“For Great Justice isn’t dead! For Great Justice isn’t dead,” I continue to insist as it slowly shrinks and transforms into an annual dumping ground for my thoughts about anime themes and little else. But hey, dril’s still kicking, and I don’t even have an usurper on my hands to wrest this blog away from me, so I might as well dust it off and get busy! It’s fall, and you know what that means: time for Yata to marathon every OP and ED that aired in 2022 and select the best of the best for the ani-blogosphere’s most niche awards.
And yes, I’m doing OPs first this time—a certain esteemed adaptation happens to be airing a different ED every week this season (you know the one) and I’m not publishing that list until my eyes and ears get to witness them all. That’s not the case with this year’s OPs, as just about every significant title has aired its token offering(s) by now. Over 200 OPs of “research” later, I’ve narrowed them down and selected the lucky few I most wish to highlight.
My criteria remain the same. A refresher:
- The OP must have debuted in 2022. It can be from a series that premiered before 2022 and/or will continue airing after, but the OP in question had to debut this calendar year.
- All people are biased, and I inherently have more connection to series I’ve seen and liked since I’m able to parse additional context from their OPs. The same applies for genres of shows and songs that happen to be more up my alley, though I do my best to keep an open mind.
- OPs from movies are excluded. These are just OPs from TV anime and ONAs.
- My rankings are mostly arbitrary and based on music composition, audio production, lyrics and delivery, visual production, audiovisual sync, artistic creativity, and pretty much any other metric relevant to absorbing this stuff. Some of these aspects are weighed more than others based on what I feel the OP in question was trying to emphasize, but I don’t give the individual metrics ratings of their own during the ranking process. Their pros and cons still ultimately come second to my personal enjoyment.
And on that note, never forget that the following is all just some guy’s opinion. You’re entitled to disagree with any of these assessments and I expect that you will. If you decide to reach out asking where a certain show or OP is (who am I kidding, comments on WordPress in 2022? Yeah, right) just remain civil and don’t act in bad faith. I certainly welcome you commenting and plugging your own favorites from this year as well.
And before we get on with it, some OPs that narrowly failed to breach the list include those for (inhale deeply, I’m covering my bases here)
- Akebi’s Sailor Uniform
- Ao Ashi (OP2)
- Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story S1
- Black Summoner
- Boruto (OP10)
- Classroom of the Elite S2
- Engage Kiss
- Fanfare of Adolescence
- Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 S2
- I’m Quitting Heroing
- In The Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki
- Kakegurui Twin
- Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer (OP2)
- My Hero Academia S6 (OP1)
- Pop Team Epic S2
- Princess Connect Re:Dive S2
- Skeleton Knight in Another World
- The Case Study of Vanitas S2
- The Executioner and Her Way of Life
- The Greatest Demon Lord is Reborn…
- Tokyo 24th Ward
- Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
- Yama no Susume S4, and
- Yurei Deco
Those scraps of appreciation obviously aren’t exhaustive, but I’ll trail them off there and get to the ones who really made the cut, as well as THE Most Honorable Mention, which goes to…
HONORABLE MENTION – “story” by Mayu Maeshima
OP for Uncle From Another World (Isekai Ojisan)
Uncle From Another World is arguably 2022’s most troubled anime production, with mismanagement initially forcing a three-week hiatus, a short-lived comeback, and then a season-long delay for its yet-to-air second half. With one foot firmly planted in cringe comedy and the other kicking the settled dust of isekai parodies back into the air, the series deserved a more competent adaptation crew than it got.
Granted, I’m not sure any of that matters on behalf of its “so cheesy it’s great” little opening. About half of it is pixelated to depict its cast in retro video game footage, while the remaining time features an atrociously blocky 3D model of Uncle-san superhero flying and breakdancing. Mayu Maeshima’s “story” isn’t the most memorable tune either, but its sincere “believe in yourself”-isms are rendered farcical by Uncle’s overall tone—and that’s precisely what makes it such a delightful guilty pleasure. As for everything else…it’s never too soon to get your shit together, AtelierPontdarc.
