Anime, Discussions

Does the Opening Sequence Matter?

Opening Sequences; some people watch them every time they watch an episode, others will watch them for a few episodes, and other people skip them every single time. Yet every anime series I’ve watched has an opening sequence.

It’s easy to look at opening sequences and say “Yes they matter.” After all, if anime still has them then you’d think they’re important to the studio at the very least. However, is it now just tradition for anime series to have opening sequences?

If we look at other media, opening sequences vary. Films no longer have credits at the start and even TV series are getting away from having an opening sequence and instead have a title card with actor’s names showing over the action. Games, on the other hand, are going the other way. Immersive story games use opening sequences as a way to set the the tone and story of the game and it’s almost expected that when you first put that disc in, you’re getting some sort of cinematic introduction.

For anime, it would appear on the surface that openings are pretty important. IGN has awards, opening sequences are archived, and there’s always lists to find of the supposed “best” opening sequences. Yet, there’s suggestions that viewers don’t always watch them. It’s not hard to find forum posts asking whether people watch opening sequences and the most prevalent answer on any of them that I’ve seen is usually “depends”.

For me, I would place myself in the always watch them category. I usually put anime on at lunch, or watch it on my playstation at home, and I don’t like fiddling with controls to get to the right moment after the opening sequence. As such, a bad opening sequence can put me off an anime. Case in point, I started watching Hinako Note hoping it would be an anime of cute girls doing cute things. It probably is, but after I’d watched the start and then the opening sequence I was sick of it. I didn’t enjoy watching the opening sequence, it didn’t make me excited about the series I was watching, and I didn’t make it to the end of the episode before I turned it off.

I’ve found the anime I’m likely to enjoy are the ones where the opening sequence is enjoyable and memorable. March Comes In Like a Lion and Yuri!!! on Ice are the two best examples of that, but even where the opening isn’t memorable (Poco’s Udon World, The Royal Tutor, Tsuki ga Kirei) as long as I am happy enough to sit through it I can manage to get to the end of the series even if the actual show ends up disappointing like Chaos;Child did.

I might be relatively new to anime, but I cannot name one series where I didn’t enjoy the OP and have stuck with it. I’ve watched 9 anime series and am in the process of watching 6 more with 3 that I’ve dropped completely so I’m not against saying this may change in the future but it’s something I’ve come to notice about the way I view anime. Those people that select “depends” on the polls that you can find – I wonder if it’s solely down to their viewing habits. I very rarely watch more than one episode of the same anime in a row. I usually have time for one or two episodes of something a day but on those very rare occasions I sit down and watch multiple episodes of the same series, do I watch the opening sequence on that second or third episode? I actually don’t know, I believe I’ve skipped Attack on Titan‘s opening sequence before and I do think I’ve skipped March Comes In Like a Lion at least once so it’s possible that I also fit into that “depends” category. It depends if I’m watching a single episode or watching multiple on a row.

I still firmly believe that opening sequences matter, regardless of your reason for watching or not watching them; I don’t think an anime series would be the same if it didn’t have an opening sequence. The ones I’ve watched very rarely spoil events and instead, like a game, set the tone for what I’m about to watch and help me determine if I’ll enjoy the next 25 minutes or not.

What about you? Do you watch opening sequences, do they matter to you?

14 Comments

  1. Good post! I agree, a good opening sequence guides you into a series’ world and puts you in the mood for what’s to come. Lupin’s opening theme calls back to caper films of yore, bracing you for the antics he’ll get into in the episode to follow. Similarly, The Sopranos’ opening sequence (my all-time favorite) has Tony driving from New York to his New Jersey suburb, past Satriale’s, Pizzaland, and other landmarks from the show. At the end he literally pulls up to his house; we’re in Tony Soprano’s domain for the next hour.

    But I also wanted to comment on your question of the tradition of OPs in anime. At this point it’s certainly become that but ultimately the reason for their existence is to fill time. The OP/ED is 3 minutes of space that in most cases only needs to be animated once. That’s a significant amount of money saved when it comes to animation, basically cutting a collective episodes worth from the span of an entire series. Of course, they’ve become an art form in their own right but their existence has a practical element as well.

    1. Thank you!

      It had never even crossed my mind that the OP and ED provide such a large part of cost saving in anime production. I had seen in my research that some anime pay for people to create songs explicitly for the OP and ED so I think that veered me away from any consideration about cost benefits. Then again, I don’t know much about anime production to know about the trade off between animation and music. Common sense would suggest that two songs is a lot cheaper than 3 minutes animation time.

      Interestingly, I’d also seen that OPs used to be 60 seconds instead of the 90 but couldn’t find any reliable source back it up and take it into consideration (it was on stack exchange and the article linked was gone).

      1. Thinking back, even the original 1963 “Astroboy” had OP and ED sequences. Apart from taking three minutes out of the runtime, there’s also the fact music labels are almost always part of an anime’s production committee, so they get to promote their label’s acts via those OP and ED sequences.

        1. The music definitely seems to be a very big part of the community’s perception of opening sequences too. I saw a lot of comments that people tab out to something else but listen to the OP music then switch back when it’s finished.

          I can definitely see the music being a big part for the OP, but for the ED it seems counter intuitive to put investment into it. Once the anime’s finished I generally turn it off or put the next episode on and don’t listen to the music on the ED at all.

          Maybe I need to spend a bit of time looking at EDs of the anime I watch…

  2. Awesome post dear !! Opening sequences matters to me a lot and a lot of anime fans, they set this pace of what the show involves, bring you anticipation. As you mentioned Tsuki ga Kirei I pre picked it to watch this season, didn’t think I would love the sequence so much. I always let that play through. From watching attack on titan this season Ive skipped the opening as it’s not that appealing to me for some reason. Just not bothered about it honestly.

    1. Thank you!

      Do you think not watching the OP for Attack on Titan has affected your enjoyment of the series at all? I suppose it could be different given it’s a sequel season.

      1. No it hasn’t affected my enjoyment of the series. The opening is fine just rather get to the episode for attack on titan just how I feel about it !!!

  3. Ah, this is such a great post! I always stick through the op/ed because it is such a great way to get you pumped for the upcoming episode! 😀

    1. Thank you! I don’t actually watch the ED all that much, or I didn’t until I watched Dragon Maid. I think I’m going to start watching them a bit more now.

      1. I see, I used to not either, but..depends on the song, and also depends on the show. Sometimes there are hints/spoilers in the ED that I try to look out for in regards to the show (i.e. Attack on Titan). But half the time they’re unrelated..like One Punch Man’s ED. I don’t really get it…haha its a stark contrast from its OP! 🙂

  4. This is such an awesome post!
    It depends on the anime that have really good openings, such as Attack on Titan, some of the Naruto openings, Beck Mongolian Chop Squad (this underrated anime is about music), Cowboy Bebop, Yuri on Ice, Black Lagoon, and a few others.
    When I watch an opening to an anime, I look for symbolic pictures and/or animation sequences to get the feel of the series and what it has in store. With Attack on Titan, the animators and creators live putting in symbolic elements into their openings to get the viewers to think about what the series is really about.

    1. I’ve watched about half of the first season of Attack on Titan and I hadn’t noticed this! I’ll be sure to pay more attention to it and see if I can pick out some of the symbolic elements you’ve mentioned. Thank you!

      1. You’re welcome! ? One way to tell is if something stands out in the openings for Attack on Titan or any long frames that show a single object (I learned this when while taking AP Language this year). One example would be a pomegranate in episodes 6 or 7. The shiny fruit stands out to where the viewers can guess what it represents.

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