Recently, when it comes to anime opening themes, there’s been one that trumps everything else. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll argue Evangelion’s OP as the most culturally ‘significant’ anime theme until the end of time. But as for raw, emotional essence of ‘feeling’, I feel like Gao Gai Gar’s bombastic musical intro might just edge it.
From the spacey, prog-rock synth lines of the intro as the title logo slams in, to the surge of 80s-esque gutiar riffs – everything about the OP is designed to get you pumped. The main ‘Gao Gai Gar’ chant is obviously crucial here, but personally, I’ve always felt the real core of the song is the actual ‘kiseki…’ chorus, which – like so many other exceptional songs – feels like it riffs off Pachebel’s canon chord change (see also the similarly anthemic ‘Go West’ by the Pet Shop Boys as to why this chord sequence is so important).
If that’s not already enough bombast for you, what about the ludicrously OTT shouts of ‘DIVIDING DRIVER!!!!’ and ‘GOLDION HAMMER!!!’? There’s something about these no-holds barred screams, or the emphatic, commanding ‘hashire!!!’ (run!!!) that kicks off the second verse that add a wonderfully participatory quality to the song. Whether it be a dingy karaoke den, or a cavernous stadium – this song commands to be sung at the top of your lungs, giving every ounce of your soul and being.
There’s a fluidity to the animation too that speaks of the absolute peak of 90s cel-anime technical aptitude – in the last days before the industry converted wholesale to digipaint. Sunrise were the absolute masters at these ridiculously sleek, over-produced OPs – see also Escaflowne for another outstanding example. In an age where sakuga analysis has risen to the fore, I feel like certain cuts of the Gao Gai Gar opening are simply breathtaking in what they detail – personal favourites include the train machine sliding into dock in the mech’s torso, or the the three-angle tilt as the space-shift flies past. There’s a three-dimensionality and depth of space that blows you away.
I’ve always been one to decry the ‘they don’t make ’em like this anymore’ mentality when it comes to anime – but I think, perhaps, when it comes to this song, it really does ring true.