LOST PLANET ANIME
June 6, 2015 posted by Charles Brubaker

Top 5 Anime Openings

There’s one thing that’s always there in most TV shows, the theme song. They’re there to get us hyped for the show, setting the mood for what’s about to come. Whether it’s the catchy music or because you can’t get the lyrics out of your head, if you like the show you are bound to associate the song with whatever show it’s aired with.

In Japan, anime theme songs are a serious business, and arguably it’s an industry of itself. In modern times, it’s common for record companies to pay studios to use one of their songs (especially if the show’s voice actor sings in it) to play as the show’s theme song. As a result, it’s common for newer shows to have theme songs that have very little to do with the series itself. But back in the day, as recent as the 1990s, theme songs were often written for the show, and is meant to be related to what the show is about. I want to highlight those theme songs.

Now, like all “Top 5” lists, these are subjective and are entirely based on on my own personal taste. But I feel that these anime openings deserves a look.

kaibutsu3001. Kaibutsu Kun
Aired April 21, 1968-March 23, 1969 on TBS
Produced by Studio Zero (odd-numbered episodes) and TMS Entertainment (even-numbered episodes)

Most anime are based on a manga, but this is one of the few that actually acknowledges the source material. The intro, which I believe was animated at Studio Zero, shows a comic page, where the camera pans to different panels, showing Kaibutsu Kun beating up Godzilla-like monsters while Dracula, Werewolf, and Franken cheers. The bragging theme song that has the main character singing how awesome he is plays as this goes on.

There are actually two versions of this intro. The first version, used in episodes 1-6, is one long camera pan, moving from one panel to the next without any scene cutting until the very end. They re-shot the opening for the later episodes, where they actually cut to different panels. My guess for the re-shoot is so the animation timing actually matches to the music, as well as correcting some animation mistakes and cel-painting errors. In some shots, the Werewolf’s hands are painted wrong, causing a flicker; this was corrected in the re-shot version.

I’m wondering how the camera pan in the first version was filmed. I was told that Japanese camera stands were designed differently than the typical Oxford camera American studios used, but even then I’m trying to figure out how they laid the whole thing out. Any animation peeps reading this want to take a guess?

Here are both versions of the intro:



2. Ganso Tensai Bakabon
Aired October 6, 1975-September 26, 1977 on Nippon Television
Produced by TMS Entertainment

After a short-lived first series, TMS decided to give the “Tensai Bakabon” franchise another shot, this time trying to be close to the original comic. And they succeeded, with the second series running longer than the first. To this day, fans still declare this to be the best of the four TV shows.

The opening was directed by Osamu Dezaki and it perfectly captures the anarchic tone of the comic, with nonsense lyrics (“A dragonfly and a frog got married. Thus, dragon frog”), shots of chaos and destruction, and bright, vivid colors.



3. Hustle Punch
Aired November 1, 1965-April 25, 1966 on NET
Produced by Toei Animation

Before he co-founded Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata was just another director working in made-for-TV anime. At Toei, he was seemingly used whenever the studio needed a director for opening title sequence. One of those titles that he did was Hustle Punch, which gives us a glimpse of what we’re going to see, where Punch and his friends try to outwith Professor Gari-Gari and his henchmen. The bright and upbeat theme song also makes it a very entertaining intro.



4. Goku no Daiboken
Aired January 7-September 30, 1967 on Fuji Television
Produced by Mushi Production

Osamu Tezuka’s version of “Journey to the West” had a TV version that had little resemblance to the comic he drew, but made for a funny show. Like most openings, the animation here is better than how most episodes looked, but it still perfectly captures the insanity of the style with a lot going on. Very fast-paced.



pyuta

5. Fight!! Pyuta
Aired April 6-September 28, 1968 on MBS
Produced by Hoso Doga

A short-lived series about a boy and his inventor grandfather, who creates devices that enables them to go on adventures, while always being followed by the villain Warusa the 7th and his thick-headed assistant Braky.

The opening is, for its time, very fast-paced and very bizarre. You’d have to freeze-frame certain parts just to see and process what just happened, so I wonder how the viewers felt about it in the 1960s, before VCRs and the ilk existed.


21 Comments

  • The hero in Fight!! Pyuta when he’s hanging on the title,looks like he’s trying to..um,forget it. Great theme song though.

