June 28, 2007

What makes a good OP?

"OP" refers to the opening credits sequence. Sometimes the term is used to refer to the music, and sometimes to the whole thing.

I've noticed that there's little correlation between whether the OP for a series is good and whether the series itself is good. The situation is complicated further by series where they change the OP once or twice during the run.

So what makes a good OP? (My opinions! Mine! Mine!)

First, it's OK if the music is an earbug, but it has to be interesting music that's appropriate to the show. The lyrics should be relevant, and possibly be explicative.
Second, the OP should be a bit of an intro to the show itself. Certainly we don't want it giving away any spoilers, but it should be representative of the series art, and it ought to show us many or most of the main characters, and give us a brief idea of what they're like.
Third, it ought to give us a look at typical background art.
Finally, it ought to intrigue us.

In otherwords, if the OP was distributed separately, it ought to make a pretty good advertisement for the series, conveying to us a decent idea of what the series is going to be like if we watch it.

So some examples:

UFO Princess Valkyrie 3: show is mediocre, OP is good. Music is nice and fun. It shows Valkyrie's transformation. It gives us a look at Akina and Hydra together, and Chorus and Raine together. It shows us the town with the two crashed spaceships. There's a look at the three remaining princesses who make their first appearances in this series. And the three little guys show up at the end.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: show is very good, OP is mixed. The music is really good; very interesting. (And a special treat for hardcore fans, because it's sung by Hayashibara Megumi.) The images are clips from the first show, which show us all the characters, especially different scenes of the two kids. But it's nearly all placed in Tokyo, in the shopping arcade -- and the series doesn't spend much time there. So the OP doesn't show us backgrounds or art style from the majority of the show. It doesn't really show us any of the weirdness. As such it isn't a good advertisement because it isn't representative. (And the biggest drawback: Munemune isn't in the OP at all.)

Ninja Nonsense: show is OK, OP is excellent. The music isn't the most inspired but it's decent, and the lyrics are both funny and quite relevant. The video shows us a lot of things from the show -- but also a lot of things that never occur in the show. But that's part of the joke, and it's legit. From the OP we can tell that Shinobu is perky, bouncy, shapely, and absurdly enthusiastic -- and gullible, and innocent. We can tell that Kaede is cute and has a temper. We can tell that they're friends. We are shown that Onsokumaru is obnoxious, and that Kaede tends to abuse him. We get to see the girls from the competing academy, and the other students (all guys) at Shinobu's own school. We also see Miyabi using her magic. It's a very good advertisement for the series, and though some of it is deceptive, it isn't a fraud.

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (careful, Steve, you're treading on hallowed ground here): show is massively overrated among fanboys, the OP is good but flawed. A substantial flaw in the music is that the vocalist sings flat. (This may bother some people less than it does me.) Most of the important characters in the cast are shown but there's not really any indication of what they're like. The one thing it does convey, which is important, is that Haruhi is the most important character in the series and that she's manic. The OP doesn't show us much of the setting, but since the setting is prosaic that's not really a drawback. As an advertisement the main thing the OP sells is Haruhi and Mikuru as fan-service attractions, which isn't really what the show is about.

Ichigo Mashimaro: show is good, OP is excellent. The music is bouncy J-pop, and the lyrics get right to the point with the very first words: "You mustn't call us cute." Which is impossible because they are, which is the point. In the first ten seconds we see all five major characters plus the ferret. Through-out the entire OP, Miu stands out as an oddball. And Matsuri's nearly-unbearable cuteness is also well established. It gives you a good idea of what to expect from the series.

Kamichu: Show is very uneven, OP is outstanding. The music isn't particularly noteworthy but the visuals do everything they need to. All the major characters are shown, as well as numerous locations critical to the series, and throughout the OP we see various kami in places we wouldn't ordinarily expect, making clear that this otherwise unremarkable town is very different from our own reality. We see enough of Yurie to learn that she's a bit lazy and a rather unremarkable little girl, as indeed she was before she became a kami.

