Hey, folks. Yatahaze here. In 2013, back in the pre-FGJ days when me and the crew primarily conversed through Facebook and forums, I made a list of my favorite 25 OPs from that year. At the time I thought – and still do think – that it was a spectacular year for anime openings, with several great entries nearly on par with each other vying for the top handful of spots. Since we’ve been a bit slow this spring (and also because those OP lists of mine seem to do pretty well for site views), I decided to revisit that old list and see if I could tweak some things around and write about them in more detail. This is the one that started it all, so it only seems natural to actually post it to the website where anyone can find it.
For those of you new to my OP ranking methods, here’s a reminder for what counts and what I consider:
- The OP must have debuted in the year in question (so for this, 2013). It can belong to a show that started before then as long as the OP itself debuted that year. In other words, 2012 shows that carried over into 2013 and used an OP that only aired during that year are acceptable entries.
- If an OP has multiple versions (either different animation set to the same music or different music set to the same animation) and all those versions are available online, I’ll choose the version I like the most. Multiple versions of what are otherwise the same OP won’t take up multiple entries. For entries with evolving credits, whatever’s available will be used.
- If a show has multiple OPs, they are all eligible as long as they fit the above criteria. This never came into play for my 2014 and 2015 lists, but this old one will show why that rule exists in the first place.
- I don’t need to have seen a show to include its OP, though shows I have watched are much more likely to be on the list, seeing as I’m more familiar with them and the in-show significance of their OPs’ contents. Doubly so for sequels or long-running series.
- Unlike the many YouTube channels dedicated to ranking OPs based solely on music, I judge OPs on a sliding scale combination of their music, visuals, audiovisual sync, relevance to the show (when able), and my personal enjoyment, with regards given to what I feel the OP was trying to stress or accomplish most.
As always, don’t fixate on the exact numbers too much. The rankings are loose and (for this list especially) really close, meaning there are a couple solid OPs still absent here, but to stick with the precedent, I’m cutting this list off at 25 numbered entries and one honorable mention. If you’d like to see my lists from 2014 and 2015 first, you can go ahead and click on those. Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy this old but revamped and finally-published installment of Yata’s Yearly Top 25 OPs. Let’s jam.
Click on the highlighted links to watch each OP. Apologies in advance if any links break between the time this gets posted and the time you try to access them. Every so often if need be I’ll find replacements and maintain them as best I can, but nobody’s perfect.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Stand Up!!!!” by Asuka Nishi, Hina Satou, Aoi Takahashi, and Koharu Tanaka
OP for Tesagure! Bukatsu-mono
Despite a ton of great 2013 entries and the overwhelming urge to give this position to an OP that I think just barely misses the top 25 on its full merit, my honorable mention this time goes to an opening that’s nothing special at first glance. It’s for a mediocre 3D-animated cute girls doing cute things show, and this OP is bland uninspired fodder with a cast-sung song that in no way distinguishes itself from the most generic songs of its ilk.
However, give a look at those lyrics, and all becomes clear. “Stand Up!!!!” is a parody of all the typical overused moe show OP tropes, chock full of lines like “For now, if we do this, it’ll look like your average OP” and “The production committee’s gonna show up, so everybody line up!”
It’s a brilliant idea, somewhat let down by how instead of over-exaggerating everything and truly embracing its satirical spirit, the characters and camera just straight-up do what the singers say. The opportunity to get creative here was huge, but the product was underdeveloped. Still, I can’t deny I did a double take and chuckled a bit, so take the honorable mention and go stare out a window or something, Tesagure.
#25 – “Kogarashi Sentiment” by Chiwa Saito and Shinichiro Miki
OP4 (supposedly 6 on Blu-Ray?) for Monogatari Series Second Season
Although I’d consider myself a fan of the franchise, I’m normally indifferent to the Monogatari series’ openings and endings. Though they’re often visually appealing at best and simply forgettable at worst, their music rarely sticks out for me, and for a franchise that almost always nails it in the sound department, that’s a huge disappointment. Overly sugary numbers like “Renai Circulation” and “Platinum Disco” repel me instantly, and even many of the series’ more comfortable efforts like “Chocolate Insomnia” and “Staple Stable” lack a strong enough hook to stick with me after they immediately finish.
