Part 2 on Anime OP/EDs: My Responses to Alex Leavitt’s Panel at Anime Expo

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The second installment. As you can probably tell, the first part of the talk and by extension, the post, focused more on older series and this post will move into some of the newer stuff. The previous post also had the effect of getting the Cutey Honey OP stuck in my head, partly because I was listening to it while looking for their respective OPs on YouTube. Anyways, here’s the continuation of my thoughts with regard to Alex Leavitt’s panel:

Up until this point, the samples Alex showed us were from anime series aired before 2000 (I’m not going to count Re: Cutey Honey) and so, the next sample, Honey and Clover’s ED song “Waltz” is the first to break the millennial barrier in this panel. My memory is a bit fuzzy at this point about the significance of this particular ED aside from how it sparked a personal connection since it reminded him of his days as an avid biker, a connection that was strengthened further during that segment in Honey and Clover where Takemoto undertook that journey of self-discovery on bicycle. On my end, one of the things that “Waltz” does well is the way it channels that journey in search of one’s identity in the face of expectations that society places upon you. Not a surprise that it remains a regular feature on my playlist because of its mellow, wistful melody.

Next up is the OP to Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory which was shown as an example of an opening sequence in which sound effects from the animation are used in conjunction with the music. Alex’s take on it was that the use of sound effects help get the audience involved in the show. This is where my memory gets a little hazy since I don’t recall whether he mentioned that it forges a bond between viewer and the characters or if it was some other factor. If the former, I think this was a weak example since the sound effects came from various spacecraft, which aren’t objects one could find oneself empathizing with unless one is a total mechaphile. Of course, I could have misheard what he said and that the sound effects give the audience an adrenaline rush because of the expectation that the episode will be packed to the brim with action. As for the music, I’m not all too fond of its pronounced beat nor do I think the singer puts forth that emphatic a delivery for me to be totally hooked.

We then make a short detour into the land of parody OP/EDs that deal with subculture references and what better of a choice than Lucky Star’s karaoke ED which uses Dragonball Z’s OP “Cha-La Head-Cha-La.” Given Lucky Star’s aim of being a show targeted towards an audience made up of mostly anime fans, the inclusion of “Cha-La Head-Cha-La” makes for a wonderful tribute that will resonate with most viewers. The only issue with this detour is that there aren’t that many parody OP/EDs that come to mind immediately, so bringing up this topic at all doesn’t yield a whole lot of material that one can cover. Somehow, I get the feeling that someone will comment up a list of shows that use a parody OP/ED, and I’d like to hear of any other titles that meet this criteria for the sole purpose of expanding my body of knowledge in this subject.

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s OP “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” is almost too big to ignore, and so, I wasn’t too surprised to see that one come up. According to Alex, one of the positives that OP/EDs have is that unless the music is absolutely horrid, one will inevitably come around to liking it after hearing it play for 24-26 episodes, and even then, “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” still sticks out in a class of its own, given how 2ch denizens rated it as the best OP/ED song in the most recent vote. Even now, after so many OP/EDs have come and gone, that song still manages to bring upon a wave of nostalgia whenever most anime fans hear it.

That he picked that song was no surprise, but what was interesting about this choice was when he showed us the last episode of Evangelion and you get to that scene where Shinji begins summoning up his strength of character and discards his sense of self-loathing. During that segment, the background music uses a version of “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” that starts off sad, but gradually grows to become more inspirational and confident by speeding the tempo up a bit until it reaches a breakthrough where it lingers before coming to a definite close as the screen shows all of Evangelion’s characters praising him. I’d say the use of the OP’s arrangement helps deliver that strong impact that lelangir refers to in his post about the use of the sadder arrangement of Kannagi’s OP “motto☆Hade ni ne!”

And speaking of Evangelion and by extension, Gainax, we’re treated to a bit of a history lesson in the form of the opening animation to DAICON IV which featured excellent animation work by the soon-to-be studio Gainax. The music channels that futuristic vibe through the electronica and the synthesized voice which befits the image of how people expected the future to turn out. For those not in the know, DAICON is a Japanese sci-fi convention and while what happened during that convention is largely forgotten, the animation sequence still remains memorable as a tribute to nerd culture as the sequence incorporates superheroes, spacecraft like the Yamato, and all sorts of sci-fi/nerd icons.

And since we’re still talking somewhat about OP/EDs that one must include in a presentation on OP/EDs, Haruhi’s “Hare Hare Yukai” was a no-brainer given its ability to permeate throughout the anime community, bringing in many curious onlookers and turning the show into a phenomenon. Even now, I still find its spread to be a marvel and with the second season, the excitement doesn’t seem to be abating (though the Endless Eight arc is wearing thin on quite a few out there). Alex addressed its viral tendencies and illustrated that by showing us a video of the Hare Hare Yukai live performance at Akihabara. One of the more interesting remarks he made was a comparison of how the anime subculture in Japan and the West differ. In the West, the biggest display that one might see is of people doing the dance at anime conventions, but you’ll rarely see it a performance that is out in the public sphere like the one in Akihabara. So while the West hasn’t had an otaku-related display like what we saw in Japan, you could almost say that it’s lying dormant for now, mostly restricted to posts on blogs and anime forums. Once anime becomes more accepted, it’s not hard to imagine such a performance duplicated here once the next anime with Haruhi-like levels of viralness makes its appearance.

Anyhow, this is starting to become just somewhat lengthy, so I’ll cut it off here. I should have the final installment of his talk before the week’s over. The fact that this post required 3 entries should indicate how awesome the talk was and I hope that you’ve been able to get something out of these posts.

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Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

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