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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Ending Themes That Deserve More Love Part 1

It's easy to name an iconic opening theme, but ending themes aren't exactly as easy to name. OPs are things that viewers gladly watch, as they set the tone for the show & get people excited for what they are about to see. EDs, on the other hand, signify the end of an episode; crazed anime fans don't want to see an anime, even if it's just an episode, end. Even I'll admit that, if I'm watching multiple episodes of a TV series, I'll simply skip the ED so that I can get to the next episode faster. Still, I do save the ED for the end of the last episode I'm watching at the moment, and throughout my time as an anime fan I have heard a good number of EDs that I think deserve some recognition. So let's take a look at them...

(NOTE: Unlike the OPs list, I will not show the ED footage for every entry. Some EDs, by nature, may feature spoilers as to what happened in a show, and I wish to respect those who haven't seen some of these shows.)

"nothing" by SEE SEE/Hitomi Yaida (Cybuster ED)
As a quick note, the OP credits this ED as being performed by SEE SEE, which was the name Hitomi Yaida initially used when she entered the music industry; she's since switched over to her real name. Anyway, the 1999 anime version of Cybuster is definitely the "black sheep" of the entire Super Robot Wars franchise. In fact, regardless of the actual quality of the show itself, many SRW fans refuse to even acknowledge, let alone watch, this show that has nothing to do with the lineage of the main Masou Kishin storyline. Yeah, this show is a completely different universe from the original one, and that alone makes me want to eventually watch this show & review it. Anyway, the OP, "Senshi yo, Tachiagare" by Masaaki Endoh, is a really cool song, but the ED to the show also succeeds as a memorable tune. Starting off as a simple acoustic ballad, the song eventually becomes a really cool & powerful song about taking whatever hardships come by & making it a part of yourself. Even if the show ends up being disappointing, at the very least one can't deny that each episode ends on a strong song.

"STRAIGHT FROM MY HEART" by Northern Bright (Get Ride! AMDriver ED1)
Admittedly, many EDs feature footage that is usually nothing more than just a single image with some sort of "camera motion", whether it be a pan, a zoom-in, a zoom-out, etc. With those kinds of EDs, the appeal has to be in the song itself, and a perfect example of when it works is the first ED to AMDriver. The song's upbeat style to it kind of works in two ways with the show. When it first starts, the AMDrivers themselves are saving the world from the destructive Bug-chine & are televised to the public, making them also double as "idols", in a sense. With those early episodes, the ED kind of works as a celebration-like sound of the group. Some episodes later, though, the forces behind the Bug-chine absolutely wreck the AMDrivers, making them look like they were the real enemy force. This makes the main characters, in particular, a group who want to not only defeat the real villains, but also regain their good name with the masses. This change in image then makes the ED sound more like a goal that the main characters want to reach. It's an awesome song, truly addictive & memorable, and even gives off two feelings during the course of its use. It's a shame that the show never really got a fair shot here in North America, as it only ended up being available on The Anime Network on Demand for about a year (and only the first 14 episodes at that!).

"Bandelia Ryokodan" by Susumu Hirasawa (Detonator Orgun ED1)
Every great composer starts somewhere, & this here is the beginning of Susumu Hirasawa's anime career. Now, the man is known for his absolutely beautiful orchestral creations for titles like Berserk (both the series TV & both video games), Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent, & Paprika, but way back in 1991, a young Hirasawa (relatively young [34], mind you) did the ED to the first episode of an OVA series that was, supposedly, based on preliminary concepts that were made for Tekkaman Blade. While the general consensus on Orgun is mixed, I have never heard any negative talk about Hirasawa's song, proving that the man was talented way back then, and it's likely that this song got the attention that Hirasawa no doubt needed. While people will continually talk about songs like "Forces" or "Yume no Shima Shinen Kouen", both excellent songs, I will gladly make sure that people know about a song like "Bandelia Ryokodan", which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful songs Susumu Hirasawa has ever done in his career.

"Lost in Space" by PSYCHIC LOVER (Tytania ED)
Well, I've already talked about Legend of the Galactic Heroes, so why not bring up its spiritual cousin series, Tytania? Created by Yoshiki Tanaka, this is also a space opera like it's legendary cousin, but still actually isn't finished, and its 2008-2009 anime adaptation is somewhat downplayed for changing the focus to a secondary character. Still, along with an appropriate operatic OP, the series has an intense & fast-paced ED done by PSYCHIC LOVER, one of the modern-day masters of bot-blooded songs. Sure, the fast pace & general style might not exactly be fitting for a Tanaka-penned space opera, but I feel that the duo of Yoffy & Imajo definitely delivered that space feel with their song. There are better PSYCHIC LOVER songs out there (their OP to Gaiking [2005] & their ED to Ring ni Kakero 1 [Season 1], for example, not to mention their repertoire of Super Sentai OPs), but "Lost in Space" is still a perfect example of how talented these two musicians are.

