Sunday, June 12, 2011

Best Ending Themes of Spring 2011

The Pillows, "Comic Sonic". Where do they sit in the rankings?

With all of the shows this spring, it's pretty amazing to see all of the opening and ending themes competing for recognition. Usually, I tend to consider the opening themes to be more structurally sound and a better catch of the eye, but this season's ending themes are nothing to sneeze at themselves. While I will be reviewing the best opening themes later on, here are the twenty ending themes that I feel totally outshine the others.

(All of the CD images are straight from the CD Japan website.)

Last Place. "Atsuki Ya no Gotoku" ("Like A Flaming Arrow") - Tenka Tori Tai
(Battle Girls: Time Paradox ED)

Just a sexy and seductive song to accompany an attempt to rehash the past as an effeminate moe-fest. It's got some wavering background vocals that give it more of a romantic feel, but the song's features are drowned by a lackluster ending animation. The main characters, stripped naked and hidden by computer-generated ribbons, all look like cardboard cut-outs of themselves. Not only is this treatment of the "battle girls" expected (as it was also done for the likes of Samurai Girls), but it's pretty boring too.

20. "Ashita, Boku wa Kimi ni Ai ni Iku" ("Tomorrow, I'm Going to See You") - Wakaba
(Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi ED)

Well, it's a pretty melodic song for the end of the show, but there's a lot that seems to be missing with the ending theme. The animation appears to be a little drier than expected; there's not a lot of movement for much of the ninety seconds. While Wakaba is a talented trio, having sung the ending theme to the 2008 Yatterman redux, something sounds auto-tuned in their vocals. Basically, I could go through the anime without needing the ending theme, but it's not too terrible that it is useless on its own as a song.

19. "Manatsu no Photograph" ("Midsummer's Photograph") - azusa
(Astarotte's Toy ED)

Yes, it's creepy to think of a ten-year-old girl's silhouette reaching for the hand of an adult male while this serene song is sung by Azusa, a veteran anime singer-songwriter from her days in the unit Sparkling Point (Monkey Turn V, MÄR). However, the animation matches the song, unfolding a bit like a picture book before bedtime. Once again, though, the quiet song and cotton-candy animation fail to address the fact that this is all for a show about a succubus who has to chu-chu for a living.

18. "Dōnimo Tomaranai" - Amanokisaki Gasshōdan
(Maria Holic Alive ED)

While I've really enjoyed the opening and closing for the first season of Maria Holic, it's harder for me to agree that the second season has produced a solid pair of songs to match. The opening "Runrunriru Ranranrara" from Yû Kobayashi may be fun to watch and hear, the same isn't quite so for the ending. The animation is a bit of a mish-mash of styles, while the song itself, a cover of Linda Yamamoto's 1972 smash hit, has to brave the differing vocal stylings of the cast. It just doesn't click with me like many of the openings and endings that Shaft has produced.

17. "Humming Girl" - Aoi Yuki, Kaori Fukuhara, Minako Kotobuki and Yumi Uchiyama
(A-Channel ED)

The song from the four voice actresses for the show's main characters at least gets your head swaying back and forth while they head home for the day. Hard to put my finger on what the song reminds me of, as it's spun with a slow poppy guitar and a bubbly trumpet, but it at least puts a warm blanket on the show as it ends. Clever that they make the animation span all four of the seasons.

16. "Tsumasakidachi" - Kanae Itô
(Softenni ED)

It's not exactly an ending theme that encourages the safest of practices—jumping off a stories-tall chain-link fence, floating through the air, and landing perfectly on a tennis court—but the song's good for sparking that sense of "can-do-anything" attitude. It's healthy for Softenni's philosophy, one that encourages kids with little talent to still aim for the top. Still a little too simple in animation to place higher, but the song's just about right.

