Monday, January 20, 2014

Attack on Music: Is Shingeki no Kyojin's First Opening Iconic?

Once upon a time, I tried to tackle a multi-post blog series analyzing the music of anime openings. That fizzled out for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that I lost sight of what I was originally arguing. However, my argument from the first post is pretty easy to conceptualize. There, I noted that a handful of older anime, such as Sailor Moon, Cowboy Bebop, and Neon Genesis Evangelion have opening songs that have permanently embedded themselves in the consciousness of anime fans, even those who haven't really watched those series. By contrast, I said that newer anime don't have songs that quite reach that level. Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (the ending, obviously) come close, but would those songs be as well-known as they are without the dances?

As far as I've seen, anime series in recent years just haven't had songs that reach those well beyond those who actually watch the show. Even compelling series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica have forgettable opening songs, so it's not necessarily the popularity of an anime that also makes everyone know its opening song. For a while, I figured that the time of popular opening songs preceding the anime was over.

Enter Attack on Titan.

This is easily the most impressive opening sequence I've seen in a very long time. In fact, one of the many reasons why I gave the show a shot was because of all the parodies on the Internet.

There is something about this song that makes us want to repeat it over and over and over again, applying it to just about everything else we like because we can, even when others get sick of it.

I think there are a couple things going on here. The first is that this opening sequence is just incredible on a visual level. It's rare for an anime opening to have certain cuts, camera angles, or visual effects that just have to be part of it. The chains, the freeze frames, and the big kanji on the screen during the chorus are just a few. Impressive visuals, or at least certain editing techniques, are part of the formula (think of ).

The other part is, of course, the song. Attack on Titan's opening song is so high-energy that it makes you feel like you can punch the Great Wall of China while climbing Mount Everest and doing a backflip over the Taj Mahal (ironic since the lyrics mostly describe hopelessness). It's the horns, the sweet guitar riffs, and the operatic flares in the vocals that rev you up for a desperate struggle between all of humanity and an undefeatable natural predator. The different sounds in the song encompass just about everything we associate with epics, but what I think really nails this song into our psyche is the chorus. The part about half way through the song, where the kanji appear on screen, just sounds like the sort of thing you would hear in the intro of an old Saturday morning cartoon. In that sense, it tugs at a childhood experience that many of us had, yet the visuals tell us that the story itself will be more palatable to our grown-up sensibilities.

Only time will tell if Attack on Titan's first opening will become a song that everyone would recognize as being from Attack on Titan, even if they haven't seen the show. The show's current popularity may stand the test of time (if it does, it would completely deserve it) and we might be humming this song alongside "Tank!" and "Moonlight Densetsu."

What do you think? Is Attack on Titan's first opening iconic like only a handful of other anime openings have been? Does an anime's opening song help make it more popular, or does an anime's quality make its opening song more popular? Or is it a mix of both?
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