Compiling my top OPs and EDs of the year always is the most annoying part of writing up my yearly summaries, because this means that I have to listen to hordes of utterly horrid J-Pop songs in order to separate the cream of the crop. Still, having cringed for god knows how many times at some utterly terrible songs that eventually instantly made me turn for the off-button like some sort of reflex, I do want to highlight the series that do put in effort to create a memorable opening or ending. Whether it’s based on a simple well executed idea, or an ambitious project with a really interesting creative vision. I don’t care for OPs that just introduce the cast or hint un-subtly at random spoilers, or EDs that just contain a mellow ballad with a still image, I want to see something different or more. These too are great opportunities to showcase great animation.
So ere you have it, my top 23 of favorite OPs and EDs of the past year. Why such a random number as 23? Well… I miscounted. actually thought that I was making a top 20, but only found out too late that I had three entries too many for that.
#23: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – ED
Of course, there are a bunch of entries of Shaft on this list. Denpa-Onna to Seishun Otoko was very annoying and misleading, but I can’t deny: this ED looks just gorgeous. The fanservice may be annoying, but the themes of ufos fit in perfectly with the first episodes of the series. The song itself is also very well built up, and for that it’s good enough to close off this list.
#22: Ginama’ OP 1
This OP is on the list because of its energy. I’m a big fan of energetic OPs, and this one is really catering to that. The song kicks ass, while the visuals pretty much nailed both the serious and silly parts of this show.
#21: Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San – OP
The direction of this OP is pretty generic, if it wasn’t for the content material of combining cute animals with hideous and gory character designs, but the OP is just so damn catchy. It makes a few nice subtle jokes too.
#20: Denpa-Onna to Seishun Otoko – OP
This OP. THAT VOICE! Seriously, this is by far the most squeaky OP of the entire season. But I can’t deny: it’s original and quite creative, and the animation in particular is really good and brings the characters to live with vivid and fluid animations. If only the actual series was a bit like this.
#19: Dororon – Enma-Kun – ED
I’ve been doing these lists for a couple of years now, and the OPs always end up outnumbering the EDs. For me, a good ED adds something to the series, whether it’s atmosphere, tension, or meaning. This was always a great and very tongue in cheek way to close off a show that’s this crazy. Especially the final scene that just hints at one giant drug trip fits it so well, but I also love that whenever something bizarre happened to one of the characters, those changes would also show up in this ED.
#18: Dragon Crisis – ED
I really have to say: this OP is pretty much the best thing of the entire Dragon Crisis series. Even more than with Denpa-Onna to Seishun Otoko, which still had its memorable moments. Both the song and video are well produced, it’s well sung, and it’s trying something different with its use of instruments. It really worked for me.
#17: Maria Holic – ED
I never bothered to watch Maria Holic Alive for more than an episode, so I didn’t encounter this ED until when I compiled this list. So with that in mind: what the hell was that? This thing is just crazy and I have to admit that it has some neat visual ideas. The vocalists are all terrible, though.
#16: Persona 4 The Animation – ED
This also is one of those EDs that just flows really naturally from out of the end of each episode. It’s simple, but I get what the visuals are trying to symbolize in the show’s context. The sound of both the OP (which didn’t make this list, by the way) and ED are both also very cool, which makes it quite enjoyable to watch every single time.
#15: Usagi Drop – OP
Before I started to compile this list, I really did not expect that this OP would make it in. The song’s style is just completely in the opposite direction of my tastes. And yet, as I started to look at it more closely, I realized what a good OP this is. Its visuals are very inspired, and give a great interpretation of a single father on top. The music meanwhile… sounds far less annoying than what I thought it was.
#14: Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji – Hakkairoku-hen – ED
This one… I just had to include it. THIS is the reason that we just don’t see any females in Akagi or Kaiji. It’s clear that the creators intended this ED to be one giant troll, completely different from anything the series is about and ever will be about. But it was hilariously disturbing.
#13: Nurarihyon no Mago – Sennen Makyou – OP
Now this is one that haunts me whenever I watch it. I should note that this also is a genre that I normally dislike a lot: J-Rock too often is too cheesy for me. Here though, the singer manages to compose himself just enough to not let this cheese take over the show, and let the amazing art here do its job. Nurarihyon no Mago went though a significant budget upgrade for its second season, and that really shows here more than ever.
#12: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – ED
Now this just is a huge chunk of emotion. The series was a roller coaster of emotions, and this ED was just absolutely wonderful in carrying over the melancholy at the climax of each episode. It’s powerfully sung and fits this show perfectly.
