Anime

Six Music-Themed Anime Set in High School!: Teach Me, TOM Senpai!

If you like fresh stories about adolescence, you might want to try some of the many memorable anime that have music as their main theme. Like anime itself, the music involved is quite diverse, from rock to classical music and everything in between.

We asked the Tokyo Otaku Mode staff to choose their favorite music-related anime set in high school, which resulted in a great selection; there are series with wonderful songs, series with an amazing story, series with fantastic performance scenes, and series with well-written characters.

What music did you listen to during your teenage years? You might take a trip down memory lane when you watch these memorable series, or even find yourself moving in time with the rhythm!

1. Your lie in April

Official website: https://www.kimiuso.jp/

Plot
Fourteen-year-old Kosei Arima is a genius pianist who has become unable to play the piano after his mother’s death. However, he begins to find color in his monochromatic life after meeting a violinist named Kaori Miyazono. She is insolent and quick-tempered, but her music reflects her unique personality. Irrevocably drawn to Kaori, Kosei begins to live life on his own terms.

What’s great about this series
You’ll be moved by the heartrending love story of Kosei and Kaori, two young people blessed with great musical talent. The story is packed with a strong message and proceeds in unison with the splendid, majestic, yet delicate music. The impressive music scenes were created by having actual musicians perform, filming them from different angles, and using those videos as reference for the art. It’s a masterpiece of animation that will draw you into its world!

Comments from TOM Staff

Hara: The story, music, and art are all beautiful. Also, each character is charming and shines in the world of Your lie in April. I’ve cried every single time I’ve watched this anime. The opening songs are also great. Listening to them cheers me up.

Tetsu: Watching this anime will dramatically bring color to your life.

Conclusion
Its main theme may be music, but this meaningful work also delves into a variety of other topics, making it hard to categorize it as a simple teen story.

2. Sound! Euphonium

Official website: http://anime-eupho.com/

Plot
Kumiko Oumae is a student who has been playing wind instruments since she was in the fourth grade. She now attends Kitauji High School, whose concert band club was once famous nationwide but has fallen from grace. Kumiko reluctantly joins the club after her classmates Hazuki and Sapphire invite her. However, the new club advisor, Noboru Taki, pushes them to decide whether they want to just take it easy and enjoy their club activities, or work hard and make it to nationals.

What’s great about this series
Through their activities in the club, the girls find something truly invaluable. Kyoto Animation portrays a story in which teenage girls must confront issues both among others and within themselves. Their high-quality art and the impressive music scenes are definitely worth seeing as well. Moreover, it’s certain that you’ll be charmed by the loveable characters and the delicate, yet realistic story that unfolds in the wind orchestra club. (This anime has a lot of fans among the Tokyo Otaku Mode staff, too!)

Comments from TOM Staff

Hara: The art is fantastic, and each one of the heroines is charming in her own way. The story has a peculiar tongue-in-cheek quality that adds spice to it. I think it’s one of KyoAni’s best works.

Rachel: Beautiful art, the precise rendition of instrument playing, the realism of the wind orchestra club’s activities; add them all together to get this wonderful teen anime!

Conclusion
This is the pinnacle of Kyoto Animation’s teen anime. Anyone who loves stories about youth should watch it.

3. Kids on the Slope

Official website: https://www.noitamina-apollon.com/

Plot
Early summer, 1966. Kaoru Nishimi, a first-year high school student, relocates alone from Yokosuka to a town in Kyushu where his relatives live. Kaoru used to be a top student, but he closed his heart off from others. However, things change after meeting his new classmate, Sentaro Kawabuchi – a notorious teen delinquent. Kaoru could already play piano, but Sentaro’s influence causes him to dive headfirst into the world of jazz, as well as learn what it means to have a real friend for the first time in his life. Who knew that playing music with friends could be such fun?

What’s great about this series
This anime is a dramatic teen story set in a seaside town influenced by American culture, in which friendship, love, and music intertwine splendidly. The retro, nostalgic atmosphere and the use of the Sasebo dialect are elements you can’t find in any other anime. Lastly, the climactic school festival scene will definitely tickle your curiosity about jazz music.

Comments from TOM Staff

Katie: I watched this anime eight years ago, but it impressed me so much that I still think about it whenever I listen to jazz music. To be honest, I don’t like jazz… or so I thought, but I enjoyed listening to the music in this anime. In fact, it might have made me like jazz a little bit more. The ending is absolutely unpredictable!

Hara: Music, youth, friendship, love, art, story, the character’s detailed emotions, and the animation: everything is depicted with painstaking diligence. I love its retro atmosphere as well. The opening and ending songs are good too… This anime is way too perfect! It’s a moving work, but it has heart-warming parts as well. I’m really impressed. I definitely recommend it.

Conclusion
If you’ve forgotten what your teenage years were like, dive into the world of Kids on the Slope without thinking twice.

Source: Kyoto Animation official website

Trailer: https://www.b-ch.com/titles/2166/001

Official website: https://www.tbs.co.jp/anime/k-on/

Plot
It’s spring, the time of year when school clubs recruit new members. Boisterous first year student Ritsu Tainaka takes her shy childhood friend Mio Akiyama to check out the light music club. However, all the club members have already graduated, and if at least four new members don’t join, it will be disbanded. The two manage to recruit an elegant girl named Tsumugi Kotobuki, and then another first-year student, Yui Hirasawa. However, Yui mistakenly believes that “light music” simply means “light-hearted music,” such as whistling!

