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Well vice-troop, you survived our ill-advised April Fools list last week, so we thought we’d take it easy on you. This week, we’re counting down the very best of an old fan favorite - - the anime opening! These two minutes or less of animation (coupled with the right music, of course) can get us psyched for what’s to come (or sometimes set us up for disappointment).
This isn’t just about the music. We’re looking for that perfect blend of infectious jams and awesome visual sauce.
One quick caveat to this list though: since the TOP 5 already tackled the best anime soundtracks, we’ve decided to omit opening sequences that already appeared on that list. There is no doubt that several of the anime mentioned in that list would have placed on this one as well (COWBOY BEBOP, and TRIGUN would have definitely nabbed choice spots) but we want to give some other shows a chance to shine.
Luckily there’s plenty of good stuff to choose from!
NUMBER FIVE == OUTLAW STAR
Say what you will about how this series turned out, there is no denying that this opening grabs attention. It's pure attitude, right out of the gate, with a kind of sneering vocal style, punchy guitar and silly over-the-top sci-fi shit to keep your eyes interested.
This series includes a lot of out-there stuff like cigar-shaped space ships with tiny robot arms and guns with magic bullets (as well as a few standard anime tropes like cat-girls and naked women in suitcases). This intro gives you a nice taste of what to expect from the show - - a few clichés and a fun time.
The intro quickly showcases the designs and the attitude of its characters, and throws a few of the typical slow-pans-over-portraits at you. The best part is the short sequence of Gene Starwind running down an alleyway while rockets and bullets fly past him.
The man outruns a rocket! What else could you ask for?
NUMBER FOUR == FIST OF THE NORTH STAR (1)
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of this kind of ultra-violent madness. FIST OF THE NORTH STAR provides some of the best in outrageous absurdity, and this opening could not be a more perfect representation of what to expect from this masterpiece of macho head-bursting.
And then there’s the song by the unparalleled Crystal King (seriously, look them up). This shit is so epic, I can’t stand it. That falsetto is powerful enough to propel a cargo ship through a skyscraper. The imagery and music are both so perfectly epic that watching the intro once is never enough.
There are also countless fan tributes and parodies of this song/intro out there and a great number of them are pretty inspired. If it’s at all possible for an anime intro to be considered a “classic” or “culturally important,” well... this is the one.
NUMBER THREE == PARANOIA AGENT
I’ve sung the praises of Satoshi Kon and his work on several occasions, so it should come as no surprise that PARANOIA AGENT’s crazy intro has made the list. This one is totally surreal and just a bit disturbing - - in other words, perfectly appropriate for the show. Though, it actually tells you very little about what to expect. Then again, confusion tends to be an important part of Kon’s work, so I can’t really find fault with that either!
Instead of the usual heroic poses and glamour shots, we’re introduced to the cast of characters standing in the midst of chaos and laughing. Some are on busy streets, others on top of skyscrapers, or underwater or on the damn moon.
Oh, and there’s an atomic explosion.
It seems silly but when that music swells and those absolutely HUGE vocals soar, the whole thing just feels gigantic and magnificent and disconcerting - - like a dream that leaves you reeling for hours after you wake up.
NUMBER TWO == RECORD OF LODOSS WAR: CHRONICLES OF THE HEROIC KNIGHT
OUTLAW STAR may not have quite measured up to the raucous fun of it’s opening sequence... but CHRONICLES OF THE HEROIC KNIGHT straight-up wrote checks its show couldn’t cash.
This is one big fat letdown of a series however you slice it; but I’d bet the kickass intro has a lot to do with why fans got their hopes so high up. If the whole series had been anything like its opening minute and 47 seconds, it would probably be among my favorites.
This intro is moody, stark, and beautifully animated, with slick new character designs, and hair-bristling music by the one and only Yoko Kanno. To this day, whenever I watch this intro I think, “I should give that show another chance.”
Word to the wise... don’t give this show another chance.
The opening sequence for the original OVA is nothing to sneeze at, either, but there’s something about this one that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. While the original OVA intro was really striking and serene, this update manages to be a bit haunting and still totally active and exciting.
NUMBER ONE == GUNSMITH CATS
This is kind of the COWBOY BEBOP intro before COWBOY BEBOP: stylish as hell, nice jazzy tune, great animation, and a perfect fit for the show. There’s no mistaking what this show will be about: girls, cars, guns and bombs all receive pretty much equal screen time.
(Hell, the words GUN and BOMB are blasted across the screen right at the start).
There’s a nice, retro kind of approach to the visuals here, with high contrast cut photos used for some buildings, and bright primary colors filling the screen. There are also some bits of dot tone here and there, as a nice nod to the manga. Above all else, this intro is soaked in buckets of style. You can expect some rock sax, and “authentic” Chicago-style jazz to set the tone. It’s all very silly but really well done and obviously enthusiastic for its subject matter.
This intro has a definite, decisive look and attitude and that goes a long way. This isn’t just a series of clips and character portraits - - it feels unified and cohesive. It’s like a great album cover, it’s a complete statement on its own and you’ll remember it as a part of the experience of the show, not just a snippet of music and images before the story begins.
As I said at the beginning of the list, there are a ton of great intros out there, so if you didn’t see your favorite on this list don’t fret - - there will almost certainly be a part two! With that in mind, feel free to name some of your favorite intros in the comments section below. If I like your suggestions, they just might make it into the next TOP 5...!
Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - -alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - -dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn