Winner: “Sugar Song to Bitter Step” by Unison Square Garden
- “The Seasons Die One by One” by Amazarashi, Tokyo Ghoul √A
- “Sayonara no Yukue” by Alisa Takigawa, Owarimonogatari
- “Orange” by 7!!, Your Lie in April
- “Lapis Lazuli” by Eir Aoi, Arslan Senki.
This was a fairly good year for anime EDs, though not so much so that it was too difficult to pick my Top 5. (Disclaimer: I did not actually see Your Lie in April, and have only read the manga for Arslan Senki).
Your Lie in April’s ED is a good example of calming minimalism, but only in the first half, which demonstrates this very well; Kaori looking upwards as the sun slowly sets in the distance is hauntingly effective foreshadowing, and beautifully calming without context. However, this is painfully broken when Kaori’s hair messily flutters as stars dash by (while the lyrics refer to stars and dreams; redundant much?). The real star here would be 7!!’s beautiful voice, which not only meshes well with the calming gradual shift in lighting, but even resembles Kaori’s voice to an extent. The series definitive theme is probably still the first OP, but this works well as a potential theme for Kaori.
Lapis Lazuri begins with stills of the characters painted in stylistic, eastern tradition, with the several stills shown being of such rich quality that I’d happily hang any of them on my wall (which is what they should have looked like, as a common complaint the series gets is how out of place Arakawa’s designs are). The rich, blossoming patterns add a layer of age and richness, as do the simple coloured backgrounds, displaying aesthetic choices that the series just didn’t provide. The characters are then shown wandering around as the vocals gradually louden for the chorus, in which the travel through the desert at night. The moonlight is breathtaking, as is the detailed backgrounds and characters, and not a spot of the CGI that the series is infamous for (which is abundant in ED 2). The lyrics are standard adventure fair about chasing your dream, but Eir Aoi’s high-pitched and very energetic voice add the song great momentum, and the instruments are powerful and loud, effectively mixing old-fashioned instruments with a modern vibe, making would could have been a good song great.
Owarimonogatari’s ending is another example of how down-playing your vocals and lyrics can make a song more dramatically effective, though unlike the earlier entries it does this throughout the entire song. Starting with Ougi or Shinobu, depending on the arc, it shows the characters in an artistically successful pencil-shaded style in a dark house. The characters then ride on a cart, where either Ougi and Araragi or Shinobu by herself appear. They go through blue fields and orange landscapes, both of which consist of parallelograms at different angles. They then enter a dark tunnel to the chorus, where either Ougi is kicked of the cart by Hanekawa (bless her) or Shinobu is given food. Another thing that makes the EDs different is that the two different versions are tinted differently, and there are different designs for some of the effects; for the former, mathematical functions, and for the latter small cubes. The latter also has a more seeping, ominous nuance to it’s colour palette, lending it an appropriately grave tone. Alisa Takigawa’s calm and clear voice lent this song some great emotion, and matched the images on screen very effectively. Outside of Seven Deadly Sins, she hasn’t been involved in much anime work, though hopefully she can get some attention with this song.
“The Seasons Die One by One” very nearly took the top spot, and it many other years it may well have. It has stills that allegedly had the involvement of the mangaka, Sui Ishida, who wrote the story on which the series is loosely based. The visuals alone would make this an honourable mention, as they change each episode to reflect the events and the loose outlines, simple colours and emotionally envocing imagery make them unskipable. Nearly every image in the EDs is wallpaper material, but what nearly made it the best ED of 2015 was the song. Amazarashi’s vocals are more low-tone and raw than the far-too-stylish ED of Ghoul’s first season, working perfectly with every single episode of √A, and even the title seems despairingly apt. The lyrics ring powerlessness and futility, but also humanity and hope, making them a good fit for what the series should have chosen to focus on. It was a wonderful ED, far better than the series deserved, and as painful as it was to see it play second fiddle, number one is something that nearly everyone can probably agree on.
This will probably come as a surprise to no-one, but the song that is essentially the exact opposite of the one above took the top spot. While the above spot was surprisingly deep and emotional, it tended to blend into the series too well, while “Sugar Song to Bitter Step” really stood out, and I’m doubtful I was the only one who had this playing in their head whenever they saw a dance. Yes, it was one of the best songs of the best anime soundtrack of 2015, and is easily the catchiest. With deceptively thoughtful and even dark visual metaphors seamlessly integrated into a charming song, Blood Blockade Battlefront’s ED carries foreshadowing for what is to come and a reminder of what has occurred without feeling alien to newcomers. This may be what the series becomes most famous for in the years to come, and was certainly a highlight. From the blood of white’s foot painting the white rose, to the members of Libra dancing with horrible co-ordination, this ED is endearing, magnetic and memorable beyond measure.