In Anime Ichiban, we take a look at our writer’s totally personal, totally subjective, possibly biased, and possibly stupid opinions regarding anime associated affairs.
First impressions are important, and this extends to the wild world of anime. Opening themes exist to introduce you, the viewer, to the experience that lies ahead. Whether it be an orgy of action-y explosions, a frightening fiesta of fear, or distastefully uncomfortable panty shots, anime has it all, alongside the perfect soundtrack to get you in the mood for it. So without further ado, here are my favourite opening themes, all of which continue to move me to this day (despite having heard them countless times each).
10. Linked Horizon – Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen (Attack on Titan, Opening 1)
Truly a modern classic is Linked Horizon’s smasher of a song. To convey the intensity of mankind’s bloody war with heinously hulking human-consuming titans is no picnic, but this rabble-rousing heavy hitter does just that. Boasting bombastic chanting, this amped up anthem stands taller than the beasts it so effectively soundtracks.
9. Customi-Z – Coolest (Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Opening)
Sakamoto is cool. As a matter of fact, he’s so cool that he has an entire series dedicated to just how cool he is (how cool is that?). So unsurprisingly, Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto’s opening theme takes care to follow only the coolest of blueprints, being driven by chants that almost always relate to coolness in some form (that’s pretty cool, huh?). Some people may say there’s a superabundant mention of coolness in both Customi-Z’s Coolest and this paragraph. I’d argue those people aren’t cool enough.
8. Eir Aoi – Innocence (Sword Art Online, Opening 2)
Sword Art Online is a confuddling cacophony of ideas, ranging from the good, to the bad, to “That’s the dumbest love triangle I’ve ever seen”. One thing Sword Art Online succeeds in however is its knockout opening themes (all four of which are top notch). Many would favour LiSA’s Crossing Field, Sword Art Online’s first opening theme, as their soundtrack of choice to a one dimensional womanizing protagonist trapped in a deathly video game, but Eir Aoi’s Innocence stands out as my personal favourite.
7. Ling Tosite Sigure – Abnormalize (Psycho Pass, Opening 1)
Ling Tosite Sigure are no strangers to crafting eccentric music, as Psycho Pass’s first opening theme proves. A full frontal assault of progressive rock instrumentation fuses with contrasting vocal styles to create audacious audio turbulence, setting the stage for Psycho Pass’s backdrop of sci-fi criminality.
6. Kishida Kyoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets – Highschool of the Dead (Highschool of the Dead, Opening)
Before we continue, let’s establish something: Highschool of the Dead is a seeping cesspool of suckiness. Beyond its loathsome characters and its hyper-sexualization of females, it makes little effort to establish an engaging narrative. Despite its lack of even a slither of charisma however, Highschool of the Dead scores top of the class for its opening theme, the chorus of which will pry itself into the ‘proper good and catchy music’ part of your brain (before it’s gobbled up by a ravenous zombie).
It’s a shame then that the visuals accompanying such a belter of a song are chock full of grimace inducing ecchi. Oh Highschool of the Dead, why must you make me hate you?
5. Rika Mayama – Liar Mask (Akame Ga Kill, Opening 2)
Whilst not without its, Akame Ga Kill is consistently entertaining and legitimately unpredictable throughout. A highlight comes in the form of Rika Mayama’s Liar Mask, which features the line “Doredake no chi to namida wo nagashitara”, during the latter half of its chorus. This line, although lyrically insignificant, flaunts melody that’s more satisfying to the ears than being told “I’m sorry, but Logan Paul probably won’t wake up from this coma”.
4. ClariS – Connect (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Opening)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is acclaimed to this day due to its subversion of the magical girl genre. Beginning with a pumped up poppy opening theme that’s common of its cute girls ‘n’ magic spells aesthetic, it’s (almost) impossible not to smile at ClariS’s enchanting energy that ebbs and flows throughout every melody. It’s happy, yet with a flicker of melancholic discomfort, and that matches Madoka’s adventure awesomely.
3. Daisuke Hasegawa and Karen Aoki – Great Days (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable, Opening 3)
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, true to its title, is bizarre, and this opening theme exemplifies that more than all others. With snippets of English lyrically intertwined, a mind-bogglingly glitched out breakdown (no, not the “Breakdown breakdown” breakdown, the other breakdown), and the supremely singalong-able “Let the voice of love take you higher”, Daisuke Hasegawa and Karen Aoki’s Great Days is JoJo’s unmatched anthem of weirdness. Of course, the fact it soundtracks a narrative exploring a macabre murder mystery only serves to amplify its absurdity.
2. amazarashi – Sora Ni Utaeba (My Hero Academia, Opening 3)
Izuku Midoriya’s fable of superhero ass-kickery astounded me upon viewing, thanks to its smart pacing, visual splendour, and multifaceted characters. Whilst all three of My Hero Academia’s opening themes elicit delight, amazarashi’s Sora Ni Utaeba takes the gold medal. Melodically marvellous, emotionally exhilarating, and fabulously fantastic throughout, Sora Ni Utaeba goes beyond, Plus Ultra!
