Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Post: Top Five Anime Openings of 2011

Today, I have enlisted the help of my friend Sarah, amazing manga and anime blogger and reviewer to do a post for me because I'm a bad anime fan and haven't been keeping up with the new wave of shows. Trust me, this girl knows her stuff! But because I'm a bully, I made her focus on the musical side of anime (this is a music blog, ya know!), and she's produced a list of the best anime openings of the year.

Oh, 2011. You turned out to be a very uneven year for anime in terms of quality, especially in the winter season; I'm still gagging on what little of Guilty Crown I forced myself to watch. And the less said about Fractale, the better for everyone. But what you lacked in quality series you made up for in quality music. Some of the best opening sequences I've seen in the last couple of years premiered this year - and yes, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is on this list, did you have any doubt in your mind it wouldn't?

Note: These videos are all hosted on YouTube, which means that in an effort to avoid anime companies shutting down their accounts, some users will actually flip the video as a means of protecting themselves against being served with legal papers. So if some of the videos seem literally backwards, that's why. Sorry for the inconvenience!

5. Group Tamashii - "DaDaDa" from Beelzebub.

I did not expect this to be on any list of mine this year. I was pretty content to ignore this series until I happened to watch the first four episodes of it at Kawakon 2011, and then I was gone. What's not to love about a juvenile delinquent being forced to raise a demon baby destined to destroy the human race once it reaches maturity because his Satan dad is too lazy to do it himself? And, of course, nowhere is this wacky helter-skelter mood better reflected than in the series' own opening sequence; if you don't know what the show is about by the end of it, you probably weren't paying attention at all.

What better way to kick off a shonen anime of this caliber than with an angry volcano erupting lava into the air as a green-haired demon baby bursts forth from the background and flies directly into the viewer's face with little fists clenched? Answer: none, none at all. The song itself is a rollicking guitar-loaded musical trip through the perils of raising a demonic infant, and it is hard not to sing along with the "da da da" portion of the chorus. It is pretty much the epitome of ridiculous fun in animation form.

4. Chiaki Kuriyama - "Code Finger Girl" from Level E.

Chances are that you did not watch Level E. It seemed not a lot of people did! Which is a shame, because it was the sleeper hit of the season: a hilarious slice-of-life sci-fi comedy drama sports romance anime by the same manga-ka behind Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter X Hunter, so you know it has to be quality. Plus, the main character was an intergalactic genius troll of the highest level. Watching his antics when he messed around with the unsuspecting humans of planet Earth was half of the fun of the series.

The opening song for Level E is part spy movie, part rock anthem, all cool beats. The strumming guitar that opens up the song is an infectious hook for an earworm of a song that accompanies a colorful retro-like animation sequence in which our beloved Prince Baka walks through the streets of Japan at night and we see the aliens that live among us. If you like this song, check out the full version, which includes an amazingly catchy whistling section. It has to be heard to be believed.

3. ClariS - "Connect" from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Let's face it, Puella Magi Madoka Magica (or Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica or That Fxxking Kyuubey or whatever you prefer to call it) has changed the magical girl genre forever. We are in a post-Madoka world and we will never go back to that place again. For those who haven't seen it yet: go away, watch it, come back. You'll thank me later.

(NOTE: This op is frequently removed from Youtube, thus this version is edited to show comparisons of the different OP versions. I hope you can forgive me!)

ClariS's "Connect" is an adorable, beautiful song that exemplifies the character of Madoka through its lyrics and mood more than any character song could do her justice. The transition from piano to sweeping orchestration always gets me every time I listen to it, as does the little pause in vocals right before the chorus starts. The animation sequence itself manages to not only introduce you to the main tenets of the series but also deconstruct some of the major tropes in magical anime series that have sprung up in the last twenty or so years. Did I mention Madoka is absolutely adorable? Cause she so is. I can't wait to pick up the DVD release of this series come next year; it's one of those series every otaku of a sound mind should have on their shelves.

2. Nico Touches The Walls - "Matryoshka" from [C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control.

So, like, [C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control was one of the best shows you probably were not watching this year. It was a fascinating, sci-fiMatryoshka" itself, from the guitar work to the lyrics, is a great accompaniment to C's opening sequence of battling within the Financial District's neon arena.

It's a great introduction into the series itself, highlighting the various economies and currencies of the world in an oddly beautiful way, as well as the inner workings of the Japanese Financial District and the strange world that lurks within it. Also, how is there not more cosplay of this series? Some of these costumes are just asking for someone to wear them to an anime convention.

1. Rookiez is Punk'd - "In My World" from Ao No Exorcist.

First things first: Ao No Exorcist is the best new shonen anime in 2011. There is no argument about this. Sit down, Hunter X Hunter fandom; no one cares about your feelings. Anyway, one of the best things about this series is its killer soundtrack, not only its score but the wonderful opening and ending songs that accompany it. And as much as I loved the first opening featuring UVERcore's "Core Pride", the second opening featuring Rookiez is Punk'd outshines it by 150% and then some. It isn't just an opening sequence; it is a true part of the series.

Not only is the song itself amazing - Rookiez is Punk'd is really in top form with this one - but the opening sequence is wonderfully choreographed and does a great job of outlining some of the most important conflicts and plot lines that run through Ao No Exorcist, especially those that center around Rin's demonic heritage and his connection with his now-deceased Father Fujimoto. The bit in the OP where both Rin and Yukio "see" their father at the park and in the snow like he never really left always gets to me.

I hope y'all enjoyed my little list of this year's best anime openings. It was a lot of fun to put together. With the exception of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, you can watch all of these shows legit for free on either Crunchyroll or Hulu. A good number of these are also available for purchase or pre-order on DVD/Blu-Ray for home release. Consider picking them all up! They are all quality programs worth the time of the nitpicky viewer, whether you are an anime fan or not.

See you later, Taking Over The Universe fans. And have an awesome music-filled holiday!

I LOVE Sarah! She's such a sweetheart. Finally doing a guest post on my blog after I slaved away on countless (four) reviews for her blog! -insert sarcastic laughter here- Speaking of her blog, it's pretty awesome. If you love anime, and if you made it this far you either do like anime or are really good at humoring us, check her blog out here. Tons of manga reviewing and gay overtones await you!

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