Hello readers! This is the first post of a new bonus series in which I, LowKev, discuss music in anime. These posts can cover anything from reviews of anime openings and closings, to entire soundtracks, themes present in anime music, etc. Most of these posts will have spoilers, however due to the nature of this post, it will be largely spoiler free.
For these musical bonus posts, I figured it would be best to start by talking about my favorite anime opening, and it is an opening I could talk about for a very long time, as it is very special to me.
Have you ever experienced something that has moved you or deeply inspired you? Like listening to your favorite album, or watching your favorite movie, or even playing your favorite game? It may seem strange to some that something like an album or a video game can move someone in such a way, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way and celebrates the inspirational power of these mediums. It’s amazing how another’s work can overwhelm you with deep emotion or joy. It’s one of the best things about art really. One could say that true art reflects true beauty, and effects us, the beholders of that beauty.
Well, one of those experiences, and one that is very important to me, is the first time I watched the Angel Beats! opening. “My Soul, Your Beats!” by Lia is hands down my favorite anime opening, and one of my favorite stand along songs. You see, Angel Beats (and FLCL, which will be extensively blogged about another time) was my first dive into anime since I was a little kid. It was recommended to me by RishRaff, and I didn’t really know how it would go. However, I figured I might as well give it a shot and loaded up the first episode.
It starts off with that haunting piano and drone combo, with a mystery girl playing. I always get goosebumps when the little ball of light lands on the piano, and the background suddenly illuminates. The resonating high note from the piano during this moment helps a lot with this feeling. I remember being a bit concerned when the drum beats first came in, thinking it would soon lose the cool vibe it just started creating and go all out volume-wise. Thankfully, it ends up pretty much going right back down to start the verse, keeping the cool vibe while expanding it a little with more instrumentation. As the verse played and the characters with their names appeared, I thought it was a pretty good song. It was of course hard to take in all the little things at once the first time through.
The chorus was where the song really got to me. It was a specific part of the chorus too. Right where Lia holds out the word “shitanda”. The harmony held out right there over what I believe is a minor 3 chord combined with the barrage of visuals (including the sight of the piano and girl seemingly moving through the sky while playing) really hit the nail on the head. It is here that the song really takes off.
When people listen to music, there may be moments when the listener experiences this sudden chill as a reaction to something in the music. This chill is often called frisson. I have experienced frisson a lot in my musical experiences (I can list many songs from The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Slowdive, Elliott…), and it is the best way I can describe my reaction to this moment in the chorus of “My Soul, Your Beats!”. It was just this sudden feeling I had when I heard it. I knew then that this anime was going to be something memorable. Something special.
This feeling continued for the rest of the chorus. Probably my favorite visual in the OP is the sight of the lights (presumably stars) rise up. This sight also works perfectly with the music. The characters look onward as the stars rise and the ending of the chorus plays. Lia’s vocals are toned down a little for this part (she isn’t belting the melody like she was before), making it feel more introspective, allowing you to hear the piano part from the intro play again, and allowing you to really appreciate the beautiful, soaring strings. The visuals fade to white after Lia asks “wasn’t it great?”, ending the OP.
Wasn’t it great? It was, and I couldn’t have been more excited to start the show.
Thoughts on the song:
The opening sets up the show perfectly. It made me interested in the anime, made me want to learn who the presented characters are, and showed me a glimpse of the emotions and themes presented within the show. The first episode starts right off with this opening, which at the time I thought was how all anime series operated (except FLCL of course, which doesn’t have an OP at all), which isn’t the case. I’ve learned that I prefer the first episode of a series to start with the OP, rather than having something like the OP playing at the end of episode 1. If a show has a strong OP, it can get the viewer introduced and hooked into the show better than simply running right into the plot. “My Soul” really illustrates that in my eyes. Of course, this preference could also be because I just love openings and closings, and I don’t like having to wait until the second episode or even beyond to experience the OP and ED in their proper places.
The song itself is extremely well done. Lia has a strong, beautiful voice, and the melodies she sings are very memorable and well written. The piano goes from flowing and beautiful in the intro and choruses to more choppy in the verses, both being extremely essential components to the song as a whole. The orchestral noises are quite welcome, the guitar parts add to the general feel very well (from the beautiful chord strums in the verse, to the driving distorted palm muting in the chorus), and the droney keyboards give it a great atmosphere. I do wish some of the more intricate instrumental parts were higher in the mix, simply because they are really interesting. I can’t help but wonder what the writing process was like for this song. Was the piano part written first? Was the entire instrumental made with vocals added in later? Was the melody of the hook written first. I can’t help but admire how perfectly the vocals and instrumental complement each other. Jun Maeda, Lia, and ANANT-GARDE EYES deserve serious props for this song.
Outside the OP:
(When discussing openers or closers, this section will cover the parts of the song that are not in the anime). “For My Soul, Your Beats!”, we have a second verse with different instrumentation, a very interesting bridge, and a key change. Once the first chorus finishes up, the second verse starts without the piano, and adds in palm muted acoustic guitars. I find this a really awesome way to differentiate the second verse from the first one. The acoustic guitars then stay as the rest of the instrumentation returns for the rest of the verse.
Then there’s the bridge. To be honest, I found it a little weird at first. It’s had to explain. It just seemed out of place, and the last chord of it before the key change felt especially weird, almost like the song wanted to end there, but didn’t. I never understood it until I heard an alternate version of it. “My Heart” is part of the soundtrack, and is a beautiful rendition of parts of the opening, including the bridge. Listening to the bridge play out with this instrumentation showed me how the chord choices worked, and I now greatly appreciate it.
Directly following the bridge is a key change into the last chorus. With this key change, Lia really belts out the notes of the chorus, once again showing the power and beauty in her voice.
This song is a subject I feel I will never say enough about (even after all the above rambling). I could talk for hours about why this song is so special to me, and never truly feel that I have adequately talked about it. I suppose it all comes down to that feeling I had when I first watched it (and still get today with the opening). It’s something I cannot fully describe, and I suppose that’s part of its beauty.
Looking back on it now, my life has seriously changed since last summer. When I first watched episode 1 of AB!, I would’ve never guessed where I am now in life. I especially never thought I would be writing anime blog posts. Yet looking back, I do recall having this faint feeling that the summer was to be the start of something new. Something very different, even crazy at times, but all the more rewarding once finally given a chance. I suppose “My Soul, Your Beats!” became part of the soundtrack to this feeling. It was the start of a new love for anime, and the start of a new chapter of my life, and I couldn’t think of a better song to usher it all in. Perhaps this is why I will always consider “My Soul, Your Beats!”my favorite anime opening of all time.
So what do you think about the Angel Beats opening? What is your favorite anime opener? Let me know in the comments if you want to, I’d love to hear it! Thanks for reading my ramblings about this song, and I hope you enjoyed it. I will eventually cover my favorite closer as well, and you’ll neeeeever guess which one it is.