Top 25 Best Science Fiction Anime
When thinking of anime, you can’t help but recall a Science Fiction title, or maybe even one with a mix of Fantasy. There’s no doubt that the medium produces shows that can be considered Sci-Fi at an alarming rate, but how do you get through the masses to find those more involving shows? Hard Sci-Fi, as it’s called, or even a great mix of genres. Well, wonder no longer! This list features the top twenty-five Science Fiction anime, from the founding anime itself to Sci-Fi classics to the best of what’s new.
Adding to the handful of psychological anime on this list is Ghost in the Shell, a classic cyberpunk movie that asks the big questions. Its combination of deep plot, beautiful animation and all-round goodness makes it our number one best Science Fiction anime.
In the future, the line between human and machine is blurry and humans are susceptible to their machine parts being compromised. When an entity called the Puppetmaster hacks into the brains of vulnerable humans and interferes with politics, a specialist group called Section 9 is called in to stop it. Then everyone starts asking questions about what it means to be human.
Ghost in the Shell is rich in almost every way, inviting you into its complex world to look at its detailed animation and sink your teeth into its many questions about what it means to be human. It may be hard to get into because it requires you to put on your thinking hat, but if you enjoy thinking in movies, this is right up your alley.
Why it made the list: Ghost in the Shell is a pretty big favourite and for good reason. It combines the depth and complexity of a great Science Fiction world and fills it with questions and psychological themes. It’s a good movie to think about and an even greater movie to devour the inner workings of its world.
Watch if you like: Cyberpunk; psychological stories; stories about what makes us human; thinking; controlling; cybernetics; politics; large worlds; detailed animation.
If it’s not dystopic future societies or an anime with lots of robots, then it’s the online world and all it entails. Serial Experiments Lain is one of those, with its protagonist of the same name being drawn into the world of computers and online happenings.
On the surface, Serial Experiments Lain is a story about how one girl’s sudden interest in computers and “The Wired” morphs into something more than her becoming a shut-in. On a deeper level, this anime is a series of questions about identity, what is real, what isn’t real and how far an anime can go before its audience is too confused to continue. It could also be about how one girl endeavors to wear her cute bear pajamas; psychological anime is all up to the viewer.
Jokes aside, Serial Experiments Lain’s take on Science Fiction is fairly unique, using it to pose questions rather than to explore worlds. It’s not uncommon for you to wonder what on earth is going on, but when you consider the series to be more than what’s happening on screen, things start to click.
Why it made the list: Serial Experiments Lain is the thinking man’s anime on this list. With a focus on psychological and philosophical questions, it presents a seemingly confusing story that wants you to look deeper. It’s not just about the usual Sci-Fi faire, making this anime stand out.
Watch if you like: Being confused; bear pajamas; psychological anime; philosophical anime; cyberpunk; atmosphere-heavy series; identity questions.
Space can make anything interesting, so why not use it to follow the daily lives of garbage collectors? Think about it: on ordinary old Earth, garbage is just garbage, but in space, garbage is cool Sci-Fi stuff.
Planetes starts off like a rocket, all shiny clean and ready to launch. Main characters Hachirota and Ai lead their daily lives collecting space trash in a fairly episodic set of shows. Then the rocket separates, casting off its now empty fuel tank and settling in for the long run – the show’s core reveals itself as questions about humanity’s development. People feel lonely in the vastness of space, go figure.
Like Mouretsu Pirates, Planetes is something of a slower Sci-Fi anime that’s just as much about the people as it is about the technology. Maybe it’s space that makes things slow. But just like strangers on the street can hide some amazing stories, Planetes opens up into something memorable.
Why it made the list: Planetes is one of those anime titles that seems like it’d be pretty boring, but the addition of in space makes it come together nicely. The slice of life moments lead into the heart of the series which has a lonely but hopeful message for the future and isn’t just about how to pick up screws in zero gravity.
Watch if you like: Episodic anime; shows that change halfway through; slice of life shows; strong character focus.
Among the top of this Top 25 Best Sci-Fi Anime list sits Akira, the slightly confusing movie that blows you away with an action-packed story with a more thoughtful plot than most. At twenty-six years old you’d think it’d show some kind of wear, but like the ugly psychic children in the movie, it barely shows a few wrinkles with age.
