10. Pikachu no Uta by Ikue Ohtani
Show: Pokemon XYZ
Studio: Toei Animation
There’s no deep meanings here. No leaps in animation. No special effects. Just pure, unadulterated cuteness. It’s Pikachu singing alonside a colony of pikachus. They’re cute, the song’s cute, and Ikue Ohtani’s voice as Pikachu (and no doubt the other pikachus gathered) is a delight to listen to. The song is catchy and I’ve had it stuck in my head for days. It’s just…It’s adorable. It made it on this list through sheer cuteness alone. Oh, and there’s a giant ketchup bottle which is apparently a call back to an old episode from the first season, so kudos to Toei for contiuity.
9. Hide & Seek by Kenichi Suzumura
Handa is a socially inept mess and this song really drives that point home. The song is about someone (very likely Handa) that just doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. He doesn’t want people to look at him, preferring to keep to himself, hiding from the eyes and stares of others. Unfortunately for Handa, he unknowingly becomes the most popular guy in school and is constantly drawing attention to himself without meaning to. The song is also very upbeat, with a catchy tune and Suzumura’s well suited voice providing the vocals. The characters’ movements perfectly match the infectious guitar beats, and as the series progresses, more and more characters are shown walking behind Handa, once again driving home how he’s unknowingly amassed a huge following despite his anti-social tendencies. But when he eventually overcomes his social anxieties, it makes that smile he flashes at the end even more rewarding to see.
8. You Only Live Once by Wataru Hatano
Show: Yuri!!! on Ice
You Only Live Once is an upbeat, techno song that’s as happy and carefree as it sounds. The singer describes someone that’s bright and breathtakingly beautiful, using words and phrases to that same effect. The video makes use of Instagram, a social media app. I’ve never seen an anime’s opener or closer use a form of social media as it’s main focal point, but the way that it’s used here is very creative and well done and I hope to see other anime try something similar to this in the near future. The pictures are also a lot of fun to look at, as it gives the viewer a look at the skaters’ more casual sides outside of the rink. The way that Yuri gracefully runs around the beach with fireworks in hand also indicates that he may be the breathtakingly beautiful person the singer is referring to. Regardless, both the song and the video are a lot of fun to watch and listen to and I never grow tired of seeing it wrap up the show.
7. Fighter by Bump of Chicken
Show: March Comes in Like a Lion
Studio: Studio SHAFT
The title Fighter fits this song perfectly. Rei is a teen suffering from depression, and the show has him attempting to overcome his past regrets with the help of his found family, three sisters that offer him a place of reprieve against his otherwise gloomy days. Likewise, this song is about finding light within the darkest times. It starts out with a scared, unsure tone and a story of pain and loss before reaching a more hopeful tone once it reaches the chorus, now carrying with it words that reflect warmth and happiness. Its tone is similar to the opening with the way its hopeful message overcomes its earlier, sombre tone, and the way the visuals match up to the song, with Rei jumping out of the river and overcoming his past at the very end, is once again brilliantly executed.
6. Mashi Mashi by NICO Touches the Wall
Show: Haikyuu!! Season 3
Studio: Production IG
This is yet another song that has a “Never Give Up” kind of motto formed at its core. It’s an encouraging song that inspires the listener to take charge, hold on to their beliefs and not second guess themselves. Coupled with these empowering words is a bombastic beat and the kind of “la la la’s” that one can’t help but sing along with. It’s a shake your head to the beat kind of song, and it’s carried by the high energy displayed by the band’s lead singer. While the video features still images, there’s somehow still so much movement present and you can see so much of each character’s personality based on their pose and expressions. Seriously, the posing here is great and incredibly dynamic, which matches up to an equally dynamic, fun song. Good luck trying to get that beat out of your head.
5. Pipo Password by Teddyloid feat. Bonjour Suzuki
Show: Space Patrol Luluco
Studio: Studio Trigger
Despite all the crazy goings on, what Space Patrol Luluco is really about is a young teenage girl experiencing her first love. Pipo Password is a sweet, bouncy love song told from Luluco’s perspective as she tries to convey her love to her crush, Nova. Bonjour Suzuki’s sweet, soft voice delivers this equally sweet song really well, and the mixes and beats supplied by Teddyloid add a unique tone that makes the song stand out from your typical J-pop love song. The song is accompanied by adorable cutout images of Luluco as she traipses around real life Japan, adding even more unique flavor to an already stand out ending theme. It’s an adorable song that really succeeds in making the viewer want to root for Luluco.
