The opening scenes are crucial for setting the narrative. In other words, they convey the main ideas or premises and introduce the viewer to the storyline.
They may not be the most interesting part of the movie, but they are extremely important and can sometimes make or break the first impression.
But by no means should a movie be judged based on just its opening scenes! Instead, it’s better to go back to them after watching the whole movie, as most of the opening scenes almost always contain hidden messages and deeper meaning.
Keep reading to find out the 30 best anime openings of all time!
30. Stand By Me Doraemon (2014)
This anime is the first 3D computer anime!
Only 7 episodes were picked for the anime movie, but it can be enjoyed by both adults and children.
The opening scenes show a little boy sleeping. Seamlessly, the sleeping scene switches to seeing him waking up in his dream, called by his friend. He then floats up in the sky and is woken up by his huge statue-like mom telling him it’s time for school.
29. Lupin The 3rd: The Castle Of Cagliostro (1979)
This anime film is also known as the first anime movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki!
In the opening scenes, we can see two characters escaping a casino with bags full of money. By the way, they are running and jumping, it’s easy to see the film is an adventurous comedy. They run away with a car so full of money, you can barely see their faces.
28. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
This anime is the first film directed by Hiromasa Yone Bayashi, and it’s based on the novel named The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
The opening scenes have a quite nostalgic vibe.
The film starts by showing us a blue sky embellished with clouds, while the intertitles are saying “I’ll never forget that summer.” We cannot see the narrator yet, but we can see the city and its streets filled with cars driving around. We might notice him driving in the car with his elder mother, and then looking at what appears to be his childhood home.
27. Porco Rosso (1992)
Another Miyazaki classic, this animated comedy adventure portrays 1930s Italy and its savior from pirates – Porco Rosso.
It is based on Hikotei Jidai (The Age of the Flying Boat), a three-part watercolor manga from 1989.
The opening scenes show Porco Rosso, an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, chilling alone somewhere in a bay in the Adriatic Sea. Someone calls him asking for help, and he agrees. This freelance bounty hunter rushes to save a school tour from pirates, but not for free though!
26. In This Corner Of The World (2016)
Set in Hiroshima during World War II., this animated wartime drama film is based on the manga of the same name.
Also known as Kono sekai no katasumi ni, this anti-war film is written and illustrated by Fumiyo Kōno.
In the idyllic opening scenes, we see a little girl, Suzu, getting ready to go deliver seaweed to Futaba. She travels by boat with another citizen, and we then find out she is replacing her elder brother who is sick. At the end of the opening scenes, we can see her alone again walking through a crowd in the marketplace.
25. Barefoot Gen (1983)
Written by Keiji Nakazawa, this Japanese historical manga series loosely depict his own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor.
The opening scenes portray 1945. war scenes, in which we can see a plane dropping bombs on peoples’ houses during the night. The opening scenes of this anime also explain the situation between the Japanese and the Americans.
It is a powerful anti-war statement and a disturbing story about the effect of the atomic bombs on the lives of the Japanese people.
24. To the Forest of Firefly Lights (2011)
Also known as Hotarubi no mori e, this Yuki Midorikawa’s anime is about a girl falling in love with a forest spirit.
Its’ opening scenes show us a beautiful, but misty forest full of flowers and spider webs. It also introduces us to the fact that the main character, Hotaru, is going somewhere. She says goodbye to her mother and waits at the bus station, thinking about someone she met there when she was six. She then proceeds to tell the story of how she got lost in a forest and was rescued by a spirit.
23. Tekkonkinkreet (2006)
Also known as “Black & White“, this film was based on a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto.
The plot is about 2 boys that defend Treasure Town from Yakuza.
The opening scenes are at first somewhat slow, but then become very fast-paced and hard to grasp. Even though it first starts with poetic intertitles, it then shows two orphaned kids, together known as the Cats. One is staring at a match, realizing the power fire holds. The perspective then switches to one of a bird, and we can see it flying rapidly through the city.
22. From Up On The Poppy Hill (2011)
Set in 1963 Yokohama, Japan, this animated film by Goro Miyazaki tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki.
This film starts with beautiful opening scenes that portray Japanese nature. The frame then shows Umi waking up, making the bed, and then proceeding to make breakfast. The scenery is very lighthearted but starts to weigh heavy as we witness her putting a water glass next to a picture of a deceased loved one.
This anime carries the message of celebrating energy and youth, but also missing the dead and maintaining their spirit by remembering them.
21. The Wind Rises (2013)
In this Hayao Miyazaki’s animated historical drama we look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
The opening scenes start by showing us a little boy sleeping. We are then drawn into his adventurous dreams – we can see him walking on top of a rooftop and getting into his aircraft.
