Anime Themes

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Apr 5, 2006

Filed under: Anime 19 comments

I notice that most of my favorite Anime series also have fantastic opening credits. The ones I disliked also had opening sequences that I disliked. Was it that the (lack of) quality in the show also applied to the opening? Or, did my feelings for a show simply extend to the opening musc? Or vice versa? I don’t know, exacty. I know there are very few shows that I liked which had openings I didn’t and I’ve never seen a show I hated which had music I loved. Hmmmm.

Let’s take a look at my highly subjective list:

The Best

Haibane Renmei was perfect. Music: Perfect. Visuals: Just right. It set the mood of the series, and even captured the spirit of each of the main characters with just a few seconds of screen time apiece. Masterfully done.
Serial Expierments Lain facinates me because the opening is in plain English. The visuals and the music combine to impart a sense of mystery. The images of the birds are quite striking. In some ways I think the intro exceeded the show itself.
Kino’s Jouney does an excellent job of setting the mood of this series with a sense of discovery and wanderlust.
Sugar, A Little Snow Fairy will MAKE you love it with the fun visuals and irresistible tune. They characters have miles of charm, and it comes through in the little glimpses we get of them here.
Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex has an interesting intro. It’s techo, with a potent Japanese Russian aria. Just my sort of music. The other interesting thing is that for the most part they don’t (re)use visuals from the show. The show itself is mostly standard animation, but the intro is done in cgi.

The good and the mediocre

Chobits has a very, very catchy song. The visuals are a bit plain though. Still, gotta love that song.
Cowboy Bebop is a bit overrated in my book, but it’s still a fine opening and it does a fine job of setting the mood. I got a bit tired of it, and by the end of the series I was skipping the intro.
Ai Yori Aoshi didn’t quite work for me. I like the series, but the intro never seemed to fit. The series could be at times tense, touching, wild, or silly. None of those were really captured in the overly sappy intro.
Mahoromatic‘s intro struck me the same way Ai Yori Aoshi’s did: I just didn’t fit the feel of the show for me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t right.

The worst

Blue Gender was forgettable, much like the show. Meh.
Outlaw Star has an intro song that sounds like a late 80’s leather-pants-and-big-hair rock band. Sort of a Japanese Motley Crue. I don’t care for that sort of music, and this song made me cringe.
Big O. Sigh. Where to start? The lyrics are the name of the show repeated over and over. The visuals are no picnic either, with black shapes spinning on a red / orange background. The whole thing looks like a parody. Good grief.

If I were to organize the above based on how much I liked the show overall, it the list would be almost exactly the same. I think I’d move Ai Yori Aoshi into the first group (I really liked it) and move Lain down into merely “good”. Still, the correlation between openings I like and shows I like is quite strong. Interesting.

You’re annoyed. I can feel it. I’ve slagged something you love. Or perhaps I’ve praised something that you deeply hate. This is unavoidable. The comments link is below if you feel the need to let me know just how wrong I am.


From The Archives:

19 thoughts on “Anime Themes

  1. One of my readers suggested this as a heuristic to me a few months back. Problem for me was that I could come up with too many counterexamples.

    By far the best counterexample is Card Captor Sakura. Over the course of 70 episodes it had three different OPs and three different EDs and they all sucked. But the series itself was fantastic.

    The Happy Lesson OVA had an outrageously good OP, and the Happy Lesson TV series had a superb ED, but the series was actually pretty mediocre overall — not too bad, but nothing earth-shattering, either.

    The OP for Najica Blitz Tactics is quite good, but the series is only moderately decent. That’s also true for R.O.D. The TV; the OP promises much that the series doesn’t deliver. (In fact, it shows a lot of action scenes which look like they’re probably from the series, but don’t turn out to be.)

    The OP for Banner of the Stars was really terrible, but it’s a great series, one of my favorites.

    So it’s a nice idea, but one that doesn’t work out so well in practice.

  2. Shamus says:

    Hmmm. I have yet to see any of those you mentioned. (You can tell I’m still pretty newbie when it comes to Anime.) I’ve noticed your reviews on all of them, but I only read reviews for terrible series, since I plan on seeing the more popular ones and I like to watch shows “cold”.

    Najica and Someday’s dreamers are coming as soon as Sugar is done.

    As you say, I’m sure I’ll accumulate counter-examples as I absorb more titles, although it’s interesting to see how accurate they have been up to this point.

  3. Big D says:

    Actually, I always liked the CotS OPs. The grand, majestic fanfare and theme really set the mood for space opera.

    I can’t think of a lot of OPs that have totally blown me away, though; probably the one that came closest was the Lodoss TV OP (which figures, since I never finished the series).

    What I’ve found to be a pretty good indicator of what I will like is AMVs. AMVs have gotten me into probably more than half of the series that I have most enjoyed.

  4. Mark A. Flacy says:

    Actually, the GITS-SAC opening song is mainly in Russian.

  5. Shamus says:

    Actually, the GITS-SAC opening song is mainly in Russian.

