Characters are a very important part of the storytelling process, and finding ways to make their presence known can sometimes be half the battle. What better way to introduce a character or mark their every appearance than with a kick-ass piece of music? The right character theme can add just a little bit extra to an already great character (or any scene they happen to be in). And a truly iconic theme can almost tell a story about the character all by itself.
Below are seven examples of truly iconic anime character themes. To be clear, I’m not necessarily saying these seven are the best ever, but I am saying they are each memorable in their own way. Now, let’s begin.
7. “Naruto’s Theme” – Naruto
Admit it. You got (or maybe still get) hype as hell when you heard this song. The thundering crescendos and garrulous drums cemented the character of Naruto Uzumaki as the raucous firebrand he was, especially at the beginning of the anime. Any time the chips were down and this piece started playing, you knew Naruto would find a way to win.
6. “So Scandalous (Soul’s Theme)” – Soul Eater
Calm, cool, collected. These three words describe Soul Evans to a ‘T’. A point driven home by the funky, methodical melody of his theme. When you hear this, you are assured that whatever happens, you’ll be able to handle it with a half-cocked smile and your hands firmly entrenched in your pockets. The blend of cascading pianos with rap-like beats is cool, just like Soul.
5. “Green Memories (Celty’s Theme)” – Durarara!!
This theme can be summed up with one word: Ireland. If this piece doesn’t firmly ingrain Celty’s Irish roots in your mind, nothing will. Nostalgic and almost bittersweet, this piece’s calming demeanor almost seems to whisk you back home—even if that home isn’t in Ireland. As one of anime’s very few Irish characters, this theme suits Celty, especially in the moments when she has flashbacks to her days back on the Emerald Isle.
4. “Sis Puella Magica! (Madoka’s Theme)” – Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
An enigmatic and curious melody follows this piece of music used as Madoka’s theme. As the mystery and shroud gets lifted around her, this theme becomes all the more poignant. The harps mixed with the Latin infused chants give Madoka’s theme an incredibly spooky aura. Listening to it makes you scared for what you may be about to witness.
3. “L’s Theme” – Death Note
If ever there were a theme that musically encapsulated the feeling of being chased, this is it. Dangerous and stealthy are words you could use to describe both L and the tempo of this music. Whether pondering the nature of a serial killer or positing the ability to be in two places at once, “L’s Theme” definitely has a tacit intellectual quality about it.
2. “Awaken (Pillar Men Theme)” – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency
This theme is designed to awaken you to the power of the characters behind it. First used during their introduction, there was no doubt that Kars, Whamuu, and Esidisi were the ultimate antagonists for Joseph Joestar. The theme brings that to bare with a pulsing drum beat punctuated at the outset by a vocal trill that could wake anyone from a coma. And yes, I do use this as my alarm every morning.
1. “Ominous (Kaiki’s Theme)” – Monogatari Series
Kaiki is always scheming, and his theme leaves no doubt to that fact. Listening to this tells you Kaiki isn’t a character you should trust—at least not easily. Is he a protagonist? Is he an antagonist? The tempo of this theme will tell you which it is. One thing is for sure though: when this piece of music starts playing, Koyomi and Co. are in for a wild ride.