Best Underrated Anime

We all have our top lists, but what about the more hidden gems buried in the anime fandom; the shows that were once popular but dropped off the map like a one hit wonder, or the shows that just plain didn’t get much attention? In this list I give you some of the most underrated anime, from the underappreciated treasures to the anime scorned purely due to style.







 

The entirety of 2007 was a godly year for anime. With giants such as Lucky Star, Clannad, Claymore, Zetsubou-sensei and Guren Lagann entering the fighting ring, barely any other show could swing a punch. And that’s where Toward the Terra sits, unacknowledged amongst anime’s godly season.

Toward the Terra is a TV show based off a movie based off a manga based off a story some guy made up about humans leaving Earth and settling on other planets. When technology advances so far that a new species with powers emerge, people start getting uppity and try to get rid of these powerful new humans. These psychics make great efforts to save the children who are like them and whisk them back to the polluted and abandoned Earth from which everyone came from. While the story centres around the usual gifted boy who doesn’t fully know his powers yet, but it expands to tell the story of the two opposing human species as well as a huge cast of characters in between. It covers decades of life to weave a story of conspiracies, death and drama.

Why it made the list: Unfairly ignored by the sheer amount of godly anime airing around it, Toward the Terra is a true hidden gem. With an epic tale that spans the universe, it tells a story of the struggle of races to find acceptance and return home but never strays into filler territory. Everything about Toward the Terra is fantastic.

Watch if you like:
Space operas; a large cast of characters; science fiction; psychic powers; stories that span characters’ lives; destiny; conspiracies; death.

 

Watch Toward the Terra Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

 

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.


Planetes is easily looked over because nobody likes garbage men. It’s a hard truth of the universe, but these brave garbage collectors soldier on and tackle serious thoughts about life while doing so. It’s easy to underestimate the show, 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; science fiction; slice of life shows; strong character focus.

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Little Red Riding Hood meets terrorism and war in Jin-Roh, one of the few anime movies to maturely approach the subject of war and reference real-world events without cowering behind supposed backlash.


Jin-Roh is heavy stuff. After seeing a young girl blow herself up, policeman Kazuki Fuze has her image burned into her mind and must retrain for his position. In doing so, he unwittingly becomes a key part in a secret fight between police factions and becomes involved with the sister to the girl who exploded. It’s a bit like WWII era Little Red Riding Hood with Nazi influences and terrorism.


The movie is heavily psychological and isn’t afraid to touch on the still fresh wounds of a lot of World War II aspects. Jin-Roh feels like it has a certain truth and gets to the point with style and possibly a bit of emotional scarring.


Why it made the list: Jin-Roh is a serious and heavy artistic approach to the very serious themes brought up by World War II. Just like the art, there’s nothing bright about this movie. Revisiting this older piece is a breath of heavy but refreshing air as it approaches its topics with respect and courage, without resorting to making characters cartoonish or elevating the movie to a weird mesh of genres.


Watch if you like: War; psychological exploration; heavy atmosphere; artistic expression; politics; solid animation.

 

 

For a show that was only made to promote the Japanese pop idol group, AKB0048 is more fun than it has any right to be. Even with a cast fully voiced by AKB idols, characters modelled off popular girls and the soundtrack consisting entirely of previous singles, it’s a hell of a show from start to finish.


Humans have developed enough to launch space ships and settle on other planets but can’t even let other people have fun, so half of the galaxy is under an entertainment ban. A group of young girls decide to stick it to the police and spread entertainment anyway, also recruiting other young girls to join their team. Nagisa, Chieri and their friends are part of these eager girls and join the ever-growing legion of idols but find out that singing is only a small part of being an AKB0048 idol.


The show is so full of AKB that it’s ridiculous but also strangely interesting, like a snake eating its own tail. Of course, the show picks only the catchiest of AKB songs to draw you into watching it, but when you do fall into their trap, you’re met with a solid story and a fuzzy feeling you get from watching young girls fight for their dreams.


Why it made the list: AKB0048 might be full of references, but it doesn’t feel like a huge marketing ploy, and in the end that’s pretty damn important. Just when you think the series is going to take the serious route, it busts out the mecha and breaks into song.


Watch if you like: J-pop; AKB; growing up stories; singing; mecha; space travels; cute girls; Kawamori; laughing at what’s going on.

