If you are new to anime, one of the first things you will notice is the fancy openings with actual singers and not only a short piece of music together with the series logo (or a longer opening showcasing the characters and setting) like here in the West. But are these kinds of openings needed or should they be removed in favour of extra screen time? Warning! Includes many videos!
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a saying that has never felt so wrong when it comes to anime openings in my case. Openings play a big role in how, at least I, perceive the show itself. A great opening will give me the urge to watch the show, while a bad one might turn me off. This is something that perhaps many of you will not agree on, but let me try to explain why openings are important.
(Undine by Makino Yui)
Aria the Animation. When you watch this opening, what do you feel? Do you feel relaxed and happy, forgetting everything that is bad? Do you slowly sway to the rhythm of the music? Are you starting to become one with the world?
Whenever I listen to any opening from Aria, I am washed away by loads of emotions. The openings set the mood before the actual show starts. One thing that is special with the openings of Aria, which you maybe noticed, is that they merge with the episodes themselves, creating a much tighter atmosphere. In almost every other anime the openings are visually superior to the episodes and consists of “random” scenes put together, creating a stark contrast. Aria does not do this and together with beautifully fitting music the opening tells you exactly what the show stands for.
This is how you create a good opening. It represents what the show stands for and puts the viewer in the right mood. In Aria’s case, the purpose is to calm down the viewer. If it were an action show it would be full of adrenaline to pump you up. It has to fit with the overarching theme. Create something unique.
Now, look at these three openings.
(One Reason by Fade)
As you can see, Deadman Wonderland is a very serious show about prisoners trying to survive in a twisted private prison. There is one man toying with the prisoners’ lives, all who we are introduced to in the opening. All very epic indeed.
In all reality though, Deadman Wonderland is a generic shounen mess with superpowers and does not feel very threatening in all, more like silly. The opening is lying, trying to pretend it is something that it is not. It also looks visually better than the episodes.
(Dream of Life by Shohei Itou) New Link
The opening of Bakuman 2 is not necessarily a bad one, as it shows us what it is all about: creating manga. But why is it not using that in its on favour? Use manga panels, rough sketches and much more to fit the theme! It could only become better!
(Harinezumi by Azuma Hitomi)
And Fractale? I have no idea what to feel when I watch the opening. It is a mess and includes all the colours in the world. You cannot even grasp what the show is about when watching it. It is all very random.
(Pre-Parade by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie)
(silky heart by Yui Horie)
If the openings I come across appeal to me in some way, I will most likely look up the show soon after. Toradora is one of those shows. The first opening appeared in the “related section” on Youtube and while it was not that unique, it screamed school, love and comedy with bits of drama. The second opening, however, had a very different tone. It was on the more serious side and had a slightly melancholic feel to it.
By judging these two openings, I could tell that this was exactly what I wanted. And in hindsight, that was what I got. The openings expressed what Toradora was all about.
And this is why I feel that openings are necessary. They represent something. They try to tell something. Instead of being a boring excuse to namedrop the creators and such, they help you adjust your mood. In that regard, anime openings win over Western openings anytime. Here it is either only the logo, or one and a half minute of nothing.
Oh, and Shaft’s openings are just crazy random.
(Ringo Mogire Beam! by Kenji Ohtsuki & Zetsubou Shoujo-tachi)