At University this semester, i’m taking a Music Theory class, in which i’ve spent some time analyzing music, and the way that it can affect us. There are dozens of examples of these effects, may of which can be seen in our everyday lives, so I thought i’d make a mini-series to talk about some of these trends as I see them in various scenarios.
And what better way to kick off a potential series than to talk about hype? Specifically, hype music in Anime. You guys know what I mean, right? That song that always comes on in the most dramatic part of the show, when all the cards are on the table, the steaks are high, and the fate of the casino barbecue is on the line!
Yeah… my jokes are bad.
But so many shows have this theme. And right when that epic moment comes along, you suddenly hear the opening bars of that hype theme, and you know… YOU KNOW that you’re about to have a good time. Or maybe a bad time. Depends which side you’re rooting for, I suppose.
Well, while listening to many of these hype songs from various shows, i’ve discovered quite a few techniques and patterns used by a large majority of these kinds of songs. In fact, it seems that most of them tend to have a nearly identical composition structure to each other. Some show some differences, variations of the pattern, but in general, they all flow in a very similar manner. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look, shall we?
Oh, and this is gonna be a long one, so grab your headphones, grab some popcorn, grab your soda pop… You’re gonna need it.
Most of these hype songs start out slow, a quiet, slowly rising crescendo as the tension builds, the action on screen just about to begin. As the action starts, a single music line will emerge, heralding the beginning of the battle. As this music line ends, and repeats, a second line will emerge, driving the hype even higher. Then, as the battle really gets into motion, the song settles down a bit, into a steady, but intense rhythm as it waits for the climax.
Then, there comes a low beat. A point when the tension is allowed to increase, sometimes adding in a flashback, or some dialogue, driving the emotion of the song right to its peak. Generally this will involve either a soulful violin, or maybe a guitar solo. Then, right after this, the climax of the song approaches, everything driving the tones right to their peak as all the previous pieces of the song combine in one epic crescendo. After the climax, the song usually tones it down a little to draw everything to a nice close.
If we look at the style of these songs, too, we see a lot of similarities. Violins, Guitars, and trumpets really take the spotlight here, with accompanying drums, and sometimes some lofty vocals to really take everything to the next level. After all, the purpose of these songs is to really draw out the subconscious emotion in the viewers. Everything is composed with a very specific and purposeful intent. The instrumental choice, the compositional format… everything is designed specifically to elicit emotion from the audience.
Let me give you guys an example, from one of the most recently acclaimed “hype songs”. Of course, it’s got to be You Say Run by Yuki Hayashi, a song that is actually pretty basic and vanilla when you really sit down to listen to it. (Not to say that it isn’t a great song.) Anyways, give it a listen:
(Take note of the main instruments that can be heard in this piece, by the way.)
Now, let’s break it down. From the beginning of the song until about 0:22 is the introduction, that softly rising tune that draws us in as the action on-screen begins to unfold. Beyond that is when the true beat of the song really picks up, the action rising, and that secondary melody being added in at around 0:35. At 0:46 is when the song begins to settle down; the viewer is already drawn into the action by that initial crescendo, and now the music allows the action to escalate as it slowly rises in intensity, occasionally toning itself back to keep us interested in what’s going on.
2:05 is the emotional downbeat, a sort of cadence, or beat in the music that gives us time to rest from the intensity, as the violin works to stir our emotions in preparation for the climax. 2:28 is when that climax finally hits, the standard melody of the song hit by the more forceful countermelody of the “hype” piece, bringing the song to the true “plus ultra” portion. After this, the song gently lets us back down in a soft, satisfying way.
Next song we’ll look at is a much shorter one, so keep your ears peeled and see if you can discern each individual phase of this song… the main battle theme from One Punch Man, by Makoto Miyazaki.
How’d you guys do? Were you able to pick out the sections?
The intro only lasts until 0:07; it’s super short, after which begins phase 2, the ramp-up. This goes to 0:14 until it hits its second phase, and the main song begins at 0:21. Think those 7-second intervals are coincidental? At 0:37 the song dials itself back, a soulful violin (sound familiar?) taking over center stage for a while. 0:54 is when the climax really hits, the three introductory pieces meshed together in an epic clash of harmonies as the song gets to the peak of epicness. 1:23 begins the outro of the song, leading us right to the finish.
Of course, a hype song list wouldn’t be complete without something from Hiroyuki Sawano, A.K.A. the king of hype music in Anime. I’ve actually selected two of his songs, from two different shows; one showing a very vanilla texture of the concept i’ve been talking about, and one that’s a little different from the norm. See if you guys can spot the trends in these two epic tracks.
First up is BIOS, from Guilty Crown, a show that I seriously adore, not just for the music; though the music in this show is absolutely epic. Give it a listen.
The other song is from re:Creators. A super hype battle song, called Layers.
Notice how BIOS takes the typical approach, the patterning of the music very clearly designated as it moves from section to section? By comparison, Layers uses the same formula, but repeats it several times over the course of the song. There are so many examples of this in his music, where the same pattern is used, just at different intervals or slightly different configurations.
Well, I had a list of about 11 songs that I could have used as examples, but i’ll have mercy on you guys and just look at one more, a track from one of my favorite series: Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. This show has a fantastic soundtrack, honestly one of the best of any show i’ve ever seen. Tatsuya Kato did an amazing job with his compositions, and we can see the same pattern emerging from many of the tracks in the score, including this one: Hiding Determination.
What an awesome track, right? You can see the pattern really easily with this track. And… that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
After learning how “simple” it is co compose some of these hype songs, you might be a bit unimpressed by track composers and what they do. But there’s a pretty dang simple reason that so many composers use this pattern:
It’s a pattern that’s designed to draw us in, make us feel emotion, get us invested in what’s going on before delivering a SPECTACULAR scene that we’ll remember for a long while. It’s why You Say Run has become such a phenomenon. That’s also why (seemingly) You Say Run “goes with anything.” I haven’t tried it myself, but i’m willing to bet that most of these songs could probably be substituted for You Say Run in any of those meme videos, and it would still fit just as well.
I’m not saying that 100% of anime hype music is like this, because there’s definitely quite a few songs out there that do just as good a job pumping up the viewers, while sticking to their own beat. But there are many, many more songs out there that DO follow this pattern. But, I’m willing to bet you that even those songs will usually stick to the same types of major instruments in composition… it’s just ingrained into the culture, I suppose.
And that’s what this series is all about. Sitting down, and actually LISTENING to the music. Picking out patterns, noticing things about the music that you may never have noticed before. So… Let me extend a challenge to you guys. Go find your favorite anime hype songs, and listen to them. REALLY listen, then comment below what you found out! Do they follow the pattern I outlined in this post? How about the instrumental use? If you find some songs that fit the pattern, let me know about them! And, if you do find some that manage to stray from the pattern, let me know as well!
Thank you all so much for reading, and as you listen to this final, amazing song… I hope to see you all in the next post!