 

Between utopian societies, spilling blood, crazy mind powers, rat people and warped perceptions, there’s something for everyone in Shinseki Yori. Whether you like to discuss anime over a fine glass of wine or scream at your computer, this show is guaranteed to get you thinking about society in a way that few sci-fi shows do.


When young Saki finally receives the psychokinetic powers every human is capable of, she enrols in her local school and quickly becomes friends with five other kids. One day, when she and her friends decide it’s better to wander into the wild and be killed by some unknown creature than to follow the crowd on a boring field trip, Saki and friends discover that the world they live in isn’t exactly what it seems. Now armed with this new knowledge, things change for the group as important members of society realise they know too much.


There’s drama and supernatural elements aplenty but the show never feels too heavy-handed, instead allowing you to wonder what’s going on while feeding you hints every now and then. Shinsekai Yori’s time jumps allow the story to stay exciting and strings the drama enough over time for it to feel like a steady, purposeful build up into “oh no, what have they done”.


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.


Watch if you like: Soylent Green; utopias turned dystopian; a relatively small cast of characters; supernatural powers; genetics; naked mole rats; thinking; time jumps.

 

Just like there are quick shows that only touch on a few things, there are anime that explore their world so fully that it’s like a full course dinner. Texhnolyze revels in its setting and explores its world and characters fully, leaving you to lean back and unhook your belt in satisfaction. Or it leaves you sobbing into the tablecloth because it’s so utterly depressing.


Texhnolyze starts out bleakly enough with a prize fighter losing an arm and a leg to another fighter. After being taken in as a guinea pig and experimented on, the orphan Ichise starts to be drawn deeper and deeper into the sick and dark workings of his city as he fights to survive.


If you’re looking for a story that slowly unfolds with little to no explanations, Texhnolyze is ready to go. Everything fits together so well, creating a strong atmosphere for the series and preparing you for the punch in the gut you’ve been asking for while watching it. There’s no spoon-feeding with this full course meal.


Why it made the list: Texhnolyze makes the bleakest of anime seem tame and manages to create its own world with its questioning, dark, gut-punching atmosphere. As distanced as every character seems to be, the overall pacing makes them compelling and everyone has an air of realness. It’s not an anime for the faint-hearted but something superb for those looking for a perspective on life.


Watch if you like: Minimalistic shows; low amount of dialogue; slow pacing; experimental anime; death; grit.

 

Watch Texhnolyze on Amazon Right Now

 

 

Among the large amount of wildly popular shows aired around the mid-2000s, Noein was a little left behind, if not because of all the amazing shows that were released around it, then because it's a difficult anime to approach even though once you're in everything is easy.

 

Twelve-year-old Haruka and her friend Yuu live their childhood peacefully enough until a particular battle in an alternate universe war causes a warrior to enter their world. Karasu – the warrior and paedophilic older version of Yuu – is immediately smitten with Haruka and works to stalk her throughout the series, claiming she has the power to save his world. As always the case with war, a large cast of characters come to interfere with Karasu's stalking habits.

 

Despite the series being wrapped in a layer of theoretical science, the focus on character struggles make things easy to digest. There's something for everyone, whether it be scientific explanations, stories of fate, sci-fi battles or teenage angst.

 

Why it made the list: With all the complicated scientific jargon and explanations for basically the entire plot, you'd think Noein would be a hard show to watch, but it never is. It's incredibly easy to jump into things mid-series and the focus on the characters (or at least the main couple) makes the jargon take a back seat.

 

Watch if you like: Science; fighting; teenage angst; cool soundtracks; stories about fate or linked lives.

 

Watch Noein Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

 

Cultural card games have never been more interesting since strip poker. If you’ve been seeking a sport-based anime with less overpowered 14-year-olds and more actual tournament atmosphere, look no further than Chihayafuru.


Discarding super power-ups and final forms, Chihayafuru emerges from the pile of sports anime to bring you a slightly uninteresting card game made an extreme sport by lovable characters. Main girl Chihaya, after discovering her passion for an advanced game of snap, decides to form a karuta club in high school. With some luck, she manages to bring together enough oddballs to start participating in tournaments.


Perhaps it’s the fact that Chihayafuru doesn’t peddle card game merchandise that makes it a good watch, but the combination of pretty girls with depth, sporting ambition and seemingly life-or-death tournaments makes the show really compelling to watch. When the characters’ victories feel like your victory, you know it’s something special.


