This the second installment of the year-end lists (that were supposed to come out before the year ended, but oh well). The last one will be my “Top 10 Anime of 2017” and before that I will be sharing (and recommending) my favorite music from last year. So yeah, I am getting back on the blogging grind.
I picked 11 OPs and 6 EDs (I tend to pay way more attention to openings… that’s not good). They are not arranged in any order, except that the last three ones in each section are my top 3 picks of the year. I am pretty sure I forgot some great ones that deserve to be on the list, so I take the liberty of editing in one or two in case I remember some that should definitely be on this list.
You can watch the openings by clicking on the song titles.
[Inuyashiki] “My Hero” by MAN WITH A MISSION
Despite the anime being one of my biggest disappointments of the year, I can’t discredit how cool this opening is. Man with a Mission rocks out some solid hype songs, the most popular being Iron Blooded Orphan’s first opening. Just like that one’s “Raise your flag!” being the catchy part of the song, this one’s is “Hit me on the ground”. The song really brings out the theatrical aspect of the show.
The visual sequence flows really coherently in terms of its visual themes: the red and blue pachinko balls (?) representing the antithetical protagonists of the show appear throughout the opening to indicate that there will be a philosophical clash between them; and the cityscapes are gorgeously rendered. The brief bombastic parts of explosive animation adds, again, to the hype. The opening uses a nice conglomeration of different types of animation, too.
[Girls’ Last Tour] “Ugoku, Ugoku” by Inori Minase (Chito) & Yurika Kubo (Yuuri)
The two lead seiyuus deliver a catchy, upbeat song that can fit into any adventure anime, but the context (that the anime is in a desolate, post-apocalyptic setting) makes the song deliver a much more powerful and positive message. I love the synths and its spicy syncopations, and their playful layering make this song stand out just as a great EDM track.
The visuals deliver enough clues to what the anime will be about. The girls are alone in this vast, unknown world and the only way to find out more about their environment is to keep moving on, and they have each other as company. This simple core narrative is painted pretty succinctly in this opening. What more could you ask? A dab? Cool and yet simple looking cityscapes? They got it covered. And also, those were some randomly specific things to ask of.
[March Comes in Like a Lion] “Sayonara Bystander” by YUKI
I loved both the openings by Yuki for the anime. “Flag wo Tatero”- the most recent one- is a nice, warm uplifting song about Rei’s new found passion to help out Hina and strive to better himself with that goal in mind; but “Sayonara Bystander” takes the title here for the better OP. This one is more packed in terms of visuals, simply because the anime was then more focused on more characters while the first half of second season is more focused on Hina. Sayonara Bystander’s sequence also brings more energy to the show, which off put some people initially- including me. But later on, I got what the opening was going for- it was really about Rei transitioning from a self-centerd loner to a more active character and, hence, the climate-changer. The visual climate is less coherent but more dynamic, in interesting ways, in this one.
The song itself had to dynamism of the visuals. The music has a string quartet-like backtrack and takes sonic detours to different visual styles of character introductions and then it coagulates to more guitar-heavy and percussive climax and Yuki’s voice gets high pitched; and then Yuki lays it down nicely near the end. I really liked the backing track to the song.
[Kakegurui] “Deal with the devil” by Tia
The song has brass and it has a jazzy groove to it- which makes it catchy and stand out from other J-pop openings. The packed instrumentation is really playfully layered, so it’s hard to get bored of it. And Tia’s voice sounds wonderful and not strained at all.
The visuals have a clean-cut color scheme with a blue tinge to every frame of that pristine animation. This spotless quality of art looks great and fits the alluring nature of the whole opening. The girls are all going at each other in semi-erotic ways with various food items in the background; the concept is pretty ridiculous but that also fits the overly dramatic aesthetic of the show.