#25 – “GIRI GIRI” by Masayuki Suzuki & Suu
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic
Ah, the double-edged sword of returning artists: new seasons of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War wouldn’t be the same without Masayuki Suzuki’s suave, hammy voice commandeering its OPs, but three seasons deep, “GIRI GIRI” is his least distinctive contribution to the franchise yet. Which isn’t to say it’s bad—clearly not, if it’s still in my top 25—but the formula’s begun to wear a little thin.
Regardless, the visual elements here easily clear your run of the mill anime opening; the scrolling cuts are fantastic, the background work in Kaguya’s running sequence is trippy, the sing-along “AI WO”s are a treat, and kicking it all off with the Student Council playing “Virtual Insanity” with the furniture—in the acid jazziest of the series’ songs yet, to boot—doesn’t go unappreciated. If we get a fourth season, though, it couldn’t hurt to shake things up a bit.
#24 – “Scar” by Tatsuya Kitani
OP1 for Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War
For decades, shounen-hungry middle schoolers have razed anime list comment sections to the ground, asking, nay, demanding to know… “where’s Bleach?” Well, drink up, kids. Here you go.
Yes, really. Here’s Bleach. Admittedly it’s not a franchise I’ve ever held substantial investment in—I made it about 25 episodes in during high school at a friend’s suggestion before realizing I didn’t have the long haul in me—but the series is no stranger to some killer OPs, and the first for its resuscitated new season Thousand-Year Blood War is a nostalgic barn burner of a J-rock track, flush with incessant noodling, effortless vocal chops, and tasty rhythm work. A color palette consisting solely of grayscale and hot pink sure is A Choice™ too, but I can’t deny it’s got enough swagger to pull off the look. Even if its bloated cast necessitates the storyboard running through a character montage, it’s more animated than the ghost of several Bleach OPs past, and most importantly, the song bangs.
#23 – “San San Days” by Spira*Spica
OP for My Dress-Up Darling (Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru)
Between hyped leftovers falling apart and a dearth of promising new titles to take their place, winter 2022 was one of the least fulfilling anime seasons in my decade of seasonal viewership. It’s why I’m compelled to second-guess whether or not My Dress-Up Darling—the season’s clear highlight—is as strong as it seemed in my head. It’s horny. It’s dorky. But crucially, it knows no shame, sewing adolescent sexual trepidation and obliviousness into a genuinely heart-warming, unlikely friendship.
It made me want to cheer on its lead couple, and that giddy jubilation is the center of its OP, a sugary, uplifting bop that sees Marin and Wakana shop, work, and go about their daily routines with more outfits than your Target sales rep could care to scold you for taking to the fitting rooms at one time. Despite a few moments where the storyboard undersells just how detailed My Dress-Up Darling’s character animation can get, the tune is beyond infectious and buoys the whole package.
#22 – “BAD CANDY” by yukaDD(;´∀`)
Studio: Asahi Production
OP for Girls’ Frontline (Dolls’ Frontline)
An apocalyptic wartime mobage adaptation isn’t the first sort of show to come to mind when I think of soulful, sexy pop music, but the combination works mesmerizingly well in Girls’ Frontline’s OP. Produced by Jin Nakamura and performed by Little Glee Monster-turned-solo star Yuka Sakamoto, “BAD CANDY” is more akin to an aloof, pulsating R&B hit than anything resembling the state of generic ani-song. After marathoning a couple hundred samey OPs, it gets real easy to appreciate even the slightest deviations from the norm.
Asahi Production’s composite-heavy visuals contain some clever transitions and appropriately convey the series’ muted, dreary setting adorned by abandoned dolls and military alliances. I’m not sure how much heart the franchise itself displays within them—game adaptations aren’t renowned for protagonist depth, after all—but treasures evidently hide in unexpected places. I’m glad this OP didn’t slip by me.
#21 – “Double Shuffle” by Nana Mizuki
Studio: Okuruto Noboru
OP for Tomodachi Game
Some unsolicited advice for all aspiring writers of dark, teenage fiction: dial back the your edge with a little camp. It goes a long way. Here’s an example: I’d be hard-pressed to touch Tomodachi Game with a ten-foot pole after its slog of a pilot aped Danganronpa doing its best Tom Scott Presents: Money impression, but Nana Mizuki’s “Double Shuffle” takes its cynical soul—wholeheartedly committed to in the storyboard—and makes it dance with flailing jazz hands.
