Anime soundtracks are one of my favorite aspects of watching anime. The impact a good opening or ending song has on you also determines how much you enjoy the anime itself. And thanks to the constant shuffle of both from season to season of an anime, you’re always being introduced to something new. But why do anime change their openings so often?
The amount of good music I’ve discovered thanks to my favorite show using it as the theme song is endless. And it’s not exclusive to Japanese either. Because I remember being obsessed with the Beyblade dubbed soundtrack, with bangers like Underdog and the Let It Rip! opening. I mean, I don’t know a single person who can’t sing the original Pokemon opening by heart. That’s just how important an epic theme song is!
But I can see where the appeal to shake things up came from. We’re so used to Western shows having the same old theme song, for 10 seasons straight. But in Japan, the relationship between music and anime is very different. While Western openings are always pretty short and sweet, anime openings are a beast unto themselves, something that has its own merit.
There are a variety of reasons a single anime can get multiple theme songs. Part of it is technicality but that isn’t always a deciding factor. There is an entire system for music and thematic changes in place for airing anime, one that lends to its popularity. So, let’s get into why anime shuffle their opening and endings so rapidly!
Anime Theme Songs Scheduling In Japan Is Different
TV shows outside of Japan follow a standard run time with allocated annual or bi-annual seasons that span a much longer episode count. They also often have mid-season hiatuses which can elongate their airing period.
However, when it comes to anime, seasons are divided into 4 distinct sections known as ‘cours’. And they are directly linked to the yearly seasons i.e. Spring is April – June, Summer is July – September, Autumn is October – December, and Winter is January – March. And most anime run for around one or two cours.
Changing the theme song or OP frequently helps distinguish between different seasons of the same anime and highlights that break between cours. Of course, longer cour anime exist, with some running continuously for years but those tend to be rarer, and usually, the one-two cour model is followed.
And since cancelations in-between seasons is also uncommon, anime studios use ED songs as a precursor to a possible sequel, indicating what could happen in the next season. This leads to variation in the soundtrack to keep things distinguishable between course.
New Anime Theme Songs Highlight An Ongoing Arc
Another big proponent for an anime having a variety of theme songs is that each theme song denotes something shifting within the storyline. Whether that is a change in plot, a time skip, or an entirely new character as the main focus, a theme song is the viewers’ first look at it.
This change of tone adds to the experience of watching an anime. It helps enhance whatever plot point is going on, without giving everything away. And sometimes, the intros and outros of an anime can contain hidden easter eggs for the viewer to pick up. Or even have some form of foreshadowing leading to an important plot twist in the future.
An example I recently learned about that shows how meticulously planned anime openings can be is the first opening for Attack On Titan. Most anime lovers know that it was one of the best openings for any anime of its era, perfectly setting the stage for an epic story awaiting us. But now, as we reach the finale of the entire saga, long-time fans have picked up a lyric from that first opening. This lyric apparently foreshadowed Eren Yaeger’s role in ‘decimating’ the Titans, all the way back in 2013. Long before his true intentions were revealed.
Anime Soundtrack Albums Are A Huge Deal!
Soundtracks are a huge deal in Japan. Most of the profits from an anime don’t come from people watching it during its run time. It comes from fans buying related content or merchandise that is released by the company.
Often those include things like Blu-ray box sets, audio drama DVDs, and, of course, anime soundtrack albums. It isn’t like these soundtracks are made specifically by no-name composers to just slap onto an anime. They are often done by popular bands or singers that add to their collector’s value. For example, bands like RadWimps or soloists like LiSa, their albums for their exclusive anime-related work sell very highly.
Therefore, a good OP and ED song help advertise the anime they are related to. This, in turn, makes fans want to buy the soundtrack album available since it often contains full-length versions, instrumentals, unplugged versions, etc.
Changing anime openings improves the chances of multiple people liking at least one OP enough to buy the full album! Will you be looking to do the same for the latest anime? Let me know in the comments below!