As a continuation from our Top 10 Anime Openings of the 90s list, we would like to move onto the following decade, the 2000s. All eras have unique anime titles that are associated with them and are still remembered to this day, and the 2000s have quite a handful. Some of the artists featured on this list were relatively new at the time or were a long part of the Japanese music scene by the time Westerners were exposed to them through these openings. Just like in our 90s list, we would like to break down not only the songs but also the imageries that go with them. So if you want to know what some of those best opening songs from the 2000s are, read our list to find out!
10. Haruka Kanata from Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: Oct 3, 2002 – Feb 8, 2007
Though Naruto is going to be a long discussion of controversy, we would like to put that aside and acknowledge that the series had some awesome opening themes such as Haruka Kanata. It has an excellent rhythm and chord progression in its verses that just kick it into gear. The content of the lyrics perfectly suits the series theme of putting yourself out there and accomplishing your goals without worrying too much. It accurately embraces the notion of life while you’re still a young philosophy that Gai-sensei adheres to.
The images excellently show who the featured characters are from the main trio (of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura) to the large supporting cast and villains of the Chunin story arc. During its chorus, you are treated to a brief action sequence of Naruto, Lee, Sasuke and Hinata kicking some ass along with some major story highlights such as Sakura cutting her hair. It does its job in giving viewers a trailer of what is to come and that is what makes a great opening.
9. Change the World from Inuyasha
- Episodes: 167
- Aired: Oct 16, 2000 – Sept 13, 2004
The first opening theme to Inuyasha is Change the World by V6, one of Japan’s most popular boy bands at that time. The lyrics and instrumentals do a great job of capturing the themes of staying positive and sticking together, which pretty much suits the journey of Kagome, Inuyasha, and the rest of their crew. The delivery of the lyrics is always dialed to 11 to emphasize its optimistic nature and truly feels uplifting.
While a good portion of the panning at the start of the opening of Kagome jumping from the sky is rather trendy in a lot of openings these days, it does a great job of representing the spirited qualities of this song and the series as a whole. Much of the opening emphasizes the friendship with Inuyasha, Kagome and the rest of the cast, and briefly shows the rivalry between Inuyasha and Sesshomaru, his brother. It also does an amazing job of displaying how beautiful and dangerous feudal Japan is with its nature and the demons from Japanese folklore the heroes have to defeat. So if you want to know what the series is about in an opening, Change the World is a prime example of that.
8. The World from Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: Oct 4, 2006 – Jun 27, 2007
While many fans today associate the name of this opening to Dio’s stand from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, they are obviously unrelated. It is a hard rock song appropriately accompanied with a heavy drumbeat and sweet guitar licks. The lyrics are straight to the point and perfectly tell what the story of Death Note is all about of how Light has a God complex and that he promises to make a better world without anyone stopping him. The composition with the singer’s intense voice and instrumentals provides an excellent balance of excitement and darkness that sets the mood for the series.
Much of the imagery emphasizes on the apple, Ryuk’s favorite fruit, or as symbolized in Abrahamic religions as the forbidden fruit. In context to the story, apples to Shinigamis such as Ryuk are the equivalent to drugs and alcohol but to the series as a whole (and going back to its religious origins), it is having knowledge. In the case of Light, his apple, or forbidden fruit is the almighty Death Note, which grants him the power to take lives.
And just like how Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden for consuming the fruit of knowledge, Light will eventually face the consequences for consuming his forbidden fruit. Beyond the apple, the opening briefly and masterfully highlights Light’s and L’s rivalry based on mind games, Misa’s reliability and love for Light, and Light’s twisted manipulation of Misa’s vulnerabilities.
7. Days from Eureka Seven
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: Apr 17, 2005 – Apr 2, 2006
If you could take mech and sky surfing (or lifting in the anime) and make it into an anime series, then you get Eureka Seven. A lot of the carefreeness and intensity to this anime is perfectly symbolized through Days by Flow, its first opening theme song. The acoustics in the hook eloquently compliments how free the crew of Gekkostate lives their lives despite being labeled as outlaws. The lyrics effectively represent both Renton and Holland’s personal journeys of pursuing their passion but at a potential cost that may or may not be worth it.
