It’s time to look at a handful of notable opening and ending sequences from this season of anime, briefly disclosing the staff that made them possible and highlighting their particular strengths. Since people were fond of this concept last time, I went ahead and decided to make it into a recurring thing. Enjoy!
March Comes in Like a Lion Ending 2
Let’s begin this writeup focusing on striking openings from winter with something that isn’t quite an opening nor from this new season. Sangatsu may have abandoned BUMP OF CHICKEN but it’s still got memorable sequences, particularly its new ending. It was pretty much entirely brought to life by Yasuhiro Nakura, who provided the storyboard, directed and drew all the key animation. Nakura is a multifaceted artist so this versatility is honestly no surprise. He’s primarily an illustrator, a cause of sorrow for animation fans as his strongest anime works – character designer and key player on 90s Moomins, animation direction on Angel’s Egg, designs and chief supervision on Metropolis – are amongst the most impressive things the industry has produced. His presence in modern TV anime is scarce even as it’s slightly increased as of recently, but it’s still given us some gems like his brutally immersive episode of Space Dandy. One of the few active links with the industry he’s kept is his relationship with SHAFT, leading to honestly unremarkable isolated results for the most part. Sangatsu has given him more of a chance to show off his skill, however; Nakura the animator has been supervising the layouts of the show due to his strong sense of composition, and Nakura the illustrator is the soul of this ending sequence – it undoubtedly moves, but the particular usage of those sketchy lines and the way the shots are constructed give more of a feeling of paintings with motion rather than animation. And this is in no way a negative criticism, I think the effect is fantastic!
Direction/Storyboard: Shingo Natsume
Animation direction: Norifumi Kugai
Key Animation: Shunji Akasaka, Shun Enokido, Shin Ogasawara, Gosei Oda, Ran Kamezawa, Norifumi Kugai, Keisuke Kojima, Toshiyuki Sato, Hidehiko Sawada, Tomohiro Shinoda, Keita Nagasaka, Reiko Nagasawa, Shingo Natsume, Miku Mitsuoka, Nobuhiro Muto, Kanako Yoshida
Shingo Natsume can now proudly say he’s been featured in two consecutive iterations of this Sakuga Blog tradition that didn’t exist as such until I decided to bring the idea back last week. A true honor, I imagine. His continued presence is no accident of course, he really understands how to make an intro sequence exciting; this might not have the palpable excitement of Haikyuu’s opening, but it embodies ACCA’s chic style through the constant sleek transitions and eye-catching colors and shadows. It strikes a nice balance between being simply interesting to look at on its own and sneaking in thematic and narrative winks – like the drop of liquid splashing into a very relevant crown, my personal favorite. The high number of top animators (Keisuke “desuran” Kojima, Toshiyuki Sato, Hidehiko Sawada, Shun Enokido and of course Kugai himself, just to highlight some) for such a static sequence is honestly just amusing; the opening could have easily achieved its goals without these big names since its strengths don’t lie in the motion or even in the quality of the drawings, but a sakuga army following Natsume when possible is honestly natural at this point.
Little Witch Academia Ending
Little Witch Academia‘s opening was a bit disappointing as far as I’m concerned, so I had been hoping that Yoshinari would personally step in for the ending sequence and deliver something better. And that he did! This charming ED is very simple beyond the clear highlight: Masanobu Hiraoka’s short pieces of animation acting as introduction and transitions; he’s a self-taught indie animator whom we have already featured when talking about Chi‘s fantastic and inventive opening last season. His compatibility with Yoshinari is patently obvious, as they’re both fond of aqueous effects that can be incorporated into morphing sequences. I’m curious about whether Yoshinari gave him precise instructions for his drawings or allowed him tons of freedom when it came to it – surely he had some input, since the ever-changing forms feature many shapes relevant to the show’s content. The actual core of this ending is a series of cute illustrations that do a great job at depicting the inherently fun magical setting. Even if the show proper doesn’t get to explore all the scenarios featured in there, at least we got a cute glimpse of adventures that could be. Yoshigaki’s drawings are simply adorable, it’s clear that he’s been tied to this project for long enough to perfectly understand it. While he leans more towards Imaishi’s faction within Trigger, he’s been part of LWA since the very beginning. It seems like he’ll be staying even as the GEEKS crew leaves the production to go work on other Trigger projects, so here’s hoping he can keep assisting Yoshinari and doing work this nice.
