A few posts ago, I wrote about how Japanese anime shows give relevance to both their opening title and credit sequences, especially more so than American television. Heck, for a lot of American TV the title sequence is 10 seconds or less, just a splash of instrumentals and an impactful visual. But I’ve grown to appreciate the opening and ending sequences of anime and what they actually apply to the story.
Down the road, I definitely want to reveal my favorite opening title sequences, but today I wanted to recognize many of my favorite ending sequences — whether it’s the song, the visuals in the background, or a combination of the two — from underrated anime that people don’t seem to talk about anymore. You won’t find Death Note, Naruto, or Fullmetal Alchemist here; while those are great in their own right, I wanted to go deeper and bring some attention to not-as-popular ending sequences that are emotional, quirky, or powerful to the stories they’re trying to tell.
These are in order of saddest to happiest, for my own sanity.
Wolf’s Rain: “Gravity” by Yoko Kanno
“Wolf’s Rain” is a dystopian drama set in a future where wolves have gone extinct and are now the stuff of legend. Turns out, they figured out a way to blend in among humans instead. Four wolves band together to set out for the legendary “Paradise”, a pseudo-Garden of Eden that legend says only wolves can find. “Wolf’s Rain” was one of my first forays into more mature anime, and I fell in love with it as soon as I heard the first notes of Yoko Kanno’s masterful soundtrack. From the setting, to the characters, to the music, this anime lovingly well-done and deserves so much praise and attention.
“Gravity” is the song that ends each episode, and sounds almost like a somber fairytale song for a fairytale-like story. At times the song may seem hopeless, but the characters themselves are hope-filled indeed. To be honest, just play this at my funeral.
Black Blood Brothers: “Shinkirou” by Loveholic
This anime is a quirky, supernatural vampire show. The story is not very memorable, but the characters were fascinating and the music was on par with the more darker moments of the show. Jiro, a legendary vampire swordsman, and his brother Kotaro, are seeking out refuge in a vampire sanctuary called The Special Zone, but their journey is hindered when “children” of an evil vampire king come out to kill them.
This was one of those shows that I half-heartedly watched. It had it’s funny moments, and some badass sword fights, but overall felt very average to me. But nothing comes close to the absolutely depressing ending song. Jiro has a difficult past to deal with, and this song reflects all of his regrets.
Death Parade: “Last Theater” by NoisyCell
With “Death Parade” it wasn’t so much the ending song itself that was sad, but how they paired it with images. “Death Parade” is about a lounge bar in purgatory where two souls meet to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. In a “Saw”-like fashion, the two people compete in seemingly harmless games like bowling or cards, but these games also reveal their darkest sins, so that the judge (aka the bartender) can decide who goes where.
This song’s opening notes are jarring and dramatic, but as I said sometimes this ending song is accompanied by images of the characters you just viewed in the episode. The lyrics in the chorus (“I’m not gonna make it”/) powerfully coincide with what you’ve just witnessed these characters go through.
Gundam Seed: “Anna ni Isshodattanoni” by See-Saw
Gundam Seed was the teenage, angst-ridden Gundam we’d come to know and love in the early 2000s, and it’s ending song was just as fitting. The show is an epic story about a conflict between “Natural” humans and genetically-modified humans called “Coordinators”, as each tries to establish themselves as the new world order. The heart of this conflict is between two childhood friends, Kira and Athrun, and how this war drives them and their people apart.
But what hit me the most about this ending song was not only how it sounds, but where they placed it. Like most drama shows, the episodes typically ended on some huge, dramatic reveal, plot twist, or character death. At the same moment that the characters and the audience are reacting, the first notes of this song begin to play with it’s dramatic violin intro, and it sends goosebumps down your arms.
Gangsta: “Yoru no Kuni” by Annabel
“Gangsta” is a new anime that just premiered this past summer. It’s a story about a run-down city where humans and “Twilights” (genetically advanced, but drug-reliant humans) both live and fight against each other. Worrick and Nicholas (a deaf Twilight) are two handymen who perform odd jobs around the city: anything from building, to body-guarding, to keeping the streets clean in any way they deem necessary. For such a violent show, this ending song is beautiful and nostalgic. A lot of the focus on Worrick and Nicholas is dependent on their history, having known each other since childhood. I believe this song is a reflection of that, as well as for their new ward, Alex, who is present during the more quieter moments of the series.
Unfortunately, the animation studio behind this show has recently gone bankrupt, so the odds of a finished season one or even a season two are very slim.
Samurai Champloo: “Shiki no Uta” by Nujabes and MINMI
If you haven’t read my review of “Samurai Champloo”, give it a quick look-through! Summary of the series aside, this show’s soundtrack was a collaborative effort of jazz and hip-hop. The two genres were married in a perfect way, and this ending song is the cherry on top. Roadtrip stories always come with a tone of nostalgia, and this song is a great reflection of that. As I said in my previous post, it’s a soothing ending to each episode that makes us yearn for the next one.
Haikyuu!!: “Tenchi Gaeshi” by Nico Touches the Walls
“Haikyuu!” is a fun-loving sports anime featuring a high school volleyball team, as they trek their way up the ladder to champion success. Do they make it to the finals? You’ll just have to watch the show to find out. “Haikyuu!!” is a very funny show, and is the first sports anime that has held my attention for the whole season, thanks to their colorful characters and “Friday Night Lights”-ish plot.
The first time I heard this song, I actually laughed. It was so unexpectedly country that I thought I was hearing things. But turns out that they indeed threw in some country chords to make the song more upbeat. I feel that it also fits the personality of Shōyō Hinata, one of the crazier and more central characters. Or perhaps it’s just a reflection of the goofy team as a whole and their passionate, borderline extreme, obsession with volleyball glory.
So there you have it! Anime ending songs that don’t receive enough credit for the emotions they convey and the stories they tell. Later on, once I’ve somehow narrowed my impossible list, I’ll post my favorite underrated opening songs as well. Let me know what your favorite underrated song it!