The opening animation strongly emphasizes the Sci-Fi settings of its bizarre landscape, the Gekkostate flagship, the mech, and lifting. The energy of the chorus strongly highlights these qualities while the verses emphasize on group shots of the cast as if they’re in a photo shoot of a modeling magazine. And considering that the two co-leads, Trenton and Eureka are still pre-teens, the song’s structure with its lyrics, instrumentals and the clips appropriately bring out a sense of youth. So for you older folks, even if you have no Japanese comprehension abilities, we promise that if you listen to Days, it will make you feel young again. For you, younger viewers, take a good hard listen and you may take something from it.
6. Lilium from Elfen Lied
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 25, 2004 – Oct 17, 2004
It is a given that Elfen Lied is considered one of the most controversial animes of the 2000s due to its extreme content, but no one can deny that it probably has one of the most unique opening themes of all time, Lilium by MOKA, a duo consisting of Kayo Konishi as the producer and Kumiko Noma as the singer. For starters, the lyrics are entirely sung in Latin to give a strong sense of authenticity with its religious influences.
The lyrics are largely taken from Bible passages, most notably from Psalms, James, and Matthew. This was done at the request of the anime’s director, Mamoru Kanbe, who wanted the song to be religious in nature. Kayo Konishi, the song’s composer, actually studied Gregorian chants at a religious school and sang them in Latin. The content of the lyrics relate 100% to what goes on in this dark anime and makes viewer re-evaluate the nature of sin and mankind as you relate them to the series.
The opening also stands out in a manner that much of the imagery takes direct influence from Gustav Klimt’s (who was in turn fascinated by Japanese art) paintings (notably his Golden Phase) such as The Kiss. This was also included due to Kanbe being a fan of his work. Much of the paintings featured in this series are The Fulfillment, Adam and Eve, and The Three Ages of Woman. A lot of the meanings behind the painting relate to the themes of the anime, the circumstances of unfortunate struggles of the cast members, and human nature.
5. Again from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: Apr 5, 2009 – Jul 4, 2010
Again, the title of the first opening song to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, can be interpreted in many ways. For non-native Japanese fans, it can make reference that this series is a reboot, and that does carry some truth. In context to the lyrics, it's about never giving up no matter what the obstacles are, and that you’re going to make mistakes or some bad decisions, and that you have to take accountability for them. Yui, the singer, does an amazing job of balancing the calmness in the verses and the raw emotion in the chorus.
The opening does everything to highlight the relationship between Ed and Al, and how Winry truly worries and longs for them as the lyrics of “yamete” and “natsukashiku” (meaning “stop it” and “nostalgically”) are synced to her lips as she is lying down. In addition to introducing these relationships to viewers, the opening does a great job of portraying the main cast along with some kick-ass action sequences against the villains, the Homunculi. It perfectly appeals to both viewers who saw the 2003 series and to those who haven’t so they can get pumped it that they’re about to see a really awesome anime.
4. Inner Light from Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit)
- Episodes: 75
- Aired: Oct 4, 2000 – Mar 27, 2002
If there is any song that fans of Hajime no Ippo says is a pure knockout, it has to the series second opening theme song, Inner Light by Shocking Lemon. Its hook and opening lyrics perfectly display Ippo in the ring surrounded by flames as he faces towards a giant image of the Japan title belt, his top goal in the first anime series. After the song enters its intense chorus when the title is displayed, it shows images of Ippo taking a beating and close up images of some of Ippo’s opponents such as Vorg, Sendo, and Date.
The lyrics perfectly match the series that in order for Ippo to reach his goals, he is going to have to take a lot of bumps along the way and they’re going to be painful. But as long as you work hard and never give up, everything will be ok. Considering that during this part of the series, Ippo’s road to the title takes a major bump, this song perfectly suits his journey. At times, the series will use this song as an insert to perfectly set up the climax and it sucks you into the moment as victory is within his grasp.
3. Inner Universe from Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 1, 2002 – Oct 1, 2003
In addition to Lilium from Elfen Lied, another unique opening in a foreign language is Inner Universe by Origa, who unfortunately passed away in 2015. The lyrics are performed with a combination of Russian (Origa’s native language), Latin and English. Yoko Kanno (who also did the soundtracks to Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, and Macross Delta), who also contributed to the song wanted a more feminine touch due to her initial impression that the original manga of being too masculine, so a more chiming and spiritual approach was taken to give a more balanced appeal. Like Lilium, the content of the lyrics does make religious references in relation to finding to meaning in life, which also relates to the themes of this anime in a world where people are trading their bodies for mechanical ones.
