This was originally intended as the first in a series of posts I would do for the 12 Days of Anime challenge, but because of restrictions in my time, and the fact I was running so late I couldn’t write any of the other articles in such a limited timeframe, I ended up dropping out of that challenge. my choice on what to do is to make my own version of Anime Awards, in which I will separate different components of the year across 12 Posts to determine what were objectively the best Anime related things in 2017. It’s a nice blend of simple enough to write quickly while also covering enough detail to merit a challenge from me which encourages me to write more.
Of course, by the time this is over, the year itself still won’t be over, which I acknowledge is an inherent weakness in this idea. So, I suppose since the words “…of the year” aren’t mentioned in the title, this can be considered more the Uchi Awards for Best Anime of 95% of the year I guess! Finally, as this is a tribute for the whole year, a recurring theme in this will be to split the categories between each season of the year in order to a) cover the groundwork of the whole year and spread them out, and b) filter them so that deciding the final winner will be that much easier.
So, I suppose with all that said, I’ve conveyed what I’m doing by this point, I don’t need to expand the intro to be longer than it needs to be, so I’ll get started then.
The Best Openings of (most of) the Year
I love Anime Openings, partly because they’re only a minute and a half long and thus I’m able to view them on YouTube with much more ease than 7 hours of an entire Anime TV series. In seriousness though, this year provided more than ample supply in many a memorable OP, which also allowed me to form my own opinions on how to view and judge OPs, which likely will result in this Article being my favourite to write for this project. I plan to write an entire Article detailing this topic (probably in several months time knowing my average writing speed) but I’ll outline some of my thoughts briefly:
These entries are judged on combinations. Combinations of the intelligence of the visuals, the music, the tone and how it relates to the series it comes from etc.
There is a whole community of channels on YouTube who dedicate themselves to creating countdown videos of OPs, and having looked at a fair few of them myself, I came to the conclusion that my own taste in OPs is radically different from theirs. Many of them seem to base their rankings on details such as how enjoyable they find the song in question (which I also tend to take a different stance on) resulting in many of them being based on a sort of “Epic Feel” type of OP generally acclimated to fast paced Shounen series, popular series basically. Truth be told, while I would be inclined to agree that the majority of Anime OPs are actually good, of the ones I’ve seen at least, which makes sense since in many cases they are an extremely powerful advertisement for a series which can often result in far more effort being put in them than the animation for the main series itself.
Another thing for me, actually watching the series an OP is attached to. This is not something I did for all of the OPs I will mention here, since I already had a busy enough schedule as is, and from what I’ve heard about some of these series, it’s probably better for me to avoid them. However, I have discovered that becoming aware of the context surrounding an OP does help to recontextualize it and can often radically alter one’s perfection of it’s meaning, not to mention that watching a series does help to give a better understanding of the meanings the OP wishes to convey through its use of visual information and tone-setting musical accompaniment.
I describe all this just to give you an understanding of how I’ve chosen to judge the OPs I’m going to be talking about, which should at least give some idea of how I’ve chosen to judge them. That and the fact I feel I needed somewhere to relay those little thoughts of mine down. On to the thing:
Without a doubt, the first season of the year for this category came in full force with easily the strongest selection of OPs of the entire year. There were so many which excelled in what they set out to achieve that I’m stumped in finding where to begin, from ‘Gintama’ season 857 (probably) providing intense energy, ‘Tale of Zestiria the X’ providing a minimal yet sublime call to epic arms, ‘Konosuba’ season 2 delivering the expected wackiness, and ‘Interviews with Monster Girls’ changing the visual on one of it’s characters to signify her development (which I felt the need to inform you of since it was one of the more notable moments in OPs this year). But listed below are the honourable mentions and eventually the king above them all which enters to the OP of the year nominations.
Kanadeai-Itowokashi: Twin Star Exorcists: Since ‘Naruto Shippuden’s final OP was from Fall 2016, the other long running Shounen series by Studio Pierrot which came to an end this season filled the gap for an OP to start off the year, and did so with gusto. Creating a genuine sense of conclusion by building on the Twin theme established in the previous OPs through the use of distilled black and white imagery (used to exquisite effect in the heavily symbolic previous OP) before the climax in which the two main characters reach out to one another and become consumed in a world of colour as the divide between them shatters into glass. Add into that a frequent use of action-packed zoom shots, parallel environment imagery, and the fact that in a world where most final OPs for Shounen series tend to feel awkwardly melancholic, this OP informed the fans that the battle still isn’t over made it a noteworthy entry and a prime example of all my favourite qualities in an OP.
Itteki no Eikyou-UVERworld: Blue Exorcist:Kyoto Saga: Speaking of shattering glass, the OP to the second season of ‘Blue Exorcist’ which just came and went with little notice but did not only use the visual technique of shattered glass, but even incorporated the sound effect of it into the music, very faintly as the chorus kicks in. I only discovered that while doing my research for this, and it’s certainly dedicated I’ll say. And some excellent use of zoom in shots.
