Welcome back to another edition of my seasonal Anime Playlist – your short guide into some of the best anime openings, endings, and original soundtracks along with some brief anime impressions! The summer season may have been lighter in content compared to previous seasons, but the tunes kept on rolling out with a new batch of anisongs that are sure to light a fire in even the most cunning rouge. As always, anything that aired this season through legal means, regardless of original air date, is eligible.
Artist: Yutaka Yamada (composer), Original Soundtrack
Anime: Great Pretender
Did you know I purposely held off on doing this list just to be able to include Great Pretender? Now that it’s finally available on Netflix, I can freely say that this may be the best damn show currently airing/streaming this season. I know that isn’t saying much given what we have to work with in this unusually dry season, but it feels good to be able to find something I legitimately enjoy even when I’m not unabashedly singing its praises in writing. Part international “heist flick,” part crime drama with a dash of comedy, Great Pretender has all the hallmarks of an “anime for people who dislike anime” written on it. Seriously, of all the people I’ve talked to, I’ve only heard one lukewarm review from a close relative, who gave it seemingly passing score of “meh” after the first case (Editor’s note: they dropped it soon after). In hindsight, that was as good as I was going to get. Even if the odds are statistically not in my favor, you’ll never know what will click if you never venture away from your comfort zone.
Speaking of, Great Pretender’s main opening also ventures off the beaten path with a quick, 1-minute instrumental medley. Composed by Yutaka Yamada (Tokyo Ghoul, Vinland Saga), G.P. is a Jazz inspired tune fit for a confidence man or woman, as the show often likes to tout. Unlike the rest of the list, there are no vocals, just a quick intro and some simple, yet beautifully rendered visuals that give a larger overview of the show and some of the locations covered in this first half. It’s not the most visually complex opening this season, but its array of classical and Jazz instrumentation sets the stage for one incredible journey that has to be seen to believe.
Song: Contradiction (feat. Tyler Carter)
Anime: The God of High School
Editor’s note: It has come to my attention as of 9/2 of the allegations surrounding Tyler Carter. Since this article had been written ahead of time, I decided to keep it in with respect to the other professionals who worked on the opening above, as well as keeping in line of separating the artist from the art (in this case, the vocalist). This should go without saying that I take these allegations seriously and will refrain from mentioning his name moving forward, except where noted in this article.
Let’s just get this out of the way. The God of High School is straight up junk food shonen, and not in a “so bad, it’s good” manner. I’ve said my piece over on the AniTAY seasonal round up for this season, but to give you the short version, it suffers from many of the same problems that the previous Crunchyroll Original, Tower of God has. The only difference, along with some poor story direction, is GOHS makes little to no attempt to flesh out its main leads, or does so in the most uninspired method possible. I’m beginning to have my doubts about the whole Crunchyroll Originals process and may be tempted to cover the subject in greater detail should the upcoming Noblesse fail to live up to its own (or Crunchyroll’s, if you want to be more cynical) hype, but for now, let’s focus on the music.
Aside from the visuals, GOHS’s sole redeeming factor is the soundtrack – notably, this beat heavy inspired opening by artists KSUKE and Tyler Carter. Best known for his work on the Konami Bemani series, notably the Beatmania IIDX series, Contradiction marks KSUKE’s first anisong debut, at least as far as I can tell from his YouTube channel. Indeed, my first impressions of it did initially strike comparisons to video game music, which isn’t too surprising given the series’ fighting game influences. With its seizure inducing visuals accompanied by rapid fire beats and intense colorization, GOHS’s opening manages to sell the show’s initial premise – even if the end product is less than the sum of its parts.
Song: Theatre of Life
Artist: Konomi Suzuki
I know I just posted the opening above, but here’s my friendly piece of advice: Don’t watch it yet.