    Interesting. Section 9 is based in Japan, and I can’t think of anything particularly Russian about the group or story. I wonder why they chose it for the music? (Other than it sounded cool.)

  6. Pixy Misa says:

    Big D – Lodoss TV? Are you thinking of Adesso e Fortuna? That’s from the OVA, and I would agree that it is one of the finest songs in all of anime.

    I’ve been applying this rule of thumb for years. I’ve had very few false positives, but I have had false negatives. If the OP doesn’t grab me but I don’t outright hate it, I’ll put it back on the to-watch pile and give it another try later. I do like a good ED too, to put me in the mood for the next episode.

    Speaking of Record of Lodoss War, I quite enjoyed the original series, though that was a long time ago. The music is consistently good, and the story isn’t bad even though it is literally a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. And I use “literally” in the literal sense. :)

  7. PalmerEldritch says:

    Russian opening in GitS: SAC

    I think it´s because the singer was Russian, quite popular in Japan. Or something like this. Check Wikipedia, there´s something about that.

  8. Infra says:

    Well, I’ve never actually come across many openings I like, but Naruto has some good ones, and the images are cool.
    But I like the endings better, especially Full Metal Alchemist.
    I love the ending theme, and the pictures fit perfectly.

  9. Miako says:

    Neo Ranga has an excellent song where they just repeat their name a lot. It’s good, honestly.

    and escaflowne does a decent job with theirs (though i can’t help but laf at it a lot).

  10. MissusJ says:

    Revolutionary Girl Utena has a good song, and has a veeeeery unusual story, with unusual music to match.

    Dragon Half is an older movie, but quite hilarious- and the ending song fits it very well. If you want to know Japanese words for various foods, check it out. ;)

    Macross Plus may bend your brain a bit, as its very techno music was written by the same person (woman!) who wrote Cowboy Bebop’s music. Actually, anything with “Macross” in the title is going to involve music- it’s tied into the storylines. (You may remember Robotech from about 20 years ago, the first part of Robotech was the original Macross series in Japan, and they continued the story in their own way. Macross Plus is in the same universe, but decades later.)

    I have to put in a word for Sailor Moon, too. Like Card Captor Sakura, mentioned earlier, it goes through a couple opening songs, but they do capture the tone of the series well. The visuals change per “season” to fit the story as well. It’s a lot younger than a lot of things mentioned here, but it does have good stories for the most part- they’re just really slow, spaced out with filler episodes to keep from getting ahead of the manga, which only updated every month or so.

    Lastly, Adesso e Fortuna is a wonderful song, and Lodoss War is a good and influential piece of animation. I think that’s the only song I remember from it, though.

    Ok, I’m done. I swear. I own too much anime, or maybe my problem is that I still have cable. I’m not sure which. ;)
    If you’re interested in things that have been out for a while, shoot me an email.

  11. D D Wiseman says:

    The cool thing about the Big O theme is, 1) it’s a direct rip on Theme from Flash by Queen (the visuals are from Ultra Seven), and b) they use it for 13 episodes only.

    I’m a little confused about the rest of your estimation of it, though – the visuals fit in very well with the show, if you know your Giant Japanese Heros pretty well, and maybe that’s it.

  12. Ben says:

    Great Post , Thank you

  13. Ceeqanguel says:

    One theme song that really got my attention was Elfen Lied. IN OLD LATIN!!!

    Also for giggle: Kemeko Deluxe makes absolutely no sense (they even whip a jesus-christ O-o) But DAMN it’s catchy

  14. out4blood says:

    Kaiji has an awesome OP and is probably favorite of the current crop.

  15. Karen Jansen says:

    I agree with the awesomeness of the Elfen Lied OP, as well as the OP for Read Or Die (the OVA). Other good ones (not yet mentioned) include 009-1 & Madlax.

  16. Gilf says:

    I absolutely have to recommend Soul Eater for the ‘Exceptionally Awesome’ part of the list. The animation, flow, and the music itself combine wonderfully for the first intro song of Soul Eater. Plus, the show itself is really good (and features Vic Mignogna, putting him still higher on my list of ‘actually good American voice actors’).

    Seriously, give the theme song a look sometime. The show’s really good too, so you might check it out as well.

  17. CheshireMadcat says:

    I have to say, some of the better themes I’ve heard from anime are. Steel Angel Kurumi, Elfen Lied, bubblegum Crisis 2040, Chobits, and Blue Seed. I know there are more, but that’s what i can think of off the top of my head. (see on my MP3 player.)

  18. Togusa says:

    Re: Ghost in the Shell: The opening theme has Japanese, Russian, and English lyrics, which to me speaks to the international character of Section 9. Later in the series we get some back-story indicating that the Major, Batou, and some others were working together as part of a U.N. force, where they first met various other members of their current team. Just a thought. :-)

    And Big-O *is* parody in a way: it deconstructs a lot of things (both in a literary sense, and quite literally by the end of the series) and plays with ideas a lot. Its surrealness and willingness to play with ideas about the nature of consciousness I think is what make the series so intriguing, despite / in part because of / its bizarreness.

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