Every now and again, we're all guilty of skipping through anime opening music. Some of us may be habitual criminals.
Even those who can't stand listening to a minute and a half of j-pop/j-rock music have to accept that some anime's legacies are defined by their opening song. We've compiled a list of the top 50 anime opening songs of all time.
50. Yu-Gi-Oh! Theme Song
Wayne Sharpe was tasked with bringing the Japanese theme tune to a children's arcane card game animation in the United States. Back when most of us referred to anime as such!
And he did a fantastic job.
The song begins with Egyptian acoustics before exploding with electronic beats, industrial beats, and modified vocals.
The song is then finished off with a killer bassline before the song's calling card is played.
49. Pokémon Theme Song
You can get very far before losing the words if you sing the Pokémon theme tune.
That tells you everything you need to know about its cultural relevance and memorability.
With the sing-able value of classics like Bohemian Rhapsody, it's become a meme for centuries.
This tune plays over a montage of the series' events, interwoven with original artwork meant to pique your interest for the next twenty minutes.
48. Renegade (Gangsta)
Gangsta is a mature story about gang violence, sex, drugs, and murder.
Stereo Dive Foundation provides a piece of excellent theme music.
Before fading out into the anime, heavy, energetic electronics and glitchy sounds build up to a soft voice chorus.
47. Howling (Darker Than Black)
This song begins with a solemn monologue before transitioning into a strong and effective guitar riff while the artist's name flashes across the screen.
A stylised montage of the city at night and character reveals are then followed by a rock tune from the late 2000s.
46. Database (Log Horizon)
I happened to see Man With A Mission perform live by chance, and the moment this song began, the entire room went insane.
It's as campy as heck, but wow, does it get the word out.
It's impossible to watch this anime without exclaiming "Database! Database!" at least once.
45. Hero (One Punch Man)
No other song could possibly fit One Punch Man as perfectly.
Starting with a glam-metal vocal performance, the song progresses into an epic guitar-driven explosion of noise and building, culminating in a well-deserved scream.
All in less than a minute. It was a lot of fun.
44. We’re Not Alone (Rainbow)
Over a flickering montage of our characters and the title card, Coldrain's guttural, anguished, pain-filled cries and frantic guitar fretting play.
The English singing then begins, lamenting solitude and a wish for freedom before revealing that our characters are imprisoned behind a barbed-wire fence, cut off from society.
Despite this, they are "not alone."
43. Oath Sign (Fate/Zero)
While a cascading piano plays us in, we pan across a wonderfully animated Ufotable river. In the background, we can hear the faint sound of a choir.
Then there's a brief pause before the singing begins.
The music gradually gains its energy, moving away from the solemn tone of the first few seconds to reveal our characters.
42. This Game (No Game, No Life)
The scene opens with an energetic piano and shadowy silhouette images of our protagonists.
The guitar then begins to play just like the anime's ace card – its pastel colour palette and pink outline scheme – is revealed in a flash of colours.
As a catchy J-Rock chorus introduces us to the dynamic experience that is No Game No Life, we're thrust into a fast-paced montage of the world.
41. Euterpe (Guilty Crown)
We fade out into a peaceful midnight setting with isolated female vocals and a repetitive piano composition... Before a rush of drums, pianos, and guitars builds back up suddenly.
After that, we're treated to a sequence of minimalist cartoons presenting our characters in a bare universe as Koeda sings.
When you believe the song can't get any better, it explodes and colour pours into the universe at an uncontrollable rate.
We close on a sad note, with outdated CRT televisions flashing pathetically in a bleak, overgrown warehouse.
40. Pre-Parade (Toradora!)
Toradora's charming and feet-twitchingly electronic opening introduces us sequentially to our protagonists, immediately in your face and provocative, demanding your attention and drawing you to the characters.
The original Japanese voice actors sing throughout.
It then crashes down before surging back up into an even more catchy chorus, with stylish graphics and an idyllic slice of life photographs giving you an indication of the level of excitement to expect in each episode.