The latest original anime acquired by Funimation, Deca-Dence took many by surprise with its post-apocalyptic setting, aerial theatrics, and surprisingly vivid cast of characters despite the doom and gloom. But Deca-Dence had another silver bullet lined up in episode 2 that, in all honesty, I expected to be a complete betrayal of its initial premise. It’s difficult to analyze without flat out spoiling the “twist,” but the payoff it delivers opens up the world on a deeper and grander level as the last remaining humans try to carve out an existence in an environment where the odds are always stacked against them. I’ve yet to find a notable fault or piece of criticism I can offer up as of this writing, so I’ll just leave it at that and say check this one out!
Many will recognize Konomi Suzuki on several anisong playlists, but this marks the first occasion I’ve featured this artist before. Best known for her work featured in No Game No Life and Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World, Suzuki delivers a J-Pop and rock inspired track in the form of Theatre of Life. True to its name, Deca-Dence’s opening shows off a rich and vibrant [redacted] world through some spectacular midair theatrics, all delivered through a powerful and uplifting sequence as the main chorus kicks in and Suzuki’s vocals carry the scene. At the risk of gushing about this show further, Theatre of Life is truly “decadent” – pun very much intended.
Artist: Konomi Suzuki
Anime: Re:Zero (Season 2)
I recently wrapped up season 1 of Re:Zero after having it in my backlog of shame since at least a year, if not longer. I had finished the first half sometime after the English dub went up, but the second half was incomplete at the time, so I put it in the backburner and promptly forgot about it. As a result, I didn’t quite feel the four yearlong gap as strongly as most, so with the second season in full swing, I finally revisited the series. It’s a strange point to come back to Re:Zero at the exact moment where Subaru had his infamous breakdown that kicked off his next brush with death and despair, but I’ve very much enjoyed the direction the story has taken which alleviated any initial doubts I might have formed coming into this series. Overall, I quite enjoyed my time with it, but if you’re interested in much more detailed take, fellow contributor Dilkokoro recently posted his thoughts on the first season.
What are the odds that we got not one, but two anisongs from the same artist for different shows? This just saves me the trouble of having to write two different write ups for them! I won’t spend too much time on the opening sequence itself as the dub just started as of this writing, but holy shit, it does not skimp on the brutality! Compared to the bright, evocative Theatre of Life from the last pick, Realize is a heavier, almost somber jam that emphasizes the despair and agony of Re:Zero’s protagonist while still being a banger of an opening theme. I must give special emphasis to the full version which, aside from being (literal) fire, includes a beautiful melodic piece partway before giving way to the reprisal of the main chorus.
Anime: Fire Force (Season 2)
With the simuldub behind the simulcast, I’m farther behind on season 2 than most of my fellow AniTAY’ers (3 or 4 as of this writing). There is really not a whole lot different I can say about Fire Force season 2 beyond if you liked the first one, you’ll enjoy this one too. And if you didn’t like it, this probably won’t be the season to completely change your mind. I won’t deny the first season had issues that keep me from fully loving it, even before we get to the misplaced fanservice, but as far as my regular (bi)weekly shonen shows I’m currently watching this season, this is probably the one I have the most confidence in at least giving me a fun “popcorn” anime.
As I’ve noted before on previous playlists, the two qualities I look for in songs to highlight are how well does it fit the series and the music itself. Because music is a very subjective taste, it’s no secret I tend to swing towards specific genres heavier than others. That said, even a great song doesn’t always make for the best representation of said anime. The last time I featured Fire Force, I noted how I liked Mayday from Coldrain, but called it a bad opening because it didn’t really fit the tone of the show, and by the end of the season, it never found its thematical relevance in terms of the direction of the storyline. SPARK-AGAIN by Aimer (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Vinland Saga) is a return to the more fun, “upbeat” stylings and tempo, with a large emphasis on what the series does best: high octane explosive fighting! It has a bit of a serious undertone layered beneath the flying flame kicks and Aimer’s distinct vocals, all rounded off by an explosive crescendo at the apex of the opening.
