My Top 15 Anime Opening Themes
Anime openings serve several purposes. One, it serves to get people interested in what they are about to watch. Whether it is to pump viewers up in excitement in what they are about to watch or just to get viewers enticed. Two, it serves as an introduction to the series and in some ways can even serve as a summary. Occasionally the entire story of a series can actual be summarized in the scenes of the openings, or at the least the general gist of it. Third, it’s a convenient place for the opening credits to be displayed. Well, OK I think the average viewer doesn’t really care about that too much. Whichever way, anime openings are widely considered to be part of the entire anime experience and have thus many of them gained considerable popularity, whether it be because of or in spite of the anime they are introducing. Here are fifteen of my personal favorites.
15. Rock City Boy
Series: Fairy Tail (8th opening)
To be honest, the first time I heard “Rock City Boy” I didn’t especially like it too much. At first, I thought it sounded kind of out of place and a little jarring when compared to the other opening songs for Fairy Tail. After sometime however, this song really grew on me to the point where I can’t think of any other song more appropriate for the latter half of Fairy Tail’s “Edolas Arc”. In fact it’s probably because the song’s so weird (when compared to many other anime openings) that it’s grown on me so much. I know that for most people, the 6th opening “Fiesta” tends to be the most popular, but I simply like “Rock City Boy” more. For the record, I’ve actually read comments where people have been complimenting the singer on being very good at English. Actually, it’s the other way around: JAMIL, the singer is an American living in Japan. It’s his Japanese that is very good.
14. Makka na Chikai
Artist: Yoshiki Fukuyama
Series: Buso Renkin
Buso Renkin is a series that one can simply describe as being pure and simple fun. It’s not an especially meaningful, influential, or controversial series. It’s just a simple, straight up shonen series that is very enjoyable to follow. And this makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that creator Watsuki Nobuhiro’s previous major hit was Rurouni Kenshin, a series that was often serious, dark, and dramatic. Buso Renkin is very much an antithesis of Ruroni Kenshin: a series that doesn’t take itself seriously and simply wants to entertain. And “Makka na Chikai” (translated as “Red Oath”) is a song that perfectly reflects that awesome, exciting tone that the series is known for. Maybe that’s why it often shows up in so many people’s “favorite anime openings” lists, including mine.
13. Mezase Pokemon Master
Artist: Rika Matsumoto
Series: Pocket Monsters (1st opening)
What’s this? I’ve got Pokémon on my list? Well shut up! It’s my list: I can put whatever song I want on this list. I’m not necessarily a fan of the Pokémon anime per say. The games are awesome though which is of course why I included the latest ones X and Y on my list of recommended 3DS games. Still, I included this song for the list because it’s honestly catchy as heck. And it really gets you excited for what’s coming ahead. The title translates as “Aim to become a Pokémon Master” and the song really gets feeling like that’s what’s going to happen. Of course, it's almost twenty years later now and it still hasn’t happened but maybe someday. By the way, the singer Rika Matsumoto is also the voice actress for Satoshi (Ash). So the song is essentially Ash singing about his dream.
12. Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze
Artist: Yoko Takahashi
Series: Neon Genesis Evangelion
I have a confession to make: I absolutely despise Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s one of the very, very few anime series that I actively loathe. Gainax animes are notorious for screwing with the minds of their viewers but Evangelion ups the mind screwing by eleven. The mental problems director Hideaki Anno was going through at the time this anime was made are well documented and it was certainly reflected in the series. Yes, I am fully aware that Evangelion is considered to be a milestone and a highly influential work, commonly cited as one of the most important animes of its day. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. So with all that out of the way, why the heck does this show have one of the catchiest opening songs ever? Heck, if you study the lyrics you can see that “Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze” (translated as “A Cruel Angel's Thesis”) is about a boy becoming a legend: a very, very ironic song given how the anime ended. Actually, the reason is simple: executive meddling. You see, Anno actually wanted to use Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” for the opening (which would’ve fit the series more) but the TV station, TV Tokyo didn’t think viewers would react well to a classical piece for an anime opening—hence “A Cruel Angel's Thesis”.
