Friday, April 1, 2016

Card Captor Sakura 20th Anniversary Artbook Review (Happy Birthday Sakura!)


I posted over on the New Trials Facebook group on whether I should get the Cardcaptor Sakura 20th Anniversary 20th Anniversary Illustration Collection, and of course, I did give in and buy it at the bookstore on April 1, for Sakura's birthday. The main reason I debated on whether to buy this artbook was because it is a compilation of older, already published artwork, and I wished it included some of the newer pictures CLAMP drew. There are 100 pictures supposedly handpicked by CLAMP, and while the book did not include all the pictures I liked, since there are so many out there, it included many pieces I do love. I knew I had to get it after seeing the book in person, though it is somewhat pricey, and more pricey because it's imported. I believe its 3,600 yen in Japan. There are several books that I really regret I was not able to get a hold of, such as the Card Captor Sakura Nakayoshi 60th Anniversary Edition Vol. 9 Special Edition version. Another limited edition artbook I've been dying to get my hands on is the Card Captor Sakura Animated Artworks. Please do let me know if you any of you have any information on how to get a hold of these for a reasonable price!



First off, when I picked up the 20th Anniversary artbook, which I've been debating purchasing since it was released one week ago on March 24, I was very happy with the size and how it fits in my hand. I don't like oversized books, and this one is just the perfect size. The books is hardcover and pink and pretty, with new artwork on the cover of a dress that will be a collaboration project with lolita brand Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. I was introduced to the brand through the 2004 film Kamikaze Girls, an awesome movie. I love that the artbook comes with a clear plastic case, which is printed with a gold border. I guess to better to protect the book's pretty cover. I love the back just as well because it has Sakura's two magic circles in gold. And the chronology poster, above, I don't think I will unfold again because it's so huge, I could barely find a flat surface large enough to photograph it. But it is very interesting, looking back at the "history" of CCS. 



As for the artbook itself, I would say it is very Sakura-centric, as can be said about the entire CCS franchise. If I have a secret confession to make, I could do less with less solo Sakura pictures in general and more group pictures. Which is why I'm loving all the new artwork that has been streaming out. I don't think there is a shoujo heroine who has had more solo pictures of her in different outfits than any other franchise. I have included some of my favorite spreads though. Some pictures I like were missing, such as Touya playing the violin. But I do love how some of the artwork was paired, and there was clearly thought put into their arrangement and order. I wish I could read CLAMP's descriptions in the back though. The spread with Sakura with the clear flowers on the left and Sakura and Syaoran holding the star on the right might be one of my favorite face-to-face pages in the book because that is probably one of my favorite solo Sakura artwork, while the star picture as you know is used on my website, and I think the picture that best represents the two together.


 

And this spread with Tomoyo, paired with the Eriol and Clow Reed reflection.They go so well together. Surely CLAMP secretly ships the two based on that spread. The artbook progresses to the Card Captor Sakura Movie 2 artwork toward the end, and generally does a good job in including most of the iconic S+S artwork. It also includes Sakura in her most most popular outfits as well. I love CLAMP's new artwork and the details in them, as well as the more sophisticated coloring style. But I rather prefer Syaoran's old character design, where his features were sharper and less shouta-fied. 
 

Based on the selection of this artbook, I'm very confident a second compilation artbook will be released in the near future with the newer artworks, for there were definitely key artwork that I think could have been included in this one and were purposefully withheld. Or so I want to believe. One of my favorite pieces with Sakura and Syaoran in the tree with their teddy bears was missing. So, hopefully, this artbook sells very well, which can warrant a new artbook, whether it be at the end of this year, or more likely, the next anniversary or special occasion. But I hope we don't have to wait till the 25th anniversary for a compilation of the new artwork. And this artbook is definitely a wonderful trip down the memory lane, 20 years back into my childhood, and will be much treasured.

In other news, I've been working on New Trials Chapter 72 like mad to make it in time for Sakura's birthday. And didn't. Hides under a rock. I think I might be able to have Part 1 of 3 up by this weekend, though no guarantees. Who knows, this could be the April Fools' Day joke. My fingers are achy these days and I am sleep deprived.

