Opening songs serve a powerful role in the culture of anime fandom. Discourse will quickly move on once a series stops airing, but years down the line fans will still go wild when an old OP comes on. In a way, openings hold a lot of the emotion and memories we associate with series we enjoyed. So when these songs are played, it’s like reliving part of that experience… and then there is the other kind of OP.
Not every anime is blessed with a Cruel Angel’s Thesis. In fact, quite a lot of anime music is contentious or plain bad. And that’s what we’re here for today; I’ll be running through a personal top 20 of terrible anime OPs. I’ll be judging these based on the actual music, the accompanying visuals, as well as how well the OP in question fits the show attached to it.
Let’s (not) rock!
#20 Naked Story – Secret of Cerulean Sand
Secret of Cerulean Sand is the kind of anime for which the term “underrated” was invented. A globetrotting, steampunk adventure with lovable characters, intrigue, action, and drama aplenty. Now the one thing this anime could have done without is an opening song that keeps going on and on about being naked.
Naked Story by Garnet Crow is a song so awkward that I can only presume it was born from a series of terrible mistranslations. The song’s various English lines make close to no sense and were clearly not sung by someone confident in their English-speaking skills. Localized version of the show like the Norwegian dub fortunately fixed the translation issues, but still kept the terrible “YEAH YEAH YEAH” chants.
#19 Kodama Kotadama – Non Non Biyori
nano.RIPE vocalist Kimiko has one of the most grating voices in J-pop. Sometimes that can be worked into some amusing results, as with the surreal OP for Humanity Has Declined; songs that do a great job of mitigating the annoyance and emphasizing the bubbly fun that Kimiko expresses.
Then you get stuff like the Non Non Biyori OPs, which just sound screechy and forced. A grown woman trying to sound like she’s 6-year-old while blurting out the most generic feel-good lyrics possible.
#18 Motteke! Sailor Fuku!- Lucky Star
People will fervently disagree with me on this one (Hi Taluun), but Motteke! Sailor Fuku! is just too overdone. You’ll notice a trend in this list going forward where comedy anime try to deliberately feature obnoxious songs as a joke, but a song that’s bad on purpose is still bad. With its “Wow so random” approach to lyrics, the mediocre singing by some of anime’s greatest contemporary talent, and the chaotic editing, Lucky Star‘s OP just falls completely flat for me. Further cementing the series as the try-hard afterbirth of the Haruhi Suzumiya craze.
#17 Soul Flag – Africa Salary Man
Soul Flag is not the worst song in and of itself, but Africa Salary Man really needed something better to overcome its bad first impressions. It’s a very niche anime to put it lightly, so a mediocre song accompanied with cringe-worthy CGI dances is not a great look. Quite a lot of prospective viewers probably bounced off the moment the dancing started and went running back to Aggretsuko instead.
#16 Bokusatsu Tenchi Dokuro-chan – Dokuro-chan
Like the anime of the same name, Bokusatsu Tenchi Dokuro-chan is a guilty pleasure through and through. The song is objectively horrid. It’s awkward, obnoxious to listen to, and only questionably funny. Still, I can’t help but listen to it whenever I rewatch the show, even if I’d mute the audio at any other time it came on.
#15 Tell Me Why – Berserk
Tell Me Why by Penpals is one of the go-to examples when it comes to talking about mismatched opening songs. Its status as being the iconic example doesn’t excuse that it’s an unbearable song, however. The half-English, half-Japanese lyrics are badly written and the incompetent singing is often entirely unintelligible. Given how much effort was put into making the rest of the series’ soundscape fit Berserk‘s world, Tell Me Why can only be considered to be a terrible mistake.
#14 Mouse Chu Mouse – Mouse
Like with nano.RIPE, the sound Haruko Momoi’s singing just drives me straight up the wall. The nasal sound of her voice is so irritating that it makes the entire song unbearable for me. Not that I needed any extra motivation to dislike anything related to Mouse.
#13 Tatsumaki Wave – Master of Martial Hearts
But where Himiko and Haruko merely have a voice that I find annoying, Nozomi from the now-defunct pop band Little Non is something else entirely. I have never heard any other song by her, but Tatsumaki Wave sounds so bad that I am not even convinced that she capable of singing on a professional level at all. Tatsumaki Wave isn’t so much a song as it’s passionless screeching set to the most generic rock track possible.
To be fair, I wouldn’t put in the effort for Master of Martial Hearts either.
#12 Shaft Drive – Geneshaft
And speaking of talentless hacks: Akira Takasaki. His work on Geneshaft is nothing if not consistent, as even the OP “Shaft Drive” is nothing but minimum-effort guitar riffs. At least it’s upfront about what kind of noise to expect from the rest of this disastrous series.
#11 Nornir – Penguindrum
That Etsuko Yakushimaru is immensely talented is immediately obvious, but Nornir’s critical failing is that it deliberately sabotages that talent. Just like a comedy show that tries to have a bad OP on purpose, deliberately making your vocals sound passionless will still sound boring regardless.
