My Favorite Anime Opening Themes From the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s

It’s been quite a while since I last did a Top 5 list, but I came up with an idea for one and decided that I wanted to write this up and share it. This time around, this is a listing of my six favorite anime opening themes that came out between the 1970’s and 1990’s. Yes, I couldn’t limit it to just five.

Instead of publishing the list as a Top 5 list, I will be sharing my favorites by organizing them by alphabetical order. I will be using the song titles to alphabetize the list.

For whatever reason, WordPress is not allowing me to embed YouTube videos into my post. Instead, I have made the title of each song a link to a YouTube video.

Hironobu Kageyama – “CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA” (Dragon Ball Z)

Most readers should recognize this song as the first opening theme for the Dragon Ball Z anime. It’s hard to believe, but this theme song first came out in 1989, when the first episode of Dragon Ball Z premiered in Japan.

One thing I can say about this song is that it doesn’t sound dated at all. You can’t hear it and immediately go, “That sounds like something that was written and recorded in the late 1980’s.” It sounds just as fresh now as it did 31(!) years ago. And I can’t neglect to mention that this song is extremely catchy.

Yoko Takahashi – “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” (Neon Genesis Evangelion)

When I watched the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, this song grabbed me the first time I heard it. I love how catchy and upbeat this song is, but it doesn’t prepare you for the content of the series or how the story evolves over the course of the series. LOL!

In all seriousness, though, I like how the song starts out kind of slow and minimal, and then it explodes into such an upbeat and catchy tune. Unlike “CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA,” though, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” does sound a bit dated when you listen to it now. While this sound worked for an anime theme song in the mid-1990’s, you wouldn’t hear something like this as a theme song in today’s anime. Sounding dated doesn’t make it a bad song, though.

Etsuko Nishio – “Don’t Make Me Wild Like You” (Ranma 1/2)

This was the first opening theme song for the Ranma 1/2 anime when it premiered in Japan in 1989. Sonically, this song works so well with the images that accompany it. Also, the sound of this song perfectly captures just how crazy and chaotic the Ranma 1/2 anime can get.

Of all the opening themes for the Ranma 1/2 anime, this one is by far my favorite. Sure, it sounds dated, but it’s still incredibly catchy and fun. You can’t help but move in time with it when you hear it.

Sasaki Isao & The Royal Knights – “Space Battleship Yamato [Opening Theme]” (Space Battleship Yamato)

This is the opening theme for the first Space Battleship Yamato anime in Japan, and this is the oldest song to appear on this list. Of course, I first heard this in the American version back in the early 1980’s when I watched Star Blazers as a kid. Years later, when I got to hear the original Japanese version, I loved the song even more.

Both versions utilize the same music, which has a sound reminiscent of a military march fused with a 1970’s disco feel. Between the English and Japanese versions, I prefer Sasaki Isao’s vocal performance over the English singer. Isao has a great voice, and you can hear why he continues to be a voice associated with the Space Battleship Yamato franchise all these years later.

Seatbelts – “Tank!” (Cowboy Bebop)

This anime theme song, composed by Yoko Kanno, is a standout for so many reasons. For one, it’s a jazz sound instead of the usual rock or pop sound associated with anime opening themes. And second, it’s an instrumental, which is on the unusual side for an anime opening theme song.

But it’s not just those differences that make this stand out. It’s also a great and catchy song in its own right. It’s really not surprising that “Tank!” is considered to be a standout anime opening theme song.

Hiroshi Kitadani – “We Are!” (One Piece)

“We Are!” is a song strongly associated with the One Piece franchise and has had several different versions used as an opening theme during its run, but the original version by Hiroshi Kitadani remains my favorite. It’s hard to believe that this song, along with the first episode of One Piece, premiered in Japan in 1999(!).

This song gets the viewer pumped and excited for what’s to come in the series. It’s just so catchy and so memorable, and it easily gets stuck in your head. Not that I’m complaining about this being an earworm, though. If I have to get a song stuck in my head, “We Are!” is one I wouldn’t mind hearing over and over.

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