Shakugan no Shana: show is decent, OP is OK but really could have been better. I don't think the music is very good, but I thought all the series music was substandard. The visuals show us all the important characters from the series, and primarily emphasize Shana. We see magic being used, and see torches, but it doesn't actually tell us anything. This is a case where it was a mistake to pack in every single character from the series, because it didn't leave any time for anything else like giving us an indication of what the primary characters are like. In particular, the OP neglects Yuji, who is the protagonist. I think that this could have been a lot better.

Ah! My Goddess! TV: Show is very good, OP is outstanding. The music is magnificent, though it doesn't really have much to do with the show. The lyrics get across that it's a love story, which is the main point. The visuals spend the majority of the time on Keiichi, Beldandy, and Urd, as does the show itself. Beldandy, Urd, and Skuld are all shown with wings, so we know they're not human. Keiichi's motorcycle is featured, and Keiichi and Beldandy are clearly a couple who are deeply in love. Urd is shown to be a meddler. Secondary characters are shown but not dwelt on. There is one CGI shot of the temple and town that is utterly shitty looking, almost like it was a test render, but after watching the OP you'll have a pretty good idea of what's coming.

Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite: show is decent (and better than it seems), the OP is very good. The big flaw is that Tanaka Rie is a great seiyuu but not so good as a vocalist, and she sings the OP. But the visuals are everything they should be. It concentrates primarily on Mariel and Taro and shows us that there's something going on between them. It shows us the mansion. It also lets us see that Ikuyo is nuts, that Yashima has the hots for Konoe, and that the triplets are sexy and seductive. We see Grace with her computer, and we see Ryuka's airship. There are enough quick images of other maids to make clear that there's really quite a lot of them. It doesn't tell us about Cynthia, or show that Ryuka is a gun freak, but that's OK.

Bottle Fairy: Show is good but with a strange ending (that ruined it for me). The OP is excellent. The music is good and the lyrics nicely summarize the show concept. The fairies are shown wearing lots of different costumes, and we see them with Sensei-san so that we can tell how small they are. Kururu and Hororo's characters come out a bit, and Chiriri always wears a hat. We also get to see Oborochan and Tamachan, the other major characters in the series.

Azumanga Daioh (Careful, Steve, more hallowed ground): The show is uneven and something of an acquired taste. The OP is legendary. The music for it is unusual but works well, especially since the visuals coordinate particularly well with the music. The visuals take something of a stylistic cue from the music, and are rather abstract. No scenery from the show is shown, but that's not a problem because the setting is a normal one. The characters are all given time to show what they're like. There's even time spent cueing the audience in to certain running gags (e.g. Yukari-sensei's mad driving). There may not be a better or more memorable OP in anime.

Divergence Eve: Show is excellent, the OP is serviceable. I like the music, and the OP shows us all the characters and gives us a good view of Watcher's Nest and the equipment used there. While not the best ever, it does the job.

Misaki Chronicles: show is excellent, the OP is not good at all. The problem with it is that it's totally deceptive. Once you've seen the series, the OP does make sense -- but as an advertisement for the series it completely misrepresents what you're going to see. It's not the worst OP ever but it's down near the bottom.

Vandread: The show is good, the OP is excellent. I like the music a lot. The visuals show us the ship, and the vandreads, and all the major characters in ways which give us an idea of what they're like. Each episode's OP is different; there's a spot in the middle in which they include scenes from that episode. I don't think that was really needed but it doesn't hurt anything because they were careful not to include spoilers.

Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars: the show is outstanding, and the OP is simply dreadful. I can't think of a worse one. The music is dull and the visuals are worse. If you were shown the OP as an advertisement for the series, you'd instantly write it off. How can a series which is otherwise so good have an OP which sucks so badly?

That's the mystery for me. That's what got me thinking about this. How did they botch up the Shingu OP so badly?

