Other Reference: Super Sonico
Do you, by any chance, have a song you call your favourite? Long since the times of rigid musical education, the 21st century world has a tune for everyone’s preference. However, this article is not meant to comment on music itself, but rather on the people in anime who listen to music and the devices commonly used to listen to music.
Just as Girls with Swords have become an appreciable trope in video games, Anime Girls with Headphones is an emerging phenomenon that is just as deserving of contemplation. To put it shortly, Anime Girls with Headphones appeals to our obsession with the impressive developments of modern technology by utilising it as a decorative element of the anime girl. Even without thinking into it too deeply, there is a rush of excitement in knowing that one of your favourite anime girls wears the same headphone that you own. It is as straightforward as hitting it off with one of your favourite songs.
Thus, we at Honey’s Anime bring to you our selection of 10 anime girls whose appeal may have been innately present, but reaches an even higher degree of allure thanks to this certain miracle in modern-day audio playback technology.
10. Saori Himemiya (Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2012 - Mar 2013
Saori is the type of side character who initially does not seem to do much, but gradually sticks to the mind more and more because of a unique trait. In Saori’s case, this unique trait is none other than her headphones.
Always by the side of president of the Student Council, of whom she seems to have feelings for, Saori is also one of the few friends of Misaki outside of the Sakurasou dormitory. Her role in the plot may not be of much significance but her notable character design certainly sticks to mind.
Her headphones, a custom-designed full-sized model with orange ear pads, are made even more unique with her nickname “Hau-Hau” (given by and only used by Misaki) engraved on the cups. The lack of any wiring to be seen also indicate that they are wireless, which is to be expected by a student of one of the most bombastic and exciting high schools in anime. As a student whose life goals is to work with professional audio, especially being a peer of some of the greatest creative geniuses in her world, her set of headphones is a great addition to appearance.
Despite that, one only has to compare her to other Anime Girls with Headphones and see her lack of presence in her placing Maybe if Sakurasou told its viewer more about who she is, she would be more appreciable relative to the competition.
9. Chihaya Ayase (Chihayafuru)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 2011 - Mar 2012
The first episode of Chihayafuru introduces the charming, passionate but regrettably dense protagonist Chihaya in the midst of her clumsy high school life. One such scene shows her longstanding inner fire coming to a pause, her mind wandering back to her precious childhood experiences that forged the path leading her to who she became today. She lies on the grassy field, cutting herself from any outside stimuli through the barrier of a closed-back headphone and the hypnotic rhythm of the show’s iconic Hyakunin Isshu poetic verses.
While Chihaya’s utter immersion in her task is as evident as it gets, we gradually know that there is nothing connecting this specimen of the Anime Girl with the Headphone other than her dedication to the Karuta sport. As such, we can understand that even though the headphone is part of a medium that allows Chihaya to tap into the beauty of Japanese poetry, there is little love that she directs towards the headphones in particular nor does it ever play to any importance in the show’s plot.
Unfortunately, the headphone model cannot be easily ascertained with the lack of details in the shows drawings and expresses little about Chihaya’s character. As such, Chihaya’s headphones end up being outshined by the eye-catching iPod Nano, which instead speaks more of her apt decision-making in choosing a device with an intuitive UI for track selection for her Karuta habits. Therefore, Chihaya settles in 9th place where she is undoubtedly competitive, but lacks the subtle nuances that makes the girl and the headphone.
8. Koito Minase (Musaigen no Phantom World)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan 2016 - Mar 2016
Introduced as the cranky third member of the main character’s harem, Koito’s headphones may as well be attached to her neck as there is barely a scene of her without them in sight. In fact, her headphones stands out so much that her other trademark accessory, a hair clip with a star-shaped attachment, barely leaves an impression.
The headphones model is once again unclear, but the features that can be seen on it is much more impressive than our previous two entries. The single-side cable attachment inspires a greater degree of practicability than your typical Y-shape cables, which tends to get in the way more often than not, and fits Koito’s capacity and willingness to work as an independent fighter. The light-red shades of colouring, pink highlights and star-shaped decorative mark fits her overall red-theme perfectly, and certainly adds something extra to her character.
Less apt is the integration of the headphones as a natural element of the show’s environment; the fact that we never even hear the music that Koito listens to nor does she ever do anything with it related to her activities as a monster-busting high schooler makes the headphones a difficult object to accept, even if they do contribute significantly to the anime girl’s personality. As a result, we have here a picture-perfect poster girl of a Anime Girl with Headphones, except that she has yet to convince us of her integral connection with the headphones in a coherent manner.
7. Kirino Kousaka (Ore no Imouto wa Konna ni Kawaii Wake Nai)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2010 - Dec 2010
A few years ago, the anime industry was taken into a trend of adapting Light Novels about their protagonists dealing with little sister problems. Leading the charge was the popular OreImo, a show about Kyousuke and his troublesome (albeit multitalented) otaku sister Kirino, the latter of which enjoyed playing dating simulators about romancing little sister characters more than anything else.