Figures then that my favorite of Monogatari OPs is the one that goes straight for unpredictable shock factor and makes an intentional mockery of its usual habits. The lovingly-nicknamed Kaikigatari arc of Second Season quickly became a fan favorite due to its swap of narrator duties from main protagonist Araragi to side-villain Kaiki Deishuu, and if Monogatari gets by with its more problematic material due to that “the camera is Araragi and Araragi is an unreliable perverted narrator” excuse, then I suppose it makes perfect sense that an even less reliable and far older character like Kaiki takes that trick to the opposite extreme.
Gone are the fanservice shots and sappy cutesy vocals of Monogatari’s standard OPs. In their place, this one serves up a cheesy as all hell 80’s voice actor/actress duet with bloated visuals to match. It’s undeniably messy, with jarring wavy snake noodles interrupting several of its better shots, but its snake vs. crab motif is thematically relevant to the events of the arc it opens and that awkward visual back-and-forth from contemporary style to 80’s spoof is actually kind of hilarious. Posh Kaiki still feels unnatural and creepy, as does a Senjougahara out of her element, and if that’s what this OP was aiming for, it nailed it with just the right hint of silliness. Is it good? Well, it was originally going to be the list’s one honorable mention, but I stumbled upon Tesagure’s OP at the last minute and there’s no way I’d consider publishing this article without this retro silliness on here somewhere. Some things just can’t be argued, among them how Kaikigatari is Monogatari’s best arc, this OP is Monogatari’s best OP, and Kaiki is Monogatari’s best girl.
#24 – “Circle Game” by Galileo Galilei
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Rebroadcast OP for AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day
I suppose I should admit my bias here from the start; anytime Yuuki Ozaki wiggles his way into an anime theme, it’s likely to be a hit in my book. Returning with his now former band Galileo Galilei for their second straight AnoHana OP, “Circle Game” doesn’t quite reach the heights of their previous one “Aoi Shiori,” but that’s hardly a problem, let alone a feasible task. Ozaki and co. still provide a heartwarming, nostalgic, bittersweet indie pop song that fits AnoHana’s coming-of-age melodrama perfectly, and while its verse sometimes feels like it just drifts by, the lead-in to the chorus is a phenomenal snap back to attention.
On the visual side, A-1 make their first of many appearances on this list with serviceable work, not really grasping for greatness, content with letting the camera pass back and forth to each member of the current cast surrounded by spirits of the group’s past selves. The floating flowers, something of a symbol for the show at this point, are integrated well into the OP’s transitions in its latter half, and the choice to echo back to the first OP’s white backgrounds makes for a fitting touch as well. It’s hard to fault this one for anything; it may not shoot for the stars, but it knows its purpose. Gently bringing back the warm fuzzies and feels, “Circle Game” still feels like a lesser version of “Aoi Shiori,” but it’s certainly competent enough to register as its own success.
#23 – “Rage On” by OLDCODEX
Studio: Kyoto Animation
OP for Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club
I almost feel like a hypocrite for including OLDCODEX on here given how often I lambast the laziness and sameyness of recent anime alt rock à la GRANRODEO and Spyair, but unlike anything those bands have been attached with, this OP has Kyoto Animation on its side, and that’s never a bad thing. It also helps that Free! is an inherently silly show born from a sillier offhand joke that snowballed into a full project. Its OP doesn’t seem sure whether it should fully lean into the manservice that gave birth to it or try to play up the idea that it might have a proper plot with well-constructed character stakes. Fortunately, it chose the latter, which fits “Rage On” and all of OLDCODEX’s tryhardy Engrish rock to a T. Again, the hook is an exception to the rule that seems to sink most of these bands’ efforts for me; “Rage On” has a damn catchy chorus melody made better by Tatsuhisa Suzuki’s rough vocals, and as I mentioned before, Kyoto Animation’s art and animation fluidity is top class stuff. There are a couple directional choices I’m not fond of – an abundance of bubbles which sometimes blurs the quality too much and some awkward quick jump cuts toward the end – but as a whole, the fact that this OP thinks it’s stronger than it actually is may be what makes it so compelling in the first place. The confidence is laudable and – more importantly – contagious.