Seija no Koushin-CIVILIAN: All Out!: This succeeds in being a genuinely exciting sports OP by focusing much of its attention to the intensity of the rugby match, introducing us to each character through the perspective of the ball to maintain an exhilarating and enthralling experience of an OP. The impressive thing is that despite this being one of the greatest Sports OPs I’ve ever seen, I still wouldn’t place it in a Top 10 ranking for just this season, it was that good.
Aozora no Rhapsody-fhana: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Instantly appealing to the series’ irrevocable sense of intensive cuteness with its flying side characters and self cloning main characters. fhana’s always high pitched vocals meanwhile help to express both the silliness and heart of the series simultaneously, with the perfect timing of the chorus with the shot of Tohru looking on romantically in the direction of Miss Kobayashi. And it ends with some choreographed dragon ass rotation.
Onihei~Edo wo Hashiru~-Kouhei Tanaka: Onihei: The instrumental opening to this hidden gem of the season about law enforcement of the Edo era is certainly a less conventional pick for this list. Without poses or a definite chorus, it feels more the opening to a film than an Anime. That intrigue is worthy of mention, but the assorted flutes and shamisen which make up the music make for an action packed opening which excites the viewer along with its added rush through lanterns.
Shiny Ray-YURiKA: Little Witch Academia: The use of night time colours in this ironically bright and optimistic OP is truly lovely. Although maybe not as action packed as one would expect from a series/studio known for its high energy, the animation efforts are placed nicely towards the falling stars which make up the visual highlight of the OP, and along with the happy melody of the song, prepares the viewer to be taken on an adventure filled with childlike glee and wonder.
One Hand Message-OxT: Hand Shakers: And speaking of comedy, ‘Hand Shakers’ also had an OP which perfectly matched the series’ ability to cause internal vomiting. This isn’t just me picking on an easy target by the way, the OP does at least match its action with the music.
Gekkai Toppa X Survivor-Kiyoshi Hikawa: Dragon Ball Super: ‘Dragon Ball Super’s second OP showcased the ultra-fast paced fist fighting the franchise is known for, making for an exhilarating experience which even I, one of the few people in the world who’s never watched a single episode of any ‘Dragon Ball’ series, pumping my fists in excitement trying to keep up with those of Goku.
Fighter-KANA-BOON: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans’ likewise gave an intense and extremely well animated series of robot battles against KANA-BOON’s larger than life vocal work providing a glaring sense of euphoria and being lost in the moment through the space-like environment Maguro Taniguchi’s voice creates.
MY LIBERATION-nano: Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas: This Fantasy series embellishes its genre with imagery of battle, elves, mages, and quickly edited actions bits. But where it went further than a serviceable fantasy OP was with a page flipping visual motif which displayed each of the characters by colouring in their pictures while taking a second to land on their pages. The fast pacing of this sequence is incredible to me, and nano’s desperate vocals accentuate the epic motion of the piece, while they sing partly in Japanese allowing me to not notice the terrible lyrics of many other Nano songs. Don’t think I didn’t notice that they didn’t bother to reanimate the text within the book for each separate page though, how dare they not meet a particular standard that I set up for them, you’d almost thing the Japanese animation industry had limited resources or something!
Uncontrollable-Kanako Itou: ChaoS;Child: This OP is littered with intriguing, symbolic imagery which I can’t quite vouch for the nature of since I haven’t watched the series, but it certainly looks impressive. From the disappearing people around a clearly distraught protagonist, everyone looking distraught really, and drowning (wouldn’t be a dramatic OP without some drowning).
Uso no Hibana-96neko: Scum’s Wish: Speaking of symbolism, ‘Scums’s Wish’ was a master in that area as the inkblots which represent with the character’s clouded visions and underlying manipulative nature as they stand in their respective facades overtaking a saturated, pretty colours which represent the facades they each put on. This is also represented by the series’ own trademark, the use of Manga panels to display the different perspectives of society at large and their intimate angst, and the contrast between exterior costumes and interior selves. This alongside flashes of the sexual yet not fetishist imagery relayed through inkblot transitions as we see Hanabi descending head first into the dark abyss, and roses, one of the most heavily used symbols in all of symbolism, and we have an OP which causes one to reminisce about how excellent this series was.
Imawa no Shimigami-Megumi Hayashibara: Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: This OP is probably the prime example for me when I say how gaining knowledge of the context alters my perception of it. I had watched it on YouTube before even watching the first season and mostly took from it a sort of haunting vibe implying a more dramatic tone than the first OP maybe. But when I watched the second episode of ‘Descending Stories’, and was introduced to Hayashibara’s whispering vocals introducing Yotarou’s reluctant shy demeanour as he was replaced by still shots of each of the other characters in tandem with a lingering clock ticking in the background, I suddenly felt a chill down my spine as it occurred to me the stake the Artform of Rakugo was at in the series. And the rest of the OP served to confirm that sense of dread with the emphasis on Yakumo in pitch black, funeral like clothing wandering aimlessly off the edge of a cliff and drowning into despair as Yotarou reaches out to him. All of this serving to inform us of how something is dearly at stake here. To add on further, the second half of the OP is littered with hints to the development of Yakumo’s tragic story, hinting at “that twist” when the music picks up in all its jazz assortments of dark violins and whistling flutes once the scratch touches the spinning record from which Yakumo looks on all the others, with the image of Miyokichi in the centre which then changes as the series progresses. And then the spectre of Sukeroku embracing Yakumo, still haunting him in his old age, who’s eyes change colour to a sinister red whenever we watch an episode in which something is going to happen. And the final tipoff being the quick backwards play the OP does at the end to imply Yakumo’s coming mortality. All of this makes for one of the most haunting OPs ever made for one of the greatest Anime ever made.
