Do you still remember your favorite anime openings? That tempo of which the Japanese singers sang, the few Japanese words that got stuck in your head, and the feelings you had when listening to it. Most importantly, the vibe that it’s trying to portray—happy, sad, melancholic, idyllic, tense—to help you understand the theme of the story. As one who is trying to do the same thing with AMVs, I couldn’t help but love and appreciate great openings that can capture the essence of a story in 1 minute 30 seconds.
Take these openings for example.
Anime: Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Opening Theme: Aoi Shiori
Within 90 seconds, it helps one to understand how close and carefree they are when they were still young. But at the same time, it shows the struggles and the adult version that they have come to be since then. This contrast, merging with a hint of regrets from their facial expression brings us to a conclusion with the last scene. A girl that connects them all, and they care about – Menma, that is no longer with them.
Even after a year watching it, it’s still packed with a powerful punch to my feelings even though I didn’t enjoy that its drama that much. Despite the OP having quite a cheerful rhythm, I couldn’t help but feel a piercing pain every time I listen to it. And with some brilliant editing, the ideal mood for its story is all set.
Anime: Blood Blockade Battlefront/Kekkai Sensen
Opening Theme: Hello, World!
A part of the lyrics inside that goes: “What do I do? I can’t even pretend to be empty.” perfectly resonates to the actual plot where the main protagonist, Leonardo is stuck with the weird bunch of agency members, while trying to find a cure for his blind and crippled sister. Because of him having an “All Seeing Eyes of the Gods”, he has to help his comrades at any cost, making him the main attention and has to endure freaky and fast-paced situations surrounding him everyday.
Having watched this again, it feels like I gain a deeper insight to his conflicted feelings. I learnt that even if he doesn’t show it on his face, he is fighting with his inner struggles everyday with so many unexpected things that happened to him, while he is just trying to live a peaceful live. But even so, he’s glad to be a part of the team.
Anime: Keep Your Hands Off Eizokuen!
Theme Song: Easy Breezy
Eizokuen’s OP is one that I really enjoyed because it’s more to editing than animation, which is a great choice given its premise. Its simple opening works because it fits the theme and the quirky trio. The backgrounds are completely abstract because the anime is centered around the idea on what imagination can achieve, and how far are the trio willing to go to achieve this. With the funky tempo, and the song that I couldn’t even understand a word other than ‘Easy Breezy’, it has all the elements to absorb people into their story. All while telling you that there are three loveable idiots inside.
Anime: Bakuman (S2)
Opening Theme: Dream of Life
“I have a dream that I absolutely want to achieve.”
If you have seen Bakuman, I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Bakuman is the Haikyuu!! of manga-making; rivals that get character developments, competitions and retries that never seem to end, and a burning passion that reignites everytime it gets dimmed. The opening incorporate all this and portrays that their goals are only achievable through hardwork and constantly sharpening abilities that they posseses. By constantly struggling to find the right style and methods, to boost skills they already have.
This holds especially true for one of the main protagonists, Mashiro who wants to be the top mangaka in Jack, get an anime adaptation and has his first crush voice the main heroine, which eventually leads to both of them getting married. The lyrics managed to bring out his unwavering determination even after facing tons of failures, and that he’s never regret this path that he chooses.
Anime: Death Parade
Opening Theme: Flyers
Death Parade is a rare kind of anime that takes fun and games to a whole new level with its opening. Almost as if, they are celebrating death in a parade, accompanied by exciting tempo and scenes of characters enjoying themselves. The actual plot is far from what is depicted from the opening, but it is this contrast that make it enjoyable. This opening helps it to set up a world of its own, and then leaves you to face the gloomy and harsh reality in the story. This interchanging vibe is what highlights that every people has two faces, and the hidden side only shows in the face of death (be it good or bad), which is the theme of the story itself.
Anime: Attack on Titan (S3P1)
Opening Theme: Red Swan
Of all its opening theme songs, “Red Swan” really speaks to me. The scenes when they climb the roof when they were children, in contrast to using the 3D Maneuver Gear portrays how much stronger they have grown to become. This also applies to the cheeky Levi and the ambitious Commander Erwin, especially when they pass each other at streets. The gold-ish and white-edges(vignette) art style sort of represents a trip down memory lane which reinforces the story since this part features some backstories of Historia and the history where it all began. Also, Historia decides to punch Levi in this season, which is also gold.
“Again” from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
“:Re :Re” from ERASED
“Hikari Are” from Haikyuu!! (S3)
“Unravel” from Tokyo Ghoul
“Goya wa Machiawase” from Noragami (S1)
“Hikaru Nara” from Your Lie in April
In many ways, a great opening can tell us a lot about the story. The lyrics can encapsulate the inner voices of the characters; the tempo can capture the mood that the story is set in; the animation can evoke the emotions the characters are feeling; and the art can draw out the world that the characters live in. Just within ‘1:30’, the rules of storytelling can be twisted and changed, accordingly.
It’s why we’ll never able to choose only one anime opening as our favorite. Each of them has their own plot, characters, settings, and ambience. But with the right amount of blend, openings can also create their own story. Even without any character dialogues or narration, it can tug the strings of your heart with just a song and animation that matches it. It’s an element that goes unnoticed most of the time, but once you’re hooked on it—there’s no turning back.
Thanks for reading.
OPs can be really hit and miss though. Some are great at setting the stage as you mention, my personal favourite being Baccano! and the DRRR! openings that help introduce the large casts via the OP.
But there are a lot of low effort OPs that just spoil content by showing snippets of episodes in the anime, spoiling fights, characters, moments, et cetera. I’ve been spoiled one too many times that I generally skip OPs now.
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Yeah, exactly. Though OPs can tell stories, but some will just downright spoil the plot if they decide to just compile every highlighted moments inside.
DRRR! and Baccano! are indeed some great examples that can execute its theme of connection flawlessly with its transitions between characters. But I wanted to focus on ones that could hide a bit of plot inside it. Haha.
Though it is generally not wrong to skip OPs, but I do prefer to watch it at least once to get a hold of the theme of it (if there’s any). Not to brag but, I’ve even been spoiled by endings before so I understand how irritating it can be.
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My favorite is when the anime openings actually fool you into thinking the show is going to be something different than it actually is. People argue that its misleading, but I say its pure genius!
Death Parade’s opening pretty much falls into this category, but I’d also say the openings for Madoka Magica, Gakko Gurashi, and Watamote also did a relatively good job (albeit with a little dash of foreshadowing to boot).
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Yeah, it’s the contrast with the story that makes it seems like it’s in another level of its own. I’ve heard praises about Madoka Magica actually having a much darker story compared to its openings, but haven’t really watched it yet. Same goes to Gakko Gurashi and Watamote. I think I’ll get on to Madoka first, if I have some time to spare. Haha!