Our last top 10 list, the 10 Most Popular Anime of This Decade, explored hit series dating back to 2010. In light of that nostalgia wave, we’d now like to offer up the 10 best anime opening themes through the years.
Picking out the cream of the crop gets tricky. Going back, there are so many stellar opening themes that any addition to this “top” list is bound to cause at least some mayhem and maybe a few heads to start flying. However, due to the lack of polling sites to source the best opening themes prior to 2014, we were forced to pick based on a variety of factors.
For everything past 2014, data was collected from sources like AniTrendz.net and the Crunchyroll Awards, except 2017. Please keep in mind the videos we’ve curated for you may not stay up forever. If you do want the opening themes forever, show support by buying the anime we list below! Without further ado, we confidently present the top 10 anime opening themes this decade:
“My Soul, Your Beats!” from Angel Beats! (2010)
Finding an opening theme from 2010 as popular as “My Soul, Your Beats!” yielded peanuts. Angel Beats! has been a go-to for lovers of cult-classic dramatic romance comedies over the past 9 years. Yes, a triple threat—comedy, drama, romance—and only 13 episodes!
The wonderful Lia provides the angelic vocals for this OP. You can find her credits on other tear-jerker shows such as Clannad. However, most would likely wager the most memorable part of Angel Beats! is not Lia’s voice, but the first few haunting notes of the piano keys.
As for visuals, you’ve got your standard fare. Anime from earlier this decade inherited the 2000s style of characters just kind of standing by themselves one scene at a time or sometimes standing still together. In this opening, the characters stand still together. We know, it’s not very exciting, and it’s doubtful audiences even remember the visuals from Angel Beats! opening. But they’ll always remember Kanade sitting at that piano with those small orbs of light floating down around her as she fades into silhouette.
“Departure” from Hunter X Hunter (2011)
Now we’re starting to get pumped! Hunter X Hunter keeps the same opening theme song and visuals across all 148 of its episodes. That’s dedication. My Hero Academia is currently 4 season deep with more opening theme songs than you can count on one hand. Don’t even get me started on Naruto or Fairy Tail.
“Departure” performed by Masatoshi Ono was his first single in eight years by the time Hunter X Hunter came around. It’s darn good considering. Fortunately, studio Mad House matches it with classic shounen visuals that callback to older anime: backdrops of character faces with a more transparent opacity and the side profiles of those characters in the foreground set against them. Of course, there’s some running, too. It’s not shounen without running in the OP!
“Crossing Field” from Sword Art Online (2012)
Good thing Sword Art Online comes along the year after to make openings a little cooler. We have some falling into oblivion and survival desperation cut between home-cooked meals and daytime napping. You’ve gotta love that contrast!
The famous LiSA performs the opening song, “Crossing Field”, which has become one of the most recognizable songs in recent memory. Okay, maybe not that recently, but we’d be surprised if you haven’t at least heard it in passing by now, even if you’ve avoided Sword Art Online like the plague.
No, Kirito’s not all too popular these days thanks to anime YouTubers who found their claim to fame ripping apart the show, but “Crossing Fields” maintains its appeal to this day. For fans, every time the song comes on, you’ll get a mean case of binge-hype. Just don’t let it affect your sleep. Just kidding! We know it already does. But seriously, get your sleep. It’s good for you… maybe not as good as anime, but you still need it.
“Gurren no Yumiya” from Attack On Titan (2013)
If you’ve clicked the play button by now, you’re listening to the most popular opening theme of 2013. Chances are you remember how much pride you feel from watching Attack on Titan 6 years ago. SIX. YEARS. AGO. Maybe you remember the potato girl memes.
The show’s opening theme “Gurren no Yumiya” is performed by Linked Horizon. Chances are, every time this song gets stuck in your head a wave of visuals comes with it: Eren’s face covered in blood, soldiers standing in a black and white field, or the chain-linked fencing of the title on screen. Beyond visuals, “Gurren no Yumiya” has a somewhat triumphant yet dark militaristic tone to it—almost fascist. Luckily, we don’t face the same bleak reality Eren does. And for that, the song will always be remembered with solemnity and a kick of bloody Titan destruction.
“Unravel” from Tokyo Ghoul (2014)
Tokyo Ghoul came out at a time when many other anime were strong contenders for the best OP. Your Lie In April‘s “Hikaru Nara” or “Let me Hear” from Parasyte – the maxim- are both perfect examples. However, Ling Tosite Sigure’s dreamy breathless whispers make Tokyo Ghoul’s “Unravel” perhaps one of the most popular opening songs of all time and known especially for its lamenting, fatalistic sound.
Anitrendz.net, one of the internet’s resources for community based polling data, ranks Tokyo Ghoul as the king of anime openings for 2014. The undeniable beauty and sadness in Toru Kitajima’s voice slices through to your soul. The song perfectly conveys Kaneki’s entrapment as a ghoul while at the same time lamenting the freedom in his new identity at the cost of his purity.
If you have a weeb Friendsgiving this year for Thanksgiving, consider playing all the opening themes of your favorite food-themed shows, including Tokyo Ghoul. Human is one of the options on the table for ghouls after all… Titans, too. Do you think they put cranberry sauce on their humans?
