What Is That Short Screen After The Opening?

by Justin Sevakis,

Steve asks:

Every now an then an anime will have an OP or ED that finishes playing, and then a bar or two of the music repeats, with some random frame from that episode as the visual. Flying Witch on Crunchyroll in the US is this season's example. Any idea why that is? Since it's only a few seconds, I'm surprised they can't just roll the time into the story.

Nearly every TV anime, after the opening sequence, has a 5-10 second musical still attached to it. Occasionally a show will do something interesting with these screens -- a low-effort animation or an ambitious illustration -- but generally they're just random stills from either the opening sequence, or that episode. There's often another one at the end of the show, after the next-episode preview.

What is this mysterious still screen? It's a card for the announcement of the show's main sponsor(s). If you see those episodes actually broadcast on Japanese TV, they wouldn't just be the music and still frame. They'd have the sponsor logos and a voice-over of who they are: "This show is brought to you by the following sponsors."

Anime has been broadcast this way for decades and decades, and in fact, this is a standard part of Japanese TV broadcast. Back when everyone relied on fansubs and video ripped from Japanese TV, it was far more common to see those screens, and I think a lot of people assumed that it was just part of the show. Some people were even bothered that they weren't included in official DVD releases later on.

However, the sponsor information isn't part of the master tape delivered by the animation studio. In fact, this information is added at the TV network during broadcast. The blank sponsor screens you see on Crunchyroll are what's on the master tape, and that's also what gets supplied to international streaming partners.

Many streaming service providers remove these screens before uploading, since they serve no purpose outside of their television broadcast. There's no real reason that these screens HAVE to go. However, it is standard practice worldwide to remove the screens when the show gets mastered for home video release. Occasionally, they get included as DVD extras, particularly if they're artistically interesting or cool looking.

There is one show, a now-forgotten piece of fantasy pablum from the early 2000s called Himiko-Den (Legend of Himiko) that actually integrated the sponsor screen into the opening sequence, which is something that I always thought was cool (especially since it effectively extended the opening, and the opening was the only good thing about that show). However I haven't noticed another show doing that since. Perhaps that has happened and I just haven't noticed.

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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