Dark Aether’s Top Anime Theme Songs From Winter 2020 – Aether Is Not Easy, Breezy Edition

Somali and the Forest Spirit
Somali and the Forest Spirit

It’s Spring time, which means a new round of shows have already started to pop up and we’re long past talking about last season. Though the state of Spring 2020’s season will likely be altered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I figured now would be a good time to publish my seasonal anisong list before the next season gets fully underway.

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Contrary to my usual writing routine, I started actually writing this one WAY later than I usually do, largely on account of a few recent projects that have taken my time – along with a few trivial pursuits while on lockdown. But the main reason for the delay was I’m not sure what format this series should take or if my heart was even in it to write another. My last roundup was probably my most time consuming and lengthier ones on account of including 13 14 individual tracks on top of some general impressions for those respective shows.

Previous Roundup:

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As I look back at that piece, I may have bitten more than I can chew. Rather than dwell on it, I’ve decided to keep this list as basic as possible without getting too deep into the aspects of the show itself. Moving forward, I’d like for this series to serve as a stop gap in between my other write ups as I divert my attention to more critical write ups/analyses and whatever piques my interest.

But for now, here are my top anisongs of Winter 2020. As before, I’ve compiled into a playlist format at the very end for convenience. New for this roundup is “Best OP/Best ED” with my personal favorite OP and ED of the season highlighted in bold.

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*Note: As a reminder, only legally available content is considered. Beyond that, anything that aired in the given season (Streaming, Toonami, etc.) is fair game.

Song: Starmaker

Artist: KANA-BOON

Anime: My Hero Academia

Whatever your take about the fourth season is, it’s hard to deny MHA has been putting its A-Game into its music. I’ve featured KANA-BOON on this series previously with the excellent Massara (Sarazanmai) and they return once again with a gleefully uplifting and vibrant opener. Kicking things off with a colorful montage, Starmaker incorporates several musical components that tickle many of my favorite tunes. I’m a sucker for piano instrumentation, and the way its implemented throughout its rock and pop filled beats make it one of the most experimental, if not unique shonen openings in recent memory…

Song: Wild Side

Artist: ALI

Anime: Beastars

….until now.

I’d normally start this section out with a joke about Netflix’s release schedule, but I think many of already know how I feel about it from my last playlist. Our very own TGRIP even penned this open letter with his thoughts about it recently.

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This might come off as a surprise, but I don’t have very much to say about the show itself (I’ve watched 6 episodes as of this writing; not sure what to make of it), but the opening is an incredible piece of art. Wild Side by Hip Hop/Rap group ALI, who made their debut last year, delivers a Jazz/”Noir” inspired filled track that rapidly builds into its climax at the 50 second mark, entering a very “soft” interlude before ending things with orchestral, if not “big band” inspired piece.

Song: Mr. Fixer

Artist: Sou

Anime: ID: Invaded

A sci-fi original anime, ID: Invaded left an odd impression on me just before the simuldubs were delayed. It’s a fun investigative thriller even if the actual technical mechanics of its world and mysteries are never the “star” of the show’s central investigations. However, you don’t need to be a brilliant detective to appreciate ID’s opening. A fairly recent artist from 2018, Sou delivers an unorthodox Jpop tune with Mr. Fixer, leaning towards a rock, classic, and even “digital” style of music. I should also point out the very stylized animation used during the opening – the penciled characters and computer like imagery are a nice touch.

Note: There doesn’t seem to be an official anime version as the previous link I had was removed.

Song: Alive

Artist: Mashiro Ayano

Anime: Darwin’s Game

In an unusual turn of events, most of my picks this season came from the anime endings, starting with death game simulator Darwin’s Game. I know some of our AniTAY staff vouched for this show, but I can’t say I feel the same at the point where the simuldub stopped. It’s a perfectly watchable show that doesn’t require much investment on one’s part, never quite breaking the mold, but just being insane enough that you want to watch what kind of crazy mess they get into.

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In contrast to the show’s opening, Mashiro Ayano’s (Fate Stay Night: UBW, D.Gray-Man Hallow) Alive is a surprisingly slower, high pitched song that gives off a feeling of a desperate struggle and perseverance. Not surprising is Ayano’s incredible vocal range since Fate’s Ideal White (a personal favorite of mine), accompanied by a number of backing instrumentation. Also, gotta love that guitar solo in the full version!