Soon after Kirino reveals her secret to Kyousuke, we viewers come to appreciate the little things about her lifestyle that creates a sense of camaraderie. Not only does she have a huge collection of games and anime relevant to her interests, she also has a brilliant set-up that maximises her capacity to enjoy them. Most importantly, she has a set of Dre Beats Solo HD in white, speaking much about her fashionable tastes and grasp of the current technological trends.
The Beats brand is as popular as it is controversial, ironically reflecting the gradual development of OreImo’s reception among its audience both in Japan and in the West. While it is regarded by most common consumers as the peak of what the headphone industry has to offer, the more critical audiophile community deems it to be a step below most studio monitors or professional-grade offerings available. However, what is apparently lacking in Kirino’s appreciation of music playback quality is a demonstration of her awareness to fashion and a clear understanding of what fits her best, for nothing can possibly make more engaging gaming experience than a decent pair of closed-back bass-beating headphones.
6. Ohana Matsumae (Hanasaku Iroha)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 2011 - Sept 2011
Hanasaku Iroha is an anime about teenagers, in this case all high school girls, finding their footing in life and figuring out what they want to do with their lives. The setting has Ohana, the protagonist, be thrown into the hands of her grandmother’s holiday inn as a staff member after having lived most of her life with a less than responsible mother and begin interacting with a wealth of interesting side characters.
During the scenes of her journey to the inn, we see Ohana donning a Panasonic RP-HTX7A closed-back headphones which speaks of her attentiveness to sound quality and appeals to any geeky headphones enthusiast as a more than respectable choice of audio playback devices. Ohana herself is by upbringing a full-on city girl, and seeing this particular model certainly does enhance her integration in urban society as a thoughtful individual who knows what she likes. It certainly does help that the headphones themselves look really, really good.
Despite that, Hanasaku Iroha may as well be a story about Ohana losing her headphones as she develops into a character that not only has much to say, but is also willing to listen to the people around her. The RP-HTX7A never makes an appearance after the first episode and we as the viewers understand why, since we see Ohana become the person who becomes fully engaged with the world and the people around her.
Therefore, it is regrettable that Hanasaku Iroha is a story about an Anime Girl with Headphones losing her headphones as part of her character’s development. One may argue that the good times were short, but in Ohana’s case, it may simply have been for the best.
5. Mio Akiyama (K-On!)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2009 - Jun 2009
At number 5 of our list, we finally have a character from an anime that is even remotely about music. Any K-On! fan can tell you that the show is much more about the slice of life than about the music, not to do any disservice to the magnificently constructed, if sparse, musical performance scenes.
Mio’s entry to anime headphones-dom is exemplified in episode 13 of the first season, after the climax of the series. We get an insight of Mio’s daily life outside of the Light Music Club room and without the influence of Ritsu, finally seeing a bit of her going through life on her own. Working on the computer, she has on a more than respectable pair of AKG K701 audiophile grade open-back headphones, and is clearly used to interacting with the digital world while enjoying some kind of background music. The appeal of such a natural Anime Girl with Headphones is instant, especially when music is obviously such a huge part of her life.
Later in the episode, we see Mio travel to the seaside in an attempt to gain some inspiration for writing song lyrics. During the train journey, we once again see her display a bit of tech wisdom by changing into a pair of nondescript earbuds, albeit one of which the design inspires no confidence in the quality of its drivers. It does leave a good impression for this Anime Girl with Headphones listen to her and her bandmates’ songs even when doing her own thing, and thus Mio deserves nothing less than the best-of-the-rest position of 5th place.
4. Chihaya Kisaragi (The iDOLM@STER)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Jul 2011 - Dec 2011
The iDOLM@STER’s Chihaya, unlike the protagonist from Chihayafuru, is to her very core a lover of music and of singing. Anyone who has watched The iDOLM@STER will easily recognise that beyond essentially slice-of-life shows like K-On!, The iDOLM@STER is an anime about characters chasing their dreams and pursuing a life where they can do what they love most.
Our first insight of Chihaya’s inner feelings within the anime begins in episode 4, when we see her emotional struggles with life as an entertainer in the midst of trying to become a professional singer. The episode ends on the note of her overcoming these issues by relying on her fellow idols, but not to the point of being able to fully open up to even Haruka, who seemed to be closest to her. In the moments of weaknesses that follow, we see her put on a pair of blue earbuds (not unlike the ones worn by Mio) on the train ride home.
Chihaya is a character who chooses to be obsessed with what she loves, and as part of her characterisation she naturally became an Anime Girl with Headphones. As an individual character within a show with a coloured cast, it is remarkable that her relationship with music is neither a gimmick nor one-dimensional. Instead, her engagement with music as a form of relaxation and as a path to her dream of becoming recognised as a singer allow even brief images of her with headphones on to have a vivid, affective impression.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the ending animation of that very episode features a shot of Chihaya wearing the Sony MDR CD900ST headphones. While momentary, her choosing a professional studio monitor over the usual consumer grade fare speaks volumes of her character’s dedication to audio reproduction. There is no debate that she is no less worthy than any of the higher placing characters of being one of the best Anime Girls with Headphones.
