Compiling this list was… annoying. At least with OPs, series take a lot more liberties to try something interesting. Most of the EDs however, just look and sound way too much like each other. There were a ton of the same ballads with dull images in front of them, but by far the worst were those moe show endings with those horrible J-pop songs. Standalone they may not be so bad, but when I compiled this list I had to listen to hundreds of these things. I was seriously glad when the pain stopped.
In any case though, there are also a number of series that showcase excellent EDs, and that’s what this list is about. Note that my taste in music is a bit weird for your average anime fan (I really don’t like most J-Pop and J-rock).
A great ED for me has first and foremost got to contain a good song. It may have great visuals, but those are no use if I’m poking my ears out. On top of that, I also like EDs that treat themselves as more than just an obligatory thing to show credits at: the ones that come with interesting ideas for a music video, or so to say.
#25: Hetalia Axis Powers ED1 (All Versions)
Okay, okay. I know that it seems a bit silly here, but this is just such a catchy collection of EDs. The reason I’m including it in this list is because of their total picture, not just one version of them. All of the EDs of Hetalia Axis Powers are full of those cheesy country-references that made the series infamous. I applaud the composers here of giving each country its own soundtrack on the same song and beat. When it was just Italy’s version at the end of every episode, it was indeed a boring way to close the series, but the fun began as soon as every major country got his own version.
#24: Boogiepop Phantom
This ED is on the list for its simplicity, but with such a sea of dull ballads and cheesy j-pop tunes, it’s a breath of fresh air to listen to such a catchy song that doesn’t try to hard at the same time. It hardly ever repeats any verses, and I of course love the use of electric guitars here. The graphics themselves are just recaps, but they serve their purpose here.
#23: NHK ni Youkoso ED2
There are some genres of music that I hate, yeah. However I also believe that for all of those genres, there are gems of exceptions. This ED is one such exceptions for J-Rock. It’s subtly sung and well composed without the annoying sugary energy that just all sounds the same to me with regular J-rock. The pictures shown make no sense, but they do create a very good atmosphere for the rest of the song.
#22: Excel Saga
Excel Saga was a series that parodied everything under the sun: all genres that were possible at the time, it poked fun at. So yeah, even the ED is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to close off every episode. The joke is probably lost on the people who haven’t seen the series and don’t know what Menchie (that dog) went through, but let’s just say that out of all the characters in comedy anime whose only purpose it is to be abused… Menchi was one of, if not THE best and most adorable.
#21: Hanamaru Youchien ED10
Hanamaru Youchien really took the cake with its EDs: every episode didn’t just have a different one, but they were all vastly different in style, soundtrack and narrative. The best of the bunch by far was the ending for episode 10, which suddenly turned into a horror parody which to be honest actually was quite scary, the way in which it used a character who in the series itself is always bright and cheerful, who suddenly gets chased quite genuinely by all of these weird creatures.
#20: GTO ED3
I really love Studio Pierrot’s sense of aesthetics. Ten years ago. This ED may just consist out of a bunch of footage from the TV-series, but it’s edited together very skilfully to give it a very interesting visual effect together with the music, which is a very good composition with excellent vocals. It’s not as good as the first OP, but it still packs a huge punch, and it’s exactly what a recap ED should be.
#19: Red Garden
This is just one of those rare anime EDs that are great to headbang on. I personally love the riffs throughout the song, and how it gradually builds up its intensity over such a short time as 90 seconds. It’s these types of songs that I’d wish were more used in EDs nowadays.
#18: Paranoia Agent
Ah, the simplicity. This ED only consists out of a few simple instruments and a very simple and childish tune, in front of pictures of the main cast just sleeping. But the effect it has is something that a ton of other EDs lack. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere, not to mention that the character-designs themselves are truly excellent to look at, just like with any other Satoshi Kon work.
#17: Shikabane Hime: Aka
I must say that Angela surely showed that she has an amazing voice with her OPs and EDs for Shikabane Hime. The second ED stood out for all the wrong reasons, but the first was a very good upbeat song which allowed Angela to show a wide variety of her voice, which really worked well in the end.
The entire ED of Yukikaze just screams nostalgia. It fit the OVA perfectly, and it’s such a gentle way to close off each episode. In an OVA that’s full of confusion and eye candy, it’s the perfect song to just be straight-forward and make sense of what just happened. It’s very catchy too.
#15: Now and Then, Here and There
Like the OP of this series, this ED is fantastic in its simplicity. Horrible things happen in every episode in which a bunch of kids are in a completely different world from which they grew up. This ED is here to remind us of that. There’s a safe environment waiting for these children, which is where they belong, instead of what this series does to them.
#14: Ie Naki Ko Remi
Indeed, Ie Naki Ko was one of the more rushed and unrefined World Masterpiece Theatres, but it did have the best soundtrack. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t find any footage of the actual ED, but it’s just so damn obscure that I couldn’t find it anywhere. It’s a wonderful song to end the series with though, and the full version shows this even more: the singer is truly excellent and together with the rest of the instruments she really builds up this song with an increasingly impressive atmosphere, and at the same time it’s also something that kids are gonna love due to the few gentle and playful parts.
