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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Opening Themes That Deserve More Love Part 2

If you sometimes wonder why I rarely use embedded videos on anything I post onto this blog, my previous post is a perfect example of why. You see, as big as YouTube's catalog of videos is it still doesn't have everything. Therefore, the OPs for Zaizen Jotaro, Monkey Turn, & Clockwork Fighters: Hiwou's War I used were all captured by me & uploaded onto YouTube by me... And after only a couple of days of being online, and even when the clips were "unlinked" from YouTube (i.e. you can only view them via this blog), ShoPro still blocked Monkey Turn's OP from being viewable to you guys. So for those who read Part 1 of this look at anime OPs that deserve more recognition & love, consider yourselves lucky that you got to see it the way I put it together. For everyone else, from this day on you have to deal with the music video for "Kokoro ga Tomaranai". Hopefully this won't be something that will happen again in the future posts from this month... Anyway, back to your (not) regularly scheduled "Twelve Anime" list.

"Mononoke Dance" by Denki Groove (Hakaba Kitaro OP)
Shigeru Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitaro is an institution in Japan, being the inspiration for a lot of the methods & ideas about yokai culture that anime & manga uses to this day. Toei has made it downright tradition to make a new Kitaro anime series every decade, ever since the original B&W series from the 60s, but for the most recent adaptation Toei did something different. In 2007, they debuted the fifth TV series based on the kids manga, but in 2008, while GeGeGe was still running, Toei also debuted an 11-episode anime based on Mizuki's original version of the manga, Hakaba Kitaro. The animation style was similar in execution to Mononoke, which simply has to be seen to be believed, but for the OP Toei went absolutely zany. Denki Groove's song can only really be described as "Halloween Dance-Techno", and the footage being based on the actual pages of the manga just makes it a fun watch. The song itself, though, is downright infectious ad once you hear it once it will never leave your head.

"Rocket Dive" by hide with Spread Beaver (AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave- OP)
Sometimes you'll hear people mention an anime where one of the best parts of the show is the OP, but that's not exactly a bad thing; sometimes an OP can just be that good, even if the show itself is fine. On rare occasions, though, you'll hear about an anime where the ONLY good thing about it is the OP... That's AWOL in a nutshell. An original anime thought up by the mysterious et, the same entity behind Next Senki Ehrgeiz, AWOL is an early-1998 late-night anime that is infamous for being absolutely bad & nigh-unwatchable because of how plodding the pace is. In fact, I just found out yesterday that, while we here in North America got the original TV version of AWOL when brought it over on VHS, in Japan they never got that version on home video. Instead, their VHS & LD release was a re-edited version of the show titled AWOL Compression Re-Mix, which was released across four 50-minute OVAs that told the same story, but with a massive amount of edits & removals to help make the story faster & more concise... Four episodes worth of content was removed! Anyway, the show's OP really just shows how much of a gap there is between good & bad in just 90 seconds. AWOL is an absolute wreck of a show that I now want to own the VHS release of, if only so that I can review both the original version & the "compressed" version, but the opening theme by X Japan's hide (RIP) is amazing! Really, just listen to it and you'll see how it might just be the closest thing one can get to a "perfect" J-Rock song, in my opinion. The footage itself is okay, if maybe a little too "EXTREME 90s!" at times with all of the colors & things like that. Really, it's amazing how one of the worst anime TV series of all time has one of the best OPs...

"Destiny girl" by Minato (009-1 OP)
Sometimes, all you need for a truly memorable song is a guitar riff that can go down as one of the greatest ever. A riff that, once heard, makes you want stop whatever you're doing & simply wallow in its awesomeness. That's part of what makes the OP to 2006's 009-1 so amazing. That epic guitar riff pulls you straight into the song, and once that song has you in its grip it never lets go until it's over... If even then! The anime itself is actually really underrated & unknown by most, getting licensed by ADV when only a couple of episodes were fansubbed, and then only fully available in English by way of the official release. Unfortunately, it was one of those "Sojitz licenses", so it ended up going to FUNimation a couple of years later, who simply tossed it back out into the market under their S.A.V.E. line & now it's out-of-print; luckily, it still isn't too expensive to buy, but new copies are going up in price. A shame, too, because this is easily one of the most underrated "new" anime releases to have ever come out in North America during its time, and it's OP is epic, awesome and, with that amazing guitar riff, absolutely unforgettable. Espionage never sounded so rockin'...

"Dream Jack" by HUMMING BRID (Next Senki Ehrgeiz OP)
It's one of my earliest reviews, still one of my most-viewed posts of all time, and it's still a personal favorite of mine. It's also, from what I can tell, the very first mech anime to air in late-night, and its OP is definitely a great way to keep yourself up when you might be getting tired. Now, to be fair, the full version of the song does have a slow part in the middle, but the OP-length version is just downright fast-paced rock that HUMMING BIRD, and lead singer Yoshiki Fukuyama (now of JAM Project fame), became downright famous for; it's no surprise why they were the "voice" of Fire Bomber for Macross 7. Those first 15 seconds just continue to build up, until Fukuyama just can't seem to wait any longer and belts out a sadly forgotten song. Sure, there's some randomness to the foootage (Where did Jay get that cannon from? Why is his MV holding the Earth?), but at the very least you can't fault it for being a boring OP. When I got to watching this show for the first time I had no idea what to expect, & "Dream Jack" certainly got me intrigued right from the start; now it's a show that I can't help but really like. Hopefully the same can happen to you, too.