The biggest surprise is this, though: for as stiff as Tomodachi Game looked in that premiere, this OP moves almost as much as it grooves, featuring some of the coolest composite work and scene transitions of any entry on this list. Really nails the “I am 14 and this is cool” aesthetic. Shove your advice, Professor Oak. I know there’s a time and place for that, but if it’s not here, I don’t know what environment would be more in need of its benefits.
#20 – “Seishun Complex” by Kessoku Band (the cast)
OP for Bocchi The Rock!
Bocchi The Rock has quickly become one of my favorite anime of the year, and though its comedic depiction of social anxiety and superb animation have contributed to its wider fanfare, its most pivotal strength for me so far has been its keen understanding of amateur musician-dom. The show’s four young artists fumbling to unify reflects the wishy-washy promise and doubt of just about every upstart band I’ve been a part of or grew up around. With capital D Direction in spades, Bocchi The Rock’s ~vibes~ are easy enough to pigeonhole, but they run deeper to anyone coming from or aspiring to the background.
As such, its OP is mostly about celebrating that awkward but inclusive sentiment, lassoed together by a hooky jam from its in-universe writers. The visual component is less essential than you’d expect, but Bocchi disappearing from the performance scene to evoke getting in her own head is a nice touch, as is Dino-cchi scattering the credit text. The storyboard on the whole could’ve stood to get even wilder, but as is Bocchi The Rock is about the little things coming together to somehow work past the worry, and that philosophy still pays off in this mere glimpse of its sheathed antics.
#19 – “Narihibiku Kagiri” by YUKI
OP for Dance Dance Danseur
There are reasons anime rarely indulge in elongated first-person POV shots: the changing, swaying depth to each frame makes them hell to animate, an unnecessary, rigorous expense of time and effort that can be more efficiently substituted through other perspectives and… what’s that? MAPPA’s on the line? Blast! That can only mean…
Yep, the studio that’s Too Big To Fail went straight for the jugular again. And the resulting product was gorgeous, again. Given their track record with employee wellbeing, I’m not inclined to go out of my way to praise this production committee, but one look at the visuals here and I can’t help but applaud whichever individuals strung this sequence together while retaining the featherlight grace of Dance Dance Danseur’s ballet-fevered cast. “Narihibiku Kagiri” does the same, perked up by YUKI’s distinct, nasally voice—one I’ve long since grown accustomed to and fully enjoy the zest of. Poised and pretty, this OP is more elegant than it has any right to be, knowing the sacrifices likely made on its behalf.
#18 – “Dekoboko” by Kiyoe Yoshioka
Studios: Shin-Ei Animation & SynergySP
OP1 for A Couple of Cuckoos (Kakkou no Iinazuke)
There are two ways for anime productions to really break my heart. The rarer of the devils is when a series I love drops the ball late in the game. The more common offense is when a series looks dazzling but couldn’t pinpoint its own personality if it landed with the mass of a cinder block onto its noggin.
If it weren’t immediately apparent, A Couple of Cuckoos is one of the latter, making this OP ring a little hollow in retrospect, but it still carries several standalone merits, including a rad social media sequence, split screen scenery converging at the song’s chorus, and some of the most gorgeous lighting and character animation of any OP this year. “Dekoboko” is a mild, take it or leave it mid-tempo pop rock tune, obviously not the star of the package, but it doesn’t let the visuals down either. Conversely, the series’ second OP contains a more memorable song, but it doesn’t sustain its momentum the whole distance. This one does, and it all peaks right when it needs to.
#17 – “This Fffire” by Franz Ferdinand
OP for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Boasting one of the year’s most diverse and exciting soundtracks, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners had no shortage of great original material with which to mold an OP. Instead, they went with a nearly 20-year-old Franz Ferdinand remix. That band isn’t necessarily among my faves from the aughts’ post-punk revival, but they still produced some great stuff, and this angular banger is no exception.
