Top 10 Nut-Clenchingly Awesome First Scenes of Anime

As many have pointed out in the past, anime has a bad habit when it comes to starting shows off. An opening episode of anime tends to start off almost grindingly slow, reserving the hook until after the commercial break. Why this has become such common practice is beyond me – when I went to go look for anime with good opening scenes, I was surprised to find a nice little handful, but infinitely more surprised at just what a small percentage that handful was.

And those weren’t even all ‘great’ ones. There are plenty of anime with decent action starts, which puts them above the usual fare, but they aren’t usually something to write home about. As such, I embarked on a search to find at least 10 anime with truly jaw-dropping opening moments. I didn’t include ones that wait a couple of minutes to blow things open (FLCL comes to mind) but strictly shows that grip onto your balls in the first couple of moments and get your attention so hard you can’t even help but glue yourself to the screen. These are my Top 10 Nut-Clenchingly Awesome First Scenes in Anime.

10. Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei

The opening moments of Zetsubou-sensei have become iconic. A beautifully-drawn cherry blossom forest in the dawn of Spring, the backdrop to a cute and sunny girl’s cheerful dance, but set to eerie music that helps to ingrain the image… of the main character hanging by the neck from a cherry tree. It cuts then into the hilariously unfinished opening video, leaving the viewer with only one thought in mind – what in the HELL just happened?! What am I watching?! The image of Fuura Kafuka gazing up at her hung sensei has become almost synonymous with the series itself.

9. Heartcatch Precure (watch here, safety not guaranteed)

Watching this opening is what inspired me to make this list – the show explodes into action with a gorgeously animated scene of two spectacularly designed fighters duking it out in a psychotropic wonderland of sorts. The almost absurdly dramatic music and brilliant directorial touches combine with the surprising art style to create an instantly engrossing scene, rife with exciting use of magical girl tropic dialog as if to say ‘hey mahou shoujo fans, you’re in for something good!’

8. Bakemonogatari

In perhaps Akiyuki Shinbo’s greatest teasing moment of random pointlessness, Bakemonogatari begins with a glorious slow-motion 10-second panty shot. And if that doesn’t catch your attention, it then uses a fake opening song to recap the entire series prequel long before the non-novel-reading audience has any idea what the fuck is going on, and does it with incredible violence and brutality. These opening moments had me more than glued enough to the screen to handle the next twenty minutes of almost non-stop impenetrable dialog.

7. Giant Robo

I almost feel like using Giant Robo is cheating because the awesome opening scene rides out for a full 10 minutes, but the first minute alone is more than enough to hook, and the proceeding events just seal the deal. Possibly anime’s greatest purely action-oriented opening scene, Giant Robo showcases stupendous animation, god-like directing prowess, and good old-fashioned giant robot fighting in far less time than almost any other show has managed.

6. Eden of the East

While I’m sure CAB ASS’N caught some people’s attention right off the bat, Eden of the East takes about 2 minutes to let the viewer adjust to the gorgeous animation before dropping one of the most memorable opening bombshells ever in the form of a naked man holding a cell phone and a gun in front of the White House. All logic and reason goes out the window after that – the transfixion on one special Johnny certainly turns the heads, and Eden’s audience was instantly sold.

(Continued on page 2.)

28 thoughts on “Top 10 Nut-Clenchingly Awesome First Scenes of Anime

  1. I think NGE has to be in this list, and Ghost in the Shell (are movies allowed?)

    You should do a worst list, but only include starts that prevent people from discovering the eventual gold in the show (e.g. Lucky Star).

    • I’m 90% sure someone is going to add Lucky Star to the best list with no irony (Patz loves it, for one). Don’t just say what has to be on the list, detail it! I find the very beginning of Evangelion not even slightly deserving of placement, so you better explain!

      And no, movies are not allowed, hence my not including Akira (but giving a visual homage).

      I like the worst list idea though.

