When it comes to anime music, no composer is more iconic than Hiroyuki Sawano. This legendary composer is responsible for bringing some of your favorite shows to life. His iconic composing style is hard to miss and is often the highlight of the shows that he has worked in.
He is best known for his work in Attack on Titan and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. Once you hear his signature epic drums and orchestra, you know that you are in for a treat.
If you love his work and would like to know more about him, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will be having an in-depth discussion on his music by going through his catalog. We will also be discussing his work on Attack on Titan in more detail. And, of course, we will be giving you album, song, and concert recommendations.
Who is Sawano Hiroyuki?
Hiroyuki Sawano is a Japanese composer, arranger, and pianist best known for his works in hit TV Shows and anime such as Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack on Titan), Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Guilty Crown, Ao No Exorcist, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, and many more.
He is often considered to be the Hans Zimmer of Japan.
Hiroyuki Sawano was born on September 12, 1980, in Tokyo, Japan. He is currently 40 years old and has been active in the music industry since 2004.
What is SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]?
SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] is Hiroyuki Sawano’s vocal project. Under this name, he has released various albums that feature different vocalists. In 2014, Hiroyuki Sawano started releasing music under the SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] branding.
It is meant to be a separate project from his usual anime and TV drama soundtracks.
The earlier [nZk] albums feature artists such as Aimer. But as the project progressed, Hiroyuki Sawano was able to work with newer artists such as Tielle, Mizuki, and Gemie. More detailed information about these singers is available in their dedicated section in this article.
What is the Meaning of Hiroyuki Sawano’s Song Titles?
One thing that is unique with Hiroyuki Sawano is the way the titles of his songs are written. Some examples include ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn, Βίος, and Cóunter・attàck-m'ænkάɪnd. It is unclear if there is a reason for this or simply Hiroyuki Sawano’s aesthetic preferences.
Even the meaning behind [nZk] is quite unclear. And to add to the confusion, Hiroyuki Sawano incorporates titles such as [eMu], <PODv>, and <MODv> in his songs.
Again, there is no clear explanation of the meaning behind these. However, we have some observations that can help ease the confusion. The [eMu] project is used for short live performances with songs from a specific soundtrack. Some of the [eMu] performances include the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Suite and the Attack on Titan Suite.
On the other hand, <PODv> and <MODv> are used for Hiroyuki Sawano’s rearranged songs. These include A/Z Feat. Mizuki, Into the Sky Feat. Tielle, Nexus Feat. Laco, Barricades Feat. Yosh, and Tranquility Feat. Anly.
Who Writes the Lyrics on Sawano Hiroyuki’s Songs?
Hiroyuki Sawano has worked with different songwriters throughout his career. His current main songwriters are MPI and Benjamin.
MPI (short for Music Pro Inc) is best known for singing Calling Out Your Name (Attack on Titan Season 1), Inferno (Promare), and War Cry (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress). He often works with Benjamin Anderson, who mainly writes songs for Hiroyuki Sawano but also performs as the lead vocalist on some tracks.
Hiroyuki Sawano has also recently collaborated with Survive Said the Prophet’s vocalist, Yosh Morita. Yosh is very fluent in English and usually acts as a songwriter or advisor. He is best known for hits such as Found and Lost, Right and Left, and Hollow (Final Fantasy VII Remake Main Theme).
Additionally, Hiroyuki Sawano has also written the lyrics to some of his songs. These include Cry, Narrative, and Remember.
Does Sawano Hiroyuki Sing?
For anyone who has seen or heard Hiroyuki Sawano’s music, it is natural to assume that he does not sing. All of his songs feature other vocalists. Also, he has never performed live while singing lead or background vocals.
However, Hiroyuki Sawano has provided his vocals for some of his songs. He is credited for performing background vocals for the majority of the tracks in his album, Remember.
What Makes Sawano Hiroyuki’s Music Special?
If you are a fan of anime, you have likely heard of Hiroyuki Sawano’s work, even if you do not realize it. After all, he has composed some of the most popular anime soundtracks of this generation.
But for those who are not well versed with the technicalities of music, you might be wondering what makes his music unique and special. To better understand the magic behind Hiroyuki Sawano’s work, let us first discuss his work as a soundtrack composer.
The soundtrack is one of the most crucial elements of any good movie, drama, or anime. This is because a lot of the impact of the scenes will highly depend on the music you are hearing. Visual elements alone aren’t enough to convey emotions such as fear, happiness, or sadness. It is the sound that truly sells the authenticity of these scenes.