#22 – “Sakura no Ato (All Quartets Lead to the ?)” by Unison Square Garden
Studio: Tatsunoko Production
OP for Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
Yozakura Quartet is an oddity among shounen. Not lengthy enough to thrill the Big Three fanboys, nor raunchy enough to roll in the yen with fanservice memorabilia, it’s also certainly not clever enough to thoroughly impress critics, making it a series that seemed to not just once but twice momentarily blip onto people’s radar and then back off as quickly as it came. The Hana no Uta reboot fared a bit better than its 2008 predecessor, but still, almost no one was on board for the Hiizumi Counseling Office’s little adventures around town.
Which is a shame, because although Yozakura Quartet is ultimately a sloppy show, it’s got a lot of heart, and that’s carried over well into Hana no Uta’s primary OP. It’s restless and playful, never content resting on one visual motif for too long, and consistently moving forward with introducing its cast. There’s some nice brief battle choreography and some just as nice slice-of-life shots, nothing really sticking out like a sore thumb. “Sakura no Ato” is similar in that its organ-driven power pop has a little bit of everything; exuberant drumming, at least three memorable little melodies, and even an awkward key change that grew on me far more than I thought it would. It lacks polish for sure, but like Yozakura Quartet itself and several of the OPs in this range, it’s got plenty of passion which helps even things out.
#21 – “träumerei” by LiSA
OP for Day Break Illusion (Gen’ei wo Kakeru Taiyou / Il Sole Penetra le Illusioni)
A year after her massive hit opening for Sword Art Online, LiSA was back at it again. While she often gets tagged onto subpar shows (this hardly an exception), her music is usually pretty solid uptempo alt rock. Formulaic uptempo alt rock, sure, but solid nonetheless. I’d even argue “träumerei” is her best anime-related number to date, with a fantastic vocal hook and some great lead guitar lines. The piano adds a subtle but effective touch, the chord progressions are consistently wonderful, and the song’s TV size composition is very well-timed. Visually, AIC does as good a job as they can making characters with designs like these appear at least somewhat serious…which is to say “not very,” but they sure try. The action bits take advantage of their cartoonish stick-like shapes, and the contrast between the kid’s show-esque character designs and the OP’s later darker imagery is pulled off well. Unappealing designs and stupid premise (Lolibait: Tarot Cards Edition? – yeah, no thanks) aside, the OP flows remarkably well and given the show’s source material, that far exceeds my expectations.
#20 – “Kono Sekai wa Bokura wo Matteita” by Minori Chihara
Studio: Production I.G.
OP for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia)
Common knowledge now suggests that no Gen Urobuchi story can wrap up without getting gritty at some point, but if my memory serves me right, Gargantia sure had people fooled for a few months back when it aired. After a frantic space battle in episode 1, the setting shifted forward to a relatively peaceful Earth overtaken by ocean, where communities of giant compounded ships roamed the waves. It’s a scenery porn setup for sure, and bolstered by the series playing its cards close to its chest, this OP successfully made me and several others wonder if Gargantia would truly be a relaxing tale on the high seas.
Oh, how wrong we were.
Regardless, I can hardly fault the show for choosing that more lighthearted vibe for its OP. Production I.G.’s beautiful ocean animation is arguably more natural and water-like than Free’s, and its rusty ship art is equally immersive. Whether it’s the neat command center interior, the vessel’s cluttered alleyways and dark crevices, the starlit sky and gliding air above or the turquoise waves below, Gargantia is a feast for the eyes and its OP is no exception. “Kono Sekai wa Bokura wo Matteita” isn’t the star here, but it’s still able to pull off a memorable vibrant vocal melody, and its soothing background strings are a nice touch too. Gargantia’s a well-rounded show, and this OP served as a well-rounded intro well worth revisiting.
#19 – “Yukitoki” by Nagi Yanagi
Studio: Brain’s Base
OP for Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigaitteru (Oregairu/My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
In retrospect, it’s hard to look back favorably on Oregairu’s first season. It looks rough around the edges, reverts to genre beat gags when it loses steam, and exists almost solely now to set up everything that its second season expands on so well. This OP is definitely hampered more and more by its sloppy animation quality as time goes on, but Nagi Yanagi’s clutch little tune “Yukitoki” boosts it up a few spots. It doesn’t have the same energy or sync that its second season counterpart “Harumodoki” does, but it gets the job done for the first well enough, with beautifully orchestrated strings, emotive vocals, and a soaring chorus melody that all fit wonderfully with the more optimistic side of Oregairu’s adolescent drama. The lyrics are spot-on too. Nagi Yanagi is super underappreciated, and this is a prime example of what she can do.
