10 underappreciated anime openings
Any anime enthusiast will tell you, “Only cowards skip the opening”. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, it’s crystal clear there are plenty of titles you’d be forgiven if you missed entirely. I mean let’s be fair, you only need to watch Ergo Proxy’s deeply depressing intro sequence once before you have to start resisting the urge to slit your wrists with a blunt spoon. After a few episodes it wasn’t long before I was hitting skip on my remote control so I could begin feverishly tucking into the (equally) depressing action.
But for every terrible opening (Ghost in the Shell: Stand alone complex S1 I’m looking at you) there are an equal number of sequences and songs that will stick with the audience forever. In all honesty there are far too many to name and the ten I’ve chosen here represent just a sliver of these.
These are however noteworthy to highlight, because in my mind at least, they represent the often overlooked art of the anime intro: they build our anticipation, they give us visuals that aren’t simply ripped from the show itself and the songs are so infectious we find ourselves humming them under our breath as we put on the washing, do the dishes or buy groceries.
So here they are, ten underappreciated ‘unskippables’. New and old gems that help define the humble art of anime openings:
Genesis Climber Mospeada
Robotech fans will instantly recognize some of the visuals at play here. Yes, the animation used in series 3 of Robotech was ripped directly from Genesis Climber Mospeada. But as the opening intro shows us, more than just visual elements managed to worm their way into Robotech’s overall narrative. The opening theme song, titled ‘Ushinawareta Yume o Motomete’, also seems to have passed on the ‘Lonely Soldier Boy’ theme to Robotech’s third series singer Michael Bradley [Yellow Dancer].
In all, I love this sequence so much. The song is so deeply guttural and the action sequences set us up for what is about to rain down on us like a monsoon; a vast space opera that’s both huge in scope and promises liberal use of giant transformable robots. Oh boy, that’s the stuff. Just shoot this directly into my veins.
Dominion Tank Police
Skipping over the woeful, and I mean woeful attempt at an English language opening for this series, I can’t think of an opening sequence that better sums up 80’s anime than this one. At the time this song probably sounded very modern (it was 1988 after all) and while it’s clear it’s now a little dated, there’s still some underlying quality that I can’t put my finger on that makes this an unskippable intro. Perhaps it’s my affinity for short red haired protagonists (Patlabor gets a few mentions in this list too), but this intro is noteworthy for embodying the phrase “does what it says on the tin”. Let’s run through the checklist: Good guys, bad guys, fast moving tanks, cat ladies in bikinis and loads of action. Check.
Plus, that opening sequence of Leona spinning around in silhouette and firing her pistol is undeniably awesome. If only the same could be said for the OVA as a whole however. Yeesh.
Mob Psycho 100 S1
This isn’t just going to be a nostalgic tip through classic 80’s and 90’s anime, I honestly believe that even some of our most recent series have given us instantly classic openings that aren’t given the shine they truly deserve. Mob Psycho 100 season 1 is no exception.
While the season 2 intro definitely upped the ante in regards to action, the Mob Choir’s song ‘99’ used in the first series OP really paints a better picture of what you’re going to get once you sit down and take it all in. The countdown in both the song and the show itself genuinely sets the mise-en-scene and prepares you for the absolute bonkers ride you’re about to embark on.
Mob Psycho 100 is chaotic, gnarly and ultimately leads into a fantastic crescendo featuring Mob’s power and abilities. I can’t think of a better song and set of visuals that better explains this premise.
Patlabor Mobile Police (TV)
Sigh. 100% unskippable. I don’t care if it’s my first or 100th viewing, it’s guaranteed I’ll be screaming “SO NEVER CRY!” at the top of my lungs the moment the song hits its crescendo and we see Goto and Shinobu-San bouncing across the screen.
Most of us will probably know Patlabor through the various movies (Patlabor 1 & 2 going on to critical acclaim), but it’s definitely worthwhile going back and investing some time in both the television series and OVA. Following the lives of the members of Special Vehicles Division 2, the Labor Crimes section, the series bisects a wonderful line between a comedy and series science fiction crime drama. While the movies take on a darker tone, the TV series is infectiously bouncy and upbeat, something that its opening does very well in conveying to the audience.
No messing around, this opening sequence, song and visuals, could work as well today as it did in 1985. Yes, it was the heady year of 1985 (probably long before most of you readers were born) that we were blessed with this amazing opening sequence. What I love most about this opening is how it portrays the qualities of its main characters: Kei and Yuri are spies, known for the collateral damage they inflict every time they undertake a mission. They have spunk, they’re funny and more importantly they have a ton of female agency. It’s genuinely refreshing.
Hisone to Masotan
You can find my thoughts on the anime here. In the end what makes this intro so unskippable and worthy of a mention in this list, is its ability to rile up bottled emotions and bring them to the surface. Its orchestral elements make the series seem so grand as a whole and instantly I’m given the impression that I’m wandering through a world created by Hayao Miyazaki and scored by Joe Hisaishi.
If its intention was to take the viewer on a journey into a world that is far more wonderful than our own filled with phone eating dragons and instantly likeable and relatable characters, then mission fucking accomplished. What a wonderful intro to an honest and emotion inducing series.
Gundam 08th MS Team
Gundam has given us some interesting openings throughout the years, but as the franchise as a whole starts its transition into short form OVA’s and movies, it feels like the art of the jazzy Gundam opening intro is slowly being lost like tears in the rain.
The visuals and song on their own aren’t particularly appealing, but there’s something about throwing them together to create the Frankenstein’s monster of anime opening sequences that just kind of seems to work in its favor. Gundam 08th MS Team itself is probably the least known, or at best the least remembered among the pantheon of Universal Century themed Gundam television series, but the sheer simplicity of the story and its focus on combat makes it a standout in my mind.
In the end, it’s simply unskippable. You don’t really know why, but there’s something so remarkably awesome about a jaunty and upbeat take on the sometimes deeply depressing world of Gundam.
One Punch Man
Nuff said, right? Plus, the end image of Saitama in full getup carrying his shopping home brilliantly sums up your entire viewing experience.
Patlabor OVA OP1
Notable for both its infectiousness and opening visuals featuring a dark haired Noa (presumably changed soon after to red), I often find myself singing the opening song to myself unwittingly in quite moments when I’m by myself. In the end, what more can you ask of a anime intro?
FLCL (Fooly Cooly)
This an odd one, because the initial FLCL OVA series from ’99 didn’t have an opening sequence per se. It did however always begin with this blisteringly rambunctious song by Japanese punk band The Pillows. Hence, the music video you’re probably watching right now.
And as an opening song goes, you really can’t ask for a better introduction into what the viewer has in store for them. If you’ve never seen it, Fooly Cooly is an absurdist Michel Gondry fever dream that plays more like an extended music video than it does an anime series. It belongs sealed in a glass case with a sign above it that reads “If anime gets too predictable break glass”. It’s such a pity that its two sequels tried to ground it and tie it to traditional anime in ways that the first OVA perilously tried to avoid.
Between the guitars, the fluoro colors and liberal overtones of harmless teen punk, no anime series before or since better encapsulates how it felt to live in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
It’s a true masterclass in anime.
- Andrew Archer