And that is what is special about Hiroyuki Sawano. He has the skill to compose music that best represents what is happening in the scene. We will be talking about more concrete examples later in the Attack on Titan section.
But to put it simply, Hiroyuki Sawano can help the viewer resonate and have a deeper understanding of what is happening on screen. If a character is dealing with loss, then the impact is heavily amplified with the music. If a character faces an ordeal or is about to go into battle, you will know how they feel even without dialogue.
Also, technically speaking, Hiroyuki Sawano’s music isn’t about blowing your mind with extremely complicated passages. Instead, his music acts as a bridge that connects the viewer to the show.
Hiroyuki Sawano isn’t revered because he is a virtuoso on his instrument. In fact, his piano can barely be heard in a lot of his signature songs. Instead, it is his ability to utilize the different instruments around him.
And when the situation calls for it, Hiroyuki Sawano is capable of creating some truly epic tracks. Once you hear huge-sounding drums and an orchestra in a battle sequence, you’ll know it’s Hiroyuki Sawano’s work.
Vocal Works [nZk]
The other type of music that Hiroyuki Sawano works on is his [nZk] vocal project. Some of the songs here are used as the theme song, opening, or ending song of movies and anime. However, most of the songs and albums are created independently and are not based on the musical themes of any anime or TV show.
This is where Hiroyuki Sawano’s excellent composition and songwriting come into play. Even without a specific theme, he can deliver music that is able to connect with the listeners.
Additionally, since Hiroyuki Sawano is working with different vocalists, he has plenty of room to experiment and show his versatility as a musician. If a song features a powerful and energetic vocalist such as Lisa and Yosh, you will feel it with the rest of the elements of the song.
And if he is working with a more intimate singer such as Uru, Tielle, and Mizuki, then the structure and elements of the song are built around them. And no matter what genre the song is going for, you can feel that it has the same impact as Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack compositions.
What has Sawano Hiroyuki Worked On?
Hiroyuki Sawano has reached legendary status thanks to his excellent work on various anime titles. The list of titles that he has worked on is incredibly long. Here are the highlights of Hiroyuki Sawano’s excellent soundtrack catalog:
- Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
- Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative
- Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway
- Seven Deadly Sins
- Kill La Kill
- Owari No Seraph
- Guilty Crown
- Blue Exorcist
- Aldnoah Zero
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Sawano Hiroyuki Attack on Titan OST
One of the highlights of Hiroyuki Sawano’s career is his work on the Attack on Titan OST. This anime is one of the most intense shows and explores dark themes and thought-provoking ideas. And with the help of Hiroyuki Sawano’s magic, this world was fully brought to life.
What separates the manga from the anime is the presentation. In the manga, there isn’t any music or voice acting. This means that the scenes are open to the interpretation of the readers. However, in anime, this is not the case.
Anime creators have more liberty in conveying a clearer message. And with this different medium, they can allow the viewers to have a deeper connection to the characters. And thanks to Hiroyuki Sawano’s music, the viewers are able to have that connection.
Attack on Titan has lots of scenes that convey different kinds of emotions. There are tons of depressing scenes that are meant to make your chest feel heavy. And likewise, some scenes are meant to evoke the joy and the small victories of the characters.
Additionally, there are a lot of big action scenes in this show. And with Hiroyuki Sawano’s music, all of these themes become tangible to the viewer.
To have a better understanding of how the music specifically affects certain scenes and the series as a whole, let me highlight four tracks in the Attack on Titan Soundtrack: ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn, XL-TT, Cóunter・attàck-m'ænkάɪnd, and YouSeeBIGGIRL/T:T.
ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn (Vocal: Mika Kobayashi)
The titular track of Attack on Titan is an incredibly powerful song that cements the show as a true epic. It is usually used for big reveals or big fights.
The opening sequence is very intense and represents the struggle of the main characters. However, the latter part has Hiroyuki Sawano’s signature epic musical style that symbolizes the main characters’ willingness to fight.
XL-TT is one of the most intense tracks in the anime. It is first heard during the initial appearance of the Colossal Titan. This scene was so iconic since it established just how dark and brutal the Attack on Titan universe is.
All the elements of the song help build up tension. It is made to make the users feel anxious. And most of all, it is meant to help the audience get a glimpse of the fear that the main characters were experiencing at that point in the story.
It is true that Attack on Titan has a very dark theme. However, beyond that darkness lies hope for the main characters. The other theme that dominates Attack on Titan is the perseverance of the characters in their fight towards a better future.
The song that best represents this struggle is Cóunter・attàck-m'ænkάɪnd. Its name is very fitting and is often used in scenes that show that humanity is fully capable of striking back at whatever forces are trying to wipe them out.
