The opening credits. A lot of people gloss over them, but I see them as important for getting you into the proper mood to digest the entertainment you’re about to partake of. That said, like many other things, not enough works take them seriously when writing them.
I see Tales of the Abyss and Puella Magi Madoka Magica both have interesting applications of their opening credits that, sadly, cannot be fully appreciated until you’re completely finished the entire thing. The one for Madoka had the added benefit of sounding like your standard magical girl fare, and therefore fitting in well with the troll beginning, and even got repeated over the end credits for the final episode to drive the point home for those too slow to catch on. Sadly, however, I cannot elaborate without completely and utterly spoiling both of them, so stay away from this post unless you’ve watched/played both or don’t mind completely ruining a very solid game and one of the most popular anime of all time for yourself.
OK, to start off, these are the officially translated lyrics to the opening of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, “Connect“:
I won’t forget our promise we made
I close my eyes to make sure
I will move forward,
Shaking off the surging darkness
When can I see the future that I lost
Here in this place once again?
Tearing up the shadow of anxiety
That floods into me many times
I will keep walking in this world
Time that is endlessly ticking now starts
With our everlasting passion,
And open the door that has been closed
Our awakened souls
Set out to paint our rising future
Even if we get stuck on a troubled path
The beautiful sky always waits for us
So I won’t be afraid of anything
Whatever happens, I won’t give up
If you want to hear what that actually sounds like when sung, Crunchyroll has the entire series up for free, so it should be no problem to check.
Now, there are many, many walls of text out there that pull out imagery from throughout the series, but this opening is pretty much universally agreed upon. Anyone who’s gone through the series and actually paid attention during the credits will notice at the end of the final episode that this opening is being sung by resident time traveller Homura in the new universe that Madoka had created in exchange for erasing her own existence. Since Homura spent the entire series trying to save Madoka, both as a promise and due to personal feelings, the song is essentially talking about the promise and her determination to keep it. Simple enough, sure.
But nobody actually noticed this until the very end, as I said, and most people probably skipped the opening after the first time due to the sheer whiplash compared to the tone of the rest of the show. Basically, the song excelled at telling us the plot without telling us the plot.
The Tales of the Abyss opening, “Karma“, can be said to preform similarly in that regard. Sadly, however, the English release of the game (even the 3DS port, sadly), replaced the voice track with some badass guitar riffs. So even people who played the game should be unfamiliar with these lyrics, which I provide for your benefit:
I dropped a glass marble
When I chased after it, another one fell
Now only one remains in the sunny spot made for one
From the moment their hearts start beating, whether or not they want to, people take their place
And then they protect it so no one can take it away
No matter how much I clean these hands, they still look quite dirty to me
Before I can doubt my memories, it’s my memories that are doubting me
I’m sure that someday we’ll meet each other,
So long as we follow the sounds of our identical heartbeats
I am here, and I’ll always be calling you
When our tired reasons overlap and sway about
We’ll understand the meaning behind our births
We’re both mirrors,
Meant to reflect each other’s karma
Our dirtied hands touch in the reflection, as we both feel our shapes
You are here, I know because I’m feeling you
Both sharing the space in that sunny spot made for one
Don’t forget, I’ll always be calling you
From inside this same glass bead
Yes, I’m sure that someday we’ll meet each other
When a cross is raised atop our buried reasons,
The promise will be fulfilled
We will become one
Why do I hear audible facedesks? Could it be that people had sudden eureka moments when reading that? Yes, the song is about Asch and Luke, and how Luke’s an
clone replica that took over Asch’s life after he was kidnapped. Also alluded to is Luke feeling irredeemable guilt for being tricked into killing an entire town full of people (nevermind that EVERYONE BUT HIM is to blame), and how Asch was tricked into the villain role for a while. “We’ll understand the meaning of our births” is referring to how Luke questions why he even exists after he finds out what’s going on. In fact, that’s the tagline at the back of my 3DS copy:
Why was I born? Why am I alive?
“I’ll always be calling you” refers to their telepathic connection (I should note that the line can be translated as “I can call you at any time”, as well, which would make this more obvious).
Fittingly referencing the end of the game with the final verse, “When a cross is raised atop our buried reasons” refers to Asch’s death and how Luke is thought, on several occasions (including the end of the game) to be dead. “The promise will be fulfilled” refers to either the promise Luke made to Tear or the promise Asch made to Natalia, or both (the game’s ending is intentionally quite vague about this). “We will become one” refers to the fusion between Asch and Luke and the end of the game.
Basically, if you played the game and didn’t facedesk, you should for not noticing until I explained it all just now.
Now, this would be a nice thing to do well, right? It adds just a little bit of depth to the show. That said, these examples are drowned out by the not-so-subtle, the irrelevant, and the completely fucking random examples you find laying around. In the interest of not firing a potshot at something from the past year while staying within the same medium (technically, since Tales of the Abyss had an anime adaptation that used the same opening theme with different animation), here are the lyrics to “Happy New Meow” from Mayoi Neko Overrun! (literally “Stray Cats Overrun!“):
Because, because, because
I want to be cared, cared, cared for
When I’m not obedient, there’s no way I’m cute
There, there, there
Accept it, accept it please
Every day is full of disaster
It’s the end if I say I like you, meow
My way, that way, the cat’s way
They’re staring me down from above
Found a calico, tiger, white
(Hurry it up)
Welcome, a cat’s invitation
Don’t get full of yourself
For some reason, I hate it when you’re too nice
Happy new meow,
Nice to meet you
The first overrun I give you
I run away, so chase me around
This round world
A lucky new face
Is coming towards me
Look only after me
If you want to pick it up, just do so
Happy new meow,
Nice to meet you
You should just pick it up without hesitating
Do you see anything in there that’s even remotely meaningful? After taking into account how “Stray Cats” is just the name of a bakery? Didn’t think so. They just… looked at the title and threw whatever came to mind together.
More often, however, you see openings that have some meaning to them, but it’s exceedingly obvious and therefore almost cringe-worthy at times. Like “Irony” from My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute:
Please don’t be so nice to me
How am I supposed to react?
With the words piled up between us, I can no longer see
Your face at my side
Where was it?
I still can’t find the key I lost
Sigh… Stubbornly arguing wears me out
The distance between us shrinks a little
I can’t grab hold, even though we’re so close!
Please don’t be so nice to me
See? We’ve hurt each other again
With the lies piled up between us, I can no longer move
I want to see you as soon as I can,
But I just can’t find the right words
At least by the final page of our story,
I want to show you my smile!
Nice plot summary… Oh wait, those are the song’s lyrics. >___>
OK, so I get told the plot summary point-blank in song form at the start of every episode. How… boring. A bit lazy even, good song or not.