Fruits Basket ended on the fourth volume of the manga it was based on. Four out of 23 manga volumes. The anime barely covered a quarter of this beloved shoujo fantasy, and despite its immense worldwide popularity, it never got a second season to continue where it left off, to the disappointment of many. With so many older shows suddenly getting reboots, it would be a crying shame to leave this classic out. If it ever does get remade, though, hopefully it’s done by a different studio. Sorry Studio Deen, but you don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to making well animated shows.
Ouran High School Host Club
Yet another classic shoujo series, this one still retains its worldwide popularity to this day and many fans consider it to be a classic. Unlike the rest of the shows on this list, Ouran was lucky enough to be animated by Studio Bones, so the show still looks great to this day. So rather than getting a full reboot, this show would probably better benefit from simply getting a new season and picking up where the show last left off before it delved into its anime original ending.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
The anime adaptation of this Shounen Jump action comedy actually covered a good amount of its source material, with seven seasons and 203 total episodes. It’s a rarity among shounen anime in that it actually managed to add more necessary information in its filler episodes rather than traipsing around aimlessly until the manga caught up. Sadly, it ended before the anime and since the manga’s conclusion, there has yet to be any confirmation for a continuation on the anime’s part. But there is hope. The series is still quite popular in Japan, and D.Gray-Man recently got a new season so it certainly isn’t impossible for this title to be picked up again, though it would probably benefit from a full reboot more, given how…badly the animation for the earlier seasons has aged. And if it gets a reboot, there’s a better chance for it to be released for home video! Seriously, why hasn’t this show been licensed yet?!
Much like Fruits Basket, Pandora Hearts ended much earlier on compared to its source material; opting for an anime original ending instead of waiting for the manga to catch up. While the animation for this show wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t all that great either, so I’d personally prefer a reboot for this series as well…But continuing from where the show left off and ignoring the anime original ending in the same manner that Black Butler‘s third season did wouldn’t be ill advised either. So long as they get the original cast back, and Yuki Kajiura to compose the soundtrack, then I’ll be satisfied. Okay, that’s a lie. I really want this show to have great animation too, because the original art style for the manga is great and it deserves better. Okay, I’ve said my piece.
Out of all of the shows mentioned on this list, this show is probably the least likely to get a new season. While it was popular when it still aired, it has since been forgotten by many anime fans, old and new alike. But I still feel like it deserves a proper ending, and if it’s lucky enough to get a reboot, it can gain some new fans to appreciate the charm that made me fall in love with the show when I was a child.
Aaand that’s a wrap! This will be my last post for this blog. To all those who have liked my previous posts, thank you for your support, and if I ever decide to continue blogging, I hope to see you all again!
So continuing off from last week, here are the individual awards for lesser known categories. A niche category, if you will. No hating this time, just love for certain things that I thought deserved some recognition from the anime that aired this past year.
Best Character Designs: Kiznaiver
Courtesy of Mai Yoneyama, the character designs in Kiznaiver are very pleasing to the eye, each one distinct and with enough information tacked to the character to give off the kind of personality they possess. Nico’s childish pigtails and mismatched socks reveal her playful nature, Tengan’s dyed hair and bright yellow shirt proclaim his loud and boisterous personality, and so on. Much like how the opening reveals much of the characters’ personality within the few seconds each one appears, the same can be said of their character designs.
Best Eyecatch: Tanaka-kun is Always Listless
Eyecatches can be as simple as the show’s logo tacked to the lower left side of the screen; some shows don’t even bother going through the trouble of animating an eyecatch. This is not the case Tanaka-kun is Always Listless. Every episode has a different eyecatch that is relevant to the episode’s plot featuring cute chibi versions of the main cast. Often times, sound effects and additional voice acting accompany these brief scene transitions, from Miyano’s hyper active yelling to Ohta’s encouraging “Hang in there.” They’re all adorable to look at and each one puts a creative twist to an often overlooked aspect in anime.