  2. I don’t know if it’s one of the best, but I liked the pure, simple WTF of Mouryou no Hako’s first scene: Just two dudes chilling on a train, one of whom is talking to a box he has on his lap. After a noise comes from the box, the crazy guy is all, “Oh, you heard it?” whereupon he opens the box and there’s a fucking disembodied inside, looking around now that it is actually free to see something and making generally unintelligible noises. That scene nails a great atmosphere of waking up and seeing some really god damn weird.

    Giant Robo’s beginning had me hooked from the start (so much fun), and you’d have to be soulless to not love Haruhi’s opening.

    • I couldn’t remember how Mouryou no Hako started is why I didn’t include it, though it’s one of my favorite first eps ever. Now that I remember, it was great moment though~.

  3. For the time being, I’m going to just dispense with objecting to the whole concept of “top X” lists or saying “why was this included? / why wasn’t this included?” aka the only discussion that can ever really result from these things. I’ll let all that slide this time since rather than just write “how could you forget the opening scene of the Read or Die OAVs, man?!” I want to delve on a slightly different point:

    I understand the desire to try and make one’s articles interesting to a reader. But in so doing, you run the risk of going overboard, where enthusiastic hyperbole just becomes flat-out nonsense. The “top X” list style of article is particularly vulnerable to this, since you’re trying to put forth an argument that such-and-such is among the highest ranked of all there is. So when you say something like “Elfen Lied has the most famous opening scene of any anime for a damn good reason,” it gives me pause because the most famous opening scene of any anime…is one I couldn’t even remember.

    That was indeed my first reaction: “wait, what was the opening scene to that again?” And I’ve seen that show! I don’t think my reaction is an anomaly either. Elfen Lied certainly had a bit of a following as it was being fansubbed, enough that it got released on DVD in the US and did OK, but it didn’t set the world on fire (because it’s not very good). Once it was off the air, it was pretty quickly forgotten about. At least, I don’t see people at conventions or online still talking about it, aside from the occasional praise for its violence. It’s some cool violence, but alas it’s overshadowed by moe/incest type stuff which dominate the series running time.

    Regardless, this isn’t about one’s thoughts on Elfen Lied either way. The point is that even if you like something, how do you convince readers that a show from 5-6 years ago which relatively few people have seen has the most famous opening scene of any anime? That’s a totally different beast from just saying it’s “your favorite” or “the best.” “Most famous” is far less subjective a claim. There would need to be some sort of evidence presented. Surely something that’s “the most famous opening scene ever” would be more…well-known? The title graphic for this post is from the opening scene of Akira…which isn’t even include on the list! I understand that hardly any anime fans in 2010 have seen Akira, but that’s still remembered after 22 years, you know? Had you said the opening to that was “the most famous” opening anime scene of all time, I’d probably accept that on those grounds.

    You probably just got caught up in the moment while writing the piece, which is what tends to happen when writing these lists. You have to continually top yourself as you get to number one. While I’d prefer people do away with this list stuff entirely, that’s sadly not going to happen. So I’ll just advise that in the future it might be better to just omit the need for ranking them. Just do “ten” instead of “top ten.” I know, I know, doing so deprives you of the discussion and page views you’d get from the Internet Anime Autism Horde. But you’ll be better for it in the long run.

    • Name a more famous opening to an anime then?

      Elfen Lieds opening I’d heard about long before I knew anything else about the anime. It’s mentioned in 90% of reviews of the series and mentioned quite frequently when talking about OTT violence in any anime. Honestly, if someone had asked me the same question of what was the most famous opening to any anime, I’d have given the same answer

    • Daryl, nothing on this site makes any attempt at being objective. If you had ever read me before, you would know that. I am not trying to be definitive because I don’t give a fuck about definitivity or even anyone’s opinion but my own. At the start of this post I said “These are my Top 10 Nut-Clenchingly Awesome First Scenes in Anime.” the keyword there is ‘MY’.

      Do not judge the things I write without understanding me as a writer.

      Furthermore, my judgment about Elfen Lied’s opening scene is not wrong. Maybe you don’t see it talked about because you are focused on a hardcore anime scene. However, Elfen Lied is common knowledge to casual fans as well. I have met scores of people who know of Elfen Lied, and in my experience of reading hundreds of favorites lists, I have seen Elfen Lied in shit tons of favorites list, plus I’ve talked to many non-anime fans in my own hometown who have seen Elfen Lied. My judgment is not without basis.

