For Great Justice is not dead. We are merely sleeping, and this post is our middle-of-the-night bathroom break, which is to say the only reason it’s here is because I wouldn’t be able to focus on other tasks without the momentary pleasure of relieving myself of these wonderful, irrelevant thoughts on some anime ending themes. World, get ready to be my proverbial toilet.
- Regardless of if the show began prior to 2018 or will end after 2018, the ED in question must have debuted and/or been primarily used in 2018.
- One-time-only EDs and OPs used as EDs are ineligible. Only the primary EDs that cover a majority of a cour’s episodes are in contention for a spot.
- 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.
- 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 variables—the 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.
- And EDs from shows I have not at least attempted to watch are ineligible. This is not the case with my OP lists, but I’ve barely got the time to get this article out as is, let alone delve into hundreds of themes from shows I didn’t see this year.
Even with these limitations, I’ve not only got plenty of great material to choose from, I have some very worthy contenders left out. Megalo Box, Angels of Death, Karakuri Circus, Kokkoku, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, SSSS.Gridman, A Place Further Than The Universe, and more…I’m sorry. Valiant efforts—you were either excluded due to some of the above rules or you just narrowly missed the Top 10. It do be like that sometimes.
Now on with the show!
HONORABLE MENTION – “Seine no Kaze ni… (Adieu)” by Miyuki Sawashiro
Studio: Telecom Animation Film
ED for Lupin III: Part V
Not that any element of this ED is subpar, but I hope it’s obvious why this one snuck past the competition to occupy my honorable mention spot this year. Like virtually all things Fujiko Mine, this ED is committed to sex appeal, and Miyuki Sawashiro’s sultry performance totally sells her character’s wishy-washy degree of control. Fujiko isn’t a constant fixture of Part V, but she’s involved often enough for her enigmatic nature to be plainly apparent—playing the damsel in distress one moment, outsmarting her male frenemy colleagues the next. She’s clearly designed to titillate, but Fujiko owns her behavior so well that an ED like this, while gratuitous, hardly feels out of character. Longtime Lupin orchestrator Yuji Ohno provides a seductive backing track and the “day in a life”-style storyboarding gives these otherwise disconnected scenes some structure. Is it a stellar ED? No. Did I skip it a single time? Also no.
#10 – “I AM STANDING” by RUANN
ED2 for March Comes In Like a Lion 2nd Season (3-gatsu no Lion 2nd Season)
As March Comes In Like a Lion quickly became one of the most resonant anime franchises I’ve ever seen, so too did its collection of OPs and EDs firmly establish themselves as some of my favorites. This final offering for season two treads similar visual ground to the series’ other themes; Rei appears downtrodden and alone until the world around him starts to catch his eye and he seeks the comfort of who he’s led to. With plenty of clever sakuga transitions to back this one up, the “don’t fix what ain’t broken” mentality pays off yet again.
“I AM STANDING” is what really sets this ED apart. RUANN has a commanding voice far beyond her actual age (she’s 14 on this, what the fuck) and the track’s composition is bold, based around a playful meter that tricks the ear into thinking it’s simultaneously in 3 and 4. The syncopation almost distracts from how abrupt the key change to the chorus is—the one negative aspect of this scrunched-down TV size version of the song if there is any. It’s not my favorite March theme, but it’s certainly a worthy contender on its own merits and one of the more musically ambitious EDs of the year.
#9 – “Michishirube” by Minori Chihara
Studio: Kyoto Animation
ED for Violet Evergarden
From a narrative standpoint, Violet Evergarden was one of the most uneven shows I watched this year, providing the medium with some of its highest highs in 2018 and also quite a bit of forgettable material. I never doubted the heart behind its production, however, and like pretty much all of Evergarden, this ED is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Its inconsequential transitions knock it down a few pegs, but all the imagery here adds weight to an already stunning accompanying track. “Michishirube” is composed of the barest essentials, a piano ballad nudged forward by Minori Chihara’s dynamic vocal performance, propelled in the chorus and bookended with a lullabyish lightness. Its lyrics reflect Evergarden’s central theme of searching for purpose, and this ED commits to keeping that idea in the forefront, stripped of all superfluous characters or instruments so that each episode essentially ends with Violet reflecting inward as time passes. It’s the perfect way for a delicate, beautiful series such as Evergarden to sign off.
#8 – “Reset” by Taichi Mukai
Studio: Production I.G.
ED1 for Run With The Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)
Run With The Wind is my frontrunner of the fall season for two primary reasons: its gorgeous visual direction, and its large but balanced, delightful cast. The former is shown off in this ED. The latter is not—this ending principally focuses on Haiji Kiyose, the character who sets the events of the series into motion, and who, for the time being at least, remains the most enigmatic one of the bunch. All that’s really clear about him so far is his sheer persistence when it comes to getting his way, a tenacity rivaled only by his own commitment to run with the wind.
