Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
So, Friday’s post got me thinking about how much an anime’s opening really serves as an advertisement of the series. After all, if you don’t like what you’re seeing even in the opening, there’s no reason to keep watching, right? And a good opening can really drum up some excitement for a show that’s falling a little behind.
I’m interested in everyone’s opinions on this matter, since I’m sure there are some who put no stock in openings at all. But before I get to hear your lovingly crafted arguments, I want to present a list of the openings I think do a good job of introducing their show, either because they’re beautiful, because they’re exciting, or because they suit the mood.
Bear in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list of even the openings I enjoy, and I’m sure I’m missing a few gems that I’ve never had the opportunity to see. That’s what comments are for: you correcting my terrible mistakes!
I’ve categorized the openings alphabetically, since that’s as good an irrelevant system as any!
Berserk – “Tell Me Why” by the Penpals
I challenge you to find me a song catchier than the Penpals’ “Tell Me Why,” a crazy mish-mash of infectious beats and hilarious Engrish. Sure, it kind of clashes with the dark themes of the show, but any song that can get a room full of anime nerds singing along is golden in my book. Berserk is an older series, so the animation is a little dated, but it holds up pretty well all things considered. This is the sort of opening one never wants to skip.
To be honest, just about any Bleach opening could be on this list – the show does an outright wonderful job of advertising itself. I picked the two openings I did (the ninth and thirteenth, respectively) because of how they up the dramatic punch by using strong rock songs coupled with lavish animation. Clearly, money was put into these openings. This is a show driven by its characters and by its action, and these openings emphasize those strengths excellently.
Cowboy Bebop – “Tank!” by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts
This opening perfectly represents everything that the show Cowboy Bebop stands for: experimentation, thinking outside the box, and having a distinct and unique aesthetic style. The jazzy sound, bold colors, and noir silhouettes have combined to create one of the most recognizable minutes in anime, at least for Western audiences. So say it with me, “3, 2, 1, Let’s jam!”
Also, I don’t have room to give it its own section, but the opening of Samurai Champloo, made by the same people as Cowboy Bebop, achieves a similar distinction, just with rap instead of jazz.
Eden of the East – “Falling Down” by Oasis
Eden of the East is a show that’s all about big concepts: the “saving” of a nation, the relationship between power and responsibility, the aimlessness of today’s youth. The opening reflects all of that in an abstract way, using dynamic text and cutout images to explain major concepts of the story. It’s not full of spoilers, but if you watch it again after finishing the series, you realize how well done it really was. Also, the opening uses a Western song, which is unique in and of itself. Due to licensing issues, though, the song is only available on the first episode of the English edition, and the replacement song doesn’t match the animation of the opening as nicely.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – “Again” by Yui
This opening marked the beginning of the revitalization of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime franchise, and it opens up the new season in the best way possible: by marrying a good, emotional song to fantastic animation. It’s an opening that benefits from a little advance knowledge (like, say, watching the first series or reading the manga) because of how it drops a number of characters in quick succession, but it’s an exciting look at what has already been and what is still to come for Ed, Al, and company.
High School of the Dead – “Highschool of the Dead” by Kishidakyodan and the Akeboshi Rockets
I discussed on Friday why I felt that this was an exceptional opening, so I won’t rehash my points here. Just give it another look and bask in an opening that knows exactly what sort of show it’s representing.
If there’s one word to describe this opening, it’s “weird.” A dude dressed as a chick parades around a warehouse filled with moving mannequins while occasionally undressing his maid and/or playing her like a guitar. The strength of this opening isn’t just in its strangeness, however (though it’s certainly attention grabbing), but also in its unique use of color and strong sense of timing. The animation matches the beats of the song flawlessly, and the attention of the viewer never flags, even for a second.
I typically watch anime series that emphasize action and adventure, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed the opening to Romeo x Juliet, which is a soft, romantic introduction instead. Sure, there are some bursts of action in there (I can’t get away from my personal tastes entirely, after all), but the emphasis really is on the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, and the song is a perfect fit for this. I haven’t had the chance to see the show, but if the opening is any indication, then this is an interpretation of Shakespeare’s work that is faithful where it needs to be but which plays around with the tropes where it can.
Oh Sengoku Basara, can you do no wrong when it comes to anime openings? Two seasons in, and this show continues to amaze with its catchy songs, over-the-top animation, and tongue-in-cheek attitude. Dancing samurai? Check. One man wielding six swords at the same time? Check. The entire nation of Japan fitting into the palm of one individual warlord? Check. Sengoku Basara is an off-the-wall look at Japanese history, and the openings set it up perfectly. The minute you hear that first “Woo-hoo!” you’re ready for some samurai action.
Shiki – “Kuchizuke” by Buck-Tick
In another effort to get away from my usual genres, I present the opening of Shiki, a horror anime that I haven’t watched because I scare ridiculously easily. The art style isn’t exactly to my tastes (dear lord, the hair in this show…!), but the opening does a good job of playing with horror tropes and using them to their full potential. The fading away of flesh to reveal the skeleton beneath is particularly effective, and the dripping lights on the skull at the very end are an example of masterful timing. It may not be a show I plan to watch, but the opening is doing everything it can to convince me otherwise.
So there you have it, my very short and very incomplete list of anime openings that I enjoy or find to be very effective. What are your favorites? Let me know in your comments, and look for my next post at its usual time on Friday!
*** Also, a brief correction on my previous post: it was recently announced that Comcast would be bringing over High School of the Dead as part of its On-Demand service. Does this count as a mainstream Western televised release, which I said would never happen for the show? I don’t think so, personally, since anyone who wants to rent the show could easily find it online already, but let me know what you all think!