Anime openings have become a staple of this industry, and of the TV industry in general. When you think about it, the repetition of an anime opening for 13 episodes is pretty much the length of an episode in itself. The week to week breaks do a lot to take the viewers’ immersion away, and as such, the opening video serves as a minute and a half long opportunity to assault the senses of the audience and get them back into mindset of the respective anime. They stick with you through the entire series and serve as the anchor to which the anime develops it’s actual story and world around. They tease you of what’s to come, and delight you with what’s already happened. The non-stop animation and composition of the music and art can make anime openings some of the most distinctive part of the actual anime series. However, just like anime itself, there are good ones, and there are better ones. I don’t like to say there are bad ones, just ones I don’t prefer as much as my personal favorites.
I’ve scoured through every opening video of every anime I’ve watched and came up with this personal list of favorites. It’d help to know what criteria I lay down which governs what anime openings I like and don’t like, and they are as follows in no particular order.
1. The Song – This is one of the biggest draws to me. If the song gains my interest, my natural rapt attention will then focus on the art that accompanies this. If the song is distasteful to me, I find it terribly hard to have the patience to find something that’s at least visually appealing in the opening. Because the art has no sound effects or voice over, it’s up to the song to carry the entire audible experience to the end.
2. The animation quality – Right, so obviously besides the song, all that leaves is the art. Well, there is a whole lot more than that which separates the best from the rest. Animation quality of an opening video basically means a mixture of how much movement is going on in the video, or how much detail is going on in each part. The more th opening video makes me feel like I’m flying through accompanying song, the more I’m willing to do it again, very much like a roller coaster ride.
3. Style – This is when an opening video does something unique to create it’s own signature look, or style. Black and white, upside down, gritty, pretty, and all that in between. If an opening video can do something to set it apart from the rest, it’s sure to be more memorable. That doesn’t inherently mean it’s great, but different is much better than being boring.
4. Substance – Besides how it looks and sounds, there’s the actual matter of what’s going on in the actual video. Is it a montage of characters running around or is it something more substantial? Is it trying to show us anything deeper than what the characters and environments look like? Sometimes a simple minute long montage isn’t enough unless it’s simply that good.
These are the four criteria mixed with my own ambiguous sense of preference with which I will now present my twenty favorite anime opening videos I’ve seen in my never-ending marathon of watching every good anime that exists. Shall we? From the bottom to the top then!
20. Kuroko’s Basketball – Opening 3
To kick things off is a simple, yet pumping opening. A fast punk rock guitar resonates in this opening stronger than the other three openings this anime currently boasts. All of it’s openings have been decent, but this one feels to be higher on the intensity scale with faster animation and a better song. The extremely crisp characters are drawn superbly and do a terrific job of making the sport look beautiful and fast. The swiping neon lights at the end really represent how I feel when I watch this opening, like I’m being taken through a swirl of color and motion. Besides that, this is standard fare stuff, just with a huge boost in the animation quality and a faster paced song that makes it all the more exciting.
19. Noragami – Opening 1
Now here’s a song that has stuck with me, and is now one of my all time favorite J-rock songs. Fortunately, the song alone isn’t what makes this opening great. Instead of going all out and throwing as much visual activity as possible, this video opts for a smoother, and more focused look at the characters that positively drips with style. The slow-mo pans and angle transitions of the character spotlights are actually very appealing to me. And then we still get an awesome action montage at the end. The camera structures are a purely stylistic choice that doesn’t represent the anime completely, but arguably symbolically, and they help state the fact that this opening is made to make the characters look cool, as if they were in a photo shoot themselves.
18. Spice and Wolf – Opening 1
Few anime openings give me chills, but this somber jaunt through the world of Spice and Wolf does just that. It moves slow, cutting from frame to frame at a much slower rate than a normal opening, but it lets you get a bit more immersed. And since the anime is primarily about the journey, it’s a rather appropriate fit. The song is fantastic. A great departure from the typical J Rock songs like the ones above. Instead it’s a melodic, almost hymn-like, tune that instantly creates a heavy tone. I would say this video doesn’t go for as much of a hook as it does a mood to ease the audience into the anime. I’ll admit that the song does carry most of the weight throughout the middle, but there are select moments, like the clip of the giant wolf in the forest, that sell the entire video.
17. Durarara – Opening 1
This is an opening that actually represents the anime closer than most opening videos do, in the sense that the way it transitions from character to character by chance encounters is exactly how the plot unfolds in the anime. On top of being accurate, the song has a very punk-ish chorus that somehow heightens this modern back-alley setting that the video is setting up. The transition work is probably what makes me love this opening the most; how each scene is linked to the other by one continuous sense of momentum that brings it all full circle to the beautiful ending shot of the anime title and the biker-reaper.
16. Brynhildr in the Darkness – Opening 1
I give major props to the producers for using an in-house composed song rather than the hit single of some famous band to introduce the world to this anime. This is a perfect example of an anime that excels in my aforementioned “substance” criteria as well. This is an anime that almost tries to tell it’s story in the opening alone, showing multiple facets of each character in their transitions as well as expressing the agony the main character is going through. Unfortunately you won’t find the actual anime anywhere near my favorites, but I’m glad I watched it, if only to see it’s powerful opening video.