Why it made the list: Any anime that makes you interested and heavily invested in an old or boring aspect of culture should be a good anime in anyone’s books. Chihayafuru reaches the core of all sporting anime, putting the triumphs and disappointment of real people above the technicality of the game. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters who have so much passion for what they do.


Watch if you like: Japanese culture; josei series; sports anime; a large cast of characters; romantic subplot; no sporting superpowers.

 

Since Japan has maid cafés and even cat cafés, it’s no surprise to see the inevitable anime featuring robot cafés. Of course, Time of Eve is less cute girl shenanigans and more questioning of human kind, but the usual overbearing seriousness of a movie about human and robot relations is given a more relaxing air in this anime.


Time of Eve involves the usual robot/human set-up: a boy discovers something is wrong with his android servant and, after tailing her one day, discovers that she is doing illegal, human-like things. Then a large government body steps in to put the robots back in their place. This time, it’s at a café safe zone and the boy joins in the robot shenanigans while realising that both robots and humans can get along equally.


In shoving a bunch of humans and robots into a box, the movie takes a slight Slice of Life route with dramatic undertones, making the huge “robots shouldn’t be human” struggle stretch out into something more pleasant than large car chase scenes and gun fights. It’s a slightly different take on the usual story and is much better for it, using good ol’ character focus to draw you in.


Why it made the list: While much like a lot of other movies about robot–human relationships, Time of Eve’s inclusion of a special safe zone with strict rules allows the movie to be a little more casual in its thematic approach.


Watch if you like: Robots; the possibilities of the future; smoothly animated CG work; human and robot interaction; cafés; an average-sized cast of characters; soft science fiction.

 

Kill Me Baby is one a few anime series solely funded by a 10-year-old’s weekly allowance but manages to be incredibly funny despite its low budget. With something slightly above flash animation-tier, the show presents ordinary high school snippets that let you sit back and enjoy the simpler side of comedy.


Yasuna is an ordinary high school girl with an extraordinary best friend: an assassin named Sonya. Together they do ordinary high school things such as fight ninjas, eat lunch and cut the tops off bottles with a swift strike. With each episode, Yasuna plans to finally one-up Sonya, but each time she is thwarted by the honed skills of her assassin friend… or her own simple-mindedness.


Although everything sounds fairly average, Kill Me Baby’s voice cast absolutely carries the series from start to finish. Comedic banter is a joy to listen to and each character brings a voice that adds to the joke, whether it’s a playful tone or a silly sounding childish exclamation. There are a lot of pleasant surprises underneath the show’s simplistic appearance.


Why it made the list: While the series certainly doesn’t make waves with its animation, Kill Me Baby is carried by a very strong voice acting cast and supported by a very sturdy set of jokes. It can easily be looked over because of its simplicity, but you’re missing out on one of anime’s most recent “simple but funny” shows.


Watch if you like: 4koma manga; simple jokes; simplistic animation; strong voice casts; high school girls; a cast with few characters; “weird” humour; slapstick humour; episodic series.

 

If you haven’t eaten enough zombie flesh to sate your appetite for the undead, Zombie-Loan is an underappreciated title that blends fanservice and zombie fighting action in a bite-sized series.


Michiru sees dead people. Or rather, she sees when people are about to die, which is totally useful for a high school girl. One day, she realises that two of her classmates seem like they’re close to death, but they’re really zombies contracted to kill other zombies. It’s anime, it doesn’t have to make sense. The two boys decide to use Michiru’s power to seek out other dead people and kill them… again.


Zombie-Loan’s premise alone should tell you how seriously to take the show. It’s nothing bleak and fanservice is aplenty. Of course, when ridiculous stories are around, characters become the most important thing. The three main characters are stuck to each other like the undead on human flesh, making for some interesting interactions.


Why it made the list: Forget anime that take themselves too seriously or wallow in death and bleak stories. Zombie-Loan is here to give you a bit of fanservice with your zombie gore and still deliver on the fights. With the show being so short, it’s easy to enjoy in a sitting or two and a nice break if you’re in the middle of watching larger series.


Watch if you like: Zombies; short series; reading the manga; supernatural themes; zombie fighting action; stories that aren’t too bleak; fanservice.

