It is unusual to see shounen anime that do not feature physical combat or an intellectual tug-of-war between two opponents. However, anime catering to the shoujo demographic (female teens) has a much larger scope, with multiple genres, including musical anime. Of course, this is not to say that only teenage girls enjoy anime focused on music.
Here's a look at ten musical anime that anyone, but especially music enthusiasts, can appreciate.
10 musical anime that music enthusiasts would love
1) Your Lie in April
Your Lie in April is arguably the most popular musical anime right now. Fans love it for its emotional storyline as well as its catchy opening.
The anime focuses on piano prodigy Arima Kousei, who stops hearing the sound of the notes he plays after his mother’s sudden death. His love for the instrument and his return to the world of competitive piano is reignited when he meets enigmatic violinist Miyazono Kaori. What follows is a journey so poignant and tragic that it could bring tears to viewers' eyes.
Lovers of Chopin are in luck, as the anime features the Polish composer heavily, among other classical music legends like Mozart, Bach and Rachmaninoff.
If you are more of a rock music enthusiast, then Given might be a better fit for you.
The musical anime discusses depression, suicide, and homophobia as it follows the story of four members of a rock band called Given. In the midst of music, drama and self-discovery, love blossoms between guitarist Uenoyama Ritsuka and new vocalist Sato Mafuyu.
The movie sequel also addresses the complicated relationship between bassist Nakayama Haruki and drummer Kaji Akihiko.
K-On! follows a more traditional structure of high-school anime.
The plot is set in an all-girls private school called Sakuragaoka High, where the light music club is on the brink of closing down due to a lack of members. To save the club, bassist Akiyama Mio, drummer Tainaka Ritsu, and keyboardist Kotobuki Tsumugi convince Hirasawa Yui, who has no experience playing instruments or reading sheet music, to join them.
As Yui hones her guitar skills, the group is joined by underclassman guitarist Nakano Azusa. Together, the five girls practice, perform and hang out together, eventually forming a close friendship.
4) Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
This musical anime is a unique entry on this list. Set in a futuristic world, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song follows songstress AI, Diva, whose assigned mission is to make everyone happy with her songs. However, an AI called Matsumoto hinders her efforts to accomplish this mission.
Matsumoto has apparently come from the future to ask for her help in preventing the eradication of humanity by AI. The encounter sends Vivy on a long journey to avert the violent future that awaits the world.
5) Sakamichi no Apollon
What makes Sakamichi no Apollon stand out among other musical anime is the genre that it promotes. Most musical anime tend to focus on Western classical and traditional Japanese genres of music, while others, such as Given, dive headfirst into modern rock music. However, Watanabe Shinichiro's Sakamichi no Apollon revolves around jazz music.
The story follows the introverted Nishimi Kaoru, delinquent Kawabuchi Sentaro and their classmate Mukae Ritsuko, who form a friendship through their love for music.
Nana is a critically acclaimed and yet extremely underrated musical anime. The series veers away from the typical high school setting and the happy-go-lucky stereotype associated with most of its contemporaries. It provides a grittier view of the world that the two protagonists, both named Nana, venture into.
While Oosaki Nana is the ambitious vocalist of a punk rock band called BLAST, Komatsu Nana is a naive and emotional woman who followed her boyfriend to Tokyo.
The musical anime focuses on the two women's relationships with each other and with the people around them. It features adult themes and would be more popular with a mature audience.
7) Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life
If musical anime like K-On! are your thing, then Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life is right up your alley.
The show focuses on the koto club of Tokise High School, where second-year student Kurata Takezo is the only remaining member.
The story picks up when koto prodigy Hozuki Satowa, delinquent Kudo Chika and some of his friends join the koto club. The group's friendship develops as they prepare for the Koto Nationals Competition.
A subtle romance also blooms between Chika and Satowa. However, it never overshadows the show’s main focus, which remains music and the emotions it can convey.
8) Piano no Mori
Piano no Mori begins on a somewhat mysterious note, with an abandoned piano in the middle of a forest.
The story begins when Amamiya Shuhei finds protagonist Ichinose Kai playing the broken piano in the forest. Kai is apparently the only person who can coax music out of the keys despite having no formal training.
Upon hearing of Kai's skills, Shuhei’s teacher, a former master pianist named Ajino Sousuke, then tries to convince the youngster to get proper training.
This musical anime follows Kai’s journey as his talent grows to new levels.
9) Carole and Tuesday
Another musical anime created by Watanabe Shinichiro, Carole and Tuesday is a coming-of-age story at heart. Set in the future where humans have migrated to a colonized Mars, the series revolves around two 17-year-old girls who want to become musicians.
While Carole is an orphan who works odd jobs and is a street performer, Tuesday is a politician’s runaway daughter who owns just a suitcase and a Gibson guitar.
This series follows the two teenagers as they build a friendship over shared passions and form a singer-songwriter duo called “Carole and Tuesday.”
10) Mashiro no Oto
Mashiro no Oto is a musical anime revolving around another traditional Japanese instrument, the shamisen.
The plot of the series is rather stereotypical, with protagonist Sawamura Setsu, a withdrawn but skilled shamisen player, joining the shamisen club at his school. He goes on to participate in a tournament where his talent and his teammates’ hard work is recognized.
However, what makes Mashiro no Oto interesting is Setsu’s character, his backstory, his love for his late grandfather, and his toxic relationship with his estranged parents. Integral to all of his relationships is the shamisen and his endeavor to discover his own unique style of playing.
This list is far from comprehensive, considering the huge number of series and movies that fall under the musical anime category. Nitaboh, Aki no Kanade, Belle, La Corda dóro: primo passo, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad and Sora no Woto are among the many musical anime that viewers should check out.