Song: Namae no Nai Ao

Artist: Kami-sama, Boku wa Kizuite Shimatta

Anime: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! no doubt made a lasting impression with many both here at AniTAY and around the anime community…. except for me (*ducks*).

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To be blunt, it was all right. It’s definitely earned some of its reputation based on its art style and fun sense of humor, story, and commentary on “industry.” Yet, for some reason that escapes me, I cannot get invested. Perhaps it was Masaaki Yuasa’s “style” which I’ve never been incredibly fond of or that God awful opening (seems I’m in the minority here) that prevented me from fully enjoying this show. Though I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more in the future, in the end, I just realized it wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Its ending theme, however, is very much my morning cup of brew that I didn’t just spike while no one was looking. Kami-sama, I have noticed (Boku wa Kizuite Shimatta [Editor’s note: cool name!]), closes the show out with rock single Namae no Nai Ao, with a montage that captures the show’s concepts and themes much better than the show’s (at this point) meme-like status that the opening made famous. Beyond the fun hand drawn animation, I love the singer’s vocal shifts in between its harder guitar and drum beats. The full music video in the alt link above is also worth checking out (their fashion sense is even over the top!).

Song: Kokoro Somali

Artist: Inori Minase

Anime: Somali and the Forest Spirit

My favorite of the new shows that aired this season, Somali and the Forest Spirit is a charming and delightful story – one of the few shows I was able to complete before the delays started or shortly after. Though not a parent myself, I sympathized with its humanization of its inhuman guardian as the titular Forest Spirit, “Golem,” slowly discovers his “heart” on his journey to reunite Somali with her own kind.

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Though Inori Minase has voiced a number of roles (Hestia in DanMachi, Rem in Re:Zero) along with providing several anisongs in the past, her role as the voice of Somali is further personified in Kokoro Somali with its uplifting lyrics and powerful delivery. She delivers an emotional, yet warm ballad that channels the spirit of her character and the show even out of context. While the ending animation is also a treat, the full version hits even higher notes with additional momentum and incredible instrumentation not featured in the TV version.

Song: Tiny Light

Artist: Akari Kito

Anime: Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun

Rounding things out is another personal favorite anime of the season that I’m currently unable to finish without switching to the subbed version. I actually wrote the entry for Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun in our last seasonal anime list, so I’ll refer you to that article for more details.

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Another voice actor and anisong contributor, Akari Kito (Nezuko in Demon Slayer, Kotoko in In/Spectre), provides the ending theme along with voicing lead heroine Nene. In a sharp contrast to the chaotic rock stylings of the show’s opening, Tiny Light is a somber tune evoking themes of longing and departure as the two central leads share a connection in their alternate worlds (life and death). I’m particularly fond of the repeating chorus and red visuals that remain a constant in portraying Nene and Hanako’s perspective in white and black, respectively. Simply put, it’s a beautiful composition for an equally beautiful anime.

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Honorable Mention

Song: Mamoru Miyano

Artist: Last Dance

Anime: In/Spectre

I just wanted to use this one to end this playlist. 😊

Completed Playlist:

1. Starmaker – KANA-BOON (My Hero Academia)

2. Wild Side – ALI (BEASTARS) [Best OP]

3. Mr. Fixer – Sou (ID: INVADED)

4. Mashiro Ayano – Alive (Darwin’s Game)

5. Namae no Nai Ao – Kami-sama, I have noticed (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!)

6. Kokoro Somali – Inori Minase (Somali and the Forest Spirit) [Best ED]

7. Tiny Light – Akari Kito (Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun)

8. Bonus: Last Dance – Mamoru Miyano (In/Spectre)

As a quick aside, with the current Spring season currently being impacted, I can’t say for sure if there will be a list next season (I like to have a minimum of five tracks), but fingers crossed. Once again, thanks for reading! Stay safe, stay healthy, and feel free to drop a comment below!

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Credits:

Song: Hero Too | Artist: Jiro Kyoka ft. Chrissy Costanza | Anime: My Hero Academia

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You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. To join in on the fun, check out our website, visit our official subreddit, follow us on Twitter, or give us a like on our Facebook page. 

Dark Aether is a writer/contributor for TAY and AniTAY. You can check his previous writings here or follow him on Twitter @UndeadAether. Not Dead Yet.

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