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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Top 40 Favorite Anime Openings - The Top Ten!

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

10 - Happy Lesson (TV)

Sleepin' Johnny Fish
I just adore the song Telescopes.  It is a song that is full of life and the images in the intro are a perfect match for the song’s lively and cheery tone.  The very first image shows Chitose and his younger sister sharing a bike ride along to the music as the vocalizations smoothly chant over the guitar and synth, the drums and bass.  It’s a perfect shot for a breezy song.  Overall, this is a very well-composed opening from start to finish and the intro animations share with us the personalities of the various characters in the story.  This is another one of my favorites.

09 - R.O.D. the TV
"Theme of Read or Die"
Yet another instrumental opening.  The intro for Read or Die’s TV outing (another one of my all time favorite anime) is a jazzy series of animations cut between random pictures of a naked chick, carefully posed not to expose anything, covered with kanji which are (I’m sure though I haven’t confirmed this) the opening credits.  The song is memorable and funky, with lots of slick drum fills, bass lines and an awesome little brass riff.  The scenes that show characters from the show occasionally use camera tricks like Dutch Angles and tilting left and right that come together to give this intro an interesting feel a film noir in full color.  This one is great!

08 - K-on!
Cagayake! Girls"
Aki Toyosaki
The Opening K-on! establishes its show very well.  The girls are in a band.  Yep.  That’s the show.  The cheery pop song and images share with us the Light Music Club’s camaraderie.  Few intros present a friendship as well as this one.  This is also a very, very well-animated opening scene.  With characters playing their instruments convincingly, instead of just bouncing while swinging their arms randomly,making it easier to suspend disbelief that this is a story about a band and not just a piece of animation.  This is good stuff, even if you hate J-pop.

07 - Higurashi no Naka Koro ni
"Higurashi no Naka Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry)"
Eiko Shimamiya
For sheer intensity, I cannot think of an anime theme that compares to When the Cicadas Cry (or When They Cry, or whatever you might call it).  This is a truly, TRULY dark and gruesome show that is, itself, very intense and this intro creates a tension and sets a chilling tone very well.  The imagery is simple yet striking, mixing colorful kaleidoscope images with cuts that include a girl in a Kitsune mask and one covered in what is presumed to be someone else’s blood.  The song is haunting, filled with chants and a chord that is both disturbing and powerful.  The chord in question is the first one you hear in the song, and repeats with each refrain.  It conjures images of the traditional horror soundtracks that arguably started with Hitchcock’s screeching stabbing song from Psycho.  The bass line is fast, chaotic and powerful, setting the pace for the rest of the song.  The vocals are chilling and distorted with reverberation, delay and other filters that sound distant and almost ghost-like.

06 - Toradora!

"Pre-Parade"Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie
The opening song for Toradora!, Pre-Parade, is about as close to a millennial Euro-American club hit as I think anime music can really get, I think.  The intro is laced with mixed-messages.  The opening shot of the girl pulling up her stockings and then glaring at the camera makes me think of traditional spy films, or maybe stories of female assassins, but then we get all of these other queues to the show being a rom-com.  I have never seen Toradora! and when this was requested for the shortlist, I was surprised by how much I liked the intro, given my taste in music, which usually leans more towards the technical, imaginative, emotional or powerful.  This song really is none of those things.  It’s a pretty traditional club song, still the mix of character images, the song’s tone and the quality of the animation in the scene makes me love this one.

05 - Cowboy Bebop
The Seatbelts
TANK!  Okay.  So this show kicks ass.  Oh, yeah!  The intro... right.  There’s definitely some tribute paid to the cheesy and fun openings of the 007 films mixed with a slick jazz tune that gives this intro a slight 70’s vibe.  The editing is spot on, the animation is stunning and the whole thing is just fun to watch.  This short musical montague may just be one of the single greatest pieces of animation of all time.

04 - Eden of the East
"Falling Down"
This is another anime I just adore.  The show explores what happens when someone is given virtually unlimited power, and what they become after they explore their limits (or lack there of).
The intro is a great song by talented British rockers Oasis that flows with intro animations, matching the tech-obsessed plot of the show.  The characters are lost in a splash of synthetic nonsense, appearing as sort of a digital wasteland. I would also add that I do know there's a Japanese opening but the song is nowhere near as good, nor does it flow with the animation as well as this version.

03 - Cromartie High School
Takuro Yoshida
Define weird.  I mean... Really, really weird.  There are a lot of anime that have a... strangeness to them, but few come close to Cromartie High School.  This show is odd and the intro does the job of letting you know this right from the start.  Everything up to and including the kitchen sink is thrown on screen.  We see forty-year-old men in animal costumes, robots, gorillas and Freddie Mercury, all of which are prominently featured in the show at some point, some even have entire episodes devoted to them.  The song is perfectly out of place, sounding just right in a strange way.  This is another of my favorites.

02 - Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
"Sore ga, Ai Deshou? (Isn't That Love?)"
Mikuni Shimokawa
This intro ranks as my number one pick.  Sore ga ie Deshou? is such a beautiful song.  There are certain songs that just hit me the right way, and this one is one of them.  I don’t usually fall for the poppy, love song type but this song’s mood and chords just work for me.  The intro is full of fluid animation displaying essential characters as they prepare for their day and the soft light is that glimmers in various scenes is absolutely perfect for this song.  The last shot of a narrowly-framed Bonta-kun doll on a chest with a soft glow is both lonely and inviting.  This single still piece of art just may be my favorite single frame from any anime (EVAR!) and the song’s final few seconds begin this kinetic show with a scratch over a soft piano, the perfect blend of hyperactivity and a gentle touch of emotion, just like Full Metal Panic!

01 - Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
"Hit in the U.S.A."
Beat Crusaders
An intro is supposed to introduce you to a world and a small cast of characters quickly and there is arguably no intro that does it better than that of Beck.  The rock music, the band meeting, the tour bus, the sweeping American vistas blended with the comically-bad English of the lyrics.  Despite the funny Engrish in the song, it works and it sets the stage (so to speak) for a rocking character drama that is actually one of my all-time favorite Anime... ever.

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