I’m two months late with this one, but I wasn’t gonna abandon this annual tradition entirely. I don’t know about the rest of you, but 2018 felt like a relatively weak year for OPs, though there were still some remarkable standouts and a plethora of solid enough contenders fighting to round out this top 25. If you’ve been following For Great Justice for a while, you’re likely already familiar with my OP and ED-grading criteria, but if haven’t (or if you need a refresher), these are my general rules:
- The OP must have debuted in 2018. It can be from a show that premiered before 2018 or will continue airing after 2018, but the OP in question had to debut this past year.
- I don’t need to have seen a show in order for its OP to be eligible on the list, but I recognize I’m inherently biased towards those I have seen since I’m able to parse additional context from them. OPs of long-running shounen adaptations tend to be absent here for that reason, so if you’re eagerly awaiting openings from say, One Piece, Black Clover, Boruto, or Gintama, you’ll probably be disappointed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- My rankings are somewhat arbitrarily based on music composition, audio production, lyrics and delivery, visual production, audiovisual sync, visual creativity…and pretty much any other metric you could think of. Some of these aspects are weighted higher than others based on what I feel the OP in question is trying to accomplish.
Despite all that, none of these metrics are ever given numbers during the ranking process, and the craft-related pros and cons ultimately still fall second to my personal enjoyment. After all, objectivity is bullshit and these ratings are just my personal opinion. You are certainly entitled to disagree.
With all that out of the way, after watching every OP from this year I could find (I’m guessing at least 95% of them? Hold your applause), which notables didn’t make the cut?
For starters, the visuals for the OPs of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, Happy Sugar Life, Dagashi Kashi 2, and Osomatsu-san 2 were stunning, but paired with music that didn’t do much for me. On the flip side, the openings of RErideD, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These featured great songs but were let down by visuals that just didn’t get the job done enough.
Others were well-rounded but didn’t stick with me much. These include but are certainly not limited to Tsurune, Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan, Revue Starlight, Iroduku: The World in Colors, Sword Art Online’s two series this year, and most of Black Clover’s many OPs. The biggest shock? Both My Hero Academia and March Comes In Like A Lion (Season 2) missed the top 25 for the first time in their respective eligible years. As much as I love those franchises, there were just too many other OPs I felt more passionately about last year—so let’s get to ‘em.
HONORABLE MENTION – “Kimi no Sei” by the peggies
OP for Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai (Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai)
Hopefully I don’t have to explain much here: the visual elements of Bunny Girl-Senpai’s OP aren’t anything extraordinary and mostly just swipe through quick character shots in sync with the song. But that song…
Look, I watched three episodes of this series in one sitting back in October then decided it probably wasn’t for me, so I could count the number of times I heard “Kimi no Sei” before 2018 ended on one hand with fingers to spare. The fact that its hooks became lodged in my head for months before revisiting it is a testament to the songwriting here, propelling it leagues beyond even most of the tunes included in the Top 25 proper.
And when I finally did revisit it in mid-February to write this list? Let’s just say the word “hesitation” momentarily left my lexicon as I sought out a download. “Kimi no Sei” is just so damn infectious and tightly-written it pulls this slightly above-average opening storyboard and slightly below-average title along with it and does so with a giant grin on its face. Or is it my face? Either way, I can’t help but sing and smile along. It’s a certified bop.
#25 – “Kiss of Death” by Mika Nakashima & Hyde
Studios: A-1 Pictures/Trigger/CloverWorks
OPv3 for Darling in the FranXX
Do I think Darling in the FranXX’s opening is “OP of the Year”-tier great? Barely. But of Crunchyroll’s 2018 Anime Awards nominees for Best OP, it was certainly a respectable contender. I can’t complain too much.
That’s you folks’ job.
And boy did some people, but while I’m hesitate to [gulp] praise FranXX outright, for once I’ve gotta side with the plurality: this OP slaps. Both versions of it are solid, though for the sake of smoother production I’ll give the second cour’s version the slight edge. Even though several of these shots are composites of recycled material, they’re implemented in a manner that flows well to the song and still forefronts the OP-exclusive animation.
Really though, neither version of this OP would be anything without the harsh buzzing synths and sultry vocal performance of “Kiss of Death,” a track just as naively passionate about love as FranXX, and with significantly less problematic assertions! Even a broken-ass show can still crank out a memorable, hooky OP.