#18 – “Small World” by Fujifabric
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP4 for Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai)
While OPs with standalone stories aren’t all that rare, they’re not attempted particularly often either, much less pulled off exceptionally well. But Space Brothers is all about shooting for the stars, both literally and figuratively, so what better way to kick off its 2013 run (and an especially tense string of episodes) with one of its most light-hearted and goofy openings?
This one resembles a dreamy sepia-tone storybook, featuring Mutta in a jester-like engineering costume jumping around and eagerly telling Hibito to test out his new spacecraft. Little does he know it’s set to land on a moon shaped like Apo full of a pack of tiny Apos! As Hibito runs away, overlooked by some of the show’s side cast, reality interrupts Mutta’s train of thought, and we see it was all just a silly little scenario he had concocted in his head. Despite being absolutely adorable and playing Hibito for laughs, Mutta’s dream alludes to Hibito being actually stuck on the moon during that point in the show, and when viewed through a different lens, the OP can be much more depressing than it first appears.
Fortunately, those eternally sunny power poppers Fujifabric lift the mood up with as anthemic a song as they’ve ever put out. “Small World” is the manifestation of all the hope the cast can muster that Hibito will be alright; it’s a truly moving little gem that stands alongside a later entry in this list as one of Space Brothers’ best opening songs, and likewise, it and the standalone adventure this OP takes you on make for one of the series’ most endearing theme songs.
#17 – “Synchromanica” by Negoto
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Galilei Donna
Two and a half years on, I’m still perplexed with how great this OP is. “Synchromanica” is J-Pop at its finest, a nifty number packed with strong hooks, bouncy electronics, and even a pleasantly unexpected surprise or two thrown in (lookin’ at you, loud-ass MIDI horn-synths). It’s almost enough to distract from how the TV size version of the song subverts compositional standards too; there’s the clear intro-verse-chorus structure at first, but then that bridge comes out of nowhere and trails off with no gung-ho climax. Some may love that, some may hate it, but I sure dig it.
I also dig how well the credits are integrated into the actual clips and how great the visual flow can be. Galilei Donna is a confusing little swing-and-miss of a show, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t capture all of its characters’ quirks and personalities perfectly, and with some great transition cuts to boot! If I have any complaints here, it’s that this OP doesn’t really clue you in on what the story holds – but to be fair, I’m not sure the story knew either. A-1 knocked it out of the park with their shows’ OPs in 2013, and this was one of their most underrated by a significant margin.
#16 – “Database” by MAN WITH A MISSION featuring Takuma (10 Feet)
OP for Log Horizon
Here it is, folks. Everyone’s favorite nu-metal OP finally makes its obligatory appearance. And though I’m sure you’re glad it’s here at all, I don’t want to face any counteraction rising about how it’s so comparatively low on the one list it’s finally eligible for.
The punch line is this, guys: the song is half comedy gold, half genuinely great, but the visuals (despite their solid flow) could really use some color touch-ups. Several shots in the latter half of the OP are too dark and indistinct to fully make out what’s going on, and some of the more well-lit ones make an awkward use of faded colors where something brighter would pop better. That said, if there were ever an OP that could push ahead of its visual problems, it’s one with a song like “Database,” and it’s not as if the OP half-assed anything in terms of content; it’s still stuffed full of action and fantastically synced. Not quite as great as it needs to be to move any higher up, but still totally worthy of praise and admiration, Log Horizon’s OP deserves all the spotlight it’s received.
Also, please, if you don’t know anything else about MAN WITH A MISSION, go watch the “Database” music video and prepare to laugh your ass off. The edgelord is strong with these guys.
#15 – “Out of Control” by Nothing’s Carved In Stone
Studio: Production I.G.
OP2 for Psycho-Pass
Nothing’s Carved In Stone is a huge guilty pleasure band of mine, so it may be surprising to hear that “Out of Control” is nowhere among my favorite songs of theirs. It’s solid, don’t get me wrong – the electronics are implemented well, the mix is fantastic, it’s got their signature funky quality, and the chorus…well, I’m sure it’s already stuck in your head. But it’s been as overplayed as an anime opening can get, wearing off me more and more as the years pass, and beyond that, it’s hardly a prime fit for a series as grim as Psycho-Pass, especially in comparison to Ling Tosite Sigure’s chaotic offerings in all of Psycho-Pass’ other media.
