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Shortchanged: Cut Intros

Posted 2 February 2008 / By Nick Gibson / Opinion

Advertising is vital to the life of a network, whether we like it or not. And the only reason Toonami was able to deliver the goods every week was because of the ads that ran for eight-to-nine minutes of each thirty-minute programming block. The thing is, if you look at a bunch of anime episodes you’ll see that they typically run just about 24 minutes. So where did those extra three minutes of advertising on Toonami come from? Well, aside from content edits in the actual show itself, that time was created thanks to the modified intros that Toonami used. Instead of the original 1:30 J-Pop extravaganzas, Toonami would fabricate :30 intros with totally different music and footage and use the saved time to hock Capri Suns.

Most of the time these intros were fun in their own right and definitely fit in with Toonami’s industrial-electronica style. Regrettably, however, some of the original intros were just so fantastic that Toonami faithful basically missed out. I’m sorry to say it, but there are some things so good that even Williams Street + Joe Boyd Vigil can’t make up for their loss. Here are the five best openings that Toonami didn’t let you see.

#5 – Big O
This show is very closely tied to Toonami – the only reason it got a second season, after all, was because of its performance on the American block. It’s ironic, then, that in the process of saving it Toonami had to cut out one of the best aspects of the series – its zany ’60s-style opening. It’s James Bond, it’s Japanese, it’s…just plain odd. When I first saw the opening wihtout subtitles I had no idea what singer Rui Nagai was saying, and only after some research did I discover that immortal line of anime theme-songdom: “Cast in the name of God, ye not guilty! We have come to terms, Big O!” Classic. The Toonami substitute was good (I dig the way they fade in the Big O theme just before they kill it with the ‘pipes’ banner) but just couldn’t cut it. Take a look for yourself:

#4 – Gundam 08th MS Team

This series is my favorite Gundam show of all time. The composition, the presentation, the writing – nearly flawless. It’s a series you can’t help but take seriously, and the whole time you watch it you have the distinct feeling of being safe – secure in the control of an anime master. You know that the ride will be exhilarating and unforgettable, and you’re confident that there won’t be any cheesiness or lameocity to rock the boat. Thankfully the show delivers, right down to the opening montage. Set to the uplifting “Shining Through the Storm” and chock-full of money shots, this intro perectly conveys the balance of military realism and character drama that the show uses to such masterful extent. The Toonami intro tries hard, but never had a chance from the getgo. Compare:

#3 – Rurouni Kenshin

This series never saw the success it deserved on Toonami, but its short lifespan on Toonami got many people to check it out on DVD. Today it’s a fan favorite and for good reason – the formula of (not too accurate) historical drama mixed with (wildly inaccurate) swordplay and (pretty accurate) romance was intoxicating. As I always say, once you get to Meiji there’s no going back. Another thing that was really endearing about the series was its extravagant opening and endings. The series wasn’t that long, with just under one hundred episodes, but it three openings and seven endings, most of which had pretty ace songs. (Heart of SwordDame1/3 Purehearted Emotions) On Toonami it just got one, and although it’s probably the best replacement on this list (thanks the the thunderous bass backline), it can’t overcome Freckles. A quick side-by-side:

#2 – Outlaw Star

This one’s all about the music. Trying to fight the electricity of “Through the Night” by Masahiko Arimachi is a very, very bad idea, but for the sake of Capri Sun revenue Toonami was forced to do just that. A losing battle, clearly. Not only does the song just plain rock, but it matches Gene Starwind’s rogueishness to a fault. Add on footage of Gene and the gang doing what they do best and what do you have? One of the best intros ever made, bar none. Toonami cranked out some fierce promos for this series (reallythey did), and their opening was of similar quality, but to me it’s just drowned out by the original romping lead-in. Observe!

#1 – Gundam Wing

Much like with Outlaw Star, Toonami produced a massively awesome promotional for this series – so good, in fact, that Bandai used it for their DVDs when advertising the show. But where the promos succeeded, the :30 intro just didn’t have a chance. This argument doesn’t need an explanation, folks, it just needs the righteousness of Two-Mix. The vids speak for themselves.

Honorable Mention – Neon Genesis Evangelion

Regardless of my reservations about the series itself, the intro well and truly rocked the ’90s, and the only reason that it’s just an honorable mention is that the show never really ran on Toonami, so to speak. The first couple of episodes were on the Giant Robot Week, but due to obvious reasons it never got a full showing. (It later got a run on Adult Swim.) Not much to say here, except that in addition to being one of the greatest anime intros ever, it’s also the most misleading. Adventurous and action-packed? I think not! But that’s an article for another time…

One For the Road

To wrap this up, I think that replacing the original Japanese intros/outros is one of the few things that Toonami did wrong. I understand the reasoning behind it, but from a fan’s standpoint there is very little positive to say about it. One major, major exception to this is the original Gundam Wing ending. Gracious Gundams in heaven, help us. If this had shown in the US, there never would have been a Gundam explosion. There never would have been toys, or models, or t-shirts. There never would have been fansites or anything else. It would have died right there on episode one. Toonami realized this and wisely re-edited the cut Japanese opening with Ko Otani’s instrumental remix of “Just Communication”, resulting in this faith-restoring Toonami-exclusive ending, which concludes this article. Embrace the synth sax and enjoy (Toonami goodness on left, horrors of the nature preserves on the right.)

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