Best Next Episode Preview: Tales of Zestiria the X
One of the best aspects of the Tales Series is the without a doubt the skits. Skits are brief segments that pop up at certain points in the game, often adding more characterization, world building, or highlighting the relationships that certain characters have or develop with each other; though more often than not these tend to lead to some of the most hilarious moments in the games. For the anime adaptation of Tales of Zestiria, ufotable decided to utilize these skits as the next episode preview, adding in even more silly punchlines for both old and new fans to enjoy, thus making each episode’s next preview segment an enjoyable enough watch to patiently sit through the credits and wait for (which shouldn’t be too difficult, since the ending theme is actually pretty nice).
Best Romantic Relationship: Luluco and Nova from Space Patrol Luluco
Luluco’s romance with Nova got off on a shaky, unsure start; but the payoff to all of Nova’s indifference and Luluco’s panicking eventually led to the best written romantic plot I’ve seen in an anime in a long while. It takes time to develop, which is understandable given their young age, especially since this is the first time Luluco’s held romantic feelings for someone. Nova’s lack of response to Luluco’s bashful advances are also justified when it’s later revealed that he comes from a race of aliens that don’t comprehend emotions. But in the end, Luluco’s determination allows her unrequited love to be reciprocated. The eventual devotion the pair eventually shares with each other and the way that their feelings are conveyed make that typical “power of love wins all” cliche actually work, making the final battle scene in the finale that much more satisfying to watch.
Best Platonic Relationship: Haruta and Chika from Haruchika
Chika and Haruta’s relationship is one of the few in anime (or any form of media for that matter) where a pair of close childhood friends can remain close without any sort of romantic tension ever developing; and it’s a rare but wonderful sight to see. The pair share a closeness akin to a sibling-like relationship, though their peers are quick to assume that their relationship may be something deeper. It’s not; and both parties are often quick to dispel any such assumptions. Indeed, their relationship often stays within the boundaries of close friends and never goes beyond that and probably never will. How am I so sure, you ask? Because the first episode established that Haruta is about as straight as Ellen DeGeneres riding a unicorn over a rainbow.
Best Recurring Extra: Mila Babicheva from Yuri!!! on Ice
Mila doesn’t show up often, but when she does, she makes good use of her screen time. From her relaxed, sibling like relationship with Yurio off the rink, to her sillier, teasing side when commenting on some of the more…interesting performances of her colleagues, Mila seems to gain more and more fans each time she appears. Here’s hoping she gets more focus in later episodes.
Best One-Shot Character: Hidaka from Natsume Yuujinchou Go
I have a weakness for cute creatures, and this giant owl-like yokai hits all the marks on my personal cuteness meter. Every time it utters its catchphrase “I super-love”, it makes my heart melt, especially when its lonely backstory is revealed. Natsume Yuujinchou has always succeded in creating lovable characters that the audience can instantly sympathize with in the span of twenty something minutes, and Hidaka is no exception. I can’t help but feel a little jealous of Natsume for getting the opportunity to be hugged by such a large, fluffy youkai.
Best English Dub: Dangan Ronpa 3
BE WARNED: THE ABOVE VIDEO CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE DANGAN RONPA FRANCHISE
I could give this award to 91 Days, which brought back the casting director for Baccano!, and anyone who’s watched the English dub for that should know that he’s no slouch when it comes to perfectly recreating that old American accent from the Prohibition era. I could give it to Yuri!!! on Ice, another good, solid dub that featured believable Russian accents and a few edits to the script that improved upon an already well-written narrative. Instead, I’m recognizing this. Now, I’m not saying the casting is perfect. I still think Greg Ayers makes for an awful Monokuma and I still feel that the casting for the games fit the characters better than their anime counterparts (barring the few who kept their game counterparts’ voice actors). So why am I recognizing this, you ask? Because this dub is hilarious. I don’t know what the script writers were on when they wrote these lines, but it definitely helped to improve some of the more lackluster writing the show’s later half is known for. Thanks to this dub, we get classic lines like: “Kamakura, Kamakura yas queen”; “We live and die by the meme”; “I feel like he’s getting gayer with age”; and the best line: “Yeah, I don’t get this either, pretty sure I died.” So, thanks for the laughs, FUNimation.
