If you have ever watched a piece of media before, you will likely have had to sit through an intro sequence of sorts.
Let’s take Friends as an example.
Friends Opening 6
Most shows will simply play a jaunty tune over some still images or scenes from highlight episodes.
Anime, however, goes above and beyond the call of duty.
How are Anime Openings Different from Western TV Openings?
Anime creates a one minute-thirty second cinematic for its viewer to enjoy! Not only this but both the video and music are typically updated on a regular basis once a new season starts.
Music, in and of itself, is a very subjective topic. People have different tastes and it is impossible to compile a list that will cater to everyone’s niches.
Or so you may think!
Yes! This is an undisputed, undebatable, paramount, all-encompassing list of the objectively greatest anime openings of all time – don’t @ me!
- I will only be including one opening per franchise.
- I have not seen every anime opening ever so please feel free to let me know your favourites in the comment section.
- Nothing is in any sort of ranked order except for the final two entries which would be my top two favourite.
1) Deadman Wonderland
“One Reason” – DWB
Acting as somewhat of a transitional opening for those still new to the world of anime, Deadman Wonderland’s opening is entirely sung in English by Japanese-American rock band Fade (featuring Deadman Wonder Band or DWB).
Deadman Wonderland is the name of a privately operated penitentiary. Inside, the inmates use their powers of blood manipulation to perform in fights to the death for the amusement of paying onlookers.
Very rare is it to have an anime opening feature no Japanese. As you will soon discover, occasional English words or phrases are used a lot in Japanese songs and openings are no exception.
Deadman Wonderland stands unique in this regard – so unique that it warranted a placing amongst the very best.
2) Death Parade
After death, a person is sent to either heaven or hell. However, for some, they are sent to the Quindecim bar, hosted by the white-haired bartender Decim. He will then challenge the person to a death game where they will often reveal their true nature. He will then cast judgement about whether their soul will be reincarnated or cast into the void.
Such a catchy song with great actions performed by each of the characters. This song garnered such a following and such high praise that the band themselves reenacted the entire opening in live-action.
3) Fairy Tail
“Snow Fairy” – Funkist
Fairy Tail follows the lives of a group of mages who, through the power of love and friendship, combat adversity in whichever form it presents itself.
If that description didn’t sell you on the story, you wouldn’t be alone. I too debated long and hard about watching this show. It looked childish, Shounen-Lite, and just all-around boring when compared to the titanic big three.
What this show did manage to do, however, was grab me by the ears and lull me into clicking the first episode and I am very glad that I did.
Before even watching the show, I listened to the opening extensively. It’s just so…nice! Not heart-pumping, not mysterious, and not awe-inspiring. Just…nice.
I love the instrumental choices and the whimsical feel just makes it so fitting for its purpose. This being, to amplify the genre of anime and give a sneak preview of what’s to come. This magical tune gets me primed and ready to embark on a happy adventure.
4) Hunter X Hunter
“Pale Ale” – Kenichi Kurosawa
Gon, a young and bright-eyed child, embarks on a quest to pass the hunter exam, a rigorously difficult set of challenges that rewards participants with the coveted title of Hunter. Attempting to travel in his absentee father’s footsteps, Gon sets forth with his friends with hopes to also decipher the many mysteries surrounding his dad.
Hunter X Hunter has two variations. The modern epic which began airing in 2011 (dubbed eponymously as ‘Hunter X Hunter 2011’, and the original which aired from 1999 to 2001.
The modern adaptation is considered to be the best viewing experience by both new and old fans alike. Adapting far more of the source material than the original, the updated visuals and voice acting are the cherry on top.
However, for my pick, I’m going to ruffle a few feathers no doubt as I choose the third opening of the original 1999 series – Pale Ale
Clocking in at only one minute, this opening manages to accomplish in less time than what many of its competitors fail to do with an additional thirty seconds.
Pale Ale is the opening to the OVA. During this season, one of the side characters, Kurapika, takes the spotlight as he viciously attempts to track down and eliminate several members of the Phantom Troupe. The Troupe is responsible for the massacring of his clan who were hunted for their valuable scarlet eyes.
