For the past couple of years, I’ve been using my Twitter to bring the world a deeply objective and inarguable list of the best 12 anime OPs and EDs of the year. However, for what I hope are obvious reasons, I’ve been feeling disinclined from tweeting so much lately. So, instead, I’m hijacking the blog here. This is a public service after all, so it’s gotta get out in the world somehow.
Since there’s so many (and honestly because the links could be taken down whenever the mood strikes these channels), I haven’t embedded the videos, but you can find the link to each at the top of their section.
Now, get ready, because this was a startlingly good year.
Rank 12 ED: “BE ME” – Arknights
I appreciate the gall of Arknights to take itself 100% seriously and commit fully to this cinematic approach of adaptation, letterboxing and all. It fits pretty well with how its source game positions itself among other gatcha games, from my outsider perspective. Prestige-y despite everything that should make it not prestige-y.
Anyway, that’s mostly beside the point. What really brings this ED to the list is its lovely color palette. Bright tones and strong shadows combine to make every frame a lovely, memorable image on its own. And the emotional song helps too, of course.
Rank 12 OP: “Kick Back” – Chainsaw Man
Oh boy, I’m making some upsetting choices from the get-go, aren’t I? This is still one of the best 12 OPs of the year out of more than 100 or so probably, nobody is allowed to get mad at me.
All three of this year’s Shingo Yamashita-directed OPs are on this list, and they’re all obviously great — Chainsaw Man’s just happens to be my least favorite of them. A weaker Yamashita OP is still a Yamashita OP. The guy is just really good at this. And managing to make something relatively coherent out of the mix of horror, comedy, action, and film references is no mean feat.
Rank 11 ED: “A Fine Day for Small Talk” – Komi Can’t Communicate
This ED is entirely comprised of two different scenes of after class, separated by time of year. It bursts with character and energy, creating a bustling room full of relationships and personalities. Anime is often incapable of reproducing this feeling 0- that’s simply too many characters to animate at once for a TV production. But with rotoscoping and an abstracted art style, it becomes possible for at least a minute and thirty seconds.
I especially love the details of characters putting on scarves, particularly the careful way Tadano puts on his at the end and how Kaede’s gets partly stuck under her backpack strap. It’s familiar to watch, as someone who regularly wears a huge scarf myself.
Rank 11 OP: “Daten” – Call of the Night
I’m deeply charmed by OPs (and EDs) that are also lyric videos. In this particular case, it actually fits well with the framing of the characters making/watching some kind of movie or music video within the sequence itself. And the variety of places where lyrics appear — upside down as signs in Kou’s room, within Nazuna’s eyes, etc — is so creative.
But even without that aspect, it’s a cool sequence with snappy timing, beautiful lighting and colors, and a catchy as hell song. I also love the atypical break in the middle of the song where the characters just silently stand around for a moment before everything hits off again.
Rank 10 ED: “My Nonfiction” – Kaguya-sama: Love is War
I went back and forth on including this one, since it’s a special one-off rather than a proper seasonal ED sequence. But Chainsaw Man was entirely special one-offs (stay tuned), so it only seemed fair. And, besides, I just can’t deny Miyuki and Chika’s rapping.
Seeing these character designs in a radically different style is a treat. Kaguya is a series that’s unafraid to play around with its presentation, but this is a step beyond what it’s done before. Director Vercreek was fully allowed to work with a team to show off their personal idiosyncrasies and create something special. And, ultimately, that’s the sort of thing that makes anime so appealing in the first place.
Rank 10 OP: “Gold” – Boruto
Boruto always manages to sneak up on me. The original Naruto and Shippuden have some of the best OPs and EDs in anime, so Boruto carrying on that tradition shouldn’t be a surprise. And yet, it absolutely is, every single time. They’re not all winners, but when they hit, they hit.
I mean, come on. Look at that screenshot of Sarada’s eyes. Gorgeous. The way the neon and rain mix together is nothing short of magical. Add some integrated credits, snazzy time lapses, and impressive action sequences, and you’ve got a classic shonen anime OP polished to a sheen.
