A good theme songs goes a long way to making any film or television series great. The same can be said more so for anime. Japan has a vibrant culture for awesome, fist-pumping rock music, something that’s put to good use when they’re featured in the opening and closing themes for an anime series. We’re not talking about films here just to clarify. We’re talking about television shows, and while most anime theme songs are brilliant, there are some that are just a cut above the rest.
There are three sections of criteria that determined the following entrants. The song, the quality of the animation that accompanies it and how relevant the song is to the themes of the show. Even if you can’t understand Japanese, you’ll be rocking out to these bad boys regardless. WARNING: mild spoilers below.
A good anime is only as good as its opening theme. Amongst the hundreds out there, these are the 8 anime theme songs that are simply the best to get you pumped.
Toumei Datta Sekai – Motohiro Hata from Naruto Shippuden
We want to limit these to one opening per show, which made picking one from Naruto Shippuden especially hard. There are several memorable ones, but Toumei Datta Sekai from the show’s eighth season stands out as the best. The Naruto story turned a corner this season, our title character finally getting the chance to prove he was a hero the Leaf Village could look up to and depend on. Not to mention Pain was the best villain the series has had in its 15 year history. Toumei Datta Sekai sums up the themes of conflict, reconciliation and destiny of this story quite well. And the moment we see Naruto stare down his enemy using Senjutsu? Priceless. (Full Version)
chAngE – Miwa from Bleach
Despite its poor pacing in later seasons, not to mention the infuriating fillers that led to the show’s premature cancellation, one thing Bleach was consistent with was their choice of opening music. As the Hueco Mundo story came to a head, Miwa’s chAngE perfectly sums up the dramatic tension that plagued Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends with the fate of the human world and Soul Society hanging in the balance. But what it does so well, and poignantly might I add, is the relationship between Uluqiorra and Ichigo. The two fought the best duel in the show’s history, and their conflicting ideologies are played out in these 90 seconds very well. (Full Version)
again – Yui from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
There are a lot of arguments over which is better, Fullmetal Alchemist or the manga friendly version Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. What can be agreed upon is that both series had some pretty epic music, but again by Yui edges the others out. She’s a gifted, popular songwriter and this one has proven to be one of her most popular tracks.
The sense of tragedy and determination that spurs on the brothers Elric comes across quite well in her voice, not to mention that when the action ramps up the music takes a similarly dramatic turn. Coupled with the simple animation and spectacular fight sequences, again will have you pumped up for plenty of alchemy related throw downs. (Full Version)
Zankoku na Tenshi no Thesis – Yoko Takahashi from Neon Genesis Evangelion
As the pinnacle of Gundam anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion deserves an appropriately iconic soundtrack. While to the lay man Zankoku na Tenshi no Thesis may not feel like the right fit for an anime about fighting giant monsters with giant robots, the bigger sense of moral and emotional struggles that weigh on our main cast make sense the more you watch. And trust us, repeated watching is a must.
Evangelion is one of the greatest and most influential anime out there. It’s emotionally complex, not to mention it deals with some pretty heavy themes of mortality, violence, war and borrows plenty of various religious imagery from Kabbalah, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto. The choral opening lures you, and the horns and bongos keep the very 90s sentiments in place. Yes there is a sense of goofy fun to the track, but that drama and dread is still there. Given our main character is a teenage boy (it always is) it’s a perfect fit. (Full Version)
Brave Shine – Aimer from Fate / Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
A personal favourite for this anime lover, Brave Shine was the second opening for the UBW series and is one of the most epic soundtracks of all time. The vocals on this track is a 15 out of 10. Strap on a good pair of cans and you can FEEL the vibrato in the chorus. If the show’s first opening was about having a dream, then Brave Shine represents the moment the dream is realised. It’s uplifting, dramatic, and moving.
Emiya Shirou was always a character whose beliefs were trampled in the dirt, but it’s here they make it clear that his iron will won’t bend to anyone, not even to his own doomed future. Every major player gets their moment to show their worth in this opening, a testament to how well the show’s written. Not to mention that the beautiful animation renders two characters sitting and talking a work of art. Also, Lancer FTW. (Full Version)
Let Me Hear – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas from Parasyte – The Maxim
Let’s make two things very clear. One, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best band name ever. Two, while electronicore may be a polarising genre (and that’s putting it politely) Let Me Hear is a fucking beast of a song and fits the vibe of Parasyte perfectly. Frankly no other song would do it justice.
It’s the story of a meek teenager who wakes one day to find a shape-shifting alien parasite has eaten his right hand, assumes the identity of said right hand, and will indiscriminately kill anyone that stands in it’s way, whether they’re human or a fellow alien. Oh, did we mention that at least one major character is brutally killed off every second episode? Yeah, it’s an intense show. Let Me Hear matches the sense of hopelesness and over-the top violence like a glass slipper. (Full Version)
Tank! – The Seatbelts from Cowboy Bebop
The animation. The story. The characters. The soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop has remained at the top of many anime lovers’ must-watch list since it’s release in the late 90’s. Like Parasyte, the show went for one self-contained season, and is a hallmark in anime history. Each and every character are icons, and given the very loose narrative structure, it’s the lovable group of Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Radical Edward, Ein and Spike motherfucking Speigel that gave this show so much heart.
They’re just four interglactic badasses and a Welsh Corgi who are in it for the money. Unlike the other entries before, this isn’t a hard rock track. Tank! is a free flowing jazz number that is so jacked up on energy you’d feel like you’ve been shot in the arm with 100 cc’s of adrenaline. Keeping with the jazz theme, episodes are referred to as sessions, appropriate given their loose and wild nature. Let’s jam. (Full Version)
Pokémon opening theme – Jason Paige
Need we say anything about this one? Anyone who grew up in the 90s knows every word to this song. This isn’t just a theme song, it’s a friendship deal breaker.
While you’re here, check out our list of the best James Bond theme songs.