Demystifying the Magic of Anime Opening Songs

Hey fellow anime watcher! Have you ever found yourself completely hooked by an anime after only hearing its crazy catchy opening theme song? Or sang along at the top of your lungs when your favorite op played during an anime marathon? Well you‘re not alone – ops are something unique and special within anime fandom.

In this guide from one op lover to another, let‘s dive deeper into the history, evolution and fandom surrounding anime opening songs. Get ready for a nostalgia trip through some of the all-time greatest ops!

A Mini-History Lesson on Anime Openings

While ops are a familiar ritual today, they emerged gradually over decades:

  • The 1960s: Early ops were pretty simple – think "Astro Boy" with its cheerful orchestral theme. Some animes used instrumental openings, while others had rudimentary songs often sung by the show‘s voice cast.

  • The 1970s: As the anime industry grew, actual pop artists began recording songs specifically for openings. For example, the first op for "Doraemon" was by a folk duo. While still simple compared to modern ops, having distinct theme songs became more common during this decade.

  • The 1980s/90s: This era revolutionized ops as rock bands and J-pop idols started seeing them as major promotional opportunities. It led to elaborate, stylish, song and animation combos specifically crafted to hype up and represent the anime. Some seminal ops that defined this era include:

    • "Lum no Love Song" (Urusei Yatsura, 1981)

    • "Moonlight Densetsu" (Sailor Moon, 1992)

    • "A Cruel Angel‘s Thesis" (Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1995)

  • The 2000s and Beyond: In the internet age, ops now play a dual role – attracting new fans globally online while also satisfying hardcore otaku. Ops became a way for animators to pay homage to classic anime tropes while also breathing new life into the medium. Modern ops also increasingly foreshadow plot points and new characters to keep fans guessing about what‘s next.

Some of the most prominent recent ops include:

  • "Again" (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, 2009)

  • "Guren no Yumiya" (Attack on Titan, 2013)

  • "99.9" (Mob Psycho 100, 2016)

Now you‘ve got some historical context on how we got to the incredible ops of today!

Quantifying an OP‘s Cultural Impact

We all have our personal favorites, but some ops make a deep statistical impact as well:

  • "A Cruel Angel‘s Thesis" sold over 3 million copies, making it one of the best selling anime theme songs worldwide.

  • Flow‘s "Go!!!" from Naruto topped Japan‘s Ringtone Charts in 2007.

  • "H.T." by Mamoru Miyano was the No. 1 anime op single on the Oricon charts in 2008.

  • In polls of western fans, "Again" from FMA Brotherhood and "Unravel" from Tokyo Ghoul frequently rank as top modern ops.

Year OP Song Copies Sold
1995 "A Cruel Angel‘s Thesis" (NGE) 3 million+
2007 "Go!!!" (Naruto) 1 million+
2008 "H.T." (Ouran Host Club) 500,000+

As you can see, smash hit ops often crossover into mainstream music popularity!

Inside the Mind of an Anime Director

What goes into crafting the perfect anime opening sequence? Let‘s hear from some experts:

"The op has to instantly show what‘s appealing about the characters and story. It should communicate the anime‘s mood while being an earworm." – Tetsuro Araki, Director of "Attack on Titan"

"I storyboard the op visuals around the structure of the theme song to achieve a unified musical experience for viewers." – Atsuko Ishizuka, Director of "A Place Further Than the Universe"

"I choose op songs that emotionally resonate with the protagonist‘s journey and story arc." – Shinichiro Watanabe, Director of "Cowboy Bebop"

These insights from top directors demonstrate how much strategy goes into fusing visuals, music and emotion to produce an impactful op.

My Personal Favorite Ops through the Years

As an anime fan for over 20 years now, I‘ve got so many fond memories and emotional connections to various ops. Let me share a few of my all-time favorites:

  • Samurai Champloo OP – "Battlecry" – This op singlehandedly got me into hip hop music with its impeccable blend of samurai action and chill beats. I must‘ve rewatched it a hundred times to try catching all the references to famous rappers and breakdancers hidden in the background art!

