Idle Thoughts on Openings in Anime

October 26, 2009


There is an interesting way to treat the word entrance, which is to see it as ‘put in (en-) trance‘. The word trance has its roots in Old French transe (which originally meant ‘passage from life to death’), where its verb transir comes from Latin transire (‘to pass over’). Perhaps that is the purpose of entry spaces in architecture, to put people in trance, to design for sensual and dramatic crossing over from one territory to another. A process of transition between spaces, from death of one reality and reborn into another. Close the world, open the next – Lain.

In many ways, openings in anime are like entry spaces into different world of experiences. Helping us to forget our awareness as audience behind computer screen and start becoming with the characters, to make that transition natural and immersive, not forced or jarring. Wabisabi once said that a good OP is defined by its ability to communicate what the anime is about, saying how, for example, the OP of Le Chevalier D’eon tells you much about the characters’ personalities and histories. While I can appreciate how OPs can sometimes tell you a lot about the characters and the anime narrative-wise or thematic-wise, for me that doesn’t define a good OP. Mushishi and The Twelve Kingdoms for example, show only pretty scenaries/paintings and do nothing to introduce anything about their characters or settings. But they work, they’re great entrance pieces that establish appropriate atmosphere necessary to put us in trance, and make that transition natural and immersive.

This isn’t to demerit any attempt at introducing characters/world in OPs. Some of my favourite OPs are very good at that. There’s no reason why an entrance can’t be both functional and immersive. As such, I think good ‘entrance’ OPs are more subjective for us (like music), while it’s bit easier to objectively analyse which good ‘communicating’ OPs are good at introducing their worlds.

Another point I want to mention is how my response to anime can hugely influence our response to OP itself. I’m sure many others feel that way. So, how important is OP in your anime watching? And are there any specific qualities you look for in OPs?

*other OPs I like, not a complete list.


30 Responses to “Idle Thoughts on Openings in Anime”

  1. schneider Says:

    I’ve been raised on old anime, so I’ve always felt at home with OPs that directly reference the anime name in its lyrics.

    That said, I love the Planetes OP the most out of those posted here. It’s great as a mood-setter for such a wonderful, human anime.

  2. animekritik Says:

    Lain’s is a wonderful OP. Ghosthound, by many of the people in Lain, had a twisted opening sequence for every episode.

    Giant Robo as far as I can tell starts off each ep with a 2 minute spiel of greatness, with no actual OP song.

    I can’t remember the Code Geass OP at all, but I remember it got me all excited for the show when it would come on…

    Oh, and Soul Eater’s opening is a very nice, conventional OP, Tim Burton style…

  3. coburn Says:

    Quite often it seems like the transition OPs try to make isn’t so much from real life to the unique visual world of the creator as from life to Anime. That’s not a bad thing. In fact a lot of shows have kinda unmemorable openings that work well in just seeming damn anime-ish. I’m one of those people who almost always watches the OP though, so I am conditioned to be open to that feeling.

  4. plim Says:

    You just voiced my thoughts exactly. I happened to read Wabisabi’s post back in the days and didn’t quite agree with it, as Le Chevalier D’eon OP seemed too forced for me.
    I enjoy good openings, however I don’t make them my main priority. A good OP can influence me to watch a certain anime though, Take Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei for example. The openings are beyond amazing, and they were what convinced me into watching the show. However, dropped it long ago since the actual episodes were nothing in comparison. Which is a great shame.

  5. gaguri Says:


    Yea I love Planetes Op too. Don’t you just feel the power of hope soaring like a rocket?


    what, how can you like code geass OP! They were terrible, all of them! For shame.

    I love Ghost Hound OP simply because one of my favourite Japanese artist sang the song. Just love her voice, so unique~


    Hmm I suppose for most OPs they are not too memorable and have that ‘anime’ feeling. I think those ‘anime-ish’ ops are fine for series like Hayate, Minami-ke, Railgun, but for something like Kaiba and Mushishi it helps for me if OPs are more immersive. Of course, when I’m marathoning a show, I often skip OPs because I’m really getting into the show.


    Ah another old reader of Iwa ni Hana, surprised you remember that very post I was talking about =D

    I personally love Zetsubou Sensei but I can understand why some people just plain don’t connect to it. At least the OP is brilliant, right? I thought it was a brilliant OP fitting for a brilliant comedy franchise.

  6. 2DT Says:

    To this day I don’t understand Elfen Lied’s generous use of Klimt. It’s a lovely artistic reference, but the meaning is lost on me.

    I’ve been meaning to write about anime openings at some point, but it’s all quite nebulous still. I enjoy your architecture-informed perspective; it’s fresh and delightful, like lemon zest. And I so love it when people use etymology, too.