39. One Reason (Deadman Wonderland)
One Reason begins with a twanging guitar string and a rock-centric shout, sung exclusively in English.
With the changing chords, our characters transition from typical and static to demonic and twisted.
The vocal performance then begins, with lyrics that allude to blood, incarceration, insanity, and dreams... Until a fantastic choir interrupts us.
As he croons with furious passion, the image is filled with rippling figures and distorted muscular frames.
38. Redo (Re: Zero)
A lone lead guitar pulls us into a world of blood splatters on desolate ground, till the blood turns into a corpse and stands up.
The anime's time-reversal mechanics are demonstrated by the continually interrupted guitar and animation, which appears to be stuck in an infinite cycle of simple bar chords.
Until the chorus comes on, that is. And we're brought even higher, with further glimpses of the personalities with running themes, and our MCs almost joining their buddies.
Until he gets killed once more... We collect some blood, and the initial sequence is repeated to indicate that the loop has been completed.
This is an incredible example of narrative mechanics and musical creation feeding off one another to create a more coherent work of art.
37. Existence (Rage of Bahamut)
A great screaming performance into the title card is complemented by relentless heavy metal guitar work and drumming.
A conventional riff provides some relief before the voices return, kicking and shouting, rising heavier and heavier until smoothing off into a catchy chorus and hook.
The song closes on a dark note, setting the tone for the upcoming Western-infused fantastical antics.
36. Speed to Masatsu (Ranpo Kitan)
The Ranpo Kitan beginning has jittery rhythms and muted acoustic guitar chords beneath a rap melody, as our protagonists are introduced one by one.
After the rapping, a distorted voice performance with strings takes over... The rapping begins once more, this time over a melodious piano and an emotionally moving chord sequence.
If only the rest of the show was as good as the theme tune.
35. Yoru wa Nemureru kai (Ajin)
A strong and energetic guitar riff develops from cascading guitar notes.
The singing begins over a slideshow of our characters in motion, with a seductive and beautiful voice generating an undeniably cool tone, until the entire song bursts in a silhouetted display of flailing limbs and trembling voices.
34. Goya no Machiawase (Noragami)
The bouncy voices bounce back and forth energetically over the strange note bending eclectic riff atop monochromatic visuals.
The tone is abruptly shattered, and a lively call-and-response of cool singers and instruments ensues. What a delight! The monochromatic colour palette and strange bent notes return.
This song was an early favourite of mine because it perfectly matched the story's urban-shounen vibe.
33. WataMote (WataMote)
This song begins with guttural roars and a nearly pop-rock chord progression.
The main character's consciousness is complimented by male rapping and feminine vocals. The voices suddenly quiet down.
Before rushing back in, the heavy metal instrumentals are completely abandoned in favour of a more jazzy, downtempo atmosphere.
As though a screamo performance accompanied a sudden wave of anxiousness.
This time, the two vocalists act in unison rather than separately, yelling out the anime's full Japanese name before abruptly ending. What a unique start!
32. My Soul, Your Beats! (Angel Beats)
Before dissolving into an emotionally evocative collection of disconnected melodies in tune with the lyrics, an isolated piano plays a sad riff. The chorus then begins.
Essentially, it transports us to the sky and into the lives of our characters and the school where they go.
The Angel Beats theme song is one of those that may bring a tear to your eye with just a few notes after you've finished watching the anime.
31. Kiri (Ergo Proxy)
The downtempo electric guitar and vocal performance, combined with dreary graphics that deteriorate and glitch in time with the music, introduce us to Ergo Proxy's dystopic world.
The chorus begins with a lone man in the bush, arms outstretched, screaming to the sky, while we hear "come and save me" repeated over and over.
30. I Am Waiting For You (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)
The Germanic name of the anime is accompanied by a gorgeous panning picture of our solar system with a pleasant symphonic tune playing in the backdrop.
Its vast yet delicate, bittersweet tone is appropriate.
The overused statement "The deeds of man remain the same in every age, in every place" fades in and out.
