Ah, “anisong” franchises. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Maybe you already associate that word with something specific. Maybe even something negative? You could have even enjoyed a few here or there without realizing: a rhythm game with an exclamation mark in its name, or perhaps an anime with a surprising number of original songs in it (and also an exclamation mark in its name).
So how do we define an anisong franchise? Generally, “anisong” refers to any music made for anime. This would include all those classic opening and ending themes that we never, ever skip. However it can also refer to—and for the purpose of this list does refer to—any anime or anime-related franchise where music is a primary part of the creative output.
Though a wide variety of media can fit within this definition, there’s one thing that unites all of them: they’re filled with absolute bangers. Also? You had no clue they existed. To fix this problem you never even knew you had, here’s a list of music recommendations to add to any and all playlists. Who knows? You might even find a new favorite show as a result. And, if you don’t believe me (although I don’t see why you wouldn’t—I’m very trustworthy), I’ve got quotes from the wiki communities to back me up.
I am deeply sorry in advance if any of these get stuck in your head.
“R” (BanG Dream!)
If there was ever a perfect entry point into the Bang Dream! (aka “Bandori”) franchise, it would be through the music of one of their live performing bands, Roselia. And there would be no more perfect song to recommend for your playlists than their sixth single, “R.” And yes, you read correctly! These songs are played live. Bang Dream! is composed of seven bands, four of which perform in concert. And (in case you were wondering) the show’s voice actors play their instruments themselves.
“I was surprised by its characters, their realistic developments, how fun the event stories are, the excellent voice acting and the fun seiyuu content, and finally, of course the music. The seven bands all have a distinct musical style and have made me appreciate and enjoy genres I wouldn’t normally have listened to. If someone like me, who has never been that much into the idol aesthetic/music, ended up having Pastel*Palettes as her favorite band, I’d say that’s pretty telling.” –SharingIiiisCaring
“R” is my go-to recommendation when introducing people to Bandori’s music. While I love all of the franchise’s music equally, of course, this single comes the closest to being something you could hear on the radio. This makes sense for lore reasons; Roselia is, in the universe of this franchise, recognized at a near-professional level. And, WOW, does it show in the tracks they put out. If that bass line doesn’t immediately capture your heart and ears, I don’t know what will.
If you enjoy this pick and you’re curious about more sick Roselia tracks, I recommend “ONENESS” for some great goth harpsichord action and “FIRE BIRD” for some insane JRPG boss battle action.
“Saga Jihen” (Zombie Land Saga)
If you were keeping up with new seasonal anime way back in 2018, there’s a chance you’ve heard about Zombie Land Saga. In case you haven’t, the gist is basically that a bunch of dead girls get revived to form an idol group. All very normal things, right? Right.
While the show, in its very premise, is highly critical of the idol industry (I mean, they’re literally working girls past death—very subtle!), that doesn’t stop this anime from having an unbelievably good collection of songs.
Originally a bonus song on the soundtrack for the first season, the solo song “Saga Jihen” eventually made its way into the show’s second season through sheer girlboss power alone (presumably). Performed by the cast’s oldest member, the Meiji-era courtesan Yugiri, the song also emulates the oldest genre to be covered in the show: 1930’s New Orleans jazz. And, oh man, does Yugiri’s voice (as performed by the very talented Rika Kinugawa) suit this.
While the show is full of songs that slap, they’re best appreciated in the context of the story itself. Thankfully, “Saga Jihen” wasn’t originally made with story context in mind, so you can feel free to enjoy this bop on its own.
“Jackpot Sad Girl” (Project SEKAI COLORFUL STAGE!)
Continuing on this jazzy path, we have a song from Project SEKAI COLORFUL STAGE! (or Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage!, as the recently released global version of the app is called). As you might have guessed from the title, this is a game with Hatsune Miku in it. If you like vocaloid, then this celebration of all things vocaloid could be for you.
As it stands, this franchise is fairly new and currently doesn’t have much outside of the game itself, some animated shorts, and one live concert. However, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of great tracks. This franchise is bursting with great covers of Vocaloid classics as well as original songs commissioned from popular Vocaloid producers. One of those incredible originals is “Jackpot Sad Girl,” performed by the unit 25-ji, Nightcord de. and produced by syudou. The game is new (and the English version of the app is even newer), so if you’re curious about rhythm games this isn’t a bad place to start at all. If you don’t want to check out the game and just listen to some bangin’ tunes, that’s perfectly fine too.
If you’d like to hear an example of Project SEKAI’s vocaloid covers, Wonderland x Showtime’s cover of “Chururira Chururira Daddadda!” by Kurage-P is fantastic. Or perhaps if you liked “Jackpot Sad Girl” you might be interested in one of 25ji’s covers. In that case, I’d have to steer you in the direction of their cover of “Usseewa,” the breakout jpop hit by syudou and Ado. You really can’t go wrong with this game, both on the originals end and with their covers.
“Until The World Is Turned to Ash” (Revue Starlight)
“Until the World is Turned to Ash” (or “Sekai wo Hai ni Suru Made” on Spotify) kicks off the anime’s soundtrack and perfectly encapsulates what sets Revue Starlight apart from the rest. Beautiful singing voices, excellent harmonies, stunning instrumentals, and an extremely sick guitar solo. If you’re a big fan of the instrumentation and vocal styles of musical theater, then this is the series and this is the soundtrack to check out.