#24 – “Three-Piece” by the cast
OP for Asobi Asobase
Asobi Asobase’s OP is one giant, misleading feint. It’s a cutesy piece about love and friendship with some childhood pastime turns of phrase thrown in. Nothing about it suggests the steaming, vulgar shitpost to end them all that Asobi actually is—except if you’re attuned to flower language and know that the yellow lilies scattered throughout this opening symbolize deceit.
To be fair, the protagonists are revealed to be dreaming at the end, and it stands to reason they’re the type of people who would view themselves as the purest creatures to walk the Earth, but new viewers soon learn better. If you still feel cheated, at least be aware that the show’s ED more than makes up for this misdirection (it was my favorite ED of 2018, in fact!).
Gimmick aside, “Three-Piece” is a great tune on its own merit, too. The three seiyuu all stay notably in-character vocally, hamming it up without ever deviating from the saccharine mood they establish, and the composition itself goes through several neat transitions, most of which syncopate the vocal pulse with the smooth as silk backing instrumentation. Ultimately the fake-out is the main draw here, but the fact that the song is so playful makes its appeal last long after Asobi‘s tricked you the first time.
#23 – “Distance” by Rie Murakawa
OP for Hinamatsuri
OPs can have diverse goals. Some try to be artistic masterpieces in and of themselves. Others simply stick to establishing the show’s aesthetic and cluing the viewer in on some of its cast’s quirks. Hinamatsuri’s opening is of the second variety, but that’s not a slight against it—after all, this series covers diverse tonal ground, and it’s tough to coalesce every mood it utilizes in ninety seconds.
But it’s here because it does its damn best to, thematically if no way else. Hinamatsuri’s overall mission is to get the viewer to cherish their life and look to make it even greater with other people. Those connections aren’t always easy or immediately beneficial, but they’re ultimately worth seeing through. That’s what “Distance” and its jubilant melody beckon us to acknowledge, set to a character montage ranging from silly (Nitta preparing a meal Hina already made, for instance) to positively mundane.
As a comedy series, maybe you’d expect more gags from this sequence (stuff like Utako exploiting the kids in the pre-chorus only to stand there with a smile and take responsibility for their success afterward is funny enough in my eyes), but Hinamatsuri’s lasting appeal was not its one-off punchlines, but its multifaceted community-building. That the latter takes center stage here is more than fitting, and if you can think of a more triumphant outro from a 2018 OP than this, I’m all ears.
#22 – “Catch up, latency” by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
Studio: Production I.G.
OP1 for Run With The Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)
I have a love-hate relationship with UNISON SQUARE GARDEN in that I don’t really dislike any of their songs, but their material, more than almost any other recurring anime-affiliated band, can suffer from a debilitating samey-ness. Admittedly, that samey-ness consists of stuff I generally enjoy—loads of syncopation, sudden entrances and exits, and fast, breathless vocal deliveries—but I’ve become dulled to their less standout stuff. When they drop a great track though, it makes itself known.
“Catch up, latency” falls somewhere between that ideal and their batting average, but these gorgeous and expressive visuals from Production I.G. make up for any potential the song leaves behind. The core cast’s personalities are clear from brief incidental shots alone, and the buildup from their passive-aggressive dorm life to their unity as a team unfolds phenomenally for just 90 seconds.
All things considered, this is a fairly conservative opening animation-wise, but it pulls out all the stops when it counts, like the wind buffeting everyone’s hair when the chorus kicks in. Though it’s a slower burn than most sports anime, Run With The Wind knows how to generate momentum and enthusiasm, and this OP for its first cour did just that heading into each week’s new developments.
#21 – “Winding Road” by MAN WITH A MISSION
OP for Golden Kamuy [Season 1]
Yes, I know I almost wrote off this OP back in April for essentially being BON JOVI WITH A MISSION. I still stand by that comparison.
But…what do you know, it and Golden Kamuy grew on me. Hard. Even if for better or worse this is a composite-filled, mood-setting opening with little to offer in terms of easter eggs or narrative parallels, “Winding Road” and the scenery of the Hokkaido wilderness make for a powerful match together. The maroon and navy palette plays off the natural elements well and the credits are integrated in strokes that evoke the skin tattoos that the cast hunts down for most of the show. Before Kamuy’s comedic instincts stole the spotlight (that is, during its second OP, which we will speak no more of), this hopeful but melancholic power ballad was a lovable precursor for the adventure to follow.