I included the listing of artworks included for reference, for I'm sure there are those of you wondering if your favorite artwork was included. 


 




 Happy Birthday Sakura April 1, 2016! So pretty.

 

Highlight for spoiler for Chapter 72:


Syaoran! Syaoran! Oh my gosh, Code Red!” exclaimed Meilin, her black pigtails streaming behind her.  



Syaoran bolted up from his seat. “What is it? Is the Tang Clan attacking? Is Uncle Wutai staging a coup d’état? Don’t tell me it’s Wu Zino again! Or is it Wu Zilai?”

Meilin shook her head rapidly. “No, it’s worse! Much worse!” She slammed both hands on Syaoran’s desk. “Your sister’s coming to Japan, Syaoran!”

Syaoran paled and gaped at his cousin. “Which one?”

Fuutie,” replied Meilin, catching her breath. “I heard directly from Wei.”

Syaoran groaned. “Why?”

She’s always been threatening to come to Japan forever,” replied Meilin. “You know that Cousin Dairen’s business delegation’s arriving in Tokyo—for the Li Group Japan’s board meeting.”

Oh, they’re flying in next week, right?” asked Syaoran. “We’ve got several days to prepare.”

No, she’s flying in today—Wei already went to the airport to pick up Fuutie,” replied Meilin.

Syaoran turned sheet white as he pushed back his seat. “We’ve got to go find Leiyun.”  


 

I also saw the first cherry blossoms of the spring today. How befitting on April 1 to celebrate Sakura's birthday! 
 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day 2016!!!


Tomoyo and Eriol in Seijou High School Uniforms by wishluv on DeviantArt

Do you ever feeling hiding in a hole and not coming out? That's how I feel whenever I do not finish a chapter by my mentally implemented due date. Which is every time. But I thought to drop by here, anyhow. I'm about 90% finished with Chapter 72 of the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura. I think if I had about 48 hours of consecutive uninterrupted time to work on it, I would be able to finish it. Unfortunately, that is impossible. The chapter itself came about quite smoothly, but I've been writing ahead, so it's been taking longer. So, thank you so much for being patient, and it's nearly getting there!

This is a really old fanart, over 8~9 years old, that I decided to post up since it might never see the light of day anyway. It was a character study of Tomoyo and Eriol in their Seijou High School uniforms, a precursor to the Seijou High School uniform group picture. It's not completed; I didn't even shade it. Just think of it as an old character sketch. I was working on a couple Sakura and Syaoran fanart but thought I should focus on finishing the new chapter rather than new artwork.

Happy Valentine's Day 2016! I realized this is my first blogpost of the year, so Happy New Year and Happy Lunar New Year as well!

Music Spotlight: Shimizu Shota - Dream



This feel-good song is a recent discovery, and it fits Valentine's Day, I think. It's the kind of song I would draw to but not cannot write to. Here are the English lyrics.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!!!


Touya, Yue, Sakura and Kero-chan at Christmastime by wishluv on DeviantArt


Can you believe another year as passed? Quoting John Donne's "Song," I'd like to ask, "Tell me where all past years are?" I'm currently on holiday, so I had to prepare the fanart of Yue, Touya and Sakura last week, before I took off. I thought it was funny because I was working six day weeks and didn't have time to pack or really prepare for a trip beforehand, but I was determined to finish that fanart. I never drew a fanart of Yue before. I always wondered why Yukito's fake birthday was Christmas Day--it's an idea for a side story someday.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2015!!!

Thank you for supporting New Trials for another year and hope you all great tidings, joy and laughter during the holiday season! 

Pentatonix is so talented and I love their new version of "First Noel" which used to be one of my favorite Christmas carols, especially the Pachelbel's Canon First Noel version.




 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015!!!


Kaitou Magician's Flower by wishluv on DeviantArt


For some odd reason, I thought I would be able to finish Chapter 72 in time for Halloween. That was way ambitious, considering I'm probably only 50% finished with the new chapter. Though I did mention I had been writing ahead again. I love how people on Facebook or the Yahoo Group very shrewdly pointed out they do not expect an update till December. You guys know me too well. It's a very self-indulgent chapter, so I've been having fun with it, when I do get a chance to write.

I haven't posted a Meilin and Kai fanart for the longest time, I realized. They are one of the most popular pairings, and I love seeing other people's fanart of them. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to post a new fanart of the pair--I think the first of the Mei+Kai pairing that I posted on DeviantArt. Shocking, since we have Kara Reed and Mikai one up already. I grew sick of finishing my main Halloween fanart (of Sakura and Syaoran) and started finishing up an old doodle, which is how "The Magician's Flower" piece came around. In my original sketch, Kai was a vampire though. I like the idea that Kai wears more accessories than Meilin does--because she does martial arts, I get the feeling she wouldn't want to bother with accessories, besides the on Kai forces on her. 

Kai is a funny character. I never really planned for him to get together with Meilin or for him to become a part of the main cast. And I used to hate Meilin when she was first introduced in the Card Captor Sakura anime. It's such an embarrassing thought, since I adore her so much now, and I have felt obligated to love her ever since. 

Thank you so much for all the birthday wish over on Facebook. Totally made my weekend! Do check out the awesome fanart and other fun posts over there! How cute are chibi Sakura and Syaoran by the oh-so-talented Joyce Pantaleon?

Happy Halloween 2015!!!

Music Spotlight:
 


When I first heard Magic's "Don't Kill the Magic" I immediately thought of Kaitou Magician. I decided it would be a good choice for his "character song."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy International New Trials Day!


Deja vu: The Transfer Student from Hong Kong by wishluv on DeviantArt


Has it been 16 years already? How surreal. All I remember is how I had an itch to write about Sakura's continued journey as a teenager, even before the Card Captor Sakura and manga and anime had ended. It was during the summer of 1999, the year I had fallen about as hard as I could fall for an anime. And I published the Prologue and first couple chapters that fall in CCS fanfiction sites that have long since closed down. For me, it was clear in my mind that Li Syaoran was going to have to return to Hong Kong at the end of the anime, but there was so many ideas flashing in my mind on how that story would continue on, how to bring back Syaoran to fight by Sakura's side once more. I did not know it would take 16 years to tell it, however. I've matured since the teenage girl I was then, but I hope that someday when I look back at this fanfiction, it can capture a moment in time for me. And I hope that is the case for the readers too.

It wouldn't have been possible without all of you, my readers, and the great support all of you have given me. I think I was lucky in choosing CCS because it a series that has retained popularity nearly two decades since it was first published. I've been excited to see CLAMP's new CCS artwork with the new Nakayoshi 60th anniversary special edition manga volumes, and I am happy to see how CCS may be gaining new fans and bringing back old fans. 

Two weeks ago--I'm writing down the date because I might want to recall it some time in the future--but it was Friday turning into Saturday, August 22. I remember it vividly because I finished the last leg of planning New Trials will end. I mentioned before that since Arc 4 I have been keeping an outline for each chapter. I didn't all through Arc 1-3. Scary, isn't it? But during that period, I trusted keeping everything in my head. Unfortunately, my memory's not what it used to me anymore. I've already planned out the general framework and epilogue some years ago. But I guess there was some last details I had to configure, and I stayed up all night, unable to fall asleep, lying in my bed, plotting and plotting. It was really one of the most emotionally exhausting nights I've ever had. I hoped I could remember all the details enough to jot it down the next day. Now, a smart person would jot down notes while they are being formulated. But I find that sometimes writing disrupts thinking, if that makes any sense. Anyhow, I had to go out that night but I remember sitting on my bed that afternoon typing away notes like crazily before I had to leave. I'm kind of scared to look back to see if I wrote cohesive notes though.

The next chapter will be a fluffy one compared to recent ones, and I haven't had much time to write it until recent weeks, but I look forward to finishing it up. This fanart is from Chapter 72, actually. 

Happy International New Trials Day 2015!

Music Spotlight: Mandy Moore - "It's Gonna Be Love" 

I just had this song stuck in my head for some reason while drawing this fanart. I love good old sugary pop circa 2001, the time when CCS was also at its zenith.  
 


 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Birthday Syaoran 2015!


Syaoran's Birthday Omake #4 by wishluv on DeviantArt


Happy Birthday Li Syaoran 2015!

 Today's Music Spotlight is BON'z - "Arigatou," second ending theme to the anime Kyou Kara Maoh. I feel like this song should have been included in my favorite anime ending themes list.
 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Best Anime Openings Part 2: Top 10 Favorites from 2000~2009 (21st Century Edition)

The 2000s, namely 2000-2010, saw a dearth of amazing anime OST as anime became more mainstream and globalized. The decade especially saw some great soundtracks by notable composers like Kaoru Wada (Inuyasha), Yuki Kajiura (Tsubasa Chronicle), Michiru Oshima (FMA) and of course Yoko Kanno (Macross Frontier). In terms of anime openings, you saw flashier animation sequences with the help of digital technology, sometimes sloppier animation sequences because of said digital technology, awesome song selections and variety, more experimentation, and towards the end of the decade, there were more formulaic, cookie-cutter openings as anime studios stamped out similar shows season after season based on what worked. 

My 1990s list was skewed because of personal sentiments to my favorite childhood anime and a sense of nostalgia. Unlike the 1990s anime list, the list below is slightly less biased because I included songs that I found to be good regardless of what I thought of the show. In the 1990s, I saw whatever anime was available on TV, but in the 21st century, I had more liberty to choose what I watch, hence pickier, and Japan produced more titles with the digitization of animation, so there were too many shows to choose from. A few of the shows below I haven't watched but simply enjoyed their OSTs, and there are definitely more shounen titles here than my 1990s list, partly because I think the last great mahou shoujo series was Card Captor Sakura, partly because I feel like less production budget is put into shoujo anime in general. There were some solid shoujo series in the past decade and a half--I included a bunch of songs from Full Moon wo Sagashite in my favorite endings list, where animation sequence is less valued, but larger-budget shounen anime really trumped its competition for OP sequences. 

What I have done with this list is also choose the best song from each franchise, should they have many openings, and also choose only one song from an artist. I mentioned that for me, a good anime opening theme 1) tries to tell some sort of message or story through the animation sequence 2) include foreshadowing of plotlines to come, employ symbolism or imagery, especially if the show is based on a manga (aka pander to the manga crowd) and vamp up expectations for the key characters 3) have a catchy chorus/ riff that makes you anticipate the show 4) can be rewatched again after the show ends and remind you off the exhilaration you initially felt when watching the show. Also 5) I would be able to listen to the OP themes on my music playlist and enjoy them as songs. 

As we have switched over to watching anime on computers, it became much easier to simply skip over the anime OP theme. Good themes make you want to watch through the entire 1:30 minutes. Sometimes, unfortunately, good 1:30 opening themes are better than the entire show. This list was a lot harder to come up with because of the sheer variety, and it was hard eliminating some songs to choose my top 10. Again, they are in chronological order because it's fun to compare the changes across the decade. 

1. Inuyasha OP1 - V6 - "Change the World" (2000)
Inuyasha is one of the first anime I began watching online in Japanese with subs. Before, I used to watch Korean dubs. I think this opening IS the official "Inuyasha" song. The opening sequence is poignant, capturing feudal Japan, the spirit of adventure, Inuyasha's loneliness. Kagome is also one of the rare shounen manga heroines that I really like. Actually, Inuyasha has very likable characters. I even liked Naruku and think he's an epic villain (plus he's voiced by one of my favorite seiyuus). Too bad the story sort of dragged on and fell apart towards the middle, because this anime will always hold a special place in my heart. I always get surprised by all the sound effects in the OP--it was very 90s to include sound effects with the action sequences in the OP. Because Inuyasha itself has a 1990s feel to it, I would almost prefer to group this with the1990s list, but the anime ran from 2000-2004.  