15. "Ai no Yokan" ("Premonition Of Love") - Kami nomi zo Shiri-tai
(The World God Only Knows II ED)

While the songs in TWGOK's openings are more elegant and Victorian in establishment, the ending themes have done a good job at agreeing with the feel of the show—uplifting and airy. I could perhaps do without the "PFP" video-game system that we always see Keima with, but I suppose it's a vital part of the program. It's here more for the song, as the melodies sung by Season Two's voice actresses crisscross rather well.

14. "NEVERLAND" - Miyuki Hashimoto
(We, Without Wings ED)

Well, at least the simple-and-(relatively)-clean ending theme for We, Without Wings manages to make things a little more palatable on the soul. After watching such a disproportion in coherence during the show, the windy ending song from Miyuki Hashimoto is accompanied by some decent animation transitions. It's not great, but compared to the show itself, it will have to do as its forte...

13. "Minna Kutabaru Sasasa" ("Everybody's Exhausted ZZZ") - The Moonriders feat. Yoko
(Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera ED)

Shhhhh. The entire cast is sleeping through this ending, only to experience dreams of heaven near the end. At least, from the way that Enma-kun and Yukiko-hime appear in the first scene, clothing all ragged on their prone forms, I'm really hoping they're all sleeping. It's a restful end to a show known for its activity, with just enough Nytol in the music to act as a sleeping aid.

12. "Shiny Shiny" - DWB feat. NIRGILIS
(Deadman Wonderland ED)

It's an interesting dichotomy that the producers present for Deadman Wonderland's ending theme—considering how haunting and nightmarish the opening was, it's enough of a curveball to be thrown at the audience. Airy, light, and "shiny", we're given the peaceful other side of each character before they likely were recruited into Deadman Wonderland's freaky side of Disney.

11. "Hoshi no Sumika" ("Bed of Stars") - Aobôzu
(Tiger and Bunny ED)

"Seishun punk" has been a term that has floated about in Japanese rock circles since the late 1990's, something of an amalgam created by the harder rock influences of The Blue Hearts and Western pop-punk units like Green Day. Bands such as 175R and FLOW have lasted for a while, but some are still gaining attention and popularity. Aobôzu has been around for eight years, and they finally are getting some recognition. The animation maybe be your typical "walking-in-snow" trailer, but "Hoshi no Sumika" is a great song that rings from the wonderful vocals of lead singer Hozzy.

10. "Comic Sonic" - the pillows
(Sket Dance ED)

Yes, it's not exactly the thrill-a-minute music you may have grown up with when you watched FLCL on Cartoon Network, but let's not forget the pillows have aged too. It's a pretty good representative song for the lads from Hokkaidô, as their music does resemble the Beatles quite a bit. The animation isn't complex, the characters watching their deeds roll before them like a classic 1980's slide projector. Good to see the pillows return to animation in this form.

9. "Take Off" - 2PM
(Blue Exorcist ED)

This ending theme is a bit of a surprise. There's nothing incredibly significant in the animation that identifies it as part of Blue Exorcist unless you look carefully at the billboards and screens that fly by the car-hood-camera angle. It's more impressive, however, that this song was sung by a Korean boy band. The pronunciation is quite articulate, and the song itself is a fun listen. Considering 2PM's caught like wildfire in Japan, I suppose I shouldn't be at all that surprised.

8. "Tokitsukasadoru Jūni no Meiyaku" - PHANTASM
(Steins;Gate ED)

What makes Steins;Gate work on multiple levels is the way the show toys with time in a very gothic manner (or at least in the way I perceive the show). The ending animation may be just a simple reconstruction of a shattered hourglass, but the accompanying music from the unit PHANTASM is good for giving the show that underlying sense of mystery. More importantly, the vocals from Yui Sakakibara, a veteran of all things Akihabara from voice acting to singing, really give the song a flair for the dramatic.

7. "Freedom" - Home Made Kazoku
(Naruto Shuppûden ED)

Normally, I don't find myself choosing an ending from a long-running show like Bleach or One Piece, but I do have to make one tiny exception this season. The guys at Home Made Kazoku left such a good impression on me at Otakon that I think they just might be one of the better Japanese rap acts out there. The animation is clever without being too cumbersome, and the song has just enough impact for the action that Naruto has developed.

