Occasionally, it’s not just the song that calls to our attentions, it’s the visuals in the sequence itself. That’s not to say that the song itself is an afterthought, but I theorize that once an episode of anime is over, we have a tendency to already be on our way out so to speak. It may explain why a lot of times the visuals of an ending sequence seem very haphazard and half-baked in comparison to the comparably more upbeat opening pieces of many shows which are priming you through both songs and visuals to internalize the mood and tone of what it is you’re about to watch. I will be the first to admit, that if the ending song doesn’t immediately grab my attention as an episode is finished, I’ll be less likely to pay attention to the visuals themselves.
But hey, sometimes the strength of the visuals themselves are enough to cause them to linger.
Record of Lodoss War is important. It kick-started fantasy anime as we know it, and it’s still well-remembered in Japan as a classic… But how unfortunate that it just isn’t very good! The show is a several-times-removed descendant of a D&D game, and the events play out much like you’d imagine they would on game night: Tediously, not very kinetically, and with a bit too much exposition.
Record of Lodoss War, “Kaze no Fantasia”:
So the ED is wonderful because it does the job of Lodoss-remembrance so efficiently, encapsulating the fantasy and the romance that the show itself rather lacks. And they don’t kid anyone about how, either– This is about *Deedlit* and how *beautiful* she is, so we’re going to watch *a series of stills featuring Deedlit* doing fantasy elf things, end of sentence. It helps that the stills themselves are quite lovely, evoking Art Nouveau sensibilities while showing off what makes Deedlit endure as an icon to this day.
The music is also great, the kind of gem you don’t find often in contemporary anisongs. It’s a synthy, whimsical love song with memorable lyrics (and did the “DESTINY” thing way before Penguindrum, for the record). The tune is kind of idol-esque, but also very karaoke-friendly, which I believe is absolutely crucial. Images have staying power, but making a song easy to sing along with is how a show gets truly remembered.
Honestly, for the first few episodes of Manabi Straight, I didn’t like the ending sequence “Lucky & Happy” at all.
Manabi Straight, “Lucky & Happy”:
Compared with the fun, upbeat groove and delightful animation sequence of the show’s opening song, the lazy beat and awkward stop-motion seemed comically bad—which was why I kept sticking around after each episode to laugh at it. Somehow, given all that extra exposure, my feelings for the piece gradually reversed altogether. What could better fit a show as shamelessly earnest and sincere as Manabi Straight? The laid-back melody is a perfect accompaniment to unwinding from the episode. The superficially-rough yet loving and detailed animation reflects the girls’ approach to life in a direct and visceral way. Even the content of the sequence—a retelling of the student council’s revival—promotes a calm air of reflection.
I can think of better songs that have been used as EDs. I can think of better ED sequences. I could probably even name a handful of sequences that are closer to my ideal of what an ED “should” be. What I can’t think of is any that, in practice, became such an integral and resonant part of my enjoyment of the work as a whole, or stuck with me so long after I’d left their parent show behind.
…Other than maybe Yume No Naka He. But that’s beside the point.
Like many people, I’m an impatient bastard; unless an ED hooks me in immediately, I normally skip it, especially if I am running through a series at full speed. But occasionally an ED will grab me by the shoulders, look me straight in the eye and make me fall in love. That’s exactly what Kare Kano’s ED, “Yume no Nake e”, did.
Kare Kano, “Yume no Naka e (夢の中へ)”:
It’s a great companion piece to Kare Kano’s excellent OP — where the OP is about finding a dream, chasing after it and falling in love, the ED is a bit muddier, about being unsure what one is searching for. The song always came off to me like the logical conclusion to most anime romances: They mistake the chase for the journey, when in fact the REAL journey begins when one finds someone to love. After the chase is over, and the initial thrill is gone, what are people searching for?
“Yume no Naka e” is a song that seems to switch moods depending on the episode. Sometimes it can be whimsical, like why in the hell are searching for something? Don’t you just want to have fun with me? Sometimes it can be deeply melancholy. Always it made me recall something from my own life — that elusive thing I may have been searching for and never found, maybe because too much importance was placed on the search itself? It’s the kind of song that makes you wish more than anything that at that moment, you had someone to dance with you in your own dream.
The visuals may not be as bombastic as the OP (which may be my all-time favorite OP animation), but it is definitely fitting: One part of a tour through a school that changes each episode. The tour is speedy, not really caring to halt on any specific detail and taking turns seemingly at random; it fits the dreamlike feel of the song itself.