  • One of the reasons that I became so devoted to Japanese TV animation when I first discovered it was that the Japanese seemed to take it so seriously. A prime example was my discovery that Nippon Columbia had just released a de luxe 4-lp record set of EVERY JAPANESE ANIMATED TV THEME SONG EVER WRITTEN!: “The March of TV Cartoon Theme Songs”, October 1977. It included both the opening AND closing theme songs; 40 X 2 = 80 songs, including a few non-animated tokusatsu theme songs like “Kamen Rider” and “Go Rangers” to fill the set. Sure, it was a commercial release to make money, but it wouldn’t have been produced if there hadn’t been a market for it. Japanese animation fandom (in Japan) wasn’t that large, so this meant that the general Japanese public cared about anime TV music. Can you imagine the American public caring about an expensive complete collection of TV cartoon theme songs? I almost bankrupted myself mail-ordering it from Japan through Melody Records, a little mom-&-pop music store in a Japanese neighborhood, but boy!, was it worth it! I spent hours listening to the songs, which were so great. I was delighted by how many of the composers had taken the opportunity to play with American themes, such as “Sally the Witch” which was Dixieland jazz, and “Wansa-kun” which was a 1920s-style Charleston. A couple of the songs for adventure cartoons sounded like 1930s Imperial Japanese Navy military marches, and almost anything sung in Isao Sasaki’s thundering baritone sounded positively operatic. Wow! Ah, memories; memories!

    • I’m sure you had a ball with this Fred, that’s how it felt to me first discovering these years ago as MP3′s in the late 90′s/early 2000′s.

      It is rather interesting such a thing never existed in the US (Some European countries had something similar like in France and Italy). Could you imaging Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng, Filmation or someone else putting out such a collection back then, say a compilation of the theme tunes for that particular Saturday morning line-up of ’77. In theory that seemed like a cool idea but there wasn’t simply a market for it ever sought.

    • I really should give credit to Melody Records, in Gardena, CA in the 1970s & ’80s, for supplying me with Japanese anime music. Those were the days of pre-CD l.p. vinyl platters. Once the Japanese mom-&-pop owners (mostly “mom”; “pop” was usually incapacitated with a chain-smoker’s non-stop hacking cough) discovered that I was a sure market for any anime music, they automatically ordered any new animation-music l.p. that came out in Japan — and there was a lot, almost all from Nippon Columbia. Melody Records also sold me a lot of non-anime Japanese records over the years. The Far East Family Band’s “The Cave Down To The Earth” was a favorite. Nippon Columbia also produced several tokusatsu live-action l.p.’s. There was a good one of the music for the Toei live-action TV series of “The Amazing Spider-Man” (licensed from Marvel Comics) orchestrated into a jazz symphonic suite.

  • Come on Andrew! No shame in saying the hero is having a REALLY good time with the title logo! :-P

    • Wow, you definitely can’t unsee that…

    • It’s the “love” of “Love and War”. :-P

    • Yes,I think he is. I’ve never seen a single episode of this show but it looks like a predecessor to Dr. Slump. I wonder if Akira Toriyama watched it as a kid.

  • I’m a little disappointed that the 1979 opening for “Doraemon” wasn’t included in the list. While not as crazy as the openings above, I still find it memorable nonetheless, with the main characters flying around the world with their bamboo caps. It was the first time I ever seen the anime back in 2000, when I was at the Boston Children’s Museum.

  • Wow, some of these openings are excellent; the coloring in the Goku no Daiboken are breathtaking. Had these aired on America TV, I certainly would of gave them a chance.

  • Here are my Top 5 Anime Openings (The originals that aren’t “Americanized” to Death by the Producers and Distributors who bought the rights to broadcasted in the West (mainly the English speaking countries since other countries usually broadcast the Anime with their original opening with the language of the country which the anime was broadcasted in)

    (1) Astro Boy 1962 (found the original instrumental version on YouTube)
    (2) Chibi Maruku Chan (Second Season 1999 a surrealistic opening featuring a Victorian Bicycle, Jesters a Alice in Wonderland moment with Maruku in a hall of mirrors and a Steampunk style Flying Fish ! Note that the theme had a few bars from the opening from That Girl following a light jazzy style featuring two female singers that reminded me of Patience & Prudence who were a popular pop duo from the 1950′s)
    (3) Space Cruiser Yamato (1984 aka Star Blazers which was the only anime ever to be shown in Japanese & English {Locally here in SoCal KCOP TV 13 shown Star Blazers and KSCI 18 shown Space Cruiser Yamato in Japanese and totally complete too! I love it how they had a all male chorus mainly baritone and bass singers singing the theme of Space Cruiser Yamato/StarBlazers)
    (4) Samurai Pizza Cats 1990 (This was totally different that the Saban version due to when they sent the original print to Saban Productions they didn’t sent the original scripts to the series so Saban had to literally ad lib the scenes of the series including the opening. The Original Opening to “SPC” can also be found on YouTube .
    (5) Dragon Ball (1992 This was also different than the Americanized version distributed by Funmation Productions (saw the original version on XHGC TV 5 in Mexico City (via big dish satellite) and it was so popular that they (XHGC TV 5) made a “music video” of the Dragon Ball theme to use during the commercial breaks.)

