Now, I know Top 10 lists and the like can change rapidly: that's why I added the "as of right now" to the title.
I'm a big fan of anime music (thus explaining my entire post on Clannad's music), and openings and endings are a key part of that realm (although I also love background music: more on that in another post).
For an anime opening to be good, I think there are two essential aspects: first, the song itself must be good. It can't be a lackluster, cookie-cutter, standardized and Autotuned print out (although I've yet to hear AutoTune used in anime: よかった!); it has to be inspired, soul-filled, and moving. Second of all, the opening must portray the feel of the show. I think this can be even more important than having a good song: the song must actually be about the show. I don't mean the words have to name characters and describe events from the show, but they must put forth the same feel and explore the same themes as the show. That's what I think really makes or breaks an anime opening (although a good song can be useful as well).
So, without further ado, here (in no particular order, besides the first one) are my 7 favorite anime openings, as of right now:
1. "Toki wo Kizamu Uta" by Lia -- from Clannad ~After Story~
Since this blog started as solely a Clannad blog, it's obvious that this will be the first opening. I much prefer it to the opening of Clannad (though that one is good in its own right). This will sort of represent both seasons on this list. First of all, I love the sound of the song: it's beautifully written, performed, and sung, and its melody is based on a piece of background music ("To the Same Heights") from the visual novel (and series). That's a bonus in my book. Second, it shows the characters and bits of scenes from the show. While I think it could have been more useful to show the real main characters of After Story in this opening, rather than the heroines from the first season, it still contains many links to the series. Third, the lyrics are moving. One of my friends can't read all the lyrics to this song without crying: it connects with the show that much. It's all about loss, the pain of it, and how to deal with it; basically, it fits perfectly for the last quarter of the series. Overall, then, I think it's just a gorgeous opening that really helps encapsulate the emotional power of the series.
2. "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni" by Eiko Shimamiya -- from Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
Before you ask, yes, the red is needed to write the title officially. This song is perfect for this anime: it's creepy as hell! The sharp break in the beginning of the song is a excellent example of the jarring nature of this series: something so happy and pure is abruptly defiled and turned horrific. Just the first 15 seconds of this opening is like the show in a nutshell. Plus it's got some blood in there to remind you of what's to come...basically, it puts you in the perfect mood to watch such a chilling show. A show that makes you fear the sound of cicadas more than you ever thought possible.
3. "The girl in Byakkoya - White Tiger Field" by Susumu Hirasawa -- from Paprika
Yes, anime movie openings do count as anime openings, at least in my book. This is definitely the trippiest song on here, and also the most electronic. After hearing this song, long before seeing the film, I became hooked on Susumu Hirasawa's work: his layering of synthesizers and voices sounds just spectacular. "The girl in Byakkoya" is definitely one of his best, from what I've heard. The somewhat unnatural sounding voices in this song set the viewer up for the dream-based nature of the film. And this film had a hold on dream manipulation long before Inception: it came out in 2006, and the novel it's adapted from was published in 1991. Besides the music itself, the completely illogical visuals of this opening also illustrate the power of dreams. Overall, while After Story's opening may be more emotionally powerful, I might just like this opening better due to the song, but if I do, it's only by a slight margin.
4. "Tank!" by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts -- from Cowboy Bebop
Even though I'm not too big a fan of the show as a whole (I have yet to finish it), I do love the opening. It's one of the catchiest opening songs I've ever, and it's jazz base fits the nature of the series to a T (come on, it's got "Bebop" right in the name!). The animation is smooth and shadowy, sort of a representation of jazz itself. It also, in not so clear ways, shows all the main characters as well, always a helpful aspect for an opening. So, while the show didn't end up holding my attention too much (although I still see the value of it), the opening theme definitely did.
5. "Tori no Uta" by Lia -- from Air
My second song with "Uta" as the last word, my second song performed by Lia, and my second song from a Key anime! Coincidence? Somewhat. I saw Air after seeing Clannad, and, though I find Clannad superior, I'm still a fan of Air. (It can also show some interesting predecessors to aspects of Clannad: see my related post.) Like some of the previous openings, this one showcases the main characters (for most of the show, at least). I feel like the opening also imparts the feeling of flight, which is a major theme of the show. Plus it's just a great song as well.
6. "again" by YUI -- from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I couldn't make a list like this without a song from one of the FMA series. Though there are songs from other series that I like better, and some of the songs just annoy me, the FMA series provide a large selection of great opening and ending themes. I'd have to say that this one is by far the best out of them all (even though I personally prefer the first series overall). It's definitely an opening where the lyrics describe the feelings of the characters (although, I think, not as much as the frequent insert song from the original, "Bratja"). Almost every major character of the first 14 episodes (the length this opening was shown for) is in here, and even some characters that don't get their importance until later. I also love how it summarizes the Elrics' backstory in three quick shots (at about 50 seconds, which is, sadly, where the song starts in the version shown on [adult swim] on Cartoon Network). Besides all that, and the fantastic animation that characterizes Brotherhood, it's just a great sounding song.
And last, but not least...
7. "Zankoku na Tenshi no Te-ze" by Yoko Takahashi -- from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Though I have yet to finish this classic series (and I'm still not sure if I really like it or not), I can say one thing for sure about it: I like the opening. Though it's a '90s song (and the '90s are not too well known for good music (depending on your tastes) except for a few select bands (at least in the U.S.)), it works great as an opening. The lyrics portray the goals of the (in my eyes, extremely annoying) main character, and (if what I've heard about it is true) the latter part of the opening depicts the show's ending to perfection: it flashes copious images past your eyes without making a lick of sense. That said, I must say the opening pumps me up for the show (even if the show itself often deflates me quickly), and it's also pretty darn catchy.
So that's my subjective rant for the week. I can't prove that any of these openings are good objectively, I just know that I like them, and hopefully you'll like them too. If you also enjoy these songs (or hate them with a fiery passion), feel free to comment. Or if you want to yell at me for leaving out your most favoritest opening EVER, comment as well.
Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.
Nota Bene: All videos were cruelly, unjustly, and arbitrarily forced to provide entertainment on this post. If you are the owner of one of these videos and want me to end my malicious treatment of it, just let me know, and I'll remove it. (Nota Bene on the Nota Bene: I hope you realize I'm not actually doing anything horrible with these videos. I did just randomly find them on YouTube and embed them here, though.)