What? You thought we could get through twelve days without me compulsively ranking something? You’re lucky we made it through one!
Like any self-respecting weeaboo, I listen to a lot of J-pop. Since I started watching anime, it’s slowly taken over my music library to the point where it’s pretty much all I listen to. Not that I don’t like other kinds of music, I just don’t hear it much so I never happen to add it to my library. Thanks to the amount of anime I watch though, I have a steady supply of new opening and ending songs to listen to each season. One of my favorite parts of each new season is picking out the best opening and ending songs and impatiently awaiting the release of the full versions. With that and my compulsive need to rank things in mind, I’ve narrowed the list of 35+ opening and ending singles I added to my library this year down to a top 12. Enough rambling, on to the list.
There were two very difficult cuts from my list:
Donna Toki Mo Zutto by µ’s (Love Live Season Two ED)
I really like Love Live music and if insert songs were included in this ranking I would have included at least Snow Halation and Shocking Party if not more from the show. Unfortunately for Love Live, digging through insert songs is much harder than tracking openings and endings and the second season opening and ending just weren’t good enough to make the cut.
Kinou, Kyou, Ashita by Hisako Kanemoto (Akuma no Riddle ED2)
Akuma no Riddle did a really cool thing by having a different ED for each girl followed by a group ED for the finale. There were a lot of things that the show got wrong but this was one that it got right. Of the twelve, my personal favorite was Haru’s ending which played after episode two. It’s a nice song that captures her character well but again, not good enough for the top twelve.
And now, the actual list:
12. aLIEz by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki (Aldnoah.Zero ED2)
We start with a very good song from a show that wasn’t very good at all, something that will become a pattern in this list. aLIEz was mostly notable for the way it was used to emphasize some of the more epic moments in the series. When it first played as the bombs were raining down in episode one it really let you know that something big was happening. Its usage got kind of tired later in the show’s run but the song is still very good. I really get into the chorus every time it hits even though people can’t seem to agree what the actual engrish lyrics are. Poor pronunciation aside, the song was a highlight in an otherwise mediocre show.
11. Soushou Innocence by Uchida Maaya (Akuma no Riddle OP)
YouTube (I’ll be including YouTube links when available, but most of these have been taken down. I’m sure you can find the songs elsewhere if you want to)
As I said earlier, Akuma no Riddle got a lot of things wrong, but the music was not one of those things. Soushou Innocense was a great opening song full of intensity and energy that really set the tone for what the show was about. The song starts off with a bang and goes really well with the twisted members of kurogumi class. The song loses some points because the second half of the song is kind of lackluster. The TV size version definitely got the best part of the song. This isn’t a Guren no Yumiya situation where everything outside of the TV OP is garbage but it certainly was a step down from the awesome 90 seconds we got for the show. That 90 seconds is enough to carry the song to number eleven on my list.
10. Hanayuki by SmileY Inc (Hanayamata ED)
The opening song to Hanayamata was certainly the more important one from a narrative standpoint as it ended up being the final performance piece in the finale. The ending was a much better song for my money. The show is generally a very positive one, but it had its share of melancholy moments and the ending works with that tone because it has a very soothing feel to it rather than being as perky as the opening. In contrast to Soushou Innocence, Hanayuki actually moved up in my estimation with the release of the full version. The portion after the second verse was the best part of the song, especially the part where it returns to a modified version of the chorus following the bridge. Really good stuff.
9. Kyou ni Koi Iro by May’n (Inari KonKon Koi Iroha OP)
This song got a big boost after I attended a May’n concert this past July. I had been aware of May’n (who I learned pronounces her stage name like “main”) but never really had a strong opinion on her music. After seeing her in concert and witnessing her incredible stage presence (in the face of a lackluster crowd I might add) as well as her incredibly moe broken English, I became a fan. Kyou ni Koi Iro was the song she chose to end the main part of the concert and her description of what the song means to her and what it says about love really raised my opinion of the song. InaKon was one of my surprise hits of the year and this song appropriately ended up being one of my surprise favorites as well.
