When the OP is Just Right…
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve personally put an actual article up on here. So I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by celebrating some of my favorite anime openings. I’ve seen a couple hundred anime, so this list took some careful consideration to whittle down to just 25.
The list is in no particular order and the only rule is that the opening has to have come from a show I’ve seen. Other than that, no repeats for stuff I’ve reviewed outside of honorable mentions. Obviously this is just my personal taste, so if an OP you love isn’t on the list I probably didn’t see the show or just didn’t like the opening that much ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
HM 1: Aoi Shiori – Anohana
It’s no secret that I love Anohana. I’ve covered the show in a previous Anime ABC article even, which you can view any time to see my full opinions on. This opening makes the honorable mentions list, not just for the sheer nostalgic value, but also for some clever directing.
To really get what I mean, check out Mother’s Basement’s video on the OP, and the film’s OP “Circle Game” which I’ve included below. Fair warning, there are spoilers for those who haven’t seen the series or film yet in this video.
HM 2: Gun’s & Roses – Baccano!
Do I really need to say anything? Baccano! features an opening that plays up the rule of cool while still sporting a large amount of substance that ties back to the narrative of the series. The upbeat music gets me hyped for each episode and I love seeing the characters perfectly portrayed in their respective seconds long shots. Like Anohana, I’ve covered this show, and its OP, before in an Anime ABC article which is why it is on the honorable mentions.
HM 3: Re:Re: – Erased
Erased was a fun show to watch and the opening always reflected that for me. The directing for this opening is ridiculously good. Not only that, but the song itself was originally released in 2004 (a whole 12 years before this show was made) by Asain Kung Fu Genertion. It’s amazing how well this song ties into the themes of the show, making it all that more impressive. As with the others, this OP and anime were covered in an ABC review.
HM 4: Trigger – Terror in Resonance
This is a show that I had wanted to really cover and discuss more in the past but unfortunately just didn’t have the time when I was inspired to do so. However, the music (not just the opening) in this anime is just incredible. While this anime is one of the more rocky to come from renowned director Shinichirō Watanabe, I couldn’t help but to look forward to each episode when this opening kicked in.
HM 5: Yume Tourou – Your Name/Kimi no Na wa (Film)
There isn’t a good video of the opening with the visuals for this entry. Instead, you can listen to the song through the provided link below via Spotify. For those that have seen the film, or don’t mind spoilers, here is another video from Mother’s Basement explaining how great the opening is at a technical and symbolic level (plus the music is great too!)
“Yume Tourou” is a bit of a cheat, which is why it is on the honorable mentions list. Your Name has an opening, which is weird for a film, but I’m not complaining because it was just that good. The opening is done by RADWIMPS, along with the rest of the film’s music, who have a lot of excellent songs. Consider giving them a listen; you can do so on Spotify if you follow this [link].
Now, For the Actual List!
1. History Maker – Yuri!!! on Ice
Kicking off the list, to nobody’s surprise, is “History Maker.” This song and opening was hailed as one of the best of the Fall 2016 lineup for many, myself included. Even though the opening sequence reuses a lot of the animations, what makes this opening stand out to me is the song itself and the ice skating (which is just cool).
I’ve mentioned AmaLee’s covers before, but I’d like to mention her here again because I absolutely love her cover of Yuri!!! on Ice’s OP. It’s one I can put on and enjoy anytime and with anyone. Even my sister, who actively hates anything anime, says that she could see this song playing on the radio and would enjoy it. You can check out AmaLee’s YouTube channel (LeeandLie) here [link].
2. The Everlasting Guilty Crown – Guilty Crown’s Second Opening
Love or hate Guilty Crown, there is no denying the quality of Egoist’s music that was provided for this anime. Personally, this is one of my favorite anime, which you may remember from when I made a favorite’s list back in 2015.
I struggled with this one because Egoist produced two great OP’s for Guilty Crown, this one and “My Dearest.” While I think “My Dearest” is a good song, “The Everlasting Guilty Crown” wins out for two big reasons: the visuals are a lot more meaningful overall and there is a money shot for me in there. Visually, it speaks for itself even if you haven’t seen the show before; it’s all fairly obvious. The money shot for me is when Shuu and Inori are raising their hands and their outfits change in sync with the music. That sequence is just really appealing to me.
