‘Waiter, there’re noises in this OP!’

indeed

I’ve been busy, writing essays and experiencing the loneliness of the long-distance reader. Here’s a list of some post ideas I’ve thrown together, but not worked up: a condensed review of The Skull Man; a post about honour in the eighth episode of Space Runaway Ideon; praise for the mechanical design of the ZZ Gundam; a piece on different attitudes to time and progress, and those attitudes’ effects on our viewing experience; a post asking just what I’ve been doing here, and why; and something approaching the Book of Darkness from Nanoha A’s as a metaphor for text in general (an idea which has no proper relationship with truth but which, like the Book of Darkness, practically writes itself). Some of these may see the light of day eventually.

And here’s a post that I have, more or less, written up. Newtype (the blogger, not the magazine) mentioned the presence of sound effects in some of the openings for Zeta Gundam. I squirrelled this point away in the back of my mind. Now I’m de-squirrelling it. This post is a slightly rambling survey of a fairly insignificant thing — the commentary category in all its glory — so don’t expect any thrilling conclusion. I’m currently a little tired of writing conclusions, thrilling or otherwise.

What do noises caused by what’s happening on the screen during the opening do? I imagine the simple and obvious answer is that they direct our attention. When it’s done, it’s usually only one or two sounds and so our attention’s focused on whatever onscreen events justify the intrusion of noise over the opening music. Probably because I began with Zeta, the first and in some ways the least interesting examples I thought of were mecha openings.

The music in Zeta‘s first and it second openings isn’t really interrupted (though the second bookends its music with sound), but the OP that had to be used on the North American DVDs competes with sounds all the way through. I must admit that, while we’re obviously obliged by our unwritten Anime Fan Contracts to react with RAEG and HAET to any changes to the Japanese original, I’ve a sneaking liking for the instrumental theme used for the opening of the Region 1 release: it’s enjoyably bombastic. Indeed, I recall being rather struck by the Region 1 opening when I first watched Zeta: I had finished 0080 the day before, and I’m not sure I would’ve been ready for the original opening’s pep.

The first Tekkaman Blade opening has bookending noises like Zeta‘s: at the beginning and (very conclusively) at the end; the second has more, throughout. Gundam 0083, meanwhile, has them in its first OP. As usual they draw our attention to the machines, but in 0083‘s case the mecha have a kind of narrative significance: because the story begins with a Gundamjacking, but can only last twelve episodes, the stolen mecha are the focus of the characters’ desire for (it seems to me) at least two thirds of the story. (Unkind viewers might suggest that 0083‘s Gundams are more interesting than its characters.) Besides that rather speculative explanation, looking at the mechanical design credits, if I had people like that coming up with mecha I’d want to give said mecha as much attention as possible.

Let’s move on to a couple of (slightly) more interesting cases. There are three noises in the Dougram OP: two when characters load their weapons, and the concluding gunshot. Personal firearms are are important in Dougram. These backpack-battery-powered ones have a scene devoted to their introduction and, like the titular mecha, they’re a symbol of the Deloyeran resistance movement’s ability to innovate. Moreover, the amount of fighting done by foot-soldiers is one of the things that distinguishes Dougram from other mecha shows (even VOTOMS: Dougram‘s Combat Armours are much, much bigger than ATs, so they’re more clearly distinguished from grunts).

The sounds in Xenoglossia‘s second OP arrive with the chorus and its accompanying mecha action. This is the second, more serious, opening, which accompanies the story’s shift into more serious territory, pitting the sentient mecha against each other; compare the more upbeat first OP. And finally there’s a surprising amount of noise in the opening for the first, ’73-vintage, Cutie Honey (incidentally the same opening song has been used for all Cutie Honey adaptions — including the live action one). But there’s so much going on in that OP that I can’t properly process it.

The fact that different versions of the same iconic song are used in all the different Cutie Honey adaptions brings us to the issue of prestige. Who performs the opening song, and how interested are their fans in it? Putting sounds in alongside the music suggests a certain disrespect. Since the Idolmaster games are big on music, it’s odd that Xenoglossia‘s opening features sound. On the other hand, this makes the sounds in Zeta‘s North American openings more comprehensible: they tell us that, ideally, this isn’t the music we’d be listening to (I doubt that is why they were chosen, but I’m interested in the effect). The opening for the 2004 television adaption of Area 88 has lots and lots of other sound, after its initial eighteen seconds, because (I think) the opening music isn’t present to be listened to, but rather to stimulate excitement. ‘Look! Planes!’

dmc-andtear

There are cases of almost the opposite situation: in parts of the openings for K-ON, Detroit Metal City, Kannagi and the second season of Rosario + Vampire for example, the music is being produced by the characters performing on screen. The shot at the end of the DMC OP even appears to be from a camera on stage, as Krauser strides up to whoever’s holding it and seizes it. The non-existent camera itself is part of the opening’s world, at least for that shot.

Given that they’re about bands, I see why the K-ON and DMC openings are like this. I’ve recently heard one or two people muttering on the internet that you don’t actually see the band performing enough in K-ON, which seems a bit odd given that you have the opening . . . and the ending. Every episode. But I’m not watching it, and I’m not a music person, so what do I know? I suppose the other two depict and encourage idolisation. In Kannagi‘s case, the idea of idolisation rather reminds me of this and also of the show’s Pygmalion premise. (I’m aware, vaguely, of the Japanese use of ‘idol’; would the punning shift from religious icon to pop-cultural icon be available in the Japanese use?)