It spends its first 20 seconds showing us clouds drifting in a blue sky. Then we get ten seconds for two leisurely shots of Muryou, and then 45 seconds of badly animated images of kids walking around the town and the school. They're not drawn in the art style of the series. None of them are recognizable characters from the series. Then we see Hajime standing next to Muryou for five seconds or so, and then a long shot of the town and the ocean. And that's it. None of the other characters from the series are shown at all, nor any indication of alien activity, nor the white giant, and from what we see of Muryou and Hajime we can't tell a damned thing about what either of them are like. It's appallingly inept. What were they thinking?

A good OP is a good advertisement for the show. With Shingu they had 90 seconds to sell us on the series, and used it to do everything possible to convince us it wasn't worth our while.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 10:16 PM | Comments (34) | Add Comment
Post contains 1924 words, total size 11 kb.

1 <i>Shingu's</i> OP music is some of the worst I've heard. Dull, as you say, and I'd swear the vocal is off-key. I simply haven't been able to watch it all the way through; I have no idea what the art is like. The OP is accurate in one sense, though: I think the music for the whole show is almost as boring.

My favorite OP of all time is the one for Haibane Renmei. I love the (entirely instrumental) music, which is unlike anything else I've ever run across; the character art is engaging; character personalities are perfectly vignetted; and we get a fair idea of the setting. It's spoiler free, and the first episode doesn't even play the OP, so you can go into the story cold. Finally, we get to see something in the OP which is not a spoiler, and which we don't get to see at any other time: the arrival and sprouting of a cocoon plant. (It's slightly misleading, in that the characters never actually get to see a seed arrive during the show itself, but as you say, it's not fraudulent, either.)

The OP for Dennou Coil (currently in fansub) is also excellent, although the music doesn't engage me quite as strongly. There's an amazing set of shots that show many of the show's characters legs climbing stairs--and each shot is absolutely descriptive of the character's personality.

Posted by: Refugee at June 28, 2007 10:48 PM (Vvkyx)


I realized I tend to see the OP as separate music video, instead. So I tend to like or dislike it without much regard for the series itself.

The OP to Evangelion is great, but it makes sense only after seeing the series. As a standalone music video, it's very mysterious - and quite intriguing.

I'm trying again the OP to Suzumiya, but that has got to be the most annoying female voice I've heard. Really.

In Blood+ (definitely not your stuff, Steven) they had a great OP - bit of electric rock music, rousing female vocals - but at some point they switched to a vastly inferior one. Strange decisions.

Posted by: FabioC. at June 28, 2007 11:19 PM (Lx9ty)

3 Scratch my comment about Suzumiya: I was tricked by the first episode.

Posted by: FabioC. at June 29, 2007 12:06 AM (Lx9ty)

4 Good round-up, Steven, thanks!
My currently favorite OP is the one for Kujibiki Unbalance (the one from the Genshiken disks).  I've become rather a fan of Under17, actually.
I liked the OP from Tenjo Tenge, too, mainly because it was so damn different.
For music I tend to prefer EDs instead, for some reason (like Raspberry Heaven from Azumanga, or the amazing enka piece from The Gokusen).

Posted by: Toren at June 29, 2007 01:23 AM (7Z0if)

5 You're fine on Haruhi - it's the ED that was canonized, not the OP.

Second the recommendations for Dennou Coil and HR - both are great.

BoS/CoS is another series with... questionable openings. They do give the message that it is about space, at least.

I'm quite fond of the Planetes opening - or rather five openings. It changes, slightly and subtly, over the course of the series, in a manner that is refreshingly consonant with plot, character, and theme.

I like the HnG openings, and think it one of the few shows where each improves on the last. The third opening is nearly a retrospective, and arguably weaker for it, though I think that an appropriate move to make at that point in the series.

Posted by: HC at June 29, 2007 03:36 AM (V+5Zy)

6 Hmm. . . probably the OP that comes to mind to me first is Trigun, in that its rather bad.  The visuals don't carry over the main character's personality at all ( though that may be intentional? ), and are a minor spoiler, albeit not a huge one.  Whats worse is the music.  Its the most uninspired random rock I've ever heard.  I can only assume their music budget was in the "Hey, can you ask your brother Matsuri to bring in his guitar and play a few random chords" range.