 

Perhaps during your years of guzzling down high school Japanese settings, you’ve yearned for a title that does away with Japan or even England and sets its characters somewhere else. If that’s the case, your salvation is in Michiko to Hatchin – an anime set entirely in South America.


When Michiko Malandro breaks out of prison, her first goal is to kidnap a young girl named Hana. Both of these women have some connection to a man called Hiroshi, but after questioning Hana in hopes of finding him, Michiko finds that Hiroshi is about as slippery as a bar of prison soap. The two then set off on a crime-filled journey to find him.


Realistic characters acting in realistic and vibrant setting makes Michiko to Hatchin really stand out. Everything in this anime sides with the more gritty side of life and is better off for it. Of course, as much as it features car chases not unlike Thelma and Louise, it’s all about the main two characters’ development.

 


Why it made the list: Besides the colourful and wonderfully different setting, Michiko to Hatchin brings a culturally rich and realistic side to its show, focusing on character development while the world turns around them.


Watch if you like: South America; androgynous little girls; Thelma and Louise; colourful art; realistic settings; some episodic moments.

 

Watch Michiko to Hatchin Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

 

If you’ve been wishing for an anime with an all (or mostly) female cast doing badass things then look no further than Canaan. To-the-point but superbly animated, Canaan features assassins, terrorists, government conspiracies and guns packed into a 13 episode series.


Canaan revolves around three women who are somehow linked to an anti-terrorism summit. While two of them are assassins and aim to show fictional Shanghai’s anti-terrorist get-together just how good terrorism can be, another of the women is thrown into a plot involving her past with a bio-terrorism incident. Everything is terrorism all the time.


The show is refreshingly straightforward, preferring to show off its badass women more than throw in unnecessary twists. It’s more fun than deeply dramatic or profound, making it an enjoyable watch rather than depressing.

 


Why it made the list: With a simple enough plot, Canaan lets you enjoy the show for what it is. The friendship between the two main characters is a joy to see and you get your well animated badass women moments. It’s short and to the point, making it fine for an evening or two of action.


Watch if you like: A mostly female cast; lesbians; photography; anything touched by Type-Moon; assassins; China settings; terrorism; short series; shared protagonist spots; backstories that affect the main plot.

 

Watch Canaan Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

 

Scrap the more traditional fantasy adventure, Scrapped Princess has the best of fantasy and sci-fi with sword and sorcery battles leading to sci-fi mecha fights. Despite the large cast, the focus is more cosy on the main character and her brother.

 

Pacifica is faced with everyday teenage drama – she is destined to destroy the world on her 16th birthday. No big deal. But because the world wants to end her before she supposedly ends them, she runs away from home with her two brothers and embarks on a journey of swords and sorcery. Then later mecha, because mecha is awesome.

 

The action in this series takes a back seat for much of the show as the main characters' adventures and the dark cloud of death looms over them. Refreshingly, the series is also sure to wrap up its many plots and tie them into a satisfying ending befitting a princess.

 

Why it made the list: Scrapped Princess has a slightly different approach to the usual fantasy setting, combining medieval times with modern mecha technology. Of course, it's still got the atmosphere of a classic sword 'n' sorcery show, but it changes things up a bit to keep things fresh.

 

Watch if you like: Sword and sorcery; the medieval times; tales of prophesy; being hunted down; episodic series; mecha; episodic series.

 

Another atmospheric series makes its way into our top 25 list of underrated anime. This time it’s Tamayura ~Hitotose~, a show that punches you softly in the nostalgia then gives you a bowl of warm soup and a blanket.


Set in regional Japan, Tamayura follows the daily life of Fuu, a young girl who has returned to her birthplace after the death of her father. While everything threatens to drown her in waves of nostalgia, Fuu is keen to remember her father fondly and continues his passion of taking photos. While home, she meets up with her childhood friends and together they strive for their future careers.


Tamayura has the chance to make you sob over a dead family member but instead takes the rare positive approach to death, preferring to set a comfortable and warm tone to the series. Each episode is slow enough to compete in some annual grandmother wheelchair racing event but is perfect for relaxing and appreciating the finer points of photography.


Why it made the list: Getting the right atmosphere in a show is hard to do, but Tamayura brings a soothing calmness with every episode and doesn’t stray into anything too boring. Like a warm home-cooked meal, it’s relaxing, comforting and a little nostalgic. And also cute, if you’re into that.


