Spoilers suck. They’re absolutely no fun irrespective of the medium, especially if you’ve had an invested interest for a considerable amount of time. Many of my Twitter followers complain about Game of Thrones spoilers when that airs, and while I’ve not seen that show in particular, it’s understandable how infuriating it is to have a surprise taken away from you. In cases similar to Game of Thrones, it’s also unfortunate for those working on the show, as their hard work alluding to events and creating mystery will be made redundant.
However, in the case of big live-action dramas, you’re usually being spoiled by someone completely unrelated to the show’s production. There was no official J.K. Rowling marketing drive announcing what happened at the end of the seventh Harry Potter book – it was ordinary folks spilling the beans, intentionally and unintentionally. Was something spoiled in Breaking Bad? Chances are it was thanks to someone in person, or via social media. Perhaps it was the thumbnail of a YouTube video. Regardless, it was not the shows intention.
So if spoilers suck so much, why are animation studios continually throwing them into anime openings?
That’s not to say shows can never contain spoiler-filled anime openings, it just needs to be thought about. I don’t think anyone expects every Dragon Ball Z opening to feature only Goku and Chi Chi. Similarly, you can assume that everyone watching the second season of a show will have seen the first season, or at least that they don’t care enough to go and watch it first. So sure, show people like Frieza and Cell in your opening, but maybe let the show reveal them first before you ruin the surprise for everyone.
This has bugged me for a long time, but it’s been playing on my mind more so since I finished Nisekoi. In my opinion, the first Nisekoi opening does an absolutely fantastic job of teasing what’s coming up, as well as some of the characters that are set to appear. In particular, it was the use of silhouettes akin to the original Super Smash Bros. opening that was really impressive.
If you’ve not seen Nisekoi before, the opening shows you that two important characters are yet to be revealed. For those who are already reading the manga, their hair accessories are left in so that you can easily identify who they are. It means that most people who see these characters for the first time in the anime will recognize them from the opening silhouette, instantly knowing that they are important to the story. Because we don’t know their faces, we can start to second guess whether other characters are becoming regular cast members. It’s one of the tamer examples, but it’s a great way of building up to a reveal.
Unfortunately, Nisekoi isn’t the perfect example. There is one scene in the opening that contains spoilers. The spoiler refers to what appears next to the locket in the shot below, which I’ve not included because, you know, it’s a spoiler:
This is in the opening from the start, which for Nisekoi is episode two, with the item in question not appearing in the show until episode eight. Why ruin the surprise by showing it in the opening? The first of the silhouette characters had already been introduced at this point, so we knew that Shaft were filling them after they were revealed. It should have also been the case for the above scene, because really, it’s just a case of hiding a few layers in Photoshop. I can understand most studios not wanting the hassle of fiddling with the opening, but considering Shaft was doing it anyway, why not? Incidentally, the second opening is completely fine. Yes, it shows the silhouette characters in their full glory, but this is after they’ve been introduced. That’s fine, because everyone watching Nisekoi every week are not spoiled because of it.
Let’s go back to 1999 for something a little older. One Piece is a pretty popular show, right? Well, it also suffers from spoiler-filled openings. Considering it’s a show with over 650 anime episodes, having a crew member spoiled is a pretty big deal. It doesn’t happen very often, so you’d want to give them as big a fanfare as you can. Let’s take a look at a screenshot from the first opening, before any crew members had joined Luffy:
Yes, that’s the first four additional crew members revealed, so as soon as you see them appear in the episode itself, you’re literally waiting for them to join. Now, perhaps I’m being too picky in this instance. After all, the first five members of the crew are extremely well known, and knowing who they are wouldn’t be a massive turn-off. However, some of these characters are in pretty sticky situations when they first appear, and knowing that these issues will be resolved one way or another to allow them to join the crew sucks the tension out of them. I could also have tried to scribble out the ship from the above image, but you get the idea.
It’s hard to say whether there’s anyone even remotely interested in One Piece that doesn’t already know these five characters, so as much as I disapprove of showing them before they officially join the crew, I’ll let it slide. However, there is another One Piece example that is totally not cool:
This is a screenshot from the third opening, which was introduced during episode 116. The character I’ve scribbled out joins the crew during episode 130, over three months after the debut of the new opening sequence. However, there’s an even more important reason why this is a problem, and it’s to do with the character themselves. It’s a spoiler to say exactly why it was a dumb inclusion (ha!), but let’s just say that it ruins an incredible surprise. When I was watching the series, I had no idea who joined the crew aside from the original five. Discovering this person joins the crew by way of the opening was incredibly disappointing.
For something a little more recent, we can look at the opening to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. Below is a shot of Jotaro and his entourage of bad dudes:
Note that Avdol and Grandpa JoJo are left intact, due to their early appearance in the show. However, the folks on the far left and right are scribbled out. Yes, they are integral to the plot, but you have to remember who they are, and how they were introduced. I’d seen the OVAs for JoJo Part 3 long before the reboot, so I was unfazed by their inclusion. However, I was also watching this with my brother, who went on to tell me how much he thought it sucked that they were revealed in the opening animation. Given that he had no ties to the JoJo franchise at this point (he’d tried watching part one, but didn’t enjoy it) the spoiler really put him off the show. You have to remember that this scene doesn’t only spoil who joins the main troupe, but rather it spoils the outcomes of their meetings, too. For example, you cannot claim in a show that someone is going to die if you already know full well that it is impossible for it to happen.
To finish up, let’s go to an extreme example. Here is a scene from the opening of Dragon Ball Kai‘s second season:
I figured it would be quicker to make a black rectangle than to attempt to scribble out everything that shouldn’t be there. Now, Dragon Ball is in a strange position, given that the anime is already many years old. For those of you that haven’t seen it and don’t particularly want to see it, the opening is basically an abridged version of the Majin Buu arc in its entirety. That’s the final arc of Dragon Ball Z, and the arc that Dragon Ball Kai is currently in the process of abridging. The opening of the show has spoiled everything that the show intends to…show you. Sure, you don’t get all the details, but every single major plot point appears in this minute and a half. I’m not kidding.
So the real question is, does Dragon Ball Z‘s age mean that this is okay? Well, sure, I guess. That is, if you don’t care about generating a new audience. See, there are many people like myself, and I would say that we’re in the majority, that are watching Dragon Ball Kai for nostalgia reasons. We already know everything that is going to happen, and we’re watching it to see an abridged (and vastly improved) version of a show we’re already a fan of.
I’m not a kid any longer, for better or for worse, but there are kids these days that don’t know what Dragon Ball is, be it the original series, Z, Kai or even GT. That might be hard to come to terms with, but it’s the truth. There are children and adults alike all over the world watching Dragon Ball Kai as an entry point to the series. If they’ve seen the opening, then they’ve already seen all the twists and turns this show has to offer.
There’s obviously more to the show than that, and I’m not claiming that there’s no enjoyment to be had from the series if you know these events are coming. However, just imagine how much better it would be if people went into these shows not knowing what was coming up. What if these people could follow the hints to big events that are dropped during the show itself, and not from the karaoke segment at the beginning, five episodes premature.
The solution is a pretty simple one.