Today’s youth will never know the true suffering born from a bad anime OP. Not because they aren’t made anymore, far from it, but because advancements in technology have allowed us to do the impossible: skip the terror of such openings in a single click.
Some may take that as a joke (because it is) but what can now be done by clicking a certain point on a video progress bar or hitting a skip button could once only be done by fumbling around in the dark with awkward and unresponsive VCR fast forward buttons. And that was assuming you had the option to skip at all and not watching a television broadcast. During dark times like these, bad openings became utter terrors, forcing people to sit through their awful visuals and ear bleed-inducing music in order to hopefully get to something good. Some say older otaku are still haunted by traumatic flashbacks of these memories to this day.
To commemorate their suffering, let’s look at the 10 anime openings that fail the hardest at both visual and musical presentation.
10. Brand New World by Nishizawa Shiena from Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (The Asterisk War)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct/2015 – Dec/2015
The asteroids at the start of this opening may be well rendered, but after that, the visuals of this opening just become dull and lazy. It mostly consists of some generic computer screens and lengthy establishing shots of the city the show takes place in and then scrolling through some of the least creative uses of character portraits ever seen in an OP. Not only are they drawn in a fashion that looks flat enough to be from Inferno Cop, but the poses consist of little more than characters just awkwardly standing around, giving little to no characterization. It makes for a monotonous experience despite only being 90 seconds long, with little in the way of excitement beyond some fluid, yet poorly choreographed action.
Thankfully, this OP is partially saved by its peppy J-pop beat and the immensely talented voice of Nishizawa Shiena which improve the experience dramatically, hence the number 10 spot. The show truly is lucky that such a brilliant artist was willing to lower herself to help it out.
9. Masterpiece by Mihimaru GT from Yugioh Zexal
- Episodes: 73
- Aired: Apr/2011 – Sep/2012
If you thought the whole shtick with great theme songs let down by bad visuals was going to be a trend on this list, then fear not, for here is the first OP for Yugioh Zexal. Bad visuals: yes. Good song: Absolutely not.
Many of you can probably think back to 2011 and remember how western music had suddenly become inundated with a tidal wave of endless bad autotune songs. The technique quickly became a dirty word among music aficionados for how irritating any song featuring it quickly became. Apparently, we just didn't know how good we had it, because clearly, Japan had it much worse.
Yes, this opening’s deadly sin is its terrible autotune. It’s too high pitched, too fast tempo and too overpowering of the song's instruments to be anything other than grating and obnoxious. At some points, it sounds less like it's human singing that's being autotuned and more like nails being scraped against a chalkboard. At least the art offers some style, although the same can't be said for the mediocre animation and its overabundance of still shots. A few cuts move pretty well but the rest is, just like the entire sequence, bad.
8. Munou by Osterreich from Tokyo Ghoul Root A
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan/2015 – Mar/2015
Nothing says action/horror shonen anime quite like a slow melancholic ballad played over a sad boy standing almost completely still.
Seriously, what more is there to say about this one than how unbelievably mismatched it is. The show and the opening are so jarringly different that it’s almost as though the two were paired by a random anime OP generator on the production committee’s computer. The saddest part is that this could actually work well in another show. It's nothing spectacular, but it has some nice colors and the singer has an impressive range. It's just a shame that they don't even begin to match anything else about the series.
7. Diamond and Pearl by “Breeze” Barczynski from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl
- Episodes: 191
- Aired: Sep/2006 – Sep/2009
There’s a pretty important rule in both anime theme songs and music in general: “If you can’t rap, don’t.” What is, in the hands of a talented artist, a powerful, lyrically driven genre can become an awkward fumbling mess in the hands of the untrained. But maybe we’re being too hard on this English dub theme. After all, it has such expansive lyrics as “it’s a brand-new game!”, “new rivals!” “It’s all about battles!” Oh, sorry, it seems we confused Diamond and Pearl’s theme lyrics with the games’ sales pitch. Wait, no, that’s actually what’s in the song, but when the lyrics all sound like marketing slogans it’s an easy mistake to make.
Admittedly there isn’t anything especially bad about the visuals. Well, they match up to the music about as well as a 10-year old’s first AMV, but at least they’re appealing on their own. They’re just brought down by the fact that Diamond and Pearl used rap.
It wasn’t very effective.
6. "Wings of Words by Chemistry from Gundam Seed Destiny
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: Oct/2004 – Oct/2005
The Gundam franchise has had a good history with upbeat jazz themes, but there’s a pretty big difference between upbeat jazz and elevator music. Most notably, elevator music differentiates itself by not really being something that meshes well with battles between giant robots. That’s just common sense, right? Well, apparently that sort of sense is not so common, as Sunrise decided that’s the kind of music that should play during the title sequence of this fondly remembered Gundam anime’s second season.
