Music collection: Anime theme songs
Opening titles for anime shows have a unique, rarified energy. The visuals are always strong and evocative, representing the best of what you’re about to see, but the songs function as both a pitch and a lure. They tell you something about the show and grab your ears with impossibly catchy tunes that stay with you after the show’s over, encapsulating the excitement of anticipation and luring you back for the next episode. Some of them even end up being more memorable than the show they were meant to support.
That’s a lot to accomplish in just 90 seconds (the average running length for an opening), and the makers of anime are very, very good at it. You can’t always carve out time to watch something, but you can take music with you anywhere. The songs work their way into your head and take up permanent residence. The Speed Racer theme, for example, has been on a constant loop somewhere in my brain since the first time I heard it as a child. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
OP (opening) and ED (ending) theme songs have been part of TV anime since Astro Boy. Sometimes their lyrics tell you about the hero or the story, other times they are pure poetry with only an abstract connection. Structurally, they usually present you with a verse and a chorus, then they finish. But invariably, there will be a longer version (upward of 3 minutes) that delivers more. Hearing it in “TV size” makes you want to buy it. And thus, OP/ED songs become an integral part of anime merchandising.
After the Speed Racer theme, the next one that hooked me was Star Blazers, which rewrote the Japanese lyrics of Space Battleship Yamato, but wisely left the music intact. That was the anime series that truly put OP/ED songs on the map. The show took a while to catch on, but the theme was an instant hit and went on to essentially become Japan’s second national anthem. It elevated the craft as nothing had before, using musical craftsmanship to clear the way for OP/ED songs to mature into their own art form.
When I started collecting anime in the 1980s, I slurped up soundtrack albums too, either on LP or homemade cassettes. I did what I assume everyone did, shifting the OP/ED songs onto mix tapes for the car. My friends and I listened and sang to them for hours on end when we took long road trips to cities that had anime swag in stores. It didn’t occur to me that this phenomenon was happening on the other side of the world until I stumbled across a live concert CD called Super Robot Spirits.
This was a revelation. On this 1999 recording, I heard Japanese fans cheering and singing along with the exact same songs that kept my friends and I energized on the road. Music at its best has always had the power to unite us emotionally, but this was another level entirely. It filled my heart with a feeling of international kinship that has never faded.
If you’ve heard even a few OP/ED songs, you won’t be surprised to learn that countless albums of them exist. From straight up reprints to remixes to genre-bending covers to live performances, just about everything can be found in just about any form. And they’re essentially limitless. No two collectors will have identical libraries.
Below is most of what I’ve collected since the bug bit me. Keep in mind that my jam is 80s anime, so most of this focuses on that era. But, of course, you can never stop with just one decade. I’ve left out song collections from anime I’ve already written about here at ArtValt, so take a look at the various profiles to see other entries.
Japanese titles and serial numbers are included for online search purposes. If something’s still available, I’ve added an Amazon link. You can also find plenty of full albums on Youtube and Apple Music, so go get your rock on!
Compilations and Cover Albums
World of Leiji Matsumoto
Nippon Columbia, CS-7090
LP: Dec 1978, CD: Nov 1989
All of Leiji Matsumoto ~ World of SF Roman
松本零士のすべて ~ SFロマンの世界
Nippon Columbia, CZ-7125
Leiji Matsumoto was responsible for a lot of popular anime in the 70s and early 80s from Yamato to Captain Harlock to Galaxy Express and many others. The OP/ED themes of his shows, like the shows themselves, occupy a category of operatic drama. Both of these albums (and many others that followed) gave listeners a chance to hear them all back to back.
Space Fantasy: Space Cruiser Yamato & Close Encounters
For Life Records, FLL-5019
Space Fantasy + Space Fantasy Live
For Life Records, FLCF-5027
This was one of the earliest synthesizer cover albums for an anime series, mainly Space Battleship Yamato tracks with a few others mixed in. It would spark a whole series called Digital Trip that gave the same treatment to countless shows in the 80s until the fad died off. The LP (at left) begat a 2-disc CD (at right), which added more tracks and a live concert disc.
