Friday, September 28, 2012

Top 25 Opening Themes of Summer 2012

This summer desperately needed good music.

You could have put an anime to just about any song (as the above video has so eloquently showed us), and I would have considered it rankable before I considered it rank. Mind you, that doesn't mean it's time to see a K-On! "Gangnam Style" parody at the next convention's anime music video contest, but at least there was something good to watch for a few minutes before I turned the streaming service off.

So I present to you this season's Top 25 opening themes. It took a while to weed through so much. Perhaps I should have kept things short, since it was pretty hard to settle on one, but I think I've made the right call.

And not one horse trot in any of 'em.

Worst OP: "Reason why XXX" - Sayaka Sasaki
(Dakara Boku wa H ga Dekinai OP)

It doesn't matter how good the song or the animation is. It doesn't matter that Sasaki sang a perfectly ethereal ending theme to Nichijo. It doesn't matter how good or bad H ga Dekinai turned out to be. If I see one nipple in the opening animation, I instantly tune myself out. It's pretty bad that all we get are hard-to-see attack sequences by the heroines, but if there is a silver lining, it's that the opening sequence is a ninety-second warning that the show was harem bottom-feeder material.

Almost Worst:
"FEARLESS HERO" - Nana Suzuki (Dog Days OP2)
"Choose Me Darling" - StylipS (NakaImo OP)
"Realization" - Faylan (Estetica of a Rogue Hero OP)

Almost In:
"Reimei" - Maon Kurosaki (Hakuôki Reimeiroku OP)
"BRAVE BLADE!" - Megu Sakuragawa (Campione! OP)
"Kyappy Summer High Tension!" - Haruko Momoi (Yurumates 3D Plus OP)

25. "Back into my world" - Sweety
(Sengoku Collection OP2)

SenColle was even harder to get into this season with the introduction of another gender-swap Warring Period show, and the opening didn't have the draw power that Nobuna Oda provided with its OP. The characters are vibrant to look at, but there wasn't much interest to discover who Nobunaga's opponent is by watching the sequence. I wasn't really floored by Sweety's style for their "UNLUCKY GIRL!" ending theme in the first season, and I'm not too impressed now either.

24. "Signal Graph" - Annabel
(Love, Elections, and Chocolate OP)

I loved Annabel's voice for the ending theme to Sankarea, but perhaps it was the lack of impact that made it great for quiet ballads. There's just no real distinguishing mark on this series, and that leaves the fairly-static animation attempting to sell itself with its harem, a televised breast-shot made for Medaka Box, and an out-of-place outpouring of emotion from Girl A to Boy B. I do hope Annabel makes another stab at it, just not with something so...happy.

23. "Magenta Another Sky" - Hitomi Harada
(Arcana Famiglia OP)

Epic Engrish failures usually rank high on my chart, but not so in the Arcana Famiglia opening. Harada sang the song for the Arcana Famiglia PSP game, so giving her a shot here was a nice approach, but something just felt out of tune with the song. The key changes were a little over the top, and the random introductions of the characters in the animation really didn't set the stage for the show. Just not enough continuity between the cast to make me want more.

22. "Pride" - Nothing's Carved In Stone
(Kingdom OP)

Okay. This isn't so bad for the token anime show that tries to beat everyone to the punch by coming out a week earlier. The rock music is a bit paler than the sort we get from shows like Naruto, but that doesn't hurt the opening as badly as the over-reliance on computer animation does. The scrawny lead character looks so ripped from the polygons that I'm convinced he's a hidden Virtua Fighter 2 character.

21. "Burst the Gravity" - Altima
(Accel World OP2)

Accel World didn't have enough firepower for me in Spring, but the first opening at least had an electronica theme (May'n's "Chase the World") that gave the show a glimmer of despair (and a reason to watch). The second opener tries to sell Haru and Takumu as some sort of Tiger & Bunny duo, but a second para-para club song and a masked villain (aren't they all in this show?) just don't set the table well for them. I can't imagine what a third season would, wait. I can.