#13: Bokura no ED1
Another excellent voice from Ishikawa Chiaki. Her voice is haunting and unique and it’s among my favourites of the tons and tons of ballad EDs that have been released so far. Her voice is restrained, yet powerful, and the images really focus on what’s important in this series: the children, and nothing more or less.
The one thing that I’ve noticed with Bee-Train’s series is that their OPs and EDs are often inferior to their actual soundtracks. But yeah, when Yuki Kajiura writes an ED for them, there’s no way to go wrong with that. It’s got some amazing vocals and background choirs, and she really managed to work her magic here. It’s by far the best ED I have listened to from Yuki Kajiura.
#11: Wellber no Monogatari: Sisters of Wellber Zwei
Another example of how a recap ending should be done. Sure, the series itself was cheesy as hell, but it had some damn good ideas for its OPs and EDs. Showing all of these recaps alongside each other definitely makes an interesting watch, plus, the disco-ish song itself also works very well to go with the tension and atmosphere of the rest of the series.
#10: Paradise Kiss
I have absolutely no bloody clue how the creators got the licensing rights from Franz Ferdinand here, but it worked really well. I’ve said this before: back when I watched this series I still wasn’t much into slice of life series, and pretty much the biggest reason for me to keep watching this series was because it had such an awesome OP and ED. Instead of slapping a bunch of recap shots behind this, the creators actually created quite an amusing set of animations, especially for those car chase scenes.
#9: Kare Kano
Without a doubt the best ED to a shoujo romance. The use of life action is unconventional, but it works surprisingly well in showing that this takes place in a high school. On top of that it’s got to have one of the catchiest melodies of any of the EDs I’ve had to listen to. The simple use of vocals and guitar complement each other really well throughout the song, and it’s another reason why today’s shoujo series need to look to the past for inspiration to get out of the stale state they’re currently in.
#8: Tegami Bachi
I don’t quite understand why OPs are tracked down very hard on youtube… while uploaded episodes are just left alone. I think that an OP or ED is actually a very good promotional material for especially the older series, especially if they’re good. In any case, Letter Bee. When I first saw this ED, I really was amazed with how incredibly good it was. The visuals here were absolutely beautiful, you could really see that Studio Pierrot put a ton of imagination into it. The recap at the beginning is a bit annoying, but after that just everything fits. The way that one scene flows into the other, to the colour scheme. For me, it was the sign that Studio Pierrot had not lost the talent that it had ten years ago.
#7: Wings of Rean
The ED of the Wings of Rean is also based on a great visual idea, to have all these strings with wings flying upwards, with ever-increasing impressive patterns. It’s just so fascinating to look at, it’s something that I didn’t experience with any other ED so far. The song is also excellent here: well composed and with a great vocals.
#6: Zone of the Enders: Dolores, i
Arranged by the excellent composer Hikaru Nanase: when she really hits a good idea, it shines beyond belief (just listen to the Noein Soundtrack if you want proof). This song rocks in the way that it combines all sorts of instruments with the unconventionally high-pitched voice. It always was an awesome way to close off such an awesome series and amongst the best of Hikaru Nanase’s wide variety of different songs.
#5: xxxHOLiC ED2
This is one for the fans. Sure, the song is excellent and all, but what really made this ED so memorable was seeing Maru and Moro playing air guitar. It’s a terrific idea that especially works for the fans of the series like myself. It just screams awesome in every single way.
#4: Guin Saga
MommoHD – Guin Saga ED
I’ve talked about this ED before. It was my absolute favourite of 2009, simply due to that voice. Kanon is an amazing singer, and the entire ED just screams ‘epic’ like the series it’s based on.
#3: Starship Operators
An incredibly powerful song, which the series knows and makes use of very well later in the series. The artists did a great job of not limiting themselves to the series’ rather limited character-designs, but instead drew the characters with some pretty interesting ideas in mind. But yeah, the song is what really sold me here. Especially the full version’s vocals are haunting beyond belief.
#2: Red Garden ED1
Something that the more creative EDs often like to pull is to put the cast into a completely different context. By far my favourite attempt of this is Red Garden’s first ED, and yeah, I know that I already included them once in this TOP, but their EDs are just so damn good that I couldn’t resist to put them in twice. What the creators did here was put the entire cast, and made them visit a rock concert. What makes this one different is that while the mood is different, it’s not like usual in which the creators just changed genre. I mean, I could totally see this to have been some sort of school festival for everyone to have let off some steam from what happened throughout the Red Garden series. The music behind it is also ridiculously addictive. it’s a bit cheesy with the “Rock the LMC!!!” over and over, but it worked really well for me.
I didn’t have to think long to decide my number one for this top. I mean, Mushishi had a different OP for every single episode. Every single one of them was just absolutely stunning in its simplicity. The way it used its sounds to give a nature-ish atmosphere is truly unrivalled, and I’ve never listened to another ED that had such a strong atmosphere as its EDs. They’re all wonderfully composed, and that makes it such a shame that they’re near-impossible to track down. Only after a ton of searching did I find a version that was at least listenable to. In any case, it remains a wonderful series of EDs, even with such a bad quality.