#20 – “Apron Boy” by DJ Misoshiru and MC Gohan
OP for Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family (Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan)
I don’t remember when this first happened, but at some point in 2018, I hopped on AMQ, heard that now-iconic hook of “APURON BOIIIII, APURON BOIIIII” for the first time, and thought to myself, “damn, this is incredible. Wish I knew what show it was from. Probably some dorky 4-koma or something. Guess I’ll find out in 3…2…1…”
Nope, it was Fate. It was Fate/fucking Cooking.
So yeah, do I know a thing about this OP other than that it’s apparently from a light-hearted spin-off of a franchise I personally find impenetrable? Nope. But I’ll be damned, the quirky vocal delivery, moe-ified character designs, and feel-good vibes this opening radiates do their darnedest to assure the viewer that Today’s Menu isn’t your typical installment of Fate. It wasn’t enough to get me to check the show out…for now, but it’s certainly distinct and polished enough to demand a rightful spot on this list.
#19 – “Colors Power ni Omakasero!” by Colors☆Slash (the cast)
Studio: Silver Link.
OP for Mitsuboshi Colors
You’d expect a show with “Colors” in the title to get its color palettes right, and Mitsuboshi Colors certainly does in this opening, making great mileage out of its primary color-coded trio and their respective red, yellow, and blue. It doesn’t rely on that exclusively, however, tastefully mixing in pastels of all hues without ever feeling overbearing or messy. Add a few more ambitious 3D shots and artistically Mitsuboshi Colors’ OP is slick and stylish as hell.
As for the song? While I’m not a diehard lover of cast-sung OPs (especially cutesy ones sung by adults who sound like kindergartners), these seiyuu make it work. The melody is obnoxiously catchy and the cast’s interplay works to the OP’s advantage, allowing for several in-character goofs that flow along with the song instead of merely adding auditory clutter. This is a simple package on the surface, but the crew went the extra mile to give this opening some pizzazz, and it goes a long way.
#18 – “Azalea” by nano.RIPE
OP for Citrus
Okay, hear me out, I know you’re thinking “oh great, here comes Yata stanning Citrus again,” and I…cannot deny that is what’s about to happen, yes, but…
Just listen to this! This OP slaps! I’d even wager it’s nano.RIPE’s best single in years, with an energetic core arrangement maximized by dramatic strings when it matters most. The hooks are great, the deliveries are lively throughout, and lyrically, “Azalea” speaks of [chuckles] forbidden dreams, violating taboos to find happiness, and taking paths untraveled.
I can’t tell if it was written to be tongue-in-cheek or if it just can’t help but come off that way paired alongside Stepsisters Smoochin’: The Anime, but either way, it’s an incredible combination. The visuals aren’t the most unique thing out there, but they do fly by at a speedy clip in pinpoint sync with the track, and a few of those rotating 3D shots are a neat touch as well. Bash Citrus all you want—it’s not entirely unjustified—but leave this heart-on-sleeve, capable OP out of it.
17 – “Flashback” by MIYAVI vs. KenKen
OP for Kokkoku
I know this Kokkoku OP is a favorite for a lot of people and I just want to preface that though I have it comparatively low on the list, it is something to behold. Not because it features a dance track—you’ll see more of those ahead—nor solely because it’s so bold with its color and credits-only frames.
No, I enjoy this opening for a seemingly counter-intuitive reason: it’s so fucking disorienting to lay eyes on. In most circumstances that’d be a mark against it, but what little I saw of Kokkoku made it abundantly clear that the show is going for that sort of sensory overload intentionally, and the quick cuts and dissonant color combinations of this OP successfully get dizzying to watch.
The visuals aside, I think most people really love this thing due to “Flashback,” and while I can’t pat it on the back for any lyrical depth or its awkward TV-sized rearrangement, I have to admit that its central falsetto hook doesn’t easily leave your head once it’s hammered in there. The slapped bass compliments the tinny drum machine and wavering synths especially well too, raking up creepy, yet inviting tension more than apt for a show about demons and time travel and whatever weird psychic shit Kokkoku had on its plate at any given week.
