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Hello! Welcome to the first post of what will, hopefully, be a long string of long-winded anime-based rants! My name is Tom. A pleasure to have you know my name. I figured that I might as well hit the ground running. Nothing like an actual post to spice up a boring “Hello World” empty blog template, eh? It will give me something to look at while I fiddle with things and make everything pretty. So, with very little further ado, I bring you my first rant. Seriously, the ado is limited to this sentence.

Ending Theme music. I have friends that RUSH to close the player when the end of the show approaches. They simply can’t stand watching the ending credits more than once. There are certain shows where I agree with them. My favorite arc of Naruto (back when that series was good) had the worst ending in the entire show. Something dramatic, meaningful and sad would happen and suddenly, the world crashed into a pile of psychedelic rainbow shit.

It is like they just flushed the atmosphere away.

Now, a poor ending credit section can annoy viewers, but I’ve never really seen an anime ruined by one. At least, I’ve never seen a GOOD anime turned bad by one. I’ve seen bad turned worse, though. Like I said, most folks stop paying attention after the fade-to-black-pan-up-ending-joke. That is a shame though, as I’ve seen some anime where the ending credits MADE the show.

Don’t believe me? Want to believe me but want me to provide examples? Great! That’s the whole reason I set up this blog. The first type of ending I wanted to talk about that made a show clearly better for its presence is the EXTREMELY CATCHY ENDING™.  We have all seen at least ONE E.C.E., even if we can’t think of it off the top of our heads. You don’t want to think of it off the top of your head either. It will be stuck there for DAYS if you do. Unfortunately, it is too late for me. I thought of one as an example and now I may find myself doing the monkey for days because of it.

WARNING: Don’t watch in front of people who will judge you.

This example is from the anime Kodomo no Jikan (Children’s Time)… yeah, no, this show is pretty much what you would imagine. It is an anime about a young girl trying to seduce her SAINTLY teacher. I swear, this man is pure as the driven snow and only cares about bettering the lives of his students. Thank goodness, or the series might have been much shorter and even MORE censored. (Hard to imagine) The series itself? Mediocre. The ENDING, however, was catchy beyond all belief. Something in the combination of monkey-dancing chibis and frantically-paced love music clicked in the heads of the fans. This one went crazy on Nico Nico Douga. You can find versions of this featuring Kirby, the Vocaloids, Touhou characters, and many more! Why? Because it is DARN CATCHY! It is the sort of thing that sticks with you. Of course, it isn’t alone in this.

Oh yes, the fans go wild for this one.

Now THERE is something for the fans to copy. I’ve seen people with this entire dance memorized. I once saw a blog full of mnemonic devices and possible significance for each of the steps! In fact, I will freely admit that after bringing home a Haruhi figurine from Japan for my roommate, the FIRST thing we tried to do was a stop-motion version of this dance. (The project failed. Not because the figurine couldn’t do it, oh no. Our camera died.) Haruhi was an odd anime that is, quite literally, a cult classic. A religion sprung up around this one, friends, and this ending only HELPED. Suddenly, the fans had something to latch onto, something they could all talk about! They could make avatar gifs of this! They could animate other characters doing this dance! They could do 3d CG versions of this dance as final projects in classes! It gave a hook and it hooked em BAD.

The next sort of ending I wanted to talk about was the EVER-CHANGING ENDING™.  Yes. This one is also E.C.E., feel free to scroll down and look at the third one to see if it is E.C.E. too. I’ve marked it with a red X for you, so you know where it is. Go ahead, I will wait.

Welcome back. Sorry, I went ahead and started a new paragraph. Now, the Ever-Changing Ending is a mysterious beast. Generally speaking, it is the sort of thing that will have the fans eyes GLUED to the screen the moment they realize it exists. What we are doing here is we are playing the slot reel! The ending changes! We, as fans, HAVE to watch it, just to catalogue all of the potential differences! Then we can point them out to our friends (or quietly point them out to ourselves in the sad, cold isolation of our bedrooms, late at night when everyone with hope for tomorrow has gone off to bed, but we can’t see how it will be better than today so we put it off… hypothetically speaking.)

Axis Powers Hetalia had such an ending. The animation was much the same, only a chibi at the end changing from version to version, but once the fans realized that they were going to make different versions for different countries, they never skipped the ending without checking again! My favorite part of this one was that they changed the nature of the song each time. It was always the same song, but the lyrics and genre would differ based on country.

I feel a tear of national pride coming on.

How typically French.

The great thing about this sort of ending is that it makes the ending credits feel less like some sort of union mandated requirement, where everyone who worked on the show gets credit. Forget THAT crap! This is part of the show! Every week we tune in to see if the ending changed! That doesn’t just apply to the ending either! Some crafty shows will put sections of their show AFTER the ending credits! MADNESS! I’ll watch it now just in case something happens that I absolutely NEED TO SEE! Usually, they are 30 second or so segments with no real significance. Just tying up loose plot threads and playing up the “The other characters forgot me” joke. Sometimes, however, a series will go wild on this idea and make a big thing out of it. I seem to recall that once Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei played its ending half-way in the episode. Woe be to those who rushed the X button there, eh?