[Princess Principal] “The Other Side of the Wall” by Void_Chords feat.MARU
The opening’s opening buildup of instrumentation and then the ‘Yeaaaah’ is the most hype thing I have heard last year. The song’s great, the instrumentation is packed with that boiling bass line, the piano and brass goes crazy in the background; and the vocals sound commanding. All of this adds to the thriller aspect of the show.
The visuals are pretty standard with the character introductory frames and the presence of shadows- indicating the looming danger the girls are always in. And the sequence ends, with that vocal sustain, and with the girls in air. The visuals make the opening feel too short.
[My Hero Academia] “Peace Sign” by Kenshi Yonezu & “Sora ni Utaeba” by amazarashi
I can’t. I can’t pick between the two- they are both great in different ways. Kenshi’s song delivers that fast hype for the tournament arc and Amazarashi’s song is a power anthem for the characters to overcome their hurdles. “Peace Sign” has that cool looping guitar chord during the verse and that transforms into a percussion and finally, after a bit of buffer of that sustain, it explodes into a cool choral riff. “Sora ni Utaeba”, on the other hand, is more bass-y percussion driven and scale centric- it’s a solid soft rock song; and the song grew on me the more I listened to it. I think both openings have solid visuals with similar intentions- introducing characters, setting up the theme of the arc and giving some sakuga preview.
[The Ancient Magus’ Bride] “Here” by JUNNA
“Here” is a song that exhibits a beautiful range of the singer’s vocals and cool tempo transitions; and the instrumentation gives off a folk song vibe with that crunchy guitar and smooth violin sections.
The opening starts with Chise being in a dark, lonely place and then it follows her as she gets introduced into a new world of magic (and that is where the tempo changes and the music swells). And as with the anime itself, the opening showcases the anime’s fantastical and magical world. The visuals are pretty well presented in that montage.
[Natsume’s Book of Friends S6] “Floria” by Tomohisa Sako
“Floria” is such a healing song. The pristine guitar notes and the patient percussion before the chorus sounds really scenic (and so are the visuals during that segment of the song) and then the music swells to the chorus and things become extra warm. Speaking of extra, the environmental designs in this one look extra gorgeous- almost each frame is screen cap-worthy in this opening.
[Land of the Lustrous] “Kyoumen no Nami” by YURiKA
I love the (instrumentally) minimalist nature of the song- it starts with a guitar chord and a piano note progression and as the song progresses, it is layered with a faster note progression cycle (I am clearly not educated on technicalities of music), a bass line, and a soft percussion. Then it again dissolves, or rather, loops back into the opening sound of the song. The song nicely captures the silence and tidings of the sea, but doesn’t go overboard with it.
As for the visuals, the visual theme of the sea narrates the stagnant and perpetual existence of gems, in this case, Phos, until some disturbance happens. The sequence follows Phos as she goes down a rainbow vortex of shards, and she eventually breaks into and then reforms into the title card (this is where the music builds up). Characters are introduced through gem shards, and the sequence ends with Phos getting up and moving towards the light- indicating that things are going to change. The narrative in this opening isn’t as apparent and coherent as other great openings, but I eventually pieced it together after rewatching it a thousand times because the gems are rendered in an eye-gasmically beautiful way.
[ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.] “Shadow and Truth” by ONE III NOTES
A brassy hip-hop song? Count me in. Yeah, I think I have made it annoyingly clear that I like brass instrumentation in songs. This is a playful song, with a cool lyrical flow and the vocals during the chorus doesn’t sound dissonant from the style of the song at all… somehow, I really can’t tell why.
The visual department of the opening sequence featured cool, suave color schemes- ranging from peach pink to monotone grey to fit each cluster of character moods. The use of still frames doesn’t take up too much time, and they are efficient at highlighting important themes of the narrative.
[Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu] “Imawa no Shinigami” by Megumi Hayashibara
The song is beautiful- in contrast to the last opening of the anime being a jazzy, seductive one- this one romanticizes the feeling of forsaking life. The clock ticking in the background, and swelling orchestral strings adds urgency to that feeling. And Megumi Hayashibara’s alluring voice acts as a parallel to Yakumo’s gravitation towards death.