#16 – “UNION” by OxT
OP for SSSS.Gridman
There comes a point when you watch enough anime that you stop thinking about what a “stereotypical anime OP” sounds like. As shows differ, so too do their openings, and once your horizons broaden there stops being an easy “right” or “wrong” way to go about these things.
SSSS.Gridman’s OP reminds me of what my preconceptions about OPs used to be though. It just checks off all the right boxes to send dopamine flowing through my brain in that manner only nostalgia for Saturday morning cartoons can. How fitting is it that not only did new episodes of Gridman drop on Saturdays last fall, but the show itself used fan nostalgia as a fundamental building block of one of its characters and as a draw to pull in the audience? If evoking the fuzzy warmth of a kid in awe of other kids using robots to save the world from evil monsters was the purpose, then the chipper, motivational tune of “Union” and imagery that showcases both sides of Gridman’s visual aesthetic—moody, incidental shots and bright, forefronted action—summarize the show perfectly. Whatever the case, I just love this thing. In fact, fuck it, let’s have some more Ooishi celebration…
#15 – “Otomodachi Film” by Masayoshi Ooishi
Studio: Doga Kobo
OP for Tada Never Falls in Love (Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai)
When I think about Tada Never Falls in Love now, the first phrase that comes to mind is “wasted potential.” Full disclosure, I dropped it about halfway through, frustrated that its characters simply weren’t as interesting as I felt they could be, and I think this OP is a huge reason why I had lofty expectations.
You want a character montage where each person’s relationships and behavior around the others is obvious? You’ve got one with this thing, which locks groove with an upbeat, dorky, and deliciously-composed love song utterly perfect for a series like Tada. Syncing lyrical content to a show’s quirks isn’t anything unheard of, but I especially love how “Otomodachi Film” integrates photography metaphors, simultaneously connecting the song to an in-universe character hobby and providing this OP with a visual framework to build off of. Ooishi’s delivery is just hammy as can be, and though Tada never truly took off, with his charisma and this opening, I can at least pretend it did.
#14 – “Shichiten Battou no Blues” by THE PINBALLS
OP for Junji Itou Collection
Since horror generally isn’t my cup of tea and the first few episodes of Junji Itou Collection were critically panned despite fan hype, I never properly looked into this title. As such, here’s one of those instances where I’m really glad I give every eligible OP each year a chance. There’s no way I would’ve been exposed to this one on my own, but there’s also no way I could leave it off this list now that I’ve seen it.
What unsettles a viewer is ultimately up to taste and tolerance, but this OP clearly indicates what genre it’s representing via creative composites and uncompromising black and maroon color palettes. Whether or not those do much for you, “Shichiten Battou no Blues” cut down to a fantastic 90-second composition undeniably rocks the fuck out, centered around guitar licks that exude nothing but swagger and a distraught vocal performance to match the visuals. Shit just slaps.
#13 – “Nostalgic Rainfall” by CHICO with Honeyworks
OP for After The Rain (Koi wa Ameagari no You ni)
It’s real shoujo hours, folks. Who’s up?
After The Rain is a pretty downtempo show overall, so starting each week with the giddiness of “Nostalgic Rainfall” was a delight. Most of the OP takes the form of a dream sequence wherein Akira frets about what to wear, dances around in love-struck joy, and…rides a leaping alpaca through the clouds with her crush Daddy? Look, it’s a dream sequence, she’s allowed to get carried away. Lord knows the drummer on this track does too, rambunctiously yet tastefully catapulting everyone else forward. The whole song is wonderfully composed, utilizing a bit of everything under the pop rock umbrella to back up CHICO’s spotless performance. I have to imagine this OP is sort of what being a flustered teenage girl feels like…and to be honest, I’ve felt far less appealing things.
#12 – “Lupin TROIS 2018” by Yuji Ohno & Lupintic Six
Studio: Telecom Animation Film
OP for Lupin III: Part V
It wouldn’t be classic Lupin III without a Yuji Ohno score, and for Part V he took some cues from this season’s French setting. When’s the last time you heard a bal-musette accordion lead in your favorite anime opening? I don’t know my own answer to that question, but it meshes exceptionally well with Ohno’s big band tune here, lunging out on the accents then receding back to build tension before each next sudden crescendo.
