This time I am bringing the Anime Concept Thoughts (ACTs) to the table. Once again, ACTs posts pertain to discussions of a certain concept in anime. It could be a discussion of a theme in an anime series, or an analysis of a common concept over a multitude of anime works.
Today’s topic will be on songs in anime – Openings, Endings and Inserts. The first thing we usually take note of would be the genre of the song. Next, we would probably dive into investigating the creators of the song – Who sung it? Who produced it? Who wrote the lyrics and tune? The bulk of this post will be a discussion on this subtopic – on the singer(s) behind the vocal tracks of the series.
One of the defining features of anime is its songs. This includes the vocalized OPs, EDs and Inserts while excluding the instrumental OSTs. Since it is packaged together with the animation visuals, we get more than an acoustic performance – A connected story that highlights the flow of animation as well as an expression of meaning and emotions from the song itself. When we digest these songs, one of the things we may look out for is the artistes behind the song. Do those voices (or voice, for just one singer) belong to the cast, or do they belong to an independent artiste? Apart from being introduced to new singers or new songs from singers one already follows, this detail probably will not matter much to the viewer. Here I will try to argue that it plays a subtle role in influencing how we perceive an anime series, and how it draws us in.
This has always been on my mind since I started watching anime, and it just piles up as I continued being exposed to even more 21st century anime series (I have yet to really touch the 20th century ones, Digimon and Pokemon do not count). After watching Blend S, I decided to compile my thoughts and work on this write-up. A timely viewing of Isekai wa Smartphone to tomo ni also served as the motivation for a few argument points on songs done by the VA cast. Along the way, I will use examples from other anime series like Bakemonogatari, Guilty Crown, No Game No Life, and Tamayura.
As of the moment, I have a handful of singers and seiyuus whose releases I am following. For seiyuus, I’ve pinned Touyama Nao, Amamiya Sora, Ito Kanae, Yoko Hikasa, Hanazawa Kana and Saori Hayami on the board. Just to mention a few non-VA singers, I keep up with stuffs from Lia, Lisa, ClariS and Konomi Suzuki. Most of you would probably recognize these names – They are pretty good at what they do in the anime industry, voice acting wise and singing wise – it’s difficult to not jump into their fan base.
So what’s up with getting the VA cast to sing the OPs and/or EDs? First, I think we can all agree that the Seiyuus who we adore or fangirl/fanboy over so much are fantastic vocalists as well. Some of them do not just voice act for their characters – they may (required to) sign contracts with recording companies to bring life to songs written for singles/albums whether it pertains to the anime series they work on or not. It will be extra work for them, but that is something which fans will definitely appreciate to keep their music players looping.
Some anime series are built to involve the seiyuus in the OPs and EDs.
One prominent example is K-On. Being a slice-of-life anime about the light music club, the very seiyuus who voice the students in the series also do the singing of the OPs, EDs and other songs written for the club. If you follow the merchandise for K-On, you would know that there is the cassette album and the record album containing songs written for K-On sung by none other than ‘the students’ themselves. The whole product is overflowing with dedication which pulls the viewer/listener into the K-On universe. It is a reason why this series is a very enjoyable watch and the feeling continue to last even after its completion, because its scent lingers on in the music that viewers grow to enjoy, love and relax to.
We see the same in White Album (2) as well, though they got independent artistes to sing some of the OPs/EDs as well. Despite this dilution factor, the song albums released much later (to be precise – character albums) feature the same songs sung by the seiyuus, so fans who yearn to listen to the actual characters expressing themselves can enjoy that postmortem. This brings me to my second and most critical point…
OPs/EDs and Inserts sung by seiyuus brings significance to the songs.
In the previous point, I’ve somewhat ‘shown’ that significance for a slice of life series like K-On. This argument is more relevant and noticeable for series with the genre Romance, Drama or Harem. Other than White Album (2), romance dramas like Rec, Toradora and Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san (Pardon, this one is a slice-of-life comedy, but romance is implied haha) have their OPs sung by their VAs. In these examples, the lyrics are seasoned with the feelings and emotions of the characters in said series. The OPs alone already convey the message of the series to the viewers as they progress through it and understand more of the storyline. The connection is strengthened and the significance highlighted, when the same seiyuus who voice the characters sing the songs.
