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W A R N I N G !

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Anime opening video appreciation 1

I knew I'll have to write this someday. I've long held myself back from doing so because of the highly opinionated nature of such posts. Yessiree, "Top Ten" ranking articles are always full of flaws and hated.

So, I'm not going to rank them in any way, those mentioned are here because I think they are good, that's it.

In my opinion, the opening video of an Anime is a very important part of everything. It is supposed to catch the attention of the viewer and tell us what the show is about. In fact, I feel that the quality of the opening is a good indication of the quality of the entire show, and many studios seem to feel that way too, with the production team of the opening video and the rest of the Anime being credited separately. Makes sense if this same video is going to be watched 13 or 26 times.

The motivation for doing this post was and still is the opening of Nanatsuiro Drops. Well I'll come to that video later, and as I said, no ranking.

If you feel that an Anime and its opening video should be in here but is not, it is either

1) I have not watched it
2) It will come up the next time I write about this
3) I think it sucks

Statistically, if you assume that all 3 cases have equal probability of happening, then I not having watched it has less than 50% chance of being the case. So please don't post things like "Go watch blah blah blah opening" and "Have you watched this blah blah blah opening?". This is my blog, only I get to be rude on my turf.

There are many Anime and their opening videos out there, and watching them all will be quite a chore, so this time I'll only be covering those that I have access to right now. That'd be those one or two year ago or so. So no Lucky Star. (And Lucky Star won't be on the main list anyway, although I may put it under honorable mention.)

And there are many things that make an opening video good, I'll have to cover them as I go.

Edit: After trying to find the videos on YouTube, I came to the conclusion that some companies are more strict than others when it comes to intellectual property. Well it was probably grey-area to start with, but since I can't find all the videos, I might as well link none. So you'd have to find yourselves. Well this might result in you finding wrong or altered versions (to escape copyright), but you won't miss if you get it from somewhere there is not YouTube.

Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai
Truth be told, this made it onto the list just narrowly. The animation is fluid and the drawing is high-quality, there is a lot of fun most of the time. The music is nice and the animation is coordinated well. You can see the effort put in. I feel cruel saying this has flaws, but it just does not feel flawless, because there are moments where I felt like pressing fast-forward, and when that happens it means I'm waiting for it to be over, which means I'm not enjoying that part. Even though each of these parts only last for a second or two, it is enough to hate it.

Oops, I forgot to talk about why it is good in detail. I'll remember to do this for the rest that follow. Anyway, Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai goes onto the list for just good opening video work in general, nothing super special, though that is special in itself.

Carnival Fantasm
The Idolm@ster should learn something from this guy. Dancing aside, it is immediately clear from watching the OP that this Anime is a bullshyt mashup of two (or more, depending on how you count) otherwise serious (or not, depending on how you count the Nekos) stories, and this Anime is just full of fun and comedy.

Because the Anime opening is usually used to introduce the story, story-less Anime tend to have a hard time finding material to waste time, and often resorting to "artistic" effects. Carnival Fantasm's opening is an example of how to let the video become not boring. Also, I'm usually not into the types like Arcueid and Saber, but after watching the video I was totally moe-ed. The opening has done it's job.

How to repeat the same things many times yet not piss people off: Yea I know you hate it when those low-cost videos keep repeating the same thing over and over again. Not this opening. Because there are variable contents and the contents are high-quality, I actually want to slow-mo to catch all the details. Great success.

In fact, I would probably say this is the best opening overall that I've seen in a long while, although it only managed to do so because it is a very high-budget series that is not constrained by the typical requirements and is just out to give fun to the fans.

Dog Days
From an Anime of questionable quality comes an opening that is unquestionably decent. A typical Anime opening, introducing the characters and what they do, and the action at the chorus. Standard stuff. The frame rate may be low sometimes, but I enjoy watching every part of this video. I like the music and that might have helped. But there really isn't much to complain, since the quality is generally good and the flaws are minor. And that is great for an opening of an Anime of this type.

This is an example of how you can have a cliche and standard opening that is still enjoyable. Basically don't let the viewer feel that it is boring.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? and Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead
It's hard to pinpoint the specifics that make this different from other standard fighting scenes opening. Worse, it doesn't have much animation in the first half. But when I watch it, it just smells of coolness.

However, while the second season does the same thing as the first, it doesn't feel as cool as the first. I can't explain why I feel that the second one is worse, the same way I can't explain why I feel that the first one is good in the first place.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!
This is one of those that I particularly enjoy. However it also has an issue which prevents it from being an excellent opening video.