  7. gaguri Says:

    I think Klimt’s style in Elfen Lied OP is more for expression than any meaning, in that the exquisite quality of Lucy’s in those paintings is very expressive like that of women in Klimt’s paintings. And thanks for the kind words =D

  8. animekritik Says:


    Maybe the reason the Geass OP made me so thrilled about the show was that it was so bad it made me wish the show would start already! Or maybe I was Geassed!!

  9. While I acknowledge how interesting the OPs featured here are, here are some of my favorites (too many to mention and too painful to rank):

    Honey and Clover season two:

    The more I listen to it, this tune is really well done.

    Super Dimension Fortress Macross (surprise)

    The bombast! The launching fighter craft! The battle in the streets!

    Choudenji Machine Voltes V

    Sexiest combination sequence ever! Also, the fighting friends somehow became an important theme for me in my adolescence. I first saw it here as a very very very young child.

    Macross Frontier “Lion”

    Ranka and Sheryl singing together side by side in the end still gives me such a rush.

    King of Braves Gao Gai Gar Grand Glorious Gathering

    IT FILLS ME WITH COURAGE (and I have a very soft spot when called out attacks are included in the song itself BROKEN PHANTOM!)

    The important thing for me is the emotional hook… how it pumps me up and makes me just WANT to watch the upcoming episode, as well as validates the self-congratulatory feel for being a fan of the show.

    Now here’s an oddity that made me want to watch the show on the strength of the OP alone. I have nothing to justify my watching it really… as people have panned the show for its nonsensical elements.

    Overman King Gainer

    God help me I’m going to start watching this show now thanks to your post.

  10. Shadowmage Says:

    Personally, there are four instances where I find an OP memorable.

    1. I like the show
    2. I like the music
    3. I like the visuals
    4. I like the synergy of the visuals and music.

    In my eyes, accomplishing 4 is no small feat. These OPs tend to work as pieces of “art” in and of themselves. They include stuff like the incredibly rich Elfen Lied’s OP all the way to the undeniably impressive Rosario Vampire 2 Capu’s OP.

    Like anything else, there’s always the “I haven’t seen this before” factor in stuff like SHAFT’s OPs, or the First Rozen Maiden’s OP or even Toradora’s OP.

  11. vendredi Says:

    I think OPs that I tend to appreciate most probably fall in the category you noted – the “mood setter”. It’s an added bonus if they can actually show some of the animation style of the show, but the communication of the mood is probably the best function of an OP. In these terms I think one of my favourites has always been the opening to Witch Hunter Robin –

    Another interesting thing to note is how a lot of English-broadcast anime during the 90s changed around the Japanese openings and created an original English opening that certainly changes the mood considerably. In many cases, the English opening seems to provide a much faster-paced, more action-packed sort of feel. Great examples include:



    Cardcaptor Sakura (“Cardcaptors” for the N. American TV version)


    These in particular are notable mostly because they change the predominantly shoujo feel of these shows with something predominantly more action packed. There are plenty of other examples, such as Shaman King or Dragonball, but the change in feel is not quite as notable as these two.

  12. gaguri Says:


    Ah I see. I didn’t think that way, I have a newfound respect for Geass staffs, besides their…’talent’ for writing…


    Ah as usual, a man of solid substance =D. I wanted to include either one of HC or HC II, but for the life of me I couldn’t get into the screeching vocal…visually I really liked it though, although moodwise maybe I preferred something more ethereal. I can’t watch those OPs atm because I’m capped (oh the horrors of australian internet) but maybe one of those OPs can get me to finally watch some more mecha anime.


    That’s a good way to break down OPs I guess. For me its mostly just 1. mood, 2. reference as I mentioned in my post.

    I remember that Capu2 OP too, that certainly was lush…if I watched few episodes of it and meet the characters, maybe I would have upped my appreciation for it.


    Yea, mood over reference imo too =D. I didn’t really like the show itself but WitchHunter Robin’s OP I really like. Love the design of her character too, sigh…

    I can’t see those youtube clips but I remember CCS english OP, which was shown in one of our cartoon channels when I was younger (oh and I remember Dragonabll one too…omg that was terrible). I’d have to say I prefer Japanese ones though, just so cute ❤

  13. meta/off-topic:

    You can embed youtube links here in the comments by using the WP code but using quotation marks for the urls.


    you can go to your dashboard and edit vendredi’s comment to embed the vids.

  14. Wabisabi Says:

    Just a soft reminder of what I said before this gets out of hand:

    1) The description of a good OP was not said by me but by a Japanese fan.

    2) I only said that of the shows that aired in 2006, Le Chevalier D’Eon would fit that description to a T.

    3) I never said that it is the one and only exclusive description of good OPs. (That is to say, “if an OP does not fit that description, then it must be necessarily be not a good OP” – I just never hold extreme opinions like that.)

    Hope this clarifies.

  15. gaguri Says:

    Sorry if I was bit misleading in my post, I don’t remember you to be so extremist in your post (I remember something like, other than good visual, music, etc. this is another factor that can make a good OP, which I agree with). I doubt many people here will think you would go that exclusive (3^), but thanks for dropping by to clarify.

