Archive for September, 2009

Anime Openings and Endings: My Perspective

Anime Openings and Endings

I am a HUGE fan of Japanese music, mostly because of my friend Jon and his incredible taste in music. Because of this, I was happy to see his own blog post on anime openings and endings that he wrote a little over a month ago, and it got me thinking about my own opinions on openings and endings. While Jon shared videos of some of his favorite openings and endings, I decided to go a bit deeper into my thoughts on them.

An opening theme is the introduction to its respective show, and just like the few first paragraphs of a book, it needs to pull the viewer in and make you want to know more. In my opinion, you really shouldn’t judge an anime by its opening or ending sequences, but many people do just that. So, let’s take some time to discuss what makes an opening or ending sequence great.

The music is, in my opinion, the most important part. I think just about every anime fan out there can say they know at least a few opening or ending themes to shows they’ve never even watched, but are so catchy and distinctive that they can still recognize them. Also, in my experience, good opening and ending themes generally means good music within the series as well.

The other big factor is, of course, the animation. The desire to watch a series can be effected by not only the quality of the animation, but the quality of its contents as well. You want to see something that gives off an accurate vibe of the show and shows off its characters and some of its major themes, such as a big action sequence, a romantic gaze, or a hilarious pratfall. For the most part, the animation of an effective opening or ending theme usually can give you a good gist of what you’ll be seeing in the series.

The last part, of course, is making the two above pieces come together cohesively into an enticing package. Different effects such as lighting, color shading, or making the animation change or flash in time with the music can add to the overall enjoyment of watching an opening or ending sequence. In short, an effective opening or ending sequence will generally consist of music and animation that is of high quality and gives the viewer an accurate taste and feel of what is contained in its respective series.

To show what I mean in more detail, I would like to share with you all some of my favorite opening and ending sequences and discuss what makes them work so well.

Umineko no Naku Koro Ni
Opening Theme: “片翼の鳥 (One-Winged Bird)” by Shikata Akiko
Ending Theme: “la divina tragedia ~Makyoku~” by Jimang

Umineko is currently airing in Japan right now, so the animation is brand new, as is the music. What makes it so great, though, is the aura and emotion the opening and ending to this show give off with it’s stunning visuals.

Both songs have a very grand, epic feel to them, and the animation and effects are gorgeous, showing off all of the characters and giving you a good sense of the horror that lies within the show. Both songs are wonderful, although a few people I know of dislike the ending theme song (the singer reminds me slightly of Meatloaf, but that doesn’t bother me at all). I’d also like to point out that the ending sequence hosts a new trend I’ve seen in the past few years; the preview for the next episode is actually made a part of the ending theme itself, rather than being a series of clips after the ending theme is over. Even though they only display the name of the next episode, I think it works well.

So, here for you is a beautiful HD version of the opening and ending themes to Umineko. Enjoy!

Excel Saga
Opening Theme: “Ai (Chuuseishin)” by Mikako Takahashi and Yumiko Kobayashi

Excel Saga is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, and it’s opening theme is the perfect example of how such a sequence can give the viewer a taste of what’s to come. This show is known for being zany and crazy, and the opening animation certainly shows that.

Also, the theme song itself is rather insane, but catchy and energetic, just like Excel Saga itself. I wanted to talk about the ending theme as well, but really, it’s just a dog barking to a tune as a woman speaks the translation of what he’s barking (he’s begging the listener not to eat him), and although it’s funny, isn’t very relevant to this blog. You can easily find it online, though.

Anyway, here’s the opening theme!

Ouran High School Host Club
Opening Theme: “Sakura Kiss” by Kawabe Chieco
Ending Theme: “Shissou” by LAST ALLIANCE

Ouran High School Host Club is a school days-type romantic comedy that’s very enjoyable to watch, but honestly, my favorite part about it is the opening and ending themes.

Both songs are very catchy, and they are a great study in how the animation of an opening and ending theme can be relatively simple in nature, but still effective and enjoyable to watch. There are some pretty effects, but for the most part it’s just shots of the characters, but it still gives you an idea of what kind of show it is and is enjoyable to watch.

So take a look, and be prepared; these songs won’t leave your head for quite a while!

Revolutionary Girl Utena
Opening Theme: “−輪舞−revolution (-rinbu- revolution)” by Masami Okui

Revolutionary Girl Utena is known for being a visually stunning (and sometimes downright confusing) series. It is truly a work of art, and it’s opening them is no slouch.

The opening theme for Utena uses the relationship between Utena and Anthy as a drawing point, as well as throwing in some scenes of Utena and the other major characters fighting. So, you can see the series will be beautiful and full of emotion and action as well. Very simple concepts, but still rather effective.

Catch a quick peek at how they did it below.

Opening Theme: “Alones” by Aqua Timez
Ending Theme: “Houkiboshi” by Youhna

Bleach is a very popular anime of course, and it’s almost 240 episodes long at this point, so it’s had it’s fair share of opening and ending themes. However, all of them are beautifully done, so I picked my favorite opening and ending to show you.

I chose the opening that I did because it was the best balance of music and visuals I could find among them. The song is catchy and the animation displays a lot of the characters, as well as conveys a lot of the emotion and energy of the show. The visuals in this opening, like in most of the other Bleach openings and endings, are rather abstract, but pleasing to the eye nonetheless.

The ending I chose is probably the best anime ending I’ve ever seen. Not only is Youhna an incredible musical artist, but the ending is unique in that the animation is different at the end of every episode, featuring a different group of characters each time. Of course, this makes the viewer sit and watch the ending sequence each time to see the new animation, and it’s a very effective way of drawing the viewer in.

As a side note, I chose the 11th Division ending simply because they’re my favorite division of all. There’s no other reason behind it :D.

And this finally brings me to my last example: What happens when an opening sequence goes awry.

Opening Theme: “Tell Me Why” by PENPALS

Berserk is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart; I watched it in 5 days because I couldn’t stop. It’s an incredible series. The opening theme, however, falls terribly short.

Now I know a lot of people who hold this opening sequence dear to their hearts, so I hesitate slightly to say that it’s bad, but…well, let’s just say there’s very little good about it. The song is rather catchy, but the lyrics are all in Engrish and the singer’s voice is rather whiny, and the backup singers have very shrill voices. As for the animation, although it features the main character Guts, it has nothing to do with the premise of the show, which is all about power corrupting as Guts and the mercenary group he’s a part of start currying favor and making their way to fame. It’s full of fighting, gore, and some rather twisted horror scenes, and the animation in the open sequence barely even alludes to that.

Check it out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

So, there you go. Anime opening and ending sequences can be powerful tools to draw viewers to a series, or turn them completely away, depending on how good they are.

However, I do want to drive home my point that series should NOT be judged by it’s opening and closing sequences; Berserk is a perfect example of that, and I can think of many shows that are far, far better than their opening themes make them out to be. Hopefully, the next time you run into a bad anime intro, you’ll think about giving the show itself more of a chance.

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