This list is very subjective and is meant for expressing my own opinion only. I’m not talking about the best OPs of all time. I am also not (yet) an anime veteran, so I have not seen many popular shows which might have better OPs, and this list is subject to change. The descriptions also contain spoilers for some of the shows, so proceed with caution.
Title: Hacking to the Gate
Artist: Kanako Itō
This is probably on the list because it has grown on me after I listened to it at the start of each episode. It’s an infectious and upbeat piece, and for me it symbolises Okabe’s desire to save Mayurii and then Makise no matter what. The video sequence is quite good though, even though it gives the false impression that time travel involves a lot of rotating gears, whereas it requires just a microwave and a phone. 😉
Shingeki no Kyojin OP1
Title: Guren no Yumiya (紅蓮の弓矢)
Artist: Linked Horizon
Hate on it as much as you want, you have to agree that it’s an OP that’s done right. It perfectly embodies the underlying themes of determination, persistence and hard work triumphing insurmountable odds. It’s also very uplifting and inspiring. Procrastinating on studying for your test tomorrow? Having trouble doing the last few reps of your pull-up routine? Listen to this and bolster your resolve.
Title: To the Beginning
For me, this track represents the hopes and aspirations of different mages and their legendary heroes and their motivation for obtaining the holy grail. The sequence contains mundane images like Kayneth and Lancer looking out from their building, Maiya putting on a coat, Rider and Waver in their room, etc. which reinforces the notion that however cruel or bizzare their actions may be, the characters are motivated by their goals and they are just trying to do what they think are right, or just trying to have a good time (as the case with Caster and Ryuunosuke). The track and the sequence becomes more meaningful as the characters die off and it really forces you to empathise with them. Like the anime, the high production values are evident everywhere.
Nodame Cantabile Season 1
Title: Allegro Cantabile
Artist: Suemitsu & the Suemith
An awesome piece of piano ballad (I’m just a sucker for piano though, so I may be biased). The track talks about the ups and downs and the joys and frowns that you face while creating or learning music. Personally it reminded me of Chiaki overcoming his fear of flying and Nodame finding her reason for pursuing music seriously and the transcendence they feel while playing a piece of music, either alone or in a orchestra. If you play an instrument or sing, this will really resound with you.
This track has the same dark undertones of hopelessness, despair and the belief that a higher power will provide salvation that runs throughout the series. It ties very well with the overall mood of the series. It’s even more depressing when you know that the proxies themselves are imperfect and they are meant to die along with the whole dome ecosystem when the earth has sufficiently recovered.
Mushishi Zoku Shou/Season 2
Artist: Lucy Rose
Even though this song talks about undying love through the ages, I think on a deeper level it talks about the love and compassion we feel for our fellow humans. At first glance, Mushishi looks like a show that is a documentary about the Mushi and how they affect people, but it’s really a show about human relationships, society, and how humans react towards each other and to him/herself in different circumstances. The song is really calm, and I think that symbolises Ginko’s attitude towards the Mushi. They do not mean any harm or goodwill, they just exist.
Do not allow yourself to be blinded by fear or anger. Everything is only as it is.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful show and you should watch it, regardless of whether you like anime or not.
Artist: The Seatbelts
Like every thing about Cowboy Bebop, it’s OP track and sequence is brilliant. It’s very difficult to describe how it is or what it symbolises. It has glimpses of the carefree attitude that Spike has and probably symbolises the oddball group of characters that the Bebop houses. It’s really one of the most recognised and iconic pieces of anime music and you’ll miss out if you do not listen to it or watch the show.
Ping Pong – The Anime
Title: Tada Hitori (唯一人)
Artist: Bakudan Johnny (爆弾ジョニー)
Here’s where my love for Masaaki Yuasa and his creations start flowing. It’s a highly infectious and upbeat piece that gets you pumped up for ping pong, which I believe is not as physical a sport as football or rugby. I think the track talks about the loneliness and detachment Smile feels from others, and the enjoyment Peco gets from playing. This might not be as deep as some of the other OPs in this list, but the well-developed characters and the greatness of the anime lend themselves to the OP, transcending it beyond what it would be if it were a standalone piece. The stylistic sequence that compliments this song is also amazing.
The Tatami Galaxy
Title: Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat (迷子犬と雨のビート)
Artist: Asian Kung-Fu Generation
This tells how humans spend our lives in vain, chasing after things which we think we want, but disregarding the things that are really important and will bring us real happiness. It’s also about our conception that if we made different decisions, things would have gone differently, for the better. The sequence starts with an endless loop of 4.5 tatami rooms in different colours, and then shows the different characters in the show, perfectly choreographed with the beats. It’s the perfect mix of wacky animation that characterises Yuasa’s work, and deep feels that you’ll definitely get as you progress through the anime and identify with the characters.
That concludes the list. I’d love to hear your thoughts, if any.