3. Uninstall – Bokurano
Bokurano is truly an underrated gem. While the opening isn’t all that great visually, this is one of only a handful of songs that I will try and belt out in Japanese (horribly, I might add). “Uninstall” is dang catchy and will likely stick around in your head for days, I know it does for me each time I give a listen.
4. Red Fraction – Black Lagoon
This may be one of the few times you ever see me talk like this on the blog. Black Lagoon is a fuckin’ awesome show. Playing up a lot of ’80’s action tropes and kicking ass is just business as usual for this show and the opening is no exception. My favorite part of the opening is when Revy fires her gun and it’s censored with a giant black bar reading, “censored.” The show isn’t like that at all, so it is fairly humorous to me. In addition to this, the song is fun and catchy to boot. Black Lagoon has a lot of memorable music which I’d love to discuss, but since this is just about opening that’s all for this one.
5. Nornir – Mawaru Penguindrum’s First Opening
My favorite anime, Mawaru Penguindrum has a lot going for it. Great story, dense symbolism, humor, and even more! Among these things, the first opening, “Nornir” is definitely up there. The song is unique and the visuals (though sadly unavailable from when I searched) that accompany it are just as interesting. Give it a listen.
6. Duvet – Serial Experiments Lain
Present Day. Present Time. Hahahahaha! What a great way to kick off an OP. It’s weird, attention grabbing, and just a bit (or maybe a lot) creepy. The visuals that follow definitely support this. The song itself is one of those rare times where the entirety is in English. It has a soft, almost melancholic sound to it which is always manages to captivate me whenever I hear it. “Duvet” is a song that works outside of the anime, but the visuals that go along with it here bring it to the next level, which is why it is on the list.
Serial Experiments Lain is a show subjected to a lot of analysis and interpretation. The opening also lends itself nicely to this level of scrutiny for those looking for that. It’s a bonus for me. Fortunately, the general meaning shouldn’t be lost on anybody either. While the show may not be for everyone, I hope you can enjoy the OP at the very least.
7. Rashisa – Barakamon
I have a huge soft spot for shows like Usagi Drop and Barakamon. When the opening for a show like this is great too, it just elevates the whole experience for me. This is precisely what “Rashisa” does.
There are just so many little things in this OP that make it stand out. Naru is cute, the neat painting scenes, that scene where Handa smears the clouds with his hand, the positive lyrics, the great upbeat music by SUPER BEAVER, and how it all syncs up. This was considered one of the best openings by several back in summer 2014 when Barakamon originally aired and has remained in my favorites ever since. If you haven’t seen this show yet it comes highly recommended.
8. Tsukiakari no Michishirube – Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor
This is likely going to be a contentious pick for many of you. Darker Than Black is a great show, but I wasn’t a big fan of the season 1 openings. However, season two’s opening was incredibly catchy and is another one of those songs I’ll sing along to as best I can in Japanese. While a lot of people criticize this Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. The opening being so catchy certainly didn’t hurt as it got me pumped to see the next episode. Visually, there isn’t anything special about this one, it’s all about the music for this entry.
9. Puzzle – Welcome to the NHK
“Puzzle” is an opening that has a lot of great layers to it. The song is pretty good, but what makes this OP special is the visuals. Of special note, the integration of the credits. There are several excellent transitions, moments of surprisingly good animation, and depth in all of its meaning in relation to the show. I also like the vibrant colors and style that the whole thing is presented in. It feels fairly abstract, which I think is pretty neat since the song’s title is “Puzzle.” I’ll again point to Mother’s Basement, for those that have seen the show, to go into a little more detail about the quality of the opening. Spoilers, fair warning.
10. Hacking to the Gate – Steins;Gate
Steins;Gate has been a community favorite for both its opening and the actual show itself. Combining striking visuals and a catchy tune, it’s hard to dislike “Hacking to the Gate” by Kanako Itou. What may be a surprise to some, Steins;Gate is based on a visual novel (VN) of the same name. Why is this important? Unlike most anime openings for VN adaptations, this opening features excellent animation and not just a bunch of stills with character introductions across some pretty backgrounds.
The opening has yet more going for it though. It is wrought with both symbolic and literal imagery that plays up the time travel nature of the narrative. For those with a watchful eye, it is possible to notice hints at things to happen later in the story. A solid OP worthy of any opening list for sure.