Particularly the final few seconds, seeing the anger in Kurapika’s eyes, sells the entire opening for me. In one minute, even those not familiar with the series know how he feels and what he wants to accomplish during the OVA. Truly a great piece of visual storytelling.
“Ranbu no Melody” – SID
Bleach was the first anime I ever truly watched (excluding kids’ television of course). As such, I have a very sentimental attachment to the second opening, D-Technolife. This opening began airing during Bleach’s first real arc – the invasion of Soul Society. I have many memories and a huge nostalgic bias towards this song.
However; even I am forced to admit that the thirteenth opening, Ranbu no Melody, stands unrivaled at the very top.
This opening just does something amazing. Not only is the song phenomenal, but instead of showcasing its characters, it showcases a single setting. For a long time by this point in the story, the final showdown between the main villain’s henchman and our heroes had been foreshadowed. Almost every fight during this showdown takes place in a singular city setting.
For the first forty-five seconds of the opening, Bleach teases the viewer with empty streets and calm cityscapes before erupting into an explosion of characters duking it out during the song’s chorus.
Moreover, Shounen such as this, pride themselves on their side characters. That is why Ichigo, Bleach’s protagonist, does not even make an appearance in the opening until the very end.
Bleach’s confidence in its characters is put on full display in this opening.
6) Sword Art Online
“Crossing Field” – LiSA
The part when they sheath their swords, man – come on, THE PART WHERE THEY SHEATH THEIR SWORDS!
After being trapped in a video game, where death in the game results in death in the real world, Kirito, a talented swordsman, embarks to clear the final boss of the hundredth floor and return to reality.
Sung by one of Japan’s most famous artists, LiSA makes her mark on the anime industry with this beautiful verse.
7) Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
“Küsö Mesorogiwi” – Yousei Teikoku
A group of people is selected to participate in a last man standing game where the final surviving participant will succeed the god of time and space when he eventually dies.
What’s the first thing you think of when I mention Mirai Nikki? Is it the fight scenes? The animation? The incredibly well written-
Yuno, I think, is the reason Mirai Nikki garnered so much attention. Catapulting the Yandere archetype into the mainstream, this opening is just as frantic and erratic as Yuno’s personality.
8) Cowboy Bebop
“Tank” – The Seatbelts
Cowboy Bebop is an anime that has amassed a huge following over the years. Coming up on its twenty-year anniversary, this show has proven to be truly timeless.
A team of bounty hunters travel across the galaxy in this glorious space western.
Cowboy Bebop’s opening is unique in that it features little to no lyrics whatsoever. Instead, the show flaunts a catchy jazz beat that viewers can’t help but tap their toes to.
9) Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
“Golden Time Lover” – Sukima Switch
This was tough. For those unaware, Fullmetal Alchemist also has two variations. For the sake of clarity, we will only be focusing on the most recent version – Brotherhood. With only five openings, it shouldn’t be too hard to pick one, right? Right?
Oh boy. Every single one of these tracks bops. After conducting some research, it seems the first opening, “Again”, has struck the biggest chord in the anime community. For me, however, it always came down to either “Hologram” or “Golden Time Lover”.
“Hologram” is fantastic but falls just behind Golden Time Lover in my opinion.
I love the full circle narrative of Edward consumed by anger at the start before learning to control his emotions to protect something. A very creative way to show this character’s development.
10) Katekyo Hitman Reborn
“Listen to the Stereo” – Going Under Ground
After being told that he is to become the next leader of a mafia family, Sawada Tsunayoshi begins his training under the adult turned infant tutor, Reborn.
This show I feel is often overshadowed by the big three but honestly boasts one of the most compelling narratives I have ever seen.
The start is very slow and sees a lot of potential viewers disengaged before reaching the first climax. However, those who stuck with it were rewarded with one of the top openings of all time.