Sayonara Bystander-YUKI: March comes in like a Lion: More than any Shounen OP this year, the second OP to ‘March comes in like a Lion’ made me leap with joy from the moment I first heard those swelling violins introducing us to the panning shot toward the Sumida River skyline. Coming shortly after Reina’s breakdown in episode 12, this informed us instantly of how things were going to be okay for our deeply struggling protagonist. Add onto that a series of shots of each of the side characters building up to the chorus, in which YUKI (a clear nod to her involvement in the previous Chica Umino adaptation ‘Honey and Clover’s OP) uses her unique, twangy vocal style to provide unprecedented high notes the likes of which are like no other high notes I think I’ve seen. This accompanies a sequence showcasing the Shogi element of the series by breaking down the animation into gorgeous rough sketch animations which underline the vulnerability present in each of the players, while advanced 3D Animation is used for the zoom-in on the ultimate player Souya Touji, dressed in blended white traditional clothing to give him a respectable lure to emphasise his difficulty level. And it concludes with a symbolic shot of the family picking up a collapsed Rei form the snowy ground in which he initially hallucinates them as his original family to signify their importance in his life, and shows how his life is on the right track to improvement. This OP is easily the most beautiful of the season, but when it comes to the best…..
Winner: Shadow and Truth-ONE III NOTES: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspect Dept.
It is the view of many that the opening to ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is the greatest OP of all time, and while I’m not sure if I would necessarily agree with that viewpoint, it is hard to deny how much the Saul Bass inspired use of highlighted colour imagery mixed in with a retro Jazz sound which acclimates into the soundtrack for the entire series works. It achieves the job it sets out to do in reeling the viewer into the series through a clever use of intrigue and undiluted coolness that only retro can achieve. I bring this up because the opening to ‘ACCA’, a series which sadly seems to already have been forgotten by most people, draws fairly obvious parallels to Tank! and any OP which has something in common with that is an instant win. But beyond that, this OP impresses from the first note, with the series’ mascot, the red bird on which the shape of the fictional country of the series’ setting is based introducing us to the setting with movements synchronised with the halting sax beats of the song which buildup to a song which defies expectations by introducing a rapper into the mix, and then an autotune chorus which manages to increase the sultriness of the alluring character designs which are one of the series’ greatest strengths. It additionally provides some extra mystique to the effectively implemented still shots of characters given a morally ambiguous design to hint at who the antagonist will be.
This is all conjecture to the real strength of the OP though. Through this season’s diverse mix of intrigue and bombast, retro and technical innovation, ‘ACCA’ stands above the rest through the power of sheer coolness relayed into its atmosphere, making the OP a perfect summary for the series itself. The OP also stands out through it’s song which other than the mix of jazz and hip hop, I can’t really pin anything I’ve heard before that sounds like it, at least not in the way that ONE III NOTES utilises it. Of course, it’s also something I can’t really even scratch the surface of in this already too long section. I still haven’t mentioned things like the use of camera flips, the tonal balance between the moe romance moments involving cake eating and the more mature use of shadows, the use of CGI briefly in some shots to either add dimension to the separate room scenes, the use of cigarette smoke combined with ink blot transitions, the way the credits are integrated into the scenery, the symbolism behind the shot of a puppet king, or the final 10 seconds of music ticking after the final chorus to playfully mislead the viewer into an ending before the words “You gotta use your eyes to perceive the wind” play. The wind in question being a rush of coolness which blows directly into the viewer’s face.
The season which promised to provide the most action packed openings of the year, with the Shounen Saturday double bill of ‘Attack on Titan’ 2 and ‘My Hero Academia’ 2 being the main talk of the season. But it was certainly a busy season beyond just that, with MAPPA set to start a year they decided to claim as theirs with the return of ‘Rage of Bahamut’, as well as subdued dramas such as ‘Sakura Quest’ and ‘Tsuki ga Kirei’. The openings for ‘Atom: the Begginning’, ‘What do you do at the End of the World?’, ‘Grimoire’, ‘Natsume Yuujinchou’, and the other ‘Gintama’ thing just barely missed the cut here, partly because that Winter edition was already too long as it is. So here’s what came into consideration instead.
ID-0-Sayaka Sasaki: ID-0: Referring back to the greatest of Watanabe style OPs, while not quite as minimalist as one of those would be, this OP’s use of colours and scenery shifts portrays a totally delightful montage which, again I can’t quite vouch for the meaningfulness of. What I can say is that while the CGI may be a bit jaunted in places, the energy of the robots help me to feel like they’re sharing in the delight of the OP and all its jazz flavoured psychedelia, which is probably a better use of giant robot’s time than trying to destroy each other.