Popular Arrange for Young
Terebi Animation exciting brass
Nippon Columbia, CO-7008
Space Guitar Suite in Animation
Nippon Columbia, CX-7041
Two more examples from the early years, albums that took anime themes in different musical directions and laid the groundwork for the many other titles on this page.
London Sinfonia Sound
Animation Theme Song Version
Symphonic versions of anime themes from Yamato to Sailor Moon. Curiously, it was made by a Japanese conductor working with a British orchestra.
ロンドン・シンフォニア・サウンド ~ 特撮篇
Forte Music Entertainment, FMCC-5024
Animetal is a musical collective that brings heavy metal to the table, turning even the most sedate OP/ED themes into head bangers.
Sony Music Entertainment, SRCL 3779
My Dear TV Animation Songs 1
A lighter take on several themes, slimmed down and simplified for younger listeners.
First Music, FGS-305
Super Robot Taisen F Final Chapter
Arrange Collection Silver
スーパーロボット大戦 F 完結編
ARRANGE COLLECTION SILVER
Video games are another place to go for covers of your favorite themes. When anime robots started showing up for fantasy team-ups, you can bet they brought their fight songs with them. There’s probably also an “Arrange Collection Gold,” but I haven’t gone looking for it.
First Smile Entertainment, FSCA-10037
Anime Theme Song Complete Collection
Nippon Columbia, GES-31000～09
Tokusatsu Hero Theme Song Complete Collection
Nippon Columbia, GES-31245～54
If you want an instant record collection, these two gigantic box sets have yet to be topped for sheer volume: over 240 tracks each on 10 CDs accompanied by hefty lyric books.
King Record Co., KICJ 350
King Record Co., KICJ 374
Twin albums by Makoto Kuriya, covering several themes with jazz motifs. The sort of album you could sneak into a dinner party with people who know nothing about anime.
Beatmania Ani-Songs MIX
featuring Tatsunoko Pro
Beatmania ANI-SONGS MIX featuring タツノコプロ
Heavy duty electronic remixes of favorite Tatsunoko OP/ED songs, including Mach GoGoGo, Gatchaman, and more.
King Records, KMCA31
Cartoon Classic Masterpieces
Theme selection 3CD
卡通經典名作 主題精選 3CD
A lucky find at an “off-brand” anime store, collecting 21 CD singles (42 songs) from all the great Nippon Sunrise mecha shows of the 80s.
Ever Anime, A8-911/912/913
Hong Kong bootleg, date unknown
Iron Fist: Rebirth of Superrobots
Covers and remixes of many “super robot” OP/ED themes of the 70s. Relegated as children’s music at the time, they found new life in later years and took on classic status.
Nippon Columbia, COCP-30830
Cafe De Anime
One of my favorites; a collection of jazz/rock covers from the 70s to the 90s. Highly recommended.
Warner Music Japan, WPC7-10131
Super Robot Spirits The Best Vol. 1
Super Robo Edition
スーパーロボット魂 ザ・ベスト Vol.1 ~ スパロボ編
Be!Smile Ltd., BSCH-30001/2
Super Robot Spirits The Best Vol. 2
Super Robo Edition 2
スーパーロボット魂 ザ・ベスト Vol.2 ~ スパロボ編2
Be!Smile Ltd., BSCH-30003/4
The Super Robot Spirits collective brings together the best-known vocalists from several decades into a supergroup that covers just about every mecha anime OP/ED under the sun in both studio and live concert settings. Each of these is a double-disc collection that takes you to heaven and back. (Same with Volume 3 below.)
Super Robot Spirits The Best Vol. 3
Real Robo Edition
スーパーロボット魂 ザ・ベスト Vol.3 ~ リアルロボ編
Be!Smile Ltd., BSCH-30005/6
Super Robot Spirits Ballad & Unplugged
スーパーロボット魂 Ballad & Unplugged
Be!Smile Ltd., BSCH-30043
Absolute Anime 100
絶対 アニメ 100
Aniplex, SVWC 7222
Gokusen! Anime 100
Aniplex, SVWC 7255
Perfect Selection! Best Anison 100 Unplugged
BEST アニソン 100 アンプラグド
Aniplex, SVWC 7355
This trilogy of albums was conceived with a single purpose: to jam through 100 different anime themes on a single disc. All three achieve this with flying colors, combining various vocalists with simple instrumentation and plunging straight through their playlists. Some are done as parody, others are straight up, and still others go off on unpredictable tangents. But every minute is wildly inventive and entertaining.