"Voyage" by Inori (Fantastic Children OP)
If there's one thing that's pretty obvious about anime OPs it's that they are filled with music from the rock genre... But operatic songs aren't really common in anime OPs. Luckily, Fantastic Children has an absolutely beautiful one that really puts you into the right mood when you start watching the show. Like a true operatic song, it continually builds & builds until the climax, in this case the chorus, and while the footage that goes along with this OP is relatively simple, it does its job just fine. It showcases the main characters, & a small look at the conflict that they go up against. As excellent as the OP is, though, there is a better version out there, called "Voyage...Meguru Toki no Naka de", that takes the same song & just makes it all the more beautiful; I almost always cry a little when I hear it. Really, I can't add much more to what I feel about this OP & the show it belongs to, so just read my review of Fantastic Children for the complete lowdown. You'd be letting yourself down if you didn't watch this show, honestly.

"Century Color" by RAY GUNS (Turn-A Gundam OP2)
Here lies another case of the second OP being kind of forgotten due to the first OP, and like "Now or Never", the second OP is a really different sound from the first. Turn-A Gundam's first OP, "Turn A Turn", was a very old-school, almost slightly militaristic, song that set the tone for the early technology world that the Earth had become after the "Dark History" had played out. In traditional Gundam fashion, though, the latter portion of the story would take place in space, and with that change in environment came a change in the style of song the OP would be. Instead of a very serious feel, "Century Color" went with a more hopeful, almost whimsical, feel, leaving everything positive; fitting for Turn-A's generally positive mood. It also paid slight tribute to the series' motif of trying to tie every Gundam series before it into one unified universe by showcasing scenes from the many previous Gundam entries fluttering about, like leaves that main character Loran Cehack now has to keep in control. Oddly enough, even in Japan, "Century Color" kind of got ignored among the entire franchise; for example, the song has never been used in a Super Robot Wars game that featured Turn-A Gundam. In fact, it wasn't until 2011's Gundam Extreme Vs. for the arcade & Playstation 3 that the song would actually be used as the theme for Turn-A units, roughly 11 years after its first use as the OP! Hopefully now, though, more people will come to know of this song and how fun of a listen it is.

"Chiisana no Koi no Melody" by Kinniku Shojo-tai (Eat-Man OP)
Anime OPs being used as nothing more than promotion for music performers is something I brought up in Part 1 with Pet Shop of Horrors, but at the very least there was some sort of visual "advertising" to go with the song. The opening to the first anime adaptation of Eat-Man, though, really pushes how far blatant promotion can go... Because there isn't any actual animation to be found! Okay, there is the use of wipes to transition from one set of credits to the other, and there's that little bit of animation found right at the start & end, but let's face facts here: This opening's purpose is to simply promote the "new" song by Kinniku Shojo-tai, a.k.a. King-Show, and since no animation was made to go with it they simply threw the credits in. Luckily, the song is downright insanity & always a fun listen. The lyrics seem to purposefully not make any sense, especially the chorus, and though it has absolutely nothing to do with even a basic idea of what Eat-Man is about, even Koichi Mashimo's "in name only" adaptation, if I never saw this anime I wouldn't have known of this song. Now it's a song I love to sing along to no matter when I hear it. In that sense I guess the blatant promotion worked out perfectly...

"Destiny -Taiyou no Hana-" by Hitomi Shimatani (Black Jack 21 OP)
Ending off this look at OPs we have something one probably wouldn't exactly think of when they hear the name Black Jack: An symphonic epic performed by the intensely-talented Hitomi Shimatani. Now I love the first opening theme for the TV series, "Gekkouka" by Janne Da Arc (one of my favorite Japanese bands), and that worked well for that series as a way of making the talented doctor himself come off as grand & mythical. After around 60 episodes, though, Tezuka Productions decided to take the anime into a different direction, so they "rebooted" the anime by debuting Black Jack 21, a 17-episode linear story that focused on drama & world-spanning adventure. Taking that into consideration, this OP now makes sense, and it works very similar to some of the other songs I've mentioned by delivering on the idea of continual building up of tension until right before the climax, where Shimatani delivers an absolutely intense performance. This is definitely an OP that should not be missed, and one can only hope that Anime Sols will eventually get to this show as part of their funding drives for DVD boxsets.
All right, I think this is a fine point to put a stop to this "Twelve Anime" list that has become way more than normal. At 16 entries, I have talked about 1.33x as many entires as I normally give. To be fair, the other music lists I'll be doing this month will likely be this long or maybe slightly shorter. There's just a lot of really great music out there that has been overlooked, or just not given the spotlight, and I do hope that this look at OPs have given some readers some new songs they want the full versions of. Up next are EDs which show that maybe you shouldn't always simply skip the end of an episode just so you can get to the next episode faster.


  1. Great articles, with plenty of of good songs I had never heard before. But when I think about opening themes that deserve more love, I usually think of great songs that were understandably forgotten because they were used in terrible shows, such as:

    "Kimi Dake" by Dasein (Barom One OP)
    "Setsunai Uta" by JILS (Genma Taisen OP)
    "Kaigenrei no Yoru" by 03 (Majusensen THE APOCALYPSE OP)

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