I’ll use the famous Wishing song in Re-Zero which played in the background as Rem motivated and simultaneously confessed to Subaru to supplement this point. Listening to the song while the episode was on-going may warm the heart; consequently listening to it separately after finishing the episode may stimulate some bitterness. This possibly helped trigger the Subaru rejection meme… …
I mentioned harems, so that brings me to…
Seiyuus add flavour to the series through the OPs/EDs.
Besides the philosophical argument of the added meaning to a song thanks to seiyuus, they also simply add some variety and flavour to interact with the viewers. This is common for shows which are the ‘fun to watch’ kind (Inu x Boku SS, Blend S, Gamers!, New Game!, Gabriel Dropout, Konosuba, …) or of the harem type (Oreshura, Inou-Battle, Nisekoi, Bakemonogatari, Isekai Smartphone, GATE, and insanely many more…). For these cases, the songs may help to further express the personality of the character. In Hitsugi no Chaika, the EDs are sung by different Chaikas in which each has their own style. The same can be said about Isekai Smartphone, where every girl in the harem has her own way of singing the ED Junjou Emotional. It becomes very pronounced when it comes to the part where they say the voice-overs “Kiss me” and “Miss you” in the song. I particularly liked how the series decided to feature the individual singing of the characters in different episodes, which helped to make the contrast more apparent. I guess that is one way to add flavour to an otherwise cliche harem anime.
Not to forget, by ‘flavour’ I also mean ‘pop moe’ because most of the songs where the whole cast sings tend to be upbeat and pop-ish in nature. Having a bunch of female seiyuus singing with the voice of high school girls sure sounds adorably moe. Perhaps they are trying to go for that to attract viewers and listeners. :3
But seiyuus won’t be the best fit to an anime OP/ED all the time.
That’s where independent artistes come in. Single vocalists and bands provide their expertise by reaching the pitch and tone which the untrained singer would be unable to achieve, or supplementing music with a style that is too niche for seiyuus to handle. Singers like Konomi Suzuki and Lia for example are exceptional in a way that they can enchant the listener. They have to be given credit for their works in No Game No Life and Clannad respectively. When talking about Noragami and Re-Zero, it would definitely be straining to have the songs sung by seiyuus especially when they are meant to highlight the philosophy or ‘dark tones’ of the series.
Sometimes its just a matter of production planning.
Forget whatever I said previously, isn’t it obvious that the answer to “Who gets chosen to do the OPs/EDs” is a matter of the workings of the backstage crew? (lol). Ok, honestly though, the above points are likely to be consideration points when the musical team comes up with their proposals and eventual decision. I shall include a few sites that mention this process → [A] [B] [C]. Sometimes seiyuus who do not voice act any characters in the series may be hired to sing the OPs/EDs as well. This can be seen in the Tamayura series (Maaya Sakamoto & Megumi Nakajima) and in Demi-chan wa Kataritai (Trysail = Momo Asakura, Amamiya Sora & Shiina Natsukawa). In the case of Guilty Crown, it is an original production which led to the birth of the famed EGOIST band which brought together supercell and the elusive chelly vocalist.
I guess we can just trust the music production team and their contributions to the success of the anime series (or parts of it). Just look at the sea of anime shows we are blessed with – The ones that mess up belongs to the minority! (Or I should get my eyes and ears checked, because my exposure and sample size is still too small to be accurate).
So does it matter who sings the OP/ED/Insert? I think it is a very minute detail that goes a long way in helping viewers and listeners decide whether the songs and/or the series itself is worthy of a permanent space in their hearts and memories. Understandably, anyone talented or suitable enough can be chosen to sing these songs. However, between the external artiste and the seiyuu cast, the latter enhances both viewing and listening experience by binding the character, story and song together as a single co-existing piece of art.
Is this something that you’ve thought about too? Does it matter to you whether the singers are independent artistes or seiyuus from the cast? Do you find yourself favouriting songs sung by the cast or by separate artistes more?
Oh I forgot to mention the obvious that Love Live and Idolmaster also involves its cast in all its songs just like K-On. It’s going to be a while before I start on one of these idol anime series and catch up on all the seasons :3.
That’s all folks,