So many American TV shows keep shortening and downplaying their openings until they feel like slight after-thoughts. Anime, though, has always recognized how a proper intro is a work of art in itself. We’ve previously listed our favorite AMVs, but really, every anime opens with a music video; and those clips need sorting, too. Does the song rock? Is the animation sleek? And does the total package represent the show in an unforgettable way? It was hard to choose just five intros out of hundreds, but all that criteria was carefully considered as we made our picks. Read on, and see how your mileage varies.
It’s an obvious choice because it’s right. If you ever speak of anime mastermind, Shinichiro Watanabe, you must mention how essential the man’s record collection is to his work. Episodes are named for classic rock songs. Orchestral tracks tell more of the story than the actual animation, sometimes. And you can chart the wide cultural influences he draws upon by the music he cues. No truer is that than in Cowboy Bebop‘s sleek, sexy intro with its brassy, cool jazz. Performed by The Seatbelts and composed by anime goddess, Yoko Kanno, “Tank!” is the perfect score for an intro that looks like every 70s spy movie poster brought to life.
Sometimes, an intro serves as a much-needed counterweight to the content of the show itself. Code Geass has a richly complicated premise with dozens of characters tied up in labyrinthine conflict. All that complexity, and here’s the alt-rock band Jinn cutting straight to the bone, making all the machinations seem so much more personal and urgent. Indeed, “Kaidoku Funou” brings real swagger to dystopian mech politics. Watch closely each week, too, and see if you can notice the subtle roster changes which hint at Code Geass‘ complex plot developments.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
R&B duo Chemistry’s “Period” sets the tone in this epic remake’s fourth opening (which is long enough to be a short feature in its own right). Here’s the anime intro equivalent of a fully-painted cover: offering shocking peaks at dramatic surprises in the forthcoming climax with spiffy animation well above the show’s already-impressive budget. Lyrically, the song’s about finding closure, just as Ed and Al seek to tie off their business with the Homunculi, once and for all. The “whoas” in the group chorus also underscore how this really feels like an ensemble effort at this stage, with all these disparate camps finally pulling together against the evil forces of Father.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
BRASS. IS. BEST. If you have any doubt that Tommy Tominaga isn’t putting his all into “Sono Chi no Sadame,” then please, please watch him do this live. Dude simply feels it more. This adaptation of “Phantom Blood” was a couple decades overdue and Studio David shrewdly opted to embrace that fact in all facets when they devised this intro. Clippings from the original black and white manga flutter around colorful CG models of Jojo and Dio. Sound effects take on lives of their own. And, of course, Tominaga-san is entirely unafraid of retro in the brawny, bombastic title track. Shooting out the gate like a bullet, Jojo’s immediately declares itself to be best of the past and future, at once.
Dragon Ball Z
Again, obvious picks are simply right. While the original Dragon Ball theme is catchy, it can’t compare to the rousing optimism veteran Super-Sentai crooner, Hironobu Kageyama, brings to DBZ with “Cha-La Head Cha-La.” What does this mysterious phrase mean? Let’s just call it the Z-Fighters’ equivalent of “Hakuna Matata.” It’s a feel-good, can-do mantra to recite when greeting all adversity with a smile. Indeed, that upbeat notion pervades the entirety of this clip. Dark times literally drip down on the fun towards the end, but Goku and his pals always keep a positive attitude, soaring ever forward.
Surely, we’ve missed some of your favs. That’s why we have a talkback! Hit us with suggestions. If we get enough, we may do another a follow-up list to set the record straight!
Featured Image Credit: FUNimation