The entire show of Hitman Reborn places a large focus on growth. Not only becoming physically stronger but becoming the type of man who deserves the respect of the title he precedes. Seeing all of Tsuna’s mafia family compared to the Primo’s, with the final juxtaposition of Tsuna taking the reins from the Primo, was beautiful to watch.
“Renai Circulation” – Kana Hanazawa
Monogatari is a very unique anime. The blending of different art styles, strange camera angles, and frantic dialogue, is a mix I have yet to see replicated in modern anime.
Regarding the show’s openings, it also sets itself apart, changing the opening theme song every few episodes to highlight the focus character of that particular arc.
The opening in particular that resonated with so many Monogatari fans, myself included, is the opening tailored to Sengoku Nadeko, Renai Circulation.
Such a catchy beat, you can’t help but tap your toes along to this tune.
Fans thought the beat was so catchy in fact, that they created a remix just to prove that this opening can do any song justice if you mix it well enough
12) Black Rock Shooter
“Black Rock Shooter” – Hatsune Miku
This is an anime I see seldom discussed. The story is rather hard to pin down. Student Mato Kuroi attempts to befriend several of her classmates. However, her ambitions are in constant flux due to the actions taking place in a parallel world, where Black Rock Shooter fights fearsome battles.
The story is fairly confusing and even when you do manage to understand it, the payoff isn’t that rewarding either. However, it is enjoyable enough and the opening is sung by famous Vocaloid Hatsune Miku.
Hatsune Miku is a Vocaloid or a virtual idol singer. She hosts concerts across Japan and the world, where the audience cheer on her hologram with glow sticks.
It’s great to see the Vocaloid scene gaining some new fans who found out about the genre through this anime. Hopefully, we can see other Vocaloids make their debut as well in the future.
“Hey!!!” – FLOW
After high school delinquent Oga is tasked with caring for the son of the demon king, he undergoes a string of hand to hand fights to increase his strength and prove his worthiness to care for his baby.
This show is hilarious and the selling point is the whacky cast of side-characters used to support Oga during his antics.
During the first several episodes, Oga fights with several of his Yankee classmates, besting all of them in combat. However, by the time the third opening rolls around, a different school has emerged to challenge Oga and his pals.
Due to the appearance of a common foe, old enemies must not become friends. The final shot of this opening sees the entire cast gathering around Oga, ready to take down whatever stands in their way.
I loved seeing these once hated characters transformed into allies and this opening does a great job of setting the stage for what is to come.
14) One Piece
“Share the World” – TVXQ
Monkey D. Luffy, an aspiring pirate, sets off in search of fabled treasure with his crew. He hopes to one day find this treasure and be crowned the pirate king.
One Piece differs from its competitors due to the opening being one minute longer. Where almost every anime opening finishes at one minute and thirty seconds, One Piece goes until two minutes and thirty seconds.
One Piece openings occupy another realm entirely. Being almost the same length as a regular song, it is easy to become lost in a sea of similar-sounding jingles.
The first opening of One Piece is iconic. “We Are” is recognised far and wide as the light-hearted tune used to kickstart the adventures of Luffy and his Nakama. So much so that it had 3 different variations throughout the series run (one being sung by the main cast)!
However, I consider the eleventh opening, Share the World (performed by popular Japanese band TVXQ), to be the epitome of One Piece openings.
We start off with an introduction to our cast. Well known by this point but having grown a lot over the course of time past thus far. We reminisce over the fun times they had together, before being catapulted into this arc’s storyline.
The crew is separated and Luffy endeavours to conquer the prison Impel Down and save his brother from being executed.
The final shot of Luffy reaching out to his brother Ace in an act of desperation gets me ready to binge through hundreds of episodes just to see what will happen next.
If that isn’t the job of an opening, I don’t know what is.
We don’t talk about the One Piece rap…
15) Neon Genesis Evangelion
“Cruel Angel’s Thesis” – Yoko Takahashi
After beings known as Angels invade our planet, four children piloting mech suits set out to eradicate the threat and serve humanity.
Neon Genesis, as much as it is a show about fighting aliens in robot suits, is a character-driven narrative. These are children piloting the robots that have yet to reach a level of maturity one would think is required for such an endeavour.
