Saturday, April 21, 2012

Musical Chairs #2 Bittersweet Anime Ending Themes

For any Anime fan who has ever had to watch a series one episode at a time (as in, the series was still airing on TV and you couldn't just marathon through it from start to finish), you've probably found at least a handful of series that the ending of an episode was a bittersweet moment in and of itself. You're left with a song that is literally the last thing you hear and it has a lingering impression on you as the credits roll before your eyes.

There are tons of forgettable anime ending themes because they either don't fit the tone of the show or the theme isn't utilized in the actual series in any meaningful way. It also doesn't help that the animation budget just isn't large enough to support having interesting visuals for most endings so the viewer is left with either still images or minimal animation and the song has to carry itself (unlike the opening theme).

Below are examples of incredible ending themes that have a larger impact if you've seen the series but are still amazing songs on their own. I should note that I can't possibly put every single astounding track on here so you'll have to forgive me if I left out a favorite of yours. There were already several personal choices I decided to drop to try and narrow the list down into something manageable (such as Tiger and Bunny and FLCL's ending themes). Remember, these aren't just badass ending themes like Deathnote's Zetsubou Billy. These are songs that are integral to their series, have a deep meaning in context with the show, and have been known to fill the eyes of fans with tears.

Anime: Outlaw Star
Song: Hiru no Tsuki by Akino Arai
This was my first encounter with an ending theme that was not only mystical but left me with a sense of wondering why my heart felt so heavy. It's a somber lullaby that actually connects with points in the series and is heard more often than just the credits. The lyrics encapsulate the sense of drifting memories, fragments of hope, and feelings of pain that the characters of the series share and it can't be forgotten.

Anime: .hack//SIGN
Song: Yasashii Yoake by See-Saw
Classical themes mixed with celtic sounds fit the series perfectly. You can picture a feather floating on the wind as the characters wander the lands of the game as an escape from their real lives and all the baggage that it entails. Variations of this theme get played throughout different parts of the series and they're always accompanied with visuals of characters searching in some fashion. Whether they're searching with their thoughts or searching different destinations, there's always something on everyone's mind and what they're hoping to find. This song sings their very thoughts.

Anime: Cowboy Bebop
Song: Real Folk Blues by (performed by The Seatbelts, vocals by Mai Yamane, composed and arranged by Yoko Kanno, and lyrics by Yuho Iwasato)
The entire soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop still stands as one of the best anime soundtracks ever created and Yoko Kanno is the driving force behind this soundtrack and several other piles of gold in anime. The Real Folk Blues fits like a glove, being drenched in jazz, for expressing the memories of the main characters as they're all connected deeply to their pasts. See you, space cowboy.

Anime: Nabari no Ou
Song: Hikari by Elisa
I can't even discuss this one without bringing up spoilers of the show so let's just leave it at that as far as story elements go. I will say that something I found interesting about this song is how the listener can easily pick up on the personal tale of loneliness here even without watching the anime or understanding the language.

Anime: Bakuman 2
Song: Monochrome Rainbow by Tommy Heavenly6
This song manages to barely sneak onto the list thanks to the proper timing and placement of the song. On its own, it's just a solid song with sorrowful tones. In the show it was used to powerful effect by enhancing the story as it started to fade in during cliffhanger events at the end of each episode. This theme becomes ingrained with the viewer as synonymous with all of those heartfelt moments.

Anime: Honey and Clover
Song: Waltz by Suneohair
Waltz comes from the series that might as well define the term bittersweet. This series got the most mileage out of its ending theme by playing variations throughout the episodes and pulling off the same technique mentioned in the previous entry. It doesn't just cement itself with the longing and tearful moments of the ending but manages to be sprinkled throughout the show until it defines itself as the actual theme of the series. This melancholy-inducing song becomes just as close to the viewers as any of the characters in the show and that's incredibly difficult to pull off.

These are the kinds of ending themes that stick with the viewer for years. Or you know... you could just have Lucky Star's Izumi attempting karaoke of DBZ's Cha-la Head Cha-la. Yeah... I guess there's that.

This is Kylak signing out...


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