11. Sorairo Days
Artist: Shoko Nakagawa
Series: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
So, about a decade after Gainax made the thoroughly depressing and nihilistic Neon Genesis Evangelion, they went 180 degrees and made the anti-Evangelion, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. To describe the series as “awesome” is a severe understatement. Heck, it’s a series where “being awesome” is practically a super power—you can call it “spiral power” all you want but when it boils down to it it’s simply “being awesome”. Oh sure, it’s still Gainax so the series does have its moments of mind screw, but that ultimately serves to make the other parts all the more awesome because of it. And where “Cruel Angel Thesis” was an ironic statement of Evangelion, “Sorairo Days” (“sky-color days”) fits the overall theme of Gurren Lagann to a tee. So, “Throw away your logic and kick reason to the curb! Beautifully following the golden road! If there’s a wall, we knock it down! It’s a road built with these hands! The Magma of the Heart’s Final Ignition! Perfect Unification Gurren Lagann!”
10. Ash Like Snow
Artist: The Brilliant Green
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2nd opening)
What makes Gundam 00 stand out when compared to other Gundam series is that the first season is considered by many to be a possibly accurate portrayal of what the post-9/11 world may look like in a few centuries. Oh sure, we don’t know what may happen in the future but as it’s stands, the way the world looked in the first season of Gundam 00 is definitely plausible. Where most Gundam series have the “Federation” already formed (thus usually eliminating any need to create a plausible future), Gundam 00 actually bridges the plausible future and the conventional Gundam future by showing how the intervention of Celestial Being and their Gundams brought about the foundation of the “Federation”. Where the first opening “Daybreak’s Bell” reflects the mysterious, menacing nature of Celestial Being and their Gundams, by the time “Ash Like Snow” becomes the opening, we’ve been following the Gundam Meisters for a while now and are thus more familiar with them and Celestial Being. Hence, “Ash Like Snow” fits perfectly in how the series has progressed along the course of its brilliant first season.
9. Kirameku Namida wa Hoshi ni
Artist: Sachi Tainaka
Series: Fate/Stay Night (2nd opening)
For Fate/Stay Night, most people seem to prefer the first opening “disillusion”, also sung by Sachi Tainaka. I however like the second opening “Kirameku Namida wa Hoshi ni” (translates as “Glittering tears become stars”) more for essentially the same reasons why I prefer “Ash Like Snow” over “Daybreak's Bell” with Gundam 00. When Fate/Stay Night starts out, we know nothing about the Holy Grail Wars nor who these Epic Heroes are nor the mages who control them. Everything is a mystery and “disillusion” fits that theme perfectly. By the time we get to the second opening characters like Shiro, Saber, and Rin have been well established and we have progressed considerably far into the Holy Grail Wars. As such, where the “disillusion” was more about mystery and a sense of the unknown, “Kirameku Namida wa Hoshi ni” is more about getting excited and anticipating what’s coming up. Hmm, maybe I’m just a sucker for exciting anime openings.
8. We Are
Artist: Hiroshi Kitadani
Series: One Piece (1st and 10th openings)
To be honest, I seriously considered putting One Piece’s 16th opening “Hands Up” on this list. It’s an awesome, wonderful song and it’s a shame that apparently some copyright issues prevented it from airing in the US. But, as much as I love “Hands Up”, “We Are” is the quintessential song of One Piece. This is the song that characterizes the very theme of the show and the Strawhat Pirates in general, those pirates who sail the seas for the love of freedom, chasing after the dream that is symbolized by “One Piece”. That’s why “We Are” is the perfect song for the series and set the mood of the show from the very start. Heck, they even brought the song back for the tenth opening—that’s how much “We Are” represents One Piece as a whole.
Artist: Miho Komatsu
Series: Detective Conan (3rd opening)
Detective Conan (Case Closed in the US) has been running for over twenty years. That is exceedingly unusual for a story driven series. Naturally, having been going on for such an extremely long time, the anime has something like thirty plus opening songs. However, it is my firm opinion that absolutely none of them tops the third opening “Nazo” (“Mystery”). Well OK, I haven’t really followed the show closely for over a decade now so I’m not really familiar with any of the later openings passed say around opening 8, but I still stand by my declaration that the third opening is the best one. The series is a Sherlock Holmes inspired crime/mystery series and “Nazo” simply fits the overall feel of the show so well that I cannot believe it could be topped in all these years. Heck, even if some of the later songs are in fact objectively better I’d probably still choose “Nazo” for this spot.
6. Gurren no Yumiya
Artist: Linked Horizon
Series: Attack on Titan (1st opening)
This is probably the most recent anime opening on this list. And what an anime it is. Shingeki no Kyojin or Attack on Titan is truly a masterpiece, a genre defining series that is unlike anything before it and will probably remain that way long into the future. “Gurren no Yumiya” (“The Crimson Bow and Arrow”) is a song that fits perfectly into this mind-boggling action/horror series and it really helps set the tone of the series as a whole. Truth be told, I haven’t actually seen the anime yet (planning to do so soon) but the manga is absolutely awesome. Of course, the anime kind of ran into the same problem almost all animes based on monthly manga run into and caught up with the manga way too fast. Hence, there’s only been one season so far. So cross your fingers in hope that a second season will come soon.