Don’t-NakamuraEmi: Warau Salesman: But for pure Saul Bass inspiration, look no further than the delicious colour on top of black style that this sinister yet playful to a similarly sinister yet playful series complements. From the noir city lights rotating horizontally across the screen to the cartoonish grin of the main character, this one is a powerful nostalgia trip for the retro lover in all of us.
MIND CONDUCTOR-YURiKA: Little Witch Academia: Although in hindsight I may visually prefer the first OP due to its greater imagistic consistency and darker background conveying a greater sense of atmosphere. That said, it does complement the more action based tone that the second cour of the series aims for, with the faces of the characters informing us that things are about to get serious. The allusion to Chariot and Croix when they were young, and their paralleled rivalry/relationship being signified by the hand holding cut in the middle of the OP, a moment which in addition to making shippers such as myself leap for joy, also expertly signified the theme of new and old with the parallel between the characters and their separate interests on the direction of magic. Climaxing with a lovely rotational shot of Akko transforming to showcase that lovely animation, and a greater variety of movement than the first OP which only becomes noticeable during an awkwardly placed still shot of Andrew, and this OP illustrates the magic of this wonderful series.
Tabiji-MAO: Kado: The Right Answer: Not an OP which is going to win any awards for movement in a scene, but if previous entries have demonstrated; I do like to highlight OPs which experiment outside the realms of the conventional wisdom for what qualities as a “great” OP. And this highly atmospheric OP with its chilling chorus of choirs set against a bleak backdrop of realistic city shots, and some effective use of drawing illustrations on screen alongside dimmed cosmic lights against a pitch black backdrop. This OP oozes atmosphere all over, making it something which truly stands out in this shounen season.
Baton Road-KANA-BOON: Boruto: Next Generations: The beginning of the continuation of the Shounen that it seems will never actually end in our lifetime after all, this opening partakes in one of my personal favourite elements of Shounen OPs, the “This has too many damn characters” syndrome. I recall the 13th OP of ‘Bleach’ also boasted this syndrome, but that was the thirteenth opening as opposed to this, the first of a series. Like, Christ! Why?! And the line up of them is impressive enough, as they jump to the screen in front of that face mountain thing.
Gravity Well-SawanoHiroyuki ft. Tielle & Gemie: Re:Creators: Certainly an entry which sought to encapsulate as much about the series it came from as it could, which perhaps explains why it became one of the most popular of the year. Featuring shots of each of the characters placed against backgrounds of the worlds they came from before being flung into ours. This is placed alongside some standard action scenes, including the presence of Magical Girl Mamika which actually doesn’t spoil the imagistic consistency with its pinklaiden backdrop, but instead blends well into the rushes of the chorus. But the main strength of the OP is the symbolism revolving around Altair and the secret held by the main character conveyed through empty glasses and final shot of the desert landscape, which makes for an extremely powerful image even without knowing what it implies.
Morning Glory-(K)NoW_NAME: Sakura Quest: Certainly among the most charming OPs of the year is this narrative driven OP which displays a working day in the lives of it’s young adult protagonists. The bouncy and perky track complements the activities on screen, with Yoshino’s broom work tapping along to the melody, all making for a lovely opening for this Slice of Life/Coming of Age series.
Ima Koko-Nao Tuyama: Tsuki ga Kirei: Sweetness is a phrase which doesn’t even begin to do this OP justice, as the flashes into the lives of the adolescent lovers is certain to provide total diabetes to the viewer. Of course, that alone wouldn’t necessarily be enough to place it in these mentions, as the assortment of clips may at times feel more like a standard AMV than an official OP. Where it became great was in episode 7 onwards, after the two grew more comfortable being open about their relationship, the chorus which had previously been supplanted with a blurry and vague live action footage of a performance theatre, was replaced by a fully animated version of the performance (which would of course become a key point in the narrative), giving the OP a whole new meaning and additionally provides the strongest bit of animation in the OP to convey the individual lives of these two extra-cute protagonists.
Blow out-Konomi Suzuki: Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor: Did you just see how well those still images of characters popped into the screen in a way that didn’t feel lazily done due to how well their appearance synchronised with the fast paced metal beat of the music. Oh, and something about effective humorous imagery and action scenes blended well similar to ‘Gintama’, but yeah that use of still shots was effective unlike in the first opening of ‘Guilty Crown’ where still shots spoil the visual fluidity of the piece, which I only decided to bring up to ruin everyone’s notion of how that OP is perfect.
LET iT END-SiM: Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Souls: Speaking of Metal, this is an OP which is absolutely Metal in how it seeks to create a gigantic and thundering chorus blending low-pitch shrieks, distorted double-track and choir like vocals, and the constantly fast instrumentation which fits the Western Fantasy vibe, along with the distorting colours of red, black, and ash white displaying a grim and action packed setting.