That said, I can understand and appreciate the decision to throw a tonal change-up after how split the reception to the series’ first OP was. To match the lighter mood, the OP mostly focuses on all the Bureau members this time around, only occasionally undercut by glimpses of the series’ then newly-revealed antagonist Shogo Makishima. The coloring work is phenomenal; with gradients and heavy shading that leave only a few select colors in each shot, not a single one looks unappealing or makes use of a poor combination. It’s significantly brighter than its predecessor OP while still maintaining a suspicious vibe, and the flow is great. The ending could use a bit more punch, and there’s an awkward animation skip at 0:38, but aside from those minor nitpicks, “Out of Control” and I.G. are very much in control, pulling this OP tightly together.
#14 – “Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!” by Konomi Suzuki n’ Kiba of Akiba
Studio: Silver Link
OP for Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui! (Watamote: No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!)
If you’ve ever wanted to look your middle school self in the mirror and scream “SNAP OUT OF IT, YOU PRETENTIOUS FUCK. YOU’RE NOT COOL,” I think you’ll get what makes this OP so great. It sure isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely the point. Watamote, a.k.a. 4chan’s Favorite Show, is cringe comedy at its cringiest. I’m sure we all look back on those early adolescent years with more than our fair share of embarrassment, and this show is all that embarrassment condensed into one awkward teenager vainly trying over and over to be popular. It’s so bad.
But I’ll be damned if the OP doesn’t take all that angst, complete with brick graffiti, prisoner accessories, black backgrounds, and whatever else 13-year-old us probably thought looked tough, and tongue-in-cheeks the hell out of it with the series’ self-titled alt metal theme song. My unending disdain for this show notwithstanding, it’s not this OP’s fault it’s so popular – hell, it might be the one thing it got right. The melody is actually really strong and Suzuki and Kiba’s vocal interplay is cleverly timed and well-punctuated. The chuggy breakdowns add so much satirical genre-savvy flavor that I don’t even mind acknowledging that whoever wrote it probably thought it was genuinely brilliant. It’s stupid, but it’s perfectly stupid, the exact kind of self-entitled nonsense a show like this and only a show like this could pull off. Widely regarded as one of the best openings of 2013 for its shock value and laughs, I don’t feel as strongly about it as some, but there’s no denying that Watamote became a phenomenon in part because of this thing, and transcending to meme status is the unspoken equivalent of being a legitimately great OP, so props either way.
#13 – “Kyoukai no Kanata” by Minori Chihara
Studio: Kyoto Animation
OP for Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata)
I’m only halfway through this list and it’s already at the point where I’m effectively trying to rank perfection. Told you 2013 was an awesome year for openings.
If I had to give a justifiable reason for why Beyond the Boundary’s OP was this far down, I’m not sure I could other than that I prefer all the forthcoming ones (and their shows) more. Kyoto Animation return doing what they do best; animating the hell out of anything they lay their hands on, and the self-titled “Kyoukai no Kanata” is an immaculately crafted pop rock track with some tasty drum work underlining Chihara’s gorgeous vocal melodies and Daisuke Kikuda’s orchestration. For a show as emotionally dry and misguided as Beyond the Boundary, it’s impressive how much this OP manages to tug on the heartstrings anyway. I can only imagine how much more it would resonate if the series gave viewers any reason to care about its cast.
#12 – “Kiss You” by miwa
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)
I’ve probably said it 100 times at this point but the truth bears repeating; Silver Spoon is an absolutely incredible series. So too is its first season’s OP; with a cast that’s plenty endearing on their own, showing them on a fun little jaunt around campus with several mini-gags and unsolicited dance sequences is a delightfully hammy way to reacquaint viewers with the series’ quintessential countryside tomfoolery. When Silver Spoon is feeling good, that mood easily carries over to its audience, and with a sunny, twangy pop number like “Kiss You,” that happiness is only amplified. The mix is great here; I love the way the persistent percussion, the playful electric guitar slides, and Miwa’s gorgeous voice all gently weave around each other. For such an inviting rural show, “Kiss You” is an impressively just as inviting country-tinged opener.
#11 – “Kani☆Do-Luck!” by Aiu♥rabu
Studio: Liden Films
OP for Aiura
If you’ve never heard of Aiura before just now, I can’t say I blame you. It was one of those forgettable “cute girls doing cute things” shows, and furthermore, it wasn’t even a full-length series, just a collection of four-minute shorts.
