Anime openings are the unsung heroes when it comes to gauging how popular a show will be initially, as well as how long it’ll be remembered.
As something that viewers watch every single time they put on the show, it’s imperative to create an opening that embodies the essence of the series.
While a show’s opening won’t necessarily make or break its overall appeal, a good one will add another dimension of quality when compared to other series. So naturally, some have stood out over time and are loved by fans around the world.
This obviously includes me. In order to celebrate some of the greater title sequences, I’ve put together this list of my Top 25 Anime Openings of All Time.
Given how some series have mastered the formula of great openings and have produced multiple classics, I’m going to stray from the common “one per series” rule. I think that if an opening is great, then it’s great and, shouldn’t be penalized.
The decision and ranking of each opening was decided by quality of the visuals and music, the sequences’ thematic alignment with the actual show, and any significance the opening might have to myself or the Anime world as a whole.
In any case, I’m excited to finally present this. Let’s get to it!
HM. “Kyouran Hey Kids!!” – Noragami Arogato Opening 1
HM. “Blue Bird” – Naruto Shippuden Opening 3
25. “When They Cry”- Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni
If you’ve never seen this show before—which is perfectly understandable—I’ll quickly fill you in by describing the series as “strange”.
It ranks right up there with Lain and Evangelion with shows that leave you scratching your head while being unable to decide if the series was good, bad, overly intelligent, or overly stupid.
Higurashi is a very enigmatic show, and this is an equally enigmatic opening to put you in the proper mood to experience such a dense series.
24. “Rewrite” – Fullmetal Alchemist Opening 4
Fear not: an opening from Brotherhood will show up on this list later.
When it comes to evaluating FMA openings, I think it’s best to remember that there was a time when Brotherhood didn’t exist.
And during that time, Rewrite was the best FMA intro on the block.
The visuals carry a somber-yet-upbeat tone, which perfectly reflects the show’s latter portion.
It also includes a great fight sequence towards the end, which arguably is better than anything seen in the original FMA, and rivals any from Brotherhood.
Of course, this is all set to a great song by The Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
…no seriously, that’s the name of the band. Look it up.
23. “GO!!!”- Naruto Opening 4
Here’s something you might want to know: the Japanese band FLOW is responsible for about 99.7% of the Anime theme songs that you’ll ever hear.
This time, the masters of Anime music helped match the awesome comic book visuals of the opening with an equally dynamite song.
In terms of embodying the tone and themes that Naruto is all about, no other opening from the series did a better job than this one.
However, this won’t be the last time that we see FLOW (or Naruto) on this list.
22. Paranoia Agent Opening
Speaking of strangely confusing shows, how about the only Anime show directed by the master of “wait…what?”, Satoshi Kon.
One of the many things that Kon mastered during his tragically short life was the art of “re-watch material”. What I mean by this impromptu term is how most people really need to give his works a second viewing to fully understand the events and themes.
Upon first glance, this opening seems arbitrary, confusing, and oddly eerie. While continuing to watch the show won’t necessarily dissolve any of those, it will give you more insight into why these seemingly random people are scattered around the world while laughing.
A show that is so beautifully layered and open to interpretation demands an opening that serves as a primer.
As always, Kon delivered with this one.
21. “Sorairo Days”- Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann is a show that takes the “David and Goliath” narrative and (literally) elevates it to an astronomical level.
I say it all the time, but my favorite part of this show is its genuine ability to make you believe in yourself against the greatest of odds.
(…or maybe this is just how it affects me? I take this stuff very seriously, ya know.)
Anyway, if you don’t immediately like this opening, don’t fret: it’s the only opening of the entire show and will undoubtedly grow on you as the series progresses. This is especially true since it plays during Lagann’s most epic and triumphant battles.
Hopefully, by the end of the series, you’ll form as strong of a connection to this opening as I clearly have.
20. “Cha-La Head-Cha-La”- Dragon Ball Z
I’m sure that some of you were expecting Dragon Ball Z’s American opening to be featured on the list at some point.
I agree that the American DBZ opening is pretty catchy and somewhat universally recognized. However, I originally started watching the series in Spanish, which featured the original Japanese opening (how confusing is that?). So, this version gets the edge in the “nostalgia” category.
Again, while I like the American theme, I think the Japanese version does a much better job of capturing the fantasy aspect of DBZ that is often overlooked.
19. “Colors”- Code Geass Opening 1
Hey, look! It’s FLOW! Again! And guess what? This still won’t be the last time we see them on this list!
