Idle Thoughts on Openings in Anime
October 26, 2009
There is an interesting way to treat the word entrance, which is to see it as ‘put in (en-) trance‘. The word trance has its roots in Old French transe (which originally meant ‘passage from life to death’), where its verb transir comes from Latin transire (‘to pass over’). Perhaps that is the purpose of entry spaces in architecture, to put people in trance, to design for sensual and dramatic crossing over from one territory to another. A process of transition between spaces, from death of one reality and reborn into another. Close the world, open the next – Lain.
In many ways, openings in anime are like entry spaces into different world of experiences. Helping us to forget our awareness as audience behind computer screen and start becoming with the characters, to make that transition natural and immersive, not forced or jarring. Wabisabi once said that a good OP is defined by its ability to communicate what the anime is about, saying how, for example, the OP of Le Chevalier D’eon tells you much about the characters’ personalities and histories. While I can appreciate how OPs can sometimes tell you a lot about the characters and the anime narrative-wise or thematic-wise, for me that doesn’t define a good OP. Mushishi and The Twelve Kingdoms for example, show only pretty scenaries/paintings and do nothing to introduce anything about their characters or settings. But they work, they’re great entrance pieces that establish appropriate atmosphere necessary to put us in trance, and make that transition natural and immersive.
This isn’t to demerit any attempt at introducing characters/world in OPs. Some of my favourite OPs are very good at that. There’s no reason why an entrance can’t be both functional and immersive. As such, I think good ‘entrance’ OPs are more subjective for us (like music), while it’s bit easier to objectively analyse which good ‘communicating’ OPs are good at introducing their worlds.
Another point I want to mention is how my response to anime can hugely influence our response to OP itself. I’m sure many others feel that way. So, how important is OP in your anime watching? And are there any specific qualities you look for in OPs?
*other OPs I like, not a complete list.