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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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

In 1994, President Bill Clinton proclaimed September to be Classical Music Month... Too bad I already reviewed some portion of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series last year, because it's heavy use of classical music would be a perfect fit. Also, I do hope to one day get to the Violinist of Hameln anime & review it, but it won't be this month. Luckily, I do have something planned for this month, though it isn't "classical". As a fan of anime I have also become a big fan of Japanese music, especially those found in anime. Sometimes I won't even watch an episode of an anime, but I'll have heard the opening before & I'll become a fan of the song. With this in mind, I decided to bring back the "Twelve Anime" motif, but this time focus it on a specific aspect of anime: The music. To go with a music-themed commemorative month, I'll be doing four sets of "Twelve Anime" lists, one for each variation of music one would hear in anime: Opening Themes ("OPs"), Ending Themes ("EDs"), Insert Songs ("INs"), & Background Music ("BGMs").

What, you didn't seriously expect me to use K-On!, did you?

"Tank!"... "Ready Steady Go!"... "We Are!"... "Sorairo Days"... "A Cruel Angel's Thesis"... Let's face it, truly memorable anime tend to have equally memorable opening themes. The idea of an opening theme sequence is to get one interested in the series if it's the first watch, or to hype the viewer up when it's successive episodes, and as time has gone by some of these OPs have become downright iconic, needing only the first few seconds (if even that) for someone to identify it & be reminded of a favorite series. Sometimes, though, a really good OP gets shafted. Maybe it's the follow-up to an excellent first OP, licensing issues kept it from reaching a larger audience, time has made the series (& therefore the OP) forgotten, or maybe people just didn't really know of it in the first place. Well, since this is a "Land" where forgotten & obscure stuff is given the spotlight, allow me to remind and inform you guys of some opening themes that definitely deserve more love. Technically, this is chosen based on the songs themselves, but having a really good OP sequence certainly helps. And, in true "Twelve Anime" tradition, I have ended up with way more than twelve entries.

"Now or Never" by CHEMISTRY meets m-flo (Astro Boy: Tetsuwan Atomu OP2)
As I mentioned just earlier, when an anime has a very memorable & excellent first OP, it's really hard for the second OP to get that same amount of love. Case in point would be the "other OP" to the 2003 remake of Osamu Tezuka's most iconic creation. Now, yes, 1st OP "True Blue" is an excellent song, & really fits the world of Astro Boy perfectly, but "Now or Never" manages to stand beside that first OP by being different yet, oddly, fitting for the series; hell, the music video for the song is nothing but footage from the anime. The mix of CHEMISTRY & m-flo really does fit the future world that Astro himself lives in, especially since the second half of this remake does apparently become more serious & darker than the first half, but the footage that goes with it is expertly matched to the song; just watch from 0:26-0:42 on the video above for some very nicely done editing that really catches one's attention. It's a shame that Sony's dub for this show not only edited episodes for content (even skipping entire episodes!) but also ignored both OPs completely, making both of them lesser known among anime fandom.

"Girl Friend - Boku no Kyouhansha" by Side-One (Don't Leave Me Alone, Daisy OP)
When one thinks of the OP to a romantic comedy, I think the last thing anyone would think of is a downright hard rock song... But that's exactly what this 1997 anime adaptation of Noriko Nagano's 80s manga did. Most amazingly enough, though, the song's theme of a person who's love for another is so unstoppable, amongst constant rejection, fits perfectly with Techno's constant attempts to get Hitomi, his "Daisy", to fall in love with him. Granted, to some, this song might be better than the show itself, but that really doesn't detract from the fact that the song is catchy, addictive, & easy to get into & have fun with. The footage also kind of works in a simple way, too. The constant repetition of the word "Girlfriend" during the chorus becomes ingrained into your psyche, and Side-One's singer makes the plea for reciprocation just all the more crazy & memorable, leading to an OP that fits so well partially because of how opposite it is from the lead character.

"Hakaima Sadamitsu no Theme" by Taku Iwasaki (Sadamitsu the Destroyer OP)
Sometimes, the best openings don't need lyrics. Sometimes all you need is an amazing instrumental that, solely through listening, tells you everything you need to know about the show. Taku Iwasaki, who is now most well known for his work on titles like Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, & the Battle Tendency Arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, also did some amazing opening instrumentals, and his opening theme to the 2001 anime adaptation of Masahiko Nakamura's 1999-2005 Ultra Jump manga is one of his best. Much like the tokusatsu heroes Nakamura was obviously inspired by, Iwasaki's song gives off the grandeur of a masked hero of justice, but it also mixes in a Mexican flair that also gives off the feeling of a heroic luchador as well as a bit of that wild west feel... Which just makes the song all the more memorable. If you want lyrics in you songs, though, then you're in luck. For the final episode, the song was given a vocal version, titled "Otoko no Michi wa Kenka Michi", complete with Yuji Ueda (the voice of Sadamitsu himself) doing the singing! This version simply takes an already amazing opening theme & takes it to another level, honestly. Though the series is pretty short (it's only 10 episodes), it is a highly memorable one, & having an intensely memorable OP, complete with footage that both shows off style & slight comedy, only adds to the enjoyment.

Please note that, due to an odd credit translation in Media Blasters' release of the anime, most people think that the OP theme is called "Tune from TSC (Breeeed)", but that likely may have just been the name of the backing band that Iwasaki used to help perform his music. The names I have given are the actual, proper song titles.

