That Lingering Feeling, part 1

Rather early on in my fandom, I came across a pair of posts that discussed what the role of the opening and ending to an episode of anime is. It’s rather easy to define what an opening’s purpose is. That role is one that is meant to prepare and set the audience’s expectations through animation and music, and which sets the tone for the story at the beginning. Ballads, j-rock, j-pop, high energy, low energy, the mood that the creators mean to set is limited only to the vision and talent of the composers involved in the project.

What seemed to elude clearer definition however, was the role of the ending. When I posed this question, the answers that came back were clearly a lot more personal, abstract. My favorite endings leave a sort of mental residue that stays with you as the episode closes out, lingering like a strong memory of an important event that happened to you sometime in the past. Mawaru Penguindrum’s Dear Future achieves something to this effect.

My partner and I have covered this show extensively on this blog and we sit in rapt attention at what transpires on the screen. What we don’t give voice to as often, is how well the ending song melds into the emotions that we feel at the immediate end of any episode.

The jangling and distorted guitars at the beginning of the song do a very good job of imitating the disorientation we feel, reeling as we are, trying to make sense of what it was that we just watched. It’s these first few moments where we are at our most vulnerable, not quite able to verbalize what it is we think, let alone feel. As our thoughts begin to coalesce ever so slightly, the vocals take on a more dreamy feel. It veers into the melancholy towards the end, as my partner and I discuss the grim possibilities for our protagonists. This song stays with me long into the writing process for an episode.

I asked several other bloggers and friends which ending songs stay with them after an episode ends and why, and I got an overwhelming response. I’m going feature their picks in a series of posts here and I hope you enjoy reading what they have to say!

First up is my buddy Foshizzel who writes for METANORN:

Any fan of the Bleach series knows they have so many endings! And by many, I really mean around twenty-eight. But I decided to go with ending 23!

Bleach, “Stay Beautiful”:

Stay Beautiful by DIGGY-MO. This ending video starts off by showing us various characters from the Arrancar side and Shinigami side and sticks them in New York City! Why does this sound so interesting? Well I guess the video really speaks for its self as we see all of the popular characters doing everyday jobs and having a good time from bartending, shooting pool and yes even stealing bread. There is a part of me can’t help but laugh watching the bad guys of Bleach acting out different roles, hell we even get to see Aizen dressed up as a cop! Well suppose I should mention how fun and catchy the actual song for the video can be. They even threw in a bit of rap to keep the energy going, and if you are a fan of thee Soul Eater series you might recognize their style of music.

Well I hope you enjoyed my pick for favorite ending thanks!

The next contribution comes from Nazarielle, a friend on twitter who regularly discusses manga and current anime with the blogosphere:

I’m sure plenty of people will agree that the Steins;Gate ED fits in very well with the series. It’s not a song I really loved, and I don’t listen to it on a regular basis, but I never skipped watching the ED for any of the episodes, even though there was no next episode preview waiting for me at the end of it.

Steins;Gate, “Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku (刻司ル十二ノ盟約)”:

The visuals are pretty simplistic too, but between the song and the visuals, the ED manages to convey all the feelings of shock, confusion, and despair. As the show got even more intense, the ED gave time to absorb the shocking events that happened during the episode. I remember watching some episodes and just sitting there, staring at the screen, watching the ED play and being completely in awe. I think the ED’s simplistic visuals helped to keep me in that state of shock and awe and left me with nothing to think or say but “Wow!” The image at the end of the ED, showing Kurisu ‘bound’ added a really ominous feeling to the whole thing and a sense of dread for the coming episodes, particularly when there were huge cliffhangers.

I’m going to close out this first post with a contribution from my good friend Shane. He lives in the middle of nowhere, but still manages to be in the mix when talking anime with us:

I could talk about how this song and it’s beautiful accompanying animation mirrors the distance between Godai and Kyoko at the point in the series it plays but instead I’ll tell you about the three responses it evokes in me.