At least you can’t accuse this one of having mismatched music and visuals, as the lifeless, unmoving still shots that make up a significant portion of the OP are just as boring as the droning music. If you don’t think giant mechs could ever put you to sleep, then you probably haven’t seen this opening sequence.
5. Dio’s Dervish by Marco D’ambrosio from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Nov/1993 – Nov/1994
But how can this be? Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has many of the greatest openings of all time, right? Well, while that’s true for the more modern adaptation, the same cannot be said for the 1993 OVA.
A somewhat darker take on the manga's Stardust Crusaders arc, this six-episode series has a fairly strong number of both fans and haters. The title sequence, however, probably only has the latter.
Whether it’s because of the slow, meandering music, the barely animated visuals the obviously pandering nudity, the fact that it barely features any characters that actually show up in the series or the fact that it lasts for four minutes, it’s difficult to believe that an OP this bad could be made without the work of an enemy stand.
4. Believe It by Jungle Crew and Silvia Orlandi from Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: Oct/2002 – Feb/2007
In the last dub opening we covered, we mentioned the golden rule about rapping and why those who don’t follow it are doomed to have a bad OP. This title sequence from the German dub of Naruto also breaks this rule, but by god, that’s the least of its problems.
It opens on an ominous note, with dark music and visuals, with a solemnly spoken line: “12 years ago, a nine-tailed fox suddenly appeared.” And that’s the last we hear of the nine-tailed fox. It didn’t do anything interesting apparently, it just kinda showed up one day. You would think such an extraordinary creature would do something more notable, but apparently, it hasn't done a single thing worth mentioning beyond just existing.
Instead of following up on that whole nine-tailed fox thing, the opening prioritizes a song that jarringly shifts between a goofy pop beat, the aforementioned awful rap, and some actual Japanese singing. This is all paired with an awkward mishmash of scenes taken from the original Japanese openings or the show itself clearly at random and with no thought put into how well they fit in a sequence. Something this bad deserves to be sealed away.
3. courage by Tomatsu Haruka from Sword Art Online II
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul/2016 – Dec/2014
When you watch an anime opening, do you want it to be nothing more than shots of CGI swords, flat stills of characters just standing around and uninteresting scenery shots? Then courage (yes, that’s how they spell it) is the opening for you.
Well, that’s not entirely fair. There’s also some lazily reused clips from earlier episodes of the show and a flashily animated, but confusingly choreographed action sequence. Equally confusing is the song used here, which at times seems like it’s trying to be an energetic power ballad, but just ends up sounding like a dull, lifeless sit. In other words, it’s exactly what Sword Art Online deserves.
2. Kibouhou by Strawberry Jam from Spiral: Suiri no Kizuna (Spiral: Bond of Reasoning)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct/2002 – Mar/2003
Animation is an expensive medium and corners need to be cut almost constantly. However, this is no excuse to get one of your mailroom employees to sing your theme song, like what J.C. Staff did with Spiral. At least we assume that’s what happened, because not only is there no information on the artist online, but there is no excuse for such shrill singing to come from an actual professional.
The animation also fails to live up to such a standard, as it’s barely present. Other openings on this list have been criticized for having little to no movement, but Kibouhou looks like a slideshow. Flat character portraits, blank backgrounds, cheap visual effects scattered around haphazardly, it has all the makings of a bad PowerPoint presentation. But this raises the question: What could possibly be worse than that?
1. The Pirate Rap by Freshco from One Piece
- Episodes: Ongoing
- Aired: Oct/1999 - Unknown
We’ll say it again: If you can’t rap, don’t. It was bad enough that 4Kids Entertainment had to bastardize the anime adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s magnum opus for their English dub by redrawing scenes nonsensically and cutting out large numbers of episodes, but then they had to add a terrible opening on top of it.
There is so much that could be discussed, from the visuals consisting almost exclusively of reused scenes from the show to the awful rapping and the fact that the rhythm can’t even be bothered to stay consistent, but the worst part is easily the lyrics. They try to give a short introduction to all the characters, which is a nice idea, but because nobody who knew how to write a compelling rap was present, they’re left with verses like “His name's Zolo, he's just like a samurai and an L-A-D-Y Nami's not shy”. Easily the cringiest of this bunch, however, is one that’s only two words: “Chopper's doctoring!”
The Oxford English dictionary defines doctoring as “Change the content or appearance of (a document or picture) in order to deceive; falsify.” The character Chopper is a doctor, he treats people medically, he does not, however, falsify documents. The bare minimum an English dub needs to do is to get the show to make sense in English and this theme can’t even do that much. It’s a perfect representation of the entirety of the train wreck that it this OP and this dub.
Well, those were 10 absolutely awful openings, but now it’s time for a good one: The opening for you to tell us what you think in the comments. Let us know what you think does or doesn’t belong on the list and let’s keep this discussion going. Just please don’t rap unless you know how.