Best Expressions: Haikyuu!! Season 3
Mob Pscyho 100 and Show By Rock # were all tough contenders to beat, but once again Haikyuu!! revealed that it hasn’t quite played all of its cards yet. While the latter two shows definitely had some memorable expressions, Haikyuu!! managed to keep the silly expressions coming with each new episodes, even having characters with typically calm dispositions like Suga pull a weird face. There’s only one episode left before this season wraps up, but I have no doubt that there will be more reaction worthy gifs to be made when the final episode airs.
Best Mascot: St. Valentine from WWW.Working!!
This was probably the hardest for me to decide with so many adorable pets and creatures to choose from. The cats from March Comes in Like a Lion, Makkachin from Yuri!!! on Ice, Antaro from Shounen Maid, the tanuki from this same show…But in the end, I chose a caricature of St.Valentine to take this spot. This St.Valentinte is presented in the form of a tiny old man in priest garb giving advice (usually in the matters of love, usually not all that good) to Daisuke, the show’s protagonist. I don’t know what it is about him, but seeing his permanently relaxed expression and hearing him give all kinds of weird advice to Daisuke made me like him a lot more than I expected to. Watching him dance his little jig in the show’s ending theme after each episode just made me love him even more. So there you have it, all those cute pets got beat by some dead old guy.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENDINGS OF DANGAN RONPA 3 AND ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM
Best Show: Mob Psycho 100
Well animated, well directed, and well written, Mob Psycho 100 was the definite show to beat for this season. I was never once bored throughout its run, and despite its crudely drawn character designs, Studio Bones managed to pull out all the stops in making this an attractive-looking show with some of the best fight scenes of this year. Even when some of them made some bad first impressions, I also found myself quickly taking a liking to its cast of quirky characters, especially Mob, who embodies a lot of positive characteristics that I wish more shounen protagonists displayed. If you can look past ONE’s…interesting art style, then Mob Psycho 100 is a show that I can easily recommend to anyone looking for a show with great animation, fighting scenes, well written characters, and a kick butt soundtrack.
Best Comeback: Natsume Yuujinchou Go
Natsume Yuujinchou is a rarity within the shoujo genre. It has a male protagonist, zero chances of any romantic relationships developing, and it’s a long running show that’s reached five seasons, a rarity not just for shoujo anime, but anime in general (unless it’s a widely popular, long running shounen anime like Dragon Ball or Naruto). But there’s a reason for Natsume Yuujinchou‘s unfaltering popularity. It’s incredibly well-written, and even after several years of going through Natsume’s rural town and meeting new yokai, author Yuki Midorikawa always finds new ways to tug at the audience’s heart strings. It’s a sweet, pure (and I mean this in every sense of the word) series, and watching the first episode of this season felt a lot like coming home and being tucked in warm blankets and handed a warm cup of tea.
Biggest Disappointment: Rewrite
Key Visual Arts is well known for having the ability to turn your typical harem visual novel into something more, something with substance, as its previous entries, CLANNAD, Air, Kanon, and Little Busters! can attest to. Those shows had depth; they featured characters that could be sympathized with and likable protagonists who had their own stories to tell and had characterizations outside of the typical “random guy suddenly has all these girls falling for him for no reason” personality dating sim protagonists tend to get slapped with. Rewrite has none of these. It tries though. It tries really hard and ultimately fails. The animation quality is lacking, Kotaro doesn’t make for an appealing or likable protagonist like his predecessors were, and even after their back stories are revealed, the girls maintain their cookie cutter cliched personalities. Oh, and the girls’ uniforms are absolutely ridiculous.
