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W A R N I N G !

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Anime opening video appreciation 5 - How about the rewatchables?

Anime that excel above the rest are placed into the category called "rewatchables". The requirements for entering this group are -

1) You can (or, even better, you want to) watch it again from start to end. (Rewatching only certain parts does not count.)
2) You are able to recommend it to other people who don't watch Anime.

I looked through the stuff that I have access to right now (there are still more at another location)(Update: The other location has been completely wiped out), and I see less than 25% being possible candidates, probably closer to 10% if I filter it further. I don't watch 9001-episode-long mainstream stuff, most of the titles that I can recommend are short (one to two seasons that kind). Let's face it - majority of Anime suck. That's why society hates otakus. That's why otakus also know this themselves. That's why we need the not-so-mainstream producers and the viewers to carve out a better subculture, something that the supporters can be proud of.

Anyway, the above rant has nothing much to do with what I'm going to post today. Well, I've mostly avoided looking at the opening videos of the rewatchables so far. They're rewatchables, therefore they are good, therefore their opening videos are good. Or is that so?

Oh... and... some more administrative screwups... (guess you'd be used to that by now) the videos I'm going to watch this time are the rewatachables that are in this particular place, there are some videos that I've covered in the previous posts that are rewatchables and those are not covered this time. Similarly those rewatachables that are in other currently inaccessible places I won't be covering them this time, I need to sort them out first.

Ok, let's move on to the list of the recommended ones -

Arakawa Under the Bridge x2
Ok, this Anime makes no sense, so is the opening video. No... actually the opening video makes more sense than the Anime. It's subtle, but by now you know what are the characters' relationship with each other, and it all show up in this opening video, and I like that.

Random theme for the opening video, which is acceptable for a comedy and/or a second opening, but aliens and space is appropriate for this Anime. So no complaints here.

Lots of graphical detail put into this video, I actually still found something new the N-th time I'm watching this video to review it.

It is nonsensical, funny, crazy, and not a single boring moment. And it works for an opening video. Even though I don't really like this kind of video (song included) I can't deny that this is awesome. Nobody should.

This one doesn't get any points for being artistic or whatsoever. In fact it is very standard in terms of sequence of events. But, it is just, damn.

I mean, would you not want to watch this Anime after watching this opening video? Oh btw the Anime is good too. Oh wait I already told you that at the start.

Natsu no Arashi
Ooo another SHAFT production. This is another video that made me want to do this list in the first place. On second or third or forth or fifth viewing it doesn't feel that good anymore, but the way it is done is very unique, and at the same time telling us that this Anime is done in retro style, and at the same time telling us quite a bit about the characters' personalities.

And... the only problem I have is that I don't understand the women part if you know what I mean. Otherwise there is nothing to fault with this video, and the other parts still pulls this up and onto the list of recommended videos.

Sadly... the same cannot be said for the second season Natsu no Arashi! Akinai-chuu.

Nichijou (first opening)
This one is probably easier to explain why it is good by watching it, so just watch it. Maybe watch it a few times in order to fully enjoy it.

Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi
Another pretty typical opening for a pretty typical Anime. Except done with a few times more effort than typical. The foreground is a nice touch and makes the video cute as it should be, but that doesn't mean slacking on the main content, in fact there is more than typical amount of work put in there too.

The only issues I have are the overused jumping (or flying) scene and pretty much everything from that point onwards. But at least with this video they are relatively minor (compared to other videos with those issues, but note - it's still a problem), so the overall score is still good.

Baccano! and Durarara!
Okay, even though Baccano! is in another batch of video, for convenience again I'll talk about it with Durarara! here.

Baccano!... another one of those videos that made me do this list. Just look at it, the video is as smooth-criminal as the music and the characters. You know this Anime means business. And why not throw the viewer into an event already when the video starts. The title screen is an excellent nice touch too.

Durarara! uses the same formula as Baccano!, but doesn't quite achieve the same amount of effect. On repeated watching the reason becomes clear.

1) Too much time spent on certain unneeded scenes, and the flow between scenes is not done as nicely.
2) The amount of time given to certain (groups of) characters is either fairly random or suggest that certain people are more important. But if it's the latter case, it is still confusing who are the most important characters. The cause of this, however, is the story itself.
3) It is not shown clearly what are the (groups of) characters' roles in this story. Although again, the cause is the story, taking place in typical modern-day Japan.

If compared against the opening video of Baccano!,

1) All scenes flow nicely without spending extra time on unnecessary stuff. This also means that all (but two) characters don't have a second appearance, so whether this decision is good is debatable. But the events simply connect better than in Durarara! To be precise -

chocolate to hat
money to money
liquor to liquor
bottle to bottle
dart to thrown knife
slash to explosion
explosion to camera flash
sister to brother
cards to cards

phone call to phone call (which is not done nicely)
phone to post box
vending machine hit to soda pops out of another vending machine (of different color)
running to running - this one I can hardly even consider it as an attempt
hand swing to hand swing

See the difference? Even though Durarara! is using the same trick, it just does not match Baccano!'s standard. The reason Baccano!'s connect so well is that they are mostly the same object doing the same thing in different scenes. Our brain is focused on the motion of the object that we miss out on realizing the scene has changed. But if you break the motion of the object as in Durarara!'s case, our brain detects that it is a different picture. It's all about the power of expectation.

