However, what I hadn't been aware of when I was a resident in Japan was that theme songs and excerpts of anime soundtracks were and are being used all the time to be provided as background music for variety shows or news program segments. In fact, just today on NHK's "Asaichi" morning show, the producers used an excerpt from the stage musical-worthy soundtrack of "Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii"（それでも世界は美しい...The World Is Still Beautiful）, an anime that I had seen last year, as the BGM for the introduction of a venerable actress.
There was also another excerpt that I heard fairly frequently when I was watching the news and variety shows. It was a snazzy Big Band piece with some really tight horns that livened up any feature about heading out into some especially tony Tokyo neighbourhood or just any segment that needed something spicy and exciting. I didn't know anything about it except for the fact that it was cool-sounding, and it was only when I was back here in Toronto that I found out the piece was the theme song for the much-acclaimed anime "Cowboy Be-Bop", "Tank!". Another anime enthusiast and friend who used to come up to the apartment in Ichikawa from the wilds of Mie Prefecture for a visit used to tell me about this particular show, but aside from the title, I never cottoned on to it.
The above video contains the opening credits for "Cowboy Be-Bop" which first came out in 1998, and after having taking a look at it for the first time last night, I gotta say that those are some of the slickest opening credits I've ever seen for an anime. Now I know where "Space Dandy" got its inspiration. "Tank!" and the credits just seemed to have come out from an imagination fed on reruns of "Peter Gunn", the original "The Thomas Crown Affair" and any other ring-a-ding-ding spy caper from the 1960s. Henry Mancini would see this and smile sagely.
"Tank!" was created by composer and musician Yoko Kanno（菅野よう子）, a name that I've seen a lot on various credits for other anime. and I had known she was involved with "Cowboy Be-Bop". She was also helping out with the spiritual descendant of the show, "Space Dandy", (including the arrangement of the ending theme, "X-Jigen e Yokoso") and was also behind the composition of the ballad in dedication of the recovery from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake for NHK, "Hana wa Saku"（花は咲く...Flowers Will Bloom）.
Kanno was also behind the formation of The Seatbelts, the ensemble responsible for the blast radius of jazz that makes up "Tank!". According to the Wikipedia write-up on the band through a fictional description in "Cowboy Be-Bop", the name supposedly "...derives from how the performers wear seatbelts to be safe while they play hardcore jam sessions." I think that could also be applied to the audience members.
All those years ago, I had thought that the song came from some sort of 60s caper flick...the sort which contained lines like "Headin' out on a heist, Johnny?" and scenes with plenty of dollars and dames surrounding Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Instead, it's from an anime near the end of the century. Who'da thunk?
When credits as iconic as those for "Cowboy Be-Bop" come along, I guess it's pretty much inevitable that parodies will arise. I was taking a look at the Internet meme database "Know Your Meme" and discovered those opening credits but with characters from another popular anime. It's really well done and I had a nice laugh, too.
I have already mentioned the legendary composer's name once, so I will finish things off here with Henry Mancini's version of "Sing, Sing, Sing". The famous swing piece created by Louis Prima and popularized by Benny Goodman used to be the go-to song in trailers for movies taking place in The Jazz Age, but Mancini's take was the very first version I got to know through my Dad's collection of standards. And when I listened to "Tank!", I was instantly reminded of "Sing, Sing, Sing". The latter may not be as constantly over-the-top as the former, at least not until the last several seconds, but I wouldn't mind calling Mancini's "Sing, Sing, Sing" a proud ancestor of one of the coolest anison I've heard.