Lupin and co.’s smug-faced personalities speak for themselves, and this storyboard decided to give us a bit of everything as a result, running through a quick character card sequence before (literally) blasting off into a mini-story where Lupin uses a satellite to spy on Fujiko’s side-boob then plummets back to Earth. The ending few seconds are a tad abrupt on the visual front, but as a whole, this OP got the job done, pumping me up heading into every episode of Part V.
#11 – “Futari no Hane” by YURiKA
OP for Hanebado!
I may have not watched more than two episodes of Hanebado!, but every YURiKA theme deserves closer inspection, and “Futari no Hane” is no exception. It’s got that multi-handed pop composition veneer to it—and sure enough, the list of songwriters on this thing is long—but can I really complain when the tune is this enjoyable?
The visuals don’t slouch either; the kinetic credits are a nice touch and though the OP’s midsection only consists of a myriad of quick, framed stills, the beginning establishes tension with a handful of intense close-up shots, all of which get continued and released towards the OP’s end. The styling is wonderful throughout, that windup/follow through storyboarding is clever, and the synchronization with the music is just about flawless. What a nicely-balanced, passionate package.
#10 – “Fiction” by Sumika
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku (Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii)
Wotakoi is another one of those shows I didn’t love quite as much as I hoped I would, and once again, I’m certain a part of that dissatisfaction came from how much of an adorable bop its OP was, only for the show’s character dynamics to feel sort of stiff in comparison.
That aside, this opening has so much going for it—a fantastic use of color, smooth and expressive (not to mention meme-able) character animation, clever transitional sequences—it’s just so much fun to look at. Sumika back that up with “Fiction,” which, as I said earlier, fucking bops. The melodies are stickier than glue and the backing instrumentation centered on a spunky drum groove, playful piano part, and gorgeous string accompaniment give the song so much character. Again, I wish a little more of that character carried over into the show proper, but I can’t knock this OP for overachieving compared to its actual title.
#9 – “Kimi ni Furete” by Riko Azuna
OP for Bloom Into You (Yagate Kimi ni Naru)
Forgive the mild audiophile in me, the flat, muffled drum production on this track drives me up the wall.
That’s the only negative thing I have to say about Bloom Into You’s OP though, and it’s far from enough to overshadow how fantastic the rest of this package is. The arrangement is dreamy and Riko Azuna’s emotive (hell, sometimes even tastefully strained) vocal performance here is to die for.
Oh, and you want yuri melodrama? This OP brings it and then some. Not to be confused with Bloom’s…well, mellow drama, the likes of which are more evident in this opening’s symbolic visual choices—appropriate flower imagery, careful attention to gaze and body language, and foreshadowing who or what each significant member of the cast has on their mind. It’d be a good enough opening for that stuff alone, but the way the vines encroach on the otherwise mundane surroundings also imbue this OP with a surreal, magical character, one that’s notably unique compared to other entries in its genre this year. Add the cathartic climax of “Kimi ni Furete” and this OP absolutely earns a Top 10 spot.
#8 – “MAN HUMAN” by Denki Groove
Studio: Science Saru
OP for Devilman Crybaby
When you think of anime openings, techno probably isn’t the first genre to come to mind. Most producers opt for something a little more organic, a little less cold.
But techno can work when paired with the right title; in this case, look no further than the tormented nihilism of Devilman Crybaby, the likes of which make a perfect backdrop for the unsettling, hypnotic groove of “MAN HUMAN.” Instead of trying to build a standalone story for this OP, Science Saru uses it as a visual showcase, mutating scenes of dusty, kaleidoscopic and Rorschach imagery into one another with nearly nary a hard cut to be found. The overwhelming greyness of it all makes it a bit hard to digest at first, but once you’ve seen the show and can pick up on what each shot represents, it’s hard to not view this OP as a meticulously crafted package well worth a careful look.
#7 – “The Girls Are Alright!” by Saya
OP for A Place Further Than The Universe (Sora yori mo Tooi Basho)
Gonna be honest right off the bat, I find Saya’s vocal delivery on this chorus a bit drab, but the work of composers mito and Yoshiaki Fujisawa more than make up for that personal nitpick. “The Girls Are Alright!” never bursts forth in a single, awe-invoking moment. It glides along from start to finish with poise and light-hearted grace.