15. No Game No Life – Opening 1
This is what I’d consider a great example of an opening that hits all the criteria on a solid and great level. Not the best in any single area, but very, very good in all of them. There were a lot of openings that I felt were close to being the first “all-rounder” on this countdown, such as Sword Art Online’s, but I personally liked this one more because it just gives us so much to look at. It shows massive depictions of the world this anime takes place in and gets really into the character looks. It shows literally every design aspect this anime has, coupled with a soaring melody that makes me feel like i’m literally flying through this world with them.
14. Code GeIss Season 2 – Opening 2
Code Geass is one of those anime where I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to represent everything this anime has in less than two minutes, but this opening tackled that valiantly. On top of having a decent J-rock song, this particular opening seemed to have the best transitions as well as a couple standout moments. First is that massive character fly-pan where literally over twenty characters come flying towards the screen, all doing unique poses. And then the final character shots flashing red and blue was a great stylistic choice that seemed to be absent in all the other Code Geass openings. The imagery is terrific using some of the best pieces of art from the anime to really capture your interest.
13. Fate Zero – Opening 2
I was torn between the first opening and the second of Fate Zero. The first one was consistent, but nothing really stood out, while the second one had some really slow pans, but also had some incredibly striking visuals. In the end, I felt like if even a part of an opening could be strong while the rest was decent, then that’s better than something that never dips, but also never climaxes. The second opening has a lot more substance to it invoking a dark mood with all the slow character pans as well as the flash-transitions that show the characters at different times of their life. It’s one of those openings where you catch a bit more each time you see it, and need I mention that the song is beautiful with some of the best vocal work I’ve heard in an opening video?
12. Cowboy Bebop – Opening 1
Allow me to introduce the most-often-seen-at-number-one-in-other-opening-countdowns opening: the one for Cowboy Bebop. I definitely respect where this video gets it’s praise from. It drips in style and confidence that I wish more anime openings would have. I almost feel like I have to speak more on why it’s NOT number one as opposed to defending why it’s on the list at all. I’ll simply state that I loved the style, but even with that, it doesn’t show THAT much of the world of the anime itself. I see ships, character silhouettes and guns, in really cool ways, mind you, but that’s still a bit lacking for me. The style is simply so good that with it alone, it beats all of the previous entries and every other anime opening I’ve seen. That’s still a really good thing.
11. Psycho Pass – Opening 1
Here’s another video that oozes with artistic significance or style, yet appeals to me even more than the last one. In fact, both of the openings for this anime have an amazing visual fidelity to them, but unfortunately I can not enjoy the song of the second one near as much as this one. It’s easily one of my favorite anime opening songs I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, and the band that sings it is also one of my all time favorite rock bands. The near-monochrome art style instantly sets it apart, but on top of that, this thing is just constantly revolving and jumping from one thing to the next. It starts with an intimate look at the character’s psychology, followed by strong, abstract imagery, and ends with beautiful shots of the dystopian city. This opening does so much for this anime that it’s easy to understate it.
10. Elfen Lied – Opening 1
This is an opening that you can not forget. It’s hauntingly beautiful with a gorgeous piece of music attached to it. Now that we’re in the top half of the countdown, each of these openings could be described as “unforgettable” to me. This one for sure, thanks to it being one of the most artistically expressive anime openings of all time. I love art, and adore all forms of expression, so why isn’t this higher on my list? Well, because this is also an anime opening, and despite barely representing the true tone of the anime, it’s also barely more than a slideshow. Of course, it’s a stunning slideshow featuring the artist’s interpretation of actual classic works of art, but it also doesn’t do much else to impress me. Be that as it may, this opening is still one of the best I’ve ever seen, just simply not THE best.
9. Death Note – Opening 1
A spiraling twister of symbolic, stunning imagery, and intense, moody character shots make this a very strong contender. I love how this anime also incorporates stand alone artwork blended into some of it’s scenes to really give it that artistic distinction from other openings. Dark and gloomy messages are all that await you in this opening, but considering the subject matter of the anime, it fits perfectly. The song is great, but not one of my favorites. I think it picks up the pace a little too much, but I can’t deny that it still somehow meshes well with the animation and delivers one hell of a dark and decrepid visual feast.
8. Kids on the Slope – Opening 1
Just when you thought I was going to keep getting into darker and darker anime, here’s a refreshingly vivid opening video that manages to make my heart soar every time I watch it. Kids on the Slope is about the love of music, and that definitely shows in it’s opening video. With colorful trails of musical notes floating across the screen as it fades in and out of this lush, vibrant scene on the beach simply fills me with renewed vigor every time. The music swells just like the water in the video, and while the voice was jarring at first, I came to love it before the first time hearing it was even over.
