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Anime Ichiban: Brent’s Favorite Opening Themes

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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.

While it’s the show itself that ultimately leaves a lasting impression, opening themes have the crucial role of getting viewers in the mindspace to be entertained. Whether it’s getting you hyped like Dragon Ball Z’sRock the Dragon” did for millions of western children, or preparing you for the hilarious nonsense that is Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, opening themes really set the tone for the following half hour of entertainment. These are my top 10 favorites of all-time, and they all belong to shows that I highly recommend checking out. Judge for yourself!

10. “Kibou no Uta”–Ultra Tower (Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Souma, Opening 1)

“Kibou no Uta” is one of my favorite songs on this list. The performance exudes passion and determination as the OP shows Soma (the main character) facing some seriously tough challengers in his rise to being a top chef. His commitment to the craft from childhood helping his father in the kitchen is heartwarming and easily my favorite scene here. And what would Food Wars! be without a little food porn sprinkled throughout for good measure?

9. “Cosmic Love”–Nana Mizuki (Rosario + Vampire, Opening)

You know an OP is great when you never want to miss its first few moments. Rosario + Vampire’s opening wastes no time in establishing the show’s harem dynamic. The way the main cast of girls is revealed in time with the music is ace, and their interactions with Tsukune afterwards do a great job of getting across the lighthearted humor and playful ecchiness of the series.

8. “Kuusou Mesorogiwi”–Yousei Teikoku (The Future Diary, Opening 1)

Yuno Gasai’s reputation as the premier yandere in anime is firmly established. The Future Diary’s first OP doesn’t do much to set up story, characters or highlight key events (something the second OP goes overboard with), but it instead sets the extremely grim scene for what viewers should expect from the show. Yuno’s insanity is on full display here, and it’s intoxicating. The last few seconds are subtle but powerful, and become even more meaningful further into the anime.

7. “Bon Appétit?S”–Blend-A (Blend-S, Opening)

Yes, the start of this OP is a meme. But it’s actually great overall, I promise! Blend-S is a rather by-the-numbers slice of life anime with a ton of color and personality, and the OP captures this perfectly. Not only is the song catchy and synced brilliantly with the visuals (which I always love), but the visuals themselves are super clean and cute. This Blend-S’s OP screams high production values and knowledge of its target audience. As part of that audience, I absolutely adore it.

6. “Deal with the Devil”–Tia (Kakegurui, Opening)

While “Deal with the Devil” is another top-tier OP in terms of production value alone, its confident sense of style really pushes it over the top. Everything is very sexual and symbolic, often referencing specific moments from the show and its themes directly. Identifying these as you make your way through the season is quite fun. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how well Tia captures the true essence of Kakegurui in her performance!

5. “Underground River”–Kevin Penkin ft. Raj Ramayya (Made in Abyss, Opening 1)

Made in Abyss’ second opening is also brilliant, but there’s something decidedly cinematic and emotional about Underground River. Though the same length as a typical OP, it plays out much more like the opening credits to a film than the first season of an anime. It’s easily my favorite song on this list, encapsulating the somber and questioning tone that defines the series. If you watch this and aren’t tempted to watch the rest of the season, I don’t know what to tell you.

4. “THE WORLD”–Nightmare (Death Note, Opening 1)

Death Note is the first anime I ever bought on DVD and, even though there were only 4 episodes on that thing, it was worth it for the ability to rewind the OP alone. What’s striking about “THE WORLD'” is how much it’s able to communicate with so little. The use of basic religious symbolism makes it easy for new viewers to get a general idea of the dynamics at play. And the final image of Light? Chilling.

3. “Hikari E”–The Babystars (One Piece, Opening 3)

One Piece has been my favorite anime ever since I was in middle school. The pure sense of setting out for adventure with friends has always felt magical to me, and “Hikari E” is the theme I’ve always felt captures that the best. Seeing the gang looking so happy and showing off their skills never fails to make me smile, especially when coupled with groovy tunes like these.

2. “99”–MOB CHOIR (Mob Psycho 100, Opening)

It’s hard to watch Mob Psycho 100’s OP just once. “99” is so visually delightful in its design and intricately paced with its theme that it just flies by before you know it. What’s even more impressive is how natural the constant counting towards 100 throughout the song feels. The transitions, stunning art direction and meticulous attention to detail all come together to make this one of the best OPs I’ve ever seen.

1. “V.I.P.”–SID (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Opening 1)

This is everything I look for in a great OP. Immediate hook at the start (similarly to the start of Rosario + Vampire’s OP), a synced and catchy theme, a great sense of adventure with friends (again, something I hold dear), and a couple of standout moments throughout that just feel special (in this case, 1:08). There’s a lot to love here. If you haven’t seen this little gem of a series yet, give it a watch!

Videos were uploaded courtesy of the /r/AnimeThemes community 

Brent fell head over heels for writing at the ripe age of seven and hasn't looked back since. His first love is the JRPG, but he can enjoy anything with a good hook and a pop of color. When he isn't writing about the latest indie release or binging gaming coverage on YouTube, you can find Brent watching and critiquing all manner of anime. Send him recommendations or join him in being way too excited about Animal Crossing: New Horizons @CreamBasics on Twitter.

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‘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.

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Weathering With You Hina

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. 

Weathering With You Hodaka and Hina

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. 

Weathering With you Hodaka and Hina

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.

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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.

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that time i got reincarnated as a slime

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.

Rimuru in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

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.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

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.

Rimuru meeting with his commanders.

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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Anime Ichiban 23: New Decade, Same Questionable Tastes

Hatsune Miku at Coachella? Mangadex getting targeted for legal issues? People defending OreImo? 2020 is off to a crazy start!

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Welcome to 2020, Anime Ichiban listeners!

Lots of things have happened in the past few weeks, not the least of which is Hatsune Miku making her Coachella debut. After catching up on industry news, we take a look back at some of our more questionable choices in anime and how on earth we manage to defend them.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introduction and what we’ve been playing
17:46 – Hatsune Miku to Perform at Coachella
25:29 – Crunchyroll’s “Most Watched Shows of the Decade”
30:03 – Funimation’s Popularity Awards
38:13 – Wages in the Japanese Animation Industry
45:38 – Miki Yoshikawa’s New, Fan-Picked Serialization
47:08 – Legal Trouble Brewing for Mangadex
57:02 – Highest Grossing Domestic Anime Films for Japan in 2019
59:33 – What shows surprised us and which ones do we struggle to defend?

TRACKS

Intro – “Dream X Scramble!” by Airi (Keijo!!!!!!!! OP)
Outro – “Lucky☆Orb feat. Hatsune Miku” by emon(Tes.)

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