And what do crabs have to do with it? Absolutely fucking nothing!
I’m guessing it’s actually based on a lame pun lost in translation or something, but the fact that there’s no clear explanation for why Aiura’s OP features so many crabs makes it all the more hilarious to me. Steve Jobs pops up in there a few times too, and since I don’t recall this show having any corporate deal with Apple, my guess is that with all the crabs, they’re just cruelly mocking his death from…cancer.
It’s an awful joke, I know, but it’s subtle enough to slip by, and as far as cast-sung cute girl anime openings go, this is one of the trope’s catchiest. Just too ridiculous to reach the top 10 but at the same time too ridiculous to fall too far outside it, Aiura’s OP is wicked underrated and deserves more recognition, not just because it’s so out of the blue, but because it’s genuinely a pretty fun time.
#10 – “Uchouten Jinsei” by milktub
Studio: P.A. Works
OP for Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family)
As a general rule, I really dislike when someone who clearly isn’t enjoying themselves tells someone else to enjoy themselves.
That’s thankfully irrelevant with Uchouten Kazoku’s OP; Hiroshi Takeuchi sounds like’s having the time of his life on this thing, gruff, loud rock voice straining for greatness and oozing with character. Talk about perfect for Uchouten Kazoku – despite the series’ later drama, its tone was always first and foremost one of awe, an embrace of the magic in daily life and your everyday surroundings. Add to that anthemic fervor the show’s vivid poppy art style and Engrish background phrases like “SO GOOD,” “RACCOONDOG” and “WONDERFUL DAILY LIFE” and you’ve got yourself a recipe for gold. The chorus and onward’s integration of real life footage is – as you’ll soon see – one of my favorite anime theme tricks. It’s almost a shame it wasn’t used more here, but at the same time, that would’ve meant replacing other parts of this OP, and as I’ve mentioned, it’s already about as perfect as it can get.
On that note, so is Uchouten Kazoku, my favorite show from 2013. Go watch it.
#9 – “Guren no Yumiya” by Linked Horizon
Studio: Wit/Production I.G.
OP1 for Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Alright, there it is. You knew it was coming eventually. Disappointed it’s not #1? Fear not, reader. As I mentioned before, this was such a phenomenal year for OPs that the whole top half of this list is nearly tied in terms of greatness.
I’d like to believe Titan needs no introduction – even people who have never watched anime before have likely at least heard of it, and while interest in it is finally becoming less prevalent now, back in 2013, Titan was all the rage, and understandably so. Taking television animation to levels of fluidity and consistency almost never before seen, the show’s art and animation quality were praised by casuals, critics, and weebs alike, and with an anthem as intense and powerful as “Guren no Yumiya” to splash on top of Wit and I.G. showing off their chops, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Titan’s first OP became widely regarded as one of the best of all time. Though I personally prefer a handful of these others more, credit’s gotta be given where it’s due.
#8 – “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” by Linked Horizon
Studio: Wit/Production I.G.
OP2 for Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
…Which is precisely why I’m ranking Titan’s 2nd, oft-forgotten OP above its hit counterpart. Take it as a snobby hipster move if you will, but whether it be because “Guren no Yumiya” at some stopped intriguing me after hearing it everywhere or because “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” might perhaps be, I dunno, a cooler song (gasp), I wholeheartedly prefer this more ornate and bombastic one nowadays. It’s less overtly concerned with melody, more dynamic, and along with the visuals, considerably more intense without sacrificing anything that made the show’s first OP such a success. At a point in Titan’s story where everything seemed to suddenly drag at a snail’s pace, “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” roared ahead and defied expectations, raising the franchise’s OP bar one level higher and subjecting the viewer to a no less triumphant barrage of adrenaline, German, and choral staccato. Whatever your opinions on Titan, it would be damn foolish to decry the show’s opening and ending themes as anything less than spectacular.
#7 – “Halo” by Tacica
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP7 for Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai)
While I know some people may see this as a step backward – and maybe it is as far as any musical or visual virtuosity is concerned – Space Brothers’ second to last opening remains my favorite of the series and a worthy addition to the top 10 due to how much soul it’s got. A true anthem, this OP has all the emotion you could ask for from an uplifting tale slowly reaching its finale. The visuals make great use of specific colors, especially green, blue, and orange/yellow, with polka dot designs adding some texture to otherwise empty space and contrasting the still-recovering anxious Hibito from his jealous but hard-working older brother. Some of the transitions are superb too, showing how intertwined the two and their goals are. Though a little simplistic, of all of Space Brothers’ openings, this one’s heart still rings strongest to me. It’s how effective it is that matters most, and two years down the road, I’ve got nothing but fondness and respect for “Halo” and OP7.
