There’s just never enough time to go around, is there? The end of the year is slowly approaching, and I’ve already got loads of finals, holiday commitments, and other writing to juggle. Another list on top of all that seemed unthinkable. Hell, those annual Top 25 OPs lists I do take about two months of listening, writing, reshuffling, and editing before I even come close to a finished product, and that’s usually on top of all those other matters. Before now, though I’ve always been curious about doing an ED list too, I felt there was neither the demand nor the supply for one, since let’s face it, ending themes always get the short end of the stick. While a deserving OP is easy to rewatch, even during one-sitting marathons, EDs are usually less memorable, less addictive, and ultimately less talked about than their introductory counterparts.
But as I sat down in mid-October to run through my preliminary list of 2017 openings, I came to a surprising realization; this year has been uncharacteristically fantastic for ending themes. I could name several shows whose closing montages were just as well-regarded as their OPs, if not more so, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to do some of them great justice. After floating the idea and getting some warm feedback, I decided that if I were to ever do an endings list, this would be the year to try it out, and if I had any chance of completing it, I’d have to crank it out early. And thus, here we are.
For those who are already familiar with my Top 25 OPs lists, the criteria here mostly remain the same with just a few exceptions:
Basically identical rules:
- Regardless of if the show began in 2016 or will end in 2018, the ED in question must have debuted in 2017.
- If there are multiple or evolving versions of an ED (that is, two that share either the same song or a majority of the same animation), they are not eligible to count as separate entries.
- One-off EDs and OPs used as EDs are ineligible. Only the primary EDs that cover a majority of a cour’s episodes are in contention.
- Unlike the many YouTube channels which rank openings & endings solely on music, sometimes with complicated algorithms, I rate these on a non-numerical, totally arbitrary combination of each one’s music, visuals, audiovisual sync, relevance to the show, and my own personal enjoyment, with the most emphasis placed on whatever I feel the ED was most attempting to accomplish.
Here’s what’s different:
- To save time and reduce filler (which, as good as this year was for EDs, there’d still be a lot of with 25 entries), I’m narrowing the list down to just the top 10, with one fully-written honorable mention and a blurb containing several others I have a feeling people will ask about.
- Because of that limited space, there will not be multiple EDs from the same show here, even if they aired two great, different EDs and meet all the other criteria.
- And one last major change: EDs from shows I have not at least attempted to watch are ineligible. This is not the case with my OP lists, but here’s why: part of an OP’s purpose is to hype you up for a given show even if you know nothing about it, and to that end, they’re generally flashier and easier to praise without additional context. A good ED on the other hand is more like a chaser, lifting you out of the show or giving you one final taste of it before the episode ends. While it may seem like semantics at first, the fact is that because of their placement and purpose, it’s hard to experience an ED of a show I haven’t seen the same way I can an ED from one I have. The disparity is just too large, and I’ve seen too many great EDs this year from titles I’m passionate about to include ones I can barely discuss.
Anyway, because this list is fairly short and there were still several solid EDs from titles I know I’ll be asked about (see also: yelled at) for excluding, here’s a shout out to Little Witch Academia, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, ACCA, Kemono Friends, KonoSuba 2, Re;Creators, My Hero Academia 2, Love and Lies, Welcome to the Ballroom, Made In Abyss, Kino’s Journey, Urahara, Children of the Whales, Juuni Taisen, and more, all of which had perfectly respectable, notable EDs in their own right but just didn’t shine as brightly for me as the 11 featured here.
Without further ado, let’s get this thing started!
HONORABLE MENTION – “Chant (kotringo edition)” by toi toy toi
Studio: J.C. Staff
ED for Alice & Zouroku
There are a number of things I could use the honorable mention spot for, from a fantastic well-rounded ED that just didn’t make the cut to a novelty joke ED I don’t necessarily think is that “good” but still made me laugh. This time, however, it goes to one whose quality imbalance unfortunately prevented it from climbing into the list proper.