I should also point out the first opening for Shugo Chara Doki, which does similar, and similarly interesting, things: first we see onomatopoeic words for sounds which we don’t hear — an emphatic ‘KONN . . .’ as Amu shares a brofist (sisfist? sororfist?) with Kairi over Rima’s head, for example — and then we see some of the lyrics writ large. (I wouldn’t have known about this if SDS hadn’t highlighted it.) I can’t really guess what this does, except, as SDS pointed out, remind us of Overman King Gainer, so I’d welcome suggestions. The only idea I came up with is that it encourages younger viewers to sing along, but I feel an urge to sing along myself, so obviously that can’t be right.

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19 responses to “‘Waiter, there’re noises in this OP!’

  1. When you say Xenoglossia do you mean Gun x Sword or is that just a mistake in the link.

  2. contains my favourite use of sound effects during an OP. So much so that I think the song suffers when they aren’t there on the record.

    Cutie Honey’s use of different arrangements of the same song through it’s various iterations ties into something that struck me watching the Conan vs. Lupin film – the lack of iconic themes in recent anime.

    The Conan vs. Lupin film ends up using the iconic THEME FROM LUPIN III as it’s opening music, because despite its length and popularity Conan still hasn’t gotten the iconic theme tune it deserves.

    • It might be me, but there does seem to be some relationship between the song’s lines and the timing of Ryo’s gunshots (and those are satisfyingly solid, weighty-sounding gunshot noises). I don’t know about the smashing of the searchlight, though.

      Interesting that Conan vs. Lupin highlights that deficiency by juxtaposition. Is the composition of an opening theme song specifically for the anime noticeably less common nowadays? Most of the examples I can think of are old mecha shows, but that probably says more about my taste, or lack of it. (‘Stop! Hibari-kun!’ is one of the non-mecha examples I can think of, but that doesn’t say much for my taste either . . .)

      • Actually I’m going to take back slightly what I said about Conan. I’m rewatching that Conan vs. Lupin film now and there is a signature instrumental piece they play, that just screams Detective Conan when you hear it. Not sure what it’s called, and it’s not an OP I recall (certainly not the original theme). Purely from memory, I believe it’s the tune they play when recapping previous episodes (and possibly previewing next episodes).

  3. Both Gundam Wing OPs have sounds, too, and actually add flavor to the song. Just Communication has the five Gundams strutting their stuff during a lull in the song. I also tried listening to Rhythm Emotion without the Zero System activation sound in the first few seconds and it wasn’t right.

    • Ah, as always Wing‘s a bit of a blind spot for me. I like the intro of ‘Just Communication’, but the main body of the song has never properly caught my attention.

      That said, I do like the mechanical designs for W, so I’m not averse to the idea of them strutting their stuff.

  4. No matter how many times I listen to Turn A Turn and Century Color, and no matter how awesome the full versions are, they lack something without that “TURN A..GUNDAM” intonation at the very beginning. It’s so…amazing. I usually shout it myself.

    This, as you can imagine, gets me funny looks sometimes.

  5. I think of the Kannagi opening as an extended pun (she’s a kami, and thus an idol in the old sense of the term) but that could just be the result of a discussion I had with gendomike on the matter.

  6. As with schneider, the first OP that came to mind with “sounds” was Just Communication – which makes me wonder if perhaps the whole phenomenon of included sound is perhaps a relic of older anime, or anime trying to capture an older aesthetic?
    Most of the examples you cite are from before the 2000s (except for perhaps Area 88, which has an “older” style overall nonetheless), so perhaps it’s not so much a conscious decision as simply “what’s traditionally been done”.
    Certainly, the more recent Gundam titles no longer include mecha sounds in their openings.

    • Area 88 is definitely rooted in the past. Xenoglossia is the other more modern title here, and it isn’t trying to recapture the 80s — but then it’s mecha, and Sunrise, and it might be a conscious effort to drive home the point that the plot’s not just about cute idols anymore.

      Another problem here is that I was limited to what gets fansubbed and, beyond that, what I hear about. I didn’t look up examples of modern anime for younger children (rather than older children and teenagers) for example.

  7. I agree with schneider ‘s sentiment on Just Communication, it just felt a bit off without it.

    I actually think that the mecha were much more likable than their pilots, with the Immortal 4th being equally likable in comparison with their GMs in 0083.

    I like my OPs catchy but I think the ones that really stick are the ones that fill you with an urge to do something, Like Mazinger Z’s OP. Every time it plays I get the urge to hit something.

  8. I can’t seem to find an OP with noise… Y DO I FAIL @ DIS?

  9. I really can’t relate very much to this. Like ghostlightning I’ve never really took note of noise in any OP or ED.

  10. The Gundam Wing opening comes to mind immediately for me as well.

    I always feel that sound inserted over the music of an opening or closing song makes it kind of cheap. Like, putting images to music is an art in itself and throwing these little noises (even if they happen to be cool Gundam noises) over the soundtrack feels amateurish and cheap.

    In the GW opening there’s a point at the start where they throw in a ton of noises to represent guns firing and swords slicing and then it all abruptly stops as the music gets low. It’s pretty awkward.

    But I suppose you just get used to it and it blends into the song forever after.

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