I recently sat down to watch some anime with a new friend who was also an anime fan. It was our first time watching anime together, so I wasn’t sure what kind of shows he liked. After watching a couple episodes, we took a break and started discussing various anime that we enjoyed. Naturally, I started putting on the openings for different anime as we talked about them, but he didn’t seem very interested.
“You really like openings, don’t you?”, he asked. Not sure how to reply, I just managed a “You don’t???”. He explained to me that he usually just viewed the opening as something you skipped over to get to the show itself. I didn’t press him any further on it, but the truth is, I wanted to stop right there and launch into a lecture on all the reasons he shouldn’t skip them.
The songs won’t have meaning
Our brains are wired to connect memories and emotions to music. Why do you think so many couples have a particular song that they call “their song”? By watching the opening each time, this gives your brain the necessary reinforcement to attach the images and feelings of a show to the music. If you skip the opening, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to create this emotional connection to the media.
So why does it matter if you become emotionally attached to the music anyway? Let’s take a look at how the opening music is used in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Over the course of 27 episodes, you hear the opening song 26 times. By the time you reach the last episode, you now feel like this song was your companion for the journey. You’ve grown attached to it. You might even have some lyrics memorized by now. Then finally in last episode, just as things begin to look grim for our heroes, the guitar riff of the opening song kicks in and the song plays over the action as the show reaches its epic finale. If you had skipped the opening up until this point, you’d be missing out on a valuable part of the Gurren Lagann experience.
They evolve with the story
It’s enjoyable to watch how the OP/ED’s change over time. Characters die and are removed from the opening, sometimes animation gets noticeably improved, and of course, the opening will often change to accompany a new half/full season.
Using our Gurren Lagann example, you can see how the opening is used to mark each major time period in the series. It has three unique openings that follow the progression of the series and helps mark character development, additions, and deaths. Not only does the animation sequence change, but it also uses different verses from the song as well.
Katanagatari is another good example of a series that takes a unique approach by using a different ending song for every episode. They went through the trouble to use a new song each time; is it really asking too much to watch it?
It sets the mood for the episode
If you’re watching a show as it airs or if it’s just been a while since you watched the last episode, the opening can be a nice opportunity to get back in the zone. Think of it as your chance to refresh yourself on where the story was and who the characters are. On the other hand, the ending can also be a nice opportunity to reflect on the episode you just finished. Take a moment to think about what happened, and if you can read the names, appreciate the credits and the hard work that undoubtedly went into the episode.
The ending can also be used to add additional impact as an episode wraps up. Symphogear is my favorite example of an anime that makes liberal use of the ending fade-in to great effect. Almost every episode ends with a cliffhanger of some sort as the ending song gradually fades in, putting an exclamation mark on the unresolved suspense as it cuts to the ending animation.
You don’t always have to watch it
Let’s go back to our example of Gurren Lagann. Rounding to 1.5 minutes for each one, we get a total of 81 minutes of OP/ED time for the entire series. That’s at least three more episodes you could watch of something else! , However, this logic only makes sense if you truly consider that to be time wasted.
If I still haven’t convinced you not to skip the ops/eds, perhaps I can convince you to at least listen to them. You could use the OP/ED as a chance to get up, get some water, check your email/twitter, etc.
You could even put some rules around it and turn it into a productive activity. For example, you could do an exercise like pushups, squats, or stretching during each op/ed. This would help break up the extended periods of sitting that can come with anime viewing. If we use our example above, this would mean 81 minutes of exercise that you otherwise might have skipped!
Openings/endings are also a place where creators like to squeeze in fun easter eggs that they couldn’t work into the anime elsewhere. Slayers has an extreme example of this where the opening is actually the only time we ever see Lina’s sister on-screen. In the third season opening, she even has a sign that says “Sorry! Opening Only!”.
They are a great way to get exposed to new types of music, too. I know there are many anime fans out there (myself included) who have discovered new artists and new genres through ops/eds. A hit anime song can also make a huge difference for the career of the artist. It’s hard to say that Nana Mizuki(previously discussed) or a group like ClariS would have seen the same level of success had they not had breakthrough anime opening songs.
What else are you going to sing at karaoke anyway? Normal people songs?
Do you skip openings or endings? Do you have a favorite show that takes a unique approach? Let me know in the comments!