The opening is great at exemplifying this. It starts fairly calm and slow. Then, when the children enter the Eva for the first time, the music kicks up with sporadic flashing images. This mirrors the wild thoughts that our protagonist and his companions face during their time as pilots. The stress this causes and the lack of a way to deal with it.
The transformation from a humble child into a premature adult is expressed in great detail in this opening.
16) Soul Eater
“Paper Moon” – Tommy heavenly6
Soul Eater revolves around the DMWA (Death Meister Weapon Academy). Here, students are divided into teams where one member has the ability to transform into a deadly weapon and the other member, wields them.
Soul Eater prides itself on its aesthetic. Whether it be the glorious art style, tantalising music, or gorgeous set design, this anime stands unmatched when it comes to flair.
Soul Eater’s second opening, Paper Moon, is great for a many number of reasons. The song by itself is wonderful to listen to and the accompanying cinematic showcases the fluid animation that Soul Eater is known for.
The song itself also makes a reappearance as the backing track to one of the greatest fights in anime history. Take a look at our 30 Anime to Watch Before You Die! article to see the moment I’m referencing. You won’t be disappointed.
17) The World God Only Knows
“God Only Knows” – Oratorio The World God Only Knows
The World God Only Knows sees our protagonist, a ギャルゲーム (Girl Game, Gyaru Gemu or Galge for short) enthusiast, tasked with kissing several of his infected classmates to ride their bodies from a spirit possessed within.
In these types of games, the protagonist seeks to attain a relationship with one or many partners. The choices that the player makes directly affect the final pairing.
Keima is an analyst. He has mastered the routes to give himself the perfect ending in whichever game he plays. Applying this to real life, the opening starts up with a computer network, laying out Keima’s thoughts into each of the branching pathways in the form of circuitry. He is not particularly interested in love, more so achieving victory over an obstacle.
This network evaporates upon the introduction of Elsie, the being responsible for his expeditions into the world of 3-D love. It does a great job of showing the shift in Keima’s character at the hands of his partner. The scenery becomes brighter and the music lifts significantly implying perhaps a wavering of this reliance on video games.
We are then presented with a shot of each of the girls who turn to face the camera and become filled with colour. It’s easy to see here how the show wants to present its characters as having more depth than simple video game characters (the ones that Keima is used to conquering).
Ok, I know what you want to talk about, you know what you want to talk about, so let’s just get to it. In the final moments of the opening, we get the amazing breakdown featuring Keima, absorbed in his game, wandering through various settings. Just a great melody that I can’t help but hum along to every time.
18) Attack on Titan
“Jiyuu no Tsubasa” – Linked Horizon
After monstrous beings known as titans break through a protective wall guarding the city, Eren and his friends undergo a journey to eliminate every last enemy and save humanity.
Attack on Titan’s first opening is legendary. It gets you pumped to fight some titans there is no doubt about it.
Yet, Jiyuu no Tsubasa just does something different that I can’t quite put my finger on.
19) Blue Exorcist
“Core Pride” – Uverworld
When a pair of twins are born from a human mother and Satan himself, Rin Okumura struggles to come to terms with the fact that he has inherited the majority of his father’s powers.
Uverworld is no stranger to anime openings. Core Pride is one of those songs that are just so brilliant in their delivery, that not having an anime cinematic to compliment them would be a sin. I suppose dealing with such an anime, that would also be a compliment.
Nevertheless, the final shot where Rin draws his sword and the blaring electric guitar kicks in acts as a satisfying climax to an already great anime opening.
“Uragiri no Yuuyake” – Theatre Book
Durarara has several plotlines, all working in tandem with one another. From crazy powerful civilians duking it out on the streets to anonymous gang warfare. The most prevalent story however centres around Celty, an undercover dullahan courier working in Ikebukuro.
The opening works wonders in contextualising all of these stories and characters and how, by chance, they all seem to coexist.
The story can get confusing at times so rest assured that if you ever find yourself forgetting who is who, the opening has got you covered.
