9. Ace Attorney – Opening 4 – “Reason”
That’s right, the famous courtroom game has an anime adaptation! The anime itself isn’t too bad– it unfortunately abandons some of the complexities you see in the original game and left out some of my favorite cases, but I guess that’s what we can expect from an adaptation. At the very least, they have their openings down pat. This opening is the 4th and last one of the series (at least, as it stands,) and it’s a real jam! The song reminds me a lot of the popular J-Pop I’ve heard, and I’ve honestly listened to it a few times during my morning runs. It’s such an energizer!
The visuals to this opening aren’t extremely exciting, though I suppose that’s to be expected from an anime about lawyers. There aren’t too many high-action scenes to include to make it really pop. They do well with what they have, however, and I really enjoy the coffee motif throughout this one, as well as the sneaky glances at Godot. It makes him seem like a very shady figure throughout the whole opening, which I love. I also like their rendering of Miles Edgeworth, the man in the red suit.
8. Naruto Shippuden – Opening 1 – “Hero’s Come Back”
For being one of my favorite series, Naruto has never really impressed me with their openings. They’re always very energetic and have some great animation, but most of the songs are subpar and sometimes even boring. “Hero’s Come Back” is by far my favorite. The rap is very original, flows well, and matches the more adult feeling of Shippuden versus the more pop-like songs we heard from the first season. Yura Yura? Give me a break.
One thing Naruto has also always done well is make subtle changes to their openings throughout the series as we learn more about the characters featured in them. This opening is during the “Gaara Retrieval” arc when we meet Deidara and Sasori, so the scene featuring those two characters changes a little bit as we go forward. At first, we see Sasori in his “Hiruko” form, but that changes as we learn his true face. It’s a subtle touch, but it makes a difference in the way we experience the openings.
7. D. Gray Man – Opening 3 – “Doubt and Trust”
Even after eight years, I still know all of the lyrics to this song! As far as music goes, I think this one is one of the best on the list. It really suits the overall mood of the anime, too. It’s gloomy but magical, which is one of the main appeals to the series for me. They help to push this idea by showing some of the more abstract scenes of the anime, but, unfortunately, the visuals fall a bit short for me.
D. Gray-Man’s animation has always been pretty good, even during the earlier episodes, but most of the scenes in this opening look like they’re copy-pasted from the material of the usual episode. It looks good, but I sometimes wish they had done something special with the animation instead of using the kind of scenes you’d expect to see. This series is steeped in religious imagery, so I think it would have been incredible to include some of that in this opening, especially when the lyrics have to do with light-and-dark. Give me some symbolism!
6. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Opening 1 – “Again”
What a banger! This song by YUI is well known by the anime community and is regarded as a great opening overall. The animation on this one is very simple and reminds me a lot of “Doubt and Trust,” but it seems to match the music a little bit better since the song is also fairly straightforward and starts slowly. The visuals do pick up when the music does, which is a great touch.
I enjoy the short scenes where they have the girls singing some of the lines and the fight scenes are pretty impressive as well, though the transitions are a little bit off-putting. It’s strange to have a peaceful scene directly after the fights while the song is still at a fast pace. Overall, however, I remember thinking that this opening was an effective beginning to a wonderful series and is a great song! It suits the anime and its variety of moods, which is one of the main goals of an effective opening.
5. Higurashi – Opening 1 – “When They Cry”
Higurashi was one of many series that followed an interesting trope: it looks very cutesy, but is actually quite violent and legitimately disturbing at times. Don’t get me started on the fingernail scene. If you’re familiar with Doki Doki Literature Club, you already have an idea of what you might see from Higurashi. And, if you watch the opening, you’ll definitely get that impression. The imagery they use is very pretty and sometimes a bit cutesy, but the song is so haunting that you know something more is going on. The flashes of violence certainly help, too!
This opening is very high-ranking on this list because I feel that the animation and cinematography compliment the music perfectly and give a distinct sort of vibe that prepares the viewer for what they’re about to see. As the first opening in the series, I was a bit surprised that they hit us with this sort of imagery right off the bat, but it felt more like foreshadowing than a spoiler. I knew something was going to go wrong, but I didn’t know how. It managed to add suspense, which is impressive for an opening.
