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10. Centimillimental – Kizuato (“given” Opening)
As my favourite J-pop song of 2019, there was no doubt that Centimillimental’s Kizuato would find a place on this list regardless of the animation attatched to it. But the fact that it soundtracked “given”‘s masterful animation is what makes it an easy contenter for a place within the top 10. I adore how the desperate vocals lend themselves to the show’s depressing undertones and the heavy use of imagery juxtaposed with the more mundane shots of the characters leading their daily lives is excellent thematically and furthers what is already an impressive package into a true showstopper of an opening. A suitably emotive theme for one of the most powerful shows of the past few years.
9. SiD- Ranbu No Melody (“Bleach” Opening 13)
Bleach is home to one of my favourite soundtracks of all time and there would be few objections when i say that the shows 13th opening is one of the greatest in anime history. There’s just something truly special about this opening, from the way it sructures its opening 40 seconds with nothing but a collage of seemingly random images to the rousing anthem like hook that just explodes with pure intent, almost of every moment of Ranbu No Melody feels as though it’s polished to perfection. The animation during this opening is just stunning, exemplifying the most minuet of details and foreshowding key details in the plot expertly. It’s a true fan favourite and after one watch, it should obvious why.
8. Make-Up – Pegasus Fantasy (“Saint Seiya” franchise)
An absolute monolith in the realm of anime openings, Pegasus Fantasy is an immortal classic that soundtracked the intial series of the equally popular Saint Seiya anime and has since gone onto become the show’s most iconic and associated song. Much like the original english opening for Pokemon actually. Though many people might watch the opening and think it to be too dated for a place so high up, I happen to be someone who adores this classic, rough on the edges art style and believe that it really gives the entire package an extra layer of character. It just feels so crisp and smooth and much of the framing and transitions seen here set the stage for what would go onto become the norm in many openings that followed.
But the real start of the opening is the incredible song. Pegasus Fantasy is an absolute masterpiece, sounding like the very best 80’s rock anthems with a plethora of hair raising guitar riffs and some of the greatest melodies and delivery i’ve come across. It’s so great that no matter how it’s arranged, it sounds just as incredible as seen with the more recent remix that soundtracked the “Saint Seiya Omega” anime. This is just a stone cold classic that doesn’t get nearly as much international praise as it should get. That “PEGASUSU FANTASY” gives me chills. Every. Single. Time
7. Yoshiki (feat. Hyde) – Red Swan (“Attack On Titan” Opening 4)
An opening that was much maligned by fans upon release, Red Swan has only gotten better and more important the longer it has stuck around. Though often considered the worst of the shows 6 current openings by many fans, I’ve always considered it to be one of its best. Both muscially and thematically. Though all the shows openings till then had been chest beating anthems, Red Swan pulled back towards a more emotive and soft rock sound, somthing that might have thrown many fans off.
Written by J-rock legend Yoshiki and performed by another legend, L’Arc-En-Ciel’s Hyde, Red Swan is a near perfect 90’s Japanese rock ballad and its full version remains absolutely flawless. And while the opening version cuts many of the songs strongest moments, it more than makes up for it with some genius level imagery that only gets more and more haunting the further you get into the manga. A real slowburn.
6. Spyair – Sakura Mitsuki (“Gintama” Opening 13)
The best Gintama opening and Spyair’s masterpiece, Sakura Mitsuki is a ride from start to finish. It’s a sucker punch of a song that shifted the template for what was expected of Gintama openings up till that point, imbuing an oddly gloomy tone with a rather surprising yet perfectly calibrated emotive backbone. From the more grey imagery to IKE’s incredibly characteristic and emotive vocals, Sakura Mitsuki opens with a 10 and drives itself upto an 11 during the driving, heartwrenching chorus that just swells with so much emotion that even non-fans of the show would get drawn in. Most Spyair tracks follow a similar template but none have ever come close to recreating the sheer magic we have here.
5. Goose House – Hikaru Nara (“Your Lie In April” Opening 1)
So far if you’ve been paying attention to the general sound of the top 10, you might notice that i adore songs that have a very strong emotive backbone. And while every song before this is certainly up there in terms of getting some form of emotion out of me, very few if any have had the same effect on me as Goose Houses magnum opus, Hikaru Nara. Now much of this might have been due to the fact that it soundtracked the heartbreaking Your Lie In April (actually that’s a big part), but the song is just on a whole nother level.