20. "Aurora" - Aoi Eir
(Mobile Suit Gundam AGE OP4)

I'd say we have the line drawn where the unmemorable are separated from the average. I tend to prefer the endings for Gundam AGE now that we've hit Season 4, as there's really nothing else to show but the main characters staring into space, running, or piloting their Gundam. I do like "Aurora" and Aoi Eir's sterling singing voice, but I'm more looking forward to her performance for Sword Art Online's next OP. Nothing will top Galileo Galilei's "Asu E", but I'm sure they'll try next season.

19. "Yes! YuYuYu☆YuruYuri♪♪" - Minami Tsuda, Rumi Ōkubo, Shiori Mikami and Yuka Ōtsubo
(YuruYuri♪♪ OP)

How to make a YuruYuri OP:
1. Make your heroines run. Run like the wind.
2. Make your heroines pretend to play the air guitar.
3. Make your heroines stare druggedly at the sun like they were searching for double rainbows.
4. Make them lay in a grassy field.
5. Give Akari the "GEH YABAI" face.
6. Profit.

18. "Go to the top" - Kumi Koda
(Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse OP)

I claim false advertising. I mean, the opening sequence to Total Eclipse, despite the fact the aliens only make a two-second cameo, is half-decent with its stock footage from the show, the mecha fights, and the serious in-bed-with-a-gun pose by Yui. The hip-pop number from Koda even sounds like it would fit a Top Gun reboot with its bopping strut and guitar-like wail in the middle. So why in the world was the show a total fan-service booty-shaker and not like this?!

17. "Dreamer" - AiRI
(Tari Tari OP)

Considering Tari Tari was all about music and bike-riding and badminton and horses and singing and what not, the staff went with all of that and threw in a ton of running and crying. At first, I had wondered if I stumbled upon the AKB0048 opening with all the sad faces in the middle, but the song from Airi is pretty good and definitely not AKB0048. The backgrounds were smooth and picturesque to the point that I didn't care much about the foregrounds. Or the characters, I guess.

16. "Paradigm" - Eufonius
(Kokoro Connect OP)

Shut up! I thought it was cute!

Kokoro Connect's OP also wasn't much different from Tari Tari, plain in its display of the backgrounds, which justifies the low rank. Yes, it has a lot that would put people to sleep in the animation, but I at least liked the fluffiness of the song that accompanied it, the cotton-candy strings dancing with that rainbow tentacle flying all through the town. Wait...rainbow tentacle?

15. "Marble" - Megumi Nakajima
(Rinne no Lagrange OP2)

I'm not exactly sure why I put the second opening to Rinne no Lagrange so high in the rankings this time around, since there wasn't much that separated it from the first opener. The animation is almost identical, including the same shots of the floral mecha that fly into the screen. I suppose it's more consistancy than inconsistency, as Nakajima sings a song that's just so beautiful in its synchopated rhythm. If it lasts a third season, THEN I'll bust out the serious gripes.

14. "ZONE/ALONE" - Minori Chihara
(Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere OP2)

Come on, guys. There wasn't a single nude shot of Tori or the corresponding nut-punch in this opening sequence. What gives? Actually, at least the producers were wise enough to keep the wraps on the cheesecake shots and comedy long enough to make the opener appear serious. In all fairness, I'll say this about Chihara; her voice is hardly that of an idol singer's voice anymore.

13. "Wake Up" - ClariS
(Moyashimon Returns OP)

Wow. I had no idea this was ClariS until I put two and two together. Yeah, it does sound a little like "irony" from the OreImo opener, and the duo's voices finally shine in the melody, but there's just no distinuishing mark on the animation. It makes me yearn for the "Curriculum" opener from the first season, especially in the way the bacteria are mere background characters in the OP! A.oryzae is the true star, guys!