“I was drawn to Revue Starlight by the rather absurd premise of girls who are theater kids sword fighting (inspired by the Takarazuka Revue, which I didn’t know much about to begin with but is a really cool aspect of it), immediately struck by the incredible orchestration of the anime insert songs, and hooked by the stage girls’ stories and overall quality of the show. This production quality persists across all of its other media forms (stage plays, game, manga)—the visuals, music, writing, and staging are all top notch, in my opinion. More than anything, there’s such a wide range of characters, stories, messages, and emotions covered in the franchise that everyone is bound to find at least one they connect with, especially people who like stories about hope and love and growing as a person. I also really enjoy how each character’s actress is the same across all media, and that joining the franchise gave many stage actresses their first voice acting roles.” –Bananapepper
For further Revue Starlight listening, here’s some songs you may want to check out from outside the context of the anime (as I’m not about to spoil what the rest of the show has to offer). (Seriously, though—if the idea of theater kids beating each other up in a basement while singing dramatically at each other appeals to you, I cannot recommend this show and every song in it enough).
“Junjou Unclassified” is a single completely removed from the context of anything story related. Just a fun, jazzy tune perfect for blasting on your car speakers while you’re driving on the highway. It’s not particularly similar in style to the songs you would find in the series, but it is a highlight among the more classic J-Pop-y singles they occasionally put out.
If you would like to check out a song more similar to the theatrical style of Revue Starlight songs without worrying about ruining any of the songs from the show for yourself, I recommend “Gyoshite Gyosha-za.” While this song is a part of one of the franchise’s stageplays and does have a story to it, it’s so much of a banger that you don’t even need to worry what’s going on or why.
Okay, even if you haven’t heard of Zombie Land Saga, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of K-ON!!. In a list of suggestions for anisong franchise music, I would be remiss not to give some love to this anime. Though the anime is, at its core, about a group of four (eventually five) girls playing music together, a majority of the episodes don’t feature original songs (or are even really about music at all). However, there’s enough songs put out by fake girl band Ho-kago Tea Time to fill two albums and several concerts… which means it absolutely counts as an anisong franchise, and I can absolutely drop a song recommendation.
“While I could talk for hours about the attention to detail in everything from the background shots to the music that elevate the experience, it’s ultimately the characters that make the show special to me. It’s the sort of show that I feel any anime fan would be remiss not to at least try out if they haven’t seen it already, even if they don’t normally watch slice of life shows.” –Mahamaon
If you’ve heard any song from this iconic anime, in all likelihood it was “Don’t Say Lazy!,” the season one ending song. Now, that song is popular (for good reason), but here’s some encouragement to check out the rest of the songs K-ON!! has to offer. The season two ending, “Listen!!,” is just plain fun. Why don’t you Listen!! to that keyboard riff? That opening drumroll? How about those excellent vocals (provided by Yōko Hikasa) that elevate this already catchy track? This is certainly one to add to your playlists.
“Tear Drops” (Bang Dream!)
Okay it might be cheating to recommend another Bang Dream! song, but this thing’s got a LOT of bands in it! Seven whole bands! That’s a lot of music! So, on the off chance those initial Roselia recommendations didn’t sell you, I’m here to recommend a song from the original Bandori band. Before there was Roselia and all the other five bands (Afterglow, Hello Happy World!, RAISE A SUILEN, Pastel*Palettes, and Morfonica), there was just one. The main character band, you might call them. Their name is Poppin’ Party—and yes, it’s a very silly name. That’s why fans call them “Popipa,” which is marginally less silly. While Bandori didn’t introduce any other bands until 2016, Poppin’ Party has been around since 2015. It existed before there was even a rhythm game!
While Poppin’ Party has a big library of bangers to choose from, the song I’d recommend the most for any playlist is their third single, “Tear Drops.” This is just some good old-fashioned rock, and you better believe it absolutely hits. While most Poppin’ Party songs are more on the cute-bops-about-friendship side of things (which I wholeheartedly support—the world can always use more cute bops about friendship), it’s hard to resist picking this one as a favorite when it just sounds so cool.
For further Poppin’ Party listening, I would recommend their Halloween-themed single “Hello Wink!,” or their jam of a 7th single, “Timelapse.” All these songs go super hard for absolutely no reason, and are guaranteed to add a perfect little spot of joy to any mix.
“Strawberry Trapper” (Love Live!)
Now if there’s any rhythm game you’ve heard of on this list, it’s probably Love Live!. This bad boy could be considered the blueprint for every rhythm game-oriented anisong franchise. Yes, it’s a highly specific genre, but it’s a highly specific genre that Love Live! dominates. Multiple units each with their own unique sound? Check. Live performances? Check. A phone game where you tap your little fingers to bangers? Check. Its roots are buried so deep in the genre that many voice actors in other franchises mentioned on this list got their start voicing a character in a Love Live! unit. In the world of idol and idol-adjacent media, it’s nigh inescapable. Which means it would be a huge disservice to not recommend a song from it for your listening pleasure!
While Love Live! has main units like Aquors and µ’s, which are composed of nine members, these units are also broken up into subunits consisting of three members. One of these subunits, Guilty Kiss, has a particularly fun discography, a highlight of which would be their single, “Strawberry Trapper.” It’s, like, impossibly catchy. That guitar riff! That other guitar riff! If you’re hankering for more Guilty Kiss in your life, I highly recommend checking out “Shooting Star Warrior” next.
That’s just the beginning when it comes to the sheer number of bangers these franchises have to offer. I could list songs forever, but I’ll leave you to explore on your own with these jumping off points. I hope at least one catches your ear, though I do know in my heart and mind that all of them will. Any of these songs will get you the perfect amount of pumped up for driving, cooking, gaming, and whatever else you might make playlists for. When next you find yourself making a playlist of all your favorite jams, feel free to throw one or two of these on there! You know, as a treat.