If you’re new here or to anime in general and you don’t know what OPs and EDs are, don’t worry about it. I didn’t either before I started this blog. Although I should have figured it out. It’s the opening and ending sequences of episodes.
Now a lot of people care about these already. Mostly OPs which I think is a mistake because I regularly prefer ending sequences. In any case, there are tons of compilations, top lists, debates and videos dedicated to these sequences. But I have a tenuous theory that the OP and ED are the two most immediate indicators of how good the series is likely to be. Well kinda, let me explain.
My theory is that you can tell how much a production team cares about a project based on how “good” the OP and ED sequences are. But here’s the tricky part, good is sort of subjective and right now I don’t mean it like I usually see it used. I’m not talking about OPs or EDs that are impressive in a vacuum. Sequences you can just watch nonstop by themselves because they are so well animated or the song is amazing. I’m talking about OPs and EDs that are carefully integrated and chosen for their anime.
Let me try to give you an example. In one episode of NGNL, Sora disappears and at the end of the episode, the ED is modified so that he’s not in it. Amazing! everything else is the same, just that little touch. Unfortunately aside from that, I don’t think NGNL is the best example so instead, I’ll use SK8 the Infinity. Mostly because I watched it recently and I really enjoyed both the OP and ED.
The OP and EDs of SK8 are alright in and of themselves. They’re not bad at all and I for one like the choice of music. But they’re also do not really stand alone. You can’t just watch them over and over again by themselves and divorce them from the show like you can with other sequences.
For instance, the OP is sort of an old-school credit sequence. After a brief intro, we see still of each of the main characters one after the other and the background changes behind them featuring a large print of the character’s name. The transitions are these silly sticker collages and the rest of the time is taken up by the small gag at the beginning and a hilariously campy sequence of the characters skating rainbows through the sky.
On its own, it’s like an average OP to a fun one depending on your sense of humour, but it was put together in such a way that I have to believe the person involved read most of or the entire script.
That opening gag shows the two main characters and right off the bat you know a lot about them just from those few seconds. You know there’s a redhead and a blue hair guy (red oni/blue oni), the redhead seems to be more energetic but both are very goofy and it’s obvious that these guys are really good friends. Also, they’re dancing on skateboards. So like literally seconds into the OP and you have all the basic framework of the series. It’s a goofy comedy with strong friendship themes and skateboarding and these are what the main characters are like.
The skating sequences are well animated and start off with a street-level camera view for a very interesting perspective. Adam’s character is revealed at the end but not his name and his background matches his general theme which also creates a great visual rhythm. You can clearly see that the show will have quite a bit of action and is mostly a comedy.
There are a lot of fantastic OPs out there which I love, that don’t manage to establish the series that well. It’s a bit literal but still, this sequence was created by someone who knows the series well. I’m not sure but I would be tempted to say that at least a decent amount of the storyboarding for the actual show was done before they got to the OP, it just fits in so well.
The ED is a bit less integrated with the actual show. This is almost always the case and I assume it’s because EDs get skipped a lot more frequently. So instead of information, they went for flavour!
The SK8 Ed is rendered in a completely different art style than the rest of the show and it’s really funny. It features all the characters practicing their skateboarding skills individually and wiping out. Basically, it’s a fail compilation complete with the actual slang for common skate fails. All of it set to a breezy, summery tune. they even manage to capture a little of the characters’ personalities.
It might not directly relate to the story in any way but the ED is tonally in sync with the series and there was obvious artistic effort put into it. It’s not just clips of the show or a simple random animation. And it’s fun. It really looks like the production team and animators just decided to have a little fun with that minute or so.
At the end of the day, the overall impression I was left with is that whoever made the OP and ED sequences wasn’t trying to make the best OP and ED ever. They just wanted to make a great OP and ED specifically for SK8 and that’s a great sign. It implies a certain level of attachment and care for the project on many levels of the production team.
I’m currently watching The Case Study of Vanitas and I could say much the same things for the OP for instance. Which is wonderful and has so many little touches that you just want to watch it over and over to catch the details. But the ED is well… kinda lazy if you ask me. Black screen with passing framed still images.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that shows with lazy OPs and EDs are bad. Not at all. Some of my favourite shows have forgettable bookends. But when the team went the extra mile, it feels like they themselves couldn’t get enough of the story and wanted to infuse it into everything. That’s usually a good sign.
My theory is still quite tenuous. Most people don’t really consider how OPs and EDs fit with the series when they rate them so I don’t really have a list of great OPs and EDs on hand to test it out. Also, sometimes even when the production team really cares about a show, it just doesn’t come together. There are production nightmares all the time. Other times these sequences get subcontracted to a different team or the production runs out of time and or doesn’t have the resources for a great sequence.
But you can still get a clue about what’s going on behind the scenes.