Rank 9 ED: “Shitsuren Song Takusan Kiite Naite Bakari no Watashi wa Mou.” – Summertime Render
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 anyone? I’m kidding mostly. It’s really just the last couple shots of the ending that call it to mind. Also the extremely wordy title, I guess. Also the fact that Disney happens to have this particular show in jail. But that’s beside the point!
What I mean to say is, I have long been trained to feel deep nostalgia when dealing with the ocean in media, despite not really enjoying the beach in reality. As I write this in the middle of winter, this ED brings me back to the beautiful days of summer. Mild weather, sun and wind, the call of bugs, and the sound of the ocean. It’s not my own memory, but the vibes call it to mind all the same.
Rank 9 OP: “One” – Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho being this low should speak to the strength of this year overall. The show’s first and second OPs are masterpieces. But while the third season’s OP is suited to the finale of the show it’s attached to, it doesn’t quite match up on its own. That’s barely a put-down though.
I will always love Nobutaka Yoda’s most iconic approach — reshuffling existing footage and assets, perhaps combined with a few new cuts, to create something that feels entirely fresh. He’s like the best AMV maker in the world. And I genuinely mean that as a huge compliment, even though officially I should probably just say: “He’s a very good editor.”
Also, again, it’s a lyric video. That’s just fun.
Rank 8 ED: “DOGLAND” – Chainsaw Man
Despite only two of them making this list, the unique endings for each episode of Chainsaw Man were easily my favorite part of the anime project. If I were to expand this list, they’d probably make up a decent amount of the remaining top 20 EDs. Just like with Kaguya’s above, it’s fun to see small teams and individual creators allowed to go all out — such as with this photonegative combination of animation and live action footage.
It creates a sense of being within Denji’s dreams. Tight urban spaces, food, Makima, the demons he’s fought, and Pochita being out of reach combining into a surreal nightmare. Within an anime production, the live action almost serves to make everything feel less real. Or maybe just wrong.
However, those dogs are cute. Hope they’re doing well.
Rank 8 OP: “Souvenir” – Spy x Family
Tetsuro Araki, probably best known for his work on Attack on Titan, directed this second OP for Spy x Family and, honestly, it gets some bonus points for that. It’s exciting and refreshing to see Araki lead something that radiates sincerity and warmth, considering it’s just not something he specializes in most of the time. He did Bubble earlier this year, but that isn’t quite this pure in approach.
The stark difference in cool tones and darkness when the Forgers are alone, and the color and light that overwhelms the screen when they’re together gets to the heart of this show. It’s almost too much. But it’s so straightforward about it that it manages to avoid feeling the least bit cloying. Plus, you gotta love some Bump of Chicken.
Rank 7 ED: “Comedy” – Spy x Family
Ah yes, dancing. My number one weakness. In a lot of ways, this ED hits the same theme as the OP directly above, although it’s much more mellow about it. Loid and Yor’s true colors and faces are only allowed out when they’re with Anya, especially once they’re all together within their home. It’s simple and fun.
Before that part though, I also love the sketchiness that makes up Anya’s imagination. Despite her psychic abilities, Anya’s still a child after all. The way she moves through the world is full of curiosity and playfulness and, sometimes, a touch of loneliness.
Did I mention they dance?
Rank 7 OP: “Dokidoki Idea wo Yoroshiku!” – Do It Yourself!
DID I MENTION THEY DANCE? Sorry, I’m sorry.
DIY already has incredibly loosey-goosey character designs in the show proper, and they’ve somehow made them even loosey-goosey-er in this OP. They’re pure charm, distilled down to their essence. And they take full advantage of it to make this purely charming sequence.
It’s also appropriate that the OP is sung by the actresses for the main cast — I know it’s a standard thing, especially for club shows, but the whole point is “DIY” after all. You gotta love that thematic cohesion. It just makes the whole thing feel more personal.
Rank 6 ED: “Route BLUE” – Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie
They should make this into a real rhythm game. It’s too powerful of a concept to exist only in animation. The aesthetic already reminds me of Friday Night Funkin’ (except this one leans more into the cutsey side). Also, the chaos at the end is exactly like watching one of my little sisters play her Hatsune Miku rhythm game. Terrifying skill.
