When there are approximately a million new anime shows being made every season, the first episode has become more important than ever. When you talk about the best anime opening episodes, you’re looking at the shows that draw you in and tell you enough about the world and the characters to make you want to come back for more.
Does the rest of the show always stack up to what they lead with? Not always. Sometimes that first taste is the sweetest, but that’s okay. Here is our list of the best anime opening episodes and what makes them so good.
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt
I’ve mentioned this show before and how it is a beautiful bundle of chaos. Most of the episodes are fairly stand-alone until the last few episodes when they make an attempt at continuity. Panty and Stocking get a summons to fight a ghost. They try to get out of doing their work until Garterbelt comes and shouts at them. The two angel sisters go kill the ghost in an over-the-top and lewd way. Rinse and repeat.
The first episode isn’t much different from this formula, so why is it one of the best anime opening episodes? Simply because it happens to also be the funniest episode in a show that is filled with hilarious moments. The angels have to fight a literal mountain of poop being controlled by a ghost. There are ample puns and literal toilet humour to be found, but it works to introduce the concept of the show and the level of humour you should expect.
Yu Yu Hakusho
It is always a bold move to kill off your main character in the first episode of an anime, but that’s what happens in Yu Yu Hakusho. The classic shounen manga and anime follows the adventures of Yusuke Urameshi, a punk kid who seems to stumble into the job of becoming a Spirit Detective and protecting humanity from otherworldly threats.
What made this one of the best anime opening episodes of all time wasn’t so much the fact that Yusuke died rather unceremoniously. Instead, it was everything leading up to his death that made that moment pay off so well. We’re treated to an average day of a juvenile delinquent in Japan. Cutting school, getting into fights, teasing the obvious love interest. Yusuke spends his time generally just being up to no good until his very last act as a living soul: saving a young boy from being hit by a car.
That moment told us all we needed to know about him. He was loud and brash and a real pain in the backside, but he also cared about people, and would protect them without thinking.
Attack on Titan
Every anime fan has seen at least some of Attack on Titan and while it isn’t a show I particularly enjoyed, it is hard to argue with how effective its first episode is. We get a few idyllic scenes of life within the walls, with the assumed safety and comfort that they provide, before that sense of safety is completely destroyed by the Colossal Titan crashing their way in.
What follows is an assault that is heavy on gore and high on tension. This is one of the best anime opening episodes because it gives us the sense of utter hopelessness that made Attack on Titan one of the biggest shows of the last several years. The mad panic to escape the slaughter followed by the grim realisation that the safety they enjoyed was never real to begin with? It sets up the rest of the show in a wonderful way.
What are your personal best anime opening episodes? Let us know down in the comments — or pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
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