Editor’s Choice: Top Five Anime OPs!

Editor’s Choice: Top Five Anime OPs!

Anime opening themes: the one minute and thirty seconds that a show has to capture your attention and get you invested in the coming story by showing off its characters, themes and world. Over several decades of anime history, opening themes, or OPs for short, have become their own sort of art form. Is a particular OP one you always skip, or watch no matter how many times you see it? What OPs have memetically transcended their source material and become earworms for those who don’t even know what the show is? Furthermore, it’s hard to understate the influence of anime OPs on the popularization of Japanese music to Western audiences. A whole generation (Nagi very much included) were exposed to many bands and genres that they would never have heard otherwise, and in some cases spawned a lifelong love for J-pop and J-rock, even beyond the groups that got the lucrative spotlight.

So here we have Nagi, Erin and special guest Eve (returning from our earlier Tales of OP countdown) sorting through our top five favorite anime OPs. Is your nostalgia the same as ours, or do you think our tastes are shit and we know nothing about good music? Be sure to let us know and increase our algorithmic engagement metrics!


Erin’s Top 5 Picks

YURiKA – Kyoumen no Nami

“鏡面の波” (Kyoumen no Nami, “The Waves on the Mirror’s Surface”), is the opening song to the anime Land of the Lustrous. Its atmospheric tone synchronizes perfectly to the resonance of the anime, and fits seamlessly into the kind of music that I love. After binging all of Land of the Lustrous and loving the anime, I was surprised to find out that YURiKA had only debuted that same year in 2017 after competing in some anime singing competitions previously, and she was only in her early 20s. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to YURiKA’s projects as much as I have been hoping for season two of Land of the Lustrous! There’s also a great trombone cover of this song that is super good: https://youtu.be/Qk3kmfgov90


Utada Hikaru – Pink Blood

The first time I listened to “Pink Blood” was while listening to Utada Hikaru’s 2022 album, Bad Mode. Even though I had listened to this track multiple times before, it wasn’t until listening to the song as the opening to the anime To Your Eternity, that I truly appreciated the song to the fullest extent. I can’t imagine a more perfect song to go with To Your Eternity, and this song even pops up in my head while I’m watching other anime now. “Pink Blood” proves again that Utada is the authority on creating a melancholic and thoughtful atmosphere which has contributed to their exemplary retrospective of theme songs.


Galileo Galilei – Aoi Shiori

Galileo Galilei has been a long time favorite of mine, and I was very excited to hear them do the theme song for Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. “Aoi Shiori” is a song that’s found a place in my heart, and I’ve always found myself coming back to it again and again. This song is filled to the brim with nostalgia and pretty vocals, both from the main vocalist as well as the supporting vocals in the chorus. Unexpectedly, the band recently came off hiatus in 2022, and this song was even featured on THE FIRST TAKE with the vocalist who voiced the main character in Anohana on the chorus. Check it out here (with English subtitles as well): https://youtu.be/tgFePudZU8k

Kenshi Yonezu – Peace Sign

Yonezu Kenshi 米津玄師 is at the top of the Japanese music scene for a very good reason. “ピースサイン” (“Peace Sign”) is the theme song for the second season of the anime My Hero Academia, and the song holds within it a palpable sense of hope and courage. After hearing this song, I was inspired to go out and listen to BOOTLEG, the album that was available to listen to on Spotify at the time, and I was definitely not disappointed in Kenshi Yonezu’s artistry.

Devilman Crybaby – Devilman No Uta

When I was picking songs for this list, “Devilman No Uta” kept getting stuck in my head and I just had to put it as one of my favorites. This song technically isn’t the theme song to the 2018 Devilman Crybaby series, but it is a remake of the 1972 original theme song that was included in the 2018 series. This composition by Kensuke Ushio hits hard with its synth instrumentals as well as with vocals from Avu-chan アヴちゃん, the voice actress for the character Devil King Zenon in the 2018 series, as well as lead vocalist in the band Queen Bee. I’ve been following Queen Bee for years since finding the theme song “Fire” from the anime Dororo (which I’ve never actually seen), and Avu-chan’s vocals are truly out of this world. “Devilman No Uta” is also so catchy and there are a lot of covers out there that are very good as well!

Honorable Mention: Bôa – Duvet

To be honest, “Duvet” is my favorite song from an anime opening, but I decided to add it as an honorable mention because this song is by an English band called Bôa (not to be confused with the South Korean singer BoA). I wanted to stick with music by Japanese artists for my favorites, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this song since it’s been a favorite of mine ever since I saw Serial Experiments Lain sometime around 2004 or so. I’m also excited to see the band releasing new music soon after not releasing much since their last album in 2005.


Eve’s Top 5 Picks

Bump of Chicken – Karma

Hello fans. You may remember me from last year’s popular post Let’s Rate all of the Tales of series Opening Songs! when I tripped over myself to shower praise of Karma, Bump of Chicken’s masterpiece opening for the video games Tales of the Abyss. Well, they kept it as the opening for the anime adaptation as well. How could they not? I can fall asleep to this song, dance to it, work-out to it… It’s an all purpose bop and I have returned to remind you of this fact and also list some other songs.