1. GARNiDELiA – Ambiguous (Kill la Kill, Opening 2)
If you’ve made it this far, you may have spied a connecting quality throughout my opening theme selections. Yes, I’m a total sucker for a punchy chorus. And of all the captivating catchiness and hooky riffs scattered throughout the choruses of opening themes, Ambiguous’s slaps me across the face (in a good way) like no other.
A sugar rush of action such as Kill la Kill demands a ballistic opening theme, capable of not only raising the roof, but obliterating the entire house. There exists no better iteration of melodically fueled adrenaline than GARNiDELiA’s Ambiguous, and it is my favourite opening theme as a result.
Videos were uploaded courtesy of the /r/AnimeThemes community
Anime Ichiban 24: Forecasting the Anime Awards
Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You.
Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You. The Crunchyroll Anime Awards are also a thing happening which means it’s time for the crew to demonstrate once again how off their tastes are.
13:41 – Satoshi Konposthumously honored
18:14 – TRIGGER’s Brand New Animal project
28:20 – Netflix adds the entire Ghibli library to their catalog!… in some places
31-37 – Weathering With You impressions and thoughts
1:02:33 – Crunchyroll Anime Award Predictions
1:38:36 – Closing remarks
Intro – “Kiss Me” by Vo.Nai BrXX＆Celeina Ann (Carole & Tuesday opening theme)
Outro – “Drown” by milet (Vinland Saga ending theme 2)
‘Weathering With You’ Isn’t Quite the Storm It Wanted to Be
Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You delivers a gorgeous film that doesn’t quite resonate as much as it wanted to.
Climate change and global warming have been topics of concern and discussion for years now, with melting ice caps and rising ocean temperatures being some of many signs. Director Makoto Shinkai — acclaimed the world over for his 2016 work Your Name — aims to show just how at the mercy humans are to the weather with his newest animated film, Weathering With You. Although he presents a visually stunning depiction of Mother Nature in all her various moods, Weathering With You ultimately lacks the storming power it seeks to bear upon its audience.
Tokyo has been having a particularly rainy year, seeing precipitation almost every day and nary a sight of the sun or clear blue skies. It’s during this unusual time that high school boy Hodaka arrives in the metropolis seeking escape from the suffocating life he had on his island. The young teenager naturally has trouble finding his bearings on his own in the oftentimes unforgiving hustle and bustle of the city. It’s in these early scenes that Weathering With You has some of its strongest moments, depicting the uglier side of Japanese society not often seen in anime, while also highlighting Hodaka’s strength of character to make it on his own.
As Hodaka gradually carves out his own place in the city, he eventually has an encounter with a young girl named Hina. Matching her sunny and cheerful disposition, Hina has the ability to make it stop raining and have the sunshine in very localized spots by praying to the sky. In a place where the rain never ceases, it’s easy to see why Hodaka latches onto Hina to use for the greater good (while also making a little pocket change along the way).
“The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air caught by the leftover humidity.”
Gloomy skies and damp grounds can take their toll on one’s mood and psyche, which someone who lives in such a climate can surely relate to. Even the briefest moments of sunshine revitalize us and give a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Hodaka and Hina’s “100% Sunshine Girl” services to those in need of that light boldly underscore that fact, and make for a strong argument for how the weather affects us all beyond its objective physicality, along with providing some much-appreciated levity to the story.
That power of weather is beautifully illustrated by CoMix Wave Films’ stupendous animation efforts. The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air, caught by the leftover humidity. Tokyo itself isn’t to be outdone either, with its streets running the gamut between peaceful neighborhoods to grimy and dark back alleys with dilapidated buildings. The animation is punctuated by the return of Japanese band RADWIMPS, who create numerous memorable tracks to complement the wild swings in mood that weather can elicit.
That makes it all the more unfortunate, however, that the greater narrative is so weak.
The progression of Weathering With You is made painfully obvious right from the outset of the story — so much so that it’s hard to wonder if it’s actually the set-up for a bait-and-switch. As a result, much of the first half of the film is simply waiting for the other shoe to drop, making it difficult to really settle in and become intimate with its characters.
This would be less of an issue if the cast had smaller interactions that were a delight to watch, but they fall short in that regard as well. All of the characters have a charm to them for sure — with Hina’s younger elementary school brother, Nagi, putting modern playboys to shame being a particular standout — but the story never quite makes a compelling case as to why they are as close as they are, especially Hina and Hodaka. They’re fun enough to watch be together, but don’t quite make that emotional attachment with the viewer that the story wants to create.
That lack of an emotional connection is distinctly felt in Weathering With You’s second act, when unnecessary confrontations and bizarre plot directions converge to create an artificial sense of stakes amidst a central conflict that would have been fine on its own. What’s meant to strengthen the impression of the characters’ bonds instead cheapens it, undermining the already faulty progress the first half did make. The result is a narrative that’s hard to care about, although its ending does leave the viewer with some potentially interesting questions to ponder.
