Science fiction and fantasy seem to be the go-to genres in the anime world. But the anime industry is much more diverse than that as it incorporates other elements such as romance, drama, and even music. In fact, the fascination with rock in Japan is such that there’s no shortage of “rock band-centric” anime.
Although they span different genres, these shows end up incorporating classic themes like love and friendship. And then, of course, it goes without saying that these animes also feature killer soundtracks.
Samurai Jam – Bakumatsu Rock (2014) – 6.0
Adapted from the video game of the same name, Bakumatsu Rock Interestingly combines rock n’ roll music with Japanese history. Set in the mid-19th century, the plot deals with an oppressive regime that allows regime music to be the only acceptable form of music. With such restrictions on their freedom of expression, a group of passionate young musicians came together to start a wave of rock music in the country.
As the group attempts to prevent the brainwashing of its people, Samurai Jam Bakumatsu Rock also gives some notable political nuances.
Macross 7 (1994-1995) 6.4
Like several other entries on this list, Macros 7 features a group that poses as humanity’s last resort in the face of global catastrophe. As an alien race threatens to take over the planet, the band known as Fire Bomber realize their music is strangely the aliens’ only weakness. What follows is the party’s battle against these alien enemies.
The fictional group’s popularity has led to fan-favorite characters appearing in animated spin-offs. Macross 7 Trash, Macross 7 Encoreand Dynamite Macros 7.
Legend of Black Heaven (1999) – 6.6
Starting from the daily monotony of an ordinary man’s life, legend of black paradise reveals that the hopeless protagonist was once a talented guitarist for a short-lived metal band of the same name.
But as the world enters an intergalactic war, Black Heaven must be reunited and 40-year-old Oji Tanaka must reclaim his electric guitar to power a weapon that may be Earth’s only hope. Combining sci-fi thriller anime tropes with metal music and social satire, legend of black paradise is a fun experience.
Tatooine Rhapsody (Star Wars: Visions) (2021) – 7.0
The star wars The anime series is essentially an anthology, with each segment incorporating a different anime style and narrative. For those looking for a light musical touch, the second episode “Tatooine Rhapsody” will be a perfect option, as it focuses on a band performing for the franchise’s own secondary antagonist, Jabba the Hutt.
With feel-good pop-rock tunes and a nice break from the series’ usually serious tone, one of Star Wars: Visions episodes is a perfect choice for those looking for a fast watch.
Gravity (1999) – 7.2
Unlike much of the music-centric anime, Gravitation opts for a more grounded approach with a premise set in the real world. The anime is basically an underdog story about pink-haired singer Shuichi Shindo and his relentless efforts to make his band the next big musical sensation in Japan. A subplot also involves his struggles to impress a novelist who despises his music.
While most of the best shounen anime series are usually about the young protagonist fighting his way to the top, Shindo’s pursuit finds him literally singing his way to the top.
Chewing Gum Crisis (1987-1991) – 7.3
The sci-fi animated series Chewing gum crisis deals with a group of mercenaries who set out to fight hordes of biomechanical creatures created by a corrupt corporation. It has all the makings of a classic dystopian story set against the backdrop of a cyberpunk Tokyo.
However, when she’s not battling bad guys, mercenary leader Priss also goes on a rampage with her pop-rock band Priss and the Replicants. True to the era of its broadcast, the music is influenced by the synthesized sound of the 1980s.
Detroit Metal City (2008) – 7.9
Detroit Metal City is a prominent death metal band in the universe of this anime. However, beneath the profane and dark side of their music, each musician harbors different dreams. For example, the lead singer actually wants to sing happy pop songs influenced by Swedish pop stars while his peers are fascinated by glam rock.
This duality of metal rockers is what makes Detroit Metal City an interesting entry into the pantheon of rock band anime. Due to its multiple musical influences, a multi-genre soundtrack accompanies the show.
FLCL (2000-2001) – 8.1
A 12-year-old meets a disturbing but hyperactive woman who carries a bass guitar with her at all times. Instead of just being a musical instrument, the guitar doubles as a jigsaw, which she then uses to slaughter the strange creatures that pop out of the young protagonist’s head.
There’s a lot going on at once for the over-the-top adventure that is FLCL while featuring some good 2000s alternative rock from Japanese band The Pillows. It’s definitely a great option for anyone who wants to dive into an out-of-this-world anime.
Beck (2004) – 8.3
In the same vein as many movies and shows about rock music, beck discusses the rise of such a group and the challenges its members face. The storyline primarily involves a distracted teenager who finds a new purpose in life as he is unexpectedly recruited as the guitarist and vocalist for the anime’s titular band.
However, unlike other ensemble-focused anime, the group members are not determined to succeed. They’re just pretty average punk rockers making their way up to the limelight. And that’s what makes beck both relevant and inspiring.
Granny (2006-2007) 8.4
As the title suggests, granny is a shoujo anime centered around a young girl called Nana Osaki. While she sings for the Sex Pistols-inspired punk band Blast, the show also explores her romantic misadventures as well as the rivalries she has with other bands.
Overall, Nana is a coming-of-age tale that has equal doses of rock and romance. What is impressive is not only the music that the members of Blast play, but also their very punk visual aesthetic.
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