Previously on Otaku Lounge, I wrote a post about my anime Top 5 Foreign Language Anime OPs. However, in order to try and keep the list as diverse as possible, I ended up discounting OPs that were performed in English by English native speakers. This is a companion piece to that post. (Admittedly, the title is something of a misnomer. It should really read something more along the lines of ‘Top 5 English-Language OPs Written and Performed by English Native Speakers’, but I quickly decided that was too much of a mouthful and went for the slightly less accurate version instead.)
5. Wolf’s Rain
Although all the music for Wolf’s Rain was composed by Kanno Yoko, the vocal songs are performed by a variety of artists, and the OP by American musician Steve Conte (with American lyricist Tim Jensen in charge of the writing). Given many of the rather depressing and post-apocalyptic themes of the series, ‘Stray’ is a relatively uplifting mid-tempo rock piece about living life the way you choose so that you have no regrets, no matter what may come. It’s also easy to tell that the song was written specifically for Wolf’s Rain; after all, what better lyrics could there be for a show about a pack of wolves, brought together largely by tragic circumstance, trying to leave the world’s poverty, violence, and corruption behind them and make their way to Paradise.
4. Serial Experiments Lain
Written and performed by British rock band bôa (not to be confused with Korean singer BoA), ‘Duvet’ sets an interesting mood to the compelling mindfuck that is Serial Experiments Lain. The opening spoken words aside, which I’ve always found to be decidedly creepy (likely just as intended), the song is a soft and beautifully understated piece that, rather than focusing on the heavy psychological and cyberspace themes of the show, deliver a message instead about something far more personable and human; the pain and sense of betrayal following a broken relationship. While quite slow paced, the song is also pretty catchy and has a nice, smooth feel thanks to the steady rhythm and lovely guitar work – to say nothing of the singer’s great vocal range.
Lucy Rose’s work is always intensely atmospheric and often comes with a heavy dose of bittersweet nostalgia, as though she’s singing parts of a very personal diary out loud. An English singer-songwriter, her particular style of folk – soulful, moody, and highly textured – sounds like a cross between Enya and early Coldplay. ‘Shiver’ is no exception to any of this. On the one hand, how and why the song came to be used for the OP of the second season of Mushishi is a mystery to me; the lyrics, about looking back at a love/hate romantic relationship and what might have been, have zero bearing whatsoever on the show’s content, which features no romance of any kind and indeed depicts very few human relationships at all. On the other hand, ‘Shiver’ is such a calm and soothing track that it nonetheless seems to fit oddly well with the general ambience of the series. While an interesting albeit unusual OP choice, it’s definitely one I can appreciate.
2. Eden of the East
I don’t know how exactly this came about, but Oasis is unaccountably popular in Japan, despite the vast majority of English-language rock bands being completely unknown by the average listener. Maybe it’s a specific classic English (as in the country) rock thing – after all, the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, and David Bowie have had huge followings here for decades. I can only assume someone on Eden of the East’s creative team was also a fan (although in order to avoid having to pay royalties and therefore literally double the release budget, ‘Falling Down’ was used only for the first episode of the U.S release). The track is definitely a catchy one, and dark and moody enough that I could actually imagine it being used for some old-school spy-thriller flick (which, given all the film references going on in Eden of the East, is entirely appropriate). The OP’s busy and arresting visuals are what really elevates it from ‘good’ to ‘great’ for me though, with plenty of symbolically rich flashes of text themed around religion, philosophy, and politics, and a great juxtaposition of monochrome backgrounds with bursts of magenta for much of the foreground artwork. You could analyze this one for days.
1. Ergo Proxy
Monoral, despite technically being a Japanese band in that they’re signed to Sony Music Japan, consists of two members who both speak fluent English and Japanese; the lead singer is a British national who was born in London and raised in France, while the bassist and guitarist is Japanese-American. Performed entirely in English, ‘Kiri’ is a solid alternative rock track, with the kind of artwork that perfectly encapsulates the band’s general post-grunge sound as well as the anime’s post-apocalyptic setting and deep-rooted psychological themes. As with Eden of the East, the visuals are the biggest stand-out element here for me; a real masterpiece of cinematography with its excellently-paced cuts, complex layering, and consistently recurring symbolism. It’s very clear to see that a lot of time and effort (and needless to say, money) went into this OP – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the most visually stunning anime OPs of all time regardless of language. Quite simply, it’s a superb piece of animation from beginning to end, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find that it tops many people’s lists as such.
Question of the post: Did I miss out on any of your favourites? Feel free to let me know what else might make an appearance on your own best-of list for English-language anime OPs in the comments.