Best Studio: Studio Bones
During this past year, Studio Bones never once let up on the quality that this studio is known for, even when My Hero Academia and Bungou Stray Dogs aired simultaneously. Every show they’ve adapted have been an absolute treat for the senses featuring gorgeous visuals, talented voice actors, and outstanding musical scores. They’ve managed to faithfully adapt the art styles for all of the shows they’ve taken on and brought these characters to life in the best ways possible. I definitely look forward to seeing more of their shows next year!
Worst Studio: Emon Animation Company
I recall sitting down to watch the first episode of Hitori no Shita Outcast…and then immediately dropping it after watching an opening that failed to get me even the slightest bit interested in the show. Emon Animation Company is unique in that it’s a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese animators. It’s also unique in that all of the shows its produced have been absolutely terrible. The animation isn’t bad, not outstanding by any means, but it’s passable. No, what makes the shows produced by this studio so bad is how bad the writing is. I had the displeasure of sitting through two of their shows this season. Bloodivores was so bad that I actually started to feel sick while watching it. Cheating Craft, while not quite as bad, lacked anything in its first episode to convince me to keep watching the show. It also had some of the most terribly sung opening and ending themes I’ve ever heard. So thanks to those horrendous experiences, I now know for sure to stay far, far away from any shows produced by this studio.
Weirdest Popular Trend: Re-imagining Western Historical Figures
I could talk about how there are anime that turns historical swords into pretty boys, or how Donald Trump recently made a cameo in a children’s anime…Instead, I’ve decided to talk about this: re-imagining western historical figures in an anime format. Seeing historical figures in anime isn’t anything new. I’ve seen the Shinsengumi turned into pretty boys more times than I can count, Oda Nobunaga had three anime centered around him in one year, there’s a number of shows set in the Edo period that have historical figures make frequent appearances… But those are all Japanese historical figures. This year, however, saw more anime that featured authors, composers, and founding fathers that the western audience would be more familiar with. However, how accurately portrayed they are all depends on the show they’re in. If there’s one thing I can’t stop getting a kick out of, though, it’s hearing anime!Fitzgerald call everyone “old sport”.
Biggest Cliffhanger: Tales of Zestiria the X
Tales of Zestiria‘s anime adaptation ended in the spot where the plot really takes off in the game. It ends with the introduction of two key characters: a new party member and what will eventually be the final boss. Thankfully, ufotable has already confirmed that the story will continue in the winter 2017 season, but until then, anime only fans will have to wait for about a month longer until the end Sorey’s journey. Here’s hoping the next cour will have better pacing.
Most Unexpected Ending: Dangan Ronpa 3: Hope Arc
Kodaka’s always been good at writing unexpected twists and the Hope Arc definitely delivered on that front. However, whether these twists were good or bad depends on who you ask. In this grand finale, we finally learn the fates of Hajime’s comatose classmates: SURPRISE! They’re all alive and well, looking exactly like they did about four years ago with minimal changes to their appearances. Kyouko manages to cheat death, Ryota is easily forgiven for nearly brainwashing the entire world, and Hope’s Peak Academy is rebuilt with Makoto as its new Headmaster. I still have mixed feelings about the way this ending was handled, but at the very least, we do manage to get closure for the Hope’s Peak Saga. Even if we may never know who the Thirteenth Branch Head is…Actually, no, I’m still upset about that particular plot hole.
Most Disappointing Ending: Erased
Erased tried to condense eight manga volumes into twelve episodes, resulting in poor pacing, plot holes, and the reveal of the killer being poorly executed. Erased started out strong with high production values and a wonder musical score courtesy of Yuki Kajiura. It had strong opening and ending themes rife with clever uses of foreshadowing and symbolism. It had a strong opening episode and some gorgeously animated scenes. For all intents and purposes, Erased should have succeeded as a mystery anime. But due to the aforementioned poor pacing, the writing quality starts to take a dip in the later half where the plot should have picked up but ended up progressively getting worse and worse. If you have any interest in this series, do yourself a favor and just read the manga.
