We here at Mahou Tofu really love our OP’s. They get us excited for the show to come, and they can actually tell us a lot about the themes and emotions expressed within the actual anime. We got together and ranked our favorite 12 anime OP’s from the last year, judging both on the music and the visuals, and what you see below is the the final list, with our personal rankings, followed by a brief endorsement that I (Bryan) have written. As evidenced by our personal ranks, we all seem to have very different tastes in anime openings.
#12. “INNOCENCE” by Aoi Eir – Sword Art Online (A-1 Pictures)
The show’s second opening is just about as conventional as they come, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When the guitars come in with that fat chord in the intro, it’s like it’s telling us “Hell yeah, we’re gotta go beat up some bitches and rescue Asuna!” I also really enjoy how the opening draws a parallel between the World Tree in Alfheim and Asuna’s hospital in the real world, which blurs the distinctions between the real and virtual worlds.
Rankings: Bryan – 11, Will – 7, Daniel – 9
#11. “Tsurezure Monochrome” by Fujifabric – Tsuritama (A-1 Pictures)
Haino haino~ The Enoshima Dance is actually quite an important plot in this show, and I love how they show off everyone doing the dance in the opening. Overall, the song is fairly laidback and carefree, like fishing should be, but will still make you want to rock out as well. The song has that old rock feel with a slight lo-fi quality and a driving bassline that totally pumps you up! Every time I watch this opening, I get in the mood to eat some duck curry. Ducku!
Rankings: Bryan – 9, Will – 12, Daniel – 6
#10. “CHOIR JAIL” by Konomi Suzuki – Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (Silver Link)
This song has an interesting combination of elements, from the machine gun guitar riffs to the synthesized choir to the mysteriously sparse piano licks. Konomi’s powerful voice works quite well with the metal nature of the song to create the “burning” feeling that the lyrics mention over and over. The visuals invoke the supernatural elements that pervade the series, such as the usage of boxes around the characters to signify proverbial prisons. Also, the chord change when she says “moete” is like the best part of the song.
Rankings: Bryan – 12, Will – 2, Daniel – 12
#9. “V.I.P.” by SID – Magi (A-1 Pictures)
This opening just screams adventure. Our friends are together, the sands are beneath our feet, and the sky’s the limit. The sweeping strings and the running piano parts give you that Sonic the Hedgehog “gotta go fast” feeling and that nothing in the world can stop you. While the rock rhythms and instrumentation are pretty conventional, there is an acoustic guitar part that dances around and gives an exotic flavor to the song. The camera’s movement are dynamic and energetic, giving off a hint of the excitement that is to come throughout the series.
Rankings: Bryan – 4, Will – 11, Daniel – 10
#8. “Nirvana” by MUCC – Inu x Boku SS (David Production)
Let me say this first: I love this singer’s voice. Second, this is the most played song on my iTunes. He has a similar vocal range as me, except his voice is much sexier (that falsetto at the end gives me chills every time) and I can barely sing. The guitar work in this song is outstanding. From the beginning riffs to the ascending staccatos at the title card, it acts almost like another voice. I love the camera work as it follows Ririchiyo out of her bedroom and throughout the mansion, Ayakashi Kan. It’s very disorienting, but in a good way. Also, the shot at the end with the tea set is quite gorgeous.
Rankings: Bryan – 6, Will – 6, Daniel – 11
#7. “Platinum Disco” by Tsukihi Araragi (Yuka Iguchi) – Nisemonogatari (SHAFT)
It looks like SHAFT is at it again with their wacky, unconventional openings. The song itself is a fusion of major J-pop (the ubiquitous E major in fact) and pentatonic traditional Oriental music, but surprisingly little disco. The combination of pop synthesizer and traditional instrument samples (possibly shakuhachi, koto, etc) works really well to define Tsukihi’s character. Like her, the opening sequence and the song are full of surprises, and you aren’t really sure what to expect next. However, I can say that all of her movements are very geometrically sound.
Rankings: Bryan – 8, Will – 10, Daniel – 2
#6. “Real World” by nano.RIPE – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (AIC A.S.T.A)
This opening lets you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into right from the get-go: something crazy and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s a bombardment of pastel color, hopping faeries, and a whole lot of dancing. The lead singer’s voice can come off as a bit nasal, but I feel that doesn’t come through as much in this song. I personally really like her voice. If this opening doesn’t have you bobbing your head to the music, then I think you may want to consider including more sugar in your everyday diet.
Also, be sure to check out the Bollywood version!
Rankings: Bryan – 5, Will – 9, Daniel – 4
#5. “Kimi ga Yume wo Tsuretekita” by Pet na Kanojotachi – Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (J.C. Staff)
I admit it. Every time this song comes up on my iTunes, I sing along. The song’s fairly simple, but it’s just so infectious – kind of like the show itself. Even in the brief opening, we’re treated to a range of emotions from quiet introspection to a liberating freedom. What really puts this song over the top is that it’s sung by the three lead girls, all of whom have very nice singing voices. There’s something that feels so personal when a song is written specifically for an anime’s opening (or ending) and is performed by the anime’s seiyuu. It serves to add an extra layer of personality for both the characters and the entire series itself.
Rankings: Bryan – 2, Will – 8, Daniel – 7
#4. “Sakamichi no Melody” by YUKI – Sakamichi no Apollon (Tezuka Productions)
This entry is particularly unique for this list because it doesn’t feel inherently rock or pop. With a prevalence of drum brush, strings, electric guitar, and even a trumpet solo, it’s difficult to classify this song as rock, pop, or even jazz. It is what it is. The visuals are some of the most beautiful from this season. The usage of notes and pieces of lead sheets superimposed on the screen, as well as the nice vignettes of the town, paints the notion that music exists everywhere we look and can even connect us in the most impossible ways.
Rankings: Bryan – 10, Will – 4, Daniel – 1
#3. “Can Do” by GRANRODEO – Kuroko no Basuke (Production I.G.)
Aw yeah, just listen to it. With the help of the arpeggiating guitar and the persevering kick drum, we’re going to the very top with this song. It’s aptly titled “Can Do” because this tune is most definitely adrenaline-pumping. The visuals are nice, if not a bit standard fare, and gives you a taste of some of the awesome characters in the series, as well as the intense in-game scenarios. Like the entirety of the series, the animation is polished and accentuates the movements of the players in a striking manner.
Rankings: Bryan – 3, Will – 5, Daniel – 8
#2. “Sparkling Daydream” by ZAQ – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Kyoto Animation)
I think it’s agreed that this opening is the most innovative in terms of pure visual style. The quick switching between each seemingly symmetrical frame implies that there are multiple sides to any personality and our sense of self is a product of that often messy combination. Funnily, this opening is kind of the opposite of the previous item on this list. While the song (nice though it may be) is nothing special, the visual production value sends this opening straight up the list. Who can forget those spinning fingers or that booty bouncing?
Rankings: Bryan – 7, Will – 3, Daniel – 5
#1. “Yasashisa no Riyuu” by ChouCho – Hyouka (Kyoto Animation)
This is a pretty obvious choice for 1st place, for good reason. It has stunning visuals and wonderful music. I love the rippling water effects, the distorted static effects, and the juxtaposition of grayscale versus color. It’s a great visualization of how Oreki views the world at the beginning of the series: disinterested and disconnected. As for the music itself, I love Choucho’s voice as well as the interplay between the piano and the guitar. Also, a fun fact: this song is in F# major, which is an incredibly odd key for any song but could explain why this one has a decidedly unique “color” to it.
Rankings: Bryan – 1, Will – 1, Daniel – 3
Now for the fun part: what were your favorite anime OP’s from 2012?