  • Elfen Lied OP – "Lilium" – Hauntingly beautiful Latin chanting paired with imagery of keys, masks and rosaries falling gently in blood red water. The music box style melody prepared me for the show‘s mix of innocence and gruesome horror.

  • Cowboy Bebop OP "Tank!" – As soon as I heard the driving jazz trumpet line and glimpsed the quick cuts of Spike fighting, Faye posing, and the Bebop soaring through hyperspace, I knew this would be my new favorite anime. The high energy op sequence pulled me straight into the show‘s cool retro sci-fi world.

  • JJK OP 1 "Kaikai Kitan" – This one took a few watches to grow on me, but the more I heard it, the more I loved Eve‘s frenetic rapping and the action-packed visuals. The song‘s structure kept me hyped for every episode of Jujutsu Kaisen with its escalating intensity leading to the final "Sak-soo!"

Tips from a Seasoned Fan: Choosing Anime by the OP

After watching hundreds of different ops, I‘ve noticed some patterns that help predict if an anime will be up your alley based solely on the opening. Here are a few of my tips:

  • Pay attention to the visual cues – An op that introduces the full cast signals an ensemble focus, while centering on the protagonist conveys their solo hero‘s journey. Lots of scenic pans indicate an exploration plot, while nonstop action previews intense fights or contests.

  • Take note of the music genre – Jazz and hip hop suggest something stylish and mature like Cowboy Bebop. Electropop hints at a high energy, humor-filled show in the vein of K-On! Dark heavy metal indicates a gritty, supernatural element as heard in the Tokyo Ghoul op.

  • Catchy usually equals quality – Ops with addictive melodies, powerful vocals, and clever animation you instantly want to watch again likely come from well-produced, popular anime with strong mass appeal.

  • Consider remixes and later versions – Anime significant enough to inspire multiple memorable ops is probably worth watching. For example, the numerous iconic Naruto shippuden ops indicate its far reaching impact.

Use these tips to decide which new anime to prioritize watching based on opening vibes alone!

The Yin and Yang of Streaming Services and Anime Ops

In the current age of instant media gratification, what does the future hold for the anime op sequence? Streaming services now give viewers the choice to easily skip right to the episode content. But don‘t declare traditional ops obsolete just yet! Here are some pros and cons to consider about ops in the streaming era:


  • Ops entice binge watchers to let the next ep auto-play instead of clicking skip.

  • Shorter 30 second "OP teasers" optimize ops for streaming without losing impact.

  • Ops remain a key part of the communal anime watching experience at conventions and watch parties.


  • Less patient viewers may lose interest in the full 1-3 minute ops.

  • Spoiler-averse fans dislike ops hinting at future plot points.

  • Op visual engagement lost on those who use anime as background noise.

While condensed ops work better for streaming, traditional openings still have value for diehard fans and in fostering community. Overall, don‘t expect ops to disappear anytime soon even as anime consumption changes!

How Aspiring Anime Creators Can Craft the Perfect Op

For all the ambitious artists and musicians out there, what expertise can I share about making anime openings that fans will love? Here are my insider tips:

For musicians:

  • Listen extensively to ops within the anime genre you are composing for to internalize the conventions.

  • Build your song around escalating emotional arcs and punctuating hooks that align to the animated visual accents.

  • Recording versions that gradually incorporate more instruments and vocals gives flexibility in editing.

For animators/storyboard artists:

  • Use sharp, high contrast color palettes for maximum visual impact.

  • Match scene transitions and cuts to musical drops, builds and peaks.

  • Synchronize specific lyrics to important narrative reveals timed for second watches.

  • Easter eggs and subtle foreshadowing reward close inspection from fans.

With the right blend of catchy music, symbolic visuals and layered details, your op can achieve legendary status among anime fans!

Now You‘re an Expert on Anime Openings!

After reading this crash course, you now have deep knowledge about the creative vision, fandom hype, and legacy behind anime openings. Understanding the thought and technique that goes into ops can totally change how you experience that exciting "Preparing to launch…" moment starting each episode. I hope this guide will make you appreciate the magic of anime ops even more, whether embarking on a new anime journey or rewatching an old favorite. Until next time, happy op listening!

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