Put aside its age and it’s still a shock a song this steady and methodical was used for a Trigger show of all things, a studio whose go-to proclivities err on the side of zaniness. Yet the storyboard plays to the track’s strengths, cycling through composites and scenery to form a backdrop for abnormally foregrounded credits. The color design is great too—and your printer will love it. I’m more prone to skipping OPs when I marathon a show than when I watch one weekly, and yet I didn’t skip this OP once while breezing through Edgerunners. It’s a spunky little bugger, and the fire it alludes to really does burn out of control as its story progresses.
#16 – “The Rumbling” by SiM
OP for Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2
I’m not sure this is a compliment to SiM’s accessibility in a globalized music market or an indictment of our homegrown competition, but weebs around the country rallied to shoot “The Rumbling” to #1 on the United States Billboard Hard Rock charts for nearly two months straight this year.
Now, as cultivators of taste, the charts don’t really matter anymore, and you can bet your bottom dollar any epic attached to Attack on Titan in 2022 stood a chance at achieving the same result, but I gotta give credit where it’s due: “The Rumbling” properly fucks. It retains the orchestral flourishes of the series’ OG Linked Horizon tracks—an intentional homage, the band admits—while bringing the indignant fury of metalcore and melodrama of post-grunge along for the ride too, tying it all in a neat 90-second bouquet. The song alone would earn a spot here regardless, but the storyboard doesn’t slouch either, channeling the life-or-death suspense of Titan at its best with an extra pinch of finality.
#15 – “Hadaka no Yuusha” by Vaundy
OP2 for Ranking of Kings (Ousama Ranking)
What a difference a few months can make. When Ranking of Kings crested at its halfway point and introduced this new OP, fans were rightly quick to praise it as a moving, tender anthem about rising above the temptations of power. King Bojji’s whole life to that point could boil down to Vaundy’s motivational wisdom, backed with an ornate arrangement that blossoms from folksy strumming to symphonic grandiosity.
The wonder and awe are likewise conjured through its visuals, running the gamut through breathtaking landscapes, scenes of magical portent, and moments of familial love. It’s a stunning little OP that—through no fault of its own, really—happens to be attached to a series which sullied most of that emotional investment with a meandering back half and some sketchy insinuations that Colonialism Is Good, Actually. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. This opening is still a worthwhile consolation prize.
#14 – “Katachi” by Riko Azuna
Studio: Kinema Citrus
OP for Made In Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
Be it Kevin Penkin’s original soundtrack or the guests brought in to pad out the series’ musical aesthetics, Made In Abyss’ worldbuilding doesn’t flounder at any turn, including its score. “Katachi” isn’t a Penkin collab, but it’s right at home in Abyss’ bizarre universe, a soaring folk elegy of tribal percussion, plucky guitars, and WAMP WUBB-ing electronic patches. Words don’t really do the swirling amalgamation justice, but the visuals do, laudably juggling the season’s two casts, the initial trailblazers into this layer of the Abyss, and their unwitting followers. As the storyboard implies, the sights they witnessed in their descent were nearly identical. Their outcomes were very much not.
It leaves the nuances for the show itself to tackle, jumping to the present when the chorus hits, but at no point does this OP unduly give away too much information nor sacrifice its visual identity for the sake of avoiding spoilers. Immersive, alien, and hopeful in spite of…well, just about everything Made In Abyss, the second season enjoyed a franchise highlight of a theme song here.
#13 – “Kaze no Oto sae Kikoenai” by JUNNA
OP for Sabikui Bisco
Evoking Mad Max-ian desert landscapes, Sabikui Bisco greeted the year kicking and screaming with one of the most peculiar anime worlds in recent memory. Flying sea creatures, mushroom terrorists, The (or at the very least, A) War on Drugs, you name it—its strange traits fell into line with unlikely cohesion, and the windswept, desolate wastelands that its cast traverses form the backbone of its OP, a standalone clip of the lead duo getting separated and Bisco mounting a sky whale in order to reunite with Milo.