We see a lady planting, which is a lovely and simple human action that contrasts with the diplomacy, intergalactic warfare, and terrible plot going on behind her.
29. Rose (NANA)
Nana's primary character is a member of a punk rock band.
We're shown some of their songs throughout the anime, including Rose.
It's more of an insight into the character each time you listen than anything else.
Nana's crooning, confident voice is almost at odds with the sombre, mournful guitar work.
Then it all comes crashing down, the guitars twisting and turning, and the chorus – "I need your love, I'm a broken rose" – over wailing guitars and relentless drumming, before ending on a dismal tone and scene.
Another excellent example is the beginning, which tells a microcosm of the main story.
28. Man Human (Devilman: Crybaby)
For its flare and flair, this opening makes the cut.
Instead of vocals, an electronic darkcore track plays over a succession of monochromatic pictures, each reflecting a major moment in the anime's story.
A klecksographic Rorschach design appears in many of the scenes.
It's brief and sweet, doesn't linger too long, and accurately depicts the anime's substance.
27. Mesorogiwi (Future Diary)
The first line is guided towards a catchy chorus replete with sensitive singing by orchestral, operatic chants, quirky strings, and a leading guitar.
The chorus eventually fades out, giving way to a jumble of guitar fingering and dissonant vocals.
It's spooky, unsettling, and cool in equal measure. The theme symbolizes one of our primary characters, Yuno Gasai, as well as the warped violent reality we're thrust into.
26. 99 (Mob Psycho 100)
The main theme of Mob Psycho 100 is a count from zero to one hundred, intermingled with plenty of weird vocalizations and electronic instrumentals.
I've never skipped this part since it's simply too much fun.
25. Sidonia (Knights of Sidonia)
What begins as an enormous marching song complete with bagpipes, trumpets, and a call to arms swiftly transforms into a technologically infused electronic dance number that mixes duty with exhilaration.
It's both a throwback to a previous age of mecha animation and a look into the future.
24. Asterisk (Bleach)
Many people will experience a flood of nostalgic feelings as a result of this opening.
This opening theme combines an outstanding rap-rock music by Orange Range atop a collage of urban-inspired character displays, following the then-rule-of-cool.
This is indeed an anime tune from another era.
23. Toki wo Kizamu Uta (Clannad: After Story)
If there's one thing you know about Clannad, it's that it'll almost certainly make you cry.
And the fantastic soundtrack contributes significantly to this.
After Story, the first song in the second, more solemn season, is a quiet piano ballad. We see photographs of the characters in various settings in the backdrop.
The school where they met, the pink blossom alleys where they strolled, and the meadows where they conversed
I cried while listening to Toki wo Kizamu Uta in preparation for this list. Great. Thanks. NEXT.
22. Trigger (Terror in Resonance)
Dissonant singing layered over minimalist outlines of our figures creates a surreal atmosphere.
Trigger throws an abstract mosaic of memories at us as we dive deeper into the mind of our heroes in an artistically abstract visual and auditory presentation.
21. Colours (Code Geass)
Colours is an obviously anime tune, the Calling Cry of a Million Weeaboos.
An enthusiastic and exuberant guitar and trumpet introduce an equally ecstatic vocal, setting a distinct tone that is both nostalgic and egotistical.
Code Geass knew exactly what it wanted to be from the first episode.
The colourful introductory music just adds to the effect.
20. Guren no Yumiya (Attack on Titan)
Panning shots of the environment that are dramatic and cinematic.
Gargantuan and hideous humanoid creatures pluck humans up off the ground for meals in stylized monochromatic collages.
And Linked Horizon's entirely unique opening music, inspired by progressive rock, Germanic orchestra, and hardcore rock.
This is one of the most anticipated opening songs ever.
19. Hacking to the Gate (Steins; Gate)
The beginning of Steins; Gate has a powerful guitar shred, some appropriate sound effects, and a zoom through diagrams and exotic designs to introduce us to our characters.
Many of our protagonists – thousands of the same individual, all walking in the same direction but at different speeds.