He then flies away, playfully flying above cities and rivers. Above him appears an odd-looking airplane with a black cross, carrying fish-like technology. They attack him, ruining his aircraft. He is falling and suddenly he wakes up.
20. The Place Promised In Our Early Days (2004)
This Japanese anime film is written, directed, produced, and cinematographed all by Makoto Shinkai.
The film is set in an alternative post-war universe where Japan is divided into North (“Union”) and South (controlled by the United States).
In the opening scenes we can see a crowded train station, but a man traveling alone. There is an emphasis on the loneliness, as the frame then switches to him walking alone again. He seems to be visiting a graveyard, and he imagines a girl running toward him.
19. A Whisker Away (2020)
A Whisker Away, literally translated as “Wanting to Cry, I Pretend to Be a Cat” is a Japanese romantic/fantasy anime.
The opening scenes are quite mysterious and dreamlike.
They start with a black screen and intertitles that say “I want to help you. I want to hear you say, “I love you.” ” The frame switches from the first-person point of view, looking at their feet and upwards, seeing tall, amorphous cats. It then changes and we can see a little girl walking through a blurry street asking where is she.
18. Memories (1995)
With Katsuhiro Otomo as the executive producer, this animated science fiction anthology film is made up of three separate sci-fi stories (Magnetic Rose, Stink Bomb, and Tokyo). The stories are all based on three of his short manga stories.
During the first few seconds of the opening scene, we catch a glimpse of juxtaposed images – buildings, clocks, and machinery. This way, using intellectual montage, a general sense of the setting is made, while the rest is up for the audience to figure out.
The frame then moves on to show outer space, broken machines, and a spaceship named “Corona”. The whole vibe is quite dystopian.
17. Ghost In The Shell (1995)
Ghost in the Shell is a Japanese cyberpunk media franchise, written by Masamune Shirow, and based on a manga series of the same name.
Its opening scenes are quite mysterious. It all starts with a black screen with intertitles, saying “In the not so distant future, when the corporate networks fill the Earth with electronic and optical communication lines, but society has not yet been too computerized to erase nations and races…”. The rest speaks for itself.
16. Howl’s Moving Castle
Another Studio Ghibli classic, this animated fantasy film starts by showing us a post-apocalyptic moving castle somewhere in a middle of a misty field.
The scene then cuts to a city crowded with houses and trains that produce black smoke.
The film itself is set in a fictional kingdom where both magic and early twentieth-century technology are prevalent, and it has strong anti-war and anti-pollution messages.
15. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
This Japanese animated sci-fi film for adults is based on the anime series from 1998 of the same name, written by Hajime Yatate.
The plot is centered around mysterious terrorists planning to destroy the human population on planet Mars using an unknown pathogen, and a bounty crew of the spaceship Bebop that is trying to stop the attack even before it takes place.
The opening scenes introduce us to a mysterious man, Spike, before quickly switching to an armed store robbery.
14. The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf (2021)
This adult animated dark fantasy film serves as a spin-off of the Netflix series The Witcher.
In the opening scenes, we can see the story is set in the forest, during the full moon.
There are many changing perspectives from which we witness the plot – through a raven’s eyes, observing the carriage, and through the eyes of scared travelers inside the carriage. The background music turns out to be another character singing, and the frame then switches to a monster hunting them down.
13. Sword Of The Stranger (2007)
This is an animated jidaigeki-chanbara adventure film produced by Bones and released by Shochiku.
The opening scenes are showing the narrators’ points of view, and we can see they’re gaspingly running through the forest towards a burning temple.
The point of view then changes to a third person, and we can see a child with an older man and a dog. The man then instructs the child to go, while he checks if there are any people alive in the temple.
12. Akira (1988)
Akira is a Japanese animated cyberpunk action film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto.
The opening scenes start by showing us a dystopian-looking map, with the intertitles setting us into the plot. The plot itself is set 31 years after World War III., in the year 2019. in Neo Tokyo.
The streets shown are dirty and empty, but the frame is following a character entering an underground bar that seems to be dangerous.
11. Mind Game (2004)
Mind Game is a Japanese animated experimental feature film based on Robi Nishi’s manga of the same name. Some say it might possibly be the most underrated animation in Japanese cinema.
The beginning scenes are dark and eerie, showing us a man in a car that’s looking for someone. A strange man is running around, and a girl is being chased. Myon, the girl, then gets her leg stuck in a train when the frame switches completely.
10. Your Name (2016)
This anime is another Japanese romantic fantasy film that has been written and directed by Makoto Shinkai.
The opening scenes are quite beautiful; we can clearly see the sky above the clouds and beaming rays of sunshine. Something is falling from the sky when the separately switches to the main characters, Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu.
9. Weathering With You (2019)
This Japanese animated romantic fantasy film is directed by Makoto Shinkai and is, supposedly, one of the most viewed films in 2019!