“Believe in Me” – David Rolfe
How about we show some appreciation for our dubbed brethren. Most dubbed versions of anime openings pale in comparison to their Japanese counterparts. Yet, occasionally, the western marketing team seems to strike gold.
Do…do I really need to give a plot synopsis for Pokemon? It’s pokemon. You go out and catch animals and have them battle for you. Ok? Ok.
Anime during this era had some great openings. Yu-Gi-Oh!, Beyblade, Digimon and Cardcaptors, all had great openings for their English releases.
As for Pokemon, the first opening will always be an icon of the industry. The second opening is also a fan favourite.
But Master Quest just hits different.
“Hacking to the Gate” – Kanako Itō
After discovering that his microwave has the ability to conduct time travel, self-proclaimed mad scientist Okabe Rintarou, sets out to push the device to its very limits.
What can be said about Hacking to the Gate? This opening does a great job of visualising the genre of the anime. A science-fiction, time travel epic. Each character is given enough screen time so the audience knows who to look out for and the shaking screen effect only amplifies the already built tension after finishing the first episode.
23) One-Punch Man
“The Hero!!” – JAM Project
Undisputed strongest man alive, Saitama, has the ability to defeat every enemy in only one punch. However, due to being unrecognised by society due to his lack of flashiness, he embarks to raise his hero status and potentially, find a foe who can face him on equal ground.
One-Punch Man is a satirical take on the modern Shounen anime. Most anime like this have long sprawling episodes where characters will monologue and fight and then monologue some more about friendship, before finally achieving victory.
One-Punch Man looks to take that narrative and change it up entirely. Instead of teasing the viewer with a slew of cuts and flashbacks, One-Punch Man gives you an enemy, one punch, and an instant climax.
The opening replicates this, having the blaring lyrics, “One Punch!” screamed at the viewer right from the get-go. Such a great opening for an amazing anime.
24) Code Geass
“Colors” – FLOW
Lelouch is a child born into royalty but cast aside by his father along with his ailing sister. After meeting the mysterious green-haired girl C.C, he is given the power to invoke one irrefutable command to anyone he chooses. With his new ability, he sets out on a course for revenge against his father.
The opening itself does not inherently break any new ground regarding its presentation. You have the classic still images of the cast before an action-heavy breakdown at the chorus.
This opening relies heavily on the music present but Colors is such a damn good song that it manages to make the list regardless.
25) Fire Force
“Inferno” – Mrs. GREEN APPLE
The most modern anime to be featured on this list, the story revolves around a group of firefighters equipped with unique abilities and tools to aid them.
Despite not having amassed as much of a following as several other anime on this list, Fire Force’s opening Inferno left a fire burning in the hearts of all who watched it.
While nostalgia blindness is all too real a condition that I have shown several symptoms of already during this article, I can also appreciate a well-done opening from any era, and Fire Force delivers in spades with this number.
26) My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)
“Peace Sign” – Kenshi Yonezu
After a chance encounter with the number one hero, a powerless Deku is imbued with the unique Quirk of his idol. Now, he attends classes at U.A, a specialist academy for training the next generation of superheroes, with hopes to one day surpass his master and become the very best.
This rivalry has gone on since the dawn of the third opening. Opening-two-ers hate Opening-Three-ers with a passion and vice versa.
All I have to say is…if you are a filthy Opening-three-er you need to stop reading this article right away and reconsider your taste in music.
Jokes aside, both openings are wonderfully presented but I personally prefer the second. It is just so bombastic when it hits the chorus and really gets me in the mood to watch some crazy fight scenes featuring crazy superpowers.
27) Tokyo Ghoul
“Unravel” – Toru Kitajima
Oshiete oshiete yo sono shikumi wo.
Yes, of course, the first opening for the critically acclaimed Tokyo Ghoul would make an appearance. All it takes is that first line for any anime fan to start flexing the vocal cords to hit the incoming falsetto in the chorus.