2. Witch Hunter Robin OP - Bana - "Shell" (2002)
I used to listen to this song frequently in the early 2000s and rediscovered it in more recent years with new found appreciation for the song. I never watched the anime, but it's one of those songs that put you in a queer mood. Composer Taku Iwasaki did a great job with the OST for this anime, and I enjoy the guitar version of Shell especially. I like how the the OP connects with the ED theme "Half Pain", also by Bana. 



3. D.N.Angel OP - Shunichi Miyamoto - "Byakuya" (True Light)  (2003)
Shunichi Miyamoto is a very talented singer-songwriter pianist with an angelic voice. This beautiful opening I think outshines the anime itself, which stars Irino Miyu, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Syaoran's voice, TV anime seiyuu debut as the hero Niwa Daisuke. By the way the anime originally cast Sakura Tange, CCS Sakura's seiyuu, which was why I was originally interested in it, but I think she got recast. That would have been interesting. Old Syaoran with young Sakura. This song may not have made the list if I had not caught an acoustic performance of the song by the artist and realized over again how good it was. Irino Miyu sings the song as well. 




4. Scrapped Princess OP - Jam Project - "Little Wing" (2003)
I especially love the Celtic-sounding opening chords of the song; Studio Bones never disappoints with animation, which is always clean and crisp. This is where I first learned about Jam Project, and an anime OP list would not be complete without at least one Jam Project song. I remembering liking this anime--I didn't particularly sympathize with any of the characters and the story sort of fell apart towards the end, but it was overall a very good animation with good production, music and overall premise. Plus, the characters resembled CLAMP's Angelic Layer anime designs. Actually it's one of the animations which I really loved in the beginning, but depending on the ending, it could have become really great or not. Episode 17 still remains, I believe, one of the most memorable and heart-wrenching episodes in anime, considering it was focused on a minor character that only appeared for a couple of episodes, which was a pity because Fulle was probably the best character in the anime. I digress. I love anime openings that through the music and animation sequence herald the promise of a good adventure to come and sets the atmosphere for the series, and this opening does exactly that.




5. Full Metal Alchemist OP4 - Asian Kung-Fu Generation - "Rewrite" (2004)
As you already know, I love all of FMA songs, and I think FMA (the first series and reboot Brotherhood) might boast a repertoire of very solid anime openings and endings overall, atop an excellent OST. I really couldn't choose which OP I like the best. L'Arc~en~Ciel is probably the most popular, because it is Laruku and because Funimation used it instead of Melissa as the OP in North America. But Rewrite is such an exhilarating song, and the title and lyrics are perfect for the last quartile of this amazing series. The action sequences are superb, and this opening builds up to the whole climax of FMA. On a side note, I personally think Cool Joke's UNDO is a very underrated song and also had very cute sequences in the OP which makes you feel really nostalgic (which is befitting since this is the 3rd opening when you've fallen in love with the characters and grown with them, right before the impending climax and bloodbath awaiting.) And I love the recycled motive of the Ed and Al on the railway. It made me want to cry when FMA: Brotherhood OP 2: Hologram (which I love) used that imagery. I actually like the FMA ending songs even better though because I like to listen to more mellow songs when writing. 


 

6. Bleach OP2 - UVERworld - "D-tecnoLife" (2005)
I love the opening sequence, the catchy melody of the tune, the Hitsugaya-taicho pimping going on in this video. While this OP may not be exceptionally stellar, it's a shounen action anime intro done really well, at its very peak.
Most of Bleach openings are done very well--though I've long since stopped watching the series--I also really like Orange Range's Asterix, which grew on me over time, because it's unique, edgy and Orange Range is awesome. Check out the Card Captor Sakura rendition of Asterix--it's awesome. 

