Hello everyone! So, I’m not dead, I’m still committed to AniB Productions, and I’ll square off the most obvious question: my long absences are both academic and hardware-related. (Seriously, my laptop needs a keyboard replacement at the time of this writing.) As both a thank you to the loyal readers here and an apology for said frequent hiatuses all year long, I’ve got a fun piece in store for you all!
Anime openings are in simplest terms, “the gateway to a show.” Often times, they are our first impression of a series, and they must encapsulate some essence of the show in question in a roughly 90-second block of higher-budgeted animation and song. What exactly makes a great opening tick is a fairly subjective exercise though, even if certain broad objective standards are to be recognized in doing so. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll attempt to note these unifing factors of OPs as I progress though an unusual write-up for me on here: my personal top 10 anime openings! (It’s actually extended out to 15, so extra fun for anyone wondering “what was cut off?”)
Long-timer readers may recall I did a “top 10” listing of my top ranked and reviewed shows on here years ago now (back around when I first started writing here, probably close to 6 months into running AniB Productions.) Since then, while the site has featured lots of reviews, character and thought pieces, there hasn’t been a ranking-type writing in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited to get underway. Here we go!
Honorable Mention (5 that almost made the cut):
For these guys, I’ll give a short explanation before hitting the ones you’re all waiting for:
15) That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (Nameless story, OP 1)
Disclaimer: If you were looking for a pretty good isekai and an opening to match, you might be in luck here. Slime, despite its unwieldy title has two very nice openings in its first season, and “Nameless story” gets the nod here, for both a great visual and musical appeal. It gets you excited for this show, no doubt. (Review pending here!)
14) Utayo! Miracle (K-On!!, OP 2)
“That bass line is amazing, Mio.” Probably my first thought about the song can be summed up there, as there’s this incredible bass part in the middle of the song that feels like a much deeper cut than it has any right to be in a show featuring adorable leads. Just fun to listen to, and the visuals are great as well.
13) A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (Evangelion, OP 1)
This song may as well be the unofficial anthem of anime opening everywhere. Talked about, praised, scorned, memed and edited in dizzying array, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” doesn’t really need an introduction, but it remains the best part of Evangelion years later.
12) H.T. (Trigun,OP 1)
A classic banger right here, Trigun’s opening is just a straight minute and a half of shredding on a guitar. Few openings have ever sounded as epic before or since- and while the visuals are admittedly hit or miss, the music does not disappoint in the slightest.
11) Through the Night (Outlaw Star, OP 1)
Finishing the mini-trip through the 90’s, Outlaw Star, along with this opening are underrated by the current generation. This is a rock-solid piece that serves as a fine entry point into Gene Starwind’s adventures (and another show that definitely deserves a review.)
So that’s the preliminary round. What did I find personally as the best of the best?
My top 10:
10) Kimi No Sei (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Girl Senpai, OP 1)
A mild surprise, given the recent nature of this show (and the review that has yet to be dropped!) but this catchy tune from The Peggies is likely to wedge itself in your head as well as it did to mine. The opening to a show that is much deeper and more psychological than the title suggests, it’s always a welcome start to the high-event episodes.
9) Kyouran Hey Kids!! (Noragami Aragoto, OP 1)
Honestly, either of the Noragami openings could have slotted in here, given that the show had the pleasant rarity of two outstanding openings. The second season’s pick, by the Oral Cigarettes, gets a slight nod, for combining a banger of a song with some really well paired and interesting visuals. While Noragami itself is the definition of a “solid, good show,” both OP’s deserve the distinction of being noted in this column.
8) Hyadain no Joujou Yuujou (Nichijou, OP 2)
A while back I talked about the standout music from this show, and at least some part of that was the energetic openings from Hyadain, who did some really cool producing tricks to make some interesting audio output. While either of the show’s openings could come into this slot, much like Noragami, the second one’s frantic but fun energy gives it the subjective (but truly non-existent) edge.
Aside from the technical wizardry of this piece, Nichijou’s a standout in its specific genre, and at least a part of that is due to how well the music works for it. While the piece in question about it can be read here, the openings do an amazing job of setting the tone for the surreal comedy that Nichijou embodies.
7) CAGAYAKE!Girls (K-ON!, OP 1)
While all the K-On! openings are delightful, the original takes the cake. Featuring two versions mirroring visuals of HTT pre and post Azusa Nakano joining the club, this song’s the perfect representation of a great show- energetic, upbeat, cute and with the synergy of the lovable main protagonists.
In a very real sense, K-On! as a series is “never-ending girls’ talk.” Following the high school careers of the main characters turns out to be every bit as fun and unexpected as this song seems to imply- and regardless of whether you’re a guy or a girl, it’s very relatable as a life experience.