While the visuals of this opening definitely don’t quite match up to latter ones of the series, the accompanying song helps by demonstrating what a quintessential opening theme should sound like.
It’s almost as if the band members of FLOW sat down and said, “Okay guys, we’re going to record the opening of Code Geass now”.
I’m not sure if that’s how these things are dealt with in the Anime industry, but this particular opening has an eerily perfect synthesis between the song’s tone and that of the show’s earlier episodes.
And this is still, somehow, not the best opening that FLOW has produced.
18. “Duvet”- Serial Experiments Lain
Remember earlier when I said that avant-garde shows should have equally deviant openings? Well, Serial Experiments Lain is one of the best—if not the best—examples of this.
Not only do the visuals carry and understated sense of uneasiness, but the creators decided to use a completely English song by the British band Bôa to further disorient viewers.
It’s all done in a flawlessly appropriate fashion. After all, Lain is all about understated and layered themes. You’re not going to be spoon-fed any themes in this series, and the opening does a good job of maintaining the enigmatic ambiance.
17. “Sign”- Naruto Shippuden Opening 6
Okay, this is the last time we’ll see FLOW on this list. Promise.
Anime’s “good luck charm” of a band saved their best for last, with this fantastic opening for Naruto Shippuden.
Most Naruto enthusiasts will point to the on-screen deaths of Jiraiya and Itachi as the catalysts for a major change in tonality within the show.
The series’ 6th opening perfectly captures this darker transition, through strikingly dramatic images and an equally urgent accompanying song. It also helps bring the thematic parallel between Naruto and Sasuke to the forefront of the story.
While I’m glad that the rest of the list helps rebuff the belief that I have a huge crush on FLOW, I’m equally sad that I have to stop joking about them being everywhere now.
16. “The World”- Death Note Opening 1
One word to describe the first half of Death Note: dramatic.
One word to describe this opening: dramatic.
While showing clips of Light and L in various dramatic settings—such as standing on opposite skyscrapers and staring each other down in a long tunnel—might seem a bit over-the-top at first, it actually turns out to be quite appropriate given the immense tension that the series portrays between the two geniuses.
But who are we kidding—the first half of Death Note creates a tone so epic that it becomes quite humorous at various points of the show. And guess what? We love it.
The show wouldn’t be as immensely popular as it still is today if it didn’t have a unique ability to entrance viewers amidst all its drama that borderlines on goofiness.
Oh- and the song is great, too.
And how about that last shot of Light? Awesome.
15. “Küsö Mesorogiwi”- Mirai Nikki Opening 1
This opening is so good that I put it on the list without ever watching a single episode of the actual show.
I have no clue what Mirai Nikki is about, and I doubt that I’m going to find out anytime soon.
What I do know, though (rhyme!), is that this opening skillfully combined elements of an opening that I’ve always been a sucker for: orchestras and evangelical choirs, over an up-tempo song.
The images are quite intriguing, too. This might be the first show that I ever end up watching solely based off the strength of its opening. With such a great way to kick off the show, I hope that the actual series can match the quality.
14. “The Trigun Opening”- Trigun
Trigun was an absolute trendsetter when it came to popularizing Anime in the west. I give a small portion of that to its opening, which features impossibly stylish visuals set to an awesome guitar track to create an experience that would still blow most modern Anime sequences out of the water.
Part of the fun with Trigun is realizing that the main character, a wanted gunman named Vash the Stampede, is actually just a kind-hearted goofball with an inescapable reputation.
The opening does a great job of setting you up for this realization by strictly showing the badass side of Vash. It works out pretty well, because many of us would have loved to see more of that Vash during the series, and the opening helped keep us satisfied.
13. “What’s Up People?”- Death Note Opening 2
Those of us who stood by Death Note through the snooze fest “Yotsuba Group” arc know very well that the series completely flies off the rails shortly afterwards.
The plot gets ridiculous, Light’s paranoia gets downright hilarious, and the overall vibe is a lot more frantic and puzzling when compared to the convincing drama of the first half.
For some reason, I actually enjoyed how frenzied the series gets. This might be due to the show’s second opening, which excellently sets the tone for the madness that follows.
You don’t know what exactly just hit you when you first watch this sequence (I thought it was a joke), and that’s the exact same feeling you get when watching the show’s final 10 episodes. It’s almost as if the creators intended the latter half to be completely nonsensical, which I suppose can serve as a redeeming quality of sorts.
This opening also led me to discover Maximum the Hormone, which has become one of my favorite foreign bands.