6. "RPG" - School Food Punishment
([C] ED)

While I wouldn't exactly label the action in [C] to resemble an RPG, the whole concept of it resembling a video game (where the tokens are your first-born) really meshes with the digitalized music from School Food Punishment. Some really creative uses of computer graphics here gel with the crushing electronic zizz, only to fade from the jazzy piano and soothing lyrics from Yumi Uchimura. Incredibly artistic for an ending theme without straying too far from the show's overall impression.

5. "Ruru" - Etsuko Yakushimaru
(Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko ED)

Leave it to Shaft and producer Akiyuki Shinbo to never settle for just one ending theme animation. We've already gotten morsels from Yakushimaru when she sang the opening themes to Arakawa Under The Bridge, but this quiet march of toy xylophones, double-reed instruments and whistlers is joined by floating UFOs and an ode to E.T. in its three versions, all very enjoyable to watch and listen to.

4. "C kara hajimaru ABC" ("The ABC's Starting At C") - wasureranneyo
(Kaiji Season 2 ED)

I could easily focus on only the shortness of this ending theme (it runs sixty seconds instead of the typical ninety), but there's just something so wonderfully silly about the ending theme for Kaiji's second season. For such a dramatic show, it's hilarious to see Kaiji stumbling through a minute-long relationship with a woman he doesn't particularly like. The punk song accompanying Kaiji's escape from one-sided love is brilliantly angry at relationships in general, resulting in Kaiji's panicked run towards the sun.

3. "Zzz" - Sayaka Sasaki
(My Ordinary Life ED)

There certainly seems to be a soft spot for sleepy ending themes this season—Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera tucked their characters into bed, and the staff at My Ordinary Life present a small stage show to send their audience to Slumberland. The outlines to the characters are pleasantly thinned out to give the final scenes and softer feel to them. While Yukko and Nano are them main characters in the ninety-second ending, the random cartoons in the foreground and background play a convenient role by acting as toys for the scene, and Sasaki's gentle lyrics give the feel that we're in a bedroom, not a theater.

2. "Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ (10 years after Ver.)" - Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu, and Saori Hayami
(AnoHana ED)

Ten years ago, Zone had released their biggest hit "Secret Base", a single used in the television drama Kids War 3. While the single itself never hit the top of the Oricon charts, it did manage to be one of the rare songs that ultimately charted higher (#2) than its first-week ranking (#19) and has sold a total of 900,000 copies. Perhaps it was its longevity during the waning months of the summer, but there have been a few covers of the song, including one that was used for the ending for Kyô no 5 no 3 (Today's Class 5-3).

Due to the fact that AnoHana is set in a reunion ten years after a tragedy, it seems all the more fitting to use a song that captures both lost innocence and nostalgia. The "Ten Years After" version sung by the voice actresses really captures the essence of the original song, and the floral motif looms once again to produce a fantastic ending to each episode.

1. "Samurai Heart (Some Like It Hot!)" - SPYAIR
(Gintama' ED)

There is hardly a doubt that Gintama' has impressed me this season, despite not having seen a single episode from its first four seasons, but what surprised me has been how well the series has managed to space its gags with serious drama. Whole the opening "Tôgenkyô Alien" is like one of those traditional dances with an idiot prancing around with chopsticks in his nose, then "Samurai Heart" totally fits the alternative, a scene straight out of a Kurosawa film.

At first, I wasn't quite aware of the impending reason why we'd see the staredown between characters in the rain, but chalk it up to the producers to do a good job to tease the drama and make it last until the end of the Spring season. Better yet, by providing some strong, passionate music from SPYAIR (the same band that sang "Last Moment" for Bleach), the ultimate duel between Gintoki and his new rival Doromizu feels even more energetic. There's something definitely grand about an ending animation that can summarize a story in about ninety seconds without spoiling a single thing.

Here's the actual promotional video for SPYAIR's "Samurai Heart (Some Like It Hot!)":

No comments:

Post a Comment