So while randomly browsing youtube, I realized that the song I’ve been putting on loop is actually an insert song of an anime. Isn’t that cute? Well, here we are. Top ten insert songs.
There are some caveats though. The songs must be solely insert songs, and they must never be played as OP or ED songs. I know a lot of great songs that function as both effective inserts and beautiful EDs. As much as I love them, I cannot put songs like AnoHana’s ED in this list. I also didn’t put insert songs that function as special ED songs, like the wonderful “Continued Story” from Code Geass, even though I really wanted to include a lot of them. The inserts in this list are truly just inserts, appearing in the middle or close to the end. An insert song should feel understated but their purpose is for subliminal effect. After all, music affects us all so certain inserts punctuate a scene. As much as I love Your Lie in April’s ending insert (spoilers), there are some songs solely meant for one special purpose and I’m listing down my favorites.
Keep in mind, this is my list. Also, I’m not really a big music fan. I’m actually trying to learn a bunch of good songs from Leap, since our taste in music is kinda the same and he knows more stuff than me. Go read his stuff. He will also do a monthly wrap up of songs he listened to for the month, so I’m subscribed to that. Also keep in mind that hunting down insert songs is actually hard. OP and ED gets more love than insert songs, and that actually makes sense. To make this list, I actually just tried my best to remember certain anime with a strong soundtrack. Failing that, I checked out a bunch of top insert song lists to round up my own list. So yeah, this’ll be fun. I hope you enjoy~
10. Little Busters by The Pillows
I wasn’t kidding when I said I remembered anime with strong soundtracks. A lot of FLCL’s moments are just cute music videos for the song. I think they play in length. Oh crap, I should also remind myself that I actually need to review this anime. Now, I actually don’t remember the actual scene this song played in but I think it mostly played during the cool moments. It’s peppered all over the anime, and it often highlights the fantastical moment that happens in the show. Again, I don’t remember much about this anime, since I saw it when I was a kid and I didn’t get it, but I love this song. I love every song in this anime from “Riding on Shooting Star” to the other insert “I Think I Can”. The band, The Pillows, just has a very solid sound and a strong composition. It also sounds delightfully retro with how they play their song in earnest.
Looking at the videos on youtube, the anime also has a very “Evangelion” vibe to it. Gainax was truly on a high after Evangelion, since a lot of their works post-EVA just has the same sheen and style. I heard this anime is an allegory for puberty or something, but holy sh*t, I had my jaw wide open while I watch random clips of it. I also heard there’s a sequel, but I don’t think you really need one. FLCL is awesome by itself. Speaking of Evangelion….
9. Fun Fun
This one will be harder to explain, because you cannot find decent clips of Kare Kano on youtube. All you need to know is that Hideki Anno directed the anime attempting to grow his style, and it was awesome, but the author actually didn’t appreciate Anno’s take on her work so she abruptly ended the show. This anime is fascinating though, since it kinda dives into a place in Anno’s mind that EVA never explored, while also featuring his godly talents. I also need to review this one, but mainly because this was actually my first exposure to Anno and I actually love the show because of his influence.
As for the song, it was a brief insert. I believe it played when the characters first had sex or something. I really only learn to love the song when I saw it on youtube, and the opening “fun, fun” lines just smacked me with nostalgia. The Kare Kano soundtrack is actually really good, but the show is too obscure to really track them down. I mean, I don’t even know who sang this. It could be Fukuda Mai too, the one who did the OP, but I could be wrong. Damn good song though.
8. Amazing Grace
Sora no Woto
Never saw the anime. This was shared to me by a friend that wanted me to see the anime, and yeah, the moment is epic. I don’t know what’s going on in the scene itself, but I think you just kinda know. It’s such a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace and, with a war backdrop completely stopping to listen to the song, it just screams beautiful. I wanted to talk about this first, because the seventh slot is basically the same, except more f*cked up.
7. Katyusha by Hiseko Kanemoto and Sumire Uesuka
Girls und Panzer
This is an actual war time song sung by a bunch of Russians ready to defend their motherland from a bunch of Nazis, and it appeared as a random insert song when the Russian girls rolled in their tank, in the f*cking snow, ready to f*ck up the main characters, who are Japanese. It’s kinda poetic in a sense, but the song itself is just awesome. Sung by the voice actresses, the song just takes a life of its own. You still feel the ominous intent of the song, as its sung in a literal battleground, but it just sounds delightfully moe, yet murderous, in the anime. I can totally imagine Stalin playing this song in a boom box while he rides a blitzkrieg towards the former Soviet states. Gawd almight, let’s just move on now.