The opening scenes switch from showing us a gloomy, rainy Tokyo, to two characters inside a hospital. Hodaka and Hina then proceed to show us their secret story.
8. Pokémon The Movie: Secrets Of The Jungle (2020)
Based on Satoshi Tajiri’s Pokémon media franchise and produced by OLM, this is the twenty-third film in the Pokémon universe.
Rather than using CGI animation, this film returns to the series’ traditional 2D art style.
The opening scene shows us the beautiful scenery of the Forest of Okoya where the Mythical Pokémon Zarude finds an infant boy in a cradle washed upon a shore. Zarude then adopts the child, despite his peers being against it.
7. Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (2008)
This Japanese animated fantasy film is the eighth film Miyazaki directed for Studio Ghibli, and his tenth overall.
The plot is about a five-year-old boy Sosuke, and a young goldfish princess who longs to become a human after falling in love with him.
This anime’s opening scenes show us abundant marine life and all its’ vivid colors. We can also see a wizard, standing on his submarine, and dropping little droplets of magic into the sea. The scene cuts to show us, little troublemaker, Ponyo, shushing her sisters and trying to get them to go back into the submarine while she escapes.
6. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Set in the late Muromachi period of Japan, this animated historical fantasy is also animated by Studio Ghibli.
In the opening scenes of this another Miyazaki Hayao’s anime, we can see a young Prince Ashitaka trying to protect his village from a giant demon warthog. While he managed to successfully defeat the demonic animal, he also received a wound to his arm that will soon prove to be contagious.
Inspired by ongoing wars and ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia, this film might be Miyazaki’s most political film to date.
5. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984)
This animated anti-war movie by Miyazaki Hayao was made even before Studio Ghibli was officially founded in 1985. It has been inspired by the tragedy of Minamata Bay, during which a chemical factory continuously dumped methylmercury into the bay, causing severe mercury poisoning in people and animals.
The plot is revolving around a pacifist Princess Nausicaä who desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and – their dying planet.
In the opening scenes, we catch a glimpse of a post-apocalyptic world that’s being explored by Princess Kushana. We can also see her wearing a protective suit and taking a sample from a plant species that seems highly toxic.
The whole plot implies that even though the world endures horrible violence and diseases – it can be saved.
4. Paprika (2006)
The world of dreams can show us one’s deepest desires, memories, and aspirations.
This animated sci-fi psychological thriller is directed by Satoshi Kon, and is based on the novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui.
In the opening scenes, we can see a tiny car set on a circus stage and a clown struggling to get out of it. After he manages to pull himself through, the clown makes an announcement, and, suddenly, the whole circus starts marching and performing. The audience is watching the play when the clown gets approached by a man who declares there’s a traitor. During a magic trick, that same man ends up being in a cage. The whole audience is starting to run towards him, and we can see everyone is out to get him. Afterward, we can see it was all a dream that was actually showing us a patient’s dreams and anxieties.
3. Spirited Away (2001)
Studio Ghibli never ceases to amaze.
Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is an animated fantasy film. It is based on the ten-year-old daughter of his friend Seiji Okuda, the film’s associate producer.
The plot is focused on Chihiro, a girl of the same age, and all she endures after wandering into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits where humans are changed into beasts.
It starts with an opening scene that portrays a bouquet of pink flowers, with a card inside that reads “Good luck, Chihiro. Hope we meet again.” We then realize it’s her point of view, as she’s laying in the back seat of her parent’s car, driving to her new school.
The story is full of hidden metaphors such as anxieties around growing up, capitalism, even child labor, and, possibly, child trafficking.
2. Perfect Blue (1997)
This is a Japanese animated psychological thriller directed by Satoshi Kon. It is based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s novel of the same title.
The plot revolves around a pop singer who slowly goes insane after she starts being stalked by an obsessed fan, and what seems to be a ghost of her past.
The opening scenes start by showing us an audience waiting for a play. We can also witness a group of men, discussing the main character Mima; her voice, the way she sings, and – a mysterious rumor that has been going on. In the next scene, we can see distressed Mima being pressured into performing, just moments before masking her true feelings up and joyfully hopping on stage.
This truly powerful and starting thriller shows us dreadful aspects of surveillance culture.
1. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
This Studio Ghibli animated war tragedy film is based on the 1967 short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka.
The plot is revolving around orphaned children, a young boy and his little sister struggling to survive in Japan during World War II.
The opening scenes are utterly devastating. They’re showing us a soldier telling us his story. More precisely, he tells us about the night he died. The frame then abruptly switches to him watching a homeless man with ripped clothes laying on the street. The people passing by are either disgusted by him or ignore him completely.
Amongst other things, this anime is extremely important because it emphasizes the value of life.