(aka, “Yes, I Watched It 26 Times”)
I was bumming around some forums recently and found a topic about opening themes that people actually watched through every single time (or something close). I thought it was a darn good question and consequently sat down to think about which applied to me. I’m usually pretty impatient to get to the content of each episode; after all, I really only watch series one of two ways: either I binge it and swallow the whole thing in the span of two or three days, or I follow it as it releases, which means agonizing over each episode for a week and then downloading it the second it surfaces on its release day. Both situations call for the skipping of opening themes because I’m so damn eager to get to the content.
Still, for one reason or another, there are indeed a handful of opening sequences that I was just so fond of that I watched every single time. And here they are for your viewing pleasure! (They are also, of course, accompanied by my usual verboseness if you want to read. ;3)
(5) “Super Drive” – Gravitation (OP, Yousuke Sakanoue)
To start off with, I know this isn’t the greatest opening in the world, and a lot of my attachment lingers from when I was obsessed with the series. Still, looking back, there are a lot of things about it that are unique and rather endearing. The very beginning of the theme, with its sunlight and leaves, remains one of the most memorable aspects of any opening I’ve ever seen — why exactly, I’m not sure, but to this day, every time I find myself looking upward at sunlight filtered through leaves, I’m reminded of this opening and this series. Maybe it’s just the fangirl in me. The animation snaps back and forth from rather simple/generic character pans to strange, semi-realistic environment and background shots. That aspect of the animation is one of the quirkiest things about Gravitation, and I really think it helped to add to the reality of the musical environment, even when other elements remained farfetched and ridiculous.
The song itself is wonderfully upbeat and just goshdarn happy, which really fits the attitude of the series’ protagonist. I’m somewhat sad that Sakanoue didn’t get to do more music for Gravitation because “Super Drive” is a really fun song, and I’d love to know what his other stuff sounds like (as a side note, the official music video for “Super Drive” is absolutely hilarious and I’d also recommend people check that out if they like the song). So yes, I did sit and watch through this opening for every single episode, but what’s interesting is that even though this is only a thirteen episode series, it took me nearly a year to finish it because the episodes were so hard to find. This was back in the days before torrents and before Gravitation itself became ridiculously popular as a gateway shounen-ai series. Each episode came to me from a friend who painstakingly hunted them down for me on KaZaA (yeah, remember that?) because the damn program didn’t work for me. So you would think that I’d breeze right through the opening and on to the episode when I finally got each one, right? Nope. Had to watch the opening. It was just part of the experience, and it filled me with happy. :3
(4) “Hit in the USA” – BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad (OP, BEAT CRUSADERS)
Know me and know I love Engrish. Thus, this opening (hell, this entire series) was a sure winner. BEAT CRUSADERS is one of those in the growing ranks of Japanese bands playing very Western-influenced music. They employ Western riffs and rhythms and will sing in the best English they can, which is often incredibly haphazard, but hey, they’re trying. It’s worth noting that BECK itself is a series about British-influenced Japanese artists, so this was definitely a fitting opener. “Hit in the USA” is catchy from the very beginning — it really makes you want to tap your feet, snap your fingers, or clap your hands. It’s upbeat and exciting without the airy poppiness that was present in Gravitation’s “Super Drive.” The animation is incredibly well adapted to the music as well; not only do the characters actually sing the song, but the movements of everything and the changing of scenes — everything is synced to the music, and perfectly so.
One of my favorite parts is the first “You are no lonely” line where the woman is spinning on her mop. It’s such an ordinary scene and not a very exciting action, but it just fits SO DAMN WELL. It floors me. The chorus of our band members singing “I was made to hit in America” is just great to look at; the lip syncing is top notch and the characters’ faces are all wonderfully expressive and realistic. Back to the animation, it’s really great to see such detailed scenes in an opening sequence. There’s no reused stock, no cheap fading in and out of characters; everything here is unique animation with fleshed out backgrounds crammed full of details. It’s a bonus to be able to recognize actual locations too. In all, BECK’s opening captures the essence of the series incredibly well; it’s definitely a great attention getter for anyone who hasn’t seen it, and even on the last episode of the series, you still feel compelled to sit through it. :D
(3) “Haruka Kanata” – Naruto (2nd OP, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION)
Maybe it’s surprising to see this here, but come on, most of us were totally into Naruto back in the day (and many of us still are, you Narutards). And this was a great opening. As my gateway to ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, “Haruka Kanata” is pretty much everything that’s awesome about the band compacted into a single song. Even after I’ve plowed through the rest of AKFG’s discography, this remains my favorite. It’s just so damn catchy! It’s energetic in yet another different way; it gets your blood pumping for action and fills you with fist-pumping cheers. …Really. And the animation, while nothing mind-shattering, syncs very well with the music. The heavy beats accompanying the part beginning with “kokoro wo sotto” is probably my favorite part of the song, and the animation that goes with it is great not only because it fits the music, but because it also serves as the perfect platform to showcase the huge assemblage of characters that are (semi-)relevant at this point in the series.