Sacrifice-9mm Parabellum Bullet: Berserk: Next in our section of Metal based action OPs is the opening for the ultimate Metal Album Art series, ‘Berserk’. Starting off with a heavenly choir of electric guitars in unison as the scorching sun rises across the fields, we place eyes upon animation which many say should have been the animation for the main series. I’m not sure if I would be inclined to agree, since part of the strength of ‘Berserk’ is its hyper detailed art style which is part of why it’s so hard to adapt into Anime, so I’m not entirely sure if the pale drawn character art would do much service to the source material, but it does at least get the job done of looking tolerable enough for a panoramic view action sequence. Where it does excel expectations however, is the always powerful reverse symmetry between the white and elegant Griffith, and the dark and brooding Guts. Revealed here through a zoom on the former cutting to an impressive zoom out of the latter, the shot of the Black Swordsman himself standing alone with his sword in the dark is undoubtedly the closest the series has come to matching the tone of the Manga and prepares us to witness something truly spectacular before the actual Anime starts and lets us down from the very first vomit inducing CGI frame.
Shinzo wo Sasageyo-Linked Horizon: Attack on Titan: Concluding the round of Metal based action OPs is of course the signature band of that description, Linked Horizon. Delivering on all the bombastic mix of metal and choir sounds to match the epic, over the top style of the series. Some might say that the OP is too similar to its predecessors, and admittedly this is what I thought when I first witnessed it, but it is distinguished by a few things. First and foremost is the fact that it presents the greatest alternation between loud and quiet out of the trilogy of OPs thus far, and my favourite part of it is the lone shot of the father holding the baby’s hand. This moment of quiet accompanied by an acapella choir is something that hasn’t been done in the previous OPs, and hints at a theme which didn’t actually get expanded upon in the actual season, but it did give us shots of dinosaurs and giant animals to accompany the Titans taking their place as the dominant species, so that’s fun.
Peace Sign-Yonezu Kenshi: My Hero Academia: It would perhaps be a sin to not include the most popular OP of the season here. Coming immediately after he broke through with the excellent ED for ‘March comes in like a Lion’, newcomer Yonezu Kenshi displayed his prowess with inspiring anthems in an OP which perfectly fits the tournament arc. It certainly does more so than Porno Graffiti’s tonally confused track that alternated so frequently between awkwardly stilted minimal piano piece and overblown chorus which still fails to convey a sense of power from last year. And all the happy faces on everyone and exercise montage sequences in the beginning, as well as the extremely well animated shot of All Might leaping through the city skyline helps to bring the OP to life.
Winner: Nasugamama, Sawagumama-milktub: The Eccentric Family
This being the winner against the big Shounen OPs is what I mean when I say my picks are “different”. I certainly haven’t seen as much praise for this OP as it deserves, even among many fellow fans of this wonderful series, which is bizarre to me because it so perfectly encapsulates even wonderful about ‘The Eccentric Family’. Right from that first shot of a lone Yasaburo standing against a morbid grey sky which serves as the aesthetic of choice for an OP which indicates at how this season will touch on the darker elements of the series, but much like the series it never lets this aspect overpower it as the enter the perspective of Yasaburo’s camera through which we see an assortment of effects trickery courtesy of PA Works constant willingness for visual experimentation giving the, the right to describe themselves as “Progressive”. The use of 3D stop-motion photography animation, CGI rising lampposts, and the always effective use of credit integration through it’s vertical-rotational movement alongside the speeding fisheye lens view of the road in the chorus, as well as credits which cast shadows onto the floor.
While many of the characters are presented from what is are obviously clips from the first season injected onto the screen, they’re integrated so well that to dismiss it as “lazy” (my least favourite word when used in a critical context in existence) would be to miss the point, the purpose of them is to provide a sense of nostalgia after the series’ four year absence but also to provide a sense of business to the otherwise empty Kyoto streets, which here make for a delightful image so busy that every time I watch it I always find small details in the background and even the foreground that I missed before, such as Yasaburo in a miniskirt running on top of that fisheye view. The new imagery we get is a celebration of everything that is ‘The Eccentric Family’. All the wackiness and mystique and beautiful Benten flying through the sky brings a moment of wonder to me. And it isn’t just self indulgence which begets my enjoyment, as the photography element of the OP is used effectively towards the end to highlight the three major parental figures in his life.
When the Summer season rolled in with what looked like a promising lineup, the OPs this season proved to be lesser than anticipated, with an overload of simple OPs with only a handful of standouts. That’s not to say certain OPs didn’t stand out for different reasons; ‘Fox Spirit Matchmaker’ for example presented an extremely hilarious mismatch of song and visuals with the most melancholic and outright beautiful song they could have picked being played over action scenes and clips which don’t even attempt to synchronise with said music. It’s hilarious honestly! ‘A Centaur’s Life’s best animation was placed firmly into the OP, and was used mainly for the purposes of an embarrassing fan-service romp which only fits the series as much as anything could for something which put so little thought into the cohesion of its tone. Spring leftovers ended up getting lesser followups to their OPs, and while I actually like the music to ‘Sakura Quest’s second OP, the visuals do feel very half-made. I did like the second OP to ‘Virgin Souls’ at first, until I mentally associated it with the general decline in quality the series itself saw this season. Additionally, we got quite a few beatbox songs as OPs, none of which I’ll put here because they sound like audio garbage (Hitorijime my Hero being the only OP this year I actively skipped). I suppose finally, I should mention ‘Welcome to the Ballroom’ which will not be on this selection for no better reason than I didn’t find the OP particularly investing for some reason. Anyway.
