Now that the Winter 2023 season is officially over, it’s time to look back on the 10 anime openings from a rather surprisingly solid lineup after a stacked Fall 2022 group. 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. Surprisingly enough, unlike the others I’ve made, this top 10 includes openings that could be placed anywhere on the list–they’re all that good.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 anime openings from the Fall 2022 anime season. (*Note: If the videos take too long to load, click the YouTube link provided to watch the opening if you haven’t seen it before)
10. NieR: Automata Ver1.1a
Director: Takashi Horiuchi, Ayako Kouno
Animation Director: Jun Nakai
Anime openings with a monochrome color palette are few and far between. The last time we received a stellar opening in (almost) all monochrome was Black Clover’s opening (#11) a few years back which ended up becoming a fan favorite. It’s no surprise that the same director as Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song‘s opening ended up giving us one of the most unique openings of the entire season. However, having Aimer perform the opening theme definitely gave it the boost it needed to land in the Top 10.
A feature I loved about the opening is its way of introducing its characters. Most of the time, anime openings tend to showcase characters in very boring group shots or the ones where they pop up, move close to the camera, then fade off to the right or left of the screen (even the Vivy OP does this). However, NieR Automata‘s use of real-life and 3D surroundings to showcase its characters was a neat touch.
Usually, I’m a huge fan of transitions in both openings and episodes alike. This time around is different because I loved the “one-take” camera work in this opening that led from one spot to the next. Of course, the nods to Drakengard and Replicant were a nice touch. That being said, I think #10 is a perfect spot for NieR Automata on this list. It doesn’t stand out as the following nine openings do, but it’s definitely good enough to outshine others to be on here.
9. The Misfit of Demon King Academy Season 2
Director: Shin Oonuma, Toshiyuki Yamashita,
Storyboard: Shin Oonuma
Animation Directors: Tsuyoshi Motodate, Masafumi Tamura
Let’s talk about the opening that completely came out of the left field on me. Since I haven’t even seen either season of Misfit of Demon King Academy, I didn’t know what to expect going into this. But it’s no wonder that Shin Oonuma, a past staff member of studio Shaft and now a prominent director at studio SILVERLINK, was able to bring one of the most well-put-together openings overall of the entire season. The ratings for the season itself may not be the highest, but the opening definitely deserves its praise along with the theme song “SEIEN” by Lenny code fiction.
While the visuals after the very beginning are rather basic, going back to what I said about typical character introductions in anime openings, the transitions involved and the overall artwork mask that basic feature of the opening. It seems like every shot leads my eyes to the right spot, which is a massive trait one of the openings later on in this list also does exceptionally well. But the chorus is when everything gets dialed to 11. The sequence below is one of the most stunning in both animation and color design of this entire list. Everything after it encaptures it all that makes for a great anime opening and gives this one from Misfit of Demon King Academy Season 2 a proper spot on this top 10 list.
8. Tokyo Revengers Season 2
Director: Yoshifumi Sueda
Storyboard: Rina Mitsuzumi
Animation Director: Nobuhiro Andou, Ken`ichi Oonuki
This should come as no surprise. Tokyo Revengers gave us one of the best openings of the past decade for Season 1 and they brought back Official HIGE Dandism to give us another catchy opening theme that I have yet to stop listening to. While many of the visuals may be close to being stills, the composition and artwork for this opening are downright beautiful all throughout. The memories flashing at the end of the opening give me chills and seeing Takemichi smile with a bright light growing behind him to end the opening was a shiny cherry on top.
Usually, when an opening shows most of the characters, it’s in a very generic way as I explained earlier. But Chifuyu standing in front of Baji’s grave, Taiju in front of the shadows of Black Dragon, and Hinata falling away from Takemichi’s hand while Mikey is also out of his reach are all extremely powerful visuals in their own way, especially for those who never read the manga and saw this opening for the first time. The transition of Takemichi changing timelines when the chorus hits to reveal his childhood self with a cape on was brilliant. Sueda did a wonderful job directing this opening and it’s no surprise coming from that guy who directed the visually incredible opening for World’s Finest Assassin.
But let’s also give credit to veteran Mitsuzumi’s work on the storyboard. She has worked on countless openings and endings for a wide variety of different anime series, most recently handling the photography for the absolutely gorgeous second opening of Spy x Family, which landed at #1 for our Top 50 Best Anime Openings of 2022. I just hope for next season that the series continues the trend of having Official HIGE Dandism performing the opening theme song. They’re perfect for Tokyo Revengers. If this season wasn’t so stacked with wonderful openings, this would undoubtedly be top 3 any other time.
7. Blue Lock (OP2)
Animation Director: N/A
Nobody can make a top 10 openings list for this season without having Blue Lock on it at some point. Most of the time, openings with a lot of still images tend to be looked down upon among anime fans, just look at the reception the second opening from My Hero Academia Season 5 received. But Blue Lock managed to keep the ball rolling after landing in the Fall 2022 Top 10 List as well.
