Winner: “Brave Shine” by Aimer, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Second Season.
- “Hello World” by Bump of the Chicken, Blood Blockade Battlefront
- “Hey Kids!” by The Oral Cigarettes, Noragami Aragoto
- “Black Swallowtail” by Uroboros, Rokka no Yuusha
- “Kyokugen Dreamer” by SCREEN mode, Yoru no Yatterman.
This year had quite a few good openings. Many would have preferred if I had put the openings for Death Parade, One Punch Man or Overlord here, but for me, being catchy or fun just isn’t enough for me to consider an opening worthy of praise; something more is needed. “Hello World” by Bump of the Chicken is an example of this, starting with a wide shot of New York as the sun rises, and then showing all the characters walking through town and taking photos while the lyrics keep up the optimistic tone very well. The stand-out would certainly have to be the spinning shot of all the characters showcasing their powers as Leo stands at the centre of it all, as the song says “A hero for 5 minutes, at the centre of the world”, synced perfectly with the visuals. There are also some blink-and-you-miss-them visual metaphors and foreshadowing the become obvious once one has seen the series.
Noragami’s opening carries a sense of youthful energy and optimism in both The Oral Cigarettes’ simple but relevant lyrics and Bones strong animation quality. Starting out with stylised shots of all the main trio standing on the roofs of buildings. It then displays the supporting cast walking coolly forward with “Just wanna’ hold your hand!” playing over before some fast editing of the villains, and then the song goes roaring into the chorus. The first half is an upgrade of the first opening, with Yato and Bishamon going at each other with their regalias, then cutting to show some emotionally charged scenes of Hiyori walking away, Yato in front of his new shrine and Bishamon with Kazuma to the surprisingly thoughtful lyrics “I will keep searching for the love I cannot forget”, before the stunning final battle. In some ways, the opening even serves as a summary of the series, but not so much so that new viewers will have the events spoiled.
The second opening for Rokka no Yuusha is rich with tension and both the song and visuals bring this to life very well. Showing all the characters in darkly lit settings, getting ready to fight, the build-up to the chorus feels like a tightly-wound spring, and when it releases, it is glorious. Showing Adlet striking Mora, who proceeds to destroy the ground which Rosso leaps from, only to be attacked by Nashetania, the opening is rife with intense and unpredictable action, with Uroboros’s singer’s voice being so loud and present that it nearly seems to be egging them on. The final panning shot reaffirms the tension, and serves as the tensest opening of the year. Yoru no Yatterman’s opening, in contrast, was very optimistic, featuring its leads beating up opponents in fluid, goofy fashion. The vocals are bright and cheery, and there isn’t a single weak part of the song from beginning to end. The effect work is done very well here, and the instrumentation backs it all up very well, making for a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience with both heart and energy.
In spite of all the things I’ve said above, there was no contest who the winner would be. Yes, though Noragami’s opening nailed the cool factor, BBB’s was very classy and kinetic, Rokka no Yuusha’s was tense as a vice and Yatterman’s was optimistic and engaging, none of them could hold a candle to the emotional intensity of Aimer’s Brave Shine. From the beginning, the heavy guitars play to Archer in a world of dust and swords, indicating that the second season will be much more entrenched in the Holy Grail War than the first season was. Then a shot of Shiro that follows him summoning blades, as the song says “My wish has been hidden in my left hand.” indicating that now he has a chance to do what he always wanted to (saving everyone). Then Rin is seen atop a building with Saber, to Aimer singing “A world’s end no-one know of”, referring to how it’s all up to them to win the war lest everyone die, though it could also reference Archer. Berserk, Illya, Lancer, Caster and Kuzuki are also given screen time before the chorus, as they are shown at a standstill, giving a real sense of character relationships. When the chorus comes, it delivers more memorable moments and feats of incredible animation than most entire series can pull off. With realistic interactions with backgrounds, dynamic choreography and spectacular lighting, the opening builds to a climax, but calms down for the end, making Brave Shine a very well structured, well written and well paced song. The opening is relevant to so many characters in so few words, it’s poetic in how so many layers are lyrically and visually presented. Aimer’s deep, emotionally heavy voice lends this OP a sense of regret, but also empowerment and courage, and as a result it is one of the most tonally broad OPs I’ve heard in ages. Ufotable’s animation was also outstanding here, making for the best looking opening of the year and one of the best I’ve ever seen. It excels in so many areas that it has no equal this year, and may not for many years.