OP/ED Op-Eds: The Best of Winter 2018

This season, eight cute shows entered the ring in a fight to the death. One will reign victorious, but not in this feature, as our overview of the best theme songs of the season has no love for any of the combatants in The Roundup‘s cute show battle royale extravaganza. What do we have, then? Oddly enough, mostly a parade of songs from all the shows we’re watching, but never talking about. There’s a bit-crushed throwback to the height of the late 2000s, some impressive visuals set to some generic J-Pop and a guy named MC Gohan. Maybe naming yourself after food is the Japanese rap game equivalent of calling yourself “Lil”?

“POP TEAM EPIC” by Sumire Uesaka (Pop Team Epic, duh)

I wanted to give the much vaunted pick of the season to Saori Hayami’s “Jewelry” at first, if only for that adorable shot of Sakura jumping around and spelling out her name, but that was before I heard this disaster of an, err, song. Certified comrade Sumire Uesaka’s opening for Pop Team Epic is as unfathomable and obnoxious as the show itself, a sonic onslaught of arpeggiating synths, overdriven chiptunes and digitized vocals that sounds like the ungodly love child of Justice’s abrasive electroclash and a Vocaloid song from the early days of YouTube. It’s not uncommon for iconoclastic anime to have a theme tune that is a bit… out there, but “Pop Team Epic” stands out for having an actual pop song buried underneath all the noise, not unlike how the eponymous show has actual wit amidst the absurdist anarchy. It’s not a particularly good song, but it’s a fitting one, and in a world where commercial interests select a show’s soundtrack above all else, “Pop Team Epic” should be congratulated for just how appropriate it is. It’s not like we can’t find good music anywhere else.

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“POP TEAM EPIC” by Sumire Uesaka (Pop Team Epic)

Series producer Kotaro Sudo said in an interview that they intentionally made the opening of Pop Team Epic as cool as possible so that it would be ruined by the rest of the show. I’d say mission accomplished. The opening song is indeed very cool, with the slick, pop art visuals particularly grabbing my attention. Maybe that’s just the inner graphic designer in me talking, but I really love the look. I’m also just a sucker for OPs that are wildly mismatched with their show, which seems particularly appropriate considering Pop Team Epic’s sense of humor. I think it’s the most notable OP or ED of the season, but let me just slip a quick shout out to Laid Back Camp shamelessly ripping off The Jackson 5. Good times.

“Apron Boy” by DJ Misoshiru & MC Gohan (Today’s Menu for Emiya Family)

Didn’t think I’d sneak Fate back on this feature, did ya? Joke’s on you! It’s a pretty decent season for OP/EDs, but unless there’s a clear outlier of excellence, I try to go for something nobody else is picking. I had a hard time picking between this or Devilman Crybaby, but I had to go with my heart here. Fate‘s been on a recent upturn in popularity and downturn in quality, apart from this little monthly gem starring all the original cast hanging out and cooking, and this OP (and the ED for that matter) encapsulate the cozy, domestic-life vibe missing from most Fate anime adaptations. And Lancer brought beer!

“Kiss of Death” by Mika Nakashima (Darling in the FRANXX)

For all that FRANXX is a triumph of style over any sort of substance, there’s one place where that pays off handsomely – it’s impressive opening sequence. Nakashima’s vocal is haunting and strong, and it’s paired with a great blend of powerful piano, simmering electronic beats and J-Pop hooks. There’s a melancholic and mysterious feel to it that is entirely absent from the actual show it heads, and it’s paired with some wonderful graphic design. Check out that amazing logo, or the understated and tasteful use of electronic distortion and chromatic aberration to add some grit to the beautifully synchronised visuals. Like all the best OPs it hints at an idealised form of the show that its promoting, one which sadly reality doesn’t live up to.

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“POP TEAM EPIC” by Sumire Uesaka (Pop Team Epic)
“Kiss of Death” by Mika Nakashima (Darling in the FRANXX)

My actual pick would probably be Pop Team Epic’s stylish anime nightmare opening sequence (or Devilman Crybaby’s which shamelessly cops the Netflix original series opening sequence aesthetic) but seeing as enough people have given it its props, I feel better about highlighting one of FRANXX’s few saving graces. Darling in the FRANXX’s OP is some of the most visually striking motion graphics work I’ve seen in a long time. The font treatment, the way imagery slides on and off the screen, the limited color palette, even the usage of chromatic aberration in a way that doesn’t feel excessive, it’s just aesthetically appealing on every level. Almost all the more a shame it’s attached to such an uneven show, but this isn’t the first nor last time a beautifully crafted OP has been too good for the show it headlines.

“Flashback” by MIYAVI vs KenKen (Kokkoku)

Gosh, what a good season for anime music. It was a tough choice between this, GARNiDELiA’s BEATLESS OP and Nakashima Mika’s OP for Darling in the FRANXX, but Flashback just about edges it for me. First and foremost, it’s a damn good song. MIYAVI is just so damned good with a guitar, and hearing him slap those strings never gets old. The addition of the drop and chorus completely changes the song up towards the latter half, with the song getting an almost eerie vibe. The animation is perfect for the song, too, and it’s easy to see how much work went into this just looking at the timing alone. But timing aside, the animation remains interesting in its own right; I love the colours, I love how strange it is, and every time I watch this I feel like I should actually, you know, watch this show?

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“Ref:rain” by Aimer (After the Rain)

Aimer’s distinctively husky vocals, especially in comparison to the rather high-pitched and often quite nasally style that many female J-pop artists are known for, is a lovely fit for heartfelt ballads like this one. I never get the impression that Aimer is going out of her way to be angsty, but the quality of her voice is such that especially in these slower-paced tracks, it naturally creates an intensely melancholic and nostalgic atmosphere. This just so happens to suit the general tone of After the Rain very well indeed, as do the lyrics – I admit I have no idea whether this song was created specifically for the anime, but even if it wasn’t, it could scarcely have been a better fit.

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Did your favourite make the cut? Did we overlook a massive hit? Is Sumire Uesaka a tankie? Make sure to let us know in the comments!

 

5 thoughts on “OP/ED Op-Eds: The Best of Winter 2018

  1. I’m a huge fan of the OP’s for Laid Back Camp and Yorimoi… Neither seems to have the cut. I’m not actually watching any of the shows that made the cut…

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