The visuals – butterflies, clocks, skipping scenes, and non-static graphical components – and the music, which skips around before detonating in a chorus – both communicate time motifs.
Before the music ends, we're given a montage of Akihabara, a sanctuary for nerds and technology, with all of our characters on screen.
Another excellent example of using the opening song and animation to depict the story and characters.
18. Talking (The Perfect Insider)
In the backdrop, djent guitars bubble and distort as a cast of linework rotoscoped characters dance and bend to the beat.
All of this results in a simply enjoyable visualization.
The anime itself isn't great, but I'm glad it exists just for this opening because it's art. Aesthetic to the max.
17. Flyers (Death Parade)
Bombastic. It's just completely bombastic.
The music is upbeat, catchy, and ready to dance to.
We see a scene of the bartenders dancing and hanging out with one another, with some of the most upbeat anime music playing in the background.
Unfortunately, the tone of the anime does not match the tone of the story. But I never skipped it.
16. Nornir (Mawaru Penguindrum)
The irregular piano and strings are matched by quick guitar work and drums to produce a sparse, abstract, yet simple start.
From the first second, this one is full of emotion and mystery.
To generate an aesthetically beautiful mood driver, Penguindrum's beginning mixes continual symbolism, well-timed animation, and a haunting whisper-like voice.
15. Guns and Roses (Baccano!)
The madmen actually did it.
They managed to squeeze in every single character from Baccano's large cast! through gambling clubs and diners, streets, hotel rooms, and trains, into a smooth transitional joy fest.
With one of the most memorable jazz intros since another great on our list, Baccano!
Every time you start an episode, it quickly reintroduces you to the fleshed-out character roster — just to assist you out – and it looks great doing it.
14. Inner Universe (Ghost in the Shell: SAC)
The mystical, haunting Russian words of Orgia pervade this electronic ballad, which is backed with appropriate 3D-CGI animation of the Major and the Tachiyomi engaged in warfare and deceit.
This opening sequence is both breathtaking and chilling, depicting an uncanny valley of robotic human (and humane robot) proportions.
And if you're interested in how this would sound like a capella, here it is.
13. Wild Side (Beastars)
Our characters dance their way through one of the most memorable entrances in recent memory, resembling puppets in a little world.
What begins as a saxophone blast and a journey of piano keystrokes is quickly transformed into a delightfully romantic dance tune, infected by an overly confident vocal style that generates an uncanny tone.
Beastars manages to convey the fundamental notion of animalistic nature (in all forms, violent and beautiful) through its artistic opening theme, which is upbeat and features some genuinely fantastic brass and strings.
12. Resonance (Soul Eater)
Some of the most impressive Sakuga may be seen in this entrance.
With an excellent camera design, the animation is always flowing, hyper-detailed, and dynamic.
All of our important characters are revealed, as well as a glimpse of the excellent fighting and Soul Eater's Halloween-themed look.
That's simply the graphics. 'Resonance,' by T.M. Revolution, is a continually moving electronic-rock tune with plenty of personalities, integrating dance beats and captivating drum loops to build more buzz than you can handle.
11. Uragiri no Yuuyake (Durarara!!)
Durarara!!, like Baccano!, uses exclamation marks. I meant an entertaining but massive cast of people, each with their own personalities and plot chevaliers.
To help you remember them all, the intro takes you around the streets of Ikebukuro, pointing out each character as we pass them in their natural setting.
I might add, with a great earworm of a vibrant track playing in the background.
10. Again (FMA: Brotherhood)
What a fantastic tune!
"Again," which is perfectly timed with the animation, manages to advertise the next episode without surrendering any emotional beat from the previous one.
It manages to be tear-jerking, badass, and approachable, just like the anime.
9. Hakushi Kassai Uta Awase (Katanagatari)
Starts slow, delayed, and evocative - with a trace of a piano in the background attempting to sustain a lapsing tone – before exploding with a terrific guitar riff and a consistent vigour.
This is Supercell's best song, a progressive rock hymn that incorporates samurai tones and motifs.