KonoSuba Season 2 Opening
Storyboard/Direction: Takaomi Kanasaki
Animation direction: Koichi Kikuta
Key Animation: Shinya Takahashi, Satoshi Koike, Shu Sugita, Toshiyuki Sato, Yasuhiro Ito, Tomoyuki Yoshikawa, Masachi Kikuchi, Kazunori Ozawa, Takaomi Kanasaki, Koichi Kikuta
Konosuba’s new opening brims with character, and Koichi Kikuta’s presence plays no small role in it. Within a few shots it already sells the main characters as a kind of useless failure of an RPG party; the series director Takaomi Kanasaki understandably has a solid grasp of their goofy personalities, so he knew how to board an amusing sequence that highlights their unheroic antics. But again, it’s the incredibly expressive art enabled by Kikuta’s direct supervision that makes this special. His loose approach to the character art is finally supported by the animation the actual show can’t really afford, and the result is very lively. Even as someone who has some issues with the series, I feel nothing but joy when watching these dorks animatedly fooling around. This by all means was a case of core staff personally handling the opening – not only the director and character designer, but also animators like Shu Sugita, the Megumin explosion expert Kazunori Ozawa and their ace Shinya Takahashi, who animated the most impressive piece of animation as he had hinted at on twitter a while back.
Rakugo Season 2 Opening
Last but not least we’ve got Mamoru Hatakeyama’s offering. His storyboard flows beautifully, from one deliberate gorgeous moment to the next one. He was assisted by Nobukage Kimura, Kenji Nakamura’s right hand and also a regular collaborator of Shigeyasu Yamauchi – quite the pedigree! He lived up to it well enough too, expertly executing Hatakeyama’s set of ideas. I feel like this sequence’s strength is how elegantly it articulates a narrative; there are other openings this season that have beautiful shots and exciting cuts any viewer could appreciate with no context, but Rakugo’s intro combines the aesthetic strength with its ability to present the show’s conflicts in an easy to understand fashion. Bravo.
This time I decided to keep it to one article instead of a two-parter, so there’s quite a few more sequences I feel earned at least a mention. Maidragon‘s lively opening already received some love within the show’s individual coverage, but let me reiterate my shout-out to Takemoto and Fujita’s work. ACCA‘s ending might very well be the most enchanting sequence this season, an Ohira-inspired piece directed, storyboarded and animated by the young Izumi Murakami; had I not chosen to talk about Sangatsu‘s new ending as my favorite solo work this season and ACCA‘s opening to represent its show, I would definitely have extensively covered this one. Yasuomi Umetsu’s work on eLDLIVE can’t match up to his own high standards, but it’s still a nice ending where his aesthetic unashamedly takes over, which ends up telling us a lot about the characters with no words. And while we’re talking about Umetsu, Chaos;Child‘s opening seems rather inspired by him and his pupil Masashi Ishihama; definitely a weaker execution of their approach, but the attempt is worthy of praise. Another flawed but charming intro is found in Demi-chan; uneven and can’t retain its own momentum, but the folded book art segments are lovely. A Scum’s Wish ending is a bit of a gimmick, but the trick does work and even seems to fit the show’s themes. And as insignificant as Rewrite’s new introduction is, URA’s editing is as sleek as ever. A decent amount of good work overall!
My column is now longer than 2 cours, which is something the current anime industry (or any industry for that matter) probably wouldn’t allow.
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