6) THEME FROM LUPIN III (2015) (Lupin III: Part IV)
While any variation of the famed Lupin III’s theme could have fit this slot, it’s Part IV’s refreshed updated of the ’77 theme that takes the cake here, with just a hint of Italian flair. A jazzy classic from the long running franchise, the Lupintic Six always hits this out of the park- and frankly, this one wouldn’t be out of place at a jazz performance, top anime lists aside.
The song has actually undergone several variations over the years, the most recent of which was Part V’s Parisian-themed take in 2018, but it’s worth looking up the different versions just to hear the different twists on the leimotif. Like its source material, it’s aged like fine wine. (RIP Monkey Punch, you are missed.)
5) Re:Re (ERASED, OP 1)
Erased was a great show, with all the right notes of suspense, an interesting lead and cast, and a very well executed mechanic. Of course, the review I wrote on that would echo the same sentiment, but another well executed part of this anime was its opening.
Sure, the song from ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION is catchy as heck as is the music, but it’s really the superb attention to visual detail in this one coupled with the notes that lifts this one as high as it is on the list. Nothing is irrelevant in the greater picture of the show- and like how things come together for Satoru Fujinuma, so too does the visuals for the viewer as the plot accelerates.
4) MIND CONDUCTOR (Little Witch Academia, OP 2)
The last in a series of openings on this list that could have featured either one, Little Witch Academia is blessed with two superb efforts from YURiKA, who some of you may also recognized performed Land of the Lustrous’s opening. “MIND CONDUCTOR” gets a slight nod from me based on personal preference, but both it and “Shiny Ray” (OP 1) do a great job of representing the show.
While “Shiny Ray” captures the absolute wonder of the adventure you’re about to dive into and that of Akko Kagari, the lead, the pick here combines some wonderfully detailed visuals paired with a story that’s advanced further and a song that has some energy, tonal shifts, some intense drumming and a really nice power guitar riff going on there. You get the sort of excitement, tension and idea of what this world of magic is going to be throwing at our leads down the stretch, and it couldn’t be more appropriate, especially with context. This show definitely evoked some emotions, and the openings did have some part in that role.
3) departure! (Hunter x Hunter (2011), OP 1)
“So…do you want to be a Hunter?”
My personal favorite anime also just so happens to have an excellent opening, and in a more interesting twist, it’s the same song through the entire series. Indeed, while there are two different lyric sets, the longevity of “departure!” is impressive, along with being the right song to kick off an episode anywhere in the series.
If that wasn’t enough, the visuals change for each major arc of the show, keeping it refreshing. The visuals featured here are from the Hunter Exam, the first arc of the show- but half the fun is seeing them change as the show rolls on and the details stuffed into them. HxH fandom aside, this is a Swiss army knife of an OP for what it does in this series, beyond being just plain enjoyable.
2) Tank! (Cowboy Bebop, OP 1)
Ok…3…2…1… let’s jam! It doesn’t get much more classic than the theme song from Sunrise’s classic show. For the space noir that Cowboy Bebop is, nothing gets you more appropriately in the mood than this famous jazz song that has flair and life set against the ever-fitting visuals, with the “newspaper clippings”, shading, silhouettes and more.
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about this one in the years since Bebop burst onto the scene, but the advice from yours truly is to just sit back and enjoy this one anytime it plays.
And finally, the top pick…
1) Bye Bye Yesterday (Assassination Classroom, OP 4)
There was a great deal of debate and careful listening that went into deciding the top pick, and Bye Bye Yesterday captures everything wonderful in a fantastic opening. It tells a story unto itself, gives us a great song performed by the VA’s themselves, pairs it with incredibly thought-provoking visuals to add up to an emotionally charged and bittersweet final opening to what is an excellent show. However, the greater context pushes this one over the top:
You’ve been riding the highs and lows of that school-year with Class 3-E, and every opening of Assassination Classroom tells a part of that story, but this is the endcap- both the highest of highs, and the uncertainty of the future for all of the characters. The melancholy is even reflective in the lyrics, for instance- “Though we laughed and said goodbye/Though tears were in our eyes/Time passed before we even knew the reason why…” You ride that emotional rollercoaster to the end with those kids- and for a show that packs one hell of a punch at the end, this opening couldn’t be more appropriate or emotionally resonant. That’s why it’s my #1 on this list.
(All credit to “animethemes.moe” for their repository of opening videos. Credit also goes to respective studios of these shows (Lerche, Madhouse, Sunrise, Trigger, Kyoto Animation, and so on.)
Like what you see? Have a favorite opening you’d like to share? Leave a comment!