Mili – Rightfully

The opening for Goblin Slayer, I love the implementation of string instruments to bring forth a song that channels both emotional melancholy and cold hearted vengeance. The mix in tempo and style between verses keeps me engaged through the entire song. I also appreciate the english lyrics so I more easily absorb the meaning of the song. I like songs that bring  forth powerful imagery, while keeping the style of the song dynamic throughout.


YURiKA  – Kyoumen no Nami

When Erin and I sat down to watch Land of the Lustrous, we weren’t expecting to be absolutely blown away by both the opening song AND the anime itself. This song is definitely one of the more unique songs I’ve heard, and I love how Yurika coalesces the discordant notes into a connected theme; it goes better with headphones so you can really feel the effects of the discordance coming together. This song masterfully evokes feelings of raw emotion, and is an absolute perfect pairing of opening and anime.


Yoko Takahashi – Cruel Angel’s Thesis

I practically don’t need to introduce this opening from Evangelion, because it’s so iconic. If you somehow wormed your way to this section of this blogpost and haven’t heard this song, do yourself a favor and watch Evangelion then come on back. It’s a song where you feel like you can rock out, and also be connected to something greater and deeper about the universe. It’s hard not to appreciate that.


Kalafina – Heavenly Blue

Aldnoah Zero is by far the worst anime on this list, but the opening of each episode seemed to delay that realization for me. As I mentioned above, I love the contrast from the crisp and monotonic pre-chorus into the smoother and lighter chorus. With a grandiose instrumental to backup the legendary vocals, this song evokes a world-spanning theme that sends me to another time and place. Although I love this song, it’s really the first three minutes, as the dynamic alterations fall out in favor of a much longer end. I tend to get bored with slower music after a bit, but I still recommend this fantastic song.


Honorable Mention: Shawn Conrad – The One Piece Rap

This is a creative and iconic rap that introduces and explains not only the world, but also the characters and their party roles in a mere minute and a half; all to an excellent beat. It’s a masterpiece.


Nagi’s Top 5 Picks

Okui Masami -Rinbu Revolution

Like, what can you even say. Sometimes an anime gets it right the first time. 10/10, no notes. Masami Okui’s confident, resounding vocals paired with the dreamlike synth progressions that created so much of the 90’s anime identity makes for an opening that tells you almost nothing of what Utena’s about, yet manages to capture the vibe perfectly. Rinbu Revolution along with Cruel Angel’s Thesis are easy noms for Most Classic Anime OP of All Time list, with Megalovania levels of recognition within a couple opening notes. Most of the Utena soundtracks are quite hard to find, but incredibly worth it for their unique choral industrial motif tracks.


Hirasawa Susumu – The Girl in Byakkoya

When people think of the Paprika opening, they generally think of Satoshi Kon first, an incredible director in his own right and half the reason this OP sequence is stunning, but the musical artist Hirasawa Susumu should also be properly credited. The song’s plucky, rapid rhythm holds the more esoteric elements together, allowing the dreamlike synth and vocal layers to send you flying through space after the titular character. Nothing else I’ve seen has better captured the feeling of freely flying around at night like a ghost, observing all and going where you will, but never observed in kind. Berserk and Paranoia Agent host more of Hirasawa’s signature sounds, and are thoroughly enriched by them.


Bana – Shell

Witch Hunter Robin’s solitary OP is a mix of mournful vocals, dusty acoustic strumming and a lead guitar that brings home the show’s themes of loneliness, betrayed trust, and finding your way in a hostile world. What’s wild to me is that this and the show’s ED are, as far as I can tell, the only solo work of Takayanagi Chino (alias Bana), who otherwise sticks to commercial jingles and backup choral work for various Hello! Project groups like Morning Musume. Based on these two songs alone, I’d have loved to see what else she could have done with a solo career.


Orange Range – Asterisk

I had such a hard time choosing only one Bleach opening. It was an absolute dead heat between this and Ranbu no Melody, but in the end, if I’m judging based on the OP separate from the context of the show itself, I don’t think Asterisk is possible to beat. Is it nostalgia bait? Hell yes, and what of it. This smooth-flowing rap-rock single is so emblematic of the 00’s anime vibe that even 20 years later it takes only a few notes or words to trigger a generation of millennials like sleeper agents. That being said, all the bleach songs deserve a beat-down in a separate article.


Someone Else – WORKING!! (Asumi Kana, Fujita Saki, Kitamura Eri)

(God how is this show ten years old already.) The first OP of the romantic-comedy workplace anime WORKING!! is one of those examples where the opening song is maybe the best part of the show. Definitely never-skip status. It delivers on everything the genre asks for; a super-charming, upbeat melody with a bit of ska swing, the characters actively singing parts of the song in the visual, and the song itself performed by three of the lead VAs. There’s absolutely nothing groundbreaking about it and it’s been done hundreds of times before and since, but sometimes you just gotta appreciate the immaculate execution.

YouTube Playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3ak6RpCfPejxMmWPAO647LK0jILBmsD3

Spotify Playlist: https://spotify.link/loGKl6n4KBb