Not to be outdone, so do Studio Madhouse! I’d be willing to suggest that A Place Further Than The Universe had the second-best production values of 2018 outside anything by Kyoto Animation, and they sure as hell flex their chops here with legitimately filmic lighting and shot framing during the Japan scenes. Once the crew gets to Antarctica in this mini-summary of the show (which worked wonders in ensuring me they would eventually get there while it was airing), the girls goof around via “filmed footage” cuts that play with perspective and immerse you into the characters’ happier states of mind. Talk about OPs that make you eager to witness what’s coming up later in the show—this one did just that and made me smile every single time.
#6 – “found & lost” by Survive Said The Prophet
OP1 for Banana Fish
Okay, okay, the shot of the Statue of Liberty before the title card is really poorly integrated, I know.
It’s the only part of Banana Fish’s first OP worthy of ridicule though—this thing is otherwise superbly directed and beautifully animated, conjuring up massive “New York, I love you, but you’re trying to kill me” vibes via gritty alleys, subways, abandoned buildings…and a few nicer neighborhoods to drive home the disparities of comfortable living.
In Banana Fish though, half the misery stems not from a physical place, but from within, and that’s also represented by Ash’s lonesomeness in the majority of these visuals. Survive Said The Prophet up that melodrama considerably with “found & lost,” which (and I mean this in the most positive way possible), sounds like it was plucked straight out of every late millennial’s mid-aughts melodic hardcore phase; it’s loud, emotional, and (:yatashock:) instrumentally gratifying to play. The only thing left on the checklist is fitting Banana Fish to a T—and it sure had no problem at doing that either.
#5 – “urar” by Chima
OP for Hakumei and Mikochi
Now for something completely different. You want rustic, relaxing music with your fantasy iyashikei? Hakumei and Mikochi’s got ya. It’s got ya to the point that no other person even appears in this opening until roughly a minute in. It’s just beautiful shots of nature thrown through a variety of filters until you approach the end, where the show’s titular characters reunite outside their home and head towards the door.
It’s an uncommon approach and an even less common sound, but this scenery and “urar,” a lumbering, yet gentle tune, use each and every second to the fullest. Chima’s airy vocals, the reverb-drenched percussion, the rumbling bass, the hypnotic acoustic guitar, and the faint, atmospheric synth lines all come together perfectly.
Not to be underappreciated, I adore how the credits flash through a miscellaneous fantastical script before settling on legible Japanese. It’s a little touch, but this is essentially an OP full of little touches like that accumulating into something greater than the sum of their parts. I didn’t get far into Hakumei and Mikochi for scheduling purposes, but if I get to re-experience this OP a dozen more times, I’m seriously considering going back and giving the series a shot.
#4 – “Adabana Necromancy” by Franchouchou (the cast)
OP for Zombieland Saga
I can’t locate it now, but approaching Zombieland Saga’s final arc, a member of the staff tweeted something along the lines of: “the OP’s gonna make a lot more sense now.”
And they were sure right! In retrospect, the entire opening is lyrically and visually dedicated to the rest of Franchouchou encouraging Sakura to snap out of her “wait, I’m dead?” funk and embrace the opportunity to perform again. Not that Saga needed that plot tie-in to make this OP stand out, but boy does hiding a semi-spoiler in plain view for weeks feel like a powerful move in hindsight.
I couldn’t call that core of the package “superfluous,” but it’s barely half the reason why Saga’s opening ranks this high. Everything about it is just so fulfilling, smashing together faux-horror and action aesthetics complete with sound effects, morbid comedy, and the most dynamic cast-sung song I’ve heard in years. Sorry, more “conventional” idol fans, but I can’t lie, the majority of those OPs I’ve heard bore me to tears. Meanwhile, “Adabana Necromancy” is out here actually making me wish Franchouchou was a functioning real-world unit—these actresses’ vocals have great chemistry and stick out during solo lines remarkably well. Yusuke Kato’s masterful composition is icing on the cake, full of zig-zagging transitions and big band brass accents. There’s just no escaping the fact once you’ve watched it that this is a genuinely one-of-a-kind opening, and I refuse to take it for granted.