Watch if you like: A soothing atmosphere and tone; a cast with few characters; photography; cute girls; “fluffy” feelings; relaxing; settings heavily based on real locations; slow-paced episodes.

 

High school life can be pretty dull, and no character embodies the can’t-be-bothered high schooler attitude more than Oreki. Kyoto Animation has a certain flair for making high school interesting, and Hyouka is one of their titles that gives enough attention to detail  that it makes everything more interesting than it should be.


Oreki is a high school boy who likes to take it so easy that he barely has enough willpower to walk. When the school term begins, his older sister thrusts him into the school’s literature club where he meets his complete opposite in the energetic and bubbly Chitanda. With Chitanda’s persistent prodding, Oreki begins to solve various school mysteries in the most roundabout ways possible.


Hyouka casts away the action and boob-attention-grabbing qualities of other shows to be interesting on its own merits. It’s a thinker’s anime as much as any large universe-spanning plot, with the added level of character development that makes Oreki’s high school journey satisfying.


Why it made the list: Hyouka takes a while to settle in for people who don’t normally watch mysteries shows without the horror. The anime has a particular approach to everyday problems that can seem dull at first, but when Oreki begins to solve problems with barely a clue, watching things come together so logically becomes brain porn.


Watch if you like: Sherlock; mysteries; the ordinary made extraordinary; detailed animation; Kyoto Animation; high school setting; small cast of characters; teenage geniuses; “odd couple” situations.

17

UN-GO

 

In a world of truth vs lies, UN-GO gives you a detective story where it doesn’t really side with either option and instead chooses to sit on the fence and throw shit at either side. It doesn’t desperately hide the good or bad aspects of either side, giving the show a lot more courage than pretty much everything else.


Even war-ravaged Japan still needs detectives, which buddy cop team Yuuki and Inga are all too happy to be. They investigate various crimes and use supernatural powers to make people tell them what really happened, tying everything up by the end of the episode. Except UN-GO is more about the detectives and what’s going on with the government than the mystery. The real mystery just might be what exactly UN-GO is about.


UN-GO is as modest as modern anime shows can get, with a mystery-of-the-week approach that isn’t very mysterious and a story that just wants to sit down with you and chat about the future, which makes it stand out from all the in-your-face action shows or overdramatic romance anime.


Why it made the list: UN-GO takes a spot on my list of anime that appear to be one thing but are actually the other, and is the reason why the show is underrated. Interpreted as a detective show, the mystery falls pretty flat, but taken as a larger commentary on politics and the government, it works out quite well.


Watch if you like: War-torn settings; politics; supernatural elements that aren’t too supernatural; episodic anime; stories of truth and lies; detective shows; fence sitting.

 

Guns, girls, Mexico and mysteries are all wrapped up in our next most underrated anime title. While many anime-goers remember the previous two Bee Train series fondly, El Cazador makes it as our most underrated as most look over it for the usual set-up, not knowing that the show perfects its comedic scenes and character development.


The last instalment of animation studio Bee Train’s “girls with guns” series, El Cazador follows the story of Ellis and Nadie who somehow decide to team up despite one being a bounty hunter and the other a suspected murderer. They spend the series going through the girl with gun + mysterious girl with mysterious past + journey to find the truth formula but give everything a little extra bang with how the characters interact with each other.


In contrast with a lot of other shows on this list, El Cazador is not a thinker’s anime. All you need to enjoy it is sit back and stroke your gun as the girls on screen run around. But of course, El Cazador is on this list because it excels in character development, with a satisfying arc for the main two girls.


Why it made the list: While the set-up of El Cazador isn’t much different from the previous anime in the slightly-unrelated series, this anime makes the third time a charm with an amazing soundtrack and fantastic character dynamics.


Watch if you like: Girls with guns; Mexico settings; Yuki Kajiura; character development; bounty hunters; Spaghetti Westerns.

You can imagine the thought process that goes into creating some anime. “We like The Count of Monte Cristo but it’s really old,” says one man. “What it needs is space adventures, giant robots and evil spirits. Oh, and it needs to be on the moon. That’ll give it some spice.” And thus you have Gankutsuou.


