Hiroyuki Imaishi is probably one of my favourite TV anime directors working today. And not just because of Kill La Kill. Also because of Gurren Lagann. My god those are some good shows!
One thing I’ve noticed about Imaishi’s TV series (Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and Kill La Kill) is they all have awesome vocal powerup music for when shit gets real and the heroes do cool stuff. And this awesome vocal powerup music tends to be pretty awesome songs. So I thought I’d take a look at the awesome powerup songs in these three shows.
Gurren Lagann has as its powerup theme tune Rap Is A Man’s Soul.
Or to give its full title: Rap is a Man’s Soul! We Surpass the Impossible, and Kick Reason to the Curb! Open Your Ears Wide and Listen to Team Dai-Gurren’s Theme! At least that’s what the above version is called. Most people would just know it as “Row Row Fight The Power” or something.
This song combines an orchestral score with rap over the top. Which you’d think would sound awful, but actually sounds pretty rad. Most of the soundtrack for this show is already fast-paced upbeat orchestral music, so I guess when they have to kick it up a notch adding rap is one way to do it.
There’s also a version that’s got a more standard hip-hop beat.
It goes by the title of “Rap is a Man’s Soul! Open Your Ears Wide and Listen to the Great Kamina’s Theme, the Man Who Believes in Himself and Surges at Heaven!”
The beat used in the back of this version is basically the same as used in the commercial break eyecatchers for the show. So it’s a familiar sound if you’re watching the series.
Then, later in the series when things get even more ridiculous, there’s this version: ‘Libera me’ from hell
It takes the same rap and layers it over opera singing. Which actually sounds better than you’d expect. And it’s appropriate for the point in the series where things are all taking on excessively epic proportions.
Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt
PSG brings us this piece of music to accompany the *ahem* rather interesting transformation sequences.
It’s called “Fly Away Now” and it’s used during the *ahem* scenes where Panty and Stocking pole-dance and transform certain garments into their weapons. Wow how do I even begin to explain this series on a blog that my parents probably read. Anyway, I’d say it’s a suitable piece of music for a gratuitous pole dancing powerup scene.
There was an interesting yet totally unconfirmed and probably made-up theory about the meaning of the term “Fly Away” in Japanese. I’ll let you follow this link to Urban Dictionary and see if you think it’s totally made up… it kinda makes sense I guess.
Kill La Kill
Kill La Kill brings us the absolutely amazing mindblowing “Before my body is dry”, perhaps better known as “Don’t Lose Your Way”.
This song is normally the song that plays when Senketsu transforms and Ryuko totally unleases on whoever, but it’s kind of the standard “awesome climactic moment where the awesome thing that we’ve been waiting for happens” music. And boy does it work well as that. A lot of the time it’ll be timed so right when the chorus comes in is when awesome thing happens, which is quite a good effect.
I just love this song so much. One thing I never noticed during the show but noticed when listening to it afterwards is the lyrics are actually about the plot of the show and Ryuko’s struggle. And they’re (sort of) English. Well, all of these songs have English lyrics I guess, but this one they actually matter.
The tune of this song becomes like Ryuko’s leitmotif… there’s an orchestral version as well that’s used in various points.
I guess the thing with this kind of power-up “awesome stuff is happening” music is it’s kind of the “yeah that cool thing that you wanted to happen is happening now” cue. Which for action-oriented shows like this is really important… it’s like the auditory equivalent of the transformation stock footage or launch sequence.
In conclusion, Imaishi sure does like his awesome english vocal songs as powerup music in his TV series, and one of his TV series is super awkward to write about.