From the resounding blasts of brass to the breathtaking and hyper melodic chorus, there isn’t a single moment where Hikaru Nara falls short. But its especially the scenes that follow the start of the chorus that cement Hikaru Nara as one of the greats. The buttery smooth animation and heavy symbolism are just masterful and all come together in stunning fashion after the shows incredible yet absolutely devastating ending.
4. Linked Horizon – Shinzou wo Sasageyo (“Attack on Titan” Opening 3)
The anthem to end all anthems, Attack On Titan’s third opening is a literal national anthem within itself. It takes the chest pumping, larger than life and anthem like nature of the first seasons two openings to forge a lighting in a bottle battle cry that resounds like a choir of hundreds. There’s a reason why this opening has had the impact it has had, drawing thousands of fans towards the series and portraying the shows sheer grandiosity, fist pumping adrenaline, high stakes and imbuing every viewer with a sense of patriotism that only the best real life anthems could.
This alongside some gorgeous yet equally terrifying animation lend a sense of immersion unlike any other, bringing the world of Attack On Titan to life in excellent fashion. The operatic pre-chorus remains one of the most chill inducing and patriotic moments in any anime opening ever. Just skip to 4:45 in this live performance and feel the goosebumps.
3. UVERworld – Colors Of The Heart (“BLOOD+” Opening 3)
There’s somthing to say when you see some truly unique and beautiful animation. And the third opening for “Blood+”, Colors Of The Heart is home to some of the most gorgeous and utterly distinctive animation i’ve ever seen. The sketch like artstyle is just sublime, helping this opening really stand apart from the crowd and portraying its own little niche within the anime world. It’s like watching one of those really surreal yet jaw dropping art house films and while the anime didn’t adopt this art style, the fact the producers thought to use it in the first place is applaudable.
And i haven’t even thouched on the song yet, which is equally as immense. Colors of the Heart is just stunning, highlighted by a beatiful chorus refrain that opens the track with a real sense of pathos and grows more and more pronounced the longer it lingers. It comes together with the animation to create a product that feels masterful in scope and in execution and could have honestly taken the top spot had it not been as little known as it is. (It also gave us the Spongebob anime opening, so all I see are W’s all around)
2. Yoko Takahashi – A Cruel Angels Thesis (“Neon Genesis Evangelion” Opening)
Probably THE most influencial anime opening of all time, A Cruel Angels Thesis set the bar for what the “modern” anime opening should be. It’s easily the most parodied and covered opening of all time, stretching its influence far and wide both domestically within its home country of Japan aswell as internationally. So what could make this opening such an influence to the industry?
Well for starters, the song itself is easily the best Japanese song of the 90’s (bold claim I know), carrying the classic hallmarks of the decades famous techno boom and latching on one of the most timeless and instantly iconic melodies of all time. There’s just something so essential about A Cruel Angel’s Thesis and its influence reflects that. The songs build from a resereved, choral opening to a majestic funk assualt is one of the greatest, intertwining atmospheric verses with exhuberent blasts of brass and percussion. And Takahashi’s powerful vocals during the chorus are just the icing on the cake.
But while the song is what gets most of the praise, the animation is equally as iconic, tackling biblical, philosopical and moral themes through nothing but a number of stills and interspersing darker and more depraived shots between a collage of standard shots. It barely gives the viewer time to breathe and is pretty much tied at the number 1 spot with the following opening.
1. FLOW – Colors (“Code Geass” Opening 1)
As soon as you hear the triumphant brass at the start of Colors, you know that you’re in for somthing special. It carries a sense of weight to it, through the colourful yet oddly psychadelic animation to the rousing soundtrack, every moment of the first opening of Code Geass is tailor made to suit both the narrative and my tastes. It’s one of those openings that just draws you in from the very first moment, drawing us, the viewer under Lelouch’s geass as FLOW’s masterpiece plays in the background. It brings a wave of emotions, a sense of tragedy and a sense of triumph all at once, somthing that could be said for the entirety of the plot of Code Geass.
But while they do work expertly in tandem, the reason why Colors only barely beats out A Cruel Angel‘s thesis is because of just how brilliant the song is. For what might just be my favourite Japanese song of all time, Colors revels in its own melodic bombast, with a multi pronged chorus that harnesses Asakawa and Keigo’s powerful vocal blend for a rousing centerpiece. As one of my formative musical experiencies and one of the first Japanese songs that I heard, I understand that my affinity towards Colors is a little biased. But when you’ve got a full package like this, it’s honestly hard not to be.