Pamberi Steel Orchestra
Animation Series “the 80’s”
Here’s one you didn’t see coming; anime themes covered by a steel drum band. And they all work!
So hot! J-Euro EX ~ 16-chan Version
激アツ! Jユーロ EX ~ 16連チャンバージョン
The sort of disco-beat music you’d expect to hear in a teen clothing store in the mall. But for anime themes. There are two volumes of this if you want them. One was enough for me.
Tokuma Japan Communications, TKCA-73569
Idolmaster Xenoglossia Character Album Vol. 1
Enthusiastic! Giant (Sunrise) Robot Anime Song Invincible
Lantis, LACA 5678
Idolmaster Xenoglossia Character Album Vol. 2
Enthusiastic! Giant (Sunrise) Robot Anime Song Storm
Lantis, LACA 5694
I have no interest at all in Idolmaster (a series about girl singers, I guess), but I was powerless to resist a pair of albums in which these singers covered some of my favorite Sunrise mecha themes from the 80s.
Anime Standards Vol. 1
Victor Entertainment, VICP-64778
Anime Standards Vol. 2
Victor Entertainment, VICP-64900
Anime Standards Vol. 3
Victor Entertainment, VICP-65036
These aptly-titled collections are another great example of interpreting OP/ED songs through another musical lens, and they go all over the map with their selections. An additional three discs have been released since I found these three, so they must be doing well.
Bossa du Anime ~ Animentine
アニメンティーヌ ~ Bossa Du Anime
Sony Music Japan International Inc., SICP-2770
Continued Animentine, by Clementine
Sony Music Japan International Inc., SICP-3027
Another unexpected approach; anime themes rendered in an easy-listening style with French and English lyrics. They would not be at all out of place in the background of a groovy French cafe.
As good a symbol as any for how far anime OP/ED songs have penetrated the west; heavy metal rockers deliver ear-splitting versions of OP/ED songs with newly-written English lyrics that actually preserve the original content. Find samples on Youtube here.
Sony Music Japan, SICP 3268
This is all I want to know: 50 Anime Songs
50 years, 50 songs. That’s the shortest way to sum up this 2-disc compendium of Columbia’s most popular songs starting with Jungle Emperor [Kimba] in 1965. If you’re looking for an instant collection of classics it can’t be beat.
Columbia, September 2015
This album is a collection of theme songs by famed Japanese lyricist Yu Aku, from the worlds of anime and tokusatsu (live-action special effects) TV shows. They are all covered by contemporary artists in modern styles, and include such fare as Yamato, Ultraman and Mach Baron.
Kanameishi Records, December 2017
Dr. Slump, Arale Chan LP
Nippon Columbia, CZ-7119
Dr. Slump, Arale Chan
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-32371~72
Dr. Slump is a guilty pleasure of mine, a long-running series created by Akira Toriyama prior to Dragonball. In case you’ve never seen it, it exists somewhere in the gulf between Looney Tunes and The Simpsons. The songs are pretty juvenile, but are fun when you’re in a weird mood. Honestly, I bought them hoping to find some BGM tracks, but they’ve still never been released.
Patlabor Complete Vocal Collection
OP/ED songs from the Patlabor TV and OVA series.
Saint Seiya Best Collection
OP/ED songs and “insert” songs from the world-famous shonen fighting series.
Hong Kong bootleg, date unknown
Steam Detectives Vocal Album White
快傑蒸気探偵団 ヴォーカルアルバム White
This is kind of a forgotten series, but I quite liked the songs and was surprised to find a whole album of them.
King Record Co., KICA-439
Music Clip 47
銀河旋風ブライガー / 銀河烈風バクシンガー /
A triple threat! Songs from three early 80s mecha shows that would be kinda hard to find on their own.
EMI Music Japan, TOCT-10667
The Secret of Blue Water Vocal Twin Best
Double-CD collection of Nadia songs, both from the anime and character songs created for album release.
