Skip to main content

These Are the Best Anime Openings of All Time, Ranked

Reigen's Salt Splash, as seen in the Mob Psycho 100 OP "99"

Anime elicits strong opinions. That passion is a key part of what makes the anime community so fun to engage with—once you get away from certain corners of Twitter. And of comment sections (ahem).

And one of the passion points—unique to anime—is openings, or, as they’re more commonly known, OPs. The combination of iconic animation and catchy-ass songs make OPs much more popular than their average non-anime theme song brethren. So debating the best OPs? That’s a subject of deep contemplation.

Unlike theme songs and openings in most non-anime shows, OPs are often considered to be works of art in and of themselves. They’re also usually much longer—some of the OPs I list below are over two minutes long. Especially within the last decade, OP songs will often become chart-toppers in Japan. Hell, OPs nowadays have their own dedicated animation team. In short, skipping over an OP usually feels like sacrilege, no matter what Netflix wants me to do. So, let us take this moment to celebrate them.

Quick note: I disqualified things like the Pokémon theme song, which is different in different countries.

6. Attack On Titan, Season 4 Part 1: “My War”

I thought Attack On Titan‘s first-ever OP, “Guren no Yumiya,” was unbeatable. The song’s epic as hell and a mainstay on Japanese rhythm games. I still get a very distinct pleasure imagining the choir is singing, “Oh! Oh! Eren Jaeger!” But then “My War” came out and, in my opinion, beat the unbeatable.

The world of Attack On Titan burst wide open at the end of season three. We were preparing for season four to be, in many ways, a different show altogether. But before you see a single beat of action, “My War” confirmed that suspicion and tells you exactly what to expect: a war-torn world falling to shit. Both the song (by Shinsei Kamattechan) and the animation tell you this in equal measure. The only color here belongs to explosions. And the robotic-seeming marching soldiers are such a powerful, haunting image.

5. One Piece, Opening 15: “We Go!”

As a One Piece fan, it might be sacrilege to list “We Go!” instead of “We Are!”—the first-ever One Piece opening, which remains beloved by the entire fan base. Indeed, “We Go!” gets some of its emotional impact because it’s a direct response to “We Are!.” But, as the first One Piece OP since the time skip, it has plenty of feels to dish up of its own. It’s the first time we’ve seen our dear friends after two years of growth, and the visuals celebrate them and their evolution immaculately.

Plus, the amount to which singer Hiroshi Kitadani sells the ever-living shit out of this song cannot be overstated. “Ich, ni, san-shine,” is both corny and genius. The song emanates an optimism and forward propulsion that—I’ll admit it—makes me tear up if I’m in the right headspace.

4. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Season 1: “Usura Koori Shinjuu”

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is the best show that you’ve probably never watched. I present as Exhibit A its first OP, “Usura Koori Shinjuu.” The song is composed and arranged by Ringo Shiina—one of Japan’s premiere female rock stars—and blends perfectly with Kana Shibue’s ridiculously excellent, jazz-infused score.

Moreover, the song’s sung by Megumi Hayashibara, who also voices the character Miyokichi. It’s quite common for a voice actor to sing an anime’s OP, but in this particular case, the decision carries some deep emotional weight in the show’s context. The visuals accentuate this painful feeling of “things lost in the past.” Honestly, the second season’s OP is even more poignant (and sad), but it’s harder to divorce from context.

3. Mob Psycho 100, Season 1: “99”

I love everything about this OP so much that I can’t think of a coherent place to begin my discussion of how much I love it. Perhaps with a nod of appreciation to the inclusion of Reigen’s Salt Splash in the lyrics and animation alike? It just does a perfect job of communicating the vibe of Mob Psycho 100: its chaos, its characters, and the fact that it’s emotionally grounded while not taking itself seriously in the slightest. The lyrics are, indeed, an impressive mix of the latter trait. “Your life is your own okay / Tokubetsu ja nakute mo okay (‘It’s also okay if you’re not special’)” is just…gut-punch excellence.

The visuals are stunning. The song—performed by a group formed for the show called Mob Choir—is a banger. Both are so intricate that you always find new details upon repeated listenings/viewings (I’d like to direct your attention to the guitar riff which comes in around the 48 second mark). This is another show where the second season also has an excellent theme, and I can’t wait to see the third’s.

2. Cowboy Bebop: “Tank!”

I’m ready to argue that Yoko Kanno’s score for Cowboy Bebop is the best score in anime, ever. And the crazy thing is, even if you don’t agree with me, you probably at least respect that opinion. Kanno’s big band, The Seatbelts, saw many of the biggest names in 90’s jazz pass through its ranks. While the entire Cowboy Bebop OST is incredible (I direct you to “Piano Black”), nowhere is Kanno’s pitch-perfect score more evident than in the theme song, “Tank!.” Perhaps, if your band director was in a certain echelon of coolness, you even played “Tank!” in your middle or high school jazz band. (My band director thought that he was cool, but alas.) It’s a classic. It’s excellent. It’s badass.

And the visuals back up what “Tank!” is throwing down. The OP remains so iconic because the slick, stylish, minimalist animation effortlessly tells you that you are about to watch a fucking cool show. And, goddammit, it’s right! You are! In fact, it’s rather impossible to pick a favorite between this OP and the one I ranked #1. But alas, I had to choose.

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion: “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”

There’s really no other way to describe Yoko Takahashi’s “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” other than “iconic.” Simply, this song rules. If you want to bring the house down at karaoke, I highly suggest you have this song in your arsenal. The full song contains even more badassery that the OP didn’t have time for.

“Iconic” goes for the visuals as well. Are the visuals a bit corny, so that they’ve inspired countless spoofs? Sure. But goddamn, it’s such a strong vibe. It’s the starting point for a lot of stereotypical OP moves that we now see all the time. All hail “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis.”

(featured image credit: Bones)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.