6. Nami Hikari by Suga Shikao
Honey and Clover
The first noitaminA show. Do you understand how old I am yet?! Honey and Clover has a ridiculously awesome soundtrack, and Sony actually just dumped a lot of good songs in the anime. They bet the show would blow up, and I think it did. It got another season, at least. To this day, I still have the ED song in my playlist when I feel like I want to emote. The opening animation, featuring food art, is also a personal favorite of mine.
This song is another good one when you want to emote. It’s just a very heartfelt and emotional song, but it has a very mature vibe to it. This one played when one of the characters realized the old lady he’s in love with actually has a deceased husband, and that’s why she’s a bit apprehensive on having another relationship. I think there’s also a huge age gap, but this anime rode the wave established by Nana wherein Josei anime really did explore casual sex. So, naturally, they did have a very mature (sex included) relationship. Honey and Clover came out in a time where studios really explored new genres to keep up with the anime demand, and I just love how openly serious and reflective the anime is. This show will make you think of your own life as the character reflect on theirs, and some of the songs really help in that thoughtful ponder. This one, in particular, really set the feels for me.
5. Lip Sync by nano.ripe
I still remember how lovely nano.ripe sounds. I think they were heavily promoted in this PAWorks anime. I also still remember where this song played at. It’s in the first episode, and the beautiful melody is played while the main character walks the train tracks to get to her new home. It’s a song that really sets the tone for the rest of the series. You see, this anime boasts amazing visuals and this insert song played during one of its most visually striking scene. Ohana with headphones is also just adorable.
This anime is also one of my favorites because this is one of the rarest moments where PAWorks wasn’t chasing after KyoAni. For a brief moment, the studio really had confidence to not follow KyoAni’s trend and set out a path of their own. This peaked when they gave us The Eccentric Family, but they did wonderfully fumble with their next releases. I’m sorry, but Nagi no Asukara and Glasslip did not capture the magic of their original venture. Soon, PAWorks did what they knew best, follow KyoAni’s trend. I think the association to the other studio works for them, so I can’t really blame them for not venturing out again. They’re too small of a studio to take another risk. (Are they releasing strong titles now reminiscent of Hanasaku Iroha?)
4. God Knows by Aya Hirano
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
I tried to limit band performances, since you can put a lot of K-On music in this list. I knew I’d eventually turn to a KyoAni anime though, so I chose carefully. I also know I could’ve just put a bunch of idol songs here, but I really hate idol anime as well. So, yeah, let’s go with the one that popularized the concept (not sure if it was the original). Haruhi Suzumiya’s performance of God Knows is f*cking iconic. I think Yuki playing bass is also the first sign of the KyoAni that we know to this day. Yknow, more style than substance, but let’s not get into one of my “I hate KyoAni” rants here, because I do legit love this anime. I also love Aya Hirano’s performance as Haruhi, and I also love this song. God Knows started a trend, and I do believe no one really knew how popular Haruhi Suzumiya would become. In terms of KyoAni’s landmark animation, the process of adapting light novels, and the celebration of the people behind the voice, this anime is truly a huge cultural touchstone. God Knows is a piece of it, and damn it, I really love Aya Hirano’s voice.
Full disclosure though, my favorite on stage performance is actually Kannagi’s OP. Yutaka Yamamoto was pissed when he was canned by KyoAni for the first few episodes of Lucky Star. It was apparently a flop, but the guy who made the SOS dance in the ending sequence went to his cave, and he created Kannagi. The OP sequence is unnecessary, but it was basically a middle finger to KyoAni. Yutaka can do magic without them, and surprise, he didn’t. He has an ego problem, but Kannagi’s OP is awesome. The animation is incredible, especially since the rotoscope is so on point that you can see her elbow fat jiggle. That’s insane detail that I love in anime. This is also why I hate idol shows, since this is my bar for a good idol performance. I don’t like CG dolls basically just flopping around when you can make their elbow fat jiggle, damn it.
Ah, how did I end up ranting?! Gawd almight, onto the next one.
