Star Driver – The sequence was directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe, and it shows: few do rough+fluid better than him. The right-to-left side-scrolling mimics how you’d read a Japanese manga. I love how the cybody bursts out of the ocean at the end, and Takuto jumps in and blasts off: Alrighty, we’re ready to start this thing! A stirring rock number by Aqua Timez brims with hopeful lyrics and melodic diversity, matching and augmenting the energy of the animation.
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – I love jazz, and I love Japanese Jazz even more (Pizzicato Five is a good example). You can’t help but tap your feet to the number that accompanies lots of vibrant, syncopated animation in which the cast dances and sings along while performing maid duties. The title is a CGI spinning globe covered in lights. This opening perfectly encapsulates the soul, energy, and potential of the big city. I also liken the whole opening to Hotori’s imagined ideal of the city and her life: happy, upbeat, and full of promise.
The World God Only Knows – This opening could very well have been done by the same people who did Eden of the East (one of my favorite openings ever), as a lot of the style is simply lifted from there, but I don’t care. Like any effective opening, it’s an accurate depiction of the series as a whole: Keima is a god in the (2D) world of games, and uses that power in the real (3D) world. The transition from pulsing electronica to an impromptu aria is sudden, but it works, as it reinforces the religious undertones of Keima’s abilities.
Honorable Mention: Kuragehime – The numerous parodies to western popular culture (Star Wars, Sex in the City) are fun, but the main reason I like this opening is the sweet, earnestly-sung theme, “Koko Dake no Hanashi”, by Chatmonchy. It’s not an easy song to sing, requiring lots of range, but it’s beautifully pulled off with a nice balance of resolve and vulnerability.
Panty & Stocking – Both the ballad (“Fallen Angel” by Aimee B) and the animation are spot on in this short but sweet ending that captures the essence of the show perfectly, and in a refreshingly more serious tone than the show itself. The animation consists of the girls in simplified form about to be killed by various means (driving off a cliff, eaten by a monster, passing out in the desert and picked apart by vultures), all while bobbing their heads to the beat. The dark visual themes are lightened by the style in which they’re rendered…and the gorgeous vocals. In the end, the girls ascend to heaven, get their halos, come back down, and tip them like barbershop hats. The whole thing lasts only 58 seconds.
Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 (episodes 1-5) – The opening of Arakawa’s first season was one of my favorites, and season two’s, while fun, isn’t quite as good. This season’s ending is better than last’s, however, with a fully live-action sequence following Hoshi through a lush green forest and on stage, and Kappa along the riverbank. Even the real-life bridge itself makes an appearance. While the live action character’s faces are just plain creepy, I love it whenever anime jumps ino the real world (the splendid endings of FLCL and Kare Kano, for instance), and the haunting, slightly melancholy ballad is a good musical choice, though it couldn’t be further from anime Hoshi’s out-of-tune strumming.
Shiki (Second Season) – Many series pick one musician or group do the opening and one to do the ending, then switch them either halfway through the season or in the next season. A post/Gothic rock band called Buck-Tick did the stirring opening for Shiki’s first season, and it was excellent. This season, they did the ending theme. Slow pans of four key characters lounging nude in a foreboding, eerily moonlit pond full of blood. Combined with Buck-Tick’s dark, brooding theme, the atmosphere has the darkness and silky thickness of a warm pint of Guinness.