#6 – “May I Help You?” by Ai Kayano, Mai Nakahara, & Aki Toyosaki
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Servant x Service
Did I mention I’m a sucker for live action footage integrated with animated footage? Well, might as well establish or re-establish that now. Servant x Service’s OP has a field day with the technique; the backgrounds are real, the characters are drawn in, and the whole office is breaking apart into neon fragments. The credits are wonderfully incorporated into the live footage too, and for what’s otherwise a simplistic A-1 show, the art quality here is actually pretty stunning. “May I Help You?”, sung by the series’ main voice actresses is simultaneously sugary and cheeky, ragtimey piano romping around the bloopy electronic instrumentation. If that “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” bit doesn’t get stuck in your head, you must have a far less penetrable brain than I. Another severely underappreciated jewel, “May I Help You?” remains one of the studio’s best OPs ever as well as one of the best from 2013.
#5 – “Dramatic Market Ride” by Aya Suzaki
Studio: Kyoto Animation
OP for Tamako Market
Tamako Market’s charm is in its lovely community and childlike sense of wonder, both of which are abundantly conveyed with this hugely overlooked opening. KyoAni’s body language is at their finest here not just for the year but arguably ever, with loads of minute character animation and attention to detail. The OP is wildly colorful but controlled, and there’s a great use of rapid cuts. “Dramatic Market Ride” is just as playful and jubilant, fantastically orchestrated with ploppy keyboards, triumphant horns, and a lovely backing vocal section. Peppy and powerful, everything works here, and in an uncharacteristically subpar year for the studio story-wise, Tamako Market and its OP at least started off KyoAni’s 2013 on the right foot. To this day, it’s some of their most underrated material.
#4 – “Mukai Kaze” by YOHKO
OP for Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maoyu)
Something that often annoys me with anime set in fantasy worlds is how rarely the music in their openings and endings reflects their fantastical, often medieval setting. Maoyu apparently feels the same. For a show that (somewhat haphazardly, but still ambitiously) included grounded medieval economics and social turmoil with its fantasy politics, it would’ve seemed especially flaky to jump forward thousands of years and spotlight out of place electronics and synths in its music. Thankfully, the folksy strumming, versatile strings, stomping percussion, and bouncy piano of “Mukai Kaze” provide a much more fitting number to serve as the backdrop to Maoyu’s all-in-one grand package of an OP. From love to distrust, diplomacy to war, and everything in between, Maoyu’s opening shows off all that the series encompasses across its brief 12 episodes, and each scene is matched perfectly with the song’s nuances. YOHKO’s vocal performance contends for the strongest of any entry on this list, and the fact that it’s down at #4 is just another testament to how insanely good 2013 was.
#3 – “Hakushu Kassai Utaawase” by supercell
Studio: White Fox
Rebroadcast OP for Katanagatari
As someone who didn’t really care for Katangatari’s original theme songs and had no idea this Rebroadcast OP existed until long after I had finished the series, I think it’s safe to say my bias here is minimal. Katanagatari may be a rare 10/10 show in my eyes, but it is dense, so much so that I assumed no theme could really incorporate everything that makes it so great in a quick one and a half minutes.
I was wrong.
Taking its dear time to get rolling pays off, as “Hakushu Kassai Utaawase” shifts dynamics with grace, rising from a mysterious whisper to utter fury and back at the drop of a hat. The melody sounds extremely traditional while the instrumentation blends its searing strings and mythical piano with wailing guitars and shuffley rock drum work, capturing the best of both worlds. Ryo of Supercell is a pretty experienced songwriter at this point, and his composition on this track is among the best I’ve ever heard from him. Vocalist Koeda does an outstanding job covering such a wide range of pitches, and the mixing is blistering – by all means a compliment given how the OP’s visuals fly by in a flurry of fire, sakura petals, and superimposed, layered imagery. With several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them spoilers hidden to all but the most focused of eyes, its function as a rebroadcast opening must’ve impressed anyone who got the chance to catch it alongside the series’ 2013 rerun. Every time I watch it, I’m drawn to something new, and there’s bounds of replay value here. The TV size length is structured perfectly, there’s flawless sync between the music and art, and my god, that tremolo tone at 1:19. This OP is up there with the best of the best, and like the entries immediately preceding and succeeding it here, in virtually any other year, this one could’ve easily taken the top spot.
