Well, so this was requested a few months ago, and I finally got around to finishing it. I had a lot of fun scavenging youtube and compiling this list, so here are my 25 favourite anime OPs. Before reading, you should note that my taste here is rather weird. I don’t like generic J-pop and J-rock, bar a few exceptions.
What I look for in an OP is song or musical piece that I like, along with creative visuals, but perhaps the most important thing is its context with the series it’s based on. Is there symbolism? Does it capture the atmosphere of the series it’s based on? That kind of stuff. I’m also a big fan of shows that do something interesting with their visuals.
#25: Argento Soma
To start off, an OP that for me stands out as memorable in its simplicity. For a mecha-show you might expect something more hot-blooded, but the subtle vocals, with the visuals who just show what they need to show in order to introduce the the characters and what the plot will be about. Incidentally, Argento Soma also has some of the most interesting episode titles out there.
#24: Fancy Lala
As one of the better mahou shoujo out there, it does have the best OP amongst the genre for me. It’s able to capture the innocence of the lead character perfectly, while also playing to its themes as the big world of adults. The song is catchy and yet not obnoxious and it always was a great way to introduce this series.
#23: Gad Guard
Baccano may be for many people the show with the best Jazzy OP, but I do think that Gad Guard holds a candle over it, simply due to the incredible catchiness of the swinging soundtrack. A closer look at it also shows how much the creators just managed to show about the series within just ninety seconds. There are no spoilers, and yet instead of just showing one bit of every character, it shows a whole bunch of bits about the major cast. Neat.
#22: Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto
Regardless of being an OP, this is just a terrific standalone song that we have here. Incredibly well produced by Yuki Kajiura, with excellent vocals, it really was an excellent way to open this show with every week. And the animation itself also kicks ass on top with the series’ excellent character-designs.
The reason I picked this show was of course because of its irony. Not knowing anything about the content, you’d expect this to be some nice pokemon clone. Everything is brightly coloured and drawn with crayons. It looks like the perfect afternoon show to keep your kids busy. The song itself is a good and well built up rock tune combined with a harmonica. A definite contender for the most misleading opening ever and yet there’s a lot of truth in it: despite the horrible things that happen throughout the series, the lead characters remain innocent children. Also be sure to check out this… interesting Higurashi cross-over.
I’m a big fan of the metal music genre, so there’s bound to be a number of OPs on this list to reflect this. As Kurozuka was an action-horror series, it couldn’t have gotten itself a better introduction than this one, to pump up its viewers. It’s a bit repetitive, but full of adrenaline. The graphics themselves are way over the top like in the series, with a ton of eye candy to marvel at, even though not everything may make as much sense. There’s actually quite a bit of symbolism in it, but to talk about that would mean delving into spoilers, so I’ll refrain.
#19: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge
As a parody of the shoujo-genre, even the OP didn’t miss any chances of poking fun at the genre. The lead four bishies are presented as some sort of catalogue models here, making the most ridiculous poses. Add a few sad scenes in the rain (which had absolutely nothing to do with the actual series), and an actual great song, and the picture is complete.
#18: Kodomo no Omocha (OP 2)
Kodocha’s first OP had to be cancelled due to copyright issues, so it was replaced with this one. The wacky visuals are one thing, but I mostly put it in this list due to the incredibly cheerful song. Heck, I’ve listened to this song throughout more than sixty episodes, and still haven’t gotten tired of it, that’s how much it sticks to your mind without getting annoying. Like the series itself, it’s very much a feel-good OP for me.
#17: Figure 17 – Tsubasa and Hikaru
I again love this OP for the song. It has a great use of instruments, it’s got great vocals, it’s varied, it’s charming, it’s nice and loud. Surprisingly heavy for a series that’s more than half slice of life, but I always found it a great introduction to the show and its unique characters. It’s an emotionally powerful song, especially when combined with the visuals.
#16: Shikabane Hime
I already talked about this one before, and how it was my favourite OP of 2009. Amazing vocals from Angela in a balanced, upbeat and intense song, along with a number of greatly animated action-scenes. It also has an excellent use of colours by the way.
#15: Ergo Proxy
I absolutely love what the creators did with the graphics here. It looks absolutely gorgeous and unlike any other OP that I’ve seen. The CG, filtered live action and traditional animation blend with each other seamlessly and create a great whole. Whoever put this together in the editing room was exceptionally skilled. The song is also down to earth (with actual English vocals, rather than the pretentious Engrish you often hear in OPs) and great for building up the show’s atmosphere.
A rocking song that’s surprisingly complex for only 90 seconds and repetitive lyrics. It perfectly captured the essence of a show about an aspiring rock band, ranging from the touring, small concerts, and the big outdoor performances. Despite being repetitive, the lyrics symbolize the plot a lot, considering that America plays a big role in this series. This is one of those OPs that has almost nothing to do with the plot of the series, but yet fits it exactly.
#13: Death Note, OP 2
When this series aired, I had already given up of there being any good metal in the OPs of anime. The first OP of Death Note also was a cheesy pop song, so really, when this suddenly blasted out of the screen caught my utter surprise. It’s not just the over the top vocals and grunts that make this OP so good, but the visuals themselves also just rock. A lot of imagination has gotten into portraying the characters (I especially loved Ryuk and his apple, but L’s quirks were also hilarious). To me it’s a very complete OP. But yeah, you really need to like this kind of music, the screaming WILL turn you off otherwise.