I like the song and the lyrics, and the events in the video. But watch the video closely, and notice how it doesn't say anything about the story. We get a video that is mostly about the typical morning for the characters. This makes a good special feature or music video, and it works for Anime that don't have any story at all. But Papakiki has an important setting and this video says little about it. And also I feel that the video follows the morning routine way too much, do we really have to watch the girls' uneventful commuting for 20 seconds?

But otherwise,  the starting parts and especially the ending parts of this video just makes me want to watch it over and over again.

Ahh... another one I don't question myself for putting it in the list. While on first glance it looks like a mediocre spam of simple artwork and filters, if you look past the filters you can find pretty much as much content as a typical opening video, but instead of the typical background we get the artworks and effects, which actually carry meaning, apart from making the video super cool. It should be possible to redo the video as a typical opening, but why would you want to do that.

Seitokai Yakuindomo
This Anime's opening deserves special credit. Look at the lyrics. It might as well be an actual school anthem, and schools that use this kind of songs (i.e. not lame) for their anthem will be badass.

Combine that song with generally good animation quality and awesome transitions and flow, this video is rightfully on the list.

It's interesting to note that while quite a few Anime opening videos have the characters lip-syncing to the song, which I find disgusting because the characters aren't the ones singing the song, for the case of Seitokai Yakuindomo the singers of the song are indeed the voice actresses of the characters, which is very cool.

Working!! and Working'!!
The opening video of Working!! is a great example of being entertaining while staying simple. First the background - it's acceptable because it's comedy. Simple backgrounds like this don't draw the attention away from the characters and main action, most of which don't depend on the location, and some of which would be impossible to take place if the characters are placed in a realistic setting, like a room for example.

Much of the content is pretty standard - introduction of the characters, some scenes of what they usually do. There is a lot of repetition and action is limited to certain parts of the screen, but it works, because it's cute. Simple, yet effective, and earns its place on the list.

The second season (Working'!!) opening reuses the same style as the first season, and I'm not complaining. I do however complain when many other Anime tend to become sloppy when it comes to the second opening video, second opening song, second ending video, second season, and second stuff in general. Why fix something that is not broken? Oh yes, money, money...

The second opening does give me the impression that it's trying a tad too hard to outdo the first opening, so I don't enjoy it as much, but still both openings are good.

Special mention - Yumekui Merry
The amount of information in the opening video depends on the amount of information that is in the actual series, and in Yumekui Merry's case... there is not much. Spoiler: The story sucks, the Anime ending sucks too.

So, while this style of opening video might be just average or problematic for many other Anime, it fits this series perfectly. The mood and general idea is put across, the characters are introduced, and it contains stuff that hints of possible future development (kinda like the scar on Himura Kenshin's face for example). It's really sad that the actual Anime does not do justice to this opening video and the opening song.

Honorable mentions - these are opening videos that are either good or above-average according to my always-varying judging criterion, and/or I just don't have much to say about them, but feel that they're at least entertaining to watch in general. Or some of them may be on this list because I think there are people who might like them (because they're 'artistic' or something) although I may personally feel 'meh'. Ok, let me put it this way, I'm mentioning these so people don't bug me, okay?

A Channel (artistic factor)
Ben To (blatantly cliche, just like the story, and I like that)
Infinite Stratos (better than most mecha and/or harem OP videos out there)
Jormungand (guns, 'nuff said)
Kill Me Baby (putting it here just because)

Near-misses - these are opening videos that have some parts that I find excellent, but otherwise let down by the rest of the video. Note that even though I call them near-misses the overall quality/enjoyment factor can be worse than those on the honorable mentions list above, and even those not on the honorable mentions list.

Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!
At the intro we get damn cool poses and music. Then the verse comes on and... everything dies.

And how do you screw up the video at the chorus that bad? That has to be the most boring and anticlimactic chorus ever.

The only excellent parts are the start and the end (when the background is black), while the fighting scenes are at least acceptable. Heck, the way they handled the start and the end is something that others can learn from... but still... the rest of the video...

I know my music teachers always teach me that the most important parts in the performance exam are the start and the end, but still... you shouldn't go this extreme...

Senki Zesshou Symphogear
Most. Epic. Intro. Especially when you watch the opening video for the first time, right after the starting part of episode two. You go from one techno BGM right into techno opening music, complete with a lesson on how to transform cliche filter effects into extreme awesomeness.

And then... everything else sucks. Ok, it does not suck, but it is at best above average in some places and below average in many places. You'd think that they would've used those effects during the chorus and/or at the ending (I wouldn't call it outro... a lot of the time the "short" version of Anime songs don't have outro).

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