Boku no Hero Academia. No introductions needed. It has become one of the most popular anime of the past few years. From the scope of music, what puts it up there is the plurality of artists featured in the opening and ending sequences. No opening is the same, no ending is the same. However, each and every one follows certain guidelines. The people behind this production chose the hard path. That is to pair each season with the unique and identifiable sound of different artists. And once again, it paid off.
DISCLAIMER: May contain spoilers ahead. May also contain eggs, milk, soy, nuts and the tears of your enemies.
Opening Theme. The star of the show. “Polaris” by BLUE ENCOUNT
Polaris is the one. It’s the one and only song that would make sense being the tie-up for this season. It’s what you’d expect it to be. Not only do you know that it’s shounen, you know it’s Boku no Hero Academia. You know that it works with the story. It’s not weak, it’s not over the top. We were left with a cliffhanger, knowing that things will be different from now on. The OP builds on this and gives us the sense of achievement that comes from Midoriya’s stubbornness, the stubbornness from everyone in 1-A, the stubbornness a hero should have.
So, musically, we start off with something sentimental, showing us where Midoriya comes from and how he and his classmates have grown. We also get a glimpse of the ‘end game’, a glimpse of what will go down. I can only relate it with the increasing in number and intricacy embellishments between the music phrases. Plainly speaking, we see how bad-ass everyone from 1-A has become, we meet new characters and get to know the ones that weren’t as involved.
However, at the same time, I get the sense that time has run out or is about to. I feel like the melody has a quality to it that brings to the surface the despair, the disappointment and the will to surpass anything that blocks the characters’ way. It’s like the melody and the lyrics don’t only apply to Deku-kun. All Might is on the same boat, after everything that happened. Bakugou turned out not to be the kind of person we may have thought he was.
The last 30 seconds of the intro make one thing clear. The fight scenes. They will be up to standards. They will be intense. They will be emotional. And the cadence, leaving us ‘floating’ without a fixed conclusion and without harmonic support, is like saying that we’re nowhere close to wrapping things up. There’s a good chance that this arc will be a big one and with lots of progress.
OST first impressions. by Hayashi Yūki
Most, if not all, soundtracks are characterized by their diversity. Usually, the composers take advantage of the differentiation between acoustic and electronic sounds. In the first episode, we start off with thematic strings, making a statement in the lines of ‘I haven’t seen you in a while. This is what happened the last time we met. Do you remember now?’ and to the new acquaintances it’s ‘Well, hello there. Nice to meet you. You may have missed quite a few really exciting stuff, but you can enjoy the show alongside everybody else. Have fun!’.
But as soon as that comes to an end, the ambient sounds during the meeting at the news channel give us the premonition that something shady is about to happen. And it makes us think ‘Will Midoriya’s secret be exposed?’. So we start becoming more and more anxious and the music isn’t helping as we are now listening to strings that have transposed a semitone higher, and another one, and another one and another one… and bam! It stops. Silence.
Then, we have upbeat and quite happy music that might as well be in one of those easy-peasy no-no talking step-by-step recipes showing you how to make this magnificent rhubarb pie… And then you try recreating it but manage to mess everything up instead?
Now we go once again to the opposite direction; the suspicious material. We have contra tempo, electric guitar wah-wah, staccato and pizzicato on the strings, accentuation here and there and when all this is combined with the reporter’s almost soothing voice, it becomes even more unsettling.
IMO, having songs -as in with vocals and lyrics- in the soundtrack can be quite ballsy. Because you just add one more thing that could break the balance or slap you away from the emotional response you are meant to have. One of the go-to options is to use songs in scenes with timelapses. In this case, it was just a really good chance to reintroduce the characters.
Another thing that left an impression was the difference between the types of ‘sentimental’ scoring. On the one hand, we have strings and on the other, a piano. Both tracks add the same thing, that is to bring out emotion to the scene. However, the latter has also a different objective: to make us start liking the reporter. What better way to do that by taking us back to what was a traumatic event for him, and an iconic clip to us. We now start thinking that he may not be such a bad guy after all. We were purposely mislead in the beginning and we are now purposely lead towards a different path. Soon after, we are reminded that the piano is not merely a ‘sad’ instrument. It can be happy. It can be playful. It can be lively… It’s the king of all instruments, after all.
Ending Theme. Hints and aftertaste. “Koukai no Uta” by “Sanketsu-girl” Sayuri
Now, I know that many people skip the ending themes. I know as I skip them myself in some cases. Some of them are really underrated, though. They tend to contain spoilers that aren’t really spoilers and don’t really… well, spoil the show. In the beginning, they may not really make sense, but as we watch more and more episodes, we eventually go ‘Ahhh, well that’s what it was!’.
So, this ending starts off dynamically, like starting to narrate a deeply emotional story. The story of the white haired girl. And the music whispers -well, honestly, it shouts- that she has been through a lot. However, during the chorus, likely because of the change in the scale, it seems that the story takes a turn. It’s like there is a distinction between the girl’s past and her present -perhaps, even her future- due to Midoriya and Toogata.
I won’t lie here, it’s one of the best anime this season has to offer. It all comes down to the detail, or to express it even better, it comes down to the quality of the production.
I’m referring to the guidelines set for a certain production. What I mean is that each and every production has some rules set, something like guidelines. One of those guidelines is that the choice of artists depends on the plot. They are not necessarily restrained by a contract with a certain artist, a certain music producer or a certain production company. The reason I chose ‘restrained’ is because this choice can either turn out to be a charm or a limitation. A charm, as in the artist becomes the ‘soul’ and the real-life identity of the anime. A limitation, as in the unique qualities of the artist’s sound can become old news and in some cases, even tiring.
My point being that Studio Bones doesn’t fail to make the appropriate choice. The producers and the directors manage to get artists with an established fan-base for their tie-ups. They always seem to highlight the vibe of each season with each opening theme. They always seem to wrap things up beautifully with each ending theme. One thing has become clear, though. The artists, the songs, no matter how many, no matter how different, they all nailed the concept of the young protagonist that has the will to succeed and reach his goal, no matter how far-fetched it may seem.
TL;DR (come on man, it’s MHA)
- Really good tie-ups
- The OP and ED were spot on
- Good and diverse OST
- Will be a packed season ahead, probably with a big build-up
- It’s what I expected it to be and I wasn’t let down in the slightest
- I crave for more development (as promised by the OP) and for more emotion and achievement (as shown by the ED)