“Brave Shine” from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladworks (2015)
The diehard fanbase of the Fate series received a wonderful surprise when Fate/Stay: Unlimited Bladeworks came out with its second opening “Brave Shine” because Aimer sang it. Aimer has credits on anime such as this year’s Vinland Saga and 2014’s Zankyou no Terror. She sings in English like a beast.
Aimer’s voice in this opening is one of hope. For those unfamiliar, the Fate series is about a holy grail war fought between mage masters and their servants. The servants are always heroes from the past, present, or future, but usually the past. The grail grants a wish to its champion, causing mage families to seek it out every time it appears every few decades. Oh, and King Arthur never fails to make an appearance in every iteration of the series. There are multiple spinoffs, so if you like one, you have a whole lot more to look forward to.
“History Maker” from Yuri On Ice (2016)
You can’t tell me a unitard and ice skates don’t magically appear on your body the second Dean Fujioka’s “History Maker” comes on. The skating sequences throughout the opening are magical. You can feel it—the grace, the elegance, the spotlights, the moment—and the second you do, you know you were born to make history. Yuri on Ice won both AniTrendz.net and Crunchyroll award for anime opening theme of the year.
If you haven’t heard this one yet, you’re in for a real treat. Even if you fumble through dances at Anime Expo’s nighttime raves, once “History Maker” comes on, it’s showtime. Your self-consciousness dissipates. Everyone sings along.
No matter what anyone tells you, just know you were born to make history. It may not entail ice skating, but hey, maybe our future president is reading this right now. Imagine that, an otaku for president… First policy: Make anime America’s national pastime. Okay, okay, we’ll compromise with a baseball anime.
“Kyoumen no Nami” from Land of the Lustrous (2017)
Quito here! During my search for best anime opening of 2017, I couldn’t help but notice one go neglected. AniTrendz.net listed the best anime opening this year as Koi to Uso’s “Kanashii Ureshii” by Frederic; meanwhile, Crunchyroll listed its opening theme of the year as My Hero Academia Season 2’s “Sora ni Utaeba” by amazarashi. Both are stellar, which is why deviating from the people’s choices causes me discomfort; however, Land of the Lustrous, which streams free with Amazon Prime, may exceed 2017s offerings.
Land of the Lustrous balances CG alongside 2D animation very well. This is to make up for otherwise unsightly composition and movement faux pas many bemoan in series such as 2016’s Berserk. If you don’t believe me, look up a fight scene from each show and compare the two. Your jaw will drop.
Land of the Lustrous is a lesser-known show best described as anime’s crystal gems. You won’t find the same singing and crying you know and love from Stephen’s version though but you will get a weak protagonist putting herself in more self-endangerment than My Hero Academia‘s Deku does when he uses the power of one for all to break his hands.
Phos is the weakest of the gems. She and her sisters live under unending siege from an invading force looking to harvest their bodies. Each time Phos fights, she breaks into pieces, causing her to undergo reconstructive surgery, and every time she loses fragments of herself, she loses part of her memory and personality.
Throughout the show, she changes… a lot. Luckily, “Kyoumen no Nami” by YURiKA is there to set the mood for the opening theme. We start with Phos curled up under water. As the opening progresses, we get shattered pieces, the sense of severe loneliness, and at the end, a mysterious tunnel that Phos cautiously but curiously walks into.
“Kimi no Sei” from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (2018)
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai was an emotional sledgehammer in the sense its viewers could really get into their feelings. The show captures easily relatable high school angst and emotional crises. So good is it at sucking you into the characters’ interactions that you sometimes forget you’re watching. It’s about a supernatural occurrence known as puberty syndrome. Sufferers of the syndrome experience reality in ways that differ from everyone else.
The opening theme “Kimi no Sei” by the peggies comes at the recommendation of the AniTrendz.com community. Check out the opening’s emphatic approach to setting the show’s tone. Compositions are on the warmer side. Camera angles can be extreme.
The phrase ‘that’s a mood’ described this show perfectly. Next time you’re yearning for romance or really just in need of a cry sesh after finding out your crush is dating someone else, whip out your comfort food and get in touch with your weeb feelings. Weeblings? Nah, those are little weebs. We’ll find a word.
“Survive Said the Prophet” from Vinland Saga (2019)
I wrote about Vinland Saga earlier last month in a Dashing Nerd’s post about anime picks of the year. Vinland Saga received praise for its opening theme as the best of the Summer according to Anitrendz.net. I’m going to call it here and have to say it’ll likely win best opening of the year, whether through AniTrendz.net or the annual Crunchyroll awards.
The show’s opening theme “Survive Said the Prophet” is sung by MUKANJYO. Its cathartic rock vibe captures the revenge energy of young Thorfinn, the protagonist. The visuals portray the premise impeccably well, matching Thorfinn’s pain, and only breaking to let you in on how the death of his innocence led to his grueling journey fighting as a Viking. No doubt you’ll feel his pain listening to the theme song. Fighting throughout the series occurs at a breakneck pace, so expect as much from the episodes as you do from the opening.
That’s it for this list! 2020 is swiftly approaching, and with it, a ton of new anime for the winter season. We know we’re excited to see new opening themes come on the scene! Which new series are you pumped for? Which ones do you think will make it big? Leave a comment below and let us know!