Like the rest of the industry, the 2010s were a transformative time for anime soundtracks, as the decade was pretty good for many an anime composer, from old legends like Yoko Kanno continuing to kick ass, to brand new musicians like Mabanua coming in and making a name for themselves, and we’re even now starting to see people not at all associated with the industry breaking in and doing incredible work, like Kevin Penkin on Made in Abyss, and the upcoming Uzumaki which will be scored by (and I can still barely believe this) Colin Stetson. But if there was one artist whose sound arguably defined the 2010s for anime, it was Hiroyuki Sawano. While many composers can be recognized for a certain style of genre, an ingenuity in variety, or even just basic stuff like a preference in instrument, Sawano became recognized primarily for his bombast, epic sounding scores, and the “Sawano-drop”, where he incorporated a staple of EDM music into his music that gave it a punch like few others do. Of course, Sawano should be noted for having a great amount of diversity in his musical composition, but that drop… that’s what we came for.
Now, talking about music (especially orchestral stuff) feels like writing about dancing, or explaining the mechanics of a comedy routine; it’s hard to do more besides go through the basics without falling into a ten page diatribe that can end up boring the viewer, or make you feel like you’re talking out of your ass. I’m not here to fully analyze Sawano’s works, or be a guide looking back on an artist’s progression and evolution from A to B. No, I’m just here to present just some of his works, and point out which among them were absolute bangers. From Gundam to Attack on Titan, from Kill la Kill to Re:creators: these were the best hits of the 2010s by Hiroyuki Sawano.
While not Sawano’s first work, this was many people’s introduction to him, and while this series was hit and miss at times, there’s no denying Sawano was a perfect fit for Gundam, with his best piece in this show easily being “Unicorn.”
One of the better shonen series of the 2000s, and an underappreciated Sawano score. While not his most well known work, he undeniably gave the series a tone and feel than it served the show well. And of course, the best track is called “Exorcist.”
Attack on Titan
Here we go. There isn’t much I can say for this one, is there? This is a series so popular you can actually buy its soundtrack on itunes. Best track: “attack ON titan”
Come on, you can’t deny this had a good score. Hate it or despise it so much that its come to be a part of you, your head still bangs when you hear “aLIEz.”
Kill la Kill
This is when Sawano started branching out into different territory by including for more vocals, including stuff like rap and even German lyrics. The best track though still remains “Before My Body is Dry (Don’t Lose Your Way).”
Seraph of the End
[… do I have to cover this series? But it’s so boring…] Okay, so this might’ve been one of the more disappointing series of the 2010s, not even pulling an Aldnoah Zero by completely melting down during season two, but hey at least it has a Sawano composed opening “X.U.”
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Okay, one Sawano ending makes this list. Not to speak ill of the rest of Kabaneri’s score, but “cry-v” just owns.
Sure, this counts. Especially when “thunderBOLTfantasy” is concerned.
Hands down my favorite Sawano soundtrack, and definitely his most underrated (curse you Anime Strike). Two glorious openings, a variety in style from epic battle themes to even send-ups of magical girl music, but the best single song? Probably “sh0ut”
Sawano’s return to Gundam, and while the follow-up to Unicorn might’ve been just as hit and miss, its soundtrack certainly wasn’t, especially “Vigilante.”
And here we are, after a decade of evolution, progress, and recognition, and… it’s not my favorite Sawano score. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not at all bad, far from it, but it can at times be too much Sawano. Heck, my favorite track in the movie was done by Superfly, but for Sawano’s own work I’d say “Ashes” is the best track from the movie, for being what feels like slow breathing exercise in the middle of such a bombastic film.
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