When a slightly ugly child escapes from a laboratory and flees to the streets of post-WWIII Tokyo, it runs into a bike gang and triggers psychic powers in one of its members. Now able to blow shit up like a badass, biker Tetsuo needs to keep his powers under control while he’s snatched up by the military to be experimented on. And we all know how successful experiments usually end up.
Akira’s setting and characters are about as Science Fiction as the movie will get but still make up much of the movie. Things tend to side with unexplainable psychic powers, but at the end of the day, Akira’s still a Sci-Fi anime with a lot of action scenes.
Why it made the list: Akira is a classic movie and more than deserving of its title. Even after twenty-six years, it still looks fantastic in detail and execution. The story doesn’t disappoint either, but may need another watch to take in the more confusing moments, or just to enjoy the action again.
Watch if you like: Motorcycles; psychic powers; ugly children; futuristic settings; older anime movies; detailed and fluid animation; action.
A relatively unknown Sci-Fi movie, Honneamise has a deeply interesting story about world politics influencing human pursuits as the protagonist goes through a journey of finding a life goal. All for a young girl, of course.
Honneamise is set in a world with an alternate history, where space travel is considered nothing but a trivial pursuit and a waste of time. After failing to join the navy, Shiro joins the Royal Space Force and wastes away his days playing around. When he meets a young woman, he’s encouraged to try harder at his career, and Shiro gradually warms to the idea of being the first man on the moon. But things aren’t that simple, as the Space Force is on the verge of being used to start an all-out war.
Honneamise is an interesting anime because it takes you on a grand tour of society and politics but still makes the story all about a personal journey. It’s not quite like any other Sci-Fi series about space travel. The amount of setting detail is the movie’s strong point.
Why it made the list: Wings of Honneamise stands out as an excellent Sci-Fi movie for its deeply detailed alternative history setting to modern day Earth. While it delves into the society of the time and how its politics affect various systems, it’s always about Shiro’s journey to discovering what he truly wants to do with life.
Watch if you like: Space; the military; society; alternate histories; atmosphere; finding your calling; older movies; realistic setting; the moon; politics.
One of the many great shows to grace the 2007 anime seasons of gods is Dennou Coil, the Sci-Fi show full of the technology we wish we had today. With mysteries, child tech geniuses and subtle developments, this series is certainly something.
The year is 2026 and everyone is crazy about glasses. Threats of being called four-eyes are no more thanks to the augmented reality specs everyone wears. It’s in this world that Yuko lives, as she moves to Daikoku City. As always with technology, a number of illegal exploits are present, and Yuko joins a group of kids with illegal tech as part of an “investigation agency”. Mysteries ensue.
While you may get caught up in the wonderfully connected world of the series, the story in this anime is what to look out for. It sneaks up on you like a good mystery and builds into a dramatic, action-packed but thoroughly satisfying ending.
Why it made the list: Dennou Coil’s world is grand enough to get lost in, but this great anime doesn’t just stop at setting. Everything is carefully created to tell a great story from start to finish, surprising you with its simpleness.
Watch if you like: Glasses; augmented reality; technological explanations; mystery; simple art; slow build-up; grand climaxes.
Shinsekai Yori is an intriguing mix of what seems like Fantasy but is later revealed as Science Fiction. It takes what you'd expect to be in a Sci-Fi anime and throws it away, focusing more on nature and humans than the usual robots and technology.
Shinsekai Yori introduces us to a world where everyone is capable of telekinesis. In fact, there are schools where children are taught how to focus and use their powers. It's in one of these schools we find Saki and her group of five friends. One day, while on a field trip, the group strays from class and stumbles upon a remnant of the old world that tells them how things have changed. While the group struggles to grasp the news, little do they know that this chance meeting has changed their fate forever, as they now know too much to safely live in society any longer.
Because there's not so much technology to speak of, Shinsekai Yori's hard Sci-Fi status comes from the explanations of how humans have changed over time and how the world came to be. The show is much more organically-minded than other Sci-Fi anime but still gives you that science-based logic you know and love.
Why it made the list: Shinsekai Yori is something of a more mature anime, asking the big questions, showing the flaws in social systems and exploring the terrible capabilities of humans. It's a show for thinking and mixes cute character designs with strong contemplative moments that project a disturbing possible future for humanity. Its surprising categorisation of Sci-Fi is just the surface of what this series has to show you.