The visual distinctiveness is the initial draw, cemented by a preponderance of complementary blues and tans (get out your color wheels, folks), but the icing on the cake is “Kaze no Oto sae Kikoenai,” a J-rock banger with enough riffy grit to appease both metalheads and the melodically-inclined among us. It’s a load of dumb, muscly, catchy fun guided by a shattered Rule of Cool-ometer. It makes dystopia look like a thrill. It slaps.
#12 – “ALIVE” by ClariS
Studio: A-1 Pictures
OP for Lycoris Recoil
I’ve personally never been a huge ClariS fan, so “ALIVE” isn’t really my ideal selling point for Lycoris Recoil’s OP, but it does exemplify something the show did remarkably: marrying unassuming cuteness to campy urgency. I won’t try to talk up LycoReco as an exceptionally woke or brainy show—it isn’t—but what it lacks in subtlety it bountifully compensates for in liveliness. Characters blabber fast, move with superhuman agility, be gay and do and/or avenge crimes—it’s a lot of fluff, but the fluff is the draw, the nutrition of it all.
The series’ OP understands this too. It knows you’re probably (hopefully) here to watch girls with drip suppress their validation issues and disobey the laws they theoretically uphold. It knows it’s got a damn potent good cop/bad cop dynamic on its hands, and it knows the particulars of its conflict are less compelling than the interpersonal rapport and double lives of its two protagonists. With that in consideration, it gives the masses the platonic fanservice they flocked for with just enough window dressing to remind us that yes, some poor saps probably watched Lycoris Recoil for the plot. Their loss, our dazzling 90-second treasure. May the ass-kicking seen ‘round the world forever live in infamy.
#11 – “Maid Daikaiten” by Ton Tokoton Staff Ichidou (the cast)
Studio: P.A. Works
OP for Akiba Maid War
Look, I don’t know whose idea it was to combine a porcine maid café with bloody mafia turf wars, but that person was onto something bespoke; part The Godfather, part Mean Girls, and seasoned with several dashes of mystery spice, Akiba Maid War is an absolute riot, its disparate elements refusing to cohere as anything other than surreal, morbid comedy at its finest.
Its OP sounds like it isn’t sure how to reconcile those influences either, and to its credit, it barely attempts to. The first half is a noxious barrage of grisly imagery and Nine Inch Nails-inspired industrial beats—it shares its tempo with “March of the Pigs,” and I don’t think that’s a coincidence—and the second abruptly drops the façade to show the Ton Tokoton employees perform a more straight-faced dance number. If you can watch this thing without 1) scratching your head and 2) cackling like a dumbass, you’re a much more hardened soul than I. A certain in-show establishment could make use of your resolve.
#10 – “Honey Jet Coaster” by Nasuo☆
Studio: Doga Kobo
OP for Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie! (Kawaii dake ja Nai Shikimori-san)
Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie may be my biggest non-sequel disappointment of 2022, but that’s entirely the result of its execution, not its ingredients; a kind-hearted babyface and a protective, popular tomboy taking a ride down Relationship Lane has all the makings of an enjoyable, passionately-animated rom-com, and it’s even grounded by a solid supporting cast of jokey homies. The source material’s writing just let out its air. The same can’t be said for its OP, however, with “Honey Jet Coaster” replicating the show’s formula with even more creativity (catch that shiritori verse? Brilliant) in bubbly pop bliss.
The storyboard is a whirlwind too, initially flickering through the kids’ selfies, outfit anxieties, and a slew of blink-and-miss-it transitions between daydreamed alter-verses, a sequence made clear only when Yuu wakes up at the end of the OP just in time to see Shikimori save him from getting donked by a rogue baseball. Adorable and vibrant without crossing the line into saccharinity, Shikimori’s opening is the best thing its adaptation had going for it.
#9 – “Daten” by Creepy Nuts
OP for Call of the Night (Yofukashi no Uta)
Unintrusive as they should be (given I can’t read most of them), I’m not 100% on board with the emerging trend of lyric video OPs yet. When they backfire, they can look pretty desperate—but then there are ones like Call of the Night’s, which had no shortage of appeal even without MC R-Shitei’s quirky phrases sneaking onto walls, fabric, and miscellaneous paraphernalia.