Beautiful colours here act in contrast to the mundane people they exude from. Kaneki Ken is a half-ghoul and half-human hybrid, struggling to come to terms with the fact that he will have to consume people in order to continue living.
The strange and mystical world of the ghouls is expressed through the butterfly wings and dancing colour splashes here when compared to the smartly dressed ordinary humans they are paired with. Ken struggles to find a place in this world, especially in the first season. The opening executes this indecisiveness effortlessly.
28) Naruto (+ Shippuden)
“Sign” – FLOW
Naruto, like any series running for such a long time, has a lot of episodes. As such, it has a lot of openings.
Naruto follows the life of the titular character Naruto Uzumaki, a young boy imbued with the power of a demon fox. He strives to gain the respect of his peers by becoming a ninja with hopes of one day becoming the Hokage – the leader of his village.
While not having the greatest opening of all time, I believe that Naruto has, overall, the best anime openings. The ratio of good to bad leans so heavily to the former that it is downright impressive.
Because of this, the article is no longer a top anime openings list with a one per franchise rule. This is now…
WHY NARUTO OPENINGS ARE SO GOOD THAT IT GIVES ME GOOSEBUMPS
I think the first taste of greatness this anime had to offer came with the absolute banger that is Fighting Dreamers.
“Go!!” – FLOW
However, the following opening in my opinion is the best from the original series. Encapsulating perfectly the key story of chasing down Sasuke, I get chills whenever I go to revisit it.
“Seishun Kyosokyoku” – Sambomaster
Then, along came Shippuden to smack the headphones out of my ears and hook me up to a surround sound juggernaut of a speaker system.
Blue Bird is often considered the favourite among fans.
“Blue Bird” – Ikimono-Gakari
But I’m going to have to move all my chips onto opening six, Sign, the first video of this section.
Personal bias? Perhaps. This opening sets the scene for my favourite fight in the series featuring Naruto’s teacher, Jiraiya. Yet, I can’t help but think all the ongoing stories just mesh together so well when layered over such a great song.
What was that? I’ve reached my limit? Oh yeah? Well, how about…THIS!
“Hero’s Come Back!! – NobodyKnows
“Distance” – Long Shot Party
“Diver” – Nico Touches the Walls
AND SOME OF THIS!
“Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” – Nico Touches the Walls
“Silhouette” – Kana-Boon
Don’t ever speak to me or Boruto’s father’s son ever again.
29) Noragami (Aragoto)
“Kyouran Hey Kids!” – The Oral Cigarettes
Now we enter into my top two (which are my personal favourites)
The sequel to the ever-popular Noragami. Yato is a deity without a shrine. He attempts to make a name for himself as a god with the help of his partner, Yukine and a young girl named Hiyori.
This…was…painful. I wanted to place Kyouran Hey Kids! at the top of this list with every fibre of my being.
Such great animation, such a great track and it was just barely pipped at the post by the next entry.
Words cannot describe how amazing this opening is. Please, take a look for yourself.
30) Guilty Crown
“My Dearest” – Koeda, Supercell
I debated long and hard about what I would place at the top of this list. After narrowing down my choices to either Noragami’s Kyouran Hey Kids or this, my heart took over and continued to complete the article without my permission.
Now, I could sit here and type a bunch of thesaurus-induced synonyms for the word ‘amazing’ but I’m not going to do that. As sarcastic as the introduction to this list may have been, music is an entirely subjective medium of expression.
You may not feel that this warrants the number one spot and that’s ok. I like Guilty Crown more than the average anime fan perhaps and that is ok too.
How about we all just carefully put down our pitchforks and sit down for one minute and thirty seconds in order to revel in this breathtaking opening.
The calming introduction bursting forth into a medley of explosions. Accompanied by the gorgeous voice of Supercell’s Koeda, My Dearest will always be my favourite opening of all time.
What is your favourite anime opening?
I realise that this list was quite long and many of you might not have managed to watch every single anime opening present. For those, I offer instead, this mashup of every anime opening.
As much as well like to argue our favourites, this video reminds us that they all have equal value, much like our own opinions