The attack of the Titans is a series known for its mysterious world, stunning visuals, and compelling characters. These aren’t the only things this popular anime has to offer, as it also includes a range of engaging opening songs.
While it’s easy to just enjoy the Power Plant’s opening theme songs at the surface level, they go even further and help the anime establish its most important themes each season. This can be seen and heard from the very first opening to the anime’s current location, as of this writing.
The first opening song is titled “Guren no Yumiya” by Linked Horizon. The use of choir, brass, and fast percussion in this song is what really sells the Season 1 theme. The accompanying opening animation shows the main characters standing triumphantly, effectively battling against the titans and heroically standing with the rising sun. The three main musical elements mentioned earlier help to add a sense of grandeur and military bravado.
It establishes how the characters are made to feel at the start of the series and makes the cast and audience think their life in the Survey Corps will be fun and adventurous, whereas watching the anime quickly proves otherwise. This song and animation essentially acts as Survey Corps propaganda, and effective propaganda. This lets the audience know that this isn’t going to end up being a typical shonen anime experience.
Next, we have “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”, also performed by Linked Horizon. Musically, this opening song is very similar to the first. What sets this piece apart is how intensely it uses elements from the first, but more so how the visuals have changed with it. With audio alone, he fills the speakers with a heroic desire to take the fight directly against the titans and feel confident to do so. Looking at the visuals, however, that seems to say something else.
The characters in this opening no longer seem hopeful. They look stressed, scared, more violent and soaked in carnage. The characters, as well as the viewer, have seen the horrors of war for who they really are, and though they still participate in that world, they no longer see it as they once did. It’s also the first opening to show Eren in his titan form, pulling back the curtain on the level of destruction that will ensue.
For season 2, The attack of the Titans opens with Linked Horizon’s “Shinzou Wo Sasageyo.” Arguably the anime’s most popular musical opening, this seems to be where the military propaganda and the characters’ violent truths seem to reach harmony, or at least the closest to harmony that can be reached. The percussion of this song is different from the others in that it seems to give a rhythm that corresponds to moving on foot. It starts with a sort of walk, then a trot, then a sprint. He just slows down for the choir to deliver its main phrase.
“Shinzou Wo Sasageyo” translates to “dedicate your hearts,” which is the most important lesson of this opening. It is an instruction for the characters and for the public. In the animation, the Survey Corps made full use of Eren’s titanic abilities, employing the monster they’ve been battling for so long to combat the most immediate threats. As with the battlefield shots, the characters are fully committed to their cause and the viewer is treated to more engaging battle scenes and mystery during this season. The animation opens and closes with a shot of a broken statue of a mother holding her baby, giving the viewer one last look at the innocence lost in this harsh world.
Season 3 takes a different approach with Yoshiki’s “Red Swan” title. This song completely changes the mood. Rather than a high-energy war anthem, “Red Swan” takes the route of a slow but powerful rock ballad. The piano is incorporated into a melancholic opening melody and the much cleaner and more powerful vocals are allowed to take center stage.
The animation takes up the theme of innocence lost completely, as the characters in their current forms are juxtaposed against their younger, more naive selves. The song’s lyrics seem to yearn for a supposed paradise, or something greater, but the stern expressions on the characters’ faces suggest that the days of those ideals are long gone.
In Season 3 Part 2, Linked Horizon returns with their song “Shoukei To Shikabane No Michi”. This song goes back to the style of the war anthem, but with a twist. This song uses music queues from other Linked Horizons songs, namely “Shinzou Wo Sasageyo”, as it repeats some words there.
In this part of the season, a large part of the story is devoted to mystery and allows the viewer to better understand what is happening in the world. This makes the song fitting, as it allows the viewer to fall back into a sense of familiarity as the characters are allowed to familiarize themselves with their situation.
Season 4 begins with “My War” by Noko & Shinsei Kamattechan. It’s the first opening song that sounds really uncomfortable. The lack of an inherent melody and conservative use of note scales instills a sense of impending danger. The title of the song says it all. In this season, a true all-out war against other humans makes its way to the screen in full force. It’s also the season that depicts a changed and jaded Eren, deducing that the war mentioned in the title is Eren’s own.
As of this writing, the anime has just completed Season 4 Part 2, and for this season we are given “The Rumbling” performed by SiM. This opening is the one that relies the most on the music. It’s the only song to be heavy metal, bringing intensity and conviction to a new level for The attack of the Titans. The lyrics are the real star here, as they convey Eren’s inner turmoil directly to the viewer.
With the animation showing Eren walking slowly and contemplatively, the viewer is invited to reflect with him and feel what he is feeling. Even at the end, when the voice screams to “break free,” Eren shouts that part of the song along with the singer, letting us in on his agony and feeling imprisoned by the burdens this war has brought upon him.
Musical openings set the tone for any anime and The attack of the Titans is no exception. The difference, however, comes from its masterful implementation of lineups and musical styles with engaging animations to say something more to the viewer. Whatever they show in the upcoming season will surely be more than it might seem at first glance.