ANIME, FEATURED – In almost every anime series, the episode starts with an opening music theme with a short animation – usually spanning a minute or so. An ending music theme is also played along with the credits of an episode. It is because of the times which these themes are shown that make them so important.
Starting off with the anime openings, they serve as a first impression to the entire series. Usually it will contain the characters, events, objects and other things of interest for the entire duration of the theme. The song has to be at least catchy or suitable for the tone of the series.
The anime endings are usually skipped so they tend to be left out much more often than the openings. However, there are a few anime endings I personally felt were worth a bit of my time. Endings such as Kyoukai no Kanata‘s Daisy got me hooked because of its unique Japanese rapping which I almost never hear in any medium.
With all that said, how is an anime opening or ending great? That can really vary from viewer-to-viewer but I will share what I feel personally are important elements in a good opening (in no particular order).
1. The music’s relation to the show
The music is what makes the opening or ending theme work. It needs to be at least catchy, suitable for the show’s tone, and would force me to actually download the original track.
It gets even better when the lyrics of the said song is closely linked to the show’s story itself. An example of this is the first opening of The World God Only Knows anime series.
The lyrics is in English but sung in a Japanese accent. It tells how the main character, Keima Katsuragi, is being forced out of his otaku lifestyle to conquer real life girls as opposed to those female characters he conquers in his galge games.
The song starts off on how ridiculous his current situation but gets into it as he perceives it as a challenge. But somehow he is conflicted as he gets swept away by emotion as he conquers these target girls. The song shows his denial of any sort of infatuation he might show in all conquests and deludes himself that this is just his job.
Should watch the show to grasp the song’s meaning much more deeply.
2. OP & ED visuals adapt to story circumstances
There’s always that one event in the anime series that makes viewers go, “Did that just happen?” or “That’s pretty big.” I always love it when studios go out of their way to just alter little bits of the visuals to suit the story’s circumstances.
An example of this is the deliberate change on the ending animation visuals for No Game No Life.
This video is a comparison of the ending themes in the seventh and eighth episodes. In the eighth episode, the main character Sora disappears from existence and everyone does not remember him – including his little sister. The change is subtle but pretty satisfying to watch.
The text color for the credits has gone to grey. Every frame where Sora is supposed to be present is replaced with static and audio interference. In fact, the music is distorted which gives off this unpleasant and creepy feeling for the viewer as the ending theme goes on.
What got me most is when Shiro was smiling and was holding out her pinky finger to nobody. As the scene went on, Shiro frowned and put down her arm. The color palettes are gone – it just gives off this atmosphere of sadness for Shiro as she goes on without her big brother.
3. OPs & EDs change by character arcs
The only times I saw an anime opening or ending catered to a character arc was in the shows Nisekoi and the Monogatari series.
An example of this is the Nisekoi ending theme song for Kosaki Onodera‘s arc.
The first season of Nisekoi regularly changed their ending theme songs to whatever the featured heroine was for that episode. In this case, it was Kosaki Onodera‘s arc. The jazzy and chill vibe of the theme goes to show the heroine’s sweet and caring personality – in visuals of Japanese sweets, chocolates and jazz music sung by the character’s VA herself.
As the theme goes on, we see silhouettes of Raku Ichijo – the main harem protagonist. The scene shifts to Onodera wearing a semi-knight/princess dress with a key in hand running up endless staircases to get to Raku as a mouse with glasses (I assume is her best friend Ruri Miyamoto‘s persona) zooms through the sky.
The theme ends with Kosaki attempting to kiss Raku but she trips in the process. Goes to symbolize how Kosaki loves the main protagonist but ends up in defeat whenever she tries to show her feelings.
All themes in the Monogatari series and the ending themes of the first season Nisekoi series show these types of symbolism.
With all those three components, I think they are necessary (for me, at least) in order to work out the effectiveness of an opening or ending for an anime series.