An anime’s opening and ending theme has a huge effect on how the anime is perceived. A good opening gets you excited and shouting “let’s watch some good anime!”, and a good ending theme leaves you thoughtfully nodding and saying “yeah, that was a good anime I just watched”. Here are the best five openings and the best five endings that aired during 2012. They’re judged perhaps more on the animation than on the music, but more than either they are judged by how well the two go together, and even more than that they are judged by how well the two go together to support the show. For example, Mouretsu Pirates‘s opening theme, “Mugen no Ai”, was full of vigor and excitement and schoolgirls in pirate hats, but it doesn’t make the list because the show proper was sorely lacking in those things. Of course, the piece still has to be good – Sword Art Online’s OP isn’t going to win just because a shitty OP is a perfect fit for a shitty show. Also, shows are limited to one OP and one ED on the list, so you can’t run the categories by changing your OP every episode (I’m looking at you, Nisemonogatari). Some lyrics translations appear below – the usual disclaimer that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about applies.
Top 5 Openings:
5: Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankei Nai Yo Ne – Self Producer
This might be something of a controversial choice, because the video ranges from thinly-veiled sexual innuendo to just not bothering with the thin veil. But it’s well-done sexual innuendo! The “oral scenes” section in particular shows deep craftsmanship, for example in the part where Anastasia is stepping back and forth in time to the music while lewdly playing her flute, then turns to notice the viewer is just incredibly solid. And in any case, this is a pretty good taste of what the show is like, so if you’re the sort of person who’s gonna get offended by this, might as well have you get warned off by the opening animation. But the lyrics (sung by the excellent Chihara Minori) are about how you should “love how you want to, with an honest attraction”, and I think that’s at the end of the day a good message. Honesty is nice.
4: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita – Real World
I can’t say I approve of nano.RIPE’s deliberately squawky vocals, here, but the animation fits the show so well that I can’t leave this song off the list. It has the unnamed protagonist dancing with fairies! So many fairies, so much pastel, dancing forever. And then there’s cakes and cookies and candy and sweets! And the song is at least upbeat, even if it’s hard on the ears. This opening gets you in the proper mood to watch Jintai (the proper mood to watch Jintai is “Fairies!”)
3: Psycho-Pass – Abnormalize
The song, the animation, and the show itself are all trying just a little bit too hard to be edgy. But if I dial myself back a little from maximum hipster ironic detachment mode, all three are really enjoyable. The animation kinda reminds me of the first OP for Mirai Nikki. It even does the same trick of symbolizing insanity by having the insane character fight a copy of themselves. (OK, in Yuno’s case it may not have been entirely symbolic.) And then in both pieces, the insane character falls after the battle, and reaches up for their sane counterpart to save them. Except, rather than reach down and grab Kougami, like Yukiteru did for Yuno, Akane shoots him instead. Pretty harsh, but totally in line with the show’s themes of how horrible latent criminals have it.
2: Shirokuma Cafe – Boku ni Invitation (An Invitation For Me)
(Only the first half of the video is the piece in question). What’s not to love! Cute animals doing funny things, and a reasonably catchy, if kinda overproduced and poppish, tune to go over it. There are some cool visual gags in this opening, I think my favorite is when the song starts singing about a “mango shake” and Polar Bear starts shaking his behind at the camera. It’s just cute animal gag comedy, which is exactly what you can expect from the show, too.
1: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – Kimi ga Yume wo Tsuretekita (You Brought A Dream With You)
I love the first little vignette in this opening, about Sorata vs. the wasp nest. Everything about it is perfect, from Misaki’s makeshift armor to Mashiro’s mouthed encouragements to Nanami’s horror at the aftermath. And while the second part may not have as good a narrative, people smiling and clapping in time with the music is a reliable source of goodfeels. And it’s a nice catchy song, upbeat without being too corny, and with cool lyrics too. “The first time could be unintentional, the second time, I wonder. It must not be a coincidence, now that our eyes have met three times”. Everything about this song got me pumped to watch Sakurasou. Which is kind of a waste, because I didn’t actually like the show that much and I think I’m gonna drop it.
Top 5 Endings:
5: Joshiraku – Nippon Egao Hyakkei (One Hundred Japanese Smiles)
A cute chibi-character dance, along with a nice happy song. The song is maybe a little less happy if you listen to the lyrics closely – the Joshiraku girls are imploring you to smile “smile, smile, in times like this we have to smile, even if you don’t want to smile there is nothing you can do but smile,” it ends up coming off a little creepy. That fits Joshiraku’s style of comedy well, it often moves into dark satire of the sort where you put on a crazed grin because the world is so awful you can’t even cry about it. There’s also a cool pun in the song, which I can’t really translate, but suffice it to say it plays on the fact that there is a traditional Japanese garment whose name sounds like the English word “happy”.
4: Accel World – Unite
Honestly I can take or leave the song, here. I’m just in awe of the amount of story they were able to put into the animation. You have Kuroyukihime being all shy, and then her boyfriend gets stolen by her virtual avatar, and then she damn well goes and gets her boyfriend back and whacks her virtual avatar on the head with an umbrella to remind her who’s boss. Her throwing away the umbrella at the end was a great touch. It communicates just how peeved she is about the whole situation, and how she is upset that she’s run out of people to hit. So does this battle with herself symbolize insanity too? Does this mean Kuroyukihime is as crazy as Kougami or Yuno? They went into little enough detail about her life in the parts of the story the anime showed that I guess it’s possible.
3: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita – Yume no Naka no Watashi no Yume (My Dream Inside A Dream)
In most years this ending theme would be good enough to take the gold. For whatever reason this year had some really great EDs, even better than the openings! But this is a really great one, it’s sort of “artsy” but it’s not too bad. It’s the main character in silhouette, strolling past the rise and fall of civilization, represented in the medium of candy and other sweets. At the end she slips and falls, sheds a tear for the fallen society, and then lays down for a nap or to die, depending on how morbid you want to interpret it. But it’s all done in sweets, so instead of being depressing, it’s otherworldly. The song is like that too, it’s a sad song, but it’s sung sweetly so we don’t taste any of the bitterness. It’s a song for the decline of humanity, but not a song to lament it. Rather, it’s a song to fondly remember humanity as it was, and to courageously accept the future.
2: Shin Sekai Yori – Wareta Ringo (Split Apples)
This is another artsy ending theme, but the real thing to note is the music. It’s perfect, and it fits the show perfectly. It starts off with an ultra-restrained guitar as the only instrument and grows gradually in complexity, while still staying restrained, then about halfway through it opens up, just as fireworks burst in the sky in the animation. And the lyrics are about a fragile soap bubble buffeted by the wind trying to keep hope alive. It’s a perfect fit for a show about the terror of childhood, about helplessness and being lied to by adults and the hostility of society and the hostility of the world and the water keeps rising and you don’t know what to do because you’re just a soap bubble.
1: Kill Me Baby – Futari no Kimochi no Honto no Himitsu (The True Secret of Their Feelings)
This is an ending dance to rival Hare Hare Yukai, set to a seriously funky song. I love it. It’s simultaneously understated and wacky, which was an aesthetic the whole show tried for, but it missed more than it hit. The ending dance was definitely one of the hits though. One surprising thing about this ending is that the dance was actually taken directly from the manga! There was a bonus page in the printed collection that suggested making a flip-book out of the dance, but the animators went one better than that. So no credit goes to JC Staff for the animation here, except for, like, the tapping foot at the beginning. It was a really good tapping foot, for sure.