Deal with the Devil-Tia: Kakegurui: Directed by Sayo Yamamoto, this OP for the “crazy lesbians gamblers doing crazy lesbian gambling things” Anime serves as a display for her main trademark as a director, her intense infatuation with the human form in all its detail, creating easily the sexiest OP of the year. Filled with domination, self sex, and highly defined legs in tights, which through Yamamoto’s lens feel genuinely sexy rather than crude or exploitative. Tia’s orgasmic vocals delighting in the torture unfolding on screen only serve to accentuate this.
Trip Trip Trip-ORESAMA: Magical Circle Guru Guru: This OP has a childlike innocence which fits the tone of ‘Guru Guru’ to a Tee. The fast animation rolling with each of the side characters is impressive but also lead me to question how this smaller children’s series by the same studio looks better than ‘Welcome to the Ballroom’. The bright colours and overall sweetness of the main couple shine throughout and give it such wholesome feels.
Symphogear Axis: As the only person among my associates who has yet to jump aboard the ‘Symphogear’ hype train, some of the imagery does look confusing and at times something like what an Anime hater would show to outsiders to give them an impression of how ridiculous Anime is, with its bizarre combination of giant robot fights and exploding love heart bombs. But on the other hand, those are the coolest combination of things you can find.
shOut-SawanoHiroyuki ft. Tielle & Gemie: Re:Creators: While many leftovers, as said before, ended up letting down with their follow up OPs, ‘Re:Creators’ managed to create an OP which surpassed its original by instilling a more epic vibe and greater emphasis on fight scenes while keeping the visual focus on Altair’s story intriguing, with meaning added to it through our applied knowledge of the situation, making her reaching out for her past creator provide a more emotional core to the OP. That said, I wouldn’t say it’s quite the OP of the year like many others have dubbed it, due to a) the stillshots of the new characters, while necessary, do spoil the flow and b) that “Rock/Rock/Rock” in the chorus just sounds silly to me.
One in a Million-Wake Up, May’n!: Restaurant to Another World: The loud and out happiness of this OP feels so lovely in a world where many OPs for fantasy series and even food porn series feel the need to take themselves so seriously. This OP, displaying many a lovely location in the world of the series, and each side character who are main characters in their respective episodes gets the chance to display their happiness at the feast ahead.
BUTTERFLY EFFECTOR-TRUE: Hina Logi: From Luck & Logic: Because why not have a whole OP made out of stop-motion paper-cuts?
Red Doors-TeddyLoid ft. Yoshikazu Mera: 18if: Although the CGI cubes end up having a visually homogenous feel to them after a while, the atmosphere of this EDM track is undeniable.
STEP by STEP UP-fourfolium: New Game!!: The scene where all the girls sing along to the song is so vitally important!
Sora ni Utaeba-amazarashi: My Hero Academia: Hey look at that, first OP. It is actually possible to effectively make a more serious toned Shounen OP for BNHA which manages to feel legitimately epic and dramatic without coming across as overbearing and tonally confused! Who knew?!
Dakara Boku wa Boku wo Tabanasu-WEAVER: Sakurada Reset: Proof that not all of these selections are biased towards series that I watched, the use of white lights polishing the environment to the emotional beats of the track in this OP gives it an intensely polished feel.
Dark Cherry Mystery-Ougi Oshino (Kaori Mizuhashi): Owarimonogatari: Despite the perfection of ‘Owarimonogatari Season 2’, one of the few gripes I had with it was how simple/minimal the OPs felt compared to previous seasons. That isn’t to say any of them are bad, Mayoi Hell’s OP is certainly brings an instant sense of joy to my face, though it’s hard to tell if that’s just because of Mayoi returning to the series. More recently, the Blu Ray for the series gave Hitagi Rendevouz an excellent OP which perfectly illustrated the sweetness of that Arc. But I would still have to say Ougi Dark had the best OP of the bunch. I mean, it’s no Mathemagic, but Ougi’s dance in the dark is a work of art in itself against the funky minimalism of this track. And as a final OP for the series, it is satisfying enough.
Deep in Abyss-Mariya Ise & Miyu Tomita: Made in Abyss: This deceptively bright and cheery OP for one of the best series of the year begins with a descending Piano spill which makes the viewer feel like they’re descending directly into the Abyss. From that we get happy images of Rem and Riko being cute together, followed by close-up shots of the compass reflecting light, as well as quick shots of the characters who pop up as the series progresses, hinting at the darker elements of the series. And the jingling bell that begins the episodes after it is super effective too!
Hikari Tatsu Ame-Soma Saito: Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu: Not much to say about this one other than how impressive ufotable’s fight scenes continue to be.
Eiyuu Unmei no Uta-EGOIST: Fate/Apocrypha: In the toss up between this and what would be my number 1 of the Season, I chose to leave this one out because it did seem to blend in with other OPs this season, robbing it of it’s own unique identity ever so slightly. Though it did still stand out significantly through it’s alternating thundering choruses and a hauntingly beautiful lullaby melody which gradually builds and builds. This combined with some truly atmospheric imagery manages to make for an exciting OP, and one that stands out even among those of its franchise.
