A highly debatable ranking! These are some of the openings that I have found most entertaining, artistic, and effective over the years – plus some honorable mentions! Comment with your favorite anime openings of all time!
5. Dragon Ball Z Kai – “Dragon Soul”
Title: “Dragon Soul”
Performed by: Takayoshi Tanimoto
Music by: Yoshimoto Yumi (lyrics), Iwasaki Takafumi (music), Kyouda Seiichi (arranger)
This is the music, animation, and energy that got me so excited for the return of Dragon Ball! But just like the OP for Dragon Ball Super, it’s all a ruse! So much time and effort must have been put in to that animation that just isn’t possible for Toei to put in to every episode. It’s so crisp, bright, and action packed! Where is this Dragon Ball? I miss you. It’s also nice how it updated occasionally to include new characters in the later episodes, like the androids and Cell.
The music is great though. It’s so catchy, you’ll be humming or whistling it for days (if there weren’t the rest of this list to contend with).
4. FMA Brotherhood – “Again”
Performed by: YUI
Music by: YUI (Lyrics, music), Hisashi Kondo (arranger)
This is what I think of when I think Full Metal Alchemist. This video captures the spirit, characters, and world of FMA so well. There’s a certain urgency to it that the music pushes perfectly. I really like that when it picks up we see the physical destruction that the Elric brothers went through, but we also see Winry flail around. She went through a lot too! So much so that this song is mostly her perspective – and we see her singing along twice! The animation throughout definitely highlights the shifts between melancholy, nostalgia, action, consequence and how the characters have to move forward no matter what.
A lot of great musicianship went in to this song. The lyrics blow by at a blistering pace at times, yet are still so clearly received. The descending bass progression might be simple in the muted verse, but it contrasts the bridge and chorus dramatically. The bass player really kills it (in the good way) through the chorus! The video linked above is a great re-working of the original opening animation in to the extended version of the song.
3. Attack on Titan – “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen”
Title: “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen” (Crimson Bow and Arrow, Guren no Yumiya )
Performed by: Linked Horizon
Music by: Revo
Now if any recent anime music would classify as iconic, this would be it. The show’s explosive popularity, and the number of parodies associated with this track, means that almost every nerd and geek out there has heard this tune. It’s definitely memorable, and goes with everything! Those stunning French horn rips and its all-out relentless sound really grab the attention. My favorite part is that the build towards the ending is just so over-the-top, it couldn’t have any more key changes! Or could it!?
For those of you who have not seen Attack on Titan’s hilarious junior-high based spin-off series, Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou, please have a listen to its own parody version. They managed to take the main theme and turn it around with the cliche school bell tones! I’ve really gotta finish that show.
2. Elfen Lied – “Lilium”
Title: “Lilium” (Lily of Purity, Kyrie Eleison)
Performed by: Kumiko Noma
Music by: Kayo Konishi & Yukio Kondo
This opening is so memorable in part because of its departure from the ordinary, and a lot more because of its emotional connection throughout the show. “Lilium” is used as the opening and as the main thematic material in the show’s soundtrack. Lucy’s music box version sets the tear ducts to full-flow, and having it play over child abuse and bullying really cements it in our minds. I have a soft spot for the style as well, being a classical musician. It’s nice to get away from the rock and electric power-houses of most popular anime in favor of something really impactful on an ‘artsy’ level.
The artwork really stands out. It’s like a surrealist cave painting. Forget the minor nudity. Some of these stills and how their presented, no matter how quickly they flash by, say so much about the characters in them – whether they be clinging to others, all alone, or putting on a false smile. And the overall message? ‘Lord have mercy’, or kyrie eleison. Quite fitting for how the show unfolds.
1. Coboy Bebop – “Tank”
Performed by: The Seatbelts
Music by: Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts
The true classic. And people say that jazz is dead? Well, not in the world of Cowboy Bebop and the era it recalls. Plus, this is latin infused hard bop! It’s just teaming with style, I almost don’t know what else to say. It speaks for itself.
The Seatbelts and all of its members absolutely crush everything that they play – be sure to listen to the extended version with the amazing sax solo by Masato Honda! But the real question is, how do you not already own all of their albums?
(In no particular order)
But there are so many great openings, you say? I agree! It’s so hard to boil such a vast offering down to a select few, but don’t fret, I have a few more recommendations here. Click the titles for links to videos!
Code Geass – “COLORS” by FLOW
Code Geass is probably one of my favorite shows of all time, so it’s no surprise that its first OP should end up on this list somewhere. Cue timpani roll! It’s such a classic “let’s just show ever character we can” montage, but that’s ok. It has way more tropes than that going on. Still love it!
Attack on Titan – “Die Flügel der Freiheit” by Linked Horizon
Although not quite as popular as its first OP, Attack on Titan really delivers with its second offering. The anthem-like opening in German is so powerful. Could you imagine if your country’s national anthem burst out in to metal awesomeness and lightning fast guitar shredding!?
Death Parade – “Flyers” by BRADIO
This song took the anime community by storm. BRADIO definitely has a lot of great vocal talent! And we all love it when the cast of a show dances along to their opening. Did I hear some “Soul Man” (Blues Brothers’) in there?
Fractale – “Harinezumi” by Hitomi Azuma
This show didn’t get the best of raps, and that’s fair, because it wasn’t that well delivered. It had such a great concept though! I still think about this every time someone mentions augmented reality. The music seems pretty generic anime fair too until it breaks out at 0:53, and great harmony and melody ensue! That piccolo/whistle part is fantastic.
Gangsta – “Renegade” by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION
I’m not usually too in to the big electronic tracks, but STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION nails every build, drop, and bass line. There’s just something so satisfying about being overwhelmed with noise and the contrasting super-pure harmonies. Listen to the full version, it gets insane!
Bleach – “Asterisk” by Orange Range
Now this brings me back to my early days of anime. No, that doesn’t say anything about my age! The fact that this reminds me of 90’s punk-rock might.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun – “Only my Railgun” by fripSide
Here’s some great trance-pop as high energy as the Railgun herself. The high-hat, orchestra hit synth, and crazy arpeggios really remind me of the best of Gundam Wing‘s soundtrack. I think it just cements that, every so often, we can really use some good high energy trance.
How could I make this kind of list without including something from this so-far amazing season? STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION pumped out another anime opening with a bang. It combines several of the things I’ve talked about above in to one super-cool track. Dancing main characters? Check. High energy electronics? You bet. Showing off each of the main players in a sleek and shiny montage of action? Wouldn’t be anime without it. How about that epic car chase! This is definitely the Kyouma-glorifying set piece of the show. Don’t worry, Mira gets her time to shine in the ED!
Perhaps in the future I’ll list my top endings! I think that’s a tougher list. There’s so much contrast between mellow and full-on action. Until next time though, thanks for reading! Leave any comments about your favorites, and we’ll brainstorm what to add to the list!