Weathering With You is far from a bad movie, however. It has a clear direction and vision with a message to say about our climate crisis. The characters are endearing enough, and there are a handful of heartfelt scenes because of that. It also cannot be understated just how drop-dead gorgeous the animation is. The story, however, is simply too straightforward for its own good, resulting in an experience that is at times enjoyable, and at others plain boring.
And that’s only when being judged in a vacuum on the movie’s own merits. When compared to Shinkai’s recent masterpiece that is Your Name, it’s hard to see Weathering With You as anything but a disappointing follow-up. That’s perhaps the film’s greatest weakness, but fortunately, it’s one that Shinkai’s next work won’t have, and we can still look forward to it because of that fact.
How Rimuru Tempest Changed the Game for Isekai Protagonists
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime shines within the vast sea of generic isekai thanks in no small part to protagonist Rimuru Tempest.
The core premise of the isekai genre–a character being transported from their everyday life on Earth to a parallel universe–has become wildly popular for a reason: it’s an immensely appealing fantasy. Just as audiences everywhere fell in love with the seminal Spirited Away in the early 2000s, it’s still exciting to fantasize about discovering a new world and going on all manner of crazy adventures. However, the incessant flood of new isekai every season to capitalize on this trend has resulted in some of the most generic, overly-manufactured protagonists in any genre.
Though this sea of formulaic main characters is vast, it makes it all the easier to recognize when one bucks the typical conventions and actually proves that there’s room for unique takes on the genre. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime adheres to a few cliches, but it also manages to set a new bar for what a captivating isekai protagonist can be.
Breaking the Mold
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as wholesome and optimistic an anime as they come. The tone can be deceptive at first; when Satoru Mikami is suddenly stabbed when trying to protect his junior, his dying wish is for his computer’s hard drive to be destroyed. But after being reincarnated as a slime–and gaining the new name Rimuru Tempest–his true desires become clear: world peace and a simple, comfortable life with friends.
What’s immediately striking about Rimuru as the main character is that he starts off as an average 37-year-old man. He spent his life working hard and appeasing his higher-ups to climb the corporate ladder. Shady hard drive aside, he lived a respectable and long life compared to the vast majority of protagonists in the genre. This significant age difference is evident in nearly every action and major decision Rimuru makes; he looks at situations practically before jumping headfirst into conflict.
When Rimuru gets a drink poured on him by a noble in a bar, for instance, he quells his anger in consideration of the bar and the friends around him. When someone asks for his aid in an impending battle, he pauses to go over all the available information and reaches a consensus among everyone before agreeing. And when protecting a goblin village from a pack of wolves, he doesn’t just mindlessly slaughter all the wolves; he looks for the way of least resistance (killing the leader of the pack) before ultimately integrating them with the goblins as equals. Though his human form looks young, it’s the wisdom behind his actions that makes those around him respect his leadership.
This is especially impressive considering just how overpowered Rimuru is. His transformation into a slime came with resistances to fire, cold, electric currents, pain, paralysis, and the ability to absorb, analyze, and take the form of anything he wants. In other words, he could go down the path of the typical shounen protagonist and solve his problems with his fists, but he never lets his overwhelming power dictate his decision-making process.
Leading a Nation
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as much about Rimuru’s adventures as it is about the rise of the independent monster nation he helps establish. Instead of running off in search of adventure, the little slime decides to nurture the goblin village he protected at the outset. He helps the goblins and wolves “level up” by naming them, shows them sustainable ways to gather food and build makeshift defenses, and even brings back dwarves to introduce blacksmithing and carpentry.
Through expansion, industrialization, and conflict, Rimuru manages to orchestrate the creation of his country in a way that’s genuinely believable. His ambitions for a peaceful and integrated world play out in his willingness to accept other goblin tribes, ogres, lizardmen, and even friendly humans in his country. Being able to rationally read situations makes forging alliances and negotiating with neighboring nations possible. When a major calamity threatens all life in the forest, Rimuru wastes no time in holding a summit and allying with other forest dwellers over a common interest.
None of this would be possible without the uncanny, Luffy-like ability to inspire a sense of trust and reliability in those he comes across. Just like the members of the Straw Hat Pirates follow Luffy out of respect and loyalty, Rimuru’s commanders follow him because of his sound judgment and dedication to seeing everyone in his nation be happy. It’s satisfying seeing members of Rimuru’s guard take personal offense when others talk poorly of him because it’s clear that he’s earned the respect he’s given.
If isekai is to continue growing in popularity and thriving long-term, room must be made for different types of protagonists. Be they depraved, refreshingly honest characters like Kazuma or upstanding yet easygoing leaders like Rimuru, both demonstrate how valuable it is to shake up the formula and try new approaches to the genre. If the constant barrage of isekai has bittered your tolerance to it as a whole, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime is well worth giving a shot.
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