Most Satisfying Ending: Assassination Classroom
The anime adaptation may have skimped out on a number of chapters that focused on the supporting cast, but the anime managed to one up the manga in one aspect: emotional value. Studio Lerche took full advantage of everything the manga adaptation couldn’t utilize during its emotionally charged final chapters: voice acting, music, and of course, animation. Watching Koro-sensei’s students tearfully bid Koro-sensei farewell became even harder to bear as an insert song that has the students’ voice actors singing their graduation song plays in the background; not at all helped by the way that they tearfully say “present” as Koro-sensei takes roll one last time. Jun Fukuyama did a masterful job, switching from his usual silly tone of voice to a more sombre one as he comes to accept his death and finally dissipates into a golden light, which makes for an even more tragically beautiful sight when animated.
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.
10. Coolest by CustomiZ
Show: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
Studio: Studio Deen
This opening is ridiculously over the top, just like the protagonist of the series. It’s loud, fun, and silly, and does a great job of preparing the audience for a comedic show. The video only features protagonist Sakamoto doing ridiculous poses and looking “cool”, “cooler”, and “coolest”. It matches the brand of humor the show is known for, and since Sakamoto is the central character and driving force of the series, it makes sense for him to be the focus of this opening. It may not have any deep meaning, but this opening is sure as heck a lot of fun to watch and listen to, and when you hear the singers yell those random English phrases, you just can’t help but want to shout along with them.
9. S.O.S. by Weaver
Show: Poco’s Udon World
Studio: LIDEN FILMS
Sweet and heartwarming, this is another opening theme that captures the tone of its show perfectly. The song features a bubbly, electronic beat accompanied by the washed out water color style that Poco’s Udon World is known for. The song is about wanting to cheer someone up and to have them smiling genuine smiles again. The singer states that he will never abandon the other person and desperately wants to cheer them up again. The singer’s thoughts are quite similar to the kind of effects Poco has on protagonist Souta. Souta, who is now in his 30’s and struggling to find his purpose in life, is slowly starting to come to terms with both his father’s death and his own personal demons with the help of Poco, whose adorable smile and boundless energy is absolutely infectious. The opening theme also features some nice looking backgrounds and those final few shots of Poco are just too cute for words.
8. Kami Iro Awase by binaria
Show: Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEO AND COMMENTS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE DANGANRONPA FRANCHISE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Against a deceptively soothing song and warm pastel colors lies a sinister message and literal despair-inducing subliminal messages. The lyrics foreshadow class 77’s eventual fall to despair from beginning to end starting with it’s very first lyrics “Hello Despair”; and it’s final words: “The darkness gently leads you by the hand”. This hits even harder when the second version of the opening was aired and the pastel colors turn dark with all of the students of class 77 now bearing red eyes (sans Chiaki). The visuals of this opening are fairly minimalist, but it works and does a good job of reflecting Ryouta’s brainwashing video in the show proper. Of particular note is the scene where Junko literally has class 77 in the palm of her hands before she blows them away and they all literally fall to despair because of Junko’s actions. Adding the red eye symbol that mirror’s Monokuma’s onto Izuru was also a nice touch. And while heartbreaking, the way that Hajime seems to be flickering from existence in the second version of the opening to reflect how he’s lost his original personality was also a nice add-on. There are so many things I could talk about in regards to the foreshadowing and symbolism to this opening, but sadly, I just don’t have the time. But the song, despite it’s despair inducing message, is a nice listen. Annabel and Nagi Yanagi’s voices blend really well and the song has an overall relaxing tone to it. The way that their voices mix together in the chorus especially is almost trance-like, and given the many subliminal messages that the opening video has hidden, it was probably done on purpose.
