Good sound is terrifically underrated. Compared to the people who make the visuals in anime,* composers are significantly lesser known. There are individual names that people know for individual big works (Iwasaki Taku, Yoko Kanno, Yuki Kajiura), but by and large the majority of people who write the bgm for anime tend to fly miles under the radar. Which is a shame, because good bgm (and good handling of said bgm) can be the keystone piece that takes an anime from good to great. In the interest of making the big achievers in original soundtracks a little more well-known, here are the composers who have written soundtracks for at least 2 10k+, non-sequel hit series.
Two Important Notes About The Classification: First, I only included non-sequel anime when looking for head writers. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.
Also, I did not credit any composer if the credit was split 3 or more ways and I was unable to discern a clear head of the project. Notably, Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi split music credits for Little Busters, Air, and Clannad 3 ways. Not crediting stuff like this is tough, but giving solo songwriting props to all of them feels like over-distributing credit.
Composers With 5 10k+ Anime:
First Credited On: Tekken Tag Tournament (game-2000), Munto (anime-2005)
10k+ Series: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006), Lucky Star (2007), Kannagi (2008), Bakemonogatari (2009), OreImo (2010)
Less Notable Work: A-Channel, Sekirei
Recent Work: Nisekoi, Wake Up Girls
Composers With 4 10k+ Anime:
First Credited On: Fatal Fury (1992)
10k+ Series: Hand Maid May (2000), Mahoromatic (2001), Ai Yori Aoshi (2002), Mushishi (2005)
Less Notable Work: Geki Deka, Jubei-chan
Recent Work: Kamisama Kiss (2012)
First Credited On: Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Game-1985), Porco Rosso (Theme Arrangement-1992)
10k+ Series: Visions of Escaflowne (1996), Cowboy Bebop (1998), Brain Powered (1998), Ghost in the Shell: SAC (2002)
Less Notable Work: Sousei no Aquarion, Earth Girl Arjuna
Recent Work: Kids on the Slope (2012)
Composers With 3 10k+ Anime:
First Credited On: Ultimate Teacher (1988)
10k+ Series: You’re Under Arrest (1996), Shakugan no Shana (2005), Hakuouki (2010)
Less Notable Work: Deltora Quest, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue
Recent Work: Arata Kangatari, The Pilot’s Love Song
First Credited On: Attacker You (1984)
10k+ Series: Nadia (1990), Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), Bleach (2004)
Less Notable Work: Ai City, Skull Man
Recent Work: Magi (2012), Berserk and Evangelion Films
First Credited On: Mercury – The Prime Master (Game-1991), Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal OVA (1999)
10k+ Series: Gurren Lagann (2007), Black Butler (2008), Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012)
Less Notable Work: Binchou-tan, Itsutsugo Land
Recent Work: Gatchaman Crowds, Noragami
First Credited On: Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996)
10k+ Series: Madoka Magica (2011), Fate Zero (2011), Sword Art Online (2012)
Less Notable Work: Eat Man, Elemental Gelade
Recent Work: See 10k+ Series above
This is an interesting set of career arcs to look at. Unlike the big-name blockbuster writers, who seem to have typically been senior names who spent their entire careers in the anime industry, many composers seem to have gotten their starts in fields outside of anime (3 of the 7 in this list started out on games). It would kind of make sense that writing music for anime and for games are compatible skill sets. The companion post on composers with a pair of 10k+ shows under their belt, as well as commentary on the list, will be up later this week.
*Directors are still vulnerable to being eye-tested beyond the limited human ability to observe, but at least people know more of their their names.