12. "Clear" - The Sketchbook
(Sket Dance OP6)

Goodbye, Sket Dance. We really hardly knew you. Personally, I would have loved your openers exponentially more if you weren't so bent on keeping The Sketchbook hidden under Autotune. You finally woke up with a pretty decent song and a solid presentation of the entire assembled cast, putting a pointed period on it with an aloof display of Sket-Dan's heroics and friendship. Why, of all times, are you giving us all this when the show's about to end? Your timing sucks.

11. "BravBlue" - FLOW
(Eureka Seven: AO OP2)

I'd say this is where the line is drawn between the average and the good openings this season. I really like FLOW's singing style, their voices distinct and different enough to produce a pretty strong melody and midsection to the song. The fighting sequences are vivid with neon colors amongst a sky-swept background that makes the explosions stand out more. It might, might, have cracked the Top 10 if the opening animation wasn't a stand-still in the beginning.

10. "Love Letter from Nanika?" - ecosystem
(Chōyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi OP)

Uta Koi was certainly unique in its presentation, scrambling traditional stories of love amongst grand-prix-style oxcart races and poets dressed as Tokyo Tower, but it's great to see the producers put together something that keeps the Heian Era alive with the cast in various lovelorn poses. I like ecosystem's opening, as I thought their contribution "Dilemma" gave Gintama' a wonderful dramatic opening. The same applies here.

9. "Link" - Aimi
(The Ambition of Nobuna Oda OP)

Nobuna Oda slowly, like ivy, grew on me. I'll admit it that I thought too lowly of it, and I can see the evidence in the opening animation. While I'm not a fan of Aimi's singing voice, the rock accompaniment was at least better suited for war than Kingdom's sequence. The warfield battlescenes were fluid and realistic, unsteady from the spin of the camera angles, and while I could have done without some boob jiggle, the tone was generally serious. Good enough apology?

8. "Oato ga Yoroshikutte...Yo!" ("Thanks For Your Appreciation!") - Goku Rakujotai
(Joshiraku OP)

I had this funny feeling that Joshiraku would swell underground and storm the compound, but I'm really going to miss the opener now that this season's over. The song is a danceable romp with its "CHIN! TON! CHIN TON SHAN!" chant at the beginning and the rakugo elements lurking in the music. The monster bunny and the tank rolling through town confused my cat, but the show doesn't need no stinkin' sense to make sense!

7. "SEE YOU" - Yuya Matsushita
(Natsuyuki Rendezvous OP)

I've never been so disappointed by an OP that I ranked so high in these charts since I started these things two years ago. I mean, this song from Matsushita is a gorgeous ballad that fits all the flowery peripherals in the artwork, scattered with hints of the show's venture into fairy tales, but the bar is always set so high in noitaminA shows that I'm disappointed if they don't clear it. If the song and sequence was in an episode of Kimi to Boku, I'd think it was average at best. Perhaps the bar does need lowering.

6. "crossing field" - LiSA
(Sword Art Online OP)

Is it possible that I like "crossing field" a lot more than I liked LiSA's first effort "oath sign" for Fate/Zero? She can really hit the peaks of her melodies without having to strain her voice and provide energy at the right moments, which is what I want in a singer. The animation has its moments, but aside from the yawn we get from Kirito at the end, it's relatively straightforward without putting too much emphasis on the minor harem that pops into the show. I'd definitely want more LiSA this fall.

5. "Eureka" - Sukima Switch
(Space Brothers OP2)

Earlier this season, I dissed Space Brothers' new OP on Twitter. Badly? Not really, but it was missing the punch that I felt from "Feel So Moon". As the weeks passed, however, perhaps due to the show's appeal, it spread like poison ivy. At the start of each show, I find myself singing the "Agatte, Nobotte" melody and making a fool of myself as I dance like Mutta and Hibito, hands waving around in the air.

4. "Real World" - Nano.RIPE
(Humanity Has Declined OP)

Speaking of dancing...