7. Answer by Bump of Chicken
Show: March Comes in Like a Lion
Studio: studio SHAFT
As the song’s title implies, Answer’s lyrics translates to finding, well, the right answer. As to what exactly, it’s never really specified. But whatever it is, both the singer and Rei seem to have a difficult time looking for it. The singer wistfully wonders if he can ever find the answer and finds it difficult to move without that knowledge. Likewise, Rei has difficulty moving as he struggles against murky dark waters, representing the depression he suffers from. The song starts out lost and confused, much like Rei at the start of the series, but by the end, it gains a more hopeful tone. The gentle chimes that resound through the chorus add a bit more lightheartedness as the song’s heavy atmosphere dissipates and the way it’s represented in the video, with Rei’s happier memories appearing in a golden light, match up with the song perfectly.
I couldn’t find a proper player to link, so only way you’ll probably be able to ind this (by legal means) is by watching an actual episode.
6. Signal by TK
Show: 91 Days
Studio: Studio Shuka
91 Days is a story of revenge wrought with violence and crime. But as is the case for most narratives that focus on revenge, the end result is never worth it. Signal’s lyrics reflect protagonist Angelo’s conflicting feelings on whether to go on with his plans for revenge, especially once he becomes closer to his target. Despite his anger, he’s lonely, he’s been alone for such a long time. But abandoning all those years of planning and hatred isn’t easy, and even when he knows it’s wrong, he still wants to see his plan through. The song’s emotional impact is delivered well by TK, who sings the song with enough raw emotion to deliver an angst-filled message to the viewer even with a language barrier in place. The opening theme also reuses some footage from the show proper, a rarity in anime, but it manages to fit well with the song’s lyrics and further reinforce Angelo’s justified hatred when images of his family’s murder flash by. The final shot of a younger Angelo, scared and infuriated hiding inside a closet before it shifts to his older, angrier self is especially powerful in getting the message of lingering hatred across.
5. Re: Re: by Asian Kung Fu Generation
Show: Erased (Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi)
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Re:Re is a song about past regrets, which fits the narrative of Erased perfectly. The video contains a narrative of its own, starting with protagonist Satorou’s happy childhood before fast forwarding to the tragedies that befall his adult self in the future due to one single regret. The use of film strips representing Satorou’s memories is a clever touch and the way that adult Satorou struggles before he reverts to his child self holding a more determined pose perfectly portrays his newfound resolve to correct his past mistakes after he goes back in time. The opening’s animation contains brilliant timing alongside the accompanying song, which features J-rock vibes and a fluidity that stands out from typical anime openings with the way that the entire song is arranged, particularly the fact that it doesn’t seem to have a clear cut chorus. But it works well, it sounds great, it looks great, and it fits this show like glove.
4. Hikari Are by Burn Out Syndromes
Show: Haikyuu!! Season 3
Studio: Production IG
There’s a looming mountain as the underdogs, our protagonists, walk into view, exhausted but determined. Hikari Are, which in English, literally translates to “Let there be light”, is oddly enough, a love song at its core. But it’s a love song laced with determination and that ever popular sports motto of never giving up. Coupled with some stunning animation and powerfully sung vocals, the end result is the best sports opening theme I’ve seen EVER. PERIOD. Speaking of stunning animation, the imagery and symbolism are brilliantly executed, from the large mountain transforming into an eagle, to the way that Hinata’s spike is compared to a crow’s dive, to the shot featuring a pack of crows fighting against a single, large eagle as the opposing teams walk into the court, to that final shot of the shining championship trophy as the words “Let there be light” ring out one last time; it effectively builds up the kind of hype you want to get from a sports show and the uses of symbolism is absolutely on point. Kudos to you once again, Production IG.
3. Lay Your Hands on Me by Boom Boom Satellites
Studio: Studio Trigger
This opening theme features a nice, relaxing tune in surprisingly good English. As a show that focuses on developing relationships, the lyrics manages to convey this message, with the singer stating that he wants to “fly” into the other person’s heart and pleading for them to stay by their side and grant them affection. The lyrics, while somewhat flighty, could also be the voice of protagonist Katsuhira, who acts as an emotionless blank slate and subconsciously seeks out human affection. What helps carry this opening theme, in addition to its infectious tune, is its lovely accompanying animation. Besides the main characters, the opening doesn’t give away any plot details, but at its core, this show is a character drama and we see enough of the main characters’ personalities each time they appear on screen.