12. “Paper Moon”- Soul Eater Opening 2
Introducing a new opening for an Anime might be a good idea if the plot is currently going through a major tonal transition. This was absolutely the case for Soul Eater, which starts the second half off on a much darker arc.
The noticeably more mature visuals amd fantastic song “Black Paper Moon” mimic the dismal vibe of the show’s latter half. The shift in plot severity helped push Soul Eater from just another Shonen Anime to one of the best Anime of the past 10 years.
A byproduct of all this was this opening, which is also one of the best of the past decade.
11. “Hacking to the Gate”- Steins;Gate Opening 1
Steins;Gate is a show that bravely takes on the task of telling an engaging story centered around the too-often-attempted concept of time travel.
I have yet to finish the show (much less make it past the 5th episode), but an opening theme like this will certainly have me coming back for more in the near future.
Heh… “future”, get it? No? Alright.
Honestly, with perfectly relevant visuals and a flawless accompanying song, the only think that’s holding this song back from a higher ranking is my own lack of personal connection with it.
The visuals are engaging, and the song will NEVER leave your head once you hear it. The opening as a whole makes the that much more motivated to finish the series. You should be, too.
10. “The Hero!!” – One Punch Man
3-2-1, kill shot!
One Punch Man was a breath of fresh air to a Shonen genre that absolutely needed it.
Not only did it poke fun at the most cliche and overdone tropes of Shonens, but it also took the best conventions of the genre and did them 5x better.
So it basically served SAO’s own ass to it on a silver platter.
The fights were faster and fiercer, the tense moments were more heart-stopping, and the emotional peaks were more gripping than what we’ve come to expect from similar shows.
The opening was no exception, featuring bombastic animation set to an explosive song that’s literally performed by some of the most famous Anime singers in history.
The Hero!! truly proved that the ceiling of high-octane Anime openings has yet to be reached.
Or rather, quite ironically, it is the ceiling.
9. “The Pokemon Theme Song”- Pokemon
Oh, come on: you knew this was coming eventually.
There was no way that I was going to let the iconic opening of Pokemon– most likely the first anime for about 80% of us—not be on this list.
I really don’t have to say much, since simply singing “I want to be the very best” will get most of you belting out the rest of the song in a nostalgic frenzy.
It’s an opening known by even non-Anime fans, and has a special place in the hearts of millennials around the world. And now, it has a very special place on this list.
8. “Hero’s Come Back!!- Naruto Shippuden Opening 1
Post-timeskip openings are tricky. Creators want the show the show to appear new and fresh while still being recognizable to fans.
No opening walked the line between refreshed and familiar better than the first sequence from Naruto Shippuden.
The edgy visuals, inclusion of new characters, and unique song choice combined to create everything that a post-timeskip opening is supposed to be. Also- that Akatsuki panorama shot is badass.
The creators of Shippuden struck it out of the park by confidently declaring that the second series was going to be a completely new experience.
Also—what’s not to like about Japanese Hip-Hop?
…don’t answer that.
7. “Resonance” Soul Eater Opening 1
Openings serve a bevy of purposes. They can remind you of the main characters, give you a refresh of major plot points, or get you in the right mood to watch the show.
The first opening of Soul Eater delivers on all of the above, and in a flawlessly stylish manner. The initial crawl the screen takes through Death City, with various characters scattered around, is one of the absolute coolest sequences in Anime that I have ever seen.
And how about that song? It’s hard to make someone excited to watch a show that’s already this dynamic, but this opening…does that. (Sorry—I’m about 3,000 words into this thing. Give me a break.)
I think the qualities of this opening are aligned with the qualities of the show. It doesn’t do anything new or reinvent the wheel: it just did what openings were supposed to do, but did it better than most ever have.
6. “Again”- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Opening 1
If you’re going to remake a series that’s beloved in the Anime community, you’d better come out swinging.
Luckily for Brotherhood, the opening did just that, with a sequence that blows any from the original series out of the water.
The way the visuals match the pacing of the song is masterful–much like the execution of the show in general. It’s only proper that one of the best shows of all time also has one of the best openings.
With the amount of foreshadowing included in the sequence, I wonder why the creators didn’t keep the opening for the entire show.
That’s not to say that the other openings are, bad, per se, but they’re definitely nowhere near the quality of Again.
In fact, this sequence is so good that it almost makes the absence of the song from the 2003 version, Bratja, forgivable. Almost.
5. “Flyers”- Death Parade
I really can’t say enough good things about Death Parade. Its examination of postmortem reflection gives the show a thematic presence that I haven’t felt in a good while.