 

7. Sousei no Aquarion OP1 - Akino of Bless4 - "Genesis of Aquarion" (2005)
I haven't watched the anime, of the same director and composer pairing as Escaflowne, but fell in love with song the first time I heard it-- you know those songs that just sends a shiver down your spine? This is one. And I'm not the only one, because this song has become a meme in the Nico Nico Douga (Japanese equivalent of youtube) and its melody is used in part of the Nico Nico Douga anthem. The acapella version of this song with Bless4 is so haunting and beautiful, and I like it better than the original. Out of Yoko Kanno's OST openings, this song usually ranks the highest in Japanese fan polls out of best anime songs, usually in the top 10 or 20. 




8. Saiunkoku Monogatari - Ayaka Hirahara - "Hajimari No Kaze" (A Wind of Beginning) (2006)
This is one of my favorite anime openings of all times, not because of high budget or stellar animation quality, but the sheer beauty of a wonderful song paired with a well-planned animation sequence and powerful, soulful vocals by Ayaka Hirahara. I especially love the opening bars, "Hajimari no kaze yo... Todoke message..." That opening line just filled my heart with hope, anticipation, a sense that an epic story was about to unfold reflected perfectly by the silhouettes of Shurei and Ryuuki facing each other (which is why I like the Season 1 opening better than the new animation sequence from Season 2). This opening might have lasted the longest, spanning through Season 1 and Season 2 which ran until 2008, a total of 78 episodes. There are three versions of the opening. The second half of Season 1 played a modified sequence introducing new characters and that is my favorite version. I like it when openings change the sequence based on plotline, like how in CCS OP1, when Syaoran was introduced, his snapshot appeared in the OP, replacing Sakura's dad. Saiunkoku being based on a visual novel has an intelligent, unique and absorbing historical fantasy storyline, and Shurei is the rare heroine who is courageous, smart, independent and perhaps a role model for women. I felt bad because in the beginning, I thought this would be just another reverse harem anime. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the best, if not best, historical fantasy anime out there in the past decade. I gave up on hoping for a Season 3 however. The anime is paired with an oriental-themed soundtrack, befitting since the heroine is a talented ehru player, and I love how you can hear an ehru playing in the background for the opening song. This song is composed by YANAGIMAN and like its title, conveys exactly it's lyrics, "A Wind of Beginning." 


Saiunkoku Monogatari, Opening 작성자 Maxi-kun


9. Seirei no Moribito OP -
L'Arc~en~Ciel - "Shine" (2007)
Like "Giri Giri Chop" from B'z from the 1990s list, this song was the one that almost didn't make it to the Top 10 list. Not because the song and the opening animation sequence is not wonderful, because it is, but because I haven't watched the anime. Also, I knew I wanted to include a Laruku song in one of the lists, and was debating between FMA's "Ready Steady Go" or Great Teacher Onizuka's "Driver's High" but decided to go with the one that gets little recognition though it is pretty amazing. So many anime use the pan-up to the sky motif as the closing image of an opening, but look how prettily it is done here.

 
 
10. EF - Tale of Melodies Opening -
Elyssa - "Euphoric Field" (2008)
This opening with its catchy song and the artistic symbolism is very addicting and visually stimulating in a non-typical way. Based off a visual novel "EF - A Fairytale of Two," the anime, while touching on mature subjects, is tastefully done and strikes a balance between artistic interpretation, stunning visualizations, psychological and emotional depth and awesome music, befitting as one of the characters is a violinist. And kudos to the director for having a different version of the opening each episode.
Each episode has a slightly different version, starting out in black and white with the English version of the song and gradually adding in different colors, inverting colors, until the final episode where the ending is in full color with the Japanese version of Euphoric Field (they did the same with the first season OP); it's fun watching all of them simultaneously. What got me interested is is Makoto Shinkai's involvement in the game, whose works are perhaps the most visually stunning pieces you will see in animation. Anyhow, a sign of a successful opening is when the opening alone gets you to watch an anime. I watched both EF - A Tale of Memories and EF - A Tale of Melodies one weekend, though its the sort of anime I wouldn't usually watch. I was blown away by the quality of the series. The music is by Tenmon, whose work I loved in "5cm no Byoushokou," directed by Makoto Shinkai. The two often work together. 