2. History Maker by Dean Fujioka
Show: Yuri!!! on Ice
Despite being entirely in English, this song reflects Yuri’s own thoughts. How he wants to improve, to get better, to become great, to make history. The song offers a techno mashup that pairs surprisingly well with the orchestral instruments in the background that give off the type of tone one would expect from your typical ice skating background music. The rotoscoping is also incredibly well done, which acts as a preview for the many well animated ice skating sequences the show has to over. Later opening themes add in backgrounds as the characters skate by, a nice touch that makes an already stunning piece of animation look even nicer to watch and inspires the viewer to never skip it, as later opening sequences will continue to add in more details. Brilliant animation that pairs off with an inspiring song that adds to the show’s narrative would have easily made this ong my top pick for this year…But a song that aired the previous season had already won my heart over.
1. 99 by Mob Choir
Show: Mob Psycho 100
Studio: Studio Bones
I’ve already gushed about the animation in this opening sequence in an older post, so this time I’ll focus more on the song. It’s yet another song that inspires greatness and encourages being different, “who you want to be”. In a way, it’s a song that encourages the show’s protagonist, Mob, who is very much different from his peers. It’s a song that really matches the show’s tone, much like how ONE’s previous show, One Punch Man‘s opening was very much a song that fit the show. The added effect of the singer counting down in between was also a nice call back to Mob’s own internal countdown from whenever his emotions reach 100%. The opening video is also incredibly well animated and each scene transition is done in fun and creative ways. As amazing as History Maker sounds and looks, 99 succeeds in both sound and story telling, making it my number one pick for this year.
The sports genre in anime has persevered in Japan. Slam Dunk, Prince of Tennis, and Hikaru no Go are all considered classics in its native country…Outside eastern waters? Not so much. Video sales for Slam Dunk and Prince of Tennis were decent at best but Hikaru no Go bombed…and so did Big Windup!, Princess Nine, and any other sports anime that were eventually licensed by American publishers. So for a while, even as new sports anime continued to be produced in Japan, choosing to play it safe, American publishers chose to ignore these shows in favor of genres and franchises that were more likely to succeed.
In 2012, the anime adaptation of Kuroko no Basuke aired and the sports genre slowly seemed to be regaining its ground among western viewers. It wasn’t enough, however, and it took about about eight years before the first volume of the manga was released in English…And the anime still hasn’t been picked up for home video release by any American publishers…No, the first sports anime to be released in home video in English after several years would be Free!
Much like how Madoka Magica shifted the magical girl genre’s target audience, the same could be said for Free! The anime market noted that a large majority of the fans for sports anime like Prince of Tennis and Kuroko no Basuke were female. Why? Because majority of its cast are attractive males. Indeed, most female fans in the series didn’t come for the sport, they came for the pretty boys and the homoerotic subtext that came with having a large male cast.
Free! made its target audience very clear from the very first episode and in its wake, brought about not just more sports anime populated by pretty boys with copious amounts of homoerotic subtext, it also brought about a slew of shows centered around pretty boys doing…well, stuff. Ranging from club activities to performing magical boy activities. Really, what Free! proved most was that there were female anime fans out there that had deep pockets just waiting to spend their money on tie in merchandise and collector’s goods.
Haikyuu!! also played a part in the revival of sports anime in the west. What set it apart from its fellow shounen sports series was how much more realistic the character designs and game plays were. Accompanied by an exciting soundtrack and dynamic animation courtesy of Production IG, Haikyuu proved to be a big enough success for it be released in home video format in the west and for its manga to be translated in English before Kuroko no Basuke’s first volume.
At this point, it’s hard to tell who sports anime are really catering to. Most of them are still published in shounen magazines and its still garners a large amount of male fans. But its merchandise and official art tend to appeal more towards its female fans. You’re more likely to see a figurine, posters, or even hugging pillows of the male characters compared to the handful of female ones. But whatever warrants sales, I guess?