Posted by: metaphysician at June 29, 2007 04:56 AM (lXszF)

7 I enjoyed most of the music in Vandread; it's done by Christopher Franke, who has been composing electronic music since the 70s, including all his works with 'Tangerine Dream.' He also did the music for 'Babylon 5,' and there are so many similarities between incidental music for B5 and Vandread that while watching Vandread I often found myself imagining how the series might crossover: the 'dreads encountering the B5 station? Could you imagine Barnette and Jura taking a stroll through the Zocalo? Or the Plexis advising Hibiki "If you go to Z'hadum, you will DIE." 

Posted by: Methuen at June 29, 2007 05:47 AM (oNLfO)

8 Cowboy Bebop: I'm agnostic on the series, but I could watch the OP all day.  I love the music (even though I'm not a jazz nerd, or even much of a jazz fan) and the art is perfect for establishing the film noir/SF mood of the series.

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2007 07:46 AM (6gdkP)

9 Rats! When I first got the idea for this post I was going to include "Banner of the Stars" as being another example of a lousy OP for a really good series. rats rats rats...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 29, 2007 07:52 AM (+rSRq)

10 The Shingu OP vocalists is right on key, but the song itself is dreadfully uninspired. Ballads are not my thing in any case, but even as ballads go that one sucks.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 29, 2007 07:54 AM (+rSRq)

11 Ah, two more quick mentions:

Paranoia Agent
. Perhaps the only male vocalist I enjoy, and this one is particularly compelling. Visually, it's very strange how so many people laughing can be so disturbing.

And the Ghost in the Machine: Stand Alone Complex OP is magnificent. The Russian, Latin, and English vocal has a wonderfully varied texture to it, and I can only wish that the series visuals were as compelling as the OP's sparkling darkness.

And one bad one: I have never been able to sit through the entire opening for one of my favorite series: Sugar, A Little Snow Fairy. "Sugar baby love!" *click*. The series itself, particularly the early episodes, is almost overwhelmingly sweet, and the OP is a four-pound bag dumped on top.

Posted by: refugee at June 29, 2007 08:15 AM (ya+0h)


Another "Rats". I was going to mention Petite Princess Yucie: really good show, excellent OP. Lots of establishing shots, primary focus on Yucie. It shows Yucie and Glenda bickering with Cocoloo watching and being concerned. Elmina and Beth are also shown.

By the way, anyone who liked "Sugar" is sure to like PPY as well.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 29, 2007 08:24 AM (+rSRq)


I was about to recommend both the Planetes opening, but I never noticed it changes over time.  It does a good job of setting the background to the series with the visuals by mixing in a brief history of spaceflight.

Both Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series have good openings, mixing Yoko Kanno's multi-lingual techno with some decent cyberpunk visuals.  It took a second to notice when they switched between animated and CG openings in the original series.

Christopher Franke also did the excellent soundtrack to the movie Tenchi Muyo in Love, which fits the movie perfectly.

Posted by: Civilis at June 29, 2007 08:33 AM (huKGY)

14 I like Sugar's OP. Lyrics are mindless in both languages, but it's all right. As far as I know, English version does not appear in the show (on R1 DVD) or on any soundtracks (but I may be wrong). So, it exists primarily because of Yoko Ishida's pig-headed obsession with English. I heard her talking about that soundtrack once and she said that she had a native speaker to read it, then listened to it and tried to sing it. I think Puffy AmiYumi's laurels disturb her.

Posted by: Author at June 29, 2007 10:47 AM (9imyF)


I'd like to toss in the OP and the ED to Lucky Star. OP: Cute, high energy, completely random lyrics. It's not about anything... and that's the show for you.  The ED is the girls doing karaoke, usually some animé song or another; it's an inside joke for otaku.  Which again, is the show for you.

Divergence Eve/Misaki Chronicles:  First OP should have gone with the second ED for the entire run.  The other two should have been booted to some fanservice jiggle series.