I can’t knock the karaoke-friendly addition, though—with or without it, “Daten” is the sort of track that makes you wanna get up and shuffle. Its piano licks, brass embellishments, and layered sing-along chorus evoke a jazz-hop band merrily entertaining a dive bar at some ungodly hour, a scene only out of reach for protagonist Ko on behalf of his youthful age. Otherwise, that’s the vibe Call of the Night seeks out on the regular, and as a counterpoint to their sleazier, more menacing ED for the show (a song which actually predates it by a few years), it’s cool to see Creepy Nuts flex their range here, up to and including a brilliant fake-out ending where it’s implied the footage to that point was shot by the cast themselves. It’s a bit of a stretch—maybe trying to do too much with the space allotted—but either way, Call of the Night’s OP never failed to ease me into the nocturnal, carefree vibe the series was eager to dole out.
#8 – “SOUVENIR” by BUMP OF CHICKEN
Studios: CloverWorks & Wit
OP for Spy x Family Part 2
I suppose it’s fitting that as Spy x Family entered a cour defined more by throwaway ootings than moving the story’s needle its OP followed suit and doubled down on the Forgers’ comfy home life rather than their ulterior motives. Phony backstory or not, the love these characters have for one another is warmer than Loid would readily acknowledge, and this montage of the trio (+ the recently-acquired doggo) gallivanting around town and enjoying each other’s company makes for an idyllic, cozy slice of heaven to preface each episode’s shenanigans.
Where Spy x Family’s first OP thought outside the boxwith its aesthetic choices (and those choices do leave a greater impression than “some pretty lighting and a solid BUMP OF CHICKEN song”), this is the combination that feels most flattering for this stage of the Spy x Family universe. Don’t let its competition mislead you: to my glee, the franchise hasn’t produced a dud OP or ED yet.
#7 – “Teppen Tengoku ~TOP OF THE LAUGH!!!~” by Teppen All Stars (the cast)
OP for Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ‘til You Cry
From what I gathered in its pilot, Teppen (followed by 15 exclamation points, which will make sense momentarily) is a show about five comedy troupes dorming while they compete in a tournament to determine Japan’s best manzai trio (there you go). The actual joke-telling of that first episode left some punch to be desired, but I’m inclined to give it a second shot for two reasons: first, it was supposed to air an episode involving an assassination that got kicked down the road due to Shinzo Abe getting nerfed by a dissident’s makeshift firearm that very week. Some would call that poor timing. I’d say when you’re trying to monetize an obscure anime comedy, any attention is marketable attention.
But I digress. Reason number two: Teppen’s OP has so much damn personality it barely knows what to do with itself. It has to give fifteen characters time to reel off a few lines alluding to their personalities and squad gimmicks, and it achieves this by having them trade off the mic in a rapid-fire rap battle set to turntable scratches and funk muzak. That alone would be enough to land it on my radar in an ocean of generic ani-song, but the storyboard is likewise wild in its own scrappy, rough around the edges sort of way, full of dorky dance moves, smug expressions, and dizzying transitions. Not to gawk at the meta too much, but Teppen is effectively a fictional reality TV show, and the performances here are just as appropriate an in-universe title montage as they are for us actual audiences.
#6 – “Aiue” by MAISONdes feat. Minami & SAKURAmoti
Studio: David Production
OP for Urusei Yatsura (2022)
As easy as it would’ve been to emulate the flat, dated look of the original Urusei Yatsura OPs or their contemporaneous city pop accompaniments, the mega-hit’s reboot is nothing if not glitzier; the chance to refurbish the franchise’s shtick with a modern appearance is kind of the whole point of this cherrypicked, reanimated tribute. And while that at first seems concerning (camouflaging an OP with its surroundings is a feat, but not the one I’m inclined to gush about), Urusei Yatsura (2022)’s was left in the crafty hands of Shingo Yamashita. His direction oozes charisma and pays more homage to the manga, panels and all, than its prior adaptation. But it doesn’t rest on those laurels either—this thing’s got mock arcade game footage, a beautifully-rendered 3D cut with a rollercoaster, and a centerpiece sequence where Ataru tries roaming the night for babes, only to wind up front row to Lum performing “Aiue” to him.