Artist: High and Mighty Color
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (2nd opening)
Yeah, I know: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is vastly superior to its sequel Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. I’m certainly not going to deny that. To me, SEED Destiny is a sort of guilty pleasure—a series I can enjoy despite its numerous flaws. With SEED Destiny, there are several personal rules you have to deal with. First, Kira is the main character, not Shinn. You can make a legitimate case stating that Athrun is the main character but really, it’s Kira, especially after around the thirtieth episode. Second, you’re just going to have to deal with the slightly inconsistent character development: Kira’s character development was completed in SEED and Athrun’s character development being backtracked is just something you’ll have to stomach. With that out of the way, I shall now declare that “PRIDE” is my favorite opening from the series. The third opening “Bokutachi no Yukue” is also high up on my list of favorites as well but “PRIDE” edges it out for me; personal opinion.
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (4th opening)
Actually, for a brief moment I considered putting “Melissa”, the first opening of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime on my list. But there’s simply no denying it: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is superior to everything about the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime is all aspects, including its opening and closing songs. Not that I’m saying that the first Fullmetal Alchemist is not good or anything; it’s a good anime, just not as good as Brotherhood. And in my opinion “Period” really stands out above all of the other songs except maybe the 5th one, “Rain”. Again, we come to my personal preference of fast-paced exciting songs, hence why “Period” is the one that makes the list. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is awesome and “Period” is awesome: don’t even think of denying that.
3. Lupin III Theme
Artist: Ichirou Mizuki (composed by Yuji Ohno)
Series: Lupin III (2nd series)
Lupin III is an absolute classic, and in my opinion one of the greatest anime/manga media series in existence. The globe-trotting adventures of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III and his motley gang are a spectacular treat for those into the hard boiled, classy type adventures. And the jazzy theme song fits the character so spectacularly that you couldn’t ask for anything better. Actually, the iconic Lupin III Theme song was introduced during second Lupin III series (there are four Lupin III series). The earlier, first Lupin III series actually also has a well remembered, well liked theme, but it’s nowhere near as iconic as the theme of the second series. A note on my personal tastes: Castle of Cagliostro is widely regarded as the best Lupin III movie and is also the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki. And it doesn’t use the iconic theme at all! Understandable since Miyazaki co-directed some episodes of the first Lupin III series so it makes sense that this movie would be more closely aligned with that one rather than the second series. But geez! There’ve been times I’ve seriously considered making a fan cut of this movie by inserting the theme into the climax.
2. Kimi ga suki da to sakebitai
Artist: The Baad
Series: SLAM DUNK (1st opening)
It’s rather difficult to explain why of the myriads of sports manga/anime that exist why SLAM DUNK stands out so much. And yet SLAM DUNK is often cited as one of the most popular and most influential manga/anime series of the 90s, not just in the sports genre but in overall manga/anime in general. “Kimi ga suki da to sakebitai” translates as “I want to yell out that Iove you”. While it might be a bit debatable on whether or not the song’s lyrics fit with the theme of the show it still manages to somehow define SLAM DUNK. In a lot of ways “Kimi ga suki da to sakebitai” is really just a very typical opening, one that would be quite common on any other sports anime. And yet, much like the show itself, it still somehow manages to really go beyond those conventional views and become something that stands out above most others.
Artist: Hironobu Kageyama
Series: Dragonball Z (1st opening)
How could this opening not be number one? Dragonball Z defines my childhood and “Cha-la Head-cha-la” defines Dragonball Z! If you actually examine the lyrics the song is about no matter happens, no matter how outrageous, things will work out fine. Hence, “he’cha-la”, a Japanese phrase that doesn’t have a translatable counterpart but more or less means “its fine”. You can more or less say that these lyrics are pretty much Son Goku the song. More than that, “Cha-la Head-cha-la” has come to represent animes in general one way or another, especially of the shonen genre of which Dragonball Z is quite possibly the single most influential of. So again, I’m going to reiterate that there is absolutely no possible way that “Cha-la Head-cha-la” could not be my number one pick for my favorite anime openings.
So, what do you think of my list? Good? Bad? Typical? Did I miss any theme songs you’re fond of? Let me know in the comments section if you have any particular favorites.
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