal performances more so than anything else. Hearing these two sing sounds like so much fun that I almost feel like getting up and dabbing (I haven’t yet, but the urge becomes stronger with every listen). But yes, the instrumentation here is also excellent.
- “Ishukan Communication” – Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: “parapa paparapa parapappara paparapa ishukan KOMYUNIKEESHON parapa paparapa parapappara paparapa majichoro IMAJINEESHON.”
- “Freesia” – Sakura Quest: this was song was really the diamond in the rough that I took from the show. There’s just something so nice about it, something that makes it feel calm and relaxing. I dunno, I can’t quite put my finger on it. A big part of that has to do with the almost whispering singing voice and the great cadence it’s got going, but there’s also the finger snapping sound in conjunction with the beautiful rhythm that makes it feel so right.
Nominees for Best Soundtrack are:
- Made in Abyss: from quiet and eerie to melodic and moody to dark and intense to bright and jaunty to massive and epic, this OST covers it all. It’s the kind of music that sounds really good on its own, but when associated with the appropriate imagery (sweeping landscapes for the big orchestral pieces, or pleasant breezy tunes for traipsing around town) it feels that much grander and that much more powerful. Much of what’s on here works best as BGM for the show, however there are quite a few tracks on here that are just as evocative in absence of any visuals, particularly the more buoyant and carefree sounding ones. I especially love the use of woodwind instruments in some of the songs on here. Though, I much prefer the songs in context of the show itself, they are still excellently composed and produced. Either way, the music is great, and I don’t really have anything to complain about.
- Re:CREATORS: it would have ended up on here regardless just because the two opening themes were so outstanding, but fortunately it has plenty of other tracks that are close to, and possibly even just as great as the OPs. A lot of the songs on this OST have a sort of electronic, digital feel to them that really enhances the sense of this being a show about the worlds between reality and fiction colliding. There’s also quite a few imperial themes that really play into the character of Altair and make her stand out as this figure of great power and authority (her costume and appearance do a good enough job of that, but these songs go the extra mile in displaying it). The rest of the soundtrack is a fairly decent odd mix of different styles of music that introduce new instruments and play to different cadences. And while I didn’t dislike any of these, I have a much stronger preference for the two opening themes, the battle music, and some of the more intense, somber, and lyrically dense songs on the OST.
- Princess Principal: damn is this OST a rollicking good time. Yuki Kajiura brings her A game, showing some of her most awesome, creative, and dynamic work yet, and does not disappoint even once. There’s so much variety here, but it all fits under this one umbrella that represents a certain time, and it absolutely nails it. Songs can range from killer rock-oriented beats to very lively, very sassy funk and jazzy sounds to super angelic, wonderful piano and harp runs to very moody, somber, wistful music from woodwind instruments. There are are so many smart variations here, and so many cool embellishments and fusions that I don’t think there’s a single track on here I didn’t really like. There aren’t enough nice things for me to say about this soundtrack. I just can’t get enough of it.
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: there are so many delightfully goofy tracks on this thing, that I forget about some of the more dark and mystical tunes on here. It’s really quite an interesting leap to go from such nice, jolly musette style music to cabaret and then to this ominous and dramatic music in what is an otherwise wholesome, fun OST. I’m taken aback every time it shifts toward something more intense and I hear those vivid, suspenseful notes on the piano and pipes. It makes for a slightly jarring experience going from all these upbeat and really fun songs to such striking, electrifying theatrical music. These are very clearly more oriented for the more melodramatic and exciting parts in the show, and they’re really quite good. I find it difficult to put my finger on what it is that attracts me to a lot of these songs, but suffice it to say I like it a good deal.
And the Winners for each category are:
“sh0ut” for Best Opening Theme
“Tabi no Hidarite, Saihate no Migite” for Best Ending Theme
Princess Principal for Best Soundtrack
There were a lot of really good choices to pick from, but these are the ones I felt strongest about for their respective category – I jammed so hard to “sh0ut” I got up and lip-synced it every time it came on (close contenders were: “Theme for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid” for Best OP, “More One Night” for Best ED, and even though the others were amazing in parts and really good overall, nothing was going to compete with Princess Principal’s OST).
As I said earlier, I didn’t engage with everything that came out last year. So if I missed something or you have your own favourites, please feel free to comment and let me know. And if you’d like me to give whatever’s not on the list some ear time, links would be of great help.