It accurately captures what made Kanagatari's experience so unique and emotional.
8. Unravel (Tokyo Ghoul)
Unravel begins on a high note, with wonderfully animated (and sometimes strange) visuals set against a soul-piercing anthem of personal liberation and trauma.
The first line is low and practically whispered.
And it all comes to a head with a barrage of wails and tears before collapsing into a mess of crashing piano keys.
It provides us with some amazing universal insight into Kaneki's thoughts – or at the very least, his feelings. It's also understood despite any linguistic barriers.
7. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Higurashi: When They Cry)
Psychedelic visuals, flowering flowers, and haunting girls staring directly at the camera loom on the horizon. What more could you ask for in a first impression?
A glitching, distorting, and the frightening melody plays in the background, escalating the pace to a dramatic finale.
This anime is ranked so high on this list because of its aesthetic and atmosphere, which manages to create a frenzied and unsettling environment right from the start.
6. Lilium (Elfen Lied)
Before moving on to more re-imaginings, we pan slowly across a re-imagined version of Klimt's Ukiyo-e masterpiece, 'The Kiss.'
Our protagonist Lucy is nude in each of them, poised majestically as she was in the original piece. However, her anime-style overshadows the copied technique.
Meanwhile, renowned opera soprano Kumiko Noma performs haunting Latin and Greek renditions of passages from the Bible, the Book of Psalms, and other Christian literature.
Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of Elfen Lied. But I can't deny the opening's visual brilliance and creative significance.
5. Duvet (Serial Experiments Lain)
Desolate streets, eager crows pecking atop phone wires, and a tiny child wandering aimlessly through the mist.
Meanwhile, Duvet plays the first bar and chorus of a delicate melodic melody that exemplifies the dissociative symptoms that are heavily discussed throughout the story.
Exceptional in every way. Unsettling and moving.
4. Bloody Stream (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
David Production is proud of its capacity to adapt JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and excels in improving it.
They have truly proven themselves worthy of translating the classic series, whether through animation, soundtrack, voice acting, references, or storyline fixing.
One of the best examples of this is their exquisitely produced openings, which are each extremely stylized to the arc, age, and atmosphere of the part.
Bloody Stream by CODA, in my opinion, exemplifies this with a fanatical and vivid 80s intensity that flows out of the screen and straight into your eyes and ears.
3. Tabi no Tochuu (Spice and Wolf)
This is a personal favourite of mine because of the distinct, assured feeling of sadness it gives me.
Soft, lovely vocals are layered over a calm piano. In a moonlit expanse of snow, a naked woman with wolfish features emerges.
Over lovely visuals of a man walking down a medieval street, a calm acoustic guitar can be heard.
When they meet, things pick up. And we see tranquil images of the two escorting a horse-drawn cart over a June meadow before they smile at each other and the chorus hits us.
Two singers (male and female) are now singing in anguish about love and loneliness until the song abruptly ends with a cold, hard note provided by the woman.
Tears of joy, guy.
2. Tank (Cowboy Bebop)
“Okay. 1, 2, 3 Let's start jamming."
What can be said about this flawless one-and-a-half-minute audio-visual show?
This opening is artistically strong on its own.
Saxophones, trumpets, and thunderous percussion are set against a minimalistic yet stylistically beautiful succession of pictures that introduce us to the environment, the characters, and, most crucially, the tone.
Cowboy Bebop is all about tone, after all.
1. A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (Evangelion)
The thesis of a Cruel Angel needs no introduction.
It's easy to dismiss this tune as comedically overdone because it's so overdone.
But just listen to it - how sure of itself it is, how aggressive and nostalgic it is.
This game did a lot of things first, and the opening animation is no exception.
A mystery chorus draws us in until the title card appears, accompanied by an explosive dance song that has gone down in history as one of the most culturally significant anime songs ever.
It's obviously, unapologetically otaku, as Hideki Anno undoubtedly intended. And it doesn't hold back when it comes to overstimulating your visual cortex with an array of exciting visuals and words before concluding on a high note.
Thanks For Reading!!