11. A Cruel Angel’s Thesis – Neon Genesis Evangelion
Easily one of the most iconic opening themes in anime. Now more of a meme, the show still stands as a hallmark show for many fans. For those unaware of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it is one of those shows that will stick with you no matter if you love it or hate it. Personally, this is one of the few Gainax shows that I was able to really get into. Having a great song, that I admittedly try to sing every now and again, I can’t help but to include this “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” on this list.
12. Stray – Wolf’s Rain
You may have noticed at some point that I have an appreciation for older titles that don’t always get a lot of exposure. Wolf’s Rain, despite having once aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line up in 2004, is an anime that I don’t often here much about. While it certainly isn’t the best show I’ve watched, it was enjoyable and worth checking out.
“Stray” has that muted look to it, that normally would bother me quite a lot. However, it works well here from a thematic standpoint and with the crisp animation, looks pretty fantastic. Naturally, the music is excellent here as well. Another opening in English, which I always find interesting. Between visuals and music, this anime will not disappoint.
13. Tank – Cowboy Bebop
“Tank” is an absolute classic. An Iconic masterpiece of an opening that nearly everyone enjoys. I decided to feature the episode 1 opening, which has a cold open to the overarching plot of the anime because it adds just that much more. You can never have too much Cowboy Bebop!
If for some reason you haven’t seen this show already, I highly recommend it for both anime and non-anime fans alike. There is something for everybody to like in this show. If the above wasn’t quite enough to convince you, take a look at Super Eyepatch Wolf’s video titled, “Why You Should Watch: Cowboy Bebop.” He has some excellent content and it would be a disservice not to mention him here. Some spoilers, but nothing that should diminish the value of watching it for yourself.
14. Motteke! Sailor Fuku – Lucky☆Star
While some may be somewhat shocked to hear, this is another opening that was fairly influential on anime culture and is considered iconic. Between Lucky☆Star and its predecessor (though completely different show) The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya sparked a whole movement of dance sequences that were near inescapable at otaku oriented gatherings, such as cons. It’s fun.
While I certainly appreciate the contextual value that “Motteke! Sailor Fuku” brings to the table, I couldn’t really explain why I like it so much. The song is great. The animation appeals. However, there is just something more there that keeps me coming back and enjoying this OP again and again. Despite my ambiguous enjoyment of this opening, I couldn’t deny it a spot on this list.
15. Hikaru nara – Your Lie in April
If I had to describe this OP in one word it would be “painterly.” Offering stunning visual presentation, “Hikaru nara” is a visual feast that also manages to encompass a lot of meaning in relation to the show itself. Goose house brings their A game with this song, it is easily my favorite that they have produced to date. Capturing the emotional high points of the show with hints of melancholy, Your Lie in April has one of the best OP’s for a show of its kind that I’ve seen in a long while.
16. Again – FMA: Brotherhood
Allow me to once again indulge in an opening enjoyed by the masses. “Again” is great and well liked by many within the community. So it isn’t too surprising that I like it too. Beyond the obviously great music, there are a few little things that help push it over the edge from “just enjoyable and fun” to “top 25.” The entire opening is great visually, but there are a few moments that land just right for me that make this such a stupendous OP.
The first shot is right away with the outstretched hands against striking blue sky, what a shot. This is again repeated on a much darker scene in a field with Ed. Then there is that shot with Roy Mustang and Hawkeye. Oh, and how could I forget the incredible sequence where Ed and Alphonse are unraveled? At this point I haven’t even mentioned the great symbolism and interspersed glamour sequences with explosive action. Truly, there is a lot to love about this OP.
17. Abnormalize/’Cause I Feel – Psycho-Pass
Sadly, I was unable to find any video for “Abnormalize” by Ling Tosite Sigure. In addition, the song itself is pretty hard to find too. This one you’ll have to settle for an excellent cover done by PelleK, who does incredible covers of tons of great anime songs. His enunciation is fantastic too. Take a listen here [link].
While it was tough to decide which of the 3 openings to go with, I just had to mention “‘Cause I Feel” for its unique visuals and great song (that is again in English). I don’t like this one quite as much as “Abnormalize” but it is pretty close.
18. Coolest – Sakamoto desu ga?/Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
I don’t even know why I like this opening so much. Sakamto was a show that always had me excited to watch it. This was one of those rare anime I watched weekly and “Coolest” allowed me to get ready for more of a show that I really enjoyed. Having a few nods to some anime tropes and that one shot of Sakamoto checkmating with a traffic cone, what is there to dislike with this OP?
