Animé openings are always fascinating to me, they’re almost an artform in and of themselves. Sometimes they’re the usual character introduction segment; other times, they’re just plain weird. The best opening sequences are like great movie trailers; they offer a perfectly condensed version of everything that’s good and promising about the title in question, and immediately piqué your curiosity.
Here are ten of my favorite animé openings, listed in alphabetical order by series title.
Attack on Titan
If your animé series is about humanity’s last remnants battling for survival against naked, man-eating giants, then your opening sequence needs to go big or go home — and Attack on Titan definitely goes big. From Linked Horizon’s operatic metal theme (complete with lyrics like “You pigs who sneer at our will to step over corpses and march onwards” and “The humiliation of entrapment is our cue to counterattack”) to the blitzkrieg of action scenes (which accurately convey the series’ jaw-dropping battles), Attack on Titan’s opening is big, bombastic, and perfect.
Baccano!‘s opening does a couple of things really well. First, its swinging jazz theme hints at the series’ madcap energy. Second, it introduces you to all of the main characters, of which there are a lot. At first glance, Baccano! seems like it’s going to be a trainwreck, but it’s a testament to director Takahiro Omori and the rest of the staff that Baccano! — for most of its episodes, anyway — remains as fun, zany, and engaging as its opening sequence.
Not simply one of the greatest animé opening sequences, but one of the greatest opening sequences period, Cowboy Bebop’s opening bleeds cool every single second. The stylish artwork and animation are captivating enough, but the opening’s cornerstone is its theme song “Tank!” Composed by the inimitable Yoko Kanno and performed by her jazz band Seatbelts, “Tank!” is instantly memorable, and fills the opening sequence with enough verve and energy for a dozen series. And just for the record, Cowboy Bebop more than lives up to its opening’s promise.
If you were to go on its opening alone, you’d probably assume Death Parade was about some sort of bizarre dance competition. Nothing could be further from the truth, though; Death Parade is actually a dark and thought-provoking tale about sin, the soul, and eternal judgment. The series’ opening does nothing to prepare you for its actual themes, but that level of disconnect is what makes it so memorable. That, and all of the dancing.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
As much as I love most things Ghost in the Shell-related, this opening is a bit lame visually speaking, thanks to the awful, plastic-looking CGI (which looks like a cheesy video game cut scene). But musically, it’s out of this world. Yoko Kanno’s “Inner Universe” elevates this opening so much with a blend of edgy electronic music, choral elements, and the soaring vocals of Russian singer Origa (who sadly died from heart failure in 2015).
Last Exile is one of my favorite animé series due its excellent world-building and steampunk vibe. Its opening, like many animé openings, is more of a character overview than anything, though it also gives you glimpses of the series’ interesting, antique-looking technology. It also has one of my favorite animé themes, Shuntaro Okino’s “Cloud Age Symphony,” which moves from bagpipes and didgeridoo to pulsing, symphonic (npi) electronica.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
With its triumphant, upbeat theme (“A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”) and colorful animation, you might think that Neon Genesis Evangelion is a fun mecha action title. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort. Evangelion is famously depressing and weird, with its blend of Jewish and Christian mysticism, psychoanalysis, and torturous character drama. But like Death Parade (see above), that dichotomy is what makes the opening so memorable, especially when it plays before the series’ later episodes, where the characters (and audience) are really put through the ringer.
Though it contains no violence or gore, Paranoia Agent’s opening might be the most unsettling one on this list. As Susumu Hirasawa’s soaring theme song (“Dream Island Obsessional Park”) plays, we see the series’ characters laughing maniacally as various disasters (a flood, a mushroom cloud) and apocalyptic imagery play all around them. It’s a bizarre opening to be sure, but it perfectly matches the series’ dark themes.
Terror in Resonance
As a series, Terror in Resonance was rather underwhelming, and never quite lived up to its premise of gifted children and government conspiracies. But the opening, which features Yoko Kanno’s gorgeous music and Yuuki Ozaki’s stirring vocals, is nevertheless intriguing. While it features plenty of character shots and bizarre imagery, it gives you no clues as to what to expect from the series’ storyline. It’s just too bad that, in the end, Terror in Resonance didn’t deliver on the ambiguity.
Texhnolyze is a bleaker than bleak cyberpunk/post-apocalyptic series. So it only makes sense that its opening would be plenty bleak and bruising, too, from the grainy imagery to the usage of Juno Reactor’s “Guardian Angel” as the theme. If you’re intrigued by the opening, then just be warned — you’ll need to steel yourself to get through Texhnolyze’s dark vision of the future.