This ED also manages to display the core of Izumi and Shikimori’s relationship. Despite his impossible unluckiness and her princely manner, they’re both able to help each other out. Izumi’s just much less graceful at it. But that’s what makes them both “cuties”.
Rank 6 OP: “This Fffire” – Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
I tend to disconnect from sequences that are as minimalistic as this one, but I have to admire the ability here. The entire message of the show has been revealed: People will always lose to The City. As is the case in this OP, when it will literally shoot them in the face. I also appreciate the edit of the Franz Ferdinand song that completely cuts out the “I’m gonna burn this city” line. Commitment to the message. There will be no burning of The City.
With only a single thing to communicate, a lot of love can be given to the credits themselves. That’s something that’s quite important to me — the credits are the reason OPs and EDs exist at all, you know? Seeing Imaishi’s name flash around at the end is quite fun.
Rank 5 ED: “Touka Serenade” – The Executioner and Her Way of Life
Creating something so painterly out of something so anime is no small feat. I mean, Executioner itself is a pulpy yuri fantasy action show with blood and fanservice and a decent amount of edge. It’s very fun. But, at its heart, it’s a tragedy. This ED reaches into that heart and pulls it out.
In every one of these lists, there’s at least one cut of animation I could watch over and over again. Here, it’s the shot of Menou from the back. We see her through Akari’s perspective as she struggles to catch up. The way her long ponytail swings back and forth with each step, as the camera gets closer and closer, until we reach her and she disappears — it’s mesmerizing to me. Maybe it’s partially to do with how smoothly it’s synced to the music.
Rank 5 OP: “Mixed Nuts” – Spy x Family
I like Spy x Family well enough, but what got me to buy one of the shirts from the Uniqlo collection was my love of the designs in this OP. It’s meant to call to mind a more “of the era” animation style, and it absolutely succeeds at making it feel retro. However, it also feels perfect for the “display” of how the family presents themselves to the world. The regular style only returns when the song mentions their “secret”.
Masashi Ishihama is among my favorite directors, and he’s been in charge of many of my favorite OPs (including last year’s best OP of 2021 Horimiya). It is always a treat when I get to see his work. He makes making something like this seem effortless.
Rank 4 ED: “Tobira wo Akete Bell wo Narasou” – Yama No Susume
Truthfully, this is a whole series of beautiful EDs from Aninari that you should peruse through. I’ve linked the first one here since it’s my favorite of the bunch, but the appeal is consistent through them all. And honestly, the sheer scope of work involved here is staggering.
As is typical of Aninari, the animation here is full of weight and realistic motion that almost skirts into the uncanny valley — the ability to draw such life-full drawings is, again, staggering. I’ll keep repeating myself: just go watch all of these. Whether its in motion or a series of still drawings, it captures daily life and the girls’ hikes in full color.
Rank 4 OP: “Honey Jet Coaster” – Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie
There were actually a good number of OPs and EDs with a “in-sequence camera” section this year (and even going back to last year too), enough that you could probably classify it as a bonafide trend. That’s only the intro for Shikimori’s OP though, which is mostly about capturing the group dynamic and just how much Izumi and Shikimori like each other. Which is a lot, clearly.
Look, sometimes all you need to be a hit is to make me go “wow, pretty…” and that’s what this OP is all about. I’m not much into romance-focused anime overall, but I appreciate when an aesthetic goes all in on the sparkling, blossoming aesthetic.
Rank 3 ED: “In the Backroom” – Chainsaw Man
I think this is about how it would feel to be stuck in an endlessly looping hotel floor. Sometimes funny, sometimes scary, always deeply dreadful. The way this ED captures the feeling of being trapped, despite being able to keep moving forever is masterful. And it does so with creative animation and absolutely no subtlety. I mean, the Pietà? Yeah, sure, why not, throw that in there. There’s tons of less direct art references here too.
