Welcome to the inaugural “I need to post something to the blog but haven’t had a chance to watch anything so here’s a top 10 list” top 10 list! I decided to talk about anime OPs (opening sequences) because I feel like they are one of the things that differentiates anime from western media. It’s hard to talk about the importance of these OPs because a lot of what they bring to the shows are intangible. So instead of trying to explain it to you here, why don’t you click some of the links below, read my thoughts on them, and leave some feedback below!
Honorable Mention – Pokemon
I seriously considered putting King of the Hill here but I think that meme has run its course. The original Pokemon theme song will always hold a special place in my heart but I don’t think it is as good as the rest of the top 10. Also being in English automatically disqualifies it. #subbednotdubbed
10. Neon Genesis Evangelion
If this was top 10 anime songs, this wouldn’t make the list. In fact I would prefer the ending song over it (an incredible cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the Moon”). Despite all this, no one can deny just how iconic this song and opening is. The opening sequence sets up the series perfectly with teases of the characters and the mechs. The video and song both ramp up around the 1 min mark flashing a series of images and phrases that at first glance seem scatter brained but as the series plays out make more and more sense.
9. Death Note
You might want to pause the video and turn it down real quick because BAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
This song/video combo is perfect at showing the growing paranoia and neurosis of Light Yagamia going into the second season of Death Note. Death Note’s other OP is also great, especially when looking at the use of christian imagery, but I’m giving the edge to this one because of just how raw and visceral the OP feels. *Bonus* This Lucky Star parody is hilarious.
I hate Bleach. It is convoluted, boring, and stupid. There is one bright spot; Season 1! Season 1 introduced a lot of interesting concepts that unfortunately didn’t pan out over the 14 (HOLY SHIT 14?!?!) seasons. One of the reasons season 1 is so incredible is its OP. The video does a great job of introducing the characters, their personalities, and the general themes of the show all in a short 1 minute time frame. Not only that but the animation is vibrant and creative. To top it all off we have a song that is quite the earworm and matches the feel of the OP perfectly.
7. Attack on Titan
When you are watching anime on your favorite streaming service you may be inclined to skip the OPs. They get repetitive after awhile (especially after watching 15 episodes back to back) but we are getting to the section of my list of OPs I would never ever skip. If you are the kind of person who skips the Attack on Titan OP then you need to rethink your priorities SON. This. Video. IS. SOOO. GOOD. Let’s start off with the intro. There is something magical about that first line. Maybe its the cadence? The choir chanty-ness of it? Whatever it is it is truly mesmerizing. That’s not to say the rest of the OP isn’t great too. The OP does a great job showing off the action-packed nature of the series. Having the cast flying around the titans like gnats really does a great job showing the hopelessness of the humans in this series.
I don’t think there is a single better OP who’s sole purpose is to get you hyped for the action you are about to watch. The song is catchy, the animation is fluid, and the action is fast paced. The section starting at :54, where they are actually playing volleyball, is absolutely stunning and gives the viewers a great taste of what they are getting when they watch the show. Bonus points for the fact that the song uses Karusono High School’s catchphrase “Fly” as its main hook. Double Bonus points for all of the flight imagery throughout the OP. If this doesn’t get you excited for some animated high school men’s volleyball…I guess nothing will. *Please watch this anime it is incredible*
5. Mob Psycho 100
So this video is going to be less appreciated by the normies who don’t really have the anime background to appreciate all the references this video is packed full of. Despite that, the OP is still incredible just on face value. The sheer amount of stuff going on is mind boggling and it will take 3 or 4 rewatches to take in all of the absurdity. The variety of animation styles and going back and forth from the anime and manga styles makes for a beautiful OP. I still haven’t even mentioned the amazing song yet! Upbeat and catchy, “99” roars for the full minute and a half and the singer counting towards 100 throughout the song is just the icing in the cake.
