(All videos taken from reddit.com/r/animethemes)
#1: Shakunetsu Switch – Suzumegahara Chugaku Takkyuu-bu (Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume/Scorching Ping Pong Girls
I’m fully prepared for people to call recency bias on this, given I just recently finished the anime, but after my tough decision last night, I have absolutely no regrets in giving the title of my favorite anime OP to the opening sequence for Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume, “Shakunetsu Switch”. It’s been a very long time since the opening to an anime has captured me as much as “Switch” did upon my first time seeing it. The visuals of the OP are fantastic and hold a high amount of visual flair and reference to several important plot points and character developments within the series, the song for the OP has become one of my favorite pieces of Japanese music (actually serving as one of my morning alarms for the past month), and its rise to my #1 OP spot accompanies the meteoric rise in my opinion of Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume. I’ve been meaning to do a piece on “Shakunetsu Switch” for a number of weeks now, so I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about it.
The visuals for the OP begin with a slow, laidback look at the members of the main cast. We watch as Koyori and Agari start getting themselves ready for school in the morning, eventually meeting up with the other members of the main cast of the show before the instrumental picks up and shots of the school are shown moving into the club room. The laidback side of the show is shown through these sequences, a nice, gentle slice-of-life feeling to warm you into the show. Throughout the next segment, the different characters are introduced with accompanying visuals that convey each of their personalities, the hyper vibrating border of Hanabi’s carrying her genki attitude and Hokuto’s carrying a more fluffy, comforting spring to its borders. As the OP moves into the pre-chorus, a rally is shown between Koyori and Agari, with the vocals bouncing back-and-forth between the two which carries the duo-focused character development and characterization within Shakunetsu. As the chorus kicks off, Agari knocks the ball into the imposing look of the Mozuyama team, foreshadowing the practice match from the show’s middle portion. The intense nature of the matches is carried through the visuals and the striking power of the vocals. Finally, as the chorus moves into its latter portion towards the end, a rally takes place with each member of the club swapping out as they return the shots. Each member is accompanied by background visuals and a palette shift suiting the character, with examples being Munemune’s hearts and pink background representing her mother-like role in the club and Hokuto’s deep blues and the teal streak of the ball depicting her cool, collected, and methodical method of playing table tennis. The visuals are no doubt great on their own, but when combined with the audio track for the OP, they are taken up a notch.
It’d be no exaggeration to say Shakunetsu Switch has likely been my most-played song on my phone for the past month and for good reason. The song is absolutely fantastic and as referenced a bit in the previous paragraph, it has an excellent flow to it. The song starts out slow, with the guitars sitting on a soft hum and the vocals taking precedence, with a casual, easygoing flow to the melody that syncs up with the carefree, happy nature of the visuals accompanying it. As the OP begins to progress into the main verse, the instruments begin to become more prominent as more members of the cast come into the picture and add to the harmony of the song. As the OP moves into its mid-section, the instrumental track picks up more as the tempo of the vocals begins to increase. The vocals begin bouncing back and forth between the different members as the rally is returned by each member and the instrumentals continue to grow until the chorus strikes. As the song moves into the chorus, it erupts into an explosion of sound as the instrumentals break into full stride and the full vocal cast group together to belt out the OP. The chorus makes for as strong a hype moment as I came to expect from the series and encapsulates the feeling of the series perfectly. The show is light and fun during its slice-of-life and interaction moments, but as soon as the ball is served, it evolves into an intense battle between the players. Another interesting note was pointed out to me recently by a friend and is easy to miss on the first couple listens. Underneath the instrumental track, accompanying the sound of the percussion, you can faintly hear the sound of ping pong balls clacking against the table. It’s a small thing that will likely be missed by a lot of people, but it’s a really nice touch that can be heard in other tracks from the series.
With that, we bring my Top 20 Anime OPs to a close. It’s been a fun ride, filled with a lot of tough decisions, and 20 fantastic OPs that all stand as amazing in their own right. While Sore wa Bokutachi no Kiseki from Love Live may hold a special place in my heart as a big part of my favorite franchise, I’ve rarely had an OP impress me as much in both a visual and auditory aspect as much as Shakunetsu Switch. This list has been a whole lot of fun for me and an experience I may look to do again soon. While I don’t know when it will be, I’d certainly love to do another countdown like this, maybe featuring my favorite EDs to accompany this list .I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who came along for this ride through a lot of different genres and sounds.
Since I did have a lot of favorites to choose from, I feel I should leave a couple Honorable Mentions. Take a look below to see them for yourselves.