Music and anime often go hand in hand. Some of the best songs out there are anime openings and endings! For music fans, though, there are a ton of anime series and movies that center around music or at least have it as a secondary theme. The beauty of music anime is that it’s not necessarily tied to a specific genre – there’s a ton of variety.
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Fans of rock music, however, might be looking for something a little darker. This isn’t always the case, but the rock music scene is often associated with heavier themes, or at least heavier sounds. This article includes anime that deals with some of those heavier themes, but also anime for anyone looking for a dose of rock music in their viewing!
Doukyusei is a laid-back anime movie with rock music as a sub-theme. It’s primarily a drama and charmingly simple romance story about two high school boys preparing for the school chorus festival. Hikaru Kusakabe is a carefree member of a rock band, who discovers his classmate Rihito Sajou struggling with singing the class song.
Fascinated by this side of his usually straight-laced classmate, Hikaru offers to coach him, and the two opposite personalities end up spending a lot of time together. As an unknown future looms, what will become of this budding relationship?
Detroit Metal City
Detroit Metal City is a stand-out music anime that follows Soichi Negishi, lead singer of the band ‘Detroit Metal City’. His band sings heavy metal with violent, hateful lyrics – but there’s one problem. Soichi absolutely despises his on-stage persona, as he’s just an ordinary, loving college student who just wants to enjoy Swedish pop.
While his fans adore his demonic persona, Soichi grows tired of pretending to be someone he isn’t. This conflict between his authentic self and persona gives the story of Detroit Metal City an interesting twist, and strong narrative intensity.
K-On! is a classic music anime. While it straddles the line between pop-punk and J-pop, rock music fans are sure to find something to love in this series, which is a love letter to music in many ways.
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The series follows the light music club of Sakuragaoka High School, a club on the brink of disbandment. The protagonist, Yui, learns how to play the guitar on the spot, donning a Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar. While it has a generally formulaic structure, K-On! still manages to be a fantastic slice-of-life idol anime with something for everyone.
FLCL (sometimes stylized as Fooly Cooly) is a retro anime franchise being rebooted for 2023, and it’s definitely not for the easily confused! The first series, released in 2000, is a short but memorable six episodes about twelve-year-old Naota Nandaba, and the portal in his brain that spawns giant robots.
This portal is caused by Haruko Haruhara, a vespa-rising maniac that hits him over the head with a blue, vintage Rickenbacker 4001. And it just gets weirder from there!
Bubblegum Crisis is a short but sweet Sci-Fi/Mecha series with a rocking soundtrack. A pioneer of the ‘Girls With Guns’ genre, the series aired for just eight episodes from 1987-1991, though it has spawned several spin-off series’.
When protagonist Priscilla Asagiri isn’t protecting the city of MegaTokyo from the nefarious Genom Corporation and its biomechanical creatures, the Boomers, she’s letting off steam as the lead singer of Priss and the Replicants. The band plays a smooth synth-laden pop-rock, perfect for the 80s era it debuted.
Bakumatsu Rock follows the enigmatic Ryouma Sakamoto, who wants everyone to know about his passion for rock ‘n’ roll. As he roams the streets with his electric guitar, he shows just about anybody who will listen that he’s just as skilled as the legally acceptable musicians in the Bakumatsu period.
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Based on the video game series of the same name, this series deals with an oppressive era of music in Japan. Refusing to back down until their music is accepted in Japan, Ryouma’s band begins to realize there’s more to their passion than they had thought.
Bocchi The Rock
Bocchi The Rock! is the newest original anime on this list, and a surprise hit of the Fall 2022 anime season. Don’t be fooled by their cute looks, these girls are writing surprisingly heavy rock music! The series focuses on Bocchi, a high school girl and guitar player with severe social anxiety disorder.
Having failed her goal of starting a band in middle school, Bocchi is drafted into the rock band ‘Kessoku’ by her inability to say no. The series is primarily a comedy, but it does have some genuinely heartfelt moments, with members of the band helping Bocchi overcome her mental health issues day by day.
Anime fans that prioritize great female characters need not look further than Zombieland Saga. With an ensemble cast of female characters, this series is a twist on traditional idol anime. The twist? They’re all zombies.
Resurrected by their madman manager, the members of Franchouchou are tasked with saving the prefecture of Saga through their music. The band consists of awesome performers and leaders from different eras of performing. From Yugiri, a legendary courtesan from the Meiji era, to Sakura, the protagonist and latest to be revived, each of the seven members contributes their unique sound to some incredible music.
Nana is a classic anime about the chance meeting between two women, both named Nana, that have incredible musical chemistry. Nana Osaki has moved to Tokyo to follow her dreams of rock/pop-punk stardom, while Nana Komatsu has perhaps naively followed her boyfriend to art school.
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As roommates, they both chase their dreams of musical stardom separately, but together. The series has an incredible opening song that sets the tone for the episodes ahead, full of dazzling music and interesting narrative developments.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Most anime fans have heard of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s hard to not have, as it’s one of the most well-known shonen anime of all time. The series has been ongoing since 1987 and doesn’t show signs of stopping.
While not a traditional choice for music anime, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is about as rockin’ as anime gets and is packed with tons of musical references that will make any rock music fan happy. Broadly speaking, it follows generations of the Joestar family through various installments with a surreal art style and wild characters.
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