7. Attack on Titan – Opening 1
How far did you think we’ll get before we got to this unavoidable entry? Much like Cowboy Bebop and Elfen Lied, Attack on Titan’s opening pretty much stands in the highest echelon of popular opening videos. I don’t see much reason to argue. I love it too, and it’s easily the most epic opening video I’ve ever seen for an anime. The song has the signature bombastic orchestral style mixed with a strange type of rock breakdown. While the mood, excitement and overall grand sense of scale is apparent, I do think the video is a bit messier than I normally prefer. That’s hardly a detractor, however, and ultimately this video is just as memorable as the other bests that made it this high on the list.
6. Tokyo Ghoul – Opening 1
Let’s welcome the newest amongst the bunch, Tokyo Ghoul, an anime that hasn’t even finished airing it’s first season yet. There’s a lot to love about Tokyo Ghoul’s opening video, from the resonant high-pitched vocals to the wonderfully creative visual design of the entire opening. The way the video starts in such a tranquil and serene state, then rapidly intensifies into the true nature of the anime is astounding. It wonderfully showcases their characters, the lyrics of the song amplify the depressing atmosphere, and the imagery shows off this anime’s distinctive art style all in one fantastic animation sequence.
5. Watamote – Opening 1
Whoever came up with the idea of doing this opening must be hired to do some more as soon as possible. This opening is what I would consider the most well-displayed sense of teen angst combined with some evocative gritty artwork. It instantly sets itself apart and raises the bar for animation videos in general. While there’s not much actually going on, there is a ton of visual activity to take in. Watching this video feels more like opening your most vicious subconscious and just letting it loose onto the screen. The song is a heavy, yet melodic metal song that fits extremely well with the messy and wild art style.
4. Future Diary – Opening 1
Dark and artistic is one of my most sensitive sweet spots, and this opening video hits that spot where it hurts. The song is fast and heavy, but also very melodic and catchy, which is a must have to be this high up on the list. But the best thing is the steady progression of the artwork and animation as the video goes on. Monochrome art styles, unsettling imagery, and aggressive compositions continually ramp up until it ends with a psychotic young girl dancing with murderous intent. I also love the fade out to normal colors from the intense red and black color scheme. It’s like it gets crazy, but allows the audience to return to normal just before this anime starts.
3. Steins Gate – Opening 1
I don’t think you can top the amount of visual cues happening on the screen at once in this opening. Steins Gate’s wacky gear-driven art style represents the utter chaos that time really is. Paradoxes, vanishment, and loss of perception are all things that are uncannily accounted for in this extravagant work of art. It’s an opening that thrills both my artistic senses, and my notions of thought because I want to understand what is happening on the screen because it all looks so purposefully done that I want to pick apart all the symbolism and references. On top of this, you have this incredibly addictive song that just echos on and on in your head even after the opening is finished.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Opening 5
I doubt I’ll ever be able to silence the part of me that demands the first opening to be here instead of the fifth, but as it stands, the vast majority of my collected thoughts find more to love about this chilling and depressing take on the Full Metal world than the first one. While the first opening has my favorite song, the song in this opening isn’t that far behind, and it’s accompanied by some of the most emotional clips from the series. And this is a very emotional series to begin with. It pulls and tugs on your heart strings and gives off an unshakeable feeling of pity and sadness. That’s powerful stuff for a measly minute and a half with no context. On top of that, some of the clips in this opening are animated in amazing styles, not limiting themselves to simply the color palette of the anime. It seems this opening has the most empathetic thoughts put into it, and that is why I chose it. It’s an opening that gives me chills, nearly makes me tear up, and makes me appreciate everything the anime stands for all at the same time.
1. Origin: Spirits of the Past – Movie Opening
Believe it or not, I was also including movie openings on my list. It’s just pure coincidence that only one movie managed to make the list, and at the very end of it, at that. First off, does it even count? I say it does, because it’s a separate video clip entirely from the main movie/series, and it features with credits and an opening song. It just also happens to be twice the length, and is featured in front of a movie. It’s unfortunate that I actually didn’t even enjoy the movie that much, but to bring an opening like this means I will appreciate this movie till I die.
Now on to the more difficult task of explaining why I love this opening more than all the others. In a single word, chills. I get goosebumps once that majestic vocal melody starts, operating in tandem with the sheer gorgeousness of the spacescapes in the video. As the song slowly strengthens, the devastation happening on screen matches in a beautiful and destructive harmony that illustrates the destruction of the entire world by these spiritual dragon-like forces. It’s literally the most evocative apocalypse scene I’ve watched, and I would do so all over again just to hear that haunting song again, and see the terrible, yet awe-inspiring obliteration of planet earth. It provides the movie with the grandest of introductions, which is exactly what an opening is supposed to do.
Let me start by thanking anyone who took the time to read through all of this. I will always appreciate anyone who takes their time to indulge in my writing. Are there any openings you also really love? I know I haven’t seem them all! Of course, I’m always watching anime so this list will continue to evolve and update as my anime knowledge does. This was merely the opening to even more anime countdowns soon to come! Next up is the massive five part, top 50 character list. I hope you’re ready!