#12: Hakaba Kitarou
Now if this isn’t funky, then I don’t know any more. I remember that when I first watched this series, I expected a simple kids show, like what Kitarou became famous for. This OP blew me away with how surprisingly good it was. The manga frames also really capture the quirky nature of the original manga material, while giving a bit of a compilation of the stories that will be featured in the series in such a way, that you’ll only get it if you really end up watching the series. It’s been my favourite OP of 2008 with good reason, because very, very few anime can boast an OP that swings as much as this one.
#11: Niea Under 7
The previous entries on this list were upbeat and energetic, but this is an OP I love because of its simplicity. It just screams intrigue with all of the visuals it shows. Nothing is into context for the actual series, but the graphics and character-designs look gorgeous and very creative. The wanted posters were a bit of a weird idea, but they work surprisingly well. The vocals take a bit to get used to, but the vocalist has some strange charm over him with his weird yet raw voice.
#10: Paranoia Agent
So yes, this OP rocks because of its ideas: having the lead characters stand laughing in the most nonsensical situations. Satoshi Kon (or whoever came up with it) is a genius. It’s without a doubt something that catches your eye, and fits the disturbing nature of the series itself to a T. The yodelling vocals only make it better. It’s a shame that this guy doesn’t get to voice in more soundtracks, other than the ones for his Satoshi Kon movies, because he really is a good singer.
#9: The Legend of Black Heaven
Here is an OP that did just about everything right. Black Heaven is a show about nostalgia: longing back to the past days of glory. The entire OP is the personification of the feelings that the lead character has to the days in which he was a rock-star, the days filled with drugs, sex and rock and roll. This OP chose not to focus on the series itself, but rather its core essence, and made a music video out of it, with awesome results. And then there is the animation! Bold, fluid and out of control. And if that wasn’t already enough, the song itself also kicks ass beyond belief.
For the raw emotional power. FLAG’s OP isn’t just an OP, it also tells the story of the people that this series is about, and the staggering contrast between the lead character, who grew up as a regular kid in a regular Japanese household, and the people in the war-torn area that the series takes place in. This isn’t some kind of summary or introduction, it really adds something to the series in terms of storytelling, characters and setting, to a degree I’ve hardly ever seen before. The music lacks vocals, but it’s haunting enough already without them.
#7: Bokura no
Bokura no’s OP becomes especially engaging as the series goes on, but to explain why would include way too many spoilers. Despite the huge cast, the creators really gave all of them the chance to introduce themselves, unbeknownst to what would happen to them; it’s an OP that shines due to the incredibly strong cast that the series already has. The vocals and visuals give them ample time to shine. Not to mention that the song itself is also very haunting.
#6: Fantastic Children
What a ballad; these vocals seriously are something else. The song is beautifully and powerfully sung into a huge chunk of atmosphere. The instruments know to keep just enough presence to strengthen the song, rather than going too over the top, and it works wonderfully.
#5: Now and Then, Here and There
Seriously, this may just be a piece of music with a bunch of small photos; it may not seem like anything special, but I nearly get teary-eyed just from watching it. That’s how powerful the simplicity works in this case. This OP doesn’t try to be anything over the top, or it doesn’t try to lure in the characters with characters, trying to look cool. No. It’s just a prelude to a series in which enough horrible things happen already. It’s minimalistic, but with series as this one, such a simple OP is the best choice to show the best of the characters.
#4: Paradise Kiss
When I watched this (right before starting this blog, actually), I actually didn’t quite like the fully realistic series yet (yes, my taste has changed quite a bit in the past four and a half years). This really has been the only series, where I kept watching because the OP was just so damn good! I don’t like most of the J-pop, but for songs like this I’m ready enough to make an exceptions. The balance inside the song is excellent, the vocals are wonderful and the visuals are just gorgeous. After all these years, it’s still the Noitamina OP that I consider to be the best, and none of the series that aired after it featured an OP that impressed me more (hint, hint).
#3: Cromartie High School
Most of the OPs on this list have been serious… this one isn’t. I just love how everything comes together, and how this OP brings the cast of morons that the series focuses on to life. The instruments are beyond catchy, but it’s also hilarious how everyone is trying so hard to make a serious face. I’m a big fan of deadpan humour, and this really is the ultimate in it. It’s such a charming and feel-good OP that I couldn’t resist to put it among my favourites.
#2: Overman King Gainer
This OP is just synonymous to awesome. It’s over the top and hot blooded like your average mecha series, but what makes it stand miles above the rest is the choreography and the dancing. The dancing robots are exceptionally inspiring, but there are a ton of bold ideas that make this OP larger than life, it’s done in such an over the top way that it becomes incredibly charming.
#1: Great Teacher Onizuka
I’m usually not a fan of L’Arc-en-Ciel; they’re often too cheesy for my tastes. But damn, talk about an exception here. The vocals here are just more than excellent: they’re well delivered and have a huge range. It’s very emotionally charged, and Studio Pierrot’s trademark style of animation only makes it better. The visuals are incredibly stylish and symbolic of what’s going to happen in the series. Because of that, I consider this to be the best OP I have ever seen.
So that’s my list. I really hope that I didn’t include too many youtube embedded videos in one post. Does anyone know if there’s a limit, perhaps? Preferably I don’t want to split up this post, to prevent it from becoming a bit of an disorganized mess. In any case, if there’s any desire for a top ED post, I’ll start working on it in the next months. So what are your favourite OPs?