The Role of OPs and EDs
After posting about some inappropriate EDs last week, I thought a bit more about the subject, specifically about what the hell we expect from OPs and EDs. And it probably isn’t a shocker to know that OPs in general have a fairly defined role (with leeway on execution), while EDs are a different story altogether.
Really, there are three basic things that OPs deliver on:
1) A good song. Could be a hard rockin’ song, or a catchy pop tune, or what the hell ever, as long as it will catch people’s attention. The creators don’t want the songs to turn people away from the channel; even better if they immediately want to go out and buy every record made by the band performing the song.
2) Good accompanying animation. Obviously the studio doesn’t want a steaming pile of shit to be the first thing potential viewers see; they want the viewer to see some kickass, richly detailed animation to open the series, get to the actual show itself and then think, “Wow, what a steaming pile of shit!” (except it will be too late to change the channel by that point because people are lazy). If you’re flipping channels around the time shows begin, your eye will be caught by something that looks interesting. And then it’s a crapshoot as to whether what comes after will be good or not, but you know, good things happen sometimes.
3) The OP sequence gives the viewer a decent idea of what the series is about. Certain characters will be highlighted, they’ll prance around doing crap that you can expect them to do during the course of the series, and the attentive viewer may get a feel for the themes of a series (aka the pretentious bullshit dorks like me gobble up). When the viewer sees the OP for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, for instance, he or she should glean from the OP that the series is about a midget and his pet suit of armor and how they fight crazy villains and stuff. When the viewer sees the first Eureka Seven OP, he or she should be able to sense that Renton and Eureka are hot for each other, and that surfing robots give mecha maniacs hard-ons.
Now, exactly how to execute these three mandates into a single interesting package is entirely up to the studio — that’s the fun and creativity of making an OP sequence, right? And there are of course numerous examples of OPs that absolutely nail these crucial rules. I bagged on Baccano‘s lame ED sequence in my previous post, so I’ll make up for that by using its awesome OP, “Guns and Roses”:
Now that is a badass OP sequence right there. The music kicks ass (anime needs more awesome jazz in general), the visuals are distinct and interesting, and the viewer really gets a feel for the various characters and what they do, whether it’s gambling, drinking, blowing shit up or throwing knives around like a madman (the OP is like a giant character chart!). Something else the OP does that is interesting is prepare the viewer for Baccano‘s style of storytelling — it leaps from character to character, smoothly transitioning as it moves along and highlights the connections between people (some hidden, and some out in the open). That’s A+ work right there.
Speaking of highlighting storytelling style, another OP that successfully pulls off this trick is K-On! No, really, it’s true! I am specifically thinking of the second OP sequence here. Take a gander:
See how that OP just copy/pastes Azusa into the otherwise exact same sequence from the beginning of the series? It cleverly mirrors how Azusa is copy/pasted into all the same stories from the first half of K-On! Those lovable rascals at Kyoto Animation were just preparing their viewers for all the same crap they had already watched earlier in the show! How good-hearted of them!
Anyway, studios hopefully try to make OPs kickass and strongly representative of a series so that normal viewers will get potentially hooked onto a series, and so that geeks with no lives can analyze them. But what about the poor, neglected EDs? If a guy like zzeroparticle — who runs a music blog! — can write, and I am paraphrasing here, “Shit, man, there really aren’t that many truly memorable EDs!” then what hope do they have?
We have to admit a few things here: 1) EDs just are not as important as OPs. They play at the end of an episode — theoretically, the viewer has already made his or her decision about the series. That person won’t be like, “Fuck, man, Big O really blew huge cock until I saw that sweet ass credits scroll at the end!” That leads into 2) Anime studios are cheap. Not all anime are made on the cheap, of course, but let’s not pretend anime studios are above saving a bit of cash, even during the best of times. (Not that I disapprove of this, mind, since I am such a penny-pinching bastard myself.) What better way to kick the budget up a couple of notches by half-assing the ED sequence? Who’s going to give a shit, right? And those two combine into 3) There’s no real accepted, widespread way to do ED sequences . . . although that might be less true with each new season.