3. Ene (Mekakucity Actors)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2014 - Jun 2014
Although Mekakucity Actors was not a great adaptation of the Kagerou Daze media, it did allow us to put one of the hallmark of Anime Girls with Headphones into our list. It certainly helped that so much of her physical appearance borrows from the shape and form of the immensely popular Hatsune Miku, although any sense of her personality immediately makes her a distinct character to the viewer.
Ene, the cyber-sidekick of the protagonist, is in essence a character whose design incorporates as much technology onto her form as possible. She exists as an eventual member of the Mekakushi Dan, a group of young teenage boys and girls possessing strange powers, who can only interact with the world through the electronic devices of main protagonist Shintarou. As touching onto her background story inevitably steps into spoiler territory, it is more appropriate to summarise that a great job has been done in her design to represent her role as one of the essential figures in the plot.
The black custom-designed headphones serve as a permanent centerpiece of Ene’s techie themed physical appearance, fitting her almost as if they were the wings of a fairy. They serve as a symbol of communication between her and the physical world, reminding the viewers that despite her human-like shape, she is a formation of data that exists inside the digital world of computing devices. However, such is the charm of a character who despite being unable to physically interact with any of the other cast members is still able to create memories and flaunt her energetic personality.
Ene’s greatest strength lies in a character background that fully supports the presence of her headphones and a physical design that encourages us to believe that they really were meant to be there. It is therefore no tough decision to put her behind two other anime girls who have shown an even greater synergy with their headphones.
2. Asuka Fuji (Shirobako)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2014 - Mar 2015
Shirobako is a show full of characters who we recognise by sight and maybe by name, but do not really get to see much of their personal stories. Asuka is one such character, working as a recording and mixing assistant in the voice acting studio where every dubbing scene takes place in and subsequently makes an appearance in. As such, it is more than remarkable that her qualities as a particularly well-defined Anime Girl with Headphones makes her much more memorable than a typical cameo character.
Asuka’s K121 Studio may not be as well-regarded as the aforementioned Sony studio monitors worn by Chihaya Kisaragi, but oozes a greater deal of personality while adding a fashionable twist. She never contributes to the scenes she is involved in other than signposting the end of a recording session with her signature 回りました― line of dialogue, but we know from how she wears her headphones (keeping one ear open) that she has been attentive to what the other characters were talking about throughout.
Her interaction with her headphones is special even among the other characters mentioned in this list, simply because they do more than tell us more about who she is, but also what she is doing in a given moment. She exemplifies the reasons why the use of a prop can be more than just for aesthetic reasons as they demand from us our curiosity towards who she is and what she does, simply because the headphones exist.
Anime Girls with Headphones simply do not get much better than this. In fact, it is only because of the massive strengths of the first place entry that prevents Asuka from topping this list.
1. Konatsu Miyamoto (Tari Tari)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 2012 - Sep 2012
Tari Tari, unlike K-On!, is a full-fledged musical anime about a number of high school choir club members singing their way through youth. Among them is Konatsu Miyamoto, whose youthful passion is sensibly matched by a practical, albeit old-fashioned and overly-glossy, pair of Zumreed ZHP-005.
Cutting straight to the point, only in Tari Tari do the headphones have the level of significance that clearly demonstrates to the viewer a certain plot point, in this case Konatsu’s passion for singing, and how that ends up being a catalyst that brings the five members of the to be constructed choir club.
At the climax of the first episode, Konatsu and her close friend Sawa are in town together but are separated when the latter goes to grab some ice cream. In the meantime, Konatsu is unable to contain her love for singing and breaks into song while fully immersed in the music played in her headphones, catching the attention of Wakana, Taichi and Wien who happen to be nearby. This scene is simply marvelous to witness as we see for the first time Konatsu’s belittled passion for singing in action, dismissing any of our doubts that her attempts to create her own club to have been whimsical and convincing us that someway and somehow, the five of them will come together.
So, the ultimate question is how this scene puts Konatsu over all the other Anime Girls with Headphones in this list. To put it simply, it is because the headphones, for this show, is not just a window to understanding Konatsu as a person, but also as an object that enables the plot of this anime to work. It is precisely because Konatsu is an Anime Girl with Headphones that we get to witness one of the most underrated school-life shows in anime; otherwise, her ambitions will have never taken flight.
Konatsu’s straightforwardness and passion won the favour of her fellow clubmates and doing so with impressive interactions with the Zumreed makes the process marvelous. She decidedly takes first place because she is an Anime Girl with Headphones and makes the concept a meaningful one.
There is more to a prop than meets the eye. The headphones certainly contribute to fleshing out a character, but also captures our interest in how the various creative decisions pertinent to it can tell us more about the anime. This list will have served its purpose made you think deeper about what you understood about your favourite characters in a similar manner.
One special mention that needs to be made is Nao Tomori from Charlotte, who had some great interactions with her set of earphones throughout the series. Unfortunately, earphones are decidedly NOT headphones and thus disqualifies her from this list.
Did you spot a set of headphones that you know of? Is there another headphones girl in anime that deserves mentioning? Let us know in the comments section below.