Column: "Natestalgia!" -- Favorite Opening and Ending Themes, Pre-2000 Edition Part 1

Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) you won't get a dozen YouTubes of Nate singing all of these

Every time I start a new anime series, there's one thought going through my head. It's not "I hope the story is great" (I can live with a terrible or nonexistent story) or "I hope the animation is good" (although that's pretty important)--no, the key thing I hope for when I start a new series is "I hope the opening is good."


Not just the opening song, mind you--the opening animation itself is important! It's kind of like a mini-movie that sets the stage for the series you're going to watch, introducing you to the characters (and occasionally spoiling the story along the way). The same goes for endings--I'm a bigger fan of openings, but every now and then you get an ending that you just have to sit through every time.


So for this two-part installment of Natestalgia, I'm gonna be taking a look at the openings and endings (from before 2000!) that really worked for me. It doesn't matter if the series was any good (although they usually were), but if the opening was great, or the ending made me stick around and memorize the credits, it's gonna get a mention here!


"Just Communication" (OP1) by TWO-MIX, from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

We didn't get an actual opening when Gundam W aired in the US on Toonami and the Midnight Run, but the ending credits had a partial instrumental version of "Just Communication." Seriously, every time I hear TWO-MIX (even during their random appearance on Detective Conan), the first thing I think of is Gundam W. And every time I see this opening, I look for the awesome moment of Treize Khushrenada giving his best "SUP BRO" face--look for it at 1:03! The second opening was pretty awesome, but the first one always stands out more to me.


"Pure Snow" by Yuko Sasaki, from The Legend of Himiko

So, The Legend of Himiko was incredibly predictable, the animation was only okay for a '90s TV series, and Oh!Great can really only design three or four character types, but it was still a fun watch overall. For real, go read or watch Tenjho Tenge and you'll see every character type from Himiko make an appearance. But man, what an opening! This series is definitely getting a future Natestalgia all to itself at some point.


"Kimi ga Suki da to Sakebitai" (OP1) by Baad, from Slam Dunk

Some people may try and tell you there was a second opening to Slam Dunk. These people are liars, because there is only one--this one. Actually, no, the second opening to Slam Dunk was pretty freakin' awesome, but nobody remade that one in live-action... because, again, there's only one.


"Give a Reason" by Megumi Hayashibara, from Slayers NEXT

I'm gonna be honest here: I'm not that big a fan of Megumi Hayashibara as a singer. As a voice actress, she's great, but her music doesn't do much for me--except for this opening. Slayers NEXT is my favorite out of the entire franchise, since it did a great job mixing comedy, action, and even a little bit of surprisingly well-written drama and romance into one series. It also had one hell of an ending that the series has (so far) had a hard time matching.


"1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou" (ED6) by Siam Shade, from Rurouni Kenshin

Don't mind the Spanish subtitles, Kenshin habla'd the Espanol offscreen all the time anyways, it's a fact. What sets this ending apart, aside from cruelly showing Tomoe from the manga's last two arcs--which the anime series never delivered--is how the song stays with you. It's a good song!


"Ai wo Torimodose" (OP1) by Crystal King, from Fist of the North Star

If this doesn't get you pumped to go and explode some dudes' heads, then you're a robot, plain and simple. It still makes me kinda sad--Fist of the North Star got a 109-episode TV series, a movie that crammed all that into two hours, and a couple follow-up and side-story OAVs, and fellow legendary Jump uber-series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure got... two OAVs and a movie that the creator reportedly hates. Is there no justice in the world? And one more question: where did Kenshiro's shirt go during that final flying kick?


"Rinbu - Revolution" by Masami Okui, from Revolutionary Girl Utena

And now for a completely different kind of... well, no. Honestly, Revolutionary Girl Utena hits all the same "epic" notes that Fist of the North Star does, it just goes about it in a completely different fashion. You get a kickass, exceptionally well-animated fight scene roughly every episode, and the series just builds and builds and builds to a mind-bending conclusion. And then you have the movie, where they all turn into cars and have a race-battle at the end. Y'know, my head's kind of hurting right now thinking about that, so let's move on.


"Ima, Ashita no Tame ni" by Shuji Honda, from Street Fighter II V

Okay, I'll admit: this show is f*cking terrible. Street Fighter II V is not a show I would wish upon my worst enemy if they were somehow stranded on a desert island with working electricity and a DVD player. But despite its strangely inspirational song, Ryu's stupid spikey hair, and every other egregious sin this series visited upon the Street Fighter franchise... it's oddly nostalgic.


"Yakusoku wa Iranai" by Maaya Sakamoto, from The Vision of Escaflowne

When I first watched The Vision of Escaflowne, I marathonned it over the course of a week while sick in bed dying of the flu. So whenever I watch Escaflowne, not only do I remember this awe-inspiringly great opening theme, but I also remember Creamy Chicken flavored ramen noodles, Final Fantasy VIII, and mucus. Lots of mucus. I also remember my friend Rob wanting to take a break from Escaflowne and play King of Fighters '95, but for some reason we didn't. We just kept watching Escaflowne and didn't stop.


"Kiseki no Umi" by Maaya Sakamoto, from Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight

At least once a year, Record of Lodoss War gets a re-watch from me. This gets me totally in the mood to watch Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, the TV follow-up. I watch the opening, get totally pumped, and then turn it off at around the second episode. It's not that Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is bad, it's just... Record of Lodoss War is so unfairly good in every aspect that watching almost anything after it is going to be disappointing.


"Blue" (ED3) by Seatbelts feat. Mai Yamane, from Cowboy Bebop

You wanna talk endings? This is an ending. This is not only how you end a show, it's how you end a series. I approach this one with mixed feelings--I don't mind watching it because it's a hell of a song, but knowing how Cowboy Bebop ends makes this theme all the more powerful. Everybody likes "Tank" and "Walk in the Rain," but this is the one song I pick from Cowboy Bebop as my all-time favorite.


Actually, that's kind of a depressing way to end Part 1, so let's do one more!


"Driver's High" (OP1) by L'arc~en~Ciel, from Great Teacher Onizuka

More anime should be like Great Teacher Onizuka. Maybe not in the way of "let's adapt most of the manga, and then go bonkers and half-ass an ending," but more in the vein of "let's tell a story that inspires courage and makes your dreams feel worthwhile." Yeah, it's more than a little skeezy that Onizuka becomes a teacher with the sole intent of seducing female students, but he learned to genuinely care about his students and their futures... especially if they could loan him video games or Photoshop celebrity nudes for him.


I think that's more than enough for one installment. Next time, tune in for another dozen of my favorite anime openings and endings from before 2000--after that, I'm doing another two-parter on anime OP-EDs from 2000 to today! What are some of your favorite older openings and endings? Do you want to see a full-blown Natestalgia on any of these titles? Sound off in the comments!

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