To kick off the list of all the amazing things with this opening is the theme song “Judgement” by ASH DA HERO. It fits the emotion of Blue Lock entirely, beginning with constant transitions at the very beginning that are almost hypnotizing. The creative part is having each transition go through one of the pentagons on the ball (also the shape of the Blue Lock facility). The comic artwork with vibrant colors for all of the main characters is gorgeous, giving just slight movements to make them pop rather than just having them stand still.
The animation sequence between Isagi and Rin leaves a lot to be desired when the chorus is playing and that’s usually a big factor for me with openings. However, the puzzle-piece animation of Isagi that follows is genius. While I like the visuals of Misfit of Demon King Academy Season 2 and the uniqueness of NieR Automata more, the replayability for this Blue Lock opening is off the charts and I give it the artistic nod over Tokyo Revengers as well. It simply gets me way more excited for the new episode compared to the last three. Mix that in with wonderful colors, creative transitions, and Junichi Suwabe’s evil laugh near the beginning and we got ourselves one of the best openings from the Winter 2023 season.
6. Vinland Saga Season 2
Director: Yuusuke Sunouchi
Storyboard: Yuusuke Sunouchi
Animation Director: N/A
Sunounchi deserves a massive round of applause for giving us what is arguably the most visually stunning anime opening so far this year, even with the openings coming out for the Spring 2023 season. While the theme “River” by Anonymouz is fitting for the part of the story Vinland Saga is currently in, there’s so much involved in this opening on an animation and artistic level that it’s impossible to fit it all in this article without making it extremely long. Truthfully, Vinland Saga Season 2 reached this high on the list for art and animation alone.
The composition is beautiful. The animation is crisp. And it feels like a fresh new anime opening we haven’t seen before. Not a single shot in this opening misses and it gives us some of the most impressive transitions I’ve recently seen in an opening. The abstract visuals transitioning into one another between 0:57-1:15 still blows my mind every time I watch it. It’s even more mind-blowing when you find out this is just Sunouchi’s second time directing an anime opening (on record), the other being the first opening for Ace Attorney. And anyone who watches that opening knows that Sunouchi has a knack for transitions.
5. Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 3
Animation Director: N/A
Yes, Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 3 made the list last season and, yes, it’s back again on this season’s list because it deserves to be here. While last season I argued that “Giri Giri” by FANTASTICS from EXILE TRIBE is the most catchy song on the list, this time around it may not be the case. The animation in this opening still remained crisp as ever even when compared to other openings here so it rightfully retains its #5 spot from last season’s list.
The color design is arguably the best here and is a major strong suit for the opening. All the characters are shown in a way that’s unique to them and them only. Then it gives you that little bit of “I wonder what’s going to happen this episode” and “I need to see [insert character name] go off!”, making it a great all-around opening that anyone can appreciate whether they watch the series or not.
It leaves you hyped for the episode and it immediately puts you in a good mood. Plus, you can’t help but sing that chorus—admit it. It’s truly a shame there are still no director or storyboard credits for this opening even at this point. But I’d love to mention how magnificent the storyboard for this is, especially from every frame onward after the chorus hits at 0:57 and all the way to the end. When you watch closely, your eyes are constantly focused on the center of the screen transitioning and leading your eyes to the next character. Then when Junko shoots her arrow up at 1:11 it transitions to Ameri leaping up, coming down for a kick, then looking off in the direction of the entire Misfit Class. The flow of this opening from beginning to end is absolutely mesmerizing.
4. Tsurune Season 2
Director: Takuya Yamamura
Storyboard: Takuya Yamamura
Animation Director: Miku Kadowaki
Is it going too far to say that Kyoto Animation can do no wrong? Well, if it is, I’m still going to keep saying it because this opening for Tsurune Season 2 is visually mesmerizing. You can just feel the love and care that went into each frame of this opening. The level of detail is astonishing and the camera work in this opening is undoubtedly the best out of all the openings here. While there are some cool moments in these openings with camera work, Tsurune Season 2 went above and beyond that giving us an absolute stunner all the way through.
But it’s no surprise with Yamamura directing and storyboarding the opening. He also had the same roles for the first season of Tsurune and K-On! as well. While the theme song “°C” by Luck Life may not be the best from this list, it damn sure is a very good one and matches the overall feel of Tsurune perfectly. But it’s not just the camera work or the song. It’s the reflections in the wood. The particles flying as they let go of their arrows. It’s the subtlety of an opening that shouldn’t have much movement or grace to it but it does. The importance of detail is reflective of the series itself and brings out the wonder that the sport of kyudo brings in this series. If I had to describe this opening in one word it would be “magnificent”.