Watch if you like: Psychic powers; the supernatural; the future; dystopias; naked mole rats; time jumps; lesbians; thinking; mysteries; secrets; genetics; Soylent Green.
One of the longer series on this list is a story about two brothers and their pug – Space Brothers. With ninety-nine episodes of space adventures in store, Space Brothers is one of the longest running ads for NASA recruitment.
Mutta and Hibito are two brothers who have a dream: to become astronauts. They love the idea so much that they make a promise, but years later when Hibito becomes an astronaut-in-training, Mutta is nowhere near catching up. It's not until his family and friends band together that Mutta tackles his dream head-on and races to catch up to his brother.
Space Brothers might be an anime about chasing your dreams, but it takes a pretty relaxed approach to career aspirations. Much of the series shows the childhood of the two main guys as they vie to be the next man on the moon but it's told in such a way that the series is more of a relaxing watch than something you binge.
Why it made the list: Space Brothers grounds its interesting story in reality, with some surprisingly accurate renderings of American places. Because of its real-life inspiration, this series feels like a genuine glimpse in the lives of astronauts-to-be, complete with funny moments and a slice of life atmosphere.
Watch if you like: Space; brothers; long series; astronauts; career dreams; pugs; America; real life settings; detail; comedy; slice of life series.
Steins;Gate brings together time travelling and otaku to make one of the most interesting Sci-Fi shows in recent years. With just enough humour and dub luck to get by, the characters move from a comical plot to something believably serious and moving.
The show focuses on Okabe Rintarou and his otaku friends. After several experiments with turning bananas into a disgusting blob, they succeed in creating the time machine Okabe is so obsessed with. But, of course, it sets of a large chain reaction of events that Okabe needs to fix with the power of maids, traps, cosplayers, tsundere scientists and supaa hakkaas.
Despite the levels of 2ch and otaku culture in the show, it’s surprisingly serious and has more than a few mature moments. Each of the characters is terribly seeped in their specific interest but mesh together well and have moments of incredible sincerity without sacrificing their comedic aspects.
Why it made the list: Steins;Gate turns from a visually unappealing show into an engaging plot-driven anime, speckled with comedy and sincere moments. It also has plenty of scientific explanations and draws logic from a number of real-world theories to make the show believable.
Watch if you like: Being compelled to read the visual novel afterwards; time travel; 2chan; satisfying endings; plot over animation.
Noein looks like its heavily in the fantasy genre, but while there are giant floaty dragons, alternate worlds and teleporting, the series is as heavily involved in science fiction as any other on this list. The difference is in execution.
Haruka and Yuu are two kids who live fairly normal lives; while Haruka is carefree and spends a lot of time playing with her friends, Yuu suffers through endless homework in an effort to get into a good university. But when a battle in an alternate universe goes wrong, their lives are interrupted by Yuu's future self – a man named Karasu. Now Haruka and Yuu need to fight against fate if they are to live normally again.
Noein is about as seeped in science as Steins;Gate but manages to make it incredibly easy to understand. Even though the science makes up a lot of how the worlds interact with each other, it comes off as very human-focused and is much easier to understand because of it.
Why it made the list: Noein's science fiction elements and scientific jargon can come off as a little intimidating, but it never gets too much. Even though the show doesn't shy away from explanations, it's very focused on its characters and how they interact, giving it a less tech-y feel than other similar shows.
Watch if you like: Science; fighting; teenage angst; cool soundtracks; fate; large cast of characters; alternate worlds.
Of course a Studio Ghibli title sneaks into this list, taking up spot eleven in this best of Sci-Fi list. While the studio dabbles in Fantasy much more than Sci-Fi, their first classic movie is hard to pass up as a great bit of post-apocalyptic wonder from the studio.
After mankind basically destroys itself like in every other apocalyptic story, poisonous forests and insects begin to spread, isolating the rest of the human settlements. In an untouched valley, princess Nausicaa is forced to lead her people into battle when a violent neighbouring kingdom threatens to unleash a great power to wipe out the poisonous forests. It’s the greatest human meets insect story ever told.
Many of Studio Ghibli’s earlier movies are very environment-centred, and Nausicaa is no different. The man versus nature theme is strong, but the entire film is so enjoyable that the heavy themes don’t hinder it. The characters are simple but lovable, and it’s great to see a princess taking charge.
