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W A R N I N G !

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Anime opening video appreciation 3 - Down the retro lane!

Let's look at something different for a change of pace. Let's look at stuff from when TV was still 4:3, plus some 16:9 content from during the 4:3-to-16:9 transition period. Includes lots of stuff from before BitTorrent became prevalent, or probably even before torrents were invented.

Also includes some newer stuff that somehow ended up here and I'm just going to cover them anyway to make my life easier.

I can tell you... you better appreciate me going through these old-age stuff... and I'm not being tsundere. Some of those stuff are painful to watch by today's standards. Believe me when I say Anime has improved a lot over the years (and is till improving), so stop getting stuck in the past.

On the other hand, there are some old Anime (opening videos) that are still watchable by today's standards, and the good ones have this feel that is just not being reproduced today. In fact, many videos are good enough that I remembered why I used to enjoy watching opening videos. While technology has improved over the years, you cannot use that to replace art.

Because there are some videos that are way better than others, some that are still decent now, and some that are good for their time, I'm going to talk about the first two groups separately and leave out the third, because with about 150 videos to go through this time the list can get quite long if I include everything that I find are entertaining.

The cream of the crop

Black Cat
Ok, this thing was moved to the B-rankers when I rewatched it, and moved back to the A-team when I rewatched it yet again.

Yea, shonen Anime. Yes good opening videos can and do exist for them. Throw in appropriate music, a sequence of events that makes (singular; I'm referring to the sequence) the show look good, good animation quality, and good presentation.

Why it narrowly escaped death: As you shall soon see, most if not all of the rest of the videos in the A-group have no segments to be complained about. And Black Cat's opening video has a few parts that are redundant or takes too much time and badly done. In particular, 0:57 to 1:10 (which is quite long), and a few other parts that I personally do not like but am willing to let it slide since some people might like it.

But, the good parts of the video are so awesome that I've decided to put it onto the A-list in the end.

Bubblegum Crisis 2040
The music gets this video some points. The overall feel of the video is good and appropriate. Japanese animation was moving from the "Oh hey I have a giant robot! Look at the giant robot!" (Replace giant robot with magic wand / ninja powers / etc.) to "Yo, this is serious business, and we're here to look badass."

So good that reviewing it in words would probably be showing it disrespect. You have to consider it was 1998, and this thing still can hold its own against opening videos today. Easily one of the best even among the videos I'm writing about this time.

Comic Party Revolution
"Hey, we got a lot of budget. But let's not spend it on 3D effects or 24fps tweening, and instead spend it on things that actually matter. Lots of good-quality static images, lots of animations, and paste them all over the goddamn canvas." That's Comic Party Revolution's opening in a nutshell.

Oh, and "Why not make our own unique transition effects for every single transition because we can." Well, customized transitions are not rare, and good opening videos would be incorporating them and animating them as though they're part of the animation. Because really, they're not that expensive nor hard to make when you're already animating 90 seconds of animation. Still, credit deserves mention, and that is a lot of transition effects.

But the good part isn't limited to the animation quality. In terms of sequence of events, this is quite standard for such an Anime. Give everyone a few seconds and introduce them all. But this is carried out soooooooo nicely, largely in part due to having multiple animations occurring at the same time. Three different views per person - what society sees (occupation etc.), what people around sees, and the side that is not shown to people. Ok, I might be pushing it with my interpretation, since the last two is debatable. But certainly we get multiple viewpoints.

Some characters also have their parts slightly tweaked (not counting the transition effects). The movement of Minami's panel with her on the kickscooter follows how she is controlling the scooter. Chisa's screen at the bottom right... hard to describe. Reiko's scene... also hard to describe, but really creative, and I love the way she jumps from panel to panel. Asahi's scene is also different from the rest.

The panels, the producers also didn't simply screw it up like many others by simply using simple rectangles. The background too. And the occasional foreground effects too. This is why we pay money to art/design graduates. And because I am not one, I can't explain why this is much more visually pleasing than simple rectangles nor would I be able to come up with this.

There are so many small things here and there I just can't cover them all. It's the small things that matter, that gives the viewer the impression that the producers have put in thought and effort. Combine with excellent quality for the things that everybody else also have, and wow.

Final Approach
Dating sim-based Anime. Now how can the opening video be good. Well this video will show you how.

Motion, motion motion. Scene change. Posing with effects and some motion. Posing, posing, posing, bang, movement, movement, chibis, static picture, static picture, more pictures, effects, erm... stuff.

Chibis. Stuff. Scene change into stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Cute stuff. Ending posing scene.

This is how to make a good opening video for a dating sim-based Anime.