Song: Chaos Drifters
Artist: SawanoHiroyuki[nZk], Jean-Ken Johnny
Anime: No Guns Life
One of my favorite shows from last year, No Guns Life hit all the right triggers with me in its first part. Part 2 returned and immediately got down to business, wasting no time to reintroducing its main characters and setting the stage for a larger conspiracy with deeper connections to each of their checkered pasts. It’s the only show this season where the main character has a gun for a head and still manages to deliver a serious cyberpunk story under the guise of an unapologetically silly-but-straight-faced anime. In other words… well, what more do you need from a show?
As covered by fellow contributor TGRIP, Hiroyuki Sawano is a name that will be all too familiar for anyone who has consumed one of the many popular anime he composed for in the last decade. Best known for his work on Attack on Titan and Promare soundtracks among others, he’s also known as a musician under the moniker SawanoHiroyuki[nZk], who has collaborated with other artists on various projects. Partnering with MAN WITH A MISSION’s Jean-Ken Johnny on lyrics, they deliver a high intensity rock fueled beat that’s difficult to characterize under one category. With a variety of instrumentation in place along with Jean-Ken Johnny’s vocals empowering many of the transitions before the climax, this duo delivers one of the most kick ass openings along with MADHOUSE’s stylish opening sequence.
Song: Kioku no Hakobune
Artist: Kashitarou Itou
Another Deca-Dence entry from a different artist, Kashitarou Itou’s “Kioku no Hakobune” (Ark of Memory) is his debut single and first anisong contribution. Closing the show off with a mellower, soft rock ballad, the ending theme’s acoustic rhythm and Itou’s melodic vocals evoke a sense of hope and brighter days in contrast to the wild, dangerous wasteland of what’s left of humanity.
Editor’s note: Since there is no official video with the actual ending sequence, I’ve inserted the promotional one to avoid having a broken link down the road.
Song: The Great Pretender
Artist: Freddie Mercury
Anime: Great Pretender
C’mon, do I really have to explain this one? It’s got the freaking title in the song!
Okay, real quick then. Arguably one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived, rock icon Freddie Mercury rose to stardom as the lead singer in Queen, as well as a number of singles as a solo artist. It is rare that an anime utilizes western songs for their productions, but it does happen every so often – the most recognizable example that comes to mind is Mr. Big’s “Shine” as the ending theme for the original Hellsing.
Originally performed by The Platters, Mercury’s take on The Great Pretender was something of a metaphor for the late artist’s career and stage persona from his perspective, as noted in one of his final interviews. It tells the story about a lost flame and the fake mask one puts on to hide their true feelings from the general public – a feeling all too familiar for those who have walked the dark roads of depression or regret. In relation to the anime, it follows the central theme of its four main con artists who have given up their original identities or, depending on your perspective, found their true nature by shedding their former lives. It’s an interesting POV that the show wrestles with (notably Edumura) as fragments of their past reemerge and suddenly the line between the con and con artist becomes blurry, not only for the viewer, but the swindler themselves.
This is normally the part where I go into the music, but in this case, I think it speaks for itself. Evocative, powerful, and a triumphant masterclass in songwriting and music, The Great Pretender is easily this season’s (and possibly this year’s) greatest ending theme.
- G.P. - Great Pretender Original Soundtrack (Yutaka Yamada [composer])
- Contradiction (feat. Tyler Carter) – KSUKE (The God of High School)
- Theatre of Life – Konomi Suzuki (Deca-Dence)
- Realize – Konomi Suzuki (Re:Zero Season 2)
- SPARK-AGAIN – Aimer (Fire Force Season 2)
- Chaos Drifters – SawanoHiroyuki[nZk], Jean-Ken Johnny (No Guns Life) [Best OP]
- Kioku no Hakobune – Kashitarou Itou (Deca-Dence)
- The Great Pretender – Freddie Mercury (Great Pretender) [Best ED]
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