Why it made the list: Other than being one of Studio Ghibli’s first classics, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind is great in its own right. Featuring a post-apocalyptic setting that isn’t overrun by machines and concrete, Nausicaa brings a refreshing take to the genre and even sides with the environment in this one.
Watch if you like: Older movies; the environment; insects; princesses; adventure; leading women; archetype characters; classics; Studio Ghibli.
Cowboy Bebop is hailed far and wide as one of the best anime out there. Combining space travel and jazz, it’s certainly a striking show. But what we’re all interested in here is the Sci-Fi factor, and on that front, it doesn’t disappoint either.
Cowboy Bebop is an episodic series showing the average lives of a group of bounty hunters. Everything seems as usual for much of the series: main man Spike and best friend Jet find various criminals, apprehend them or let them go. But what appears throughout (and was there all along in hindsight) is a slowly emerging backstory that takes you by surprise. Nobody in the crew can escape their past and it all culminates in one huge fight.
While Cowboy Bebop is a compelling show for working in backstory pretty casually, it doesn’t skimp on the world-building. Over the course of the series, you learn about the show’s world and how various systems work (like the warp gates), and even learn about what happened to old technology.
Why it’s on the list: It’s an absolute classic that doesn’t show its age nearly as much as other shows released at the same time. Accessible, mature, jazzy and fun, it’s a classic in every aspect and is likely to mature like a good wine as time continues on. Its Sci-Fi world building is worked in as subtly as everything else but makes up a solid part of the show.
Watch if you like: Jazz; space; cowboys; episodic shows; subtle plot; fight scenes; being cool; Western-influenced anime.
Psycho-Pass is the anime that poses the question “what if the entire governing body of the country knew you were some internet asshole?” or “what if they knew you were planning to get revenge on some idiots who picked on you the other day?” That’s the grim reality of the world in Psycho-Pass… though it’s a lot more serious than that.
In the near future, thought crime is real and a dedicated police force is there to prevent crimes from even being planned. Akane Tsunemori is a new detective to the force and is quickly pulled into the world of measuring a person’s innate ability to commit crimes through a special kind of gun. After a short while as part of the police, she’s involved in an intricate string of murders where she must question what a criminal really is, and must fight with how her society has evolved to suppress itself.
Psycho-Pass sits more on the political Sci-Fi side of the genre, detailing the technology as it relates to future society. While there’s plenty of explanations about the world and how technology has changed to suit society, the focus is more on how people act in this new world, and gets pretty damn dark.
Why it made the list: Psycho-Pass is your usual grim dystopic future but is intensely interesting for how it unveils secrets and poses questions about society against each other. Its mix of action and deep thought, combined with western literary references, make Psycho-Pass special. It’s a pretty depressing anime but just as gripping.
Watch if you like: Politics; dystopias; thought crimes; guns; detectives; rigid social structures; questioning The Man; secrets; murderers; police; famous literary works; Urobuchi Gen.
Next on this list is a mix of Sci-Fi and Western with a bit of everything in between, from comedy to badass action to character depth. It’s a great shounen title but just as great as a Sci-Fi series.
Vash the Stampede is the most wanted badass in the universe. Anyone who follows his trail of destruction is met with a bullet, but nobody really knows that the man himself has never killed anyone. He’s just the right kind of careless idiot to get away with the sixty billion dollar count on his head, though there’s much more to him than anyone can see.
Trigun has a kind of Cowboy Bebop appeal where its episodic structure leads to more serious episodes. Of course, it has a lot more shoot-em-up action, and Vash himself is something more of an enigma.
Why it made the list: Trigun mixes Sci-Fi and Western genres as much as Cowboy Bebop mixes Jazz and Western, and it does it well. It’s also one of a very few series that is able to draw together comedy, action and serious development and make everything come out okay. It draws you in with Vash’s contradictory character and takes you through how he and his friends develop, all while keeping the action pumping.
Watch if you like: Guns; older animation; strong supporting characters; moral tales; silliness; well-formed characters; episodic series; tone shifts; strong soundtracks.
Nothing is quite as nostalgic as the Sci-Fi anime that started anime itself – Astroy Boy. While the series has gone through numerous remakes and is several decades old, the 2003 remake of Astro Boy brings it closer to the visual style we all know while telling the same story with minor changes.