2) All characters are introduced as quickly as possible without wasting time or breaking the flow.

3) The characters' roles are well-defined even in a short time. Watching Baccano!'s opening, you can identify -

- two wandering idiots who are not very law-abiding either
- a new guy in the mafia and the guy taking care of him (he's paying for the hat)
- another mafia, this time a trio of brothers
- some powerful man and his subordinate
- a good girl in some rich and/or powerful group, most likely again a mafia
- the rich powerful bad guy dating that girl (the wine, darts, and the girl)
- an assassin/fighter/agent of sorts
- some, erm, I forgot what's the the term for them. Gangsters? Or just thieves?
- emo rich girl who misses her brother, who is got owned somewhere, possibly for something related to gambling but that is too literal an interpretation ya?
- a kid who is smarter and more cunning than he appears to be

In comparison, watching Durarara!'s opening -

Ok most of the info you can take it at face value. And then... you'd ask the question - dafuq do they do?

That's why the problem is the story. With Baccano!'s characters you know they will be contributing to the story in their own respective ways already. Not the case with Durarara!

Interestingly, it is not about the number of characters, since Baccano!'s opening actually introduces more characters than Durarara!'s (17 vs 15). It's how the characters are introduced that matters.

Oh btw I'm talking only about Durarara!'s first opening, because the second opening is less spectacular. Take the first version and make a worse version of it with more pronounced flaws.

Good ones, but with room for improvement
Because I'm dealing with quite many good opening videos this time, classifying them is not as straightforward. The reason for putting something into this group, is, explained in the category title.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu
I'll talk about all 3 seasons at once. First the first opening, which is the one that pulled this bunch of videos up into this category. A lively intro, and the animation at the verse earns high praises - it is by no means low-budget, and the effects that make this animation appropriate for this type of Anime help to make things even more visually appealing yet at the same time feeling simple and not overkill. There are a lot of nuances that remind us that there are some things that can only be done in animation and not film, and I can confidently say that if I were to direct an opening video it will never reach this standard. Heck I just rewatched that part multiple times to grasp the technicalities.

The few parts that follow next are not as great but certainly more than acceptable since the flow is kept running fast. It's the chorus that is a big let-down. Yes, why not have the jumping/flying/running because we can. No it just does not work, even though there is a lot of work put into this running scene it just feels too forced as running scenes always do. With a better chorus animation this video would have been on the top list.

As for the opening videos of "Matsuri" and "Ni", they are designed for those who already know the show, so I cannot judge them as I did for the other videos. But even if we don't look at the requirements that a first opening video needs, "Matsuri"'s video still feels slightly lackluster compared to the first. And "Ni" is... I don't even know how to judge this one... but it feels more like the opening video for an Anime based on a dating sim. Which is not necessarily bad since this is like "enjoy this video my fans" but as I said it is hard to judge.

G.A. Geijutsuka Art Design Class
There are videos that are mostly excellent with a few horrible parts, and there are videos that are mostly not horrible but with few excellent parts. Guess from my grammar which type this video is.

There is nothing to really complain about in this video. It does its job as an opening video, there are some places which might be less desirable but are acceptable for an opening video. It is certainly not boring with quite a fair amount of detail put in. But it's like the production team just did a bunch of short videos and mashed them together. Although randomness is suitable for such an Anime, it won't be making a super-good opening video anytime soon. Still I must say that this is very fun to watch.

Macademi Wasshoi
There are videos that are mostly excellent with a few horrible parts, and there are videos that are mostly not horrible but with few excellent parts. This one is mostly excellent but the few not so good parts are enough to pull the total enjoyment value down. The one part that obviously needs improvement I won't mention it, but towards the end do we really need to show off the main characters' abilities at the cost of breaking the comical mood that this video has? Also, I can do with less butts.

Is a waste, man, because most of the rest of the video is, I won't even say good, because it is excellent. They don't let any chance of action / funny / coolness go to waste. More opening videos should aim for this standard.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (first opening (complete version))
This is a situation where you can't use the conventional methods to achieve the desired effects. A good lesson to others who wants to go classic, artistic, retro, dark etc, or just strange in general, this is how it should be done.

Slightly messy though and I don't understand some parts, but then I majored in engineering, not Japanese/religion literature.

The other openings are mostly similar in the feel and some of them also do a good job at conveying the idea across, but most of them have the "not first opening" syndrome.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume
This one is just high quality all the way. But... it is typical. A high quality typical opening. Sure you can appreciate the graphics a few times, but it wears off quickly. If I may put it this way - there is nothing to complain about, but there is nothing that makes you want to watch frame by frame either. Appropriate and great for the type of Anime though.

And in no particular order, the rest of the Anime that I had wanted to analyze for this post but I gave up halfway:
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
Nagasarete Airantou
Hayate no Gotoku!
Maria Holic
The World God Only Knows
Nichijou second op
Highschool of The Dead
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Hidamari Sketch (but well I'll have many chances to talk about this series, because there are many seasons and all of them (and their opening videos) are good

A huge majority of the "rewatchables" have good opening videos. Which makes sense, because if you can make 13 good episodes you would have enough skill and budget to make a good opening video too. And this correlation between good Anime and good opening video adds weight to the argument that the opening video reflects the quality of the Anime.

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