X

The type that I most wanted to rant on, and my personal favorite, is the rarely used technique of the Pre-Ending Ending. This technique is an amazing thing when properly executed. Often times, viewers won’t even consciously recognize the artistic choice, but I most certainly do. Basically, what we are talking about here is when the ending song will begin to play over the last few seconds of the anime. Generally speaking, it will be just long enough to signal the close of the episode before the visual switches to credits… but the effect it brings! My two favorite examples of this were from Fullmetal Alchemist and Chobits. Fullmetal alchemist made a habit of doing it. They had an ending credit song that began with a line akin to “we were crying the entire time”. Something tragic would happen, a main character would be paralyzed with the horrific reality of it all and then suddenly a female singer helps guide you through the transition from the show to the ending. You were eased out of the situation gently through her auditory cue. Rather than rage “ARGH, HOW COULD YOU CUT ME OFF THERE?!” the emotion felt more like “Oh, god… I want to see the next one!” There was closure in her voice. She came to you gently, understanding that your favorite character had just been tragically killed. This was no heavy-handed fade-to-black! No, sir!

Of course, the entire reason I wanted to DO an ending credit rant in the first place came from Chobits. Now, Chobits wasn’t originally my scene. I watched it out of peer pressure… but I had trouble relating to the main character. The plots were kinda happy and silly… and that was fine, I guess. Then, at the end of each episode, a happy little tune came on and we watched some sort of rabbit thing walk through a town. Whatever. X button.

Forgive the Spanish subs. I assure you, you aren’t missing much.

But then came episode 14. There had been a lot of dark and serious plot threads building up. We were starting to question the nature of humanity. We were starting to introduce the idea that there were people who had picked android companions over human interaction. We had been shown a character whose life had been destroyed by her husband’s love for an android… and then it all came to a head. The main character is brought face to face with all the culmination of all those little things. As he rushes home in the rain, underneath a street light, he sees his only peer friend and their college prep teacher. His friend has finally convinced his teacher to leave her husband and elope. Our main character stops and watches.

Then, the organ begins to come in, soft as a mist. The guitar streams in like the rain, we feel the emotion of the scene through the music. There are no lyrics yet, it is only setting the mood for the scene underneath that street light. The main character, like us, is frozen in that moment. Their conversation ends and they kiss. Then, as the camera pans down, they fade away, as though they were never there. We are now staring at the spot where they once stood. We can only guess how long our main character has stood in the rain, processing what he’s just seen. It must have been a long time though; he sneezes. THEN THE SECOND ENDING STARTS.

Even the rabbit is darker.

The song is entitled Ningyo-hime. Mermaid Princess. It is the ending that people associate with Chobits. This is the ending that tells you what sort of tone the series carries as a whole. This is the music that conveys to your soul the sort of anime that you’ve been watching. Episode 14 was where the happy silly Chobits DIED. Comedy wasn’t gone… but we had important things on our minds now, things that needed processing.

That ending is one of my final types: The ICONIC ENDING. It is an ending that stays with you for a long time like the catchy ending would… but for an entirely different reason. You can’t put your finger on it, but there is something there. Maybe it is the beauty of the song, maybe it is the message of the music, maybe it is the artistry of the visuals. Maybe it is all these things. The important thing is that when the Iconic Ending comes on, a true fan will stop his companions from pushing that X button. “Hangon man… let me listen to this.”

Suddenly, it all comes rushing back and my chest tightens.

You will understand if you’ve ever experienced an iconic ending. You will find yourself mouthing Japanese words you didn’t know you knew and certainly don’t know the meanings to. It is a song and visual tied directly to a group of memories and it will stay with you for YEARS. There is an interesting side effect here. Sometimes, when an Iconic Ending comes on after an anime,  if you are watching with a friend, you will turn to that friend and look at them. There, on their face, you are hoping to see the same emotions you feel rising in you. If they seem disinterested, sometimes it will actually HURT. “They just haven’t seen it all yet,” you might think. “When they finish watching they will understand.” The iconic opening brings all the memories rushing back, sure. The iconic ending, however, brings the sense of closure and totality that we latch onto. It ties all those memories up in a package and says “Here it was. It was amazing and you loved it, but it is over. Carry it away with you.”

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6 Comments

  1. That was actually one of the saving graces of Full Metal Alchemist for my interest for so long, the use of the ending theme to carry the viewer at the end of the episode.

    Never had stopped to think why.

    To expound on your ideas it seems that, like many other media, you can approach these semi-relevant elements of the presentation from two camps. The first being the normal disconnect between the opening, closing, and content where the ending serves simply as a signpost:

    “The episode is over. Thank you for watching, now go away and do something else.”

    But all the J-Pop singers in the universe can’t break through the fact that other than to grab your attention for these last 1-3 minutes, there is nothing relevant to the artistic content other than inside jokes for viewers. Haruhi probably did this the best.

    The second camp approaches the ending as a way to bridge the end of the episode, as FMA and Chobits. It’s also likely considerably harder to pull off since that requires that you approach the ending credits with the same artistic eye as the rest of the episode. Which means 1-3 extra minutes of media that need to be not only further links to the episode, but a coda to an episode in their own right.

    No easy feat to successfully accomplish.

    • Indeed, sir. But the truly great ones have such and ending, be it the Real Folk Blues or when the sunset turns red (TV size).

  2. Ok, the little one is crawling all over the damn place so I don’t have time to read at the moment…but I am so glad you opened a blog! I’ll get the hubby online to see it later.

  3. oh… how i wish i had a hobby…

    (>-.-<)

  4. … And why you didn’t mention Lucky Star for the ever changing ending is beyond me…

    • Very true! Lucky star’s ECE was epic some episodes. ^_^


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