There’s probably a guy amongst your friend group that wouldn’t hesitate to call you a filthy weeb if he caught you listening to anything remotely anime-related. But the fact of the matter is that guy would also probably belt out of every word of the English opening to Pokémon in a drunken stupor fuelled by Carlsberg, so fuck that guy.
Here at UTM, we believe in banger inclusivity – the belief that every song is born with the equal opportunity to one day be considered a banger – and thus we have compiled a comprehensive list of some bangers that also happen to precede animated cartoons hailing from the country of Japan. We are not liable for any repercussions that may occur as a result of these songs being stuck in your head for the next week or so.
Chiwa Saitō – ‘Futakotome’ (Nisemonogatari OP 1)
Whilst Nisemonogatari as a whole might brush a little too close to the Monogatari series’ more taboo tendencies, it also plays host to one of its most sincere opening songs in ‘Futakotome’ – a sweeping dancefloor ballad written from the perspective of Hitagi Senjougahara, the show’s self-aware, pure-hearted and somewhat possessive lead heroine. A cloudy insight into her troubled mindset, its composition is laced with equal measures of melancholy and desire – although the laments regarding her self-worth are harrowing to digest when her partner is a vampiric lolicon who spends the majority of his time hanging out with other girls.
‘Futakotome’ might not be Monogatari’s most recognisable opening jam. That accolade would likely go to ‘Renai Circulation’, the cutesy, brassy bop that’s been mutilated into many a terrible SoundCloud parody cut. But its sincerity and subtlety – listen out for the musical nods to Senjougahara’s previous opening theme ‘Staple Stable’ – make it the most palatable candidate for repeat listens.
ZAQ – ‘Serendipity’ (Flip Flappers OP)
Flip Flappers loving and unashamed creation of worlds that heavily lean on replicating iconic visual aesthetics, like Mad Max and Tron, were a reliable source of unpredictable week to week joy. Anime OP veteran, ZAQ, expertly soundtrack that pure sense of adventure with pure EDM banger ‘Serendipity’.
A gradual build of pulsating synths gives way to an explosive riff and ZAQ’s soaring vocals, colourfully expressing the adventurous spirit of the show in a concise 15 seconds. It may dwell for a pensive moment or two, just as Cocona and Papika do in the more emotionally conflicting worlds, but it’s quick in ramping up to drum ‘n’ bass flavoured, climatic hype again. Flip Flappers is essentially the Madoka Magica of happy magical girls and the OP is certainly a perfect audial demonstration of the genre’s rediscovered positivity,
MELL – ‘Red Fraction’ (Black Lagoon OP)
Its presence might be diminished in the Western world, but ‘guitar music’ (it’s not a real genre, guys) has and probably always will be alive and well within the realm of anison. Unfortunately, the instrument often pops up in the same old rudimentary ways – and there are only so many times one can stomach a posi-powerpop shonen skater song or a needlessly complex love letter to power metal before wanting to Naruto run off a cliff.
There are a few blissful exceptions that go against the grain, however, and Black Lagoon’s tenacious opening ‘Red Fraction’ is one of them. Meshing machine-gun distorted riffs with the kind of surging electronica you might find blasting within the confines of the Berghain, you could probably label it under the makeshift category of Eurovision-brand industrial. MELL lights up the sonic backdrop with some incendiary vocal runs – appealing to the song’s pop sensibilities whilst retaining Lagoon’s dark and dingy tone with lyrical molotovs like “for Christ’s sake this rotting world/ shit out of luck” and “they mean business/no time for sissy pig”.
MYTH & ROID – ‘Paradisus-Paradoxum (Re:Zero OP2)
For anime fans, much of 2016 was spent experiencing a myriad of emotions while following the twisted adventures of Subaru, Rem and the other one. The series’ first cour was always concluded by MYTH & ROID’s ‘Styx Helix’ a whimsical twinkle that left us reflecting on Re:Zero’s many distressing moments. MYTH & ROID were rightfully promoted to OP artist to musically depict the onslaught of mystery that defined the show’s second half with ‘Paradisus-Paradoxum’, a goddamn tongue-twister of a title.
There’s plenty to decipher from ‘Paradisus-Paradoxum’ – with its wailing choir demanding a sense of mystery, its pulverised drums teasing the urgency in Subaru’s mission, its sweeping orchestra telling of vast battles that lie ahead and its destructive guitar crunch painting a picture of a gore heavy offering. Vocalist Mayu’s performance can’t go without mention either, as she keeps up with the raw emotional power, her distinctive vocals effortlessly bleeding with drama.
Oratorio The World God Only Knows – ‘God Only Knows’ (TWGOK OP 1)
It’s perfectly feasible to sit through the entire first season of The World God Only Knows and experience its opening as a pulsating techno pop track that wouldn’t seem out of place on a DDR machine. But if you were to traverse outside of the 1 minute and 30 seconds excerpt that precedes Keima’s demonic bachelor duties and hunt down the retail version of the song, what you’d discover is essentially the multi-headed Hydra of anison music.
