Though anime has had some sort of presence in the US for decades, it wasn't until the turn of the century that we've seen so many titles hit the domestic market. Combined with the increasing number of conventions and other related events, this could be considered the decade when anime became almost mainstream. With that in mind, we've put together a list of ten opening and closing themes that made the animes of the '00s sound pretty cool.
1. Yoko Kanno “Inner Universe”
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (opening theme)
Yoko Kanno is the queen of anime tunes. She's responsible for what is quite possibly the greatest opening theme ever (“Tank!” from Cowboy Bebop) and follows that closely with our best of the decade pick. “Inner Universe” is a frantic techno trip topped by ethereal vocals. Was there really another choice for the top spot?
2. Jean-Jacque Bernal “We Were Lovers”
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (opening theme)
Gankutsuou has a lot going for it, a story based on the Dumas classic, a strangely hypnotic layered styled of animation, costume designs by Anna Sui and this perfect opening theme from Stranglers bassist Jean-Jacque Bernal. It's a pretty and sad piano piece, kind of like the anime itself.
3. Susumu Hirasawa “Dream Island Obsessional Park”
Paranoia Agent (opening theme)
Susumu Hirasawa's opening theme for Satoshi Kon's twisted and brilliant series Paranoia Agent is, frankly, epic. With sweeping synths and birds chirping, it sounds like bliss that will soon crash into a demented nightmare.
4. The RZA “Afro Theme”
Afro Samurai (opening theme)
With Afro Samurai, The RZA composed perhaps the coolest score heard in an anime this decade, but we're limiting ourselves to one piece of music and that's “Afro Theme,” which nicely encapsulates the themes of Takashi Okazaki's hip-hop samurai tale. Check out our piece from Anime Expo about the music that inspired Okazaki.
5. Roundtable featuring Nino “Let Me Be with You”
Chobits (opening theme)
There are weeks where I cannot shake the opening them from Chobits out of my mind. It's a cute, perky dance number in the vein of Shibuya-kei artists Pizzicato 5 and Fantastic Plastic Machine that's quite fitting for an anime so frequently described as cute.
6. The Delgados “The Light Before We Land”
Gunslinger Girl (opening theme)
Scottish indie band The Delgados might seem like an unusual choice for an anime theme, but the mournful tune “The Light Before We Land,” is a good match for the story of pre-teen assassins.
7. Aya Hirano, Minori Chihara, Yuko Goto “Hare Hare Yukai”
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (closing theme)
It's a silly song performed by the three main voice actresses of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but it's one that spawned a meme, with fans across the globe uploading videos of themselves mimicking the closing dance sequence. It's also a song that you may not be able to escape for days on end, even if you don't know Japanese.
8. iLL “Space Rock”
Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight Young Lovers (closing theme)
I'm still not sure who iLL is, as the band name seems to get lost in Google's vast expanse of information. However, this seven minute-plus song is an epic space rock jam with a noisy ending that reminds this writer of Spacemen 3.
9. Kumiko Noma “Lilium”
Elfen Lied (opening theme)
If you've never seen Elfen Lied, you should know that it's an extremely violent and strangely engrossing mindtrip. The blood and limbs of the series are juxtaposed with this opening theme from opera singer Kumiko Noma. Combining the haunting Latin number with Klimt-styled artwork, the opening sequence is almost eerier than the show itself.
10. Kanon Wakeshima “Still Doll”
Vampire Knight (closing theme)
Vampire Knight isn't even out in the US yet, but Kanon Wakeshima has already brought this closing theme to the States when she toured last summer. The cellist/singer is a protege of gothic Lolita icon Mana and this song has a spooky dance floor vibe that we can't resist.