The 11 Most Grating American Anime Openings

By Todd Ciolek in Anime, Daily Lists
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 8:04 am
Let's say you're a TV producer, and you've just gotten your hands on one of those anime series that all the kids are watching nowadays. It's sure to be a hit with young American cereal-gobblers, but you'll need to do a few things before this show's ready for the airwaves. You'll need to dub the voices into English, and you'll need to tone down the violence and sexuality that are apparently permitted much more freely in Japanese cartoons. One more thing: you'll have to change the show's opening number from Japanese pop into a song more in tune with mainstream America. And in doing so, you might just create something beautifully horrid.

As we round up the greatest disasters in revamping anime intros, we should point out that we're sympathetic to the men and women who had to devise new songs for Japanese shows. Most Americanized anime intros are modestly upbeat kid-show jingles like the original Pokémon theme or that delightful Speed Racer ditty. We also shouldn't let the Japanese originals off the hook. Heaven knows anime has plenty of opening songs that don't need extra meddling to be terrible. For the moment, though, we're taking on the most memorably bungled cases of American anime openers.

11) Mew Mew Power
One wouldn't expect something restrained from a show called Mew Mew Power. It's crammed with magical catgirl heroines who appear to have leapt from the pages of a middle-school anime fan's Lisa Frank notebook. So it got what it deserved when it came to America.

What did it deserve? A chirpy pop cupcake of a song that could quite possibly rot teeth in the minute or so that it lasts, all while cat-eared, maid-like heroines cavort around and make Sailor Moon look like Cannibal Holocaust.

10) The Adventures of Captain Harlock
An icon of the anime industry for over three decades, Captain Harlock usually has a certain dignity about him. He may travel through space in a skull-faced ship with a galleon-like stern, but Harlock himself goes about his pirate business with confident and manful bearing. So when the original Captain Harlock TV series was dubbed in the mid-1980s, one might've expected it to have a booming, serious opening number.

Well, it didn't get one. Instead, it got a boisterous intro song that somehow missed the disco era by about five years. It has a weird, vaguely Styx-like charm that implores the listener to take to the skies (the skies of space, it would seem), but it has as much to do with Captain Harlock as it does with the Second Boer War.

9) Digimon
The Digimon franchise is proof that there's often no shame in being second. Bandai created it as a virtual-pet toy back in 1997, and Saban was quick to bring over the anime series when Pokémon's success became evident. Indeed, some fans claim Digimon to be superior due to its backstory and the fact that the first Digimon film was co-directed by Mamoru Hosoda (who'd later make Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). Be that as it may, the original Digimon intro is a strange and disappointing concoction.

Digimon starts with a beeping proclamation of Digimon being the champions (meaning that Pokémon aren't), and then, twenty seconds in, there's a crooning verse from a guy doing his best David Bowie. And that raises a question. If you're going to evoke The Thin White Duke, why not do it for the whole song instead bleeping along about digital monsters? And why does the singer cut off at "world"? It's as though the studio hired the actual David Bowie but could only afford him for nine words.

8) Gigantor
We imagine there's a good deal of nostalgia for Gigantor and its original Japanese incarnation, Tetsujin 28. It was a pioneer of the whole giant-robot idea, even if Gigantor's handler didn't get to actually ride inside the looming, pointy-nosed mecha. But there's still the matter of Gigantor's lame opening number.

Many old Americanized anime intros sold their heroes quite well: Astro Boy was atom-celled and jet-propelled. Speed Racer was indeed a demon on wheels. Prince Planet was basically Astro Boy with a magic medallion. But Gigantor? He's just bigger than big, stronger than strong, and a few other things that bring to mind a child's description of a freshly crayoned robot drawing. Perhaps that was part of the appeal back then, and perhaps it's part of the appeal now. You're lucky that nerds discovered irony, Gigantor.

7) Ninja the Wonder Boy
One could argue that Ninja the Wonder Boy didn't merit any royal treatment. Originally known as Manga Sarutobi Sasuke, the show is the creation of Studio Knack, which made all sorts of terrible anime (including the now-Internet-famous Chargeman Ken). That said, surely it could've had a better title than Ninja the Wonder Boy when it was spliced into a movie for North America. Calling the main character "Ninja" is a strange move even for 1980s cartoons. It makes about as much sense as naming someone "Samurai," which Super Friends was doing around the same time.

Ninja the Wonder Boy gets the opening it deserves thanks to the music of Bullets (watch for them later). The stereotypical yells of "Chop, block!" might suggest a precursor to Parappa the Rapper, but the rest of the number's a hokey beat that awkwardly proclaims "He can make thunder!" solely to have something to rhyme with "wonder."

6) Macron 1
Macron 1 followed a common practice in adapting '80s anime for North America: take two or more unrelated Japanese shows and edit them into a single series. It worked for Voltron, it sorta worked for Robotech, and it... well, it didn't really work for Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years. So the producers of Macron 1 found two series, Sengoku Majin GoShogun and the unmarketably named Aku Daisakusen Srungle, and rolled them into a big ball of giant-robot claptrap.

The opening for Macron 1 tries to explain all of it with an introduction that sets up two different universes, each with its own cast of villains and robots and pilots and blonde-haired heroines. The peppy pseudo-techno that follows isn't all that bad, but most viewers were likely still struggling to make sense of the mess laid before them. At least GoShogun would get another chance, as the TV series was followed by a surreal, introspective, and robot-free film known as Time Stranger. It was released unmangled in North America, and it's well worth a look.

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