The full version of ‘God Only Knows’ is actually something more akin to the J-pop equivalent of a Beethoven symphonic suite, checking out at a whopping 8 minutes and 9 seconds and whirling through genres and passages quicker than Keima ‘conquers’ (ugh) girls. From its drawn-out, Imogen Heap style intro to the angelic choral arrangements that bring the odyssey to a close, it’s an abnormality that redefines the banger formula and stretches it out to a length usually reserved for its antithesis – nerdy, guitar-noodly prog rock songs. Yikes.
fripSide – ‘only my railgun’ (A Certain Scientific Railgun OP1)
As an anime, A Certain Scientific Railgun excels in comparison to its parent show (A Certain Magical Index) and it’s certainly the better of the two in the OP department. fripSide’s ‘only my railgun’ is an absolutely electrifying (sorry) introduction to the show, even if it clashes with its occasionally-innocuous slice of life elements.
There’s a certain test that all great action anime OP’s must pass, being able to coolly soundtrack a climactic battle. ‘only my railgun’s relentless guitar and commanding vocals gets full marks for suitably backing Misaka’s fight against that weird ass blob baby, which remains as an atypical example of the Raildex series’ shaky exposition heavy science.
SOX – ‘B Chiku Sentai SOX’ (Shimoneta OP)
When it comes to dealing with sexual intimacy, it’s no secret that anime can at times be pretty gross and insensitive. A boob grab or skirt flip might be intended to be used as a comedic device, but in reality they’re distasteful actions that show a lack of respect for female viewers. But Shimoneta – a show in which a group of high school vigilantes take sex education into their own hands after Japan becomes an authoritarian dystopia that outlaws all forms of lewd material – manages to admirably execute the balancing act of showing sexual discovery in a serious light whilst simultaneously pounding the viewer with relentless, over-the-top LOL moments.
It should come as no surprise that Shimoneta’s horny humour spills over into its triumphant opening theme. Boldly presenting itself as a flamenco-tinged hero anthem with a hard-on for justice, the ulterior motive of ‘B Chiku Sentai SOX’ is to liberally spurt out as much of the show’s comical dirty lingo as possible – including its unforgettable, (a)rousing closing line which roughly translates to “so pull it out, your very own sexcalibur”.
3-nen E-gumi Utatan – ‘QUESTION’ (Assassination Classroom Second Season OP1)
The second season of Assassination Classroom promised to ramp up the story substance as it headed towards the show’s tear inducing conclusion, and the sense that the anime has upped its quality was in a banger of an OP. As is common for anime these days, the OP is sung by the show’s most prominent voice actors and Assassination Classroom depended on this group, 3-nen E-gumi Utatan, for every leading song in its run, yet ‘QUESTION’ undeniably stands out as the most exciting.
‘QUESTION’ shares the same joyful gang dynamic featured in the wannabe assassins of class 3-E, bringing together a spikey guitar riff, driving rhythms and dynamic vocal variety. As a scrappy slice of J-rock, it feels most fitting for the misfit protagonists, while sharing Koro-sensei’s lovably cheeky enthusiasm.
Dobutsu Biscuits x PPP – ‘Youkoso Japari Park e’ (Kemono Friends OP)
Forget Hayao Miyazaki, forget Makoto Shinkai – TATSUKI’s Kemono Friends is anime’s greatest miracle work. Despite being composed of everything anime purists despise – gaudy 3D CGI animation, oversimplified moe blob characters, countless visual inconsistencies – the show rode the Japari Bus all the way to the top, with the first episode hitting a record-breaking 10 million views on Niconico and its first two Blu Ray volumes selling over 120,000 copies. It’s even bolstered business for zoos in Japan and taught a real life penguin what it means to find a waifu.
Of course, every iconic anime comes supplemented with an equally as recognisable theme song – and Kemono Friends has that in the weird and wonderful ‘Youkoso Japari Park e’. Littered with ridiculous animal sounds, scuttling guitar scales and saccharine group vocal performances, it’s the kind of vivid mess that can only come in tandem with a show of its ilk. There’s no doubt you’ll be humming “la la la la/la la la la/oh, welcome to the Japari Park” for days on end after just one listen.
Petit Rabbit’s – ‘Daydream Café’ (Is The Order A Rabbit OP)
White Fox’s Is The Order A Rabbit? is a quintessential ‘cute girls doing cute things’ show, following the escapades of colourful cast of girls who all inexplicably work in cafés, alongside the even more inexplicable Tippy, an old man reincarnated as a fluffball rabbit. Obviously, these cute girls need a damn cute theme to accompany their peaceful day to day life, and ‘Daydream Café’ fluffy J-Pop fusion of bright, dynamic instrumentation and wondrous vocals is damn cute.
The OP’s performers, Petit Rabbit’s, is – in reality – the show’s talented voice cast, which includes Inori Minase and Risa Taneda, who all perfectly express their individual character quirks through song. ‘Daydream Café’ is so perfectly built for this anime that seeing the cast perform the track as their IRL selves can be a little bit disorientating, even if it loses none of its sense of fun.
Connor Cass & Joshua Pauley