Medabots vs. Medarot: A Case of Two Openings

Though I was never a big fan of the show, I’ve been impressed by the Japanese Medarot (aka Medabots) opening theme. It’s surprisingly intense, and it hits with just the right hint of melancholy as anime songs tend to do. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that others who grew up with the show on TV in the US did not quite agree. If you take a look at the YouTube comments for the opening, there’s a pretty even divide between those who think the English opening is better vs. the Japanese one.

While nostalgia likely plays a big factor in many of these opinions, I believe that there’s something more, some essential differences between the two songs and the messages they try to convey. Essentially, while the English opening emphasizes “coolness,” the Japanese opening is all about “fiery passion.”

In the case of the English version, there’s a sense that “Robattling” is the hip thing to do. Get your gear, get your robot, and engage in this cool activity. In contrast, the Japanese song is focused towards the energy of youth, and that’s even putting aside the lyrics, which occasionally mention things being “white hot” and such. The song itself ends with the idea that the world of Medarot is one of intelligence and bravery.

The more I thought about this difference, however, the more it became clear to me that Japanese cartoons for children have historically seemed to be more willing to emphasize the value of being young. Be it Digimon or Cardcaptor Sakura or something else entirely, I get the sense that these openings want kids to feel like being a kid is fantastic. American openings for cartoons and other shows, on the other hand, tend to skew towards the desire for kids to grow up. While they’re not telling kids that it’s great to be a 20-year-old or anything, there exists a general marketing idea that kids do not connect with characters who are younger than them. Neither side exists at an absolute extreme, and you can find plenty of exceptions (Precure features characters in middle school while targeting elementary school children), but I can’t help but feel that this is what actually underlies the Medabots vs. Medarot theme song divide.

Observations Concerning Dub Openings

I’ve recently become interested in examining modern (mid-90s – present) dub anime openings to see how they correlate to the notion that children have very short attention spans that are gradually decreasing as time passes.

Note: If you’re looking for a point or thesis, there really isn’t any. All I present here is possible evidence.

I began by comparing dub openings to their original Japanese counterparts. This has nothing to do with quality of music (or lack thereof), so you won’t find me making any comments regarding the actual themes.

YOHOHO HE TOOK A BITE OF GUM GUM.

Okay, last one. I promise.

Aside from the difference in length (the common 1 minute, 30 seconds in Japanese openings is hardly ever reached), the biggest difference I’ve seen is in the rate at which imagery will flash on and off the screen. In the English openings, there tends to be a much higher rate of changing imagery.

I give as an example a Yu-Gi-Oh opening in English, and one in Japanese. They are both the “second” openings, but keep in mind the English dub has fewer openings overall. To keep from having the different songs influence you, I suggest turning down the sound.

English

Japanese

As you can see, the dub opening is just a lot more frenetic, eager to keep your attention with rapidly changing colors.

I next focused my attention on Pokemon, as it is perhaps the most famous of all dubbed anime for children. Interestingly, the English opening is actually not that much faster-paced than the Japanese one in terms of imagery. It’s certainly slower than the Yu-Gi-Oh opening and both of these shows are 4Kids shows (or at least Pokemon was back then).

English

Japanese

But what about the idea that children’s attention spans are getting shorter? I took a look at every dub opening of Pokemon, and I noticed that over the years the Pokemon openings have actually gotten shorter.

The first few openings were 1 minute long.

Then it dropped down to 45 seconds per opening.

Now, the most recent openings have been 30 seconds apiece.

I know the examples I provided were primarily from 4kids, but keep in mind that the most recent Pokemon openings were dubbed by the Pokemon Company itself, so it’s not something exclusive to them. There’s also the realization that a lot of kids watching Pokemon today were not even alive when the series began airing in America. Just what has spurred this diminishing of time devoted to Pokemon openings? The Yu-Gi-Oh openings (including GX) are 1 minute long. Is it because the show is meant for a slightly older audience?

Many questions indeed.