EMI Music Japan, TYCY-10055~56
Fullmetal Alchemist Complete Best
鋼の錬金術師 COMPLETE BEST
One full disc of OP/ED songs and a DVD of OP/ED titles, all from the first anime version.
Emiko Shiratori: Vifam Collaboration
Inspired by Armored Trooper Votoms
“Gunboy” was a fascinating experiment, a short-lived record label created by Sunrise to breathe new musical life into OP/ED themes from favorite mecha shows of the 80s. Each one took a different out-of-the-box approach. The Vifam album consists of symphonic music with a female vocalist (creating lyrics for BGM tracks), where the Votoms album sounds like a grunge band in a dive bar (with a torch singer performing in English). I’m pretty sure every title Gunboy published is here on this page. I wish they’d kept going.
Prismix: Legend of Ideon
The Gunboy experiment also incorporated Ideon with a prog/easy listening approach. You won’t be surprised to learn that the steel drum orchestra album from higher up the page was another Gunboy release.
Gurren Lagann Best Sound
Hip hop found its way into anime in this series. The first CD in this 3-disc collection is a compilation of OP/ED themes and character songs.
Aniplex, SVWC 7493~7495
Get Wild Song Mafia
You have to hear this one to believe it; 36 different versions of TM Network’s smash hit ED song from City Hunter, including live and remixes, spread over 4 CDs.
Avex Entertainment, AVCD-93669-71/B
City Hunter Private Eyes Vocal Collection
劇場版シティーハンター 新宿プライベート・アイズ – VOCAL COLLECTION
When the Private Eyes movie brought City Hunter back to life, its soundtrack incorporated many of the favorite songs from the original. This disc puts them in one place.
Aniplex, SVWC 70394
Mach GoGoGo Song Collection
マッハ GOGOGO ソング・コレクション
OP/ED themes and “insert” songs from the 1997 reboot of Speed Racer.
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCC-14228
Mach GoGoGo Complete Song Collection
マッハ GOGOGO 全曲集
Songs from both the 1997 version and the original.
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-33066
Speed Race Japan
A tribute to Mach GoGoGo
SPEED RACE JAPAN ~ マッハ GoGoGo トリビュート
Remixes and electronica, covering and inspired by the 1967 classic.
Dreamusic, MUCD 8007
Mobile Suit Gundam titles
PsycheGundam ~ Four’s Counterattack
機動戦士ガンダム サイケガンダム ~ 逆襲のフォウ
Dance-mix-style covers of OP/ED songs from the first three Gundam series, six tracks with vocals with a non-vocal version of each one for karaoke purposes.
King Record Co., KICA-459
Mobile Suit Gundam Z Toki o Koete
A mini-collection of OP/ED themes from Zeta Gundam, with three different versions of Sign of Zeta.
King Record Co., KICM 3104
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Complete Best
機動戦士ガンダム SEED COMPLETE BEST
Complete OP/ED collection from Gundam Seed (12 tracks).
Sony Music, AICL 1506
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Complete Best
機動戦士ガンダム SEED DESTINY COMPLETE BEST
Complete OP/ED collection from Gundam Seed Destiny (13 tracks) with all the titles themselves on a bonus DVD.
Sony Music, SMCL-111~2
Soldiers of Sorrow ZXR
English-language rock covers of 10 songs from multiple Gundam productions, plus two originals.
by Richie Kotzen
BMG Japan, BVC2-34022
Gundam History Hit Song
Seven songs from different productions, all by Mami Ayukawa
Asuta Entertainment, POCE-3222
Gundam 30th Anniversary
I, Senshi ~ Soldiers of Sorrow Tribute
GUNDAM 30th ANNIVERSARY
I, Senshi ~ 哀 戦士 トリビュート
The first series reached its 30th anniversary in 2009 and got a nice batch of tributes. This disc features six versions of Soldiers of Sorrow, each by a different artist.
Victor Entertainment, VTCL-60161
Gundam Tribute from Lantis
ガンダム トリビュート from Lantis
Various artists cover 14 tracks from multiple Gundam productions.
2009 Fly!Gundam & Amuro Forever
New covers of the original 1979 OP/ED songs by a dream team of vocalists. Vocal and karaoke versions of each.