"Akaneiro ga Moeru Toki" by Scoobie-Do (Gungrave ED)
This is a series that, though not exactly one of the first shows people will mention when they think of anime from the 00s, is still very well loved & known. Even with that recognition, though, I don't really hear people talk about the ED all that much. Tsuneo Imahori's soundtrack was great, & his OP fit the show perfectly, but the ED, performed by the excellently-named Scoobie-Do, really fit the show perfectly, too. The first half of the show, which deals with the "rise" of Brandon Heat & Harry McDowell, really needed a song that epitomized the fast-paced, wheelin'-dealin' life that they were living, and the ED fit that excellently. Oddly enough, when the second half of the show started, which focused on Beyond the Grave's mission to kill Big Daddy, the ED also fit just fine as a reminder of what had happened in the past; it suddenly became a nostalgic song, in a sense. I'm still kind of shocked that this ED isn't given more credit for reminding one of why Gungrave just worked so well. Even after a few years of not listening to the song just after one listen you're suddenly reminded of great times... That's the mark of an excellent ED.

"Anata Dake Mitsumeteru" by Maki Ohguro (Slam Dunk ED1)
Shonen Jump properties tend to have really good synergy between their OPs & EDs, & this was true at almost any time, let alone just the 90s. Slam Dunk just had one of the stronger cases of synergy between its OPs & EDs, and that was obvious right from the start of the show. The first OP, "Kimi ga Suki da to Sakebitai" by BAAD, set the high school tone that the show was about & the first ED followed that up by giving a great sense of the intensity that basketball can bring about in its players, while also showcasing some nice shots of lead female Haruko Akagi. Ohguro definitely put in a strong performance with this song, and it deserves a spot as a truly memorable & powerful ED among anime EDs. It really just makes you want to watch another episode of the show, continuing to see the journey Hanamichi Sakuragi was going through from rough delinquent to the "genius basketman" that he felt he could be.

"Niji no Kanata" by Marina del ray (Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen ED)
Aside from the ED to the first season & the INs used in Season 3, the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime series kind of doubles as a discography for the band Marina del ray, as they did every single OP, ED & IN the franchise used. Because of that I do feel that the band is pretty unknown, which is sad because they are an excellent rock-oriented group. Sure, they did the OP for Saint Seiya post-Hades Sanctuary, & they helped out with the ED for Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, but most of their songs belong to RnK1. Hell, there isn't really all that much info about them or even a single album that I can find, though I do know that lead singer Hirofumi "Kacky" Kakigawa operates MDR Sound Production, a studio that helps produce music for various albums, pachislot/pachinko machines, etc.

Regardless, Marina del ray deserves much, much more credit for delivering addictive songs that you'll love singing along with, and I feel that their greatest song (so far) is the ED they did for the most-recent season of RnK1. While "Asu he no Toushi" has been with the series from the start as the OP, the EDs changed each season. "Shining Like Gold ~Omoide no Kakera~", from Season 2, was an excellent ballad & "Asu he no Hishou ~flap your wings~", from Season 3, was a great inspirational song, but "Niji no Kanata" not only has that inspirational feel but also delivers a beat, sound, & positive message that can't be beat among their songs. It manages to infuse the essence of Masami Kurumada's titles, that "Never Give Up" attitude that permeates his entire catalog, into a song just shy of five minutes and it never gets old. Much like AMDriver, the footage that goes with this song isn't anything special (it's recapping what happened in the episode that just finished, hence why I'm using a generic image video), but that makes the song all the more of a focus. It's no surprise that I love the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime, (I reviewed this anime all the way) and the music is just a part of it. Alongside Susumu Ueda's excellent music are Marina del ray's masterful performances, & it has (presently) come to an apex with their most-recent song.

"Closet Freak" by SPYKE (Hareluya II BØY ED2)
During my review of this anime, I pointed out how the show essentially doubled as an extended advertisement for the band SPYKE, and I mentioned how good they were & how it was a shame that they never got an album out. This band had great range, doing everything from hard rock anthems to slow-paced ballads, and the second ED for BØY was the latter, and it (maybe accidentally) fit main character Hareluya Hibino's cocky benevolence pretty well. In terms of footage it actually fit the slower-paced beat nicely, utilizing a multitude of scattered "photos" of characters that appeared throughout the entire show, and the song kind of had a nice feel that matched the whole "scrapbook" look of the ED. While the first ED, "WORDS OF FREE", first acted as nothing more than as an ad for SPYKE itself before switching to episode recap, but the second ED made focusing on the show the priority, which benefited both the show & the song by having the show feel like a proper mix rather than blatantly act as promotional material. This ED really just fit the formula for being a great one: Great music + fitting footage = Memorable ED.
And that's eight EDs that I hope people won't skip over just to get to that next episode. Check back later for Part 2, where we cover yet another eight.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good picks here, some of which I wasn't familiar with. That Hirasawa song is gorgeous indeed.

    And here are some ending themes I think deserve more love:

    "Mirai Kouro" by La'Cryma Christi (Night Walker ED)
    "Chance" by Kouhei Koizumi (Megami Kouhosei ED)
    "Kokoro no Sukima" by Wyse (Heat Guy J ED 1)