Why Are Anime Openings (OP) and Endings (ED) So Long?
If you’ve ever seen an anime series, you might have noticed that the openings (OP) and endings (ED) are quite long when compared to usual Western animation. OP and ED animation is extremely recognizable and usually quite the same in most anime. These openings and endings form an integral part of each episode and although they can be misleading in terms of plot details, they can also reveal some future plot elements that we’re going to see during the series.
Anime openings (OP) and endings (ED) usually last 90 seconds each, amounting to a total of three minutes. They are so long because they are used to keep the attention of the viewers (namely, in Japan, a commercial break comes after the OP, in the middle of an episode, and just before the ED), they are artistic works themselves, and are used to promote the songs used in the OP and ED.
In this article, we are going to analyze the phenomenon of anime openings (OP) and endings (ED). You’re going to find out how long they usually last, whether that is absolutely necessary for each anime and the reasons for their longevity.
How Long Are anime Openings and Endings?
In order to prepare for this article, we have decided to find some examples for you that will immediately answer this question:
- Fullmetal Alchemist: There are 5 OPs and 5 EDs, all of which are 1:30 long.
- Digimon Tamers, Steins;Gate: Both OP and ED are 1:30.
- GaoGaiGar and Neon Genesis Evangelion: The OPs are 1:30 long, though the EDs are only 1:00 in duration.
- Cardcaptor Sakura: The OPs are 1:30, did not check the ED durations.
As you can see, we have picked several different series from different periods of time, different genres and different demographics, but all of them actually have an identical runtime of 90 seconds, i.e. 1:30 minutes.
This is the standard duration for anime openings and endings and most shows, you can see our estimate at the end of the article, respect this tradition, which is not a rule per se, but is still respected by the studios, producers, and animators.
Here are some video examples:
1) Digimon Tamers: “Biggest Dreamer”
2) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: “Period”
3) Bleach: “ALONEZ”
As you can see, all of these openings have a duration of 90 seconds and are great examples of what we have said. Now, let us see why that is.
Why Are Anime Openings and Endings so Long?
Now that we have established how long anime openings and endings last, and before we explain the historical roots of this tradition, let us first explain the reasons why anime openings and endings are 90 seconds long.
These reasons and explanations aren’t really official and the animators do have a lot of freedom, but they do make sense and are almost always the reasons for such lengths.
Now, a typical anime television series broadcast on any Japanese network television always has commercial breaks after the opening animation, in the middle of the episode, and just before the end credits.
Such an animation and broadcast pattern gives more room for a 90-second opening sequence that has more content between commercial breaks than a 30- or 60-second opening, which may be less distracting to viewers; Western animation generally uses shorter opening sequences, although that tradition is also slowly changing.
We know that an opening animation sequence is used for new episodes that air each week; this means that the opening only needs to be animated once and can be reused throughout the season.
A longer opening sequence, of course, reduces the amount of internal, original animation footage that needs to be completed for each week’s new episode which, in turn, can save money on the production budget and reduce the amount of work the animators have to do.
Anime openings also have the function of promoting the songs featured in them (this goes for endings as well). A longer opening sequence gives the theme song time to become known and gain popularity, which can lead to a song becoming a hit. This has happened with openings from Digimon, Naruto, or Bleach, some of which have become global hits.
Finally, opening and ending sequences are often small works of art that don’t just serve as an introduction to the series, but also a continuation, even a foreshadowing of the plot.
Opening and ending sequences set the tone for the show to follow, which means that a longer opening sequence makes more sense. These sequences also show the talent of their creators, who are not necessarily the same staff members who produce the weekly episodes.
As we have stated, Western animated shows usually have short(er) opening sequences, since these sequences don’t have the same function as the anime sequences. Thus, a longer opening and ending sequence can fulfill the task at hand with more ease.
Since When Have Anime Openings and Endings Been This Long?
There is no obligatory rule that “forces” the producers and the animators to produce a 90-second opening and ending sequence, but it is a tradition when Japanese animation is concerned. Namely, this has been an almost fixed trend since the 1970s and has since, during the decades, become an unofficial rule that most animators follow.
There are some examples that show that this is not an official thing:
- One Piece: Though some episodes fit this pattern, others have 3-minute OPs and no EDs. (But, the overall duration remains the same, though)
- Akagi, Kaiji: OP is shorter than 1 minute.
- Ga-rei: Zero, Aria: During the OP or ED music (which is 1:30 long), things unrelated to the OP/ED sequence happen.
These examples, and there surely are more, but we’ve opted for just these, show that the animators have certain liberties, but also that most animators simply respect the traditional 90-second duration. We estimate, roughly, that more than 90% of anime series use the 90-second formula.