3. Trigun Stampede
Animation Director: N/A
What is probably the most unique opening on this list next to Vinland Saga Season 2, Trigun Stampede‘s OP took a little getting used to at first. But after about the third or so episode, the opening grows on you in ways you’d never think. Its visuals are unlike any other on the list and the use of overlays with Vash running through a sandstorm in the desert presented as living through his nightmares is a nice touch. The way over everything that holds meaning to Vash falling into the sand and disappearing is a significant display of symbolism in an opening that is rarely seen nowadays.
The theme song “TOMBI” by Kvi Baba becomes stuck in viewers’ heads the more and more it plays and it even saw itself make Crunchyroll’s Top 5 openings for the season as well, despite the series not being as well known as others from the Winter 2023 season. There’s one moment at 1:13 from the opening where the sand actually beats along with the bass from the instrumental too. It’s very sudden but a nice little detail among many others that just make this Trigun Stampede OP one of the best from last season. It’s unique. The animation is fluid and the visuals look amazing the more and more you look at the details. Not to mention, the song will have you looping this opening over and over again.
Moreover, the lyrics and vibe of the music fit Trigun Stampede to a T. It would’ve been awkward had this series revived the opening from the original Trigun series. This opening gave Trigun Stampede its own staple letting viewers know that this isn’t the same Trigun they once knew. There are no other characters in this opening besides Vash, making it the only opening on this list that solely focused on the main character—a feature that I absolutely love.
2. My Hero Academia Season 6 (OP2)
Director: Tsuyoshi Tobita
Storyboard: Yutaka Nakamura, Naomi Nakayama
Animation Director: Yuuki Hayashi
If you want to make the argument that this should be the bonified #1 opening from the Winter 2023 season, I won’t argue with you because you might possibly be right. In fact, this could be argued as the best My Hero Academia opening since the series first began from both an animation and theme song standpoint. I’m at the point now with Eve where I think whenever I see that he’s performing an opening, or ending, theme that it’s going to be incredible no matter what. Since hitting the mainstream with his opening theme for Jujutsu Kaisen, Eve has delivered time and time again. In fact, this might be the best opening theme song of the entire list.
This just feels like a My Hero Academia opening and I can’t describe it. But any fans of the series reading this are probably nodding their head in agreement with that line too. Sakuga enthusiasts loved it. My Hero Academia fans loved it. And even those that are not big fans of the series loved it. There is reason after reason as to why this is one of the most viewed openings of the year so far. While a critique of the first opening from this season was that it didn’t fit the mood of the current events in the series, this opening flips that and completely fits on all levels, including the color palettes used in certain sequences.
Yutaka Nakamura working on the storyboard and animation for this opening is all we needed to know. One of the most prolific animators who has also worked on series such as Mob Psycho 100, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is also joined by Yuuta Kiso, who animated my favorite shot of the entire opening with the broken glass revealing Lady Nagant. The rest of the sequence below is credited to Nakamura himself.
1. Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4
Director: Nobutaka Yoda, Takayuki Yamamoto
Storyboard: Nobutaka Yoda
Animation Director: Nobuhiro Arai
Nobutaka Yoda has done it again, ladies and gentlemen. The veteran animator returns to direct and storyboard the latest Bungo Stray Dogs opening and it is downright perfect in every sense of the word. Yoda landed at the #1 spot in Summer 2022 for directing and storyboarding the opening for the Dr. Stone: Ryusui Special and he’s back again this season giving us this gem for Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4. Despite most of this list having different directors and storyboard artists, Yoda took up the mantle handling both with Arai by his side as the animation director.
When you grow to be a fan of someone over the course of a certain period of time, you just know their new work when you see it. And after becoming an avid fan of Yoda’s work, it’s easy to pick out when he’s worked on an opening or not. His love of stunning sunsets, overlays, and obvious use of the rule of thirds that frames characters with their surroundings in so many of his shots makes his work stand out above the rest. His work on openings continues to be visually stunning.
Having SCREEN Mode perform their very first opening for the series after handling the ending themes for the past three seasons was indeed music to my ears. One thing that a good opening needs is not only a great theme song but a great theme song that fits the mood of the story and where the anime is presently at. And TRUE STORY is a home-run way out of the ballpark.
Yoda is known throughout his OP directing experience to have a lot of still visuals (for the most part) yet is still able to make them look incredible. So bringing on board animator Kouta Mori to reign in the chorus with the fight sequence between Akutagawa and Atsushi versus Fukuchi made the opening that much more hype. That’s what a great opening needs, not just the perfect theme song, but for a hard-hitting animation sequence to hit when the chorus drops, especially for a series like Bungo Stray Dogs.
Your Favorite Anime Opening From Fall 2022?
While this list was no doubt tough to make, Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4 is my best opening for the 2023 Winter Season. So what was your favorite opening this season? Did yours not make the list? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to vote for your favorite anime in this week’s poll! Reminder, you can vote for more than just one series!
Featured image: © Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/”Blue Lock” Production Committee