Vandred II: I was not enthused by the change to the 2nd OP. Music wasn't as good, visuals weren't either.

Martian Sucessor Nadesico: OP "You Get to Burning" -- The scenes are mostly taken from the series, with the exception of the opening shot of the Yurika and Akito as kids.Virtualy all the main cast shows up in it; I can't think of anyone who is left out.  One character's appearance is a bit of a spoiler though.  It makes it look like it's going to be based on Earth more than it is, but it does give you the proper feel; that it's going to be a show about people's passions, with a lot of romance, some comedy, and a moderately upbeat and energetic vibe.   It's not great, but it's serviceable.

 Outlaw Star:  The OP is too loud, too brash.  (It fits the series perfectly in that regard though).  All the major "good guy" characters are shown, but none of the villians of the piece.  Doesn't clue the viewer in to what the show is about, other than space, fighting some unknown bad guys up close and personal, and some space combat.  Biggest problem ist that if you watch closely, there's a spoiler.

Off the top of my head, worst OP (until Shingu came along and aside from other previous mentions) has to be Zero no Tsukaima, simply for the HUGE spoiler near the end of it. 

Posted by: ubu roi at June 29, 2007 11:23 AM (dhRpo)

16 Pixy, I just got that intermittent non-repeatable Error 500 CherryPy error again.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 29, 2007 01:56 PM (+rSRq)

17 I agree with your thoughts as to what makes a good OP . With that in mind, I think that the OP sequence to Gunsmith Cats is one of the best I've seen yet. It gives a good intro to the anime and with its striking visuals and instrumental upbeat jazzy theme, it's something I could watch repeatedly and not get tired of.  

Posted by: Victor at June 29, 2007 03:13 PM (d19vs)

18 In my limited experience with Anime, I've never really cared for OPs at all. I'll watch the first one, but will almost always skip over them for later episodes. The one thing that annoyed me about Vandread's OP (aside from the music, which I didn't love) was that it featured scenes from the upcoming show (at least, I think so. I might be thinking about something else). But the show was good and I usually just skipped the OP, so I was fine... I liked the Haibane Renmei OP, but not enough to watch every time. No one's mentioned it yet, but I actually liked the Serial Experiments Lain OP.

Posted by: Mark at June 29, 2007 04:01 PM (2cMUJ)


I have a hard time believing that we've got 18 comments and nobody has mentioned either the OP for Elfen Lied or the OP for Ghost In The Shell 2nd Gig

EL's song, "Lilium", is operatic and invokes a serious case of sorrow when combined with the (perhaps NSFW) visuals. GitS2G's, "Rise", is rock, and feels like it could have come from the Matrix series of movies; certainly the visuals look that way, dark and frenetic.

Oddly, neither of them are in sung in Japanese.  "Lilium" is in Latin, "Rise" is a mix of Russian and English.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 29, 2007 05:44 PM (GpR+s)

20 I'm noticing a pattern where Tatsuo Sato-directed shows have cheap-looking OP animations... Shingu and Nadesico have been mentioned here, but the worst offender has got to be Stellvia. Nadesico's OP relies mostly on clips from the show, but there's still that nifty zoom-in shot and CG title logo at the beginning; Stellvia's begins with something which could have been made in half an hour with Flash, and fills the rest of its ninety seconds with clips from... the first episode. As far as I know they didn't change it for the rest of the series. A lot of the main characters (including the male lead!) don't appear at all, because there's no footage of them in that episode.

The song is pretty good though--"Brilliant Road to Tomorrow" by my favorite J-pop group, angela.

Posted by: Andrew F. at June 29, 2007 06:16 PM (fhs/5)


I'm operating on guesswork here, but I'm wondering if the Shingu OP is meant to invoke a nostalgic feeling that doesn't map to non-Japanese listeners.  Music that's suggestive of a traditional school song, maybe the animation is reminiscent of some sort of Japanese student film, etc.