Astro Boy is a child robot that doesn’t go astro but gets close enough. Created by a lonely scientist after the death of his son, Astro Boy was meant to fill in for the boy but was instead shut down. Another scientist finds Astro Boy and reboots him, deciding that it’s best to let the animated hunk of metal experience normal life as a 6th grade student, but action finds him anyway because not wearing a shirt kind of makes him stick out.
Astro Boy’s Sci-Fi element is more in its setting and circumstance than its dialogue. While there are no big conversations about the ins and outs of Astro Boy’s construction, there’s enough robots and huge technologically advanced cities to feel like a real Science Fiction anime.
Why it made the list: Astro Boy is the show that started it all and is a classic in its own right. The 2003 remake of the series updates the art for those snobby about black and white TV or 80s cartoons while tweaking minor stories to give the show something a bit new. There’s lots of technological advancements to fan over and plenty of robot action if you’re more on the mecha side of Sci-Fi.
Watch if you like: Mecha; robot fighting; creation plots; large noses; remakes; lots of battles; futuristic settings; long series.
Almost breaking into the top fifteen of this list is Evangelion, practically the psychological sci-fi anime to start all psychological Sci-Fi anime. With massive robots, aggressive aliens, teenagers with power and large-scale destruction, you’d think this was a fairly generic action anime. Until you realise that this is Evangelion and it guarantees you your “what the fuck” quota of the year.
In a world where alien invasions cause mankind to take great measures to stop them, Shinji Ikari is forced to pilot an experimental robot. The robot is one of two functional machines that can damage the aliens at all, and of course only special teenagers can pilot them. Over the course of the series, Shinji screams and cries and probably defeats a few aliens while he’s at it, but it’s mostly him crying and writhing in anguish.
Evangelion has been the inspiration for features in countless other shows, and it’s not hard to see why. It has a strong ground in Science Fiction but also expands to philosophy, asking some big questions and exploring some huge themes.
Why it made the list: Interpretations of Evangelion are about as wide as the fanbase and is guaranteed to get you thinking. The show is iconic as a psychological and mecha series, and worth the watch if you want to know how countless other series have borrowed from it.
Watch if you like: Mecha; psychological themes; thinking; battles; aliens that don’t look like aliens; waiting for the movies.
Likely the oldest entry on this list, Galaxy Express 999 is one of the founders of space opera anime and an absolute classic, even if it’s over one hundred episodes.
In the future, people can achieve immortality by discarding their human bodies and obtaining a hunk of superior metal. With this goal in mind, young Tetsuro boards the Galaxy Express 999, which isn’t an express at all and stops at every single station for 103 episodes. But at least the pretty blonde woman Maetel is there to keep him company.
While Galaxy Express 999 is certainly a commitment, but it’s well worth the watch. The series truly feels like a journey, and the character growth is slow but satisfying. It’s a series to watch steadily over time and revel in the look and feel of an older show.
Why it made the list: Galaxy Express 999 is a pioneer of space opera anime, but is also damn interesting to watch over a few months, or a few sleepless weeks if you’re up for the challenge. From a time that animators relied on story and characters to carry a show, it’s certainly an experience.
Watch if you like: Trains; space; space opera; Russian hats; small cast of characters; journeys; character development; long series.
Next on our top Sci-Fi anime list is a show that manages to be deeply philosophical while being all-round easy to understand and get into. Of course, the amazing animation and soundtrack doesn’t hurt.
In a story where robots finally subvert the human race – usurping the long-held tradition of racism every other Sci-Fi story has – a few wrong moves practically destroy the world. After many centuries, the world is still a poisonous wreck, leaving humans and robots struggling to live. Within this wreck, a robot named Casshern appears but has no memory. He must journey to recall who he is and what he’s done.
Casshern Sins has a unique story, but one of the bigger draws is its visuals. Fight scenes look amazing, and when the action lulls, the spectacular backgrounds take over. This anime is one for the eye candy with a substantial plot to back it up.
Why it made the list: Casshern Sin’s fresh take on robots vs humans, combined with its fantastic visual style, makes it stand out as an excellent Sci-Fi series. Those looking for a philosophical plot that doesn’t get too deep in its own thoughts are sure to like this show.
Watch if you like: High quality animation; dystopic worlds; amnesia; minimal dialogue; slow paced shows; action scenes; episodic series.
If you ever wondered what western movies would look like as Japanese anime, Parprika offers you the answer with its “oh Japan, you’re so crazy” approach to popular movie Inception (even though it was made before it).