And so run he does in this ED, through a rainy morning, gorgeous afternoon, busy evening, and snowy night, chasing the horizon until he re-arrives at his dorm and presumably readies himself to do it all again. It’s a simple enough premise and Taichi Mukai’s “Reset” bestows the visual elements here with even more passion. The song isn’t particularly complex or dynamic, but even in spite of that, Mukai’s emotive vocal performance rides the instrumentation’s ebb and flow as it builds to a wonderful chorus that leads Haiji home. It’s an easy ED to overlook and certainly not as flashy as some of the other entries here, but it strikes the right chord with me every time.
7 – “Prayer X” by King Gnu
ED1 for Banana Fish
Banana Fish may not have hooked me enough to keep me on board on a weekly basis this season, but I haven’t forgotten about it. The series’ second ED deserves an honorable mention too, but this first one feels a bit more tightly constructed as an overall package, featuring an emotive track by recently-formed pop project King Gnu and a simple set of visuals focused on sketches of Ash trudging onward alone and sinking into despair. The thick string arrangement and Satoru Iguchi’s dramatic performance evoke Ash’s internal turmoil after dealing with all of Banana Fish’s external turmoil, and the clear hip-hop influence on this track pairs well with the show’s urban American setting. And the harmonies—whew. It wasn’t necessarily a favorite of mine at the time, but “Prayer X” wound up stuck in my head for months afterward and urged me to revisit this ED with my full attention. I’m glad I did.
#6 – “Furu Biyori” by Eri Sasaki
ED for Laid-Back Camp (Yuru Camp△)
The colloquially-titled Comfy Camp was always comfy, but it rarely got to the level of comfy that this adorable little ED did. This show isn’t complicated; it’s just about a couple of friends who go mountain camping in the fall and winter and have a wonderful time taking in sights, braving the not-that-rough elements, and hanging out with each other. Of course, Camp also went out of its way to give the environments these girls visit a full sense of place and depict them with the utmost beauty, and that’s shown off with grace in this ED, the girls awaking after a night on site and taking in a majestic sunrise. Eri Sasaki’s vocals are refreshing and delicate as the morning dew, and her tender guitar accompaniment by Hiro Nakamura emulates the folksy, rustic charm that the show promotes in spades. Not a single episode of Laid-Back Camp failed to make me relax and smile, but if one had, this ED would’ve done the trick.
#5 – “To see the future” by Tomori Kusunoki
ED for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
“To see the future” is a character song by Karen/LLENN’s voice actress Tomori Kusunoki, seemingly about the protagonist’s desire to stop her online friend from killing herself in a game for the thrill.
So yeah, this belongs to Sword Art Online, alright. It’s corny, it’s edgy, it’s incomprehensibly dumb. But this time, it’s also cute. And I say that somewhat facetiously, but let’s face it, if it were Kirito singing this bullshit over Harem Member #69420837, I’d probably tune out immediately. But no, Karen is a hilarious character and Kusunoki can carry a fuckin’ tune.
All jabs aside, GGO’s ED is most importantly a joy to watch. SAO rarely delivers when it comes to character motivations, but the one that kicks off GGO—Karen wanting to play a tiny alter ego in a game—is creatively displayed here via stylized renders that leave her half-real, half-virtual. The split identity theme is enough to give the already eye-popping polygons some additional substance. “To see the future” is also fantastically composed for a 90-second runtime and I have to believe it played a role in letting me walk away from each episode of GGO less critical of the show than I otherwise would’ve been.
#4 – “Hibana” by THE SIXTH LIE
ED for Golden Kamuy
As pure entertainment, Golden Kamuy doesn’t have many faults, but episode-to-episode pacing on a weekly basis could certainly be one. Thankfully, “Hibana” was not a contemplative ED—it’s a racing rock tune, a moody, adrenaline-pumping track that urges you forward to the next episode, and thus one that helped the franchise sustain some needed momentum. Aside from some introductory and closing shots, the bulk of this ED is made up of a single long panning shot depicting the cast against a backdrop of gorgeous paintings, natural scenery, and tattoo-covered rocks (representing the flaying of land for material gain, perhaps?) until it reaches the gold. Golden Kamuy is a “locate the treasure” adventure, and this ED mimics that journey through its visual composition. Fantastic work.
