These are a few of my favorite themes…

Published in
6 min readDec 16, 2020
Julie Andrews sings “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music
With apologies to Dame Julie Andrews and Messrs. Rodgers and Hammerstein

Normally at this time of the year, I like to look back and pick my favorite anime opening and ending themes for each season of the year (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall), plus a set of Honorable Mentions, but as I alluded to in my opening post in this series, this year (especially in the second half) there’s been a real dearth of shows that I watched, let alone whose themes really stuck with me as “must listens.” So I thought I’d broaden the field a bit, and over the next few articles, talk about my top 10(ish) “all-time” opening and ending theme songs from shows I’ve seen instead, followed up by a short list of my personal “best music all around” series.

Welcome to “12 Days of AniTAY 2020”, a writing challenge in which I look to have an article a day for 12 days leading up to Christmas, all centered in some way on anime or anime-related topics. You can find re-posts of my 2018 and 2019 series (posted originally on the late TAY and AniTAY Kinja sites) now here on Medium.

Music has long been a big part of my life. I took piano lessons in grade school, and for a fifth grade book report that had to be about science fiction (a general topic I loved, and still love, and went a little overboard on), I even attempted to create my own “sci-fi” theme song, and played it on the keyboard and taped it for the report. A composer, I was not (and certainly haven’t improved on it), and hopefully that tape has been given a decent burial somewhere, but I may still have the sheet music in with my piano books. In high school, I switched to saxophone for band, and played that for four years — the baritone sax for three of them.

While my playing days mostly tapered off a couple years into college, other than some poking at a guitar (is there a guy in college who doesn’t want to learn the guitar at some point?), and noodling around more recently after bringing back my old keyboard from my parents’ house for my son to mess with, what I never lost was loving to listen to music. My tastes generally run to “classic rock,” but overall can be described as “eclectic.” But I’ve always been a big fan of soundtracks. It mainly started with movies, but expanded somewhat into video games, and in the last few years, into anime themes. One of the nice things about this forced work-from-home time has been the ability to play music while working without bothering coworkers. (I hate doing headphones and being tied down by a cord, and more importantly, I hate being startled, I have a major startle reflex, and at work, my back is mainly to the door of our office, so as much as I want to be able to tune out other sounds, I “need” to be able to hear if someone’s come up behind me so I don’t jump a mile high…)

While I did band classes in high school, I never studied any music theory or in-depth stuff in that vein, not even for electives or anything in college. So, these selections are mainly based on personal preference. There’s some “science” to that, in how memorable the song was for me while watching the show, in having a feel for how likely I am to let a song play through on my iPod, or skip it, and how that’s changed a little over time, and how likely I am to want to repeat the song I just heard versus skipping after a few seconds. I generally hate trying to rank favorites, so for this, I’ve decided to simply list them chronologically by air date (although not necessarily by my watch date). I’ve also tried to present them with their “full” (rather than TV-size) versions, from “official” channels, for those unfamiliar to listen and compare and decide.

Part 1: The Openings

Cowboy Bebop: Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, “Tank!”

Really, not a lot to say on this one that hasn’t been said many times before and better by others. The whole soundtrack is a damn masterpiece, and it all starts with the energy of the opening.

Samurai Champloo: Nujabes, “Battlecry”

Another series by Shinichirō Watanabe (one of these days, I need to watch Carole & Tuesday as well), this goes in a different direction than Bebop’s jazz energy, with a little slower-paced hip hop fusion that somehow blends seamlessly into a “period” piece (if you don’t mind the anachronisms — and you shouldn’t) set somewhen(ish) in the Edo period.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Shouko Nakagawa, “Sorairo Days”

Once again, for me, this is about the rock-styled energy of an opening kicking things off. (I passed over two more recent series’ openings that I absolutely do enjoy for the same reasons as this, in fact, as overkill.)

Log Horizon: MAN WITH A MISSION, “database” feat. TAKUMA (10-FEET)

I mean, there’s some ironic love for this one (my co-worker and I are still likely on occasion to break out in “Database! Database! Just living in the database!” should that term come up — which, working in software, is not too infrequent), but again, it’s the energy (combined with being from at least a semi-‘classic’ series) that pushes this into my top 10.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon: fhána, “Aozora no Rhapsody”

God, I don’t think there’s been a theme done by fhána that I haven’t liked. My wife teased me once that if asked, I’d still tell people I don’t like J-pop… and that’s mainly true. It’s not something I’d seek out, or normally listen to — except for anime themes. I suspect that it has more to do with the connection I feel to having heard it while watching the show. (And it’s not necessarily just the “good” shows either — I’ve got several themes I enjoy where the show was “meh” or even downright crap.)

re:CREATORS: SawanoHiroyuki[nZk], “Gravity Wall” and “sh0ut”

Actually, a pair of songs by the same artist, for the same series. I have trouble picking which one I like best, although it might in fact be “sh0ut” by a hair. But again, it’s that driving energy (and often, literally, I love it best when I’ve got my music on while driving).

Darling in the FranXX: Mika Nakashima x Hyde, “Kiss of Death”

I was wondering when I started this list, what kinds of trends would come up. I certainly expected “energy” would be big, but I hadn’t expected this much dominance. So, one possible way to get me to like your opening then, is to give it some real energy.

Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan: DJ Misoshiru & MC Gohan, “Apron Boy”

Having said all that in the last entry about energy, that still holds true here, touched with a dash of ‘fun’ both in the series it’s from, and in how the song itself sounds. And I can be a sucker for a good Fate theme and a good Fate series, and this was both.

Domestic na Kanojo: Minami, “Crying for Rain”

Here we shift from a straight driving, upbeat energy that features in most of the choices above, to a harsher edged song, appropriate for a series about people making poor choices and hurting each other.

The 2020 Entries Most Likely To Eventually Make This List

So, to cap off this look at my favorite openings, I thought I’d throw in a pair of themes from this year that I did get to see that seem to have potential, and/or in other years would likely have made my annual “Best Of” list.

Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai?: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen: Masayuki Suzuki, “DADDY! DADDY! DO!”

Basically, take what I said about “Apron Boy”, and other than not being from Fate, it all pretty well applies here. Sadly lost in the full version are the great visuals (and I will stan hard for LOVE DETECTIVE CHIKA, AGENT OF CHAOS), but still a great song.

Tonikaku Kawaii: Yunomi ft. “Tsukasa Yuzaki”, “Koi no Uta”

Energy, check. Mixing in traditional Japanese instruments (shamisen, or maybe koto?) or possibly their synthesized equivalent, and just a hint of auto-tune or similar, with drastic beat change? It’s gold, Jerry, gold!

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll discuss the flip side, and look at my favorite endings. You’ll find some familiar series on that list, but looking ahead, some major differences from what I seem to enjoy in openings.

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Guy who Does Stuff. Parent. Part cyborg. Is stuck in the Snowbelt, but would rather be living in the DATABASE, DATABASE.