Though its techno isn’t as heavy as Tron: Legacy, Stand Alone Complex still appropriately offers that Sci-Fi vibe with its static beats and techno brass instrumentals. The 3D animation in the opening compliments its futuristic settings as we are given a glimpse into the big city of Niihama with its wonder and danger (showing a great mix of modern buildings and traditional shrines), technological evolution, and Major Kusanagi in both her isolation and as she is kicking ass.
2. Daybreak’s Bell from Kidou Senshi Gundam 00 (Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 6, 2007 – Mar 29, 2008
For those that are Japanese rock enthusiasts, you probably know that L’arc~en~ciel is one of the best Japanese bands of all time. They have contributed to DNA2, the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series, and GTO. But one of their best contributions to anime has to be Daybreak’s Bell, the opening theme to the first season of Gundam 00. The opening piano chords excellently set the pace to not just both the song, but to the series as a whole that the world of Gundam 00 is dark, but full of hope. Compared to some of L’arc~en~ciel’s more upbeat and romantic hits such as Blurry Eyes, Honey, and Neo Universe, the moodier intensity in both the delivery of the content of the lyrics and instrumentals do a great job of not only capturing the atmosphere of Gundam 00 but conveying its anti-war themes.
Much of the imagery portrayed shows the war-torn world of Gundam 00 with what the damage battle can do, but through Marina, viewers can get an expectation that she represents a certain kind of hope for not only the world but for Setsuna who has only known conflict his whole life. Beyond that, much of the clips provided are rather typical of mecha anime by giving close-ups of both the main and supporting cast giving you an idea of what their roles are, and it briefly showcases the capabilities of each featured mech in action.
1. Colors from Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 6, 2006 – Jul 29, 2007
Returning from Eureka Seven, Flow once again performs the first opening theme song to Code Geass, Colors. While it is energetic like Days, the energy to Colors is taken to a different level with its opening trumpets, chorus, and verses. The combination of these qualities perfectly delivers what the show, Lelouch, and the Black Knights’ personal journey are all about - wanting to make a difference for a better world and needing to throw caution into the wind in order to achieve that.
It is a pretty relatable song because we all need the inspiration to cast aside our doubts in order to go out and seek our goals, and it doesn’t have to be about overthrowing a corrupt monarchy. In addition to making that change in context to your goals, but the lyrics also share what you seek out to do is going to change you as well.
The animation sequence in the intro also provides narration to what the world of Code Geass is like in relation to its political climate with three dominant superpowers, and how Japan has been taken over by Britannia are re-named as Area 11. Once the song starts, the clips provide foreshadowing to pretty much all of the qualities of this show starting from the geass flying from Lelouch’s eye. The rest of the song shows an excellent mix of its warfare (both mech and traditional), Lelouch’s longing for his mother and sister, who he is as Zero and the leader of the Black Knights, the Britannian Army, and the mystique of CC (read on C2 in case you haven’t seen the show).
Last, we would like to make some honorable mentions to Future from Prince of Tennis, Let Me Be With You from Chobits, Believe from One Piece, Battlecry from Samurai Champloo, and Moment from Gundam SEED. As previously stated, if you have seen a video on YouTube called every anime opening ever, a lot of what is featured visually in that video can be found on this list. Is that necessarily a bad thing? If you know how to contextualize it in relation to the anime, it certainly isn’t. These trendy techniques do a great job of introducing viewers to the world and they all do a great job of balancing whom the main, supporting, and opposing characters are. While some of these techniques have been around, it wasn’t only until this era (especially with the rise of YouTube) we could finally put it into our consciousness.
While the presentations may share numerous qualities, the content and structures of the songs we featured are all completely distinct in many ways. Some songs are dark and intense, and others are upbeat and optimistic. Each artist featured all have their own unique talents that they bring to the opening and the animators find ways to make it flow with the music and sometimes a lot of running and jumping from the sky can do just that. Openings in context to anime are more or less a music video trailer and that is ultimately one of the biggest appeals to anime as a whole. So what are some of your favorite anime openings from the 2000s? Please leave a comment.