#11: X-Men OP
This is instrumental, but apart from that it just has everything: a kick-ass song, incredible visuals, gorgeous art. A lot of the Marvel series OPs and EDs are like this, and perfect to get the adrenaline going. I decided to represent them with the X-Men OP though, because it does hold a candle above the others with its visuals, plus I also feel that its track works the best of the bunch.
#10: Deadman Wonderland – OP
You can actually see that some of the same people who worked on this OP worked on the OP for Ergo Proxy. It may not look AS good, but the visual style still is incredibly slick and the animation really brings out the emotions. Deadman wonderland being about this crazy prison, it fully captures the mood, both in the images and the music itself.
#9: Gosick – ED2
The point where this ED appeared was also the point where Gosick finally got better. It really shows a wonderful portrayal of Victorique, doing much more than showing a bunch of images: it shows what an impact Kujou made on her life. And on top of that: that voice! This is really beautifully sung.
#8: Hyouge Mono – OP
This one is a gem, if only for the story behind it. For those of you who don’t know: originally Hyouge Mono had this laid-back OP song, sung by this laid back groove band. This went well and all, until one of its members got arrested, the band got disbanded, and Bee-Train suddenly lost all of the licensing rights. They had to come up with a solution fast, so they quickly recorded a random jazz piece in order to replace the song with. This jazz piece was fairly normal but pretty decent, and it lasted for a couple of weeks. After that, I can only imagine that they went “screw it, this is boring! we’re in this position now, so why shouldn’t we use this opportunity to experiment!?”. The result was a completely crazy soundtrack over the exact same footage. It was just surreal, to see the once so dignified Op be turned into this.. thing. I wish I could also show the graphics, but I unfortunately couldn’t such a version anywhere.
#7: Blood-C – OP
This is really everything I’m looking for in an OP: great, inspired visuals, excellent animation, and a terrific song that manages to make use of the fact that it’s only 90 seconds long. For once the singer tries to combine his Japanese with french, which is quite refreshing after having to sit through so many bloody OPs that throw random Engrish words in their lyrics.
#6: Un-Go – ED
There really is one ED that immediately stood above all of the other EDs this year. When I first watched it, I was convinced that this would end up as my favorite ED of the year. There’s just so much imagination put in the visuals. Every shot here kicks ass and is a great composition on its own. The song itself is mellow, yet inspired. Plus, it the way it alternates between male and female vocals: that’s also something you don’t often hear in EDs.
#5: Fractale – OP
I’m sorry. I just… I just love the idea behind this. The show is called Fractale, it’s about a computer system called the “Fractale”. So what do you show for an OP? A fractal, of course! It’s so brilliantly simple. Screw the idea that you need to line up all of the characters one by one for an OP, Ops are meant to be creative. On top of that, the song itself is just one of those J-Pop songs that my bias against the genre will gladly make an exception to. Great voice, great composition. All around a great OP that I could watch for many times after each other.
#4: No.6 – OP
I know that with this, Noitamina has dominated one fourth of this Top 20, but this is the last one, I swear. Even though the timeslot headed into a significantly different direction this year, it had a selection of wonderful OPs. The best one came from Number 6, though. It all fits: a great song, great animation, and a great message. It’s one of those rare EDs that actually manage to tell a story of their own about the two lead characters. It’s a perfect introduction for this series.
#3: Sacred Seven – OP
Yuki Kajiura delivers again with an amazing song here. On top of that, the visuals here were directed by Sayo Yamamoto, the director of Michiko to Hatchin, who I’m a big fan of. And indeed, the visuals here perfectly fit both the song and the series. In fact, she actually succeeded to nail the main characters of this series, and made them look exciting. And I still remain convinced that the main character has one of the best vehicles out there. So yes, what does Sunrise do?Halfway through the series they swap out this OP for a much more generic one, turn the song into the Ed and swap a generic still frame on it. Why Sunrise, why!??!
#2: Kamisama Dolls – OP
Yuki Kajiura is great, but this year her former partner at See-Saw did one-up her with an amazing song that trumps even Sacred Seven’s OP.. Her voice is just amazing and works incredibly well right next to the latin-esque tunes that you hardly ever get to hear in anime. The visual direction meanwhile has a very neat idea that’s really well worked out with just perfect transitions.
#1: Level E – OP
Now this is just one of those OPs where everything fits. First of all the song here is much closer to my usual taste in music than nearly all other OPs and EDs out there, and the singer especially manages to sing it with a lot of power. This is a series about science fiction, aliens and other space oddities and that gets perfectly portrayed in this OP. It’s action-packed, suspenseful, all of the images are freaky and imaginative. This definitely stands out as my favorite OP of 2011.