Victor Entertainment, VTCL-35130
The Boy in the Birdcage
Two new songs by Hiroko Moriguchi for a Zeta Gundam pachinko game (vocal and karaoke versions) plus a reprint of the second Z Gundam OP song.
King Record Co., KICM 1809
Gundam Song Covers
by Hiroko Moriguchi
King Record Co., KICS 3790
Gundam Song Covers 2
by Hiroko Moriguchi
King Record Co., KICS 3926
In both of these impressive albums, Hiroko Moriguchi revisits songs she originally sang for Gundam and expands her repertoire to cover many, many more. A third volume is forthcoming as I write these words in early 2022.
Isao Sasaki Singing His Beloved Animation Hits
A unique (and very rare) album in which an American writer created English-language lyrics for 13 classic OP/ED songs originally performed by Isao Sasaki. Here, he does self-covers of each in English.
Nippon Columbia, CZ-7018
Isao Sasaki ~ Man’s Poem
佐々木功 ~ 男の詩
Sasaki is known as “Japan’s Elvis,” an actor/singer who won huge acclaim for his strong, energetic performances of the Yamato theme and many more. Most of his collections will have major overlap, but they’re always worth checking out if you’re a fan.
Nippon Columbia, COCC-13042
Isao Sasaki Deluxe Collection
A huge 5-disc set with a wide variety of lesser-heard anime and live-action tokusatsu themes, including the entire Beloved Animation Hits a handful of Elvis covers, and more.
Columbia Music Entertainment, B00005EQ6L
Debut 45th Anniversary, Isao Sasaki Best
ささきいさお 45周年記念ベスト 銀河航海誌
25 favorite OP/ED themes from SF anime and tokusatsu titles, ranging from 1973 to 2004.
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-33356
Isao Sasaki TV Theme Song Collection DVD
Over an hour of OP/ED sequences with Sasaki themes; 39 anime titles and 12 tokusatsu titles.
Nippon Columbia, COBC-5880
Isao Sasaki Debut 55th Anniversary Special Live DVD
ささきいさお デビュー55周年記念 スペシャルライブ
A complete live concert with 35 songs from across Sasaki’s entire spectrum, including a bonus disc with interviews and studio footage. He did all this again for his 60th anniversary in 2021, but a video release has yet to appear.
Nippon Columbia, COBC-7054~5
Great Old Anime Songs
Isao Sasaki vs Ichirou Mizuki
Ichirou Mizuki and Isao Sasaki have been friends and rivals for decades. If you hear a deep, booming male voice in a 1970s OP or ED song, odds are it’s one or the other. This CD puts their best-known songs in one place, seven tracks each.
Columbia Music Entertainment, GES-12932
Aniki Himself ~ 30th Anniversary BEST
アニキ自身 〜 30th Anniversary BEST
Mizuki goes by the title of “Aniking” (sometimes shortened to “Aniki,” which means “brother”) and often takes the lead in anime song concerts. He’s best known for the original Mazinger Z opening. This 2-disc collection puts 21 hits on a “new vocal disc” and 18 different versions of Mazinger Z on an “All of Mazinger Z disc.” I know, it’s nuts.
Columbia Records, COCX-31711~12
Ichirou Mizuki, Live of Aniking
An extensive 2-disc collection of live performances with anime and tokusatsu themes, along with a few American standards sung in English.
Be!Smile Ltd., BSCH-30035/6
WAY ~ Grand Aniki Style
WAY ~ グランド・アニキ・スタイル
Self-covers of 12 favorites accompanied by jazz, orchestral, and brass musicians.
by Ichirou Mizuki
Aniplex, SVWC 7558
Mitsuko Horie Best & Best
Mitsuko Horie is a “grand dame” of anime and tokusatsu themes, starting out as a teenager in the late 60s and carrying on today both live and in studio. This 2-disc collection covers her entire career (up to 1995) with 46 tracks.
Nippon Columbia, COCC-12813~14
MIO (MIQ) パーフェクト・ベスト
She started out as “Mio” in the 70s and renamed herself “Miq” when she ascended to godhood. Her powerful, soulful voice is unforgettable. This 20-track collection rounds up all her most famous OP/ED songs with four English versions.