YouSeeBIGGIRL/T:T (Vocal: Gemie)
The Final song that I would like to highlight is YouSeeBIGGIRL/T:T. This is one of the most iconic Attack on Titan songs and was played during one of the show’s biggest plot twists.
This song that Gemie rendered was so powerful that it helped sell the scene and made it more enjoyable for manga readers who already knew what was coming. Again, Hiroyuki Sawano has plenty of works that are capable of touching the soul. But if you do not know where to begin, we highly recommend checking out his work on Attack on Titan.
Who is the English Singer that Sang for Sawano Hiroyuki?
Hiroyuki Sawano has worked on a lot of songs with English lyrics. Several native English speakers have worked with Hiroyuki Sawano. Two of the most notable ones are Benjamin and Aimee Blackschleger.
We have already talked about Benjamin earlier and his work with MPI. Aimee Blackschleger, on the other hand, has only worked on a few of Hiroyuki Sawano’s tracks. However, these songs are all memorable. Two of the songs that feature her are DOA (Attack on Titan Season 1 OST) and No Difference (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress OST).
Additionally, Hiroyuki Sawano has worked with Japanese singers who are pretty fluent in English. Some of the most notable ones are Yosh (Survive Said the Prophet) and Tielle.
Sawano Hiroyuki Collaborations
Throughout Hiroyuki Sawano’s long career, he has worked with many notable vocalists. Here are some of the most notable artists that have sung in both Hiroyuki Sawano’s [nZk] vocal project as well as in his soundtrack compositions:
The legendary Mika Kobayashi sang Hiroyuki Sawano’s most notable works. She has been collaborating with Hiroyuki Sawano since 2010 and has been the voice of anime such as Guilty Crown, Attack on Titan, and Mobile Suit Gundam.
Some of Mika Kobayashi’s best songs with Hiroyuki Sawano are Βίος (Guilty Crown), ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn (Attack on Titan), and EGO (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn). She has recently been focusing on her solo career, but fans hope that one day the two can collaborate once again.
Lisa is an artist that needs no introduction. She is one of Japan’s vocal queens and the undisputed queen of anime music. She has worked on countless titles such as Fate Zero, Sword Art Online, and Kimetsu No Yaiba (Demon Slayer).
What makes Lisa so iconic is her powerful and expressive voice. Like Hiroyuki Sawano, she is one of the few artists who can truly make tracks come to life. Her voice is a perfect match for Hiroyuki Sawano’s epic-sounding tracks.
So far, she has only collaborated with Hiroyuki Sawano for the song Narrative, which serves as the theme song of Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative. With how good that song turned out, fans are expecting more collaborations in the future.
Another high-profile artist that Hiroyuki Sawano has worked with is Aimer. She is another vocalist that needs no introduction. After all, she is pretty much on the same level as Lisa and Mika Kobayashi.
What makes Aimer unique is her husky voice and dark and enigmatic persona. Not much is known about her.
However, one of the most interesting facts about her is that she damaged her vocal cords at a young age. This did not stop her from singing and instead used this to create her now-iconic voice.
Unlike most of the artists mentioned here, Aimer has worked on a full-length album with Hiroyuki Sawano. The two worked on UnChild that contains original songs and rearrangements. The two have also collaborated with various EPs that produced songs such as Starring Child, Re: I Am, and S-ave.
Tielle is one of the most interesting artists that has performed with Hiroyuki Sawano. Before she collaborated with Hiroyuki Sawano, Tielle wasn’t a professional singer. But after attending the blind audition held by Hiroyuki Sawano, her talents were discovered.
Their first collaboration was Gundam Unicorn’s opening track, Into the Sky. And since then, the two have worked together on other songs such as CAGE and Amazing Trees. She is also one of Hiroyuki Sawano’s frequently featured vocalists in his live performances.
What makes Tielle unique from Hiroyuki Sawano’s other vocalists is her near-perfect English accent and sweet voice. It is said that she previously lived in the United States before debuting as a Japanese vocalist.
Mizuki is another vocalist that is frequently featured in Hiroyuki Sawano’s works. She is the vocalist of UNIDOTS and has collaborated with Hiroyuki Sawano since 2014.
She is a fan favorite and is responsible for singing many of Hiroyuki Sawano’s newer songs, including Aliez, A/Z, E of S, Avid, and Cry. What best defines her voice is her versatility. She can deliver more intimate tracks such as Avid and more epic tracks such as Sea of Fire.