Maison Ikkoku, “Cinema”:

With it’s very first notes Cinema causes a sense of nostalgia to well up in me, but it’s a strange nostalgia, a longing for places and times I’ve never been and may only exist in my heart and my head. A balmy summers day in 1980’s Tokyo, a city on the cusp of becoming profoundly important on the world stage. Frenetic youthful energy working around an older dignity that bares the still fresh scars of terrible conflict and a sixty’s Paris in spring rains, as I’ve seen in so many great old films. Both of these places and times laid over one another in my mind.

As the singer begins his refrain of a past love it calls up what was once nearly a mortal wound for me but is now, a decade and change on a cherished tenderness. A young artist that grew up too fast and became my friend over shared smokes and meandering conversations. Who became my lover with a hand slipped into mine when her friend made a pass at me. Green and gold eyes that I could look at for hours filled with tears as we screamed our goodbyes. A void where she should be and my stubbornness wouldn’t let me try and fill till she was long gone, happy at last.

And when the vocals reaches the plaintive crescendo, I’m filled with a wistful melancholy because while I am finally happy with who I am, the path I’ve chosen to get here is a lonely one and I can feel all thosewhat if’s and might have been’s echoing at the end of the Cinema.

Suggested Reading:

I’ll leave you with the two posts that got me thinking about this one night.


Filed under Bleach, Maison Ikkoku, Mawaru Penguindrum, Steins;Gate, That Lingering Feeling

21 responses to “That Lingering Feeling, part 1

  1. D’awwww thanks! Vuc can’t wait to see the rest you decide to post, this is a great idea for a massive post and gets others involved in the fun. Man I like that ending theme for Mawaru Penguindrum! I think a few episodes ago they changed singers? That was a nice change for that song.

    @ Nazarielle- Nice choice! I do love that ending, I did the same thing usually I just let the ending play, I always looked for a preview and remembered oh they don’t really have one ahaha still good choice.

    @ Shane- Never really saw that series but great song, is that Ranma 1/2 character designs I see?! I really liked them xD

  2. Great post! Agreeing with Nazarielle’s assessment of the Steins; Gate ED theme.

  3. dm

    Each episode ofMushishi would have its own musical theme giving atmosphere to the episode. When it came time for the credits to roll, the music would move out of the background to take center stage. This had the effect of bringing the episode to a close, but giving you a moment to reflect on the mood and emotion of the episode. It must be something like Ginko’s awareness of the mushi themselves — always there in the background, but occasionally something happens that moves them to the center of your attention.

    Some shows have the ED music sneak into the background before the credits, as the show is still “on stage”. This seems to give the end of the show a different feel from those shows for which the ED plays only after the curtain has closed. Instead of giving you a period at the end of the sentence, it’s like an ellipsis. . . .

    • I’m really fond of Mushishi’s ED strategy for the exact reasons you stated here. When the episode ends and the revelations and often-unexpected fates unfold, the musical theme always shocks me into dumbfounded silence.

      I could almost here a lecturer’s voiceover telling me “This episode of Mushishi is over. Now let us reflect on the events that had transpired, and how they illuminate the nature of mushi”, etc.

    • Ah yes, like schneider says, the ED themes for Mushishi do a wonderful job of instilling a kind of reverent attitude on the part of the audience.

      Each one is unique, each one is beautiful. As if it’s meant to parallel how the show feels about mushi itself.

  4. Set

    In terms of recent anime the 2nd ending to Shiki would be my personal favourite. Very melancholy, the visuals that show drowning are also haunting. Leaves the viewer with a residual sadness that reflects the general mood of the show.

    • Mmm, I remember really loving the 2nd ED too. The 2st one felt a bit too sedate for me, and didn’t seem interesting enough for me to want to pay attention to the lyrics, honestly.

      But this ED? This is good stuff. I wish they had paired this with the 2st OP, which is my preferred OP for the series. Funnily enough, both are BUCK-TICK.