#3 – “Sincerely” by TRUE
Studio: Kyoto Animation
OP for Violet Evergarden
It’d be easy enough to dismiss Violet Evergarden’s OP as a lazy storyboard. For as ambitious as the series’ production quality is, little about this opening establishes anything pertaining to the show’s worldbuilding or larger cast.
But it ain’t simply called Violet Evergarden for nothing—the show is first and foremost about the healing process and social development of its titular character, and that’s what’s expressed in these selective shots. Sometimes scenic, sometimes intimate, there’s no need for crazy sakuga, creative transitions, or overstuffed content for the sake of it with subject matter this potent and a track as gorgeous as “Sincerely.”
Seriously, if I were ranking these openings solely on music, there’s a case to be made that this track is the best anime theme of the year, bar none. Evan Call’s arrangement —sparse and piano-led at first, then bursting forth with Miho Karasawa’s passionate melodies, soaring strings, and a tight as hell rhythm section—is absolutely cathartic. Pair that with the very Violet Evergarden lyrics and there’s no doubt in my mind that a conservative (for Kyoto Animation’s standards, at least) visual approach only amplifies this song’s poignancy. One of the remaining two OPs memes hard. The other is simply a bundle of fun. This one is 2018’s emotional masterstroke, however, and don’t let its bronze placement shroud that.
#2 – “POP TEAM EPIC” by Sumire Uesaka
Studio: Kamikaze Douga
OP for Pop Team Epic
There’s an endless supply of words that could describe Pop Team Epic, but in my brief experiences with it, the first one I’d opt for is “overwhelming.” “Crude” and “rule-breaking” follow regarding my glimpses of the show itself, but neither of those directly apply to this OP; this thing wants to be overwhelming to the max, and w h e w, does it succeed at that.
Anything less would be a disappointment! For those who enjoyed Pop Team Epic, satisfaction came in never knowing what you’d get. Likewise, this OP covers immense visual range and revels in the show’s absurdism. You want cheesy sound effects? This opening’s got you. How about moving credits? Sure, take some of those too, why not? Hell, they even end this monstrosity on the exact same frame it begins on. You could ceaselessly loop this OP if you wanted to.
And honestly—keeping in mind this is coming from a guy who couldn’t stand the one episode of Pop Team Epic he watched—I’m still tempted to do just that. Throw in Sumire Uesaka’s futuristic electronic track about breaking boundaries via breaking everything and this isn’t just an opening worthy of this show’s sheer madness, it’s a package worth celebrating all its own.
#1 – “Shiny Days” by Asaka
OP for Laid-Back Camp (Yuru△Camp)
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a mystery how this song didn’t get Asaka sued! If the very first measure of the track didn’t get you thinking “hold on, this is just ‘I Want You Back’ by Jackson 5 slightly sped up,” the remixes plastered all over YouTube will! But while “Shiny Days” may have to answer to critics’ accusations of plagiarism, what it doesn’t have to contend with is doubt that it’s a bop and a half. Asaka’s delivery suggests a confidence and effortlessness well beyond her meager 19 years, and it’s incontestable that “Shiny Days” is an earworm.
This OP is also one of the most distinctly energetic aspects of Laid-Back Camp, a show essentially predicated on the comfort of serene, blissful experiences in nature. Its literal tempo is the only tonal outlier, though; this opening otherwise proudly displays the beautiful mountain scenery of the series’ setting and its characters’ adorable positivity via creative panning, gorgeous stills, and the song’s simple but charming lyrics.
It may not be the singular, definitive, most groundbreaking OP of 2018 (if such a thing even exists), but it was handily my favorite, the sort that as early as January I could tell would not leave my head the rest of the year and eagerly made me want to watch (or, once it finished, rewatch) Laid-Back Camp immediately and often. That’s all we can really ask for from these little 90-second clips, isn’t it? Congratulations to Laid-Back Camp and everyone who had a hand in making this OP what it is: my 2018 OP of the Year. Your prize is…uh…um…a mini-stove! Will that suffice?
And that’s all I’ve got! What was your favorite OP of 2018? How did it rank on here, if it was here at all? Give us a shout below or over on Twitter. Until next time, this has been Yata, annually recapping a bunch of frickin’ theme songs. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!