When a film ends and the credits roll, the audience gets up to leave (unless it’s a Marvel film). When a TV show ends, the credits tend to show off a plain, black screen, reused shots from the show proper, or, as is the common trend in recent years, overlaid on an extra scene from the show. Cartoons tend to put less effort in ending animations as well, usually consisting of either a single image, looping animation, or any of the other options mentioned above. So why is it that anime tend to put in a little more effort to the animation in their ending themes?
In the ending theme for Kiki’s Delivery Service, an animated epilogue is shown as the credits roll. Hayao Miyazaki stated that his reason for doing this was so that the Japanese audience wouldn’t be bored while waiting for the credits to end, because they aren’t let out of the theater until the credits finish rolling. In fact, it’s considered impolite to leave while the credits are still rolling. So it’s safe to assume that most Japanese also sit through all of the credits for a TV show…And that’s when other animation studios decided to take a page out of Miyazaki’s book and make their show’s closers more entertaining to sit through.
There are still a few anime here and there that produce ending themes that solely consist of still images (sometimes just one or two), a looping animation, or a large image that the camera slowly pans out of. However, in recent years, ending themes in anime have become more and more creative in closing out the show. I mentioned in my last post that some animators enjoy trying out experimental animation in opening themes…Well, they’re probably even more likely to do that with closers. Opening themes serve as an introduction to the show’s narrative, whereas the closer already assumes that you’re already acquainted with the story and its characters. So what are you more likely to find in ending themes?
A Shift in Art Style
Animators are more limey to have creative freedom in animating the ending credits than the opener. This gives them the option of either staying consistent with the series’ art style, or try out other types of coloring, palettes, or maybe just go for a different style entirely. And while they are permitted to shift gears in terms of art direction, the ending still needs to be related to the series narrative. In fact the ending theme that the gif is taken from below actually spoils the death of a major character through clever uses of symbolism that syncs up with the song’s lyrics.
This type of ending theme is used when the animators decide that it’s high time they put the characters in a different setting. It may not be directly linked to the series’ narrative, but the characters featured are still very much in character and act accordingly to the What If? scenario they’re plunged into. Plus, it’s always nice to see characters placed in a different setting, and it will more than likely spawn a few fan fiction here and there.
Some ending themes will feature one character exclusively, and more often than not, they’re not the main character. The character chosen for these type of ending themes are usually either the secondary main character or the mascot character. If the star of the ending theme is given to the series’ deuteragonist, then that character’s growth or character arc will be the main focus. A secondary character is usually chosen to shed more light on them, as they’re the second most important character in the show, but for the most part, the perspective is told from the main character’s point of view. Now, if the ending theme’s starring role is given to a mascot character, then don’t expect to get any deep, hidden meanings behind it. It’s probably just going to be teeth-rottingly cute.
Even More Foreshadowing
If the animation director for the opener felt that the opening didn’t have enough foreshadowing, then they’re probably going to cram even more in the closer. Whenever this is the case, art shift is usually a close companion that works well in subtly bringing up plot twists through use of cleverly placed symbols and hidden messages.
A trend in more recent anime, particularly those that focus on the idol industry. Ending themes that feature dance sequences also give the animators a clearer idea of what to include instead of sketching out ideas over an AU they’ve concocted or where they’ve decided to cleverly hide a message spoiling a character’s tragic fate. However, given how difficult it is to animate dance sequences (a topic I plan to expand on in a later post), these tend to be hit or miss…Especially if the animators decide to use CG models or motion capture instead. But when they do nail it…Boy do they nail it.
Something to Think About
Animating isn’t easy, and just as much work can go to an ending theme as an opener. So maybe the next time you watch an anime, maybe sit through the credits long enough to appreciate the effort put into the animation? Oh, and some anime tack something extra at the end of the credits, so there’s that incentive too.