The visual sequence is again, like most good opening, succinctly arranged to show Yakumo’s slow detachment from reality, his close acquaintances and life itself-with Sukeroku embracing him and showing him (and the audience) that he’s already dead, he died before the music even stopped. The opening rewinds, just to push into our heads that Yakumo’s death is inevitable. The opening is almost as beautifully captures the theme of Yakumo’s character beautifully.
[Inuyashiki] “Ai wo Oshiete Kureta Kimi e” by Qaijff
This song is one of those that sends a tingling sensation across your skin when you hear the chorus coming in and the strings becoming more prominent. The backing track is pretty standard with the minimal percussion and piano chords, but the voice really gives it life. The visuals are gorgeous: neon art style with a star-studded background, and the camera movement makes it more admirable. It is a pretty simple sequence but the production on it is pristine.
[Little Witch Academia] “Toumei na Tsubasa” by Yuiko Ohara
This beautiful and fluid animation-intensive sequence is just unskippable. This is probably the only ending in my list where I didn’t think that the song itself was that special- it’s perfectly serviceable; but I can’t not mention this because the animation sequence is stellar; I loved the continual morphing animation of objects and Atsuko, the color scheme was wonderful to look at. It’s a cool showoff of skill for whoever worked on that (it’s apparently done by Masanobu Hiraoka).
[Sakura Quest] “Freesia” by (K)NoW_NAME
The backing track opens with an interesting sample- I guess they use some kind of chime that sounds fantastic and weirdly warm- and a guitar note loops in the song; and then a standard guitar synth plays throughout the buildup and the chorus to fill up the ear space- I love songs that fill up my ears. The girls are wearing headphones/earphones and singing along with the song- now that’s something I really like seeing in openings or endings.
[March Comes in Like a Lion] “Cafune” by Brian the Sun
The song sounds beautiful, thanks to the sentimental tone of Brian the Sun’s voice (he also did Sweetness & Lightning’s ending- which was also really good); and the guitar riffs and the string sections really complements the sentimental vibe of the whole song. I was kind of confused with the puppets and the storytelling-like vibe to the sequence, but upon looking up the lyrics, I got that the sequence was going for a short narrative of someone realizing the love around him and wanting to grow because of it (pretty relevant). I also loved the water paint style of the art featured in the sequence.
[Scum’s Wish] “Heikousen” by Sayuri
Sayuri’s empty opening (only accompanied by a few guitar notes and a wandering synth note) is great- her voice is high-pitched and has that chill-producing power to it, but she seems to have a good restrain on it, which is evident with her sing-talky section that follows later on in the song. She adds spice to an, otherwise, serviceable pop-rocky backing track.
The kaleidoscope visuals are wonderful; there, the couples were being randomized- and which I would like to see happen in the anime, but then it got a bit tame. Anyway, the water painted art style in an animation sequence is almost always a nice form of eye-candy to see.
[Attack on Titan] “Yuugure no Tori” by Shinsei Kamattechan
I started following Shinsei Kamattechan after listening to their fantastic “Ikareta NEET”, and I didn’t even know that they did the Attack on Titan ending until I listened to the opening track of their new album. I was really surprised how different they sound in this song (then again, I haven’t listened to every song from them). “Yuugure no Toki” is anthemic Engrish song with a cool, reverberating, choral voice (or voices). The string backing backing track is great, too. The visuals are packed with symbolism and foreshadowing, and I could see some spoilers, since I have read the manga. But the sepian visuals complement the heavy, eerie and cavernous song pretty well.
And that’s a wrap to this unnecessarily long post. I am sorry I talk about music in such a weird, incoherent way- I’ll try my best to do better in the future.
Feel free to share your favorite openings and/or endings from last year in the comments.