The similarities between Paprika and Inception are so strong that a story summary is rather pointless. Both movies involve a person entering dreams through technology in order to stop something from happening, only to have things go wrong and threaten lives. Paprika diverges in that it’s Inception on LSD and has its dreams spill over into the real world where everything becomes one bad drug trip.
Paprika is Inception meets LSD with a bunch of technological developments replacing that box of chemicals in the movie. Much of Parpika’s set-up details how science has advanced to allow people to share dreams, then uses that science to go on a huge drug trip through minds and creative animation.
Why it made the list: Comparisons to Inception aside, Paprika is a strong movie with Science Fiction foundations that takes the more creative route. It explores creativity and imagination in new ways to give a bit of a more explosive approach to the usual Sci-Fi fare.
Watch if you like: Inception; dreams; the absurd; alternate personalities; Satoshi Kon; realistic character designs; hallucinations; detailed animation; the mind.
Next on our list is an anime that feels more like a movie broken into chapters – Suisei no Gargantia. With a fish-out-of-water story that’s both charming and deep, the series surprises with its mix of slice of life adventures, and themes of conflict and differences.
Ledo is a lieutenant in the Human Galactic Alliance. Born and bred to fight against squid like enemies in space, Ledo knows nothing of an independent life or his people’s history. That all changes when, mid-battle, Ledo is swallowed by a distortion in space and wakes up on the long lost planet Earth. There he meets humans who live entirely on ships, salvaging wreckage from civilizations past in order to live. As Ledo tries to communicate with these primitive people, he realizes a lot of differences to his own group of people and tries to console this life with his strict war upbringing.
Ledo’s new life on earth is particularly heavy on the cute girls and sexy belly dances, but behind the slice of life charm is an interesting story about different cultures and how societies can control their people. As expected of famous writer Urobuchi Gen, there’s a fair share of anguish, but of course you’re here for the Sci-Fi, and it’s fairly heavy on that too.
Why it made the list: Suisei no Gargantia is a calmer Sci-Fi series despite its action-heavy beginnings. Mixing slice of life elements with thoughtful sections of self-reflection makes the series special. And, of course, surrounding that is a firm foundation of a futuristic society, its workings and its technology.
Watch if you like: Space wars; fish out of water stories; robots; future societies; sense of community; learning cultures; belly dancing; the sea; language; Urobuchi Gen; Soylent Green; movie pacing.
If all the technology and space babble leaves you wanting more, the Railgun series of anime is a fine blend of Fantasy elements supported by Sci-Fi explanations in a contained Sci-Fi setting. It also has a heavy dose of action scenes.
Everyone wants powers as a teenager, and for most of the kids in Academy City, that’s a reality. Almost 80% of the city’s population are students, and most have a special power with its strength ranked in levels. One of the city’s most powerful teens is Misaka Mikoto, a girl who can control electricity and blast through almost anything. Being a powerful teen with the riches to back it up, Misaka gets into plenty of trouble with various underground experiments, but her three friends are always there to fight alongside her.
Being rich and powerful gives Misaka access to all kinds of seedy goings-on and lets her blow things up without much consequence. The series keeps things exciting with the action scenes but never forgets that it’s all about the science.
Why it made the list: Railgun is a curious mix of Sci-Fi and fantasy, with the fantastical elements of teens with super powers backed up by some scientific explanations. No matter the reasons though, Railgun always puts science-related plots and mysteries at its core, surrounding it with enough action and intrigue to be a great watch from start to finish.
Watch if you like: Special powers; teenagers; electricity; lesbians; fighting crime; a reasonably-sized cast of characters; story arcs; big finishes; contained settings.
Fulfilling the dark and edgy quota of this list is Ergo Proxy, at our number twenty-two spot. Mixing psychological themes with a dark and realistic art style, Ergo Proxy stands out as a great Sci-Fi anime that handles identity… and also because the lead woman is hot.
In a world of isolated domes and robots who serve humans, two people meet: immigrant Vincent Law and respected inspector Re-l Mayer. As the wimpy protagonist of the series, Vincent manages to draw Re-l and a random child robot into a journey across the barren world to find out the identity of a strange monster and why robots the world over are being infected with a virus that grants free will.
Ergo Proxy has captured the hearts of many anime watchers for being a mature psychological anime that delves into more than what’s on the surface. As much as it’s a journey across the world to solve a mystery, it’s a journey of self-discovery, with a little romance and family feelings thrown in.