    • I don’t have any inside information about “Samurai Pizza Cats”, but I can believe that the American producers told Tatsunoko something like, “Don’t bother to send us the original scripts for the episodes. We’ll rewrite ‘em so much to Americanize them that we’ll just watch the animation and write our own scripts rather than try to adapt the Japanese originals.”

      However, Tatsunoko WOULD have sent its theme music without dialogue. Haim Saban was notorious for throwing out the original theme music to foreign TV series that he bought, composing his own themes, and charging the TV buyers for them. They weren’t bad, but they usually weren’t as good as the originals. “Samurai Pizza Cats”certainly wasn’t. Listen to the original music for “Cats Tenanden Teyande” if you can. Its videos were a favorite at the C/FO fan club meetings.

    • It would help if I linked to it here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvzTU5vF_lM

    • I don’t have any inside information about “Samurai Pizza Cats”, but I can believe that the American producers told Tatsunoko something like, “Don’t bother to send us the original scripts for the episodes. We’ll rewrite ‘em so much to Americanize them that we’ll just watch the animation and write our own scripts rather than try to adapt the Japanese originals.”

      Pretty much the order of the day.

      However, Tatsunoko WOULD have sent its theme music without dialogue. Haim Saban was notorious for throwing out the original theme music to foreign TV series that he bought, composing his own themes, and charging the TV buyers for them. They weren’t bad, but they usually weren’t as good as the originals. “Samurai Pizza Cats”certainly wasn’t. Listen to the original music for “Cats Tenanden Teyande” if you can. Its videos were a favorite at the C/FO fan club meetings.

      It was a shame they had to go to great lengths to leave their signature on these.

      I think that Dragon Ball intro that was aired in Mexico was the version Harmony Gold had for their handling of the series during the late 80′s/early 90′s. I will say not bad for at least keeping the original score.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROcEFYYRVZk

    • How many noticed that when the cats come out of their pizza shop in the opening credits, its signage is in English amidst all the Japanese in Neo-Edo? “Pizza Cats” and “Welcome Pizza Cats”. And the three cats are dressed in Red, White, & Blue — they were AMERICAN ninja cats! (Turned into samurai cats for the dumb Americans who could never tell the difference between samurai and ninjatai.)

      Don’t ask me why they were supposed to be Americans. “Cats Ninden Teyande” wasn’t Tatsunoko’s most serious program — not that it ever had a really serious program, even when it was producing a tearjerker like “Hutch the Honeybee”.

    • Don’t ask me why they were supposed to be Americans. “Cats Ninden Teyande” wasn’t Tatsunoko’s most serious program — not that it ever had a really serious program, even when it was producing a tearjerker like “Hutch the Honeybee”.

      Enough interest though for one video company to land the rights to release both the original and Amiericanized versions of said show on DVD a few years back, but yes, extremely silly.

    • Just to set the record straight here about Samurai Pizza Cats and whether they had scripts…

      I have talked with one of the people who adapted the show, Robert Axelrod. He told me that they did, in fact, get scripts from Tatsunoko. They were badly-translated, but they were scripts nonetheless.

  • No list is complete without Cowboy Bebop’s “Tank!”

    • Yes!!! I love Tank! By the Seat Belts with its awesome jazzy kick @$$ big band style which was used through out Cowboy Bebop. I found the original OST on Amazon a few years ago. The Cowboy Bebop OST is also on iTunes.

    • If you liked the music in “Cowboy Bebop”, you have to give credit to Yoko Kanno for composing it; and I think that she hand-picked the members of the Seat Belts band. All of her music is great. There was some anime fan convention (Anime Expo?) that wanted to bring her to America as its Guest of Honor, but they were told that they’d never get her. They asked anyway, and she said, “Sure — if you’ll pay my way to the San Diego Zoo while I’m in America.”

  • Long-time reader, first-time commenter…

    I don’t see how you could make a “Top 5 Anime Openings” list without at least one selection from Nobuyoshi Koshibe. The man wrote some of the best anime theme songs: the themes to “Speed Racer,” “Hutch the Honeybee,” “Kashi no Ki Mokku,” “Kerokko Demetan”… All of them are terrific pieces of music in and of themselves.

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