Winner: The Other side of the Wall-Void_Chords ft. MARU: Princess Principal
Ask me another time and this choice may be different, and while ‘Fate/Apocrypha’ may have grabbed my attention more with its atmosphere, the opening notes to ‘Princess Principal’ in all its chaotic glory made for an instant call that I was watching a delightfully over the top romp, and indeed something I wasn’t quite expecting to be as good as it turned out. With MARU’s vocals appropriately emulating the sound of an old James Bond theme, working well with the British Spy concept of the series naturally, this OP is pure energy through and through. With the use of darkened lighting perfectly conveying the more serious side in near perfect conjunction with the character introductions of the main girls displaying the more light hearted side, coming to cohesion through the car leaping through the sky and ejecting them into their defined poses, conveying immense personality into each of them.
Coming at the end of the year, this was possibly the weakest OP wise season. At least, this is what I should feel from the fact it doesn’t have as many OPs that impress me, but at the same time I can’t quite think of any that I actively dislike. In fact, I found this one had the greatest number of considerations for the list, which I’ll discuss like before. ‘Fox Spirit Matchmaker’ went for a more decisively serious tone with it’s second OP, which while objectively a good OP does rob it of that unintentional hilarity which made the first one stand out. For unintentional hilarity, look no further than the self serious ‘Ousama Game’, which is so overblown in it’s desperate attempt to look edgy that it sort of makes you cry until you see stock Yandere character#8672 tilt her head, eyes dilated as the metal chorus of “This is the End, This is the End” yells in what is meant to be the beginning but never mind. The second OP of ‘Boruto’ was a little chipper for my taste, while ‘One Piece’s 20th OP does feel a little depressing, not because of the song, but because they’re still doing that needless 2.5 minute thing to continue holding off on Luffy and the Gang actually making it to that titular treasure. ‘Fate/Apocrypha’s second OP was just a fairly standard LISA OP with little noteworthy. Finally, both ‘Osomatsu’ and ‘Shokegeki no Soma’ released new seasons (which I have yet to see due to completing the first season of both much later than I had anticipated), but those OPs did feel like treading old ground for their respective series.
Here-JUNNA: The Ancient Magus Bride: Just barely making its way into the mentions is the most popular OP of the season. The reason being that, while I do think the song is extremely lovely, the visuals feel incredibly uninspired. Like, the whole black background and constant succession of shots focusing on Chise get redundant very quickly, and having frequent movement doesn’t change that no matter how well animated it is. And the final 20 seconds consist of a clip show which while getting recognition from when said clips appear in the series, fails to add anything significant. But again, the song is nice at least.
Invisible Sensation-Unison Square Garden: Welcome to the Ballroom: This OP ups the drama to a significant degree, which helps it to give more of an immediate pull than the first. Most significantly, the song is actually exciting enough to make the viewer want to get up and dance. Dance in the rain more specifically, which is significantly less exciting than portrayed in the OP.
fake town baby-Unison Square Garden: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond: Might as well get the other great Unison Square Garden track out of the way. Between these songs and the fact they’re going to be doing the next OP for ‘March comes in like a Lion’ next Winter, this was indeed an excellent year for them, and their return to ‘Kekkai Sensen’ brought with it an appropriate amount of energy and excitement for the exciting Anime ahead. While it’s no ‘Hello World’, it still makes up for the less intricate symbolism with basic action, just like the second season itself.
akairo-Civillian: Altair: Record of Battles: This one simply deserves commendation for achieving the near impossible task of actually making ‘Altair’ look even remotely exciting (trust me, it’s not), with those thundering rock guitars maintaining a constant sense of suspense, and a lovely introduction via broken sandglass.
Haruka Mirai-Kankaku Pierro: Black Clover: Utilising that book imagery from ‘Chain Chronicle’, this OP is a visual excitement with its eclectic use of 3D spaces to create some truly wonderful cinematic pieces all for the simple purpose of showcasing its characters, with some impressive rain effects and colour illustrations to boot, as well as the diverse settings we take along the way.
Aiokotoba-GARNiDELIA: Animegataris: Perhaps not something that should qualify for this due to its beatbox style, something which usually puts me off. But this one has the font of the title bounce along with the beat so well, and with the DJ cat joining along for the fun. The bright and happy colourful visuals add to the fun vibe of the song, and having our main character run away from an assortment of cartoon characters is… You know, why am I describing anything other than MARiA’s beautiful voice. That’s the real star of the show here, displaying her incredible prowess to work within many different genres, her ability to go high and heavy within such a short amount of time, and it’s just something I’m always so in love with.
Saturday Night Question-Megumi Najahima: Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Something Something bright and colourful, I have to complete this sorry. Looks good in HD and those computer sound effects are fun.
over and over-Nagi Yanagi: Just Because!: Among the more emotionally charged OPs of the year, this OP fully encapsulates the frustrations of youth that the series focuses on so. The intricate animation of the series is also in full display here, perfectly bringing to life the emotions of the characters, as well as the wind blowing in their faces crosscutting after the throwing baseball shot which makes the viewer feel cold along with the combination to the series’ Winter aesthetic.
