Now that the Summer 2023 season has come to an end it’s time to look back on 10 anime openings from an overall solid lineup of anime. As stated previously for other seasons, this list will focus on the entire sequence—animation, music, composition, color design, replay value, etc.—not just one thing or the other.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 anime openings from the Summer 2023 anime season. (*Note: If the videos take too long to load then click on the title of the series next to each number to load the opening)
10. Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy Season 2
Director: Takaharu Ozaki
Storyboard: Takaharu Ozaki
Animation Directors: Sayaka Ono (CAD), Shino Ikeda, Koudai Kitahara, Minoru Morita, Hiroshi Numata, Youko Sano, Shirokuma
If coldrain could make every anime opening theme for every future anime still to come, that would be amazing. Yes, even slice-of-life anime. The band is back again after performing the opening theme for Season 1 and, once again, knocked it out of the park with “NEW DAWN.”
It’s hard to believe Ozaki also directed and storyboarded the opening for Girls’ Last Tour, especially when we consider he also fulfilled the same roles for the first opening of Goblin Slayer, which shows its style much more in this opening for Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy Season 2. With the embers flying, shadows on a backdrop, birds-eye view camera angle, and his style of framing, this opening definitely has Ozaki written all over it.
I’d say my favorite part is at 1:13 when the vocals hit “Ohhh we’ve gone too far.” The visuals are simpler than the rest of the opening, but that intensity with all of the characters hits like a ton of bricks. I did love the nod to Shawshank Redemption (at 0:50) as well. The opening is visually great with some wonderful work in 3D space and respectable transitions here and there. But would you say it was enough to carry it over the others on this list?
9. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Season 2
Director: Shinpei Wada
Storyboard: Shinpei Wada
Animation Director: Kenji Terao
Mushoku Tensei Season 2 shockingly gave us an opening and director Wada delivered. It’s no wonder that the one who gave us the incredible first opening for The Rising of the Shield Hero would come through with Mushoku Tensei‘s first concrete opening and deliver something visually stunning.
It’s not a hype opening like the aforementioned Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy, but the symbolism and care for artwork have a delicate touch that really gives this opening its charm. I wouldn’t say the theme song has the greatest replayability but the transitions, color coordination, and color design in this opening are all wonderfully done. Not to mention the sakuga moments during the chorus are another nice touch, so having veteran animation director Kenji Terao, who also worked in the first season as an animation director for episode 7, take on the role for the opening solidified solid overall work.
I’d still say my favorite moment of this opening is the moment Rudeus’ hand and Eris’ hand clamp down on each other with the red flower petals bursting into Rudeus in his own bed alone. The shot of Rudeus walking throughout the school and having his memories plastered on the walls, desks, and floors was a wonderful idea and made me want to go back and take a closer look at everything.
The idea of the school in monochrome in contrast to the red bird flying behind him representing Eris and the green bird nearby representing Sylphy was a brilliant decision I absolutely loved. To make the storyboard even more respectful, the opening starts with Rudeus in his bed and ends on top of a carriage as if the entire opening was just his thoughts at that moment after waking up but also the beginning and end of his day. So when you peel back the layers for this opening, the imagination and creativity begin to unfold beautifully.
8. Rurouni Kenshin (2023) (OP1)
Director: Tomoyuki Itamura
Storyboard: Tomoyuki Itamura
Animation Director: N/A
The thing I love most about this Kenshin opening is that while it pays homage to the original series between 0:15 – 0:30 during the verse, the opening becomes its own thing during the bridge and chorus. I love it when a reboot doesn’t forget its roots but also wants to remain modernized and that’s what this opening does flawlessly.
I think that the 90s feel during the verse was perfectly captured before the transition to the wonderful action animation that follows it. However, going from a lot of action shots to almost still frames was a little odd. At first, I thought the upbeat chorus with the light-hearted visuals was offputting and was expecting even more action. But it showed that humorous side of Kenshin I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate while watching the series.
Originally, I had this opening below Mushoku Tensei Season 2, but when it comes to replay value and theme song, I think Kenshin takes the cake and slightly nudges its way to number eight on the list. The transitions are solid for the most part but nothing to write home about. But overall the opening does its job and it does it very well — getting the viewer hyped for the episode. I don’t think it’s necessarily Director Itamura’s best work but it’s one of the best from this season without a doubt.
7. Malevolent Spirits: Mononogatari Season 2
Animation Director: N/A
My biggest surprise and what might possibly be underrated for even this list is the opening for Mononogatari Season 2. The opening theme song by Megatera Zero immediately grabs your attention and it’s impossible to not sing along after a few times. The chorus is as hype as any other from this year, not just the Summer 2023 season. But I think this opening is one of those that just does everything great but nothing perfect. That being said, this one caught my attention for a specific reason.
There isn’t any way to pinpoint exactly who worked on the opening, but whoever it was could’ve possibly drawn heavy inspiration from Masashi Itou’s work on the Black Clover openings, a series known for not missing any of its openings. Similar shots to the ones of the character Nero in opening 10 of Black Clover aren’t exact replicas, and these certain shots aren’t uncommon either, but their usage is strikingly similar.
It doesn’t stop on that note. The use of texts in 3D space at the very beginning with the title card is a very particular style used in every single Black Clover opening as well. The (faded) paint splatters behind the characters that were also alternating in 3D space are specific to both opening 5 (v1) and opening 9 of Black Clover, the latter of which Itou also directed and storyboarded. So while there are no available credits, I can’t help but wonder who put together this wonderful opening.
Characters flying into the camera shot for the opening during the chorus is also something very common when it comes to action anime but having each character’s attack used as a transition is something I’m definitely a fan of since it creates certain decisions to be made on who is shown next and how and when they appear. Overall, the transitions for this opening were pretty solid and deserve a lot of credit to whoever storyboarded it. Oh, and did I mention the theme song is fantastic yet?
6. The Quintessential Quintuplets ~ Special
Director: Hiroto Nagata
Storyboard: Hiroto Nagata
Animation Director: Hiroto Nagata
The only qualm I have with this opening is that the song might possibly be the least replayable out of every opening theme in this top 10 list, which is a big factor with openings. The art and animation alone brought it to number six here making the most gorgeously executed opening for the hit series to date and one of the most eye-popping openings all year round. But who wouldn’t expect that with Nagata and studio SHAFT at the helm this time around?
Intricate perspectives, like Itsuki reaching for the book (0:45), and little details throughout make this arguably the most special Quintuplets opening. Towards the end, the color streaks were unique to each of the sisters and their placement was short-lived but a very nice detail. The green streak (Yotsuba) at the swing set and the red streak (Itsuki) flying over Fuutaro’s little sister Raiha, for example, was a detail only those who know the series well will pick up on.
I’d say the sequence below might be my favorite of any opening on this entire list. Everything about it is downright beautiful. From the framing of the swing shot to the animation of all the sisters running and switching each of them out by frame just looked so impactful transitioning to the eye shot. It was a perfect way to introduce the title card.
From an art and animation perspective, I think it’s masterfully done in every possible aspect. I just never found myself going back and watching the opening because it made me want to watch the special (again) or because I enjoyed the theme song, as was the case with so many others on this list. That being said, there’s no denying Nagata worked his magic with this opening. Normally, had this been any of the other Quintuplets openings, I don’t think it would’ve even made this list. But the work done here is more than well deserved.