3. Crow Song by Girls Dead Monster
I wasn’t kidding when I said PAWorks followed KyoAni’s lead for the majority of their run. Angel Beats is their weird answer to KyoAni’s Clannad. It was just as sad, just as tear jerking, but not as endearing. It’s an O. Screenplay, so what do you expect? It’s not like people hated Angel Beats though. We f*cking loved it. I love it more than Clannad, but mostly because PAWorks follows KyoAni’s shadow but still adds a unique spin to their works. Angel Beats was highly stylized, and this was evident in this wonderful insert song. It’s honestly not as powerful as God Knows, but it’s a lot more impactful. Sure, the animation isn’t as impressive, but this was PAWorks giving their best effort to standout. It certainly resonated with me more, especially listening to it after all these years.
The full song played in the anime too, intercut with the angel trying to kill the main character. It was awesome. From Miyuki Sawashiro’s passionate singing to the sight of bullets raining down on the angel, the entire scene just screams awesome. I know this might sound dumb, but PAWorks really had a shot to be greater than KyoAni back in the day. KyoAni just proved to be a lot smarter though and left the other studio in the dust. Since I’m spiteful though, I’m ranking this one above God knows, so there.
2. Green Bird by Gabriela Robin
Everyone bow your f*cking head for the genius of Yoko Kanno. She wrote and composed the song, and I am absolutely in love with it. Cowboy Bebop boasts an amazing soundtrack, and it features the insane talents of Yoko Kanno. Her versatility is highlighted by the anime, since the songs have a range of genres. While the anime is mostly jazz in space, Kanno can still wow us with more straightforward singles like this one. I believe Green Bird plays when Spike confronts Vicious in the last episode. A lot of awesome songs are actually played in their epic confrontation, but I fell instantly in love with this one. It just felt prophetic yet sad yet serious yet poignant with the flashback scene that came with it. The entire scene is also a testament of Cowboy Bebop’s beauty. It draws emotions from you, and Yoko Kanno’s music gives the best effect of that. In my honest opinion, the director was overhyped by the success of Cowboy Bebop but it’s honestly not his style or directorial chops that elevate the show. In my opinion, it’s mostly Yoko Kanno’s god status music. Think back to some of the best moments in the show, and I guarantee you an original Yoko Kanno insert song is playing in the background.
That’s the beauty of Yoko Kanno’s music. It emphasizes the beauty of a scene. When you hear the OP song, you just know instantly this anime will succeed, and I ask you again, bow your head for the genius of Yoko Kanno. I mean, why do you think Shinichiro Watanabe keeps pulling Yoko into his new projects? He knows it himself. We all love Cowboy Bebop because of epic songs like Tank, and his directorial talents was actually just an accompaniment to her beautiful arrangements.
I also like Greenbird because it’s a more somber “Continued Story” from Code Geass. Green Bird is undoubtedly superior though.
1. Sou wa Ittemo Sekai wa Owaranai by Maids
And yet the Town Moves
Fun fact, the title of the anime is related to its final episode where the main character dies and she witnesses everyone close to her basically fall apart at the sad news. Another fun fact, this was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and this is so removed from his renowned style that made the monongatari series a giant in the industry. No, the Akiyuki Shinbo that directed this anime didn’t yet know his pretentious directing actually made people orgasm. This anime is a more humble and playful take on his style, and I swear to gawd, he forgotten how to have fun as he kept directing anime. I think it’s because he knows deep down that people love his work, so he can phone it in sometimes. Fun fun fun fact, this is the song I am listening to that inspired this list. I actually thought it was the ED song, but it was actually an insert song. The main characters played it in their cultural festival, and I just love how bizarre the setup is.
I believe it’s a gag at on stage performances in anime. While you’ll often hear girls rock out in other shows, the Maids band is composed of an accordion, a violin, drums and a bass guitar. The ensemble sounds stupid, but here it is. It sounds awesome. Rieka Yazawa’s voice as Kon is also so soulful and awesome that it makes me sad to know she already retired as a voice actress. I guess that’s another fun fact for you. Yeah, she quit the business to go back to studying. It’s a shame, because Kon’s voice is outstanding. Her strong rock voice is a showstopper, and I was instantly in love with it. In fact, I just love the Maids band in general. It’s such a playful yet unique band. They played a weird Irish folksong here, but they somehow made it feel like an awesome rock song while still being your typical “girls rocking out on stage” performance. Their playfulness is felt more strongly in the ED sequence where they reassured us that the song isn’t a rock song.
And that’s that.
What’s your fave insert song? Thanks for reading.