In that moment, her dancing instantly steals the show, but that shouldn’t detract from how relentlessly catchy and emotive “Aiue” is on its own. Minami proves her DomeKano OP was no fluke, going all-in as a perfect match for the song’s lyrics which outline Lum’s resentment towards Ataru’s womanizing. Chock-full of wordplay and passive-aggressive straining, it’s a fresh, hip sound that flawlessly bridges the gap between the franchise’s roots and its manicured new look. Couldn’t ask for anything better, really.
#5 – “Chiki Chiki Ban Ban” by QUEENDOM
Studio: P.A. Works
OP for Ya Boy Kongming! (Paripi Koumei)
My crops are watered. The harvest will sustain us. Ya Boy Kongming gave us a dedicated, bona fide dance sequence OP. They come around every now and then, but rarely with this much sheen, Kongming leading Eiko and an assembly of other cast members through a choreography that’s half groovy moves and half martial arts exercise. The show thrives when it accepts the reborn tactician’s presence as a given, beckoning everyone else to catch up and get on his level, and the same applies to this clip. It’s glamorous bravado without undue arrogance or the hangover that usually follows an excursion this decadent. In other words, it’s the perfect recipe for a tickled audience.
But not to ignore the elephant in the room, QUEENDOM didn’t pen “Chiki Chiki Ban Ban,” aside from some reinterpreted lyrics. Like Kongming’s origin, the song’s source is foreign, with a refrain reconstructed verbatim from “Bulikirály,” a 2013 club banger by Hungarian dance artist Jolly. The differences between the two are marginal at best—this remix adds an Asian flair while the original sounds tangibly more European—but the ghostwriting at play is merely a footnote for those aiming to accurately credit the songwriters. “Chiki Chiki Ban Ban” parties like it’s 100% the show’s own creation, and if that melody doesn’t get jammed in your head from listen one, there might be something amiss with your ears.
#4 – “Dokidoki Idea wo Yoroshiku!” by Gata Girls’ DIY Club (the cast)
Studio: Pine Jam
OP for Do It Yourself!!
Shocking absolutely no one, my three favorite OPs this year are attached to massively popular shounen, so for one last look at something a little different, here’s one of 2022’s best “chill out” anime: Do It Yourself!! As much as I would’ve loved a spoof theme of the craftswomen playing DIY punk (there’s still a one-off chance, right? Right?), the show’s tone is uncompromisingly light-hearted, and this corny, Sesame Street-ass jingle is properly indicative of its natural habitat.
To be clear, I mean that entirely as a compliment. Do It Yourself radiates a positive, relaxing glow every week, a school club series that calmly juggles pertinent commentary about the tech-savvy future with a membership whose investment in such a thing starts and ends with “gets to fuck around with power tools while hanging out.” The OP leans more on the latter vibe—it’s all about the girls goofing off, singing, dancing, and only occasionally slamming hammer to nail. And I’m 100% fine with that, if for no other reason than how its execution punctures any pretense you might harbor walking into the series. When that trumpet blares over the girls’ nonsense vocables in the opening’s final measures, all the stress in my aching muscles gets instantly expelled. It’s therapeutic delight. I don’t take for granted any OP with that sort of power.
#3 – “KICK BACK” by Kenshi Yonezu
OP for Chainsaw Man
Say what you will of the Jujutsu Kaisen school of MAPPA’s realist aesthetics, but I have been utterly entranced by this adaptation’s design choices, relegating most scenes to a muted, sterile atmosphere and only truly jumping ship when Chainsaw Man’s most violent tendencies call for it. The combination comes off deliberately uncanny, and that’s worked wonders—even if not the same ones as the source material—for the series’ anime-only viewers. Hell, our protagonist Denji is too feral to even connect the dots of his overseers’ goals, leaving that jigsaw mostly on us to decipher. In the meantime, its load of gory viscera and black comedy gladly fill the space.