Also, Mizuki is easily able to recreate her studio performances in her live performances. Make sure to check out Hiroyuki Sawano and Mizuki’s special rendition of Aliez in The First Take.
Gemie is another vocalist that frequently performs with Hiroyuki Sawano. She usually teams up with TIelle to make high energy songs such as Shout, Gravity Wall, and the rearranged version of Βίος.
However, what truly brought Gemie to the spotlight is her performance in Attack on Titan Season 2’s OST. She took up the challenge of replacing Mika Kobayashi in singing the main theme of the second season. The result is her epic rendition of YouSeeBIGGIRL/T:T.
One of the newer voices in Hiroyuki Sawano’s discography is Laco. She has only started collaborating with him in 2019 and has only sung in a couple of tracks. Her most iconic songs are Nexus (Promaire) and Hands Up in the Sky (86). She has also performed with Hiroyuki Sawano in the Attack on Titan Suite.
Laco perfectly complements Hiroyuki Sawano’s other vocalists. She provides the vocals on high-energy and fun songs. She also has immense stage presence and is able to single-handedly bring their performances to life.
Sawano Hiroyuki Albums
Under the Hiroyuki Sawano branding, all of his albums are the original soundtracks of the TV Dramas, movies, and anime that he has worked on. For his [nZk] vocal project, he currently has eight studio albums, two compilation albums, and one collaboration album with Aimer.
If you do not know where to start, we highly recommend listening to BEST OF VOCAL WORKS [nZk] and BEST OF VOCAL WORKS [nZk] 2. These compilations contain some of Hiroyuki Sawano’s best works and will introduce you to the various vocalists that have worked with him.
Sawano Hiroyuki Songs
If you prefer listening to individual songs rather than full-length albums, here are some songs that best define Hiroyuki Sawano’s career. We’ll give recommendations for both his soundtrack compositions as well as his [nZk] vocal project.
[nZk] Vocal Works
- Starring Child (Feat. Aimer)
- CAGE (Feat. Tielle)
- Alliez Feat (Feat. Mizuki of UNIDOTS)
- Barricades (Feat. Feat Yosh of Survive Said The Prophet)
- Tranquility (Feat. Feat Anly)
- Binary Star (Feat. Uru)
- ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn (Attack on Titan Season 1 OST)
- Cóunter・attàck-m'ænkάɪnd (Attack on Titan Season 1 OST)
- ON YOUR MARK (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OST)
- UNICORN (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OST)
- MOBILE SUIT (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OST)
Hiroyuki Sawano Concert
Hiroyuki Sawano isn’t only a master at composing songs. He is also able to deliver these epic tracks in his live shows. And like most live artists, Hiroyuki Sawano’s live shows have all sorts of surprises, such as rearrangements.
There are generally two kinds of shows that Hiroyuki Sawano performs. The first one is the promotion of his work on TV Dramas and anime. Some examples are the Attack on Titan and Mobile Suit Gundam Concerts.
The other type of live show that Hiroyuki Sawano does is for his [nZk] vocal project. Hiroyuki Sawano performs with his regular singers during these shows, including Mizuki, Tielle, Gemie, and MPI. He is sometimes joined by artists such as Yosh Morita.
Also, we mentioned earlier that one of the things that make his live performances special is the rearrangements. Sometimes, the original vocalist cannot perform with Hiroyuki Sawano. In these cases, another vocalist reinterprets the song.
Examples of this are Tielle’s version of Binary Star, originally sung by Uru, and Nanami’s version of Narrative, originally sung by Lisa. Also, shows such as Billboard Live 2019 reimagined Hiroyuki Sawano’s songs in a more jazzy and acoustic style.
Very talented musicians usually accompany Hiroyuki Sawano during his live performances. You will see common faces, including Toshino Tanabe on bass, Hiroshi Iimuro on guitars, Masashi Tsubakimoto on guitars, Koichiro Muroya on violin, Kohta Yamamoto on synthesizer, and Harutoshi Ito on guitars and cello.
Unfortunately, for international viewers, Hiroyuki Sawano’s live performances are usually only held in Japan. The only international show that he has done so far is his shows in China. But if you wish to have a glimpse of the Hiroyuki Sawano concert experience, we highly recommend checking out the Attack On Titan Suite and the Mobile Suit Gundam Suite.
How to Buy Sawano Hiroyuki Tracks?
Hiroyuki Sawano’s tracks can be purchased in both physical and digital formats. They are available via his official website.
Additionally, you can find his albums on Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and Yahoo Shopping. If you want to listen to Hiroyuki Sawano’s tracks, they are available on all major streaming platforms such as Spotify, Youtube Music, and Tidal.