  5. Most memorable ED of recent anime I can think of is probably Madoka Magica’s. Not necessarily because it’s a great song (although I like it a lot!) but because of how it transforms the end of the third episode from a Shocking Twist into a deliberate statement of thematic intent. It was that moment that pretty much sold me on the show–from that point on I was absolutely sure that the writers knew exactly what they were doing.

    • I loved that song (Magia) from the moment is started playing right at the beginning of the first episode. When it played at the end of episode three, though, I could see why they’d held it back until then, as if keeping the dark side concealed and letting the OP troll everyone into thinking Madoka Magica was the new Cardcaptor Sakura, heheh.

      There are elements of the Madoka OP which I seemed to view and interpret differently each time I watched an episode, in light of recent revelations. Penguindrum has a bit of this too.

    • @wendeego
      Oh yes, definitely. I’d been pretty rapt by Madoka from the 1st episode when you see the witch’s familiars, but the deliberate delaying of the ED sequence until the 3rd episode showed a masterful control over its pacing and tone. The creators did indeed know what it was they wanted to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

  6. dm

    Considering this blog’s name, I should have remembered the ED that is one of my favorites: Bakemonogatari’s Kimi no shiranai monogatari. The (changing) animation by Hajime Ueda that plays beneath the song is great fun, of course, but the way the music is then woven into the twelfth episode — appropriate lyrics and all — was brilliant.

    • YES! You got it! Episode 12 of Bakemonogatari is one of Emily’s and my favorite episodes of anime ever. Senjougahara’s telling of the story to Arararagi and it’s subtle carry-over into the ED is a moment that was transcendent of the series as a whole.

      Enough so, that we named our blog partially after it.

  7. Mad Chemist

    One of my favorite EDs in terms of staying with you is the ending theme of Paranoia Agent . The song and accompanying images are both simple and soothing, but put together there’s just enough that’s off about the ED that it becomes clear that something below the surface is fundamentally wrong. The feeling gets worse when you get to the end of the ED and see the full picture, since it hints some vague, awful truth that the camera (and by extension the viewer) are trying to ignore until it’s too late. Which makes it a perfect fit for the show itself, when you think about it.

  8. I remember observing at a rather young age (back when things like dubbed Dragonball Z were my standard fare, ahem) that in shounen shows in particular, the ED is usually dedicated to images of a female character. Or THE female character, when there’s only one token girl. It can be a bit of a stretch sometimes, but it’s a widely used convention.

    I don’t know if it’s the most powerful or significant one, but I have fond memories of the ED ‘Shiki no Uta’ from Samurai Champloo. When my partner and I were first dating, we would sit on my bed and watch that show together when he came to my place, and during the end credits we would cuddle up together. The song still brings a smile to my face ^_^

    • Ah yes, that entire soundtrack is incredibly lovely. Nujabes, who composed most of the music for the series, is among my top played artists on my profile.

      RIP, Nujabes.

  9. Miyako

    Wonderful and thought-provoking post! After going through my iTunes library, the one that caught my attention would be Yume no Tamago from RahXephon:

    The overall mystere of the series is well-summed up within the lethargic pace and the lyrics, while the beautiful yet cacophonous piano interlude symbolizes the episodic chaos that takes place. It is a calming song that helps your mind conclude each part of the story in peace, but the various chord distortions make it foreboding in regards to the future as well. Not to mention that RahXephon is a series that ties in music closely…

  10. I love the ending theme “Kamisama no Iutoori” from The Tatami Galaxy. At the end of each episode, just when you’d feel utterly overwhelmed the time reset would happen and the ending song would start up. It felt perfect each time it was used (though especially the last time).

  11. Very nice post. I enjoyed seeing all the endings. There are so many ending themes that really grabs my attention that I really don’t know where to start with. But I would say that the endings of Aoi Hana and Bakemonogatari stood out the most for me. Aoi Hana had a really gentle song that was just right for the series in my opinion. As for Bakemonogatari, well, no further explanation is needed as you know very well about it. ^_^

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