Yakushimaru doesn’t so much sing as she whispers her lines straight into a microphone. The monotone sound and lack of any pay off to the song robs it off any artistic intent behind its composition. Unless the intention was to make the ED by Coaltar of the Deepers sound even more phenomenal by comparison.
#10 909 – Beyond The Heavens
I do not know what in the world this song is up to. Much of 909 is just instrumental rock music that doesn’t feel like it matches the politics and action scenes it’s set to. Then, for the literal last seconds of the song, it suddenly explodes into grunting heavy metal. It doesn’t sound “cool” in the slightest.
I like to imagine that the singer was just late to the recording and the band started without him. That thought isn’t spectacularly funny, but at least it lets me derive some enjoyment from this song.
#9 The Writhing in Agony Blues – Junji Ito Collection
It feels dubious to put an okayish song this high up on the list. The Writhing in Agony Blues by The Pinballs isn’t too bad of a song on its own, but it’s one of the most egregious examples of a track that does not fit the anime it’s attached to. Any hope that fans had of seeing this adaptation do right by Ito’s cosmic horror evaporated instantly when this song came on. The cheesy rock, the amateurish editing, it’s devoid of any subtlety or respect for Ito’s artistry. I have never lost hope in a project this instantly.
#8 Auvers Blue – Kemonozume
Why would I even expect a normal song from a Masaaki Yuasa anime. It’s 90 seconds of an old man mumbling discordant lyrics into a microphone, set to visuals that can’t quite match the stylish look of the anime itself. Spare me.
#7 Rocks – Naruto
Naruto was the first experience with anime for a lot of people and would continue to be a defining staple of the medium for several years. Just a shame that this genre-defining classic originally featured an OP so hilariously bad that many have repressed all memory of it. Rocks by Hound Dog sounded like “dad music” even back when Naruto first aired, which doesn’t exactly fit the image of the defiant young ninja that the anime is all about.
Fortunately, it was replaced by Haruka Kanata after the first 25 episodes and no OP after was ever as bad as Rocks again. Incidentally, my favorite Naruto OP is Yura Yura.
#6 Punipuni Densetsu-Poi – Puni Puni Poemy
Bad OP is bad OP on purpose, but that still make OP bad, etc. etc.. We have seen this before and the logic applies to even the most satirical of anime. Puni Puni Poemy is to Excel Saga what Lucky Star is to Haruhi; a follow-up by the same creative staff that tries a little too hard to double down on what made the original appealing. And where Exel Saga‘s “Ai” was a charming VA song with hilarious lyrics, “Punipuni Densetsu-poi” just tries too hard to be quirky and weird.
#5 Kill Me no Baby! – Kill Me Baby
Things get dire as we hit the top 5, starting with Kill Me Baby. “Kill me no Baby!” was just deliberately written to sound as annoying as possible and I am confident they rushed through recording as well, given that the audio peaks annoyingly when the song first starts.
Repetitive lyrics and annoying vocals further cement this entry’s place on the list. This is only made worse by the fact that I know Mutsumi Tamura and Chinatsu Akasaki are far more talented than this song lets on.
#4 Happy! Lucky! Dochy! – Higurashi
I am deeply passionate about the Higurashi license, so I am probably the kind of audience that “Happy! Lucky! Dochy!” was meant to frustrate. Kira is deliberately antithetical to the rest of the Higurashi series, so its OP was made to contrast against the melancholic tone of the series’ other music pieces. I both appreciate and absolutely resent how good of a job they did.
The song is so aggressively chipper. The most childish, upbeat lyrics possible, set to scenes of the characters doing weird dances. It looks unnatural; both in the literal sense that the animation is rubbish, but also in that it’s severely out-of-tone for the rest of the franchise. I hate how all the characters animate so awkwardly. I hate how some scenes are motion blurred to hell. I hate how unbearably cheery the song is and I hate how, for a long time, this was the last decent entry in the Higurashi saga.
#3 Cardcaptors Theme – Cardcaptor Sakura
Horrible things happened to the Cardcaptor Sakura license as it made its way to Western audiences. Censorship, cut episodes, rewritten storylines, and a decreased focus on Sakura’s role as the protagonist are just some of the dubious changes made in the dubbing process. And then there was the nameless OP by Dave Dore, which replaced the iconic “Catch You Catch Me” by Megumi Hinata with a painfully bad intro.
There’s just so much going wrong here it’s worth an entire article on its own. Most hilarious of all is that they clearly wanted to do an opening narration in song format, but didn’t have enough to talk about to fill an entire opening bit. Left with no other choice, they just cut some random footage from the show together and stuck that before the actual song. Nice save guys.
#2 Step into the Grand Tour – Dragon Ball GT
This addition was recommended by a friend of mine who is very passionate about Dragon Ball and who wants it to be known that GT absolutely sucks. I am not in a position to argue against that, nor do I feel the need to justify why this song ended up making the list. The reason for its inclusion should be immediately obvious.
#1 Koko Made Oide – NieA_7
Oh fuck right off with this.