Guardian Hearts
Continuing on "spamming-style" videos, this one adds an extra touch by having the characters performing on stage. Because why not. Since they're doing random stuff anyway. In addition, the producers didn't just have a scene showing them on stage; instead they interleaved the stage part with the other-randomness part. Similarly the fighting and transformation and stuff parts are also inserted here and there. Combine with the appropriate music, we have a video that is like how a musical performance should be presented, at the same time an awesome fighting-style opening. And harem. And school/daily. And randomness. There are no parts that are low-quality. At least relatively for its era anyway.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha
I will not hesitate to consider this as one of the best magical girl opening videos ever, and I will not disagree if someone says that this is the best. I do, however hesitate to say that this is the absolute best of best. Well I'll talk about this, and boy do I have things to talk about.

The first time I came across this series was when I saw a picture of it on some database (not AniDB). Just a small girl carrying a wand with an animal, rated for age 7 and up. With "mahou shoujo" in the name, I thought it was just some lame stuff for children and ignored it.

The second time I came across this was during a dig for Anime(-style) music. I saw something with the name Mizuki Nana so I just acquired it. (At that time I was already knew Mizuki Nana is a good singer.) Along with a few other songs, I dump it all into my MP3 player. (I had an MP3 player back in 2002, before it was cool.)

So, on my way home on the bus on the same day, I cycled through the songs, and WHAM. Wtf is this awesome piece of music. The problem with MP3 players of the past is that they don't have enough pixels to display the song name. So I got home, opened the files I acquired earlier, but couldn't find the song. Because I looked at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha last because, hey, it has the words "Mahou Shoujo" in it. How was I supposed to expect that this song is from a "Mahou Shoujo" Anime.

Anyway, this song made me very interested in the Anime, even if it was just to see the opening video. Got it, watch it.

Wow.

This is so not the Mahou Shoujo I had first thought.


Yes, first impressions can go horribly wrong. (And this is one of the quite a few cases I have come across. Maybe I should make a post on that.)

Ok I can write a whole article on why the original Nanoha Anime is awesome. But I won't. So let's focus on the opening video.

Ok, opening video (and music) reflecting the song. And the songs says this is serious sh*t.

Starting. Usually when people start by showing of a magic wand, it's like a cheerful thing. Nope, this thing follows the style of when people show a superweapon of some sort. Not the first time being done, but pretty well done and appropriate.

The first half gives a rather lonely and unsecure feeling. A nice short glimpse of happiness that ended when the filmreel effect came in. Fate feeling emo. Nanoha alone in the forest, secret identity that cannot be revealed. And you thought being a magical girl/power ranger is fun?

Followed by the best transformation scene in magical girl opening video history ever. Quite a lot of things happening within a short time. I love the background which is actually the jewel continuously zooming out. The mood changes, magic activates, and she flies off...

...right into Fate in the night sky of the city. Taking the time to set the mood as they confront each other in the night sky. And then, contact. Not a single laser was fired, but this only tells us that the seriousness of the story extends to beyond the lasers these girls shoot.

The parts following, the intro of the characters, is quite inescapable, so I'm not deducting points. Ends of on a serious feeling.

Ok, fine, this is not a magical girl Anime, meaning going around swinging wands and helping people. Maybe that's why it is good.

Nanatsuiro Drops
Ahh... finally we reach this guy.

Hey, you know what is the way to use filters? To actually enhance what is already good on its own. So yea we already have the main characters (and their color schemes) introduced within the first few seconds. In fact I think that this scene would actually feel weird without the color filters. The ripples just made it flow just so nicely.

Running. The bane of all opening videos. But this one is done so nicely I have praises rather than complaints. For one, she didn't repeat her actions. For two, the camera is constantly changing angle. For three, the background is always changing.

Posing. No complaining when the picture is so beautiful.

We have some sort of running/dancing to introduce the main character, with enough body movement and camera work to feel not boring at all. Insert something that reflects the mood of this Anime. More introduction of characters. Insert another thing that reflects the mood of this Anime.

The next scene, standing behind the person she loves, how cute and romantic, and we realize this is not just a magical girl story, but a romance.

A transformation scene that happens fast with excellent graphics, and we move on to the chorus.

The first 2 seconds was a stroke of genius. Starting with the mountain at night view that is typical of everyday life, the camera pans and the sky fades into the wonderful fantasy that this story is. And then the camera stops, because what is that light coming from afar? It's a stellar spinner approaching at high speed, gliding over the water and making waves and lots of action. She notices somebody around her, another stellar spinner. Friend, rival? Or perhaps both. The movement here is just so detailed. And then finally the main character/doll is revealed.

The inescapable character intro, but this one keeps the theme and the pace and finishes quickly.

Glitter, glitter, glitter. More glitter, glitter, glitter. Followed by a soft ending.