Now, I can’t sit here and definitively say that the way studios approach EDs has completely changed over such and such time, because I just don’t know that. But in the short time I have kept up with the current seasons (about a year-and-a-half now), I have seen more bold attempts to give EDs unique identities.
From what I’ve seen, EDs fall into three categories: 1) Pretty basic credit scroll with little to no animation; good way to save some money, although people such as myself might not give a shit if there’s an awesome song attached (think Cowboy Bebop‘s ED), 2) Basic credit scroll but with a decent attempt at animation, although nothing too fancy (think Wolf’s Rain‘s ED) and 3) Studios actually break the bank and create what amounts to a second OP (think Eden of the East‘s ED).
Now I could just be a total friggin’ n00b, and EDs could have been made in the same ratio for years without me noticing (I barely watched the things until recently, so that is very possible), but I do think studios are trying a bit more. I took a cheap shot at K-On! earlier, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy its ED. Hanamaru Kindergarten has had a different ED each episode, and SHAFT of course usually likes to go wild with its EDs (as with everything else). And there are some more I’m forgetting because my memory blows. These are of course the exception, rather than the rule, but it’s a start, right?
EDs can be as fun and interesting as OPs — their identity is ambiguous (are they used to let people down slowly after an episode? to amp them up even more? to just say, “OK, the episode is over, now get the fuck outta here”?), and I say that ambiguity is a positive. It’s free reign to do whatever the hell a studio wants with the ED! In the grand scheme of things, who is going to care that much if it sucks? If the studio has to shave a bit of money, then that’s what has to happen . . . but if they get a chance to try something different or interesting, then why not?
A favorite ED sequence of mine — and I’ve probably blown this series in enough places, but one more never hurt — is Kaiji‘s. It’s not terribly complicated, but in combination with the OP it tells the viewer absolutely everything there is to know about Kaiji.
There’s the OP. Simple story: Kaiji falls into the trap of gambling (with the Japanese Ramones ripping out an awesome tune behind him), but since he’s such a badass he’s all, “FUCK YEAH GAMBLING”, is seduced by the promise of big cash and is ready to lay a gambling beatdown on the rat bastards who put him in such crappy situations. Then each episode happens and Kaiji gets the crap beaten out of him physically and spiritually. It’s pretty much a guarantee that Kaiji will end an episode more fucked than he was at the beginning. And then the ED plays.
Really, that song and animation just hit a home run with the misery Kaiji feels each episode. It reminds me of a basic situation of westerns, actually: The cowboy wandering from town to town, never able to settle down because that’s not what he is good at doing. It’s the same with Kaiji — he may be tough as nails, but he’s also a gambling drifter. That’s what he is. The ED makes sure you know that. And you know what the most brilliant part is? If you marathon Kaiji, you start the OP up after you finish the ED . . . and the cycle starts again, just like in the series itself!
It’s not complex, but it just works, you know? And I love that. EDs don’t have to tie into the series in some grand, amazing way, but they’re as much a part of the show as the OP. They deserve a bit more respect, right?
Anyway, I have probably blabbered on long enough. How about you fine people share some of your favorite EDs? Do you actually look for anything in an ED sequence? Is there one (or more) you can point to and say, “Now that is what an ED should be”? Any other OP/ED combos you can think of that really tell the whole story about a series?
This entry was posted on 02/22/2010 at 1:33 am and is filed under Baccano!, Cowboy Bebop, Eden of the East, Eureka Seven, Fullmetal Alchemist, K-On, Kaiji, Random Shit, Wolf's Rain with tags Baccano!, Cowboy Bebop, ED, Eden of the East, Eureka Seven, Fullmetal Alchemist, K-On, Kaiji, OP, Wolf's Rain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.