Which is to say “Chant” is a phenomenal song, one of my favorites of any OP or ED this year if we’re solely talking music. I love how Toi toy toi’s magical, dreamy pianos clink and plop to a swirling, enrapturing arrangement of strings like a music box. The childish vibes are fitting, as Alice & Zouroku was about a girl learning to establish connections with loved ones while trying to make sense of the world, whatever awaited, wonder or horror. The visual layout of this thing is also super appealing to the eye, with that blue-purple background and Sana’s bright character design in constant contrast, other items occasionally floating by in the background. Where the ED flops hard is its animation: several cuts awkwardly jump frames, and when there’s so little to focus on, the eye is helplessly drawn to those jerky movements. For such a simple package, it’s frustrating that it couldn’t be just a bit more polished, but regardless, it’s a nice, overlooked effort with an absolutely blissful tune.
#10 – “Baby’s Breath” by (K)NoW_NAME
Studio: P.A. Works
ED2 for Sakura Quest
It’s times like these when I wish I could verbalize the “sounds” of nostalgia well. Surely everyone will have their own triggers, and “Baby’s Breath” may not jolt yours, but the lushness of those open acoustic guitar chords and the chirping, swelling ambience just do wonders for making me recall the lazy summers of my youth. It seems like a weird juxtaposition at first with Sakura Quest, a young adult tale about quarter-life crises and an apathetic, aging town in the sticks, but as the show itself embraced its community and surroundings in the series’ second half, this ED’s sighs of relief felt very complementary. The visuals are pretty par for the course compared to many of the endings here, not straying at all from the show’s main designs, but the shots themselves, mostly stills of the girls hanging together or getting some much needed sleep, tell a lot with a little. The washed-out, sparkly filters over everything support the music’s relaxing tone too. A simplistic package to be sure, but an exceptionally charming one in my eyes nonetheless.
#9 – “Kirameku Hamabe” by Yuiko Oohara
ED for Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni)
It’s always tricky reviewing something from a production that isn’t done and hasn’t revealed its full hand yet. As such, I won’t speculate too much on what the specific imagery in Land of the Lustrous’ ED is alluding to. Thankfully, there’s plenty else to praise here, as even if the specifics of the symbolism evade me, shots of goop pouring onto flowers, gems falling, the ominous moon, and Cinnabar and Phos reaching for each other give the ED plenty of compelling visual substance. Even better – and this is not at all meant as a jab against the series’ consistently bright CG animation – the ED’s mostly-grayscale color palette and feature-less character designs make for an entrancing experience all their own. “Kirameku Hamabe” is spliced together fantastically in this TV size rendition too, led along by Oohara’s gorgeous voice and a piano/strings arrangement that instantaneously fluctuates between hopeful and foreboding. Add some thundering drums and triumphant horns towards its close, and the song’s optimistic finale, both main characters backlit and shining across the landscape, is a moment to behold.
#8 – “A Page of My Story” by the cast (Nozomi Furuki, Akari Kageyama, Ayaka Imamura, Akira Sekine, & You Taichi)
Studios: Actas Inc. & 3Hz
ED for Princess Principal
Princess Principal wasn’t without its more somber moments, but even at its darkest, the steampunk espionage thriller retained both a much-needed sense of levity and a genuinely cheerful, fun tone. It’s those latter two elements on display in its ED, especially the beautiful “A Page of My Story,” orchestrated by Ryo Takahashi and performed by the series’ primary cast. It may not have a one-liner quite as good as “I will never be deceived, I’m a girl that sees through lies,” but there are still plenty of unintentionally funny earworms here about catching a red double bus and sipping black tea, leaning headfirst into the show’s Victorian British setting. Better yet, while the voice actresses definitely evoke a cutesy, innocent feel, their vocal parts still feel both distinct and cohesive, operating like a choir with rounds in the chorus rather than everybody simply singing in high-pitched unison. Though the song is the highlight for me here, the ED embraces cartoony, paper cut-out character and setting designs to make the most out of its relative simplicity too. Elegant and sweet, this ending seemed to be among a lot of people’s favorites, and I certainly can’t fault them for it.