#2 – “Koko” by Tamurapan
Studio: Toei Animation
OP for Kyousougiga
For a show as whimsically outlandish as Kyousougiga, I almost want to say its OP is far more reserved than it could have been. Mostly set in a cube with projected imagery on the walls and cluttered floating objects, it makes good on its more human characteristics, such as the protagonists’ longing for connection, acceptance, and closure. The body language conveys all it can about every character it shows, whether it’s Myoue’s deteriorating stoicism, (Young) Koto’s vigor and perseverance, or A and Un’s trollish laughing. Each frame shown in this OP either alludes to relevant character information or just looks damn pretty, often both.
Tamurapan’s “Koko” is beautifully composed and set to match the OP’s visuals, with a piano-led verse bursting into one of the most exultant and hopeful choruses I’ve ever heard from an OP. From there, the shredding strings carry the song to a stunning abrupt close, at several points during my watch of Kyousougiga leaving me momentarily breathless. I’ve always argued the best songwriters are able to convey their emotion through music as well as any lyricist can through words, effectively tearing down the very idea of a language barrier. The clarity of “Koko” is no exception, and along with a series as comparatively mind-bendy as Kyousougiga, the two are a wonderful match, combining the fantastical with the ordinary for an OP that’s 100% beauty.
#1 – “Crowds” by White Ash
Studio: Tatsunoko Production
OP for Gatchaman Crowds
And as for that concept of lyrics not meaning anything, here’s my solid #1 OP of 2013; the Engrish-filled straightforward rocker that is White Ash’s “Crowds”. Before even paying attention to the visuals, take a quick listen to that audio.
“Wow, that vocalist’s really gotta work on his pronunciation, most of that doesn’t sound like a comprehensible sentence,” you’re probably saying.
Well, that’s precisely because it’s not. It’s not uncommon for White Ash to ham it up with lyrics indecipherable to the ear or for artists in anime themes to try their hand at pronouncing long strings of English and fail, but what’s impressive here is that “Crowds” was written with the full intent of being a slab of nonsensical gibberish. Don’t believe me? Here are the official lyrics.
“Yeah, okay, it’s funny, but I don’t see how that makes the song any better or worse than the other stuff here,” you might think. If that’s the case, allow me to introduce you to Gatchaman Crowds as well. This OP, for the show’s idealized but no less entertaining first of two seasons, thematically resonates with several of the series’ messages, chiefly among them commentary on social media mobilization, placing power into the hands of a technology-loving populace, and the lapse in accurate communication that comes with things spiraling out of control. Gatchaman Crowds’ first season is ambitious but messy, and “Crowds” is hilariously similar in that respect.
Beyond the lyrics, the song’s basic rock instrumentation hardly detracts from how kickass its main riff, melodies, and chord progressions are. Revisiting my love of blended live action animation once again, this OP makes spectacular use of it, with the gloomy purples, reds, and blacks of the series’ antagonists offset by the Gatchaman’s bright well-integrated 3D battle suits on a time-lapsed cityscape. The opening is as much a visual extravaganza as it is a rockin’ good time, with brilliantly-synced transitions and superb pacing pulling it all together. There’s so much to love about “Crowds” and Crowds, and while 2013 may have given us some more overtly impressive OPs in certain areas, Gatchaman Crowds’ isn’t a letdown in any category, extremely well-rounded, and packed with unending replay value. Best OP of 2013? For me, you’ve seen how tough a call that is, but it’s a title I’m more than happy to hand to White Ash and Gatchaman Crowds.
And that’s all for me. I hope you guys enjoyed this walk through memory lane on my prequel sequel edition of Yata’s Yearly Top 25 OPs. Anything you disagree about? A choice or two you feel compelled to comment on? Just feel like reaching out? Feel free to do so – we’d love to respond! Just remember to keep things civil, folks. Until next time…whenever that is and for whatever it might be…this has been Yata of For Great Justice, just living in the database. Thanks for reading.