Everyone else has made one of these lists, so I thought I should as well. Also, I’m working overtime this week and weekend, so I didn’t have time to play enough of a game to write about in a meaningful way. However, I was stuck in my car for several hours this week cumulatively, during which I listened to a lot of old favorites and classics I hadn’t put on for a while. If there’s one good thing about shitty traffic, it’s the excuse to just sit for a while and listen to music.
Note: I’m not talking about the anime OPs themselves, though I could certainly make a favorites list of those as well. I’m only talking about the songs featured in said OPs. They’re placed here in no particular order, as usual. I’m really not good at ranking stuff if you couldn’t tell already. There are also quite a few great opening themes that I’m not even bringing up because if I did, this list would be too damn long.
7) Hito Toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru by Kenji Ohtsuki & Zetsubou Shoujotachi – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
People feel so strongly about which opening song of the neurotic comedy series Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is the best that they get into internet fights about it. I think they’re all good, but my vote goes to the first season opening song, also known simply as “bure bure” for that repetitive line in the song’s chorus. Singer Kenji Ohtsuki gives the song an especially sharp edge that makes sense, given that he seems to be representing the obsessive, depressive teacher protagonist Itoshiki complaining about how twisted of a man he is.
I also love the fact that the other characters from the show, all students in his homeroom class, are in-character background singers (they’re the ones credited as the “Zetsubou girls”.) This is simply a great song and an appropriate opening to a great show that I still find hard to watch because it reminds me too much of my own neurotic obsessions and fears. Same with Curb Your Enthusiasm. I know it’s good but I just can’t.
6) Katayoku no Tori by Akiko Shikata – Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Okay, just to be clear: the Umineko anime series absolutely sucks and you should not watch it. By all means play the visual novel series, but don’t watch the anime. Studio Deen just completely, utterly fucked the story in the transition to TV. However, one thing they did manage to get right was the music. Umineko has a fantastic soundtrack, and not only did Deen make good use of it in the adaptation, they even included a few songs unique to the show, including the opener “Katayoku no Tori” (“One-Winged Eagle”, a reference to the Ushiromiya family crest) written and sung by Akiko Shikata. I’ve mentioned Shikata already in my Ar tonelico II album review, and her work on the Umineko series is just as good. It’s bombastic and operatic, very fitting to open this supernatural murder mystery. Beatrice the Golden Witch would be proud. Too bad the show itself is crap.
5) Real World by Nano Ripe – Humanity Has Declined
Don’t be fooled by the happy pop sound of “Real World” or the pastel colors in the goofy-looking OP. Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita if you’re more familiar with that title) really is about the decline of humanity and the rise of the “new humanity”, the Keebler Elf-looking fairies who aren’t antagonists but just want to establish a good relationship with what’s left of our human race through a girl known only as “the mediator”. Unfortunately, this mediator ends up being put through a whole lot of shit thanks to her assignment that I can’t even really start to get into.
Humanity Has Declined is a dark comedy hidden in the shell of a light comedy, and “Real World” fits into that structure. It’s more the kind of song you’d expect from a “cute girls doing cute things” slice of life than a series about the fall of the human race. Very bright, energetic, and catchy, and weirdly enough it puts me in a better mood sometimes despite the theme of the show it’s attached to.
4) Tank! by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts – Cowboy Bebop
I can’t very well make a best OP song list without including “Tank!”, the aggressive jazz punch that opens every episode of Cowboy Bebop. I don’t have a whole lot to say about “Tank!” except that it’s amazing. Cowboy Bebop was the second “serious” anime series I ever saw – I stayed up late nights to watch it on Adult Swim long before the days of streaming video services – and the opening sequence knocked me over the first time I saw it. Yoko Kanno and her band the Seatbelts are collectively one of the reasons Cowboy Bebop holds up so well to this day, and large parts of all four of its soundtracks have a permanent place in my playlist.
3) Roundabout by Yes – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Agh – fine, fine, you got me. I’m cheating on this one. It’s not an opening but rather an ending song, specifically to the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. But I couldn’t resist putting “Roundabout” on this list, it’s such a deserving classic, and I didn’t feel like writing a separate list for ending themes, so here it is. Prog-rock progenitors Yes wrote “Roundabout” as the opener to their excellent 1972 album Fragile, but most of the internet now knows it as “that song that plays in the JoJo’s memes just before the ‘To Be Continued’ arrow flies in” thanks to its part in the series.
Well, it’s no surprise that a classic like “Roundabout” is part of JoJo’s – many of its characters are named after old rock and pop bands and songs, and series creator Hirohiko Araki himself was reportedly a fan of the song. Yeah, the lyrics are insane (sample: in and around the lake / mountains come out of the sky and they stand there and no, these lines don’t make any more sense in the context of the song) but that’s just something you have to get used to when it comes to Yes. Anyway, “Roundabout” is great, though my favorite Yes song is still Starship Trooper, a song that seemingly has nothing to do with the Heinlein novel or anything else you could possibly imagine.
2) Nantoka Nare by Furuido – Mahjong Legend Akagi
There isn’t a song I’ve heard attached to an anime series that captures the idea of world-weariness better than “Nantoka Nare”. This is another early 70s classic, this time by Japanese folk-rockish band Furuido, who wrote and performed a whole lot of other songs that seem to say “sure, the world is fucked, but just keep on going anyway.” That’s more or less the message of this song, a truly powerful one with a lot of feeling behind it. The title character of Akagi is a gambler with a genius-level talent who is so self-assured, but also so willing to take risks that might end up getting him killed just for the sake of finding an even greater challenge, that other characters often think of him as more of a demon than a human. So maybe it’s weird to say that “Nantoka Nare”, which expresses such a human emotion, suits Akagi well as a theme, but somehow it just does.
1) Inner Universe by Yoko Kanno and Origa – Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
This is another obvious pick. “Inner Universe” fits the feel of Ghost in the Shell incredibly well, and the song is excellent even when it’s removed from that context. A lot of songwriters and performers trying to pull off a haunting, spine-chilling feel, but Yoko Kanno (again!) and Origa (a Russian-born singer who’s sadly no longer around) succeed at it, thanks largely to Origa’s vocals. I also just like songs that manage to use more than one language without sounding disjointed, which “Inner Universe” does with alternating lines in Russian, English, and Latin.
Feel free to share your favorite anime opening themes, or ending themes, or just your favorite music in general below. Or just share how your day was if you want. Why not? In the meantime, I hope to finish one of these games I’m working on soon, which is probably contingent on my getting any damn time off work in the near future. I’m not even eligible for extra overtime wages thanks to the professional exemption. Can you believe that shit? If I were in charge… but that’s a subject for a different post, and probably not one I’d ever write here. If you want to read my angry, bitter screeds, you’ll have to follow my other site. It’s sort of like the creepy basement to the two-story colonial brick house that this site is.
Okay, when my metaphors start to get this stupid I know it’s time to stop writing.