Honorable mentions (in order of how closely they missed the Top 10):

Detective Conan OP22 - Zard ft. Aya Kamiki - "Ai wa Kurayami no Naka de" (2008)
The ups of having an anime run for over a decade is that allows ample rule for experimentation and exploration into many different themes. I like how OP 22 focusing exclusively on the plotline of the Clash of the Red and Black, prominently featuring in the rather darker and angstier than usual opening sequence the characters of the Black Organization, the CIA and FBI rather than the usual mess and mesh of various characters present in Detective Conan. This opening theme sets the atmopshere for one of the most intense showdowns in Detective Conan and is Detective Conan at its best, justifying its 500+ episodes. While this may not be my favorite Detective Conan song, I thought it's a combination of a catchy song with a stylized animation sequence very relevant to the story arc at that time, and a prime example of what a long-running anime can do creatively with their openings. Truthfully, many of the OPs and EDs start blurring together in my mind after a while, but this one does not. And of course, it's a Zard song.

Clannad After Story - Lia - "Toki Wo Kizamu Uta" (2008)  
Kyoto Animation's productions always have stellar animation quality and sometimes, I watch because of that reason alone. I would say the studio is an example of what I call 21st century formulaic harem OP that is done super well and artistically. I didn't like Kanon or Air or any of those visual novel adaptations, but I enjoyed Clannad anime. Perhaps because it was really not a harem anime but focused on the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, and you get to see Tomoya's growth over the years. Perhaps I liked that Clannad's theme was "family." Clannad: After Story made me cry a bucket, and I didn't think it would. Anyhow, the opening sequence of both seasons bears rewatching after you finish the anime. If nothing else, it's shiny and beautiful. That silly Dango song is pretty addicting as well.

Tale of Abyss OP - Bump of Chicken - "Karma" (2008)
I absolutely love this song and the band Bump of Chicken, but it was originally used in the video game, so I didn't include it in the main list. Plus, I haven't watched the anime.

RahXephon - Maaya Sakamoto - "Hemisphere" (2002)
Another wonderful song composed by Yoko Kanno and sung by Maaya. But I already included a Yoko Kanno composition in the list above, and three Maaya songs in the 1990s list, which I like even better. I haven't watched this anime, either. 

Saint Seiya Hades: Chapter Sanctuary -Yumi Matsuzawa - "Chikyuugi" (The Earth) (2002)
I actually heard this opening in more recent years and have not watched any of the Saint Seiya franchise. Because the franchise dates back to the late 1980s, the opening had an oldies feel that I liked, and was surprised this song wasn't from the 1990s.The song is so melancholy, the opening so angsty, I love it.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OP2 - NICO Touches the Walls - "Hologram" (2009)
I can make a whole list of just FMA songs. I chose one from Brotherhood as well. This one was a close call with OP1 Yui's "Again" but I opted for "Hologram" because of the catchy tune reminiscent of the first series and all the imagery and fast action sequences animated that will make manga fans squeal, for that's what Brotherhood is; a tribute to the manga.   

If I think harder, there will be a whole bunch of songs that I probably missed. There are many shoujo anime themes that didn't make it to this list such as the opening to Ultra Maniac, Gals!, Pretear, Fruits Basket, Princess Tutu and so-on, but I don't consider them to surpass the themes listed above. If I had to choose my top favorite songs on the list, it would be "Genesis of Aquarion" and "Hajimari no Kaze." The best opening theme for a series, based on song, animation sequence and my 5 criteria mentioned in the beginning would be Inuyasha's "Change the World." It's classic J-Pop, the flawlessly segued animation sequence doesn't leave you bored for a second and successfully tells a story, a condense version of the series, and leaves you feeling hopeful and excited about the show. I remember one of the later episodes reused "Change the World" and it hit that right note of nostalgia. I'm not sure if Youtube did an anime purge recently but it was hard to find good quality videos for some of the anime listed above. Let me know which opening theme of the 21st century is your favorite. Did I miss any themes?  

Check out my list of:
Top 10 Anime Opening Themes Part 1: The 1990s
Top 10 Anime Ending Themes