4. Ayakashi – Opening 3 – “Heat Island”
This one might be a little niche, but if you watch it, you’ll see why it’s placed all the way at #4 on this list. For starters, the song is an absolute banger. The traditional shamisen mixed with aggressive Japanese rap gives a vibe that I haven’t been able to find in any other music, but I doubt anyone could do it as well as Rhymester. I think most anime would shy away from music like this, but Ayakashi is bold in everything it does.
Equally bold are those visuals! Ayakashi is a collection of horror stories set in ancient Japan, and this opening is dedicated to the story of the Kusuriuri (Japanese for “medicine seller”) who also happens to kill demons as a side-hustle. His story was so popular that it sparked the creation of a 12-episode sequel called Mononoke. Both Ayakashi and Mononoke are filled with trippy, colorful imagery that makes your head spin, so this opening did a great job of capturing that. It also really caught my interest when I first saw it. Try to tell me you don’t want to know more about the strange creatures and equally strange man you see in this opening!
3. Devilman Crybaby – “Man Human”
We go from the colorful Ayakashi opening right to the monochrome Devilman Crybaby opening, “Man Human.” This song is equally trippy, though! In fact, the only lyrics are the words “man” and “human,” spoken repetitively to a electronic beat. This gives it a very trance-like feeling that matches the series very well, even though the animation of this opening is quite different from the animation you’d see in the body of the episode.
What I like the most about this opening is its subtlety. When you first watch it during the first episode, you may be confused by a lot of imagery, such as the series of seemingly random Rorschach inkblots. As you continue watching, however, you’ll start to recognize the shapes of various demons in the inkblots, making this opening feel like a psychological test that you’re slowly failing (or maybe aceing?). It’s also full of Biblical allusions for those who know their theology. Showing Ryo is seven eyes is a brilliant reference to the Seven-Eyed Lamb of Revelation. And who’s that winged figure we see at the very end? The foreshadowing is perfect!
2. Attack on Titan – Opening 1 – “Guren no Yumiya”
Listen: I know this opening is a little bit of a meme, but it’s reached fame for a very good reason: It’s frankly amazing. I remember being so excited when I saw this opening for the first time! I always loved songs that include some type of choir, and I love that this one chants in German. It’s common to see songs that mix English and Japanese, such as “Reason” from #9 on this list, but the touch of German was an unexpected mix that makes this song feel very unique. Not only that, but it’s invigorating, empowering, and makes me want to hop to action!
The visuals of this opening are also incredible. Attack on Titan is a beautiful anime (well, as beautiful as a show about titans eating people can be), but this opening goes beyond the usual quality you’d see in the episodes. I love the use of color and desaturation, and how the colors get a little bit brighter as you watch. You’ll also notice some panels from the original manga, which I think is a great call-back and a recognition of where the show started. Although this opening doesn’t give you too much information about the plot, it effectively conveys the type of mood you can expect as you keep watching. You know it’s going to be heavy, action-packed, and a bit brutal!
1. Dororo – Opening 1 – “Kaen”
Finally, we’ve gotten to my favorite anime opening of all time. Dororo is a rendition of a very old manga from all the way back in 1969, and it follows the story of a young man who lost most of his body to demons and is fighting to get it back. The song reflects some of that history: although it’s very fresh and new, it features a few sounds you might expect from ancient Japanese music, giving the impression that it’s a remake and is set in ancient times. The visuals are also a bit desaturated with a few pops of color placed strategically to stand out. The scenes are timed well with the music, and I like that the climax is accompanied by a fight scene to help pick up the pace. And can we talk about those headless, flaming horses? Outstanding.
The vocalist of this piece is a trans woman named Ziyoou-vachi, who you might recognize from the soundtrack of Devilman Crybaby. She sung the famous “Devilman no Uta,” a remake of a classic theme song from the original Devilman. Ziyoou-vachi did an amazing job for Devilman, just as she did for Dororo. Those high-notes gave me chills when I first heard them, and when paired with the somewhat mysterious imagery of the opening, I knew this anime was going to be a unique experience.