Why it made the list: Ergo Proxy’s dark art style and deep psychological plot make it a favourite of many Sci-Fi fans. Just as Vincent is drawn to Re-l’s fabulous blue eye shadow, you can be drawn to the vast post-apocalyptic world where exploring the setting is just the surface of what’s going on.
Watch if you like: Mysteries; psychological anime; robots; post-apocalyptic worlds; cool names; experimental anime; drama; romance; self-discovery; dark art style.
Bodacious space pirates aren’t always about the booty, but when they are they’re classy about taking it. Next on this top Sci-Fi anime list is the space opera anime that puts cute girls in space, with plenty of plundering, space fights and lesbians. Yeah, that’s right.
High school girl Marika Kato is just an ordinary student with a love of flying space yachts. When two mysterious people come to her house and inform her of her estranged father’s death, Marika has more to deal with than the loss of her parent – now she’s inherited the life of a bodacious space pirate! While figuring out exactly what makes pirates bodacious, Marika sets out to complete her duties as a pirate at the same time as juggling school and work.
Mouretsu Pirates is heavy on the space opera genre, focusing on romantic space adventures and the ins and outs of the ships that help these adventures. There’s a lot of strategy and talk which stretches the pacing of the show. While there are a fair few action sequences, at the end of the day Mouretsu Pirates is all about the space and the space ships, putting it close to the hard Sci-Fi genre.
Why it made the list: Cute girls doing cute things are everywhere, but Mouretsu Pirates manages to take them to space to present both an interesting and technologically-involved anime. Whether the inner workings of a space ship are what interest you, or the system of wilfully looting rich people does, Mouretsu Pirates has a bunch to offer anyone.
Watch if you like: Space opera; space ships; pirates; new planets; lesbians; school girls; high school; Sailor Moon references; slow pacing; adventure; technology; a large cast of characters.
On our Top 25 Best Shounen Anime list, Sword Art Online featured a story of players stuck in an MMO, unable to wake from their dream-like virtual reality. .Hack//Sign (or “Dot Hack” if you ever want to murmur anime titles aloud) seems like it inspired that idea and many others like it, and can be considered something of a trapped-in-an-MMO classic.
When Tsubasa wakes up in an MMO called The World, they can’t remember anything, not even their own gender. But it only takes a while of wandering around and a giant game-breaking cat to make people realize that something is wrong. As Tsubasa draws all sorts of weird people to them, a larger plan is set in motion to use Tsubasa for The World’s benefit. That’s when the oh-so-good creepy music starts.
.Hack//Sign is another series that mixes Fantasy and Science Fiction in interesting ways. While the world the characters are in is pure Fantasy, Science Fiction creeps in when everyone has to deal with the real world, and even more so when they must save Tsubasa. The series is much more than the MMO Tsubasa is trapped in.
Why it made the list: Besides being the “trapped in an MMO” anime that started it all, .Hack//Sign is a great show in its own right. It blends Fantasy and Sci-Fi elements thoroughly, but behind the fantastical world lies the offline world full of mystery and an overarching sinister plot.
Watch if you like: MMOs; being trapped; large Fantasy worlds; lesbians; psychological series; magic; twists; mixed genres; boss monsters; Yuki Kajiura; sprawling franchises.
To mech or not to mech, that’s the question our next series asks. With heavy inspiration from the great Evangelion, RahXephon goes on its own quest of thought and exploration. But while an anime with mecha and advanced technology, it focuses on characters and plot.
When gigantic machines attack Tokyo, protagonist Ayato is torn from his ordinary life. He meets a mysterious girl who tells him to get in the robot Shinji— I mean, shows him a humanoid being that can save Tokyo (now a weird enclosed space). Together with the girl and his newfound abilities, Ayato must face his new reality and fight to save mankind.
As much as the series is like Evangelion, it stands on its own just fine for its own thoughtful wonderings. It also has a fair mix of romance and drama, playing down the mecha aspect in favour of character interaction.
Why it made the list: Similarities aside, RahXephon is a strong anime that contemplates some questions brought up by other shows. It’s not as heavy on the mecha as it may first seem, preferring to focus on relationships and complex story.
Watch if you like: Neon Genesis Evangelion; some mecha; romance; drama; conclusive endings; aliens; fighting for humanity.