Anime openings are an art form.
I’ve seen many from the remarkably good to the just so-so. But none manage the level of consistent quality and thematic relevance like Attack on Titan.
When the show debuted, its theme song, “Feuerrotten Pheil und Bogen” by Linked Horizon, wowed audiences. The driving instruments, dramatic choir, and intermingled German give the song a militaristic and exhilarating feel. The song is fraught and frantic. Listening to it you can’t help but get excited, but the stakes of the show are always just at the periphery.
This lines up well with the plot of the first 13 episodes which introduce the audience to Attack on Titan’s seemingly hopeless world. Then halfway through the season, the main character discovers his latent ability to turn into a Titan, using this newfound power to win humanity’s first victory.
It’s a thrilling moment that raises many questions. So comes the second opening, “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” This track starts with a triumphant swell of trumpets before descending into an even faster pitched medley of electric guitar and choral chanting. The same elements from OP 1 are present remixed with a hopeful chorus and a generally more introspective tone. The second half of season one is no less thrilling, but now the characters’ anger and fear are directed. They have a goal to accomplish and a mystery to solve. Come the end of Season 1 they are closer to doing so, but there is still much work to be done.
OP 3, “Shinzou wo Sasageyo!”, lasts all of Season 2 and feels like standing on a precipice. The track starts more reserved, building to a fevered pitch halfway through. It is more confident. The fear heard in the first two tracks is missing. Gone too are the German lyrics. Season 2 sees the main characters going rogue, isolated from their resources. It’s less underscored by fierce militarism and more focused on the characters’ personal lives.
OP 4, “[RED SWAN]” by YOSHIKI(X JAPAN), is. . .bizarre. It is a story for another day.
“Shoukei to Shikabane no Michi” sounds like things coming to a head. The theme roars open with the same opening riff as OP 1, before settling into a softly thrumming verse. It builds in intensity, increasingly introducing motifs and runs from OPs 1, 2, and 3 before thundering to a climax. Music and images, new and borrowed, swell and weave until the song comes to an end and fades with a simple, gentle guitar riff.
This opening is something special. It captures the feel of Season 3 masterfully. The conspiracy finally boils over as the characters encounter their true foe and learn the truth about their world. All of the threads from the first two and a half seasons are pulled together as the show prepares for its final season, a leap in time and location that fundamentally changes the show. The theme reflects that the stakes have never been higher.
The upcoming Season 4 marks a huge tonal shift for the series, and indeed will end the show. What final battles will be fought and mysteries will be solved remains uncertain. But it’s a safe bet to say that the series’ final OPs will be just as loaded, and kickass, as its predecessors.
Thumbnail image from Bloody Disgusting.
Which is your favorite Attack on Titan opening?
Feuerrotten Pheil und Bogen (OP 1)
Jiyuu no Tsubasa (OP 2)
Shinzou wo Sasageyo! (OP 3)
[RED SWAN] (OP 4)
Shoukei to Shikabane no Michi (OP 5)