    Other than that…

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

  16. kadian1364 Says:

    I like my OPs as much as the next fan, but don’t consider it too essential to the experience of the anime, being highly subjective and all. Like, I won’t mentally dock a show for a less enjoyable opening, except when they contain future episode spoilers! 😡 That’s an example where the “explaining the anime” style hurts the show badly.

    Having said that, good OPs certainly add to the viewing experience. Like how the title and cover to a book can dramatically alter the way it’s read, good anime opening animations have the power to shape its audience’s mood or train of thought.

  17. gaguri Says:

    Haha spoilerific OPs…can’t think of any examples but I’d imagine that would suck really bad =(

    I don’t know if the title or cover can change my reading but OP sure can shape my viewing of anime. Of course, there is so much an OP can do with setting the mood, it can’t save a terrble anime nor bring down a brilliant one.

  18. foxfire Says:

    OPs definitely never save a bad anime. But I find the reverse is true! Sometimes I find an anime so awful that I think I actually enjoy its opening more because of it, usually because it looks so much better by comparison and isn’t long enough to contain any of the show’s crap.

    Tenjou Tenge and Tokyo Underground are both terrible. I sat through them far too many times at a college anime club but dammit, I love those OPs so much. Especially the former… which isn’t really artistic, but has freaking breakdancing:

  19. gaguri Says:

    Ah, a horrible anime with good OPs. Well I wouldn’t say Elfen Lied was horrible (mediocre more like it), but o man isn’t the OP just classy.

  20. kadian1364 Says:

    The spoilers aren’t explicit, but any thinking viewer can put 2 and 2 together. Recent examples I can think of:

    In Code Geass R2, at the midway point it got a new OP that scrolled through practically every major and minor character in the series. There were two things: Lulu’s major love interest Shirley was conspicuously missing from the new OP, and people noted this death flag 2 episodes before she actually died. The other was it depicted Shneizel and Nunnally in villainous light, keying us to who would be the final boss long before it actually played out in the series.

    In Valkyria Chronicles, a major plot point is the heroine Alicia discovering hidden superpowers and turning the tide of the war. Might’ve been surprising, had not the OP already depicted Alicia in all her superpower glory duking it out with the big bad a couple episodes earlier.

    That kind of stuff just ruins series.

  21. gaguri Says:

    Heh, well for me that’s the part of CG’s charm I guess…you know, getting the reactions and people to talk about the series.

  22. Shadowmage Says:

    Virtually all Sunrise OPs have spoilers. I usually mull over them several times to see what I can speculate.

  23. Yi Says:

    I really like Lain Op too. In fact, Duvet by Boa is my favorite OP of all time and probably the most played song on itunes.
    Ergo Proxy is up there too. ^ ^

  24. gaguri Says:

    I actually like ED of Ergo Proxy better, but probably because I was already familiar with Radiohead.

  25. Gorilla Says:

    For me one of the openigs which fits perfectly the show and express what the whole show is about, is the second Hajimme no Ippo OP. It such an uplifting track, which makes you want to punch stuff and the sequence with the flames and the championship belt is all kinds of awesome.

    Great opening for a great show.

  26. gaguri Says:

    Haven’t watched Hajim no Ippo but heard a lot of things about it. I guess such a OP would suit a boxing anime like that quite well.

  27. muhootsaver Says:

    OP is like first impression. It can foreshadow greatness but at the same time, trick you to think that the show has potential.

    Anyways, you have some nice OP listed there. Baccano OP is one of my favorite, and like you said, Mushishi OP fits very nicely with the series.

    You should post something about ED, too. I think they are as important, if not more important than OP ^^

  28. gaguri Says:

    Probably won’t do EDs (although I really should have done EDs along with Ops in this post), but yea Baccano and Mushishi OPs are really nice aren’t they =)

  29. hearthesea Says:

    This is a great post. I often see posts about people listing their favourite openings, but I rarely see an analysis of openings in general and the specific purpose they serve — I really like the idea of openings creating a bridge into the world of the series, the transition from reality to fiction that sets the right atmosphere and links in to the ‘feel’ of the series itself.

    The Lain OP is actually my all time favourite. It manages to capture that distinctive unnerving, eerie quality of the series itself, and the visuals and music make for a perfect, surreal combination. I also like the Gunslinger Girl OP — I’ve only seen one episode of the series, but there’s something quite bittersweet and touching about the opening sequence. It feels like a struggle with loneliness and isolation.

    Aside from Anime, I was recently thinking about the OP for Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show that I love. I think it’s a shame that they didn’t change it after the first season — the series feels like it takes a dip into more serious, mature territory in the ‘Earth’ chapters, so it felt a bit odd to have the usual intro, and the ‘Fire’ segment is also quite different, so I actually think it would have been nice to have three different openings for the three contrasting seasons. It’s probably unwise due to budget considerations or something, though…

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