#7 – “Orion” by Kenshi Yonezu
ED2 for March Comes In Like a Lion (3-gatsu no Lion)
Anime fans may recognize Kenshi Yonezu from “Peace Sign,” but the season before, another single of his, “Orion,” quietly snuck its way into my favorite ani-music of 2017 list and overshadowed his MHA2 OP all year long. More emotional, cathartic, and delectably-produced, this soulful pop gem was a superb fit for March Comes In Like a Lion, and the ED’s series of stylized, disconnected visuals are a great portrayal of the drudgery, depression, and reluctant peace Rei finds in spurts over the course of the show. Pretty much any shot would work great as a wallpaper on both a compositional and coloring level; from Rei trudging through the snow and sitting alone, hunched over below a swinging ceiling lamp to confidently walking towards the city and its busy pedestrians, the visual narrative of this ED marches towards better times, and it’s a beautifully diverse and poignant little package that left me wanting to lift my shogi fists like antennas to heaven as each episode of March wrapped up last winter.
#6 – “Step Up LOVE” by DAOKO & Yasuyuki Okamura
ED for Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (Kekkai Sensen & Beyond)
As fantastic as the likes of UNISON SQUARE GARDEN and BUMP OF CHICKEN proved in their songs for Blood Blockade Battlefront, I don’t know if any artist to date fits the series like a glove the way DAOKO and Yasuyuki Okamura do with “Step Up LOVE.” Even before the singers themselves starred in their own neon dance-off music video (it’s ridiculous by the way, watch it), this song just screamed “dorky party music,” and BBB is nothing if not dorky party action. Previous series director Rie Matsumoto came back on board for the ED’s visuals along with former Kyousougiga collaborators Yuki Hayashi and Yuki Akimoto, who respectively handled the blobbier character designs and striking color direction. Mostly consisting of blink-and-you’ll-miss-something references to episodic characters, side plotlines, and unmistakably BBB paraphernalia, the whole ordeal flies by in a frenzy. Only a long, blurry, sepia tracking shot in the middle feels out of place; the rest of this ED’s contents are both extremely eye-catching and a joy to revisit, allowing the viewer to pick out something new upon each rewatch. What a funky good time.
#5 – “More One Night” by the cast (Yurika Kubo & Inori Minase)
Studio: White Fox
ED for Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou)
I’m generally not the biggest fan of cast-sung anime themes. Rarely do the individual voices of the characters shine through to my ear, and while the tone may differ depending on the show in question, most seiyuu openings and endings just don’t stand apart from the crowd for me. I’m almost tempted to say that’s still the case with Kubo & Minase here, as their totally sugary deliveries on “More One Night” are way louder and shriller than anything Chito & Yuuri actually do in Girls’ Last Tour. But hey, I’ll be damned, the song’s skippy mannerisms and peppy melodies just broke me down.
What really steals the show here is the animation though: from storyboard to final composite, basically all the visuals were tackled by Tsukumizu, the franchise’s mangaka. To my knowledge, one-(wo)man creations like this are rare in the industry these days, but she made a great spectacle out of what’s ultimately just a bunch of jagged sketches and disconnected scenes of Chi & Yuu traveling and snowball fighting. It’s not the smoothest thing in the world, but what’s here gets the job done and instills the lead duo’s shenanigans with a ton of bouncy character. After the reflective end to any given Girls’ Last Tour episode, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
#4 – “Moon River” by fhána
Studio: P.A. Works
ED for The Eccentric Family 2 (Uchouten Kazoku 2)
Milktub and fhána’s respective OP and ED for The Eccentric Family’s first season were some of my favorite themes of 2013, so I was thrilled when P.A. brought both groups back for the show’s sequel. Milktub’s new OP (while still fantastic) was a slight let down, but “Moon River” easily blows fhána’s first effort, “Que Sera Sera,” out of the water. It’s more concisely and effectively rendered down to 90 seconds, the mix is sharper, and Towana‘s vocal delivery here is simply one of the best I’ve ever heard from the group. Visually, it may be the only entry on this list to solely consist of stills, but much like the first season’s ED, the lack of animation isn’t inherently a bad thing. Depicting Benten’s own narrative over the course of the season to great effect, it contrasts her visit in London to her bitter defeats at the hands of the Nidaime. But what really sets it apart from the franchise’s first ED, which thrived on poppy color contrast, is how this one places a greater emphasis on darkness as it gets going. That’s to be expected; for Benten, the events of this season were quite sobering, and the song’s perseverant tone plays off that mess of emotion spectacularly. As to be expected from The Eccentric Family, the shots themselves are rich with detail too, and the whole product comes together with elegance.