I especially love the motif of The Horse in Motion. It’s cute for a variety of reasons, some spoilery — there’s quite a lot in this ED that gestures towards future manga events actually. But the most immediately relevant is that it is also a limited, endless loop. Forever running. Never getting anywhere.
Rank 3 OP: “Naked Hero” – Ranking of Kings
When I watched this last winter, I was pretty confident nothing would beat it for the rest of the year. And, honestly, part of the reason it dropped in rank is unfair. I always try to judge these OPs mostly divorced from the context of the show. After all, I don’t even watch all of them. But the inclusion of Daida and the mirror right next to the parent/child relationship section makes me wonder if anyone told director Yamashita how that relationship shakes out. Spoiler: very weirdly.
Setting that aside, this OP genuinely rules. When I first watched it, it actually made me tear up all on its own. I still get a little pull in my chest at the end when Boji and Kage reach out to each other, and the music fades out to only the singer’s voice. The emotion that bursts forth from every moment of this OP is undeniable.
Rank 2 ED: “Cobalt” – Mob Psycho 100
Speaking of emotions, returning to the first season’s paint-on-glass approach (now featuring Mob’s routine instead of Reigen’s) is very unfair to mine. What do you mean the boy’s growing up??? That’s not fair, that’s making me feel old.
Putting any attachment aside, however, this ED has to be this high just for the artistry on display. Miyo Sato’s paint-on-glass and sand animations have created a unique feeling throughout the production of Mob, and it only feels appropriate to give her another showcase here at the end. The way it bursts into color at the end with a digitally-assisted rotation shot is the final flower on top.
Rank 2 OP: “Katachi” – Made in Abyss
Nothing could ever convince me to watch Made in Abyss. I am far too squeamish, and I find parts of the concept too fetishistic. But this OP makes a valiant effort to put what’s special about the show on display — the wonder of exploration, the cruelty of the world, and the beauty of fleeting moments.
This season covers two groups in two timelines. This OP places them in different parts of the screen, connecting and contrasting them before they pull together into a more unified sequence. It’s clever on its own, and I imagine it probably relates to the way the story itself is told within the season. That’s a guess though. Like I said, even this OP can’t catch me in its net.
Best ED of 2022: “Heart wa Oteage” – Kaguya-sama: Love is War
A sequel to the season one ED, a Starship Troopers recreation, a Princess Kaguya story including a callback to Miyuki’s declaration about the drink of immortality, a Bald Chika reveal – I mean, what more do you want? Kaguya’s at its best when it’s at its most eccentric and sincere. This sequence is pretty much the ideal of that.
Of course, it’s also beautifully animated and drawn, full of great expressions and lovely clothing folds. I especially love the volume on Miyuki’s outstretched hand as he jumps out to grab Kaguya. The slight twist just really sells the motion.
Best OP of 2022: “Aiue” – Urusei Yatsura
We finally reach the last Shingo Yamashita OP and probably the one that got the least notice, so far as I could tell. But I think Yamashita works best when he’s got a single theme or idea to work around and, in this case, it’s “Urusei Yatsura 2022.”
While the show itself is now a period piece, the OP imagines what a real modern version of the classic franchise might look like through an electricity-fueled hallucination. “Lum and Ataru do Tinder and TikTok” is comedic brilliance to me. Finally, the sequence in the middle that looks back through some of the classic pieces of UY media and artwork brings it all home. Did UY need a new modern reboot? Probably not, but I’m happy to get this OP out of it at the very least.
ALSO DID I MENTION SHE DAN–
Sorry, got dragged offstage there for a moment at the end, but I’m back to thank you very much for reading this until the end.
A few notable honorable mentions if you’re still craving more:
- My Hero Academia put out a great OP for the first time since the start of season 3
- Pop Team Epic sure is a thing
- Ya Boy Kongming is definitely the catchiest OP of the year
- The Chainsaw Man ED in 13th place, knocked out by another Chainsaw Man ED
- Nothing like ending an episode of Akiba Maid War with some enka
If you’d like to hear about our favorite games of 2022, make sure you check out the episode! Look forward to 2023’s best of list. The year is already starting strong.