King Record Co., KICS 1657
I am the ONE
Akira Kushida is another mainstay, with a rough and ready voice that commands attention. I first heard on the OP/ED songs for Xabungle, which never fail to ignite a crowd in concert.
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-32360
Voice Voice Voice
Aoni Pro 10 Anniversary Festival Live
Nippon Columbia, CQ-7015
Voice Voice Voice
Nichigeki Voice Actor Festival Live Record
Nippon Columbia, CS-7112~3 (double LP)
Voice actor popularity rose exponentially when the audience for anime expanded in the mid 70s to include teens. These two live performances each brought an army of them together on stage to perform anime themes with an orchestra and participate in comedy sketches involving their best-known characters.
Anime Grand March
Columbia Family Anime All Star Concert
All the elite vocalists I mentioned above began appearing together at live concerts in the 90s devoted entirely to anime OP/ED songs. Fans who grew up on anime flocked to the shows and the “Live Anison” [Anime Song] phenomenon was born. This disc presents the Columbia Anime Fest ’93 live concert; 15 artists, 23 tracks.
Nippon Columbia, COCC-11257
Grand Symphonic Poem ‘Rail of Fantasy’ 1998
大交響詩「幻想軌道」 松本零士 ~ 漫画家生活45周年
Leiji Matsumoto rose to prominence again as his signature year 1999 approached. This inspired a pair of annual concerts that brought his best-known songs from TV and film to the stage with magnificent orchestral performances. Each concert was released on a 2-disc set.
Nippon Columbia, COCX-30110~11
Grand Symphonic Poem ‘Rail of Fantasy’ 1999
The track listings for the 1998 and 1999 concerts overlap quite a bit, but also contain significant differences and are completely separate performances. If you’re a fan, you’ll want both.
Nippon Columbia, COCX-30654~55
LIVE! from Super Robot Spirits Tour ’98
Super Robot Spirits was a 1998 Nintendo fighting game that brought favorite anime mecha together. Their theme songs came with them, igniting a whole series of live concerts that brought these songs to the stage in full-on annual rock concerts. Many (but not all) were released as 2-disc sets.
First Smile Entertainment, FSCA-10051
Super Robot Spirits Tour ’99 Haru no Jin
スーパーロボット魂 TOUR′99 ライブアルバム
This is the one I described at the top of the page, the concert that blew my head off. This is where the concept expanded beyond the scope of the Nintendo games and started to incorporate songs and artists from the wider anime world. For example, Isao Sasaki blew the roof of the joint with both Yamato themes. No way could I miss that.
First Smile Entertainment, FSCA-10092
Super Robot Spirits Tour ’99 Haru no Jin
スーパーロボット魂 TOUR’99 春の陣 LIVE at 赤坂BLITZ
A few of the SRS concerts were released on DVD as well. Seeing them is even better than listening to them, especially when you see the crowd explode. For some reason, three tracks were left out of the DVD for this concert, but thankfully not the ones I wanted to see most.
Find several complete SRS concerts on Youtube here
Super Robot Spirits 2000
“Summer Campaign” DVD
スーパー ロボット スピリッツ 2000 “夏の陣”
I haven’t yet found any of the 2000 concerts on CD, but managed to locate two of them on video. This one contains 21 tracks.
Super Robot Spirits 2000 DVD
This was a totally separate show from 2000, a different set list with 26 tracks. I only have a bootleg version, and couldn’t locate data on the official one. But it must be out there somewhere.
Hong Kong bootleg, date unknown
Super Robot Spirits 2003
スーパーロボット魂 2003 春の陣
The energy just kept growing. This 2-disc set added even more performers to the lineup with 25 tracks on two discs. As the repertoire expanded, it incorporated new songs and classics alike. It’s no exaggeration to say that if you’re anything like me, you’ll want every single one of these concerts in your collection.
King Record Co., KICA-1297/8
Ardent! Anison Spirits Vol. 1
熱烈! アニソン魂 Vol. 1, Anitama Live in AJF 2004
The more the merrier! “Anison Spirits” picked up where “Super Robot Spirts” left off, switching out artists and songs to keep it fresh and exciting. This show spreads 26 tracks over two discs. There was also a volume 2, featuring a different concert from the same 2004 tour.
King Record Co., FYAN-001~2
Watch the entire concert on Youtube here