* #4B – “Tokeidai no Kane” by eastern youth
ED for Golden Kamuy 2nd Season
Last year, one of my criteria for this list was “only one ED per show.” This year, I just couldn’t abide by that. Back in the spring, I thought the ED for Golden Kamuy’s first season was a lock for “best in franchise.” Then Satoru Noda reached out to punk legends and fellow Hokkaido natives Eastern Youth and convinced them to come on board for the second season’s ED.
And holy shit, what an ED it is. Hisashi Yoshino’s impassioned shouts and the band’s full-throttle energy were to be expected, and they delivered. What really took me by surprise was how this ED represented an antithesis to the first season’s with no downgrade in quality. “Hibana” was tense, mysterious, and took a wide scope of the narrative. In comparison, “Tokeidai no Kane” is cathartic, open, and utilizes visuals that solely focus on Asirpa’s longing for companionship after her father leaves. When she finds Sugimoto and reaches out to him, hand on chest, pulsating light, the song just piles higher and higher until it can’t go any further and the sublime outro kicks in. This ED is an emotional ride, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
#3 – “Star Overhead” by the pillows
Studio: Production I.G.
ED for FLCL Alternative
Like most people, I had mixed thoughts on the two FLCL spinoffs that aired this year, generally feeling that they failed to inspire the same degree of alienation and desperation that permeated the original. They were decent stories on their own (Progressive more so), but neither fully grabbed my attention as they in essence sought to rekindle the drama of the now so-called Classic without giving much depth to their characters beyond some occasional wacky bells and whistles.
Fortunately, that was only a complaint I had regarding these spinoffs’ overarching narratives, and many of their attempts to revive the stylistic absurdity of Classic were successful. Look no further than Alternative’s ED, which once again featured real-world footage interspersed with stop motion animation, colorful, layered sakuga, and a peppy track by series mainstay The Pillows. I don’t know what else I need to say—just give it a watch and the ED itself will do all the talking for me.
#2 – “Le temps de la rentrée ~Koi no Shingakki~” by the cast (Misaki Kuno, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Maki Kawase, Satomi Arai, & Kaori Nazuka)
ED for Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan
Why is Dragon Pilot’s ending theme a cover of a French song from the 60s? I don’t know, but hopefully I won’t have to justify it. This is a cast-sung ED, at first just via the protagonist, but later as an ensemble, and there’s something incredibly adorable about these characters dancing to their own Frapanese. Interspersed with brief stylized shots of their pilot equipment, their dance scenes evolve from shyly shaking back and forth to a repeated, more energetic move that clues the viewer in on each girl’s general personality. The idea itself isn’t anything that special, but it is very fun, and the ED’s visual composition is fantastic, smartly utilizing its blank space and providing the French on the bottom of the screen for you to sing along with. This overall package just feels right, and that lent it to plenty of rewatching over the course of the year.
#1 – “Inkya Impulse” by the cast (Hina Kino, Rika Nagae, & Konomi Kohara) feat. Ikepy & KSKN
ED for Asobi Asobase
I admire whoever first envisioned the concept of Asobi Asobase’s OP and ED and convinced everyone to make them a reality. The OP? Sweet, charming, cute girls being cute. Not at all an indicator of what’s to follow in the show, but that’s the first curveball. The second? Turning the series’ unpredictability up to eleven and featuring the girls freaking out to a prog metal track. It djents. Of course it does. It’s Asobi Asobase.
But it’d be easy enough to call it a day there and ride on the conceit of “cute girls with uncute personalities play music befitting of those personalities.” Instead, this animation goes the extra mile to make every single frame a splattering of smears, blurring the characters’ movements into something almost inhuman. It’s plenty rewarding to simply watch this ED normally, but go ahead and pause this thing frame-by-frame and you’ll uncover a treasure trove of absurd easter eggs your eye likely won’t catch on first glance.
As for the song—if anything with screams isn’t up your alley, this ED likely won’t be either, but anyone who’s heard a fair bit of metal should be able to pick out what separates an interesting track from a mediocre one, and “Inkya Impulse” is far from mediocre. The guitar riffs bring power but also some clever, fun licks, and its overall melodic composition kept me coming back. There are two guest artists attached to this song, but frankly, I’m too scared to look up who they are in case that shatters the (totally plausible) notion that Hina Kino took this role to scream about poop and ravage her vocal chords. God bless her. God bless this whole production, really. A show as chaotic as Asobi Asobase deserved a chance to indulge in its absurdity, and I’m so glad it got one. ED of the Year.
And that’s all I’ve got for now! Thanks for reading, and sorry once again about FGJ’s limited content this season. We’ll clear the work hurdles sooner rather than later. In the meantime, what were your favorite EDs of 2018? Give us a shout in the comments or over on Twitter! Until next time, whenever next time is, this has been Yata of For Great Justice.