Gankutsuou is The Count of Monte Christo set 3,000 years into the future where people still need to avoid potential copyright disputes and so make the story ‘loosely based’ on the novel. When Albert Morcerf befriends the Count of Monte Christo, he’s introduced to a number of wealthy people. But the Count has plans for naïve Albert and manipulates him to carry out an intricate plot of revenge. Just like Romeo and Juliet, this anime follows the general story of The Count of Monte Christo, so no surprises.

 

 

 

 

Why it made the list: Maybe you avoided reading the novel in high school English class, but Gankutsuou isn’t a dull adaption of an old piece of literature. It’s crazy enough to pull all its new insertions off while it sticks to the themes and intent of the original story. You can find out why The Count of Monte Christo is so well-know, but just don’t base a report on the anime.


Watch if you like: Adaptations of old stories; revenge stories; cliffhangers; science fiction elements; manipulation; drama; suspense.

 

Watch The Count of Monte Christo Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

 

 

When ridiculous meets desperate, the result is often sub-par, but in Ben-to’s case, it’s anything but forgettable. With a premise that turns late-night shopping into a mass brawl and the guts to deliver exactly what it promises, Ben-to is one of the bigger recent anime to be ignored by most of the anime-watching public.


When Sato ventures into a supermarket in hopes of picking up some discounted bento, he stumbles across a secret fight club where high school students like himself put their lives on the line for the glory of discounted food. As you’d expect of something so ridiculous, Sato is drawn into the world of “wolves” and fighting for food, and each challenge he meets pushes the limits of his strong shonen drive to succeed and win.


Whoever was in charge of creating this anime let the production staff go wild. On top of intense fight scenes with pretty characters is a soundtrack that combines rhythmic chanting, rock, techno and awesome. Characters don’t feel like the usual lifeless fanservice props you’d expect and the main character isn’t some kind of multi-talented god.


Why it made the list: With fighting, food, pretty girls and a strong soundtrack, Ben-to leaves a lasting impression. Whether it’s the outrageous premise that hooks you or the execution that gives you everything you’re hoping for, it doesn’t matter – Ben-to kicks its way into your heart and stays there for good.


Watch if you like: Fighting scenes; ridiculous premises; a varied soundtrack; nicknames and clubs; an average-sized cast of characters; not taking things seriously; action.

 

Watch Ben-to on Amazon Right Now

 

 

 

Nothing screams “hidden gem” more than an anime that looks like your typical fantasy fare but ends up a detailed and enthralling tale of a fantasy world. Perhaps it’s the older art style, but those who hate watching a hundred million episodes before getting to the good part can be satisfied with the first 10 minutes of Juuni Kokuki dropping first impressions and getting into the show.


Everything happens all too quickly for average high school student Youko. Once a blonde man swears his loyalty to her, demons begin to attack and she’s sucked into a world that otaku dream of when they touch their consoles at night. Now seemingly trapped in this strange fantasy land, Youko and her two friends need to survive as best they can.


Juuni Kokuki has a real human feel to the series that few other fantasy anime have. It doesn’t feel like a shallow exploration of some roleplaying game, instead giving due respect to the fact that people are what make worlds and not what kind of creatures there are.


Why it made the list: Juuni Kokuki does what a fantasy story does best: builds its world so intricately and infinitely that it feels like a real place. Linked with our own world and explored with loving detail, this anime is for the people who love to explore. There’s no JRPG elements or wish fulfilment here.

 

Watch if you like: World building; lots of episodes; fantasy; real-world connections; a large cast of characters; no filler episodes.

 

Watch Juuni Kokuki Episodes on Amazon Right Now

 

A picture’s worth a thousand deaths in Speed Grapher, the anime that makes photography into something like a life-or-death action sport. Despite the main characters’ drive to blow shit up, the show isn’t completely mindless action, so if you’re looking for more kick-ass moments than story with action, Black Lagoon is similar and with a bigger thirst for blood.


Speed Grapher’s world seems like it takes after modern America as it’s Tokyo setting is ruled by the wealthy 2% of the country and the divide between rich and poor is about as big as the Grand Canyon. In the midst of this Saiga, a former war photographer, heads to a club as part of his information-gathering job but is soon forced into contact with a special girl named Kagura. She has a power that makes things explode when she has a photograph taken of her. You can imagine her selfies.


Speed Grapher is another look at a corrupted city setting but with more action than philosophy. The show isn’t shy about the shady things that happen in the darker side of the world and will give you enough blood and sex to fulfil your weird violent fantasies.