And it all starts with an opening that is an absolute joy. The upbeat visuals and vibrant colors might seem a bit odd for a show about…well, death. But it actually makes for a nice “picker upper” during a series that is often painfully profound.
Is that what the creators intended? Or are they just trolling? Either way, this theme song is a flawless joyride that demonstrates how a quality opening can turn a great show into an instant classic.
Just a quick warning: watching this opening will ensure that the song will be stuck in your head for at least six months. Proceed with caution.
Also–go back and watch the opening after you’ve completed the series and can notice all the foreshadowing it contains.
4. “Guns & Roses”- Baccano!
The opening for the frenzy-in-a-can known as Baccano! is great in a multidimensional fashion that few anime openings are.
For one, the silky-smooth ambush of jazz within the song is effective enough to make the sequence great all on its own.
However, the inclusion of character introductions which transition as seamlessly as the show’s non-linear narrative helps push the opening into the stratosphere of all-time greats.
Baccano!, after all, is a show that’s all about wacky fun. This sequence effortlessly bottles up the madness that the series is all about.
It’s also a great way to brush up on the names of all 2,000 characters in the show.
3. “Guren no Yumiya”- Attack on Titan Opening 1
In today’s modern landscape of Anime, with so many different genres available, and with our choices of series no longer limited to whatever Toonami decides to feature, it’s particularly difficult for one show to take the entire Anime world by storm.
However, in 2013, Attack on Titan was able to do just that. By being a show that legitimately lived up to its own hype, AOT was able to cement its status as a series that would go down in history, and a show that helped rejuvenate Anime popularity in the West.
Even people who are a little bit interested in Anime have heard of AOT in some capacity. Because of its popularity, the series has helped rake in legions of new Anime fans by serving as a gateway.
What helped sparked this pandemonium was an opening that reached new heights by being debatably better than the actual show. I think it’s still a bit early to make that stretch, but the AOT opening sequence will get you excited to watch the show in a way that has never been done before.
The triumphant trumpets, perfectly urgent choir voices, and high-speed visuals helped give Attack on Titan one more epic aspect for every Anime fan to drool over.
…and we were all very upset when the show decided to change it midseason.
2. “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”- Neon Genesis Evangelion
You knew it was going to rear its head eventually, and some of you are probably pretty annoyed, but sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that this opening—much like the show—is an absolute staple that is going to be around forever.
Also similar to the show is the fact that it’s quite difficult to identify one single aspect that explains its popularity.
The catchy chorus comes to mind immediately. And we’re not talking about some “stuck in your head for two weeks” catchy—this opening has been considered a classic for nearly twenty years.
Or, for you visual types, it’s the jarring and seemingly nonsensical images that flash during the iconic chorus.
For me, it’s the very first 15 seconds that makes the entire opening so memorable. It emits a strange sense of holy omnipotence, as if the otherwise upbeat remainder of the song is just curtain dressing to mask a deeper meaning which was smeared in your face from the very beginning.
And here’s Number 1…
Let’s be real: you saw this one coming…
1. One Piece 4Kids Opening
1. “Tank!”- Cowboy Bebop
I know what you’re thinking: “Dude, c’mon. You rank Cowboy Bebop #1 in anything Anime related”
Well, it’s true, but there’s a reason for that: It’s that damn good.
Seriously. Cowboy Bebop has continued to be the absolute gold standard for Anime in terms of voice acting, direction, animation, story, and overall influence since it debuted on Adult Swim in 2001.
That’s not to take away from the quality of Bebop’s iconic opening, set to Yoko Kanno’s composed masterpiece, “Tank!”, performed by the Seatbelts, though.
In fact, the opening’s combination of cold-as-ice visuals and lusciously jazzy music to create such an effortless sense of “cool” has been great enough to reign supreme among opening sequences for over 15 years now.
For a show that was iconic for its superb quality, which took Anime to entirely new heights, it was only behooving that an equally groundbreaking opening accompany it.
In terms of historical significance, “Tank!” might never see a day when it is dethroned.
And in the minds of me and countless others in the Anime community, that’s perfectly okay.
Thanks for reading!
Bonus: Detective Conan Opening
While I doubt many will consider the Detective Conan (or “Case Closed”, whatever) opening to be one of the all-time greats, it’s definitely as timeless as it is catchy. I think everyone should hear it at least once, so here you go!
And there we have it!
Thanks to everyone who stuck it out to the end. I really appreciate it.
If you feel that there’s a specific opening that I might have missed, please comment and let me know! I’d love to hear your opinion.