OP/ED Op-Eds: The Best of Winter 2017

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Is Megumi Hayashibara a vampire? Seriously, look at her. She’s supposed to be pushing fifty! Errm, anyway, we’re past the halfway point of this season already, which means it’s once again time to pick our favourite anime song of the season. With JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure absent from the lineup for the first time in what seems to be forever, the path is clear for a larger variety of songs to be featured, most of which from shows probably no one’s even watching. I thought ACCA would be the clear victor this time around, but I’m glad to see our crew taking a cue from the Academy and spreading out the awards just a bit. Unlike the Academy though, we do tend to get blindly won over by catchy jazz tunes. Ow, snap! I’ll be here all night.

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“Heikousen” by Sayuri (Scum’s Wish)

Lots of lovely theme songs this season, surprisingly. There’s the exuberant Persona-eque big band rap of ACCA, daoko’s first ever song for a studio Khara OVA that doesn’t make you want to wash your eyes with bleach, and heck, there’s the first good Sheena Ringo song since, well, the one she did for the last season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. With its dense, experimental arrangement “Imawa no Shinigami” is definitely the greatest song of the bunch – even if it does sound more like the umpteenth Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana homage than the actual real deal – yet because Jel and Artemis will heap more than enough praise on that tune already, I’m gonna take my head out of my ass for once and nominate an ending for its visuals. Enter ‘Heikousen’, Sayuri’s theme song for Scum’s Wish in all of its incarnations. Musically, it’s a rock ballad generic in that particular way only anime songs can be, but visually it’s far and away the most evocative sequence of the season. While its kaleidoscope of still images barely holds a candle to ACCA‘s stylish carnival of colour or the adorable flipbooks of Little Witch Academia, none of that artistic posturing can quite compare to the disturbing simplicity and subliminal graphic imagery of these crude crayon drawings. It’s a debilitating gut punch of a curtain call for a show that is already often physically painful to watch, and a comprehensive summary of its complicated web of atrocity to boot. Oh, joy!

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Imawa no Shinigami” by Megumi Hayashibara (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen)

I rarely vote for openings from shows I’m not watching, but I knew the second I saw this that it would be the best of the season. More than just a good song or interesting visuals, it tells a story. I see a man in the twilight of his life, running out of time to deal with his past that still haunts him and the legacy that he will leave behind. I’m not sure how accurate that is to the story, but that’s a lot to take out of a minute and a half long music video. It gives me chills every time I watch it, and it has definitely motivated me to revisit the series as soon as I can find time.

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“ClassicaLoid Theme” by Tomoyasu Hotei and Stephen Lipson  (ClassicaLoid)

The ClassicaLoid theme resembles the show a great deal, in the sense that it should be an utter disaster and yet somehow manages to win you over with big bright colours, unabashed silliness, and a daffy charm that’s all its own. My classical music teachers are disowning me as you read this, but it’s hard to deny how much goofy fun this blend of classical stings and ridiculous prog-rock extravagance is to listen to. You can just imagine the late Emerson, Lake and Palmer rocking out to this while sticking knives into their instruments and all that overblown 70s pantomime.

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“Shadow and Truth” by ONE III NOTES (ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.)

It came down to this or Onihei‘s OP for me (seeing as how Rakugo has plenty of representation already, and there’s no JoJo this season), but I had to go with ACCA‘s absurd rap/jazz/I’m-not-even-sure-what-genre-of-music-this-is. It’s got cute girls eating cake, hot guys in uniforms, and stylish color overlays! What’s not to like?

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“Soshite… Ikinasai” by Saori Yuki (Onihei)

Between ACCA and Onihei, it’s a strong season for jazzy anime OPs. For me, Onihei’s opening perfectly captures the vibe of the kind of show it could have been. A fantastic mix of pulpy jazz and old Japanese instrumentals, it does an exemplary job of setting the stage for the intense Edo period crime thriller Onihei inconsistently strives to be.

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Imawa no Shinigami” by Megumi Hayashibara (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen)

It might be a crap season for anime, but it’s a great season for anime OPs. First I saw the Onihei OP and thought it was surely going to be the best of the winter, with its stylish visuals and instrumental jazz-fused take on the more traditionally Japanese fare. Then I saw the ACCA OP and figured that would be the best of the winter, courtesy of its equally stylish visuals, catchy vocals, and slick blend of more contemporary jazz and funky pop (with a side of hip-hop). And then the Rakugo Shinjuu OP happened, and wow. Just wow. ACCA might just have the catchier song, but there’s simply no going past the combination of Sheena Ringo’s music and lyrics, Hayashibara Megumi’s vocals, and visuals eerie enough to literally send a chill down your spine. It’s an altogether classy, sultry, track which, as the title itself suggests, is also deliciously dark and wonderfully creepy – extremely well-suited to the series itself and highly memorable in its own right, not to mention quite unlike any other anime OP I’ve seen to date. If you watch absolutely nothing else of Rakugo Shinjuu, you should at least watch this.

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Did your favourite make the cut? Did we overlook a massive hit? What was the last great song Sheena Ringo released under her own name? Will her career ever be saved? Make sure to let us know in the comments!

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