Why it made the list: Speed Grapher doesn’t pretend to be all philosophical about the dark side of the world, instead opting to deliver character development bundled with lots of action and blood. Beneath the Drugs, sex and not-rock ‘n’ roll is a kernel of truth, but it’s much more of a fun series to sit back and enjoy for what it is.


Watch if you like: Action; dystopias; photography; science fiction; blood and gore; dark but not bleak anime; anime with an adult feel.

 

Watch Speed Grapher on Amazon Right Now

 

 

Behind Kaiji’s slightly ugly exterior is an anime that gets to the heart of gambling: the incredible tension of whether someone will fuck up big time or get to sleep on piles of cash. It doesn’t matter what kind of game it is, Kaiji makes even the simplest of games a test of psychological strength and will to claw at throats to survive.


Kaiji, a man whose nose leads a more interesting life than he does, is thrust into the financial deep end when a debt collector comes to claim $40,000 from him as he co-signed a loan. As Kaiji is in no position to readily pay back the loan, the debt collector suggests that he can win the money back by gambling. And thus begins Kaiji’s new life as a gambler playing rock, paper, scissors aboard a boat with several hundred other men in debt.


What makes Kaiji different is that the show isn’t afraid to give its main character a little kick up the backside. Kaiji can lose at any time, and it feels like there’s a real chance he could mess up and fall further and further into debt.


Why it made the list: Kaiji is as much of an underdog series as its lead character. On the surface, the show isn’t readily appealing, but when you delve into it, it grips you and shows you the real nature of the world who isn’t afraid to kick you when you’re down.


Watch if you like: Noses; all-male cast; gambling; rising tension; non-cute animation style; manly tears; rock, paper, scissors; solid soundtrack.

 

 

While libraries are the beacon of boring in life, Tatakau Shisho reminds us that anime is here to make even the dullest setting the place for life-or-death action. Just as maids make cafés a better place to be, psychic librarians give book borrowing a whole new feel.


In a world where dead people turn into books, a group of armed, psychic librarians fight to protect these books from an enemy religious society. These superpowered librarians live in exciting times and use their powers to… track lost books and recruit members. As library-like as it sounds, each character in the series pursues their own agenda and, as they are all psychic warrior librarians, clash against each other, making the whole scenario a lot more interesting.


Fight scenes in this anime are a treat and it seems like the animation studio was saving their pocket money for those times. Of course, you come for the action and stay for the characters. With over thirty characters introduced en mass over the course of the series, you’re bound to like a few of them, or love to hate others.

 


Why it made the list: Not only does Tatakau Shisho make libraries a little more exciting, it adds substance to style by offering an interesting thought about the afterlife. The anime doesn’t go introspective to mull over its own ideas for 27 episodes but rather moves around quickly, bringing in new plot points quickly but explaining everything in the details. You need to pay attention for this one.


Watch if you like: Intricate subplots; libraries; theories about death; fast-paced stories; a huge cast of characters; non-cute art style.


 

First on our top 25 list is the anime that could likely be the most rejected by any anime fan who is shallow enough to demand cute girls all the time. What was initially a promising manga adaptation of a twisted teenage story became a surprising animation style which turned viewers away from its content.


Aku no Hana follows awkward teenager Kasuga as he has his awkward teenage crush on his classmate, Saeki. When Kasuga visits school after hours to retrieve a forgotten book, he discovers Saeki’s gym uniform on the floor and steals it. Kasuga hopes he can return the uniform before he becomes a real pervert and gives it a good huff, but once he’s caught by the class delinquent Nakamura, he’s trapped in a seemingly endless circle of mild torture, manipulation, social experimentation and a prolonged fetish fantasy. No lie.


Anime isn’t always about the art style, even if it’s a big part of it. While Aku no Hana was practically filmed as a live action show, it still sticks to the manga incredibly well and its style only adds to the downright creepy atmosphere of the story. These are sick kids trapped in a town and not everything is going to happen like your run-of-the-mill moe anime.


Why it made the list: Make no mistake – Aku no Hana’s rotoscoping makes the show hard to watch, but once you stop whining and settle in, you’re let into a commentary of the teenage world and how twisted people can end up being. Aku no Hana ends up being a hard watch, but not for the reasons you would expect.


Watch if you like: Rotoscoping; teenage angst; live action shows/doramas; psychological themes; not your average growing up story; perverts.


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