Ryuusei Dance Floor-ORESAMA: Magical Circle Guru Guru: Wasn’t expecting the follow up to the cute and fluffy first OP of this cute series to have such a funky disco beat to it, but it complements the rapid succession of multiple characters which never creates any moments of awkward visual overload within the sequence well.
Rapture-Panorama Panama Town: Juuni Taisen: A song which starts with a slow build up of confident guitar work which leads into a display of coolness which doesn’t have to rely on action to sell the series, instead focusing on the individual aesthetics of each character under a glamorous glitter light alongside details such as the entire city being turned upside down by their presence.
Flag wo Tatero-YUKI: March comes in like a Lion: Coming back to the exquisite combination of YUKI and ‘March comes in like a Lion’ comes an OP less dramatic than the Winter entry but no less beautiful. Reflective images such as glass and water play a big part in that, but the OP also effectively uses bright lighting to display the positive changes that his new family has brought to Rei’s life. Ironic considering the dark arc that this portion of the series covers.
My Hero-MAN WITH A MISSION: Inuyashiki: The number one of the year for those with more of a tolerance for MAN WITH A MISSION’s vocals than me, so basically everyone besides me (I’m just using this whole article to dispel with my many an OP related hot take aren’t I). But one would be hard pressed to find a more hype OP this season. When it starts with an entire city growing out of a character’s back, and has that be its build up to even crazier imagery, you know it’s going to be wild. With its effective implementation of the Cyborg imagery of the series being used to create whole landscapes and use of ball metaphors to represent the cat and mouse game at play, as well as its effective blend of CGI and handdrawn imagery making for one of the most action packed OPs of the whole year.
Kyoumen no Nami-YURiKA: Land of the Lustrous: Fitting that such a unique Anime would get such a unique OP. This one doesn’t exist to “hype up” it’s audience so much as it exists to acclimate them into the world of the series, one which genuinely feels alien and original as opposed to so many other Sci-Fi stories. The quiet Math Rock sound of the track complements the gorgeous CGI crystal imagery perfectly, almost positioning the viewer somehow into the position of the characters who awaken throughout the sequence.
Here and There-Nagi Yanagi: Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World: The Animated Series: When I first heard the techno beats of this song in the previews, I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t think it would fit with ‘Kino’s Journey’ at all. I have grown used to them the more I’ve listened though, and techno can indeed be appropriately calm and relaxing. But more than relaxing, this OP is appropriately beautiful, as the production values have been placed wisely to deliver some truly gorgeous imagery to demonstrate Kino’s beautiful world. All the transparent imagery looks impressive as hell and the subtle hints to the main character’s past is only the icing on the cake.
Winner: Ugoku Ugoku-Inori Minase & Yurika Kubo: Girls Last Tour
Although perhaps an odd choice for best of the season, ‘Girls Last Tour’ is without a doubt the most immensely likeable OP of the Fall. Just the mere presence of Chiito and Yuuri is enough to instantly make it good, but the addition of simplistic imagery which doesn’t clash with the more serious greys of the series, but instead complements it’s minimalism. With large circles representing the circling world they travel, the deceptively small OP is much bigger in its intentions. This combined with a song which builds up slowly to a satisfying and fun chorus which comes complete with their synchronised dance and yes, the dab that caught everyone’s attention, all makes this OP a true standout.
And after all that overwriting which eventually caused this idea to fall apart as an idea for a whole 12 Days, I’ll now reveal which of the four openings which made the best of their season is the best of the year as a whole:
Between Shadow and Truth by ONE III NOTES from ‘ACCA: 13 Territory Inspect Dep.’, Nasugamama, Sawagumama by milktub from ‘The Eccentric Family’, The Other side of the Wall by Void_Chords from ‘Princess Principal’, and Ugoku Ugoku from ‘Girls Last Tour’, the winner in that competition, even with some of the difficulties I had in picking each of those titles in their respective seasons, the choice was actually quite easy for me:
Shadow and Truth-ONE III NOTES: ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Department
Through all the twelve months, this OP held its strength against them all through sheer force of cool. Through those already discussed colour shifts which offer such wondrous gazes into the lovely world of the series and all its tribute to daily life which just happens to be through the lens of an inspective department who really enjoy their cakes. I didn’t even mention things like how much the white smoke which appears throughout complements the scenery, formulating from the cigarette smoke and the pure white clouds. Each one feeling like a pure white drop of sugar sweetness onto an already delectable OP. By this point I’ve probably conveyed how effective the entire aesthetic of this OP is, and because I can’t gain much by contributing to my extensive habit of overwriting everything I’ll stop now.
Top 10 of the whole year:
- March comes in like a Lion OP2
- Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
- The Eccentric Family 2
- Girls Last Tour
- Twin Star Exorcists OP4
- My Hero Academia 2 OP1
- Land of the Lustrous
- Attack on Titan 2 OP
- March comes in like a Lion 2 OP1