When chorus explodes into “iki isoide~” in the final third of the opening, the animation does too. The music is on final slope of rising action, and the animation is just exploding with excitement with fights, angry-looking people, mysterious-looking people, Kyuubi!Naruto! It’s this amazing accumulation of all the crazy shounen action that drew people to the series in the first place, the manifestation of the core of the series. It’s been a long time since I stopped watching the Naruto anime, but watching this particular opening really makes me nostalgic, y’know? And you gotta love when singers go crazy in the end, right? “DakaraAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! …Haruka kanata…” This song plays for 27 episodes of Naruto, but it’s a fun ride every single time.
(2) “What’s up people?” – Death Note (2nd OP, Maximum the Hormone)
This opening has had a ridiculous amount of publicity, I know, but there’s definitely a reason for it. This theme breaks tradition in my books. Considering the general gravity of the series, it seems kind of strange that they should have an opening that seems so self-mocking, what with the terrifying Light heads screaming in the flames, among other things. And yet, there’s something strangely appropriate about it all. All of the psychedelic colors and wacky animation sequences, the roaring, the apprehensive way the vocalist sings after that, the repetitiveness of the “hey, hey, ningen sucker” — the mood it sets in the music’s rising action is wonderfully representative of the second half of this series, even if the anime rushed through it. There’s a tension in the song; it’s like running towards the finish line and not knowing if you’re going to get shot before you get there.
The animation quality is pretty darn impressive too, even though the aforementioned field of Light heads was a pretty cheap copypasta. The rest of the sequences — the dancing Ryuk, the spinning L, the fanservice Misa — are all well done and lively, doing well to contribute to the mood of the theme. My favorite part of the entire opening in both animation and music is the “hey, hey, ningen sucker” part though. The repetitiveness is great at building trepidation, and the accompanying animation that follows Light walking calming across the city is equally suspenseful. The heavy shadows cast over the other characters can be considered heavily symbolic (Kira is the only “light”), so there’s definitely been some thought put into the overall sequence despite the chaos in some places. And finally, with the “what’s up people?” conclusion of the song, all hell breaks loose. Perfectly fitting, I think, considering the conclusion of the series.
(1) “Resonance” – SOUL EATER (1st OP, T.M. Revolution)
I was in love with this opening from the first time I saw it. It was pretty funny too that I didn’t even realize it was T.M. Revolution singing until halfway through because I was just so damn entranced by everything. After I realized it though, I could only love it even more. You see I have a lot of respect for Takanori Nishikawa (TMR’s vocalist) and the work he puts into his music, especially for anime themes. As a fan himself, he generally researches and/or watches/reads some portion of every series he makes music for in order to write songs that are specifically tailored to the themes of the show. For SOUL EATER, this is very easy to see from just the title of the song, but a closer look at the lyrics reveal even more thought and depth.
“Resonance” contains all of Mr. Nishikawa’s usual explosive energy, and the heavy techno beat pounding through the song keeps your blood pumping throughout. Right from the start, your attention is claimed by the perfect syncing of animation and music — the closeups of Soul and Maka are dramatic and draw you in immediately. The quick tour of Death City that comes afterwards is done at extreme and impressive angles; it does well to introduce the viewer to the series and is definitely worthy of praise. The character introductions that follow are all jam packed with action, and the slight slow-down in tempo near the middle of the song is enticing and mysterious, never abandoning its attention-getting goals. The theme ends with an ever spectacular and actiony shot of Maka nearly lip-syncing the final lyrics, and everything comes together neatly in the end. Perfect. So perfect. I’m not really sure how many more episodes this theme will play for, but I’m almost certain that the second opening for SOUL EATER won’t be able to live up to it.
“Ai (Chuuseishin)” – Excel Saga (OP, Excel Girls)
“Cruel Angel’s Thesis” – Neon Genesis Evangelion (OP, Yoko Takahashi)
“Hito toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru” – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (OP, Kenji Ohtsuki)*
“Bokutachi no Yukue” – Gundam SEED Destiny (3rd OP, Hitomi Takahashi)
“Rise” – Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (OP, Origa)
* Kinda NSFW, nothing explicit though