#3 – “Hajimari no Shirushi” by Chima
Studio: White Fox
ED for Grimoire of Zero (Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho)
Grimoire of Zero may be one of the least memorable anime I completed this year, but its ED is unforgettable, and actually included several things I wish the series itself did more confidently. Opening with a storybook motif, the theme quickly leads into the main duo’s daily monotony of adventuring, portraying Zero’s playfulness and Mercenary’s grouchiness. As the days wind on and the seasons pass, the two stick together, and that dynamic formed the heart of pretty much everything good about the show.
Maybe I’m projecting a bit since the ED focused on Grimoire‘s redeeming qualities after the show spent several minutes each week on irritating side characters and plot contrivances, but regardless of context, this theme is still an adorable, wholesome little piece, and its fairy tale design is compounded by “Hajimari no Shirushi,” a slow-burning, folksy ballad with a soaring chorus. Chima’s vocals feel comforting and homely, and the piano, strings, and guitar are arranged with superb balance. The compositional praise extends to the visuals too, whose use of repetitive animation and blank credits space comes off as tasteful instead of lazy. Not much lost if you skipped the series as a whole here, but should that be the case, at least check the ED out.
#2 – “Haikei Goodbye Sayonara” by DAOKO
ED1 for Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul
Before BahaSoul shit the bed in its closing stretch, it offered months’ worth of goofy adventure goodness, primarily driven along by the series’ rambunctious new protagonist, Nina. Makes perfect sense then that she would be the focus of its first ED, one visualized like a platformer video game, our hero jumping over obstacles, grabbing items, and generally fumbling around on her way from the dragon village to Anatae. The pixelated backgrounds and cut-out characters make for a simple to watch, fully immersive experience with loads of Easter eggs in the background, while “Haikei Goodbye Sayonara” complements the visual narrative with a bittersweet but hopeful vocal delivery from DAOKO. The loud, pulsating synths are admittedly an odd fit as the chorus bursts free, but after a few listens I couldn’t picture the song progressing any other way. Considering how it combines a hodgepodge of artistic ideas, this ending theme otherwise feels surprisingly smooth, and the way it serves as its own cute mini story made me stick around for it without fail after every episode of BahaSoul’s first cour.
#1 – “Heikousen” by Sayuri
ED for Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai)
If you’ve been following me on Twitter since last winter, it probably comes as no surprise that Scum’s Wish brought forth my #1 ED of 2017. Even putting aside the fact that Sayuri is one of my favorite singer-songwriters affiliated with the anime industry, “Heikousen” is a superb song, and this TV size edit of it was trimmed down perfectly; the slow, moody opening chorus flies straight into the verse instead of wasting time on its main riff, allowing the tension to build and build until the full distortion cracks through only at the ED’s climax.
And speaking of climaxes, it just wouldn’t be Scum’s Wish enough without an onslaught of artsy genitalia, would it? Unlike the show itself, which became uncomfortably blunt at times, this ED masks most of its NSFW-isms in swirling kaleidoscope patterns and rainbow abstractions. In addition to being total eye candy, many of the scene transitions fiddle with the series’ love triangle elements, connecting one prospective lover to another and highlighting a few of the characters’ romantic duplicities. Not unlike the actual show, this whole ED feels earnest and pained; the combination of Sayuri’s strained cries and the flurry of sexual imagery is enough to conjure up the feels on its own, but Scum’s Wish’s habit of seguing into the acoustic guitar straight from a tense cliffhanger really sold the experience each week. Obviously, I think all the EDs I included on this list are class, but this was by far the one that hit me the hardest.
And that does it for me! If you liked this list, be sure to keep an eye out for my Top 25 OPs of the year in late December, and in the meantime, stay tuned for our fall mid-season thoughts, which should be up in about two weeks. As always, feel free to leave a comment about your favorite EDs of the year and what you thought of this list. Until next time, this has been Yata from For Great Justice. Thanks for reading!