Its OP wields that same uneasy revelry; the organ-accented carnival shuffle of “KICK BACK” is on edge at all times, teetering on the brink of vertigo and re-centered only by a Morning Musume reprisal of all things. Its symbolism will likely mean more to an invested reader with advance knowledge, but speaking as someone who began Chainsaw Man with so few spoilers about its plot I didn’t know it starred a literal chainsaw man, every character interaction depicted here abounds with identity, from Power stealing Kobeni’s theater seat to Denji suggestively polishing a bowling ball like it’s his testes. From start to finish, this OP is an immersive, facetiously tempered trip, and its title is [bill wurtz voice] so goddamn profitable MAPPA might just forget to not do slavery.
#2 – “Mixed Nuts” by Official HIGE DANdism
Studios: CloverWorks & Wit
OP for Spy x Family
Utilizing the talents of anime theme director extraordinaire Masashi Ishihama, Spy x Family set a mighty high bar for all the franchise’s future OPs and EDs in one fell swoop. Ishihama’s hallmarks—light-speed cuts, panning clips, silhouetted figures, exuberant coloring—they’re all here, and though it’d be easy to characterize the man as a one-trick pony, that trick fits like a forensic glove on a series like SpyFam, aligning its animator’s strengths to the title’s espionage backdrop.
Or at least that’s what I’d say if this OP were a one-trick pony, but it isn’t. We only fill out an Ishihama BINGO in its closing suite, as most of the OP is driven by a childish, storybook-like sequence of Anya skipping through her day and going on escapades with her parents. The design choices are blindingly bright and candy-coated, more artistic than a child’s scribbles but arriving at the same endearing effect. And that’s not even mentioning “Mixed Nuts,” which adopts the jazzy luster of the series’ background but rounds off its frantic energy to a resplendent yet tactful homeostasis. It’s controlled chaos—and though some parts are more chaotic than others (bassist, thank you for your service, keep up the slick work)—its sense of joy is undeniably at home in the wonderful world of Spy x Family. In any other year, it’d be the obvious top dog. And yet…
#1 – “1” by MOB CHOIR
OP for Mob Psycho 100 III
I mean, duh, right? This franchise is no stranger to using its opening and ending themes as showcases not just for what single animators are capable of, but what the medium as a whole can accomplish. Its merits wouldn’t necessarily apply to just any series—Mob Psycho’s telekinetic furor not only allows but encourages a storyboard defined by sensory overload. The series’ prior seasons already pushed the envelope in that regard—S1 won my OP of the Year in 2016 and S2 took home my silver in 2019—but S3’s offering is on another level entirely, shedding the former’s countdown motif and the latter’s messier color scheming. This iteration is a non-stop barrage of refined success, encapsulating and furthering all the psychedelic mania the series feeds on through its roots. Wanna overlay like, five clips on screen at the same time? Sure, to hell with composure. Let’s embed the lyrics into the animation too. At this point, why the brocc not?
Even “1” itself is an improvement! While it’s less of an instant earworm than progenitor “99,” I’d staunchly contend it’s MOB CHOIR’s best song, as opposed to their best theme song, ramping up in intensity with an unforeseen boldness and self-seriousness unchained from the project’s past gimmicks. This OP is a bangin’, artsy, fist-pumping masterpiece in a lineage of already stone cold classics. Even though 2022’s OPs offered plenty of superb animation and songwriting, there’s truly one and only one Mob Psycho 100, and it took the field determined to win once again. Who am I to deny such a powerhouse its due celebration? Welcome back and congratulations, Mob Psycho 100—the first repeat winner of my annual OP awards.
And that’s it this time around! What were your favorite OPs of 2022? Feel free to leave a comment below or—assuming it still works by the time you read this—over on my Twitter. In the coming month and a half, I’ll be rounding out my 2022 coverage with my favorite EDs of the year and my year-long recap leading to my top 10 shows. It’s business as usual in that regard, but my means of sharing the content may underdog some changes, so if you haven’t yet already, go ahead and follow For Great Justice itself. One thing’s for sure: it won’t regularly clog your notifications. Until we next meet, I’ve been Yata, and thanks for reading. Stay safe, healthy and have a wonderful holiday season.