4. Paranoia Agent
This is probably one of the few OPs that are on this list that isn’t just a rock/pop song built to hype up the audience. Instead, this OP is unnerving. It just shows the cast of characters laughing uncontrollably while in… less than ideal conditions. Just like the show, the OP does a great job as a statement on the human condition, ending with an old man on the moon watching those on Earth nuke themselves to oblivion. There is something to be said for an OP that leaves such a haunting impression on its viewers.
3. Samurai Champloo
Who would have thunk that samurai mixed so well with hip hop? This song makes the short list of anime songs I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on my iPhone (it is in fact a very short list). The attention to detail of the animation in this OP is absurd to the point that not a single frame is wasted. Switching between each of three main cast, we see different art styles that give the audience a better idea of the feel of each character. Mugen has his dark red tones with a sense of ferocity and bloodlust sharply contrasts with Jin and his cool blue tones and more conservative samurai-esque demeanor. Both are drastically juxtaposed to Fuu the spirited 15 year old girl who rounds out our trio with vibrant colors, and a certain grace that the other two certainly lack. In such a short amount of time, this OP gives us so much to digest and makes us come back begging for seconds.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist / FMA Brotherhood
I’m cheating a little here but it’s my top 10 list so I can do whatever I want. At #2 I am putting both FMA #2 and FMA Brotherhood #1. Both are incredible OPs in their own right and for completely different reasons.
Let’s start with FMA #2. This OP may be the one in this list that tried to have the most fun with their characters. From the shot of Ed, Al, and Winry all piling on to each other, to Ed tripping in the middle of his run cycle, to the State Alchemists showing off to the camera, this OP is packed with fun. The director does a great job juxtaposing some of the darker or more serious stuff with the silly and fun stuff. For example, right in the beginning we get a shot of the Elric brothers floating by some sort of ornate flower thingy in almost a religious, somber moment. But Ed immediately ruins that moment with a quick smirk, the flowers exploding into bloom, and off we go into the rest of the song. Speaking of the song, “Ready, Steady, Go” may be the single greatest song from any OP. If not at the very least the most catchy or iconic. Whenever you talk to anyone about what they remember from FMA, it all leads back to the song (or the bond between a little girl and her dog)
The first OP from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (the reboot) is equally great but for almost the complete opposite reasons. Rather than giving the audience members levity to balance out all of the darkness, the director of this OP went and brought nothing but darkness. The amount of storytelling and emotion that is packed into the minute and a half of animation is incredible, not to mention the vast amount of visual metaphor scattered throughout. But what puts this OP really over the edge is the brief 10 seconds where they show the Elric boys being torn apart, expressions of horror on their faces, all to an incredible increase in tempo of the song, raising the tension to incredible levels. The one thing holding this OP back for me is…I’m not a huge fan of the song (the first 10 seconds are actually unbearable, but it certainly picks up around the 45 second mark). The fact that I am still putting it up this high, shows how much respect I have for the incredible animation and storytelling this team was able to accomplish.
1. Cowboy Bebop
When people ask me what is my favorite James Bond intro (because that totally happens all of the time) I kinda want to tell them it is Cowboy Bebop. Not only does this OP feel like a Bond intro in its choice of imagery and its sexuality, Cowboy Bebop is able to transcend the Bond films with its song choice. “Tank!” is an absolute masterpiece. Who would have thought a sci-fi western would mix so well with jazz (well duh…it’s in the name)? There are seldom who hear this song and walk away unimpressed. It is one of those songs that if you hear it once, it gets stuck in your head for weeks. The breakdown near the end is so chaotic, so raw, that it leaves audiences stunned. We still haven’t even talked about the animation yet! The OP does a great job of enticing us with its characters and its world. We get little looks into each character through short action sequences. Most importantly, the OP just feels cool. I mean half of the cast is smoking in this OP so you know they’re cool. The single best shot from this OP has to be near the end. We get black and white silhouettes of each of our four main characters striking incredible poses while the trumpet blasts its last insane riff, lingering just long enough and then fading along with the music.
Whoo! This took a lot longer to write than I thought. I hope you enjoyed the read/watch/listen and if you have your own favorites (or you vehemently disagree with my list) you should comment below!