I guarantee you stopped what you were doing and danced like an idiot. Admit it. We all did.

3. "Rimfire" - GRANRODEO
(Kuroko's Basketball OP2)

I find it surprising to see a rock group like GRANRODEO make such a grandiose statement in a basketball anime. Frankly, the NBA is so rooted in "party rock" and rap that I wasn't expecting guitar-driven arena anthems to be the first thing on the menu when it came to giving Kuroko's Basketball a soundtrack. I mean, Hyadain did the ending theme last season, so why should the show attempt to rewrite the book when it likely won't topple Slam Dunk in this genre?

Not so fast, my friend. This totally works.

"Can Do" was just the first step for Season 1, sounding more like a victory parade than a competition, but "Rimfire" has a second level to it, giving the show a little bit of a cocky attitude to go with the talent making circus shots in the show. Listen to the first notes of the song, and you just might hear the faint hum that goes with any "naaaaah-nah-nah-naaaah-naaaah" taunt. I still see GRANRODEO as a poor man's B'z, but at least the charge in the rock, coupled with the fade shots between competing teams, make this a better intro than that "Teiko Middle School..." narration that haunted Season 1.

Just don't turn into The Prince of Tennis, guys.

2. "Mikansei Sutoraido" ("Unfinished Stride") - Saori Kodama
(Hyouka OP2)

See, Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect? This is how you grab attention. Just having your characters stare and run works sometimes, but not if your show is fueled on drama. It takes a spark of creativity to turn ordinary into extraordinary, and it doesn't require a Bedazzler to do so. Hyouka didn't garner attention with its story and characters, but perhaps an OP like this one might have fooled a distributor.

Leave it to Kyoto Animation to be the ones to make something out of nothing. Haruhi, Lucky Star, Nichijou...they have their finger on the pulse of the audience, perhaps getting as good as Shaft when it comes to purposeful openings. Our Everystudent Houtarou falls asleep, then finds himself having to trudge through whiteboards, windows, and other reflective surfaces until he can find himself back in the security of his club room, pulled back through the Looking Glass by the innocent Eru.

What punctuates the opening, however, is the last five seconds, as the other members of the club pepper his sleeping form with paper cut-outs and bows. The lighthearted end to Houtarou's trip fits Saori Kodama's shoulder-swinger of a song, as the wind-swept music is interrupted with tiny birdlike squeaks now and then, finishing with Houtarou chasing the culprits.

Now, that was fun, and no one had to risk pulling a muscle with all that running.

1. "Make My Day!" - Piko
(Binbôgami Ga! OP)

I was impressed when Hyadain first crashed the scene to produce songs where he was the voice of both the male and female halves of his songs. The wonders of technology still refuse to cease, and now we have Piko, a singer whose voice boggles my mind. I mean, listen to the entire song, then see the guy in concert, and serious Milli Vanilla conspiracies hammer around your head. I was totally fooled into thinking Piko was a woman, only for my jaw to drop when I realized his vocal range.

If I'm not mistaken, that's all him. Turns out that Piko is what they call a "ryouseirui", or someone with "both voice types". What's even more surprising is that he's not the only one posting his genderbent songs on Nico Nico Douga. Perhaps there's a little bit of a tweak, but the singer of this power-pop smash is a 24-year-old male, BAY-BEE.

The song itself plays like a PSP video game, popping the 8-bit bubble before going into the "DAKARA ONE WAY TWO WAY THREE WAY FOUR WAY" sugar-high chorus, careening over the audio highway with guitars and glockenspiels spilling out the trunk. It slows down for a break to introduce the characters, then back on the buzz.

Yes, you still do get a lot of running going on, but it's crafted so that it's not just a simple sprint but a destination. Ichiko and Momoji's respective dashes through comic-strip dots end up meeting at a splitscreen crossroads. It's a clever way to turn a mad dash into entertainment.

Just don't ask me how Piko does it. I can't answer you.

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