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!’
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.