Look at me living the dream again. I get to write about anime for the second time. This time I am ranking the top 5 best anime theme songs of all time. (I’m probably going to get so much crap for this one but whatever.)
I’m going to be honest here. This turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. Anime has some BANGERS when it comes to openings. I definitely have not been spiraling thinking about making this list. (I’ve been in the fetal positions for hours. Please send help.)
Top 5 Anime Opening Themes
#5 – Pokemon Theme Song by Jason Paige
Do I even need to explain this pick? If you read it and didn’t immediately start singing the lyrics out loud, then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends. That opening line alone gets me hype every single time. “I WANNA BE THE VERY BEST LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS…”
We think of Dragon Ball as the grandfather of anime, the kickstarter that drew people into the medium. And yes, it was the kickstarter for shonen, but Pokemon is the first anime I ever watched. I didn’t even know what anime was when I was watching it. I just knew how much I loved it.
The show, the card game, and the video games (the Hoenn region is the best – come at me) all collided for me at the perfect time. Saturday morning cartoons dictated my weekends. The card game was always being played at my school, and people were always linked up to battle on their Gameboy, but that’s about Pokemon as a franchise. The theme song does to a kid’s soul what those old school rock songs do to dads. This song belongs on Barney Stinson’s “Get Psyched Mix.” That’s how amazing it is. It’s on my workout playlist, for Pete’s sake.
#4 – Crossing Field by AmaLee (Sword Art Online)
I know there is a lot to hate about Sword Art Online between the decline in its storytelling to Kirito being the dad to some weird AI fairy kid thing to Gun Gale. Need I say more? But if there is one thing that is true about SAO, it’s that the first opener is an absolute banger. I won’t lie; when SAO first came out, I was all on that bandwagon. It was a reintroduction into isekai in a way that I hadn’t experienced since Digimon. And I stand by the fact that the first season is still great. Anything after that is fair game.
Crossing Field felt so perfect for the anime with its digital video-gamey start that transitioned into a fast-paced song that, when I hear it today, it makes me think of Kirito dual-wielding swords for the first time in front of people.
Outside of Haikyuu, Sword Art Online is one of the anime that I wish I could experience for the first time again. There are others, but SAO brought back into anime after taking a long hiatus.
#3 – Again by Yui (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)
What I love most about this opener is that it never gets crazy. There is no insane climatic note that apexes the song. It gets faster, sure, but nothing crazy—the feeling of the song sort of sets the mood for the anime’s opening.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a must-watch for people new to anime. It is, by all definitions, a classic. You’ll find it on most top 20 lists, and for a good reason. And like any classic must-watch anime, the opener is just as good.
I wouldn’t say that Again is a banger like Pokemon’s theme song, but it fits the feeling of Fullmetal. The song doesn’t overhype the anime into making you think you are about to watch someone power up and transform to take on the big bad guy. It sets the mood for what will be a journey of two brothers just trying to find their way in a crazy world. Just be prepared to feel all the emotions.
#2 – Blue Bird by Ikimonogakari (Naruto)
I could make a top 10 Naruto Opening Theme list, and there would still be five songs that wouldn’t make the list that deserve to be there.
Fighting Dreamers from the OG Naruot and Silhouette come to mind almost immediately, but I had to pick Blue Bird. I think it’s the one of the many Naruto Bangers that people know more than just one or two lines.
I have seen countless TikToks teaching the lyrics to those interested. Learning this song is just leveling up your weeb membership.
I think what makes this particular opener stand out is how sad it is. It’s the beginning of Naruto Shippuden where Sasuke is still this edgy antagonist who seeks power, but Naruto still fights for him. Naruto views him as his friend when everyone else has given up on him. This song sets the tone to how much the two have matured since the time skip, and what we can expect when they meet again.
#1 – Guren no Yumiya by Linked Horizon (Attack on Titan)
This might be recency bias speaking since the latest and last season of Attack on Titan just started a few weeks ago, but this is a perfect anime. Top 5 for sure, only to be beaten out by anime that I grew up alongside.
I remember when AoT came out. It was at the end of my sophomore year of high school. And anyone who has watched it probably remembers the feeling of watching the first episode. It was nothing like what I had seen before. Shonen, which this is not, is all about friends and adventure with the occasional death to show a villain’s seriousness. I was not prepared for the massacre that I watched during episode one.
I should have known something was up when I heard the opening theme. Most anime theme songs are pop-ish or rock in genre. They can sound happy or sad, but usually, they aren’t anything crazy. Guren no Yumiya is the sound I would listen to if I was going into war. This is the soundtrack of jumping out of a plane into enemy territory, storming a beach, or fighting in a jungle in the Pacific. The song prepares you for the upside-down, twisty horror that is the first season of Attack on Titan. For those two opening minutes, you get time to shed your innocence and prepare for life behind the walls.
A great anime opener can be just as important as the anime itself. It’s part of the anime culture. People learn the lyrics of songs in a language they can’t speak because it makes you feel emotions like any good music should, but it also elicits memories.
Fighting Dreamers (actually called GO!!!) in Naruto is a callback to my childhood. It’s right after the Chunin Exams when Naruto beats Gaara and turns an enemy into an ally with the Talk no Jutsu (after beating Gaara up, of course.) Or how I associate the first opening of Tokyo Ghoul to a memory of my roommates and I watching it for the first time together in our living room.
So while a good anime opener matches the theme and overall feeling of an anime to get you ready for what you’re about to watch, the best openers will hold memories alongside the catchy tunes.
And if you are in the mood for anime movies with great soundtracks, check out Devin’s article on ranking Studio Ghibli movies.