4. FLIP FLAP FLIP FLAP by To-MAS feat.Chima
Show: Flip Flappers
Flip Flappers is a fantastical adventure and this ending theme further explores that. At the start, we see a confident Papika leading a nervous Cocona. The lyrics state that the singer is nervous and unsure, and the accompanying images reflect this. But then we reach the chorus, with Papika and Cocona wearing wide smiles and running hand in hand, the singer also seems to be less scared and more willing to go on adventures to new, exciting worlds. It’s a flighty song with an adventurous spirit to it despite its soothing tone. Chima’s voice has just the right amount of softness to it that sounds almost fluffy and the accompanying tune has a nice, storybook, almost Disney-like, feel to it. The fairy tale-inspired images shown in the background are also quite lovely and act as a great way to further reinforce the mood that both the lyrics and the animations of Papika and Cocona in the lower screen are trying to invoke.
3. All Off by Refrain Boy
Show: Mob Psyho 100
Studio: Studio Bones
This is one of those ending themes that highlight a secondary character instead of the protagonist. The song clues the audience in on Reigen’s hidden depths; that he isn’t just some over confident conman. The singer talks about overcoming past failures and regrets with the same kind of confidence Reigen exudes. The vocals, likewise, manage to deliver these lines confidently, making the lyrics have a larger impact. Much like the opening, the ending also makes a call back to Mob’s internal countdown, albeit much more subtly, when it mentions “Whether it be 0 or 100; 10 or 100 – we’re searching for an answer!” And then it’s made clear who these empowering words are directed towards: Mob. Much like the opening theme, this entire song is meant to act as words of encouragement for the protagonist, and the fact that it’s implied to be from Reigen’s perspective makes this ending theme all the more heartwarming.
I also feel the need to gush about the animation for this ending theme, because HOLY COW. This ending theme was entirely animated by Miyo Sato, a fresh university graduate. It was done through a process called glass painting animation that you can read more about here. There’s just so much attention to detail with the way that Reigen moves and how the camera moves around to give the audience a proper perspective on how Reigen views his surroundings. With the knowledge that this song is meant to be an encouraging song directed at Reigen’s pupil, that final shot of Mob, growing from a grade school student to a middle school student in a flash is an even more heart warming sight.
2. Akane Sasu by Aimer
Show: Natsume Yuujinchou Go
Studio: Studio Shuka
Natsume Yuujinchou’s endings always seem to follow the same pattern. Each season tends to switch between summer and winter themes, the accompanying animation is done in water color style, and the songs all had the kind of relaxing warmth that permeates each episode of this long running, beloved series. This season’s ending theme made some slight departures to that typical formula. It’s the first to have a fall theme. The song describes the changing scenery, of leaves falling and red skies. Aimer’s powerful vocals are also quite different from the softer vocals of endings past, but that doesn’t make this song any less relaxing to listen to. The song’s tune is soft and loud where it needs to be, as is Aimer’s voice, and the way that her vocals slowly increase in volume when it hits the chorus make the accompanying bittersweet lyrics hit the listener even harder, especially if that particular episode was one of the more tear jerking inducing ones.
There are two videos for this particular ending theme. The first is a simple slideshow that features leaves and flowers that further invoke the theme of fall, played in the first four episodes. The second, used from episode 5 on wards, is more in line with the type of ending themes the series is known for. What’s especially impactful about it is the way it shows the two divided worlds that Natsume lives in, showing his youkai friends first and his human friends second. I included both, however, due to copyright issues, I was only able to find a piano version of the second version of the ending theme, but I’d still recommend watching the video with Aimer’s vocals attached, as it syncs quite well with the animation, particularly the part where she bids farewell in the chorus and the camera zooms past Natsume and up into the red sky and ends with a final shot of Natsume’s foster parents. It’s a beautiful, bittersweet song, but it certainly doesn’t lack the kind of warmth the series is known for and it does a good job of closing each episode, regardless of whether the episode ended on heartwarming note or a bittersweet one.
1. Sore wa Chiisa na Hikari no yo na by Sayuri
Show: Erased (Boku Dake ga Inai Machi)
Studio: A-1 Pictures
This ending theme is a treat for the eyes and ears. The pitch of Sayuri’s voice fits well with the tone that the song is trying to emit and the guitar riffs add a mysterious flavor to the song, making it a perfect fit for a time travel crime drama. The accompanying animation is absolutely gorgeous, with cleverly hidden clues and symbols that foreshadow later events in the story. Literally any cap could be taken from this ending theme, and it could act as a standalone art piece. The way that lighting, colors, and perspectives are used add more depth to each scene, particularly the framing for most scenes that have the characters’ facial features hidden from view…with one notable exception The song is told from Satoru’s perspective, expressing his regrets in his inability to save Kayo in the past and doing nothing to aid her when she was in pain even before her gruesome murder. But in the end, he makes a determined promise to save both her and their futures.