I'm pretty easy about OPs and EDs if I like the music; the visuals are a bonus.  If I don't like the music, I'll skip the OP/ED no matter how good it looks.

One of my favorite AMVs is called EVA Bebop; it's an alternate OP to Evangelion done to Tank!, the music from the Cowboy Bebop OP, and it's a trip and a half.  The alchemy of combining a piece of music with an animation can produce some interesting results.


Posted by: pflorian at June 29, 2007 08:06 PM (xGSSk)

Pixy, I just got that intermittent non-repeatable Error 500 CherryPy error again.

I'll have to get the email-it-to-me function working.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 29, 2007 09:58 PM (PiXy!)

23 I forgot the opening to Narutaru/Shadowstar. That's a great opening which manages to be wildly misleading as to the tone of the anime at first glance and simply chock-full of spoilers and plot-twists on close analysis. Just brilliant, and fun to watch.

Posted by: HC at June 29, 2007 10:49 PM (V+5Zy)

24 Gungrave's OP, "Family", shows the main chars and even names the three most important. I can't figure out what style the music is though.

Posted by: Jim Burdo at June 29, 2007 11:24 PM (qk+He)


"One of my favorite AMVs is called EVA Bebop; it's an alternate OP to Evangelion done to Tank!"

Darn skippy.  Here's its listing at AMV.org (where you can d/l it without being a member at the "direct" link), and here's a youtube for it.

I think Steven would even like it.  He won't look at it, though, I'll bet.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 30, 2007 10:55 AM (fA+ec)


You win your bet. [Words cannot express how little interest I have in the entire concept of "Anime Music Videos".]

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 30, 2007 12:09 PM (+rSRq)


See, that's the thing, Steven, this ISN'T a 'music video'.  It's a VERY clever reimaging of the OP for NGE, in the style of Cowboy Bebop's OP... and it's music, too.  If you took Star Trek Classic and remade the OP in the style of, oh, MST3K, you'd get much the same effect.

Wow, that's a scary thought...

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 30, 2007 01:19 PM (6YRS5)

28 See, the thing is, I'm still not interested. Really not even the slightest bit. I'm not even faintly curious.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 30, 2007 01:45 PM (+rSRq)

29 *shrug* Your choice, of course.  And loss, but that's just my opinion.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 30, 2007 04:45 PM (fA+ec)

30 Don't get huffy about it. Different people like different things.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 30, 2007 05:37 PM (+rSRq)

31 For me, a good OP tells you enough about the show, and give you a nice feel of the show. Infinite Ryvius is a show on your not to watch list, but its OP let you know right off the bat that it's a show about kids stranded without adult supervision, and have to fend themselves. It also let you know right off the bat just how many characters and faction there are. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlg_uOqn0y4

Posted by: BigFire at July 02, 2007 07:33 AM (i5qPG)

32 I've been a big fan of the "current" OP for Naruto on Cartoon Network.  The "fighting dreamers" song is left in Japanese with subtitles and the electric guitar awesomely enhances the montage of original stills and quick action scenes.  I'm a sucker for a good montage.

Posted by: Jake at July 03, 2007 09:05 AM (iOm8e)

33 Oh, hell. I forgot all about some of these, especially the OP for Narutaru. Talk about your dangerously misleading first impressions! "Oh, look! It's going to be sort of Pokemon-like! How cute!" And then you watch the show itself...

Posted by: GreyDuck at July 06, 2007 07:28 AM (7eLDR)

34 I know I'm late for this, but I just discovered the OP for Oh! Edo Rocket!

I'm not normally a fan of J-Pop, but I absolutely cannot get this tune out of my head. Happy, bouncy, with a sadly sweet middle verse that chokes me up a bit even though I haven't a clue what it's about.

Series art is well-represented, we get a good taste of the setting and characters, there are no spoilers, and there's a charming bit of fan-service punctuated  with a great little joke.

Plus, an electric samisen in the late Edo period. How can you go wrong?

Posted by: Refugee at July 08, 2007 08:30 PM (Vvkyx)

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