"Rock the Planet" by Steffanie (Urusei Yatsura OP5)
First off, I want to thank Charles Dunbar from Study of Anime for showing this OP at his Anime Openings panel from AnimeNEXT last year. Having never seen any bit of Urusei Yatsura before, I had no idea that an opening sequence like this could belong to, arguably, the origin of what would become the harem genre. The space theme fit in perfectly with the series' focus on alien beings continually coming to Earth, because of lead character Ataru Morobochi, and there are just enough visual gags to stay funny without taking over the entire sequence. Also, it manages to showcase a ton of characters in a fast, concise fashion, all while an awesome rock anthem for the ages plays. No doubt this song isn't as well known simply because of the show's age, but also the fact that only the hardcore UY fans were going to buy all 50 DVDs AnimEigo put out just for the TV series's complete run. Luckily, the internet allows people of all sorts to see stuff that they never knew about before, so here's an excellent-but-forgotten bit of the past for you. Thank you, Charles.

"Jikuu Ryokou" by LEGOLGEL (Pet Shop of Horrors OP)
There's no denying it: Anime themes of any sort, at least from the mid-80s on, are mainly there for one big reason, and that is to simply promote a music performer. I've mentioned how Hareluya II BØY was pretty blatant with that in the form of its first ending theme, which for the first episode showcased nothing but the band playing their song. In fact, the anime adaptation of Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo, Masaru-san! poked fun at that very fact in its OP, showing the band singing the song for about one second at the end. Unfortunately, this kind of blatant promotion can sometimes hurt a perfectly good song from reaching a larger audience, by way of having it be either replaced or horribly cut short, and the uber-short 1999 anime based on Matsuri Okino's horror manga was the victim of the latter. Now, to be fair, this OP is about 50/50 in terms of showing the anime & the band, but for the North American home video release of Pet Shop of Horrors, the OP was cut down to simply the last ten seconds, which were animated by the legendary Rintaro; you don't even get to hear the end of the song. It's a shame, too, because even at only a minute long, LEGOLGEL's song actually really fits in perfectly with the mysterious & supernatural world that is Count D's rare pet shop, giving an inviting but unsettling feel that truly fits the four episodes that make up this series. The full version is ever better & more beautiful in its feel, truly making it kind of a "lost" song in terms of anime themes in terms of North American home video release.

"Zero no Kimochi" by doa (Naikaku Kenryoku Hanzai Kyousei Torishimarikan Zaizen Jotaro OP)
An excellent OP is one that simply fits the style & mood of the show perfectly. Cowboy Bebop has that, Kochikame has that, Akagi has that, and (though people tend to bash this show because of a horrid first episode) Zaizen Jotaro has that. doa's song about the "Zero Feeling", that moment when you've reached absolute "coolness", fits Zaizen to a "T". The man fights against political corruption with nothing more than his wits, sarcasm, & some special access to nearly anything he needs, due to his Zainers Gold Black Card. Sure, it's a good bit of wish-fulfillment to some to be that "cool", but there's no denying that it fits this show perfectly. I still stand by my feeling (& review) that Zaizen Jotaro is an anime series that's a ton of fun to watch, as long as you skip that first episode that has nothing to do with the rest of the show whatsoever, and even the barely-there animation is made up for by the inventive use of cut-ins to help advance the episodes. Regardless, even with simple footage to go with it, "Zero no Kimochi" is truly an addictive song in & of itself.

"Kokoro ga Tomaranai" by JEWELRY (Monkey Turn OP)
Some OPs are the kinds that are addictive that when listening to it you become entranced by it, and you want nothing more than to continually listen to it on repeat. That's certainly the case with this song. From a Korean music group comes a J-Pop song that's insanely catchy, memorable, addictive, & entrancing that it completely sucks you into it. Fittingly enough, it also fits the wild & fast-paced world of kyotei racing that Monkey Turn is all about, with the footage fitting the song perfectly as well. As if to put the cherry on top of this tasty confection, the show even utilizes this song during the climax of multiple races, where it also fits perfectly. Like the song translates as, my "heart does not stop" for either this song or the show it's attached to, as made evident in my old review for it. Yeah, the HK/bootleg subs available for it are absolutely terrible, but sometimes one has to suffer somewhat in order to enjoy a true hidden treasure of a show.

"Hiwou no Theme" by Hiroshi Yamaguchi (Clockwork Fighters: Hiwou's War OP)
Got another instrumental song here, though there's some vocals mixed in, if you count stuff like "Wau, wa wa wau", "Degaregeda, degaregadou!", or "Jam Jam!!" as lyrics. Anyway, it's another show that I have reviewed in the past (it's still pretty cheap to buy, but Right Stuf is down to only one bundle set!), but one part that I loved about Clockwork Fighters, aside from it's use of actual Japanese history, kid-focused but adult-entertaining story, & intensely-imaginative use of clockwork technology, was the music by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, of the band Heatwave. The OP is the absolute best way to get the perfect idea of what the music for this show sounds like, and it is indeed awesome. From the OP alone you get an enjoyable beat, a sense of young exuberance, imagination at work, and even a little bit of seriousness during what would technically count as the chorus. Combine it with footage that really draws one into the world the show creates, & even gives off quick hints as to who you'll see throughout the show, and you get one of my absolute favorite instrumental anime opening themes of all time. If you still have enough of that youngin' inside of you, go check out the show, too, because it shows that sometimes Shou Aikawa isn't always the crazy & political wacko he sometimes comes off as in his darker works.
Yeah, that's eight OPs in this first half alone! I tried to cut it down to as close to twelve as possible, but there's just so many awesome OPs that don't get the credit they deserve that I had to really make it a big list. Anyway, check back a little later for Part 2 for another eight OPs that you likely missed the first time around.

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