      I know where you’re coming from, Daryl, because I feel the way you do, but don’t confuse me with every other blog doing a list like this. I am not every other blogger.

  4. I’d never forget the first episode of Haruhi, but thanks for refreshing my memory about the beginning of Bakemonogatari, Eden of the East, and Elfen Lied. Unfortunately Eden of the East didn’t shock me that much because I had already read a short summary of what happens in the first episode. And for Elfen Lied, even though a friend already told me how violent it was, it was still shocking. It would probably shock me again if I watched it again.

    What about the first episode of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni? That’s definitely one of my most shocking anime first scenes.

  5. The only other one I’d say really deserves to be on here is Gurren Lagann. Captain GARlock is a fucking legend. Sure, it never actually happened in the series, but DAMN was that opening scene amazing.

    .lolikappa

    • I considered entering TTGL but I don’t really think the scene made me think ‘this is already the awesomest show ever.’

        • I would post a link to the clip, because I do think it’s great, but youtube only seems to have it dubbed >_< anyway, it certainly is in the top percentage of anime beginnings.

  6. Tsuiokuhen and Giant Robo ftfw! This is a good list, but way too easy to personalize :)

    I feel the problem’s always existed. For every awesome opener there are 3 decent ones and five lame ones. And worse, it’s no indication of the quality of the overall show, although when I was younger it seemed to be :)

  7. One of the most memorable things about the Elfen Lied opening is its wonderful treatment of the comical dojikko stereotype. The way it handles the comical dojikko stereotype character is a marvel to behold.

  8. The Kenshin OVA opener really ingrained itself into me, mostly because that was one of the first shows I’ve ever seen and one with that high level of ultra-violence. Definitely unforgettable in every aspect, especially once Hiko comes in to save the day with his badassery!

    • Hell yes. That opening scene made it my favorite show ever at 13, haha. Hiko cutting the guy into 4ths is just classic.

  9. I must say I was surprised that Higurashi wasn’t included. The main character slaughtering two girls in a room with a baseball bat is pretty memorable; especially given the fact that all three are seemingly alive as soon as the opening finishes :p.

    Good choice for the ones there though. Can’t say I remember Haruhi’s opening scene, but I didn’t like the show so that’s probably my fault xD.

    (as for what was said above about Elfen Lied, it is still pretty well known. I mean even some of my friends who watch very few anime had seen it… And they showed a few episodes of it at Polymanga on Sunday evening, so it isn’t completely absent at conventions either)

    • The thing about Higurashi is, I think a lot of people didn’t know what the hell was going on at that scene. I’ve heard many people say how they ‘watched the first ep of Higurashi and thought it was just a cutesy slice-of-life show.’ I always want to ask these people if they somehow missed the opening scene. I did consider including it anyway, though.

  10. Samurai Champloo I though had a sweet first scene with Mugen and Jin already captured and about to be executed. While it wasn’t exactly the first scene, but when in Xam’d when the bus gets bombed. Tower of Druaga when Fatina gets captured by the ropper.

  11. Have you listened to the original enka version of that Taishou Yakyuu Musume song?

    Apparently it was really popular in Japan just before the time period when TYM takes place. I call that real love for the source material. :)

    Since somebody mentioned it, I do remember the start of the ROD OVA quite fondly.

    • Do I…… WANT to hear it?

      *listens* god damn it, I am going to favorite this, and then my brother is going to listen to it a million times.

      GOD DAMN YOU 2DT I ACTUALLY LOVE THIS

  12. Speaking of Futakoi Alternative — I am not sure what to think about it. It started completely rediculous with wtf factor set to 11. Then episode rolled around. Despite being psychiadelic, I thought it was surprisingly meloncholic and mature. I suppose if I am watching this currently I will just say that the studio can do both great comedy and great drama.

    Also, so that is where UFTable practiced clay animation for the glorious Mikan Straight ED.

  13. Pingback: Getting a Little More With Heartcatch Precure! « Fuzakenna!

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