Yoko Kanno is perhaps the greatest composer to have ever worked in anime — her themes for “Vision of Escaflowne,” “Wolf’s Rain,” and the first two seasons of “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” were all under consideration for this list. What was never in question when compiling this list, however, was that “Tank!,” the iconic opening to Shinichiro Watanabe’s beloved sci-fi Western “Cowboy Bebop,” was certain to be number one.
Though both “Cowboy Bebop” as a whole and “Tank!” in particular took clear inspiration from “Lupin III,” they have always stood out from the general popular trends in anime, both back in 1998 and in the decades since the show premiered. Hearing the incredible big band jazz tune and witnessing the cool and colorful animation on Adult Swim while channel surfing may be as responsible as any other factor for turning formerly anime-skeptical Americans into serious otaku.
This highly influential opening theme was many years in the making, as Kanno explained during an interview with Red Bull Music Academy. “The seeds for that score were sown in middle school and high school when I was a member of the brass band,” she revealed. “I wanted to play brass music that shook your soul, made your blood boil, and made you lose it. This yearning became ‘Tank!,’ which was the opening theme [to ‘Cowboy Bebop’]. I wanted to make music which would light a fire in me when I played it.” That fire caught hold of countless anime fans across the world and still burns brightly to this day.