And I don't think this was a high-budget Anime production. But the things, the effects, are just done so nicely. It's... just... beautiful.

Macross Dynamite 7
It's the final, complete version that I'm talking about.

Yea, it's OVA, it isn't the first opening of the series, so it's different from the rest of the videos that I'm talking about. But a good video is a good video.

And boy this video totally abuses the fact that it isn't a "first opening video", making it more like an MTV instead. But you know what, this thing would totally work and rock as a "first opening video" too. Read on.

Computer-aided graphics everywhere + high quality old school 2D, also enhanced by computer. This video is the definition of eye-candy.

That's in general, now let's get to the specifics. Already right from the start we're smashed with a variety of pictures. Even the title screen which doesn't get much screen time gets special effects.

Oh speaking of special effects, the words, as in the credits, also get special effect appropriate for this video. I'm not sure whether the English words appear for a split second because of the version of the video or because they're trying to act new age. Well, today there are many opening videos that have special effects for the credits, some similar to this one here. But hey, credit where it is due.

The verse. It combines speed with tranquility. The first half, on the train, not so special compared to the rest of the video, but still decent. Then scene change to a whole bunch of fighters. Immediately the video is relevant to the story, and the character's relationship with these vehicles is established. Or and the relationship with music too. And one more important thing, the feeling of peace and security. That's how it feels when there are over 9000 spacecrafts just idling around the base, with a few going out for patrol duty, and people playing guitar. The story is at that stage, and so should the opening video. And at the same time, the majesticness of the armed force and the vehicles are well expressed.

Chorus! Concert! Because who cares because this formula always works if carried out properly! A timely scene change showing the universe and keeping this video relevant.

More jamming. Or should I say, guitar solo. But what's really nice is the part that follows. Yea, the concert is still continuing. But the freaking Variable Fighter has entered the stage. It would've been awesome enough if a standard opening video consisting of the weapons getting ready for action is accompanied by this music. But this is taken a step further by blending this part right into the music stage. Then the concert continues on and finishes like that.

I said that this video is more like an MTV yea?

The Gargoyle of the Yoshinagas
On first glance, this video doesn't look like the type to make this list. On first glance, the Anime doesn't look like the type I would recommend to others either.

Intro is pretty typical, could do with a bit more stuff.

From the start we already have an idea of how this story is like (everyday stuff), and the relationship between the main character and the gargoyle. Then... we get the idea that there are some weird things happening in this story, but not to the the extent of disrupting the light-hearted feel. Heck, the entire video pretty much tells the whole story in a spoofy manner. Even at the fighting scene, even if you can feel the rivalry between the two non-human objects, it still feels very peaceful. But this peace is not wrong, if the fight occurred when major events in the story were not taking place.

A happy, peaceful piece yet one that also packs awesomeness. Finish with a group pose that still have stuff happening at the end to make it not boring while reminding us that this Anime is comedy at heart.

The B-rankers

Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan (2nd + 1st)
This one got moved onto the not-so-good list after I rewatched it. The content is actually ok, because this is the type of OVA that stays as an OVA instead of TV series because there is not enough content, so that gets reflected in the opening video.

But, aside from the suggestive (or blatant) scenes at the middle part, and some funny scenes during the chorus, there is nothing much to say.

Second opening is a higher-quality update to the first with more details here and there.

Cardcaptor Sakura (first opening)
Yea... this thing should be rather famous.

Background a tad simplistic, but considering the age + the possible intention of the producers, I'm not going to score against that.

Nice start, both music and video. Different camera angles and slight movements introducing the main character nicely. Some falling petals to break the monotony of an otherwise static title screen.
(Lesson of the day - have some movement when displaying the title screen, any thing, any movement works better than complete stillness. Although actually, nobody makes that mistake anymore, except the super cheap productions. Yes, a still title screen makes the Anime look cheap.)

Standing, standing, standing, the video follows the song lyrics. There's nothing much to do at this point anyway yea? It's a show for girls after all. But since I didn't get bored or pissed it's all okay.

The middle part, usually transformation scene happens here (either here or chorus). Or a showcase of the protagonist's powers (It's along the same line). But, Cardcaptor Sakura doesn't really have any noteworthy ability of her own, nor does she really have a transformation scene (But what do I know, I didn't follow the Anime; and it'd be strange if I did). The opening video instead appropriately touched on those stuff only briefly and quickly. Nice "transformation", even if it is only a fade in of the clothes.

The fantasy and calm feel is brought out nicely by the opening video. Sufficient introduction of supporting characters. Good visual entertainment. Probably pretty mediocre by today's standards, but still a good watch.

Second and third openings... they're more like music videos than opening videos. Bad music videos.