8. Extra Magic Hour by AKINO with bless4 (Amagi Brilliant Park OP)
I might not like everything Amagi Brilliant Park does but the combination of opening animation and opening song in the show is superb. The song itself is overflowing with energy and it perfectly accompanies the chaotic, colorful opening animation. In addition the song’s just catchy to listen to. When I listen to it while driving I always get the urge to clap along with the song. It’s just a lot of fun, just like Amagi is when it’s at its best.
7. Trust in You by sweet ARMS (Date a Live II OP)
It might not be as good as the first season opening, but the second Date a Live opening has a lot of the same epic feel that the first opening had. The into portion that plays as each spirit is shown in the opening animation really makes it feel like something big is about to happen. Unfortunately it meant that Date a Live II was about to happen which wasn’t exactly epic. Still, the song is very solid and it grew on me a lot once I managed to forgive it for not being the first season opening.
6. Ideal White by Ayano Mashiro (Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works OP)
It’s a shame there’s no YouTube video of the opening animation available because I’d be lying if I said a large part of this ranking wasn’t related to the beautiful opening animation from ufotable. But even ignoring the opening animation, the song itself is exactly the kind of song I like to listen to while biking. It’s a high-energy song that is really easy to get into. Kalafina tends to get most of the attention as far as ufotable Fateverse music goes but Ideal White might be my favorite song among all the F/Z and UBW openings and endings.
5. Hikaru Nara by Goose House (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso OP)
YouTube (As usual, the actual studio recording isn’t available, but we do have the video from the official Goose House channel is also really good and the band is adorable performing it)
Now we’re into the heavy hitters. Goose House has been kind of a revelation for me. Their style is quite different from a lot of the generic poppy groups doing music for anime out there. They have more of a folk feel that I really like. They did the ending to the second season of Silver Spoon which was a late cut from this list but is very solid. Hikaru Nara is on another level though. As soon as I heard the opening in episode one I was counting down the days to the release of the full version. The energy you feel when the chorus hits and the piano action starts flying is great every single time it happens. The full version of the song doesn’t disappoint either and it’s a great listen even without the accompanying animation. I really hope to hear more of Goose House with my anime in the future. As much as I like my idols, there’s something to be said for the more natural and less manufactured image they give off and you feel it in their music as well.
4. Ebb and Flow by Ray (Nagi no Asukara OP2)
All four opening and ending songs from Nagi no Asukara were excellent, but Ebb and Flow stands out among all of them. The melancholy feel of the song perfectly captures the tone of the second half of the show. Whenever I listen to it I’m reminded of the show when it was at its best following the time skip and it always gives me a beautiful wistful feeling. The OP animation was outstanding as well, both due to the outstanding PA Works visuals and its ability to tell so much of a story through only 90 seconds of animation with no dialog. The haunting feeling before the first chorus as Ray holds on “doushite” gets me every time.
3. Rising Hope by LiSA (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei OP1)
Say what you will about the show that accompanied it, the first Mahouka opening was outstanding. There are a couple songs from the Angel Beats GiDeMo album that might contend with this for my favorite LiSA song but as far as anime openings go this is my easy favorite. It rocks hard like all the good LiSA songs and the intense instrumentals accompanied by her typical fiery vocals make for a great combination. Even when Mahouka was at its worst I could count on Rising Hope to get me through, at least for the first half.
2. CLICK by ClariS (Nisekoi OP1)
Let’s take a moment of silence to remember ClariS as they were before Alice sadly chose to depart the group. I love ClariS and personally think that CLICK is the best of their anime songs. (I actually think that Shirushi, the B-side from the CLICK single is better, but, like insert songs, it was not eligible) CLICK is an incredibly peppy and catchy song that captures that distinct ClariS sound. Hopefully the new ClariS with Karen can capture that same feel, but even if they don’t, we’ll have great songs like CLICK to remember them by.
1. This Game by Suzuki Konomi (No Game No Life OP)
From the moment I heard it in the preview video for No Game No Life I was in love with this song. The song had such energy and intensity and amazing use of piano. I spent the weeks leading up to the release of the full version simply hoping that it wouldn’t suffer the fate of Guren no Yumiya and completely disappoint when the song wasn’t limited to just 90 seconds. Fortunately the full version might be even better than the part used for the anime. The piano part at the beginning and then again during the bridge is outstanding and the song maintains the same level of energy throughout. I didn’t even finish the show, but This Game stands alone as the best anime song of the year and among my all time favorites