What’s great about this series
Originally a four-panel manga, K-On! is a heartwarming, sometimes moving slice of life story centered around Yui Hirasawa, a high school girl with no prior experience in music, and her unique friends. The quality of the songs sung by Houkago Tea Time (the characters’ band in the anime) helped to turn K-On! into a social phenomenon. Not to mention, the anime was produced by Kyoto Animation, a studio with countless enthusiastic fans.

Comments from TOM Staff

Sam: I was very busy with schoolwork in my high school days, so I always wished I had time to join a club. What’s great about this anime is that you can enjoy not only its music but also the charm of each character. Above all, it’s really cool to see high school girls in uniforms play in a rock band!

Tetsu: This is one of KyoAni’s best-known works. It’s a slice of life anime so there aren’t really huge story developments, but each character’s unique charm makes every episode enjoyable. I think this anime is even better than its reviews.

Conclusion
Despite being a work of fiction, you can feel the warmth and humanity of the characters, whose liveliness makes this anime truly special.

5. Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life

Official website: http://www.konooto-anime.jp/

Plot
After being abandoned by his parents and spending his middle school days in a state of rebellion, a boy named Chika Kudo begins to live with his grandfather, a koto craftsman. The unfamiliar instrument helps him to discover the warmth of other people, and he later enrolls in a high school where the koto club was founded by his grandfather himself. Although it is on the verge of being disbanded, Chika joins the club and vows to take first place at nationals with his friends.

What’s great about this series
Kono Oto Tomare! was originally a manga by Amyu published on Jump Square. The story shows the characters’ evolution from the start, when the club is at risk of being disbanded, to their struggles as they aim to compete in the national competition. Amyu used to play the koto herself since she was a child, leading to faithful depictions of the instrument in the manga. In the anime, movement and music come together with the art, and it makes it easy for the viewers to enjoy the seemingly complex world of Japanese traditional instruments.

Comments from TOM Staff

Soh: It’s a good anime that makes us want to push forward as we navigate modern society while carrying the burden of our own problems. Amyu-sensei’s mother and sister composed several original koto music pieces for the anime. They all are very good, so I recommend giving them a listen.

Massiel: The art and the music are the best things about this anime. The art in the original manga is gorgeous, and it’s beautifully animated in the same style. It’s a music-themed anime, so of course music is important. The music that you can hear in the anime is original and since a few years ago you can actually purchase the sheet music. Shueisha, the publishing company, even held a nationwide competition for high school koto clubs! The main characters are varied, from elite students to former delinquents; the path to them trusting each other and eventually becoming friends is portrayed realistically and makes the readers want to do their best, as well.

Conclusion
This work can get quite emotional as it digs deep into each character’s background and issues, frequently using flashbacks. It has a shojo manga vibe while also incorporating the classic enthusiasm of shonen manga, so it can be enjoyed by many different types of readers.

Official website: http://fuuka.tv/

Plot
Yuu Haruna is a high school boy who has just transferred to a high school in Tokyo to live with his sisters after his parents relocated to the US. He’s shy and awkward around people, and his favorite means of communication is Twitter. One day, Yuu explores his neighborhood, and as he’s checking Twitter on his phone, he bumps into a girl named Fuuka Akitsuki. In contrast to the shy and awkward Yuu, Fuuka Akitsuki exudes a mysterious charm. Then, Yuu’s childhood friend, Koyuki Hinashi, reappears in his life, setting in motion a new love story woven from music.

What’s great about this series
Fuuka was originally a manga by Koji Seo serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine. The manga is renowned for its vivid depiction of a love story, somewhat uncommon for a male artist, as well as surprising plot twists that keep the readers’ attention. These elements are superbly depicted in Fuuka’s anime, where an extremely important plot point was changed with the cooperation of the mangaka, Koji Seo. After it was aired, it spurred discussions amongst the fans of the original manga. Whether you’re a fan of the manga, anime or both, it can be fun to compare the differences.

Comments from TOM Staff

Tetsu: Among the many romantic comedies out there with sci-fi or fantasy settings, it was refreshing to see a realistic love story and I loved it! The characters and the art also suit my taste.

Hara: The plot makes me go, “Huh? Are you serious?” and really surprises me. I wonder how it will turn out, but it gets even better. I often reacted like this, which drew me even deeper into the story.

Conclusion
The story of Fuuka’s anime unfolds differently from the manga. Some people first found this work as an anime, and others are fans of the original manga. This element of surprise is its greatest point of appeal.

What did you think of these TOM staff-approved music-themed anime series? The beauty of music anime is that their fictional worlds extend outside of the actual work thanks to the music, be it original compositions or classical pieces. When you listen in the real world to music pieces that were played in the anime, those scenes overlap with your life and tug at your heartstrings even more.

Of course, there are also many more amazing works that we didn’t have the space to introduce (it was actually quite a hard time selecting just a few!). We’d like to suggest even more anime if we get the chance, so look forward to other articles from our trusty TOM Senpais!

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article by T. Hara

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