Full Moon wo Sagashite (first opening)
Following the spamming trend, we have a shoujo manga/Anime that convinced me that shoujo manga/Anime can be excellent. This video starts with dancing, but this dancing I enjoy because it doesn't not repeat itself every two second. Not as good as Carnival Fantasm, but not as bad as Idolmaster second opening. The background layer showing her adult form is nice.

More visual data, more motion. Introduce the characters will ya. With motion. Spam pictures. Chorus. Pretty busy.

One issue I have with this opening video, however. Spam spam spam, ya? Towards the end things are becoming pretty random stuff. But the video missed out telling us that the story is actually more serious, sadder, and romantic than the video is depicting, and I feel that it's not doing the story justice. That's what happens when you disguise a romance Anime as an "Oh I wanna be that guy (or girl)" Anime for 7-year-olds. Even the second opening is not reflecting the story properly, and by that time things were getting serious (a.k.a. filler episodes were running low). In contrast, the ending songs are sad and romantic. Brings a tear to my eye.

Galaxy Angel
Just mentioning it here. Hard to rate these guys (talking about all seasons' opening videos here), but they're all at least above average. Anyway you would've watched all the seasons, and if you haven't and you like comedy you should.

Gunsmith Cats
There is a term for this type of animation... (the opening video I mean) but I just can't remember...

(Ok, I lied, I didn't know it in the first place.)

Reminds you of western animation doesn't it? How appropriate since the story is set in the west. Speaking of which, Japanese Animation doesn't have enough stories that take place in the modern west and/or involving guns. They should do more. Back to talking about the video, not much to say other than the budget shortage towards the end. Even if it is on the list under the category "artistic", but at least it doesn't feel bad overall. Yea, have a gimmick and then make the rest of the parts at least average in general, that's the most effective formula for a video that people will remember watching.

Gundam Wing
Didn't think I would talk about a mainstream mecha Anime that the entire world knows about*?

(*Hopefully that is still the case, because a world where the only Gundam everybody knows is Gundam Seed would SUCK ALOT; it's bad enough that people don't know about Universal Century)

Gundam Wing is a good representative of the past. The lack of computer-aided graphics, yet everything is so nicely drawn. It's like they take excellent colored manga drawings and put them on the screen; it's a different type of "nice" compared to some of the realism fine art HDR of today. (The fighting at the last part of the opening video doesn't count, because it's taken from the actual Anime...) The downside of this approach is that it is much harder to maintain consistency of quality especially when things starts to become complicated or starts to move, so we're still ahead with the present-day methods. Still, we don't get to see the old-style artwork today anymore. Then again, considering all the Anime that were made before year 2000, maybe this is for the best.

Ok ok, Gundam Wing. Yea the artwork is good even when watched today, so that already earns a lot of points. But the more important thing is the message that this video conveys, in tandem with the music.

Start with a slow fading in and introduction of... erm... stuff... until the colony is suddenly revealed. Then title screen. Then fade back to the colony which is now engulfed in flames. Peaceful place has become a warzone, and this guy is in the middle of it. Or he is the direct cause of what's directly being shown. Whatever.

Intro of Gundams. Can never have too much of it.

Aftermath and the lonely winter, could also be dust which just makes the scene even better. The future queen that will bring peace to the people in war getting emotional at a teddy bear... yes the teddy bear trick has been used many times, but at least it is appropriate here.

Tranquility, death and destruction around the Gundams after their fighting... (The rest of the opening video are taken from the actual Anime, so the opening video analysis stops here.)

Remember when war stories were about the sufferings of the people? Oh you'd remember, since the Japanese are enthusiastic at producing these kind of stories. Just a reminder that Gundam stories are war stories too. (And by that I do NOT mean that things are only sad if a friend of the protagonist die (or, friends fighting each other), while it's alright if anybody else dies instead - that is f*cking hypocritical. And we have a lot of this in action movies already.)

And remember when Gundam stories were not about this giant robot that can fly, cut and shoot lasers, but about this superweapon that grants great power to the one holding it, and can cause mass destruction or stop wars?

Gundam Wing - 5 Gundams that were created by the oppressed to stop the sh*t. This show would probably have been banned during the period when terrorism was a sensitive topic.

The opening video conveyed the message well. If the Anime is about war, suffering, and power (authority/threat), I want to see it in the opening video. And the music too - upbeat at the right times, peaceful at the right times, slightly techy for the robots, and slightly astro for the, erm, space. The problem with many Gundam opening videos is, I don't see all these. Even though Gundam series's are pretty much the same plot being repeated over and over again. Heck, this should be the case for all war and/or space and/or giant robots Anime. And some such Anime do have appropriate openings, tweaked for each individual storyline.

1 comment:

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