19. Friend Shitai – School-Live!/Gakkougurashi!
I’ve done a short article regarding School-Live! before but I didn’t go into a lot of detail on it. It’s a show that is best experienced blind. I’ll be sharing the first OP only for this entry, but they all deserve to be up here.
Unlike the other openings on this list, this one evolves over time to fit the show as certain events play out. It is super cool and shouldn’t be skipped when watching this anime. It’s what makes it stand out from just being a really cute song. I still love the way they say “daisuki” and all its cuteness though.
20. What’s up, people?! – Death Note’s Second Opening
Death Note has two excellent OP’s. The first, “the WORLD” by Nightmare is superb in its own right featuring a heavy amount of religious symbolism and imagery that fits the show well. However, its second opening “What’s up, people?!” by Maximum the Hormone wins a spot on the list for its manic sound and trippy visual presentation that represents the downward spiral into madness that is the second half of the series. Plus, who doesn’t love Light’s face laughing a whole bunch? That part is always really funny.
21. Ano Mori de Matteru – Yuri Kuma Arashi
For anyone who’s seen anything directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, director of my favorite show Mawaru Penguindrum it should be immediately obvious that this is one of his creations. He is a weird guy, but I love his work. Mr. Ikuhara has a thing for lesbians so it was only a matter of time before he decided to make Yuri Kuma Arashi, which roughly translates to “Lesbian Bear Storm,” naturally.
There is something almost hypnotic about this opening. While this is not at all my favorite work from this director, it was definitely a unique experience. While I’m not a big fan of all the imagery in this OP, no matter how relevant and symbolic it is, I can’t deny its quality and just how darn good it sounds.
22. Flyers – Death Parade
Never heard of BRADIO? You may be surprised to learn that you have, at least if you’ve heard “Flyers,” the opening theme for Death Parade. Another OP that has reached mass appeal status. My favorite part is the little dance sequence in the middle with the two lead characters.
If you haven’t given BRADIO a listen before, you can do so on Spotify. If you like “Flyers” I promise that you will find more music to love by them. They may just become your new favorite band, they certainly have captured my attention.
23. Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai – Rozen Maiden (2013)
Really, this could have been any of the Rozen Maiden openings. They all have that “certain something” that ALI PROJECT always manages to capture. It’s just such a unique sound and I love it. “Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai” takes the spot due to its better visual presentation and overall tie-in with the series. The end bit with the dolls watching the main characters on stage; great shot. I wish there was more Rozen Maiden, but I’ll take what I have of it for now.
24. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni – When They Cry/Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Not only does Higurashi have a great opening, it fits the show so well. It’s unsettling, creepy, and just oh-so-perfect. The best part is when Rika takes off her mask, that shot is just gorgeous.
The second season’s OP is also pretty great but doesn’t have near the same amount of impact that this one has. For being such a great fit and adding so much to the creepy/mystery vibe that the first season has, “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni” secures a spot on this list.
25. Database – Log Horizon
COUTERACTION RISING. YEAH WE ARE READY FOR THE PUNCHLINE. THERE’S NO USE WITH ALL YOUR GIMMIKS, SO CHECK THIS OUT!”
Admit it, you screamed those lyrics out just as loud as I did just now. How could you not? Ok, ok, this opening is exactly the best opening in terms of fitting its show. For that, it’s pretty bad. That song though! After hearing “Database” so much when watching through Log Horizon it just grew on me. I hated it at first but it is definitely one of my favorite songs ever, not just in anime.
Wish you could listen to the song all time? Wish you had a full length version? Well wish granted! Remember PelleK, the cover artist for anime music I mentioned awhile back. He did a cover of “Database” and while it isn’t quite as good as the original, it is still pretty rad. Go on, listen to it, I know you want to.
With That the List Comes to an End
Woo! For something that was meant to just be a quick article to make, I sure ended up pouring a lot of hours into this one. At nearly 4,000 words, after having watched ,and listened to every video I put into this, and to have gone through just about every Spotify song for each artist I recommended it was anything but short and quick. Can’t say I don’t provide enough content in these things and don’t do my due diligence! I hope this was something you enjoyed and I look forward to seeing you back here again.
With that I’ll leave you one final question, what is/are your favorite anime opening?