With recent major anime like Dragon Ball Super, Jujutsu Kaisen, demon slayer, and more get most of the limelight, it’s easy to see how shounen franchises are so mainstream. However, Seinen and other older anime animations make up an impressive catalog of series within the genre.
Even outside of the original genre, they are also some of the highest-rated animated TV shows on IMDb. Many of the usual suspects long-time fans would recognize make the rankings, including the subversive ones One Punch Man and the dark fantasy epic of the 90s Berserk.
10 Mushi-Shi (8.5)
Away from the world-ending tropes and over-the-top action of other series, Mushi-Shi scales things up to a soothing and supernatural anime story. The story combines historical fiction with fantasy and is set between the Edo and Meiji periods in Japan. After Ginko — a titular Mushi-Shi — he travels through the countryside to study the otherworldly Mushi entities.
They are generally above humanity’s motivations and just exist in the same space, and few can see or be affected by them in any way. Mushi-Shi has been praised for its peaceful, hauntingly beautiful atmosphere and afterward emotional storytelling, as well as the anthology-esque format of Ginko’s mellow adventures.
9 Samurai Champloo (8.6)
Of the spirit that graced the genre with Cowboy Bebop — director Shinichirō Watanabe — also came the equal parts narratively compelling and stylish Samurai Champloo. In a hip-hop-infused revisionist take on Japan’s Edo period, this anime series follows the adventures of two ronin named Mugen and Jin alongside a former teahouse hostess, as the two help her find the mysterious “samurai who smells like sunflowers.” .
The aforementioned music style is a great tribute to the artistic approach of the series director of Bebopand the slick animation, which tackles socially conscious themes, and complete emotional character drama Samurai Champloo as a thoroughly investing watch.
8 Kaguya-sama: love is war (8.7)
Kaguya-sama: Love is war has proven to be one of the most entertaining romantic anime and manga available today. It’s a refreshing series from life that’s also a welcome shake-up for the romance genre. The romance genre is easily susceptible to cheap clichés and stories, but Kaguya-sama: Love is war has been praised by fans for having a charming cast of characters, fast and fun pacing, and also some elements of subversion of genre tropes.
The story follows Miyuki Shirogane, high school student council president and vice president Kaguya Shinomiya. Neither are secretly attracted to each other, but their pride keeps them from giving in so much and results in comical jokes and plans to get the other cracking first.
7 Berserk (8.7)
The late Kentaro Miura has been credited with arguably the greatest fantasy manga ever with Berserk, and no doubt the manga’s recent revival and honoring its legacy has thrilled countless fans. In the anime department, Berserk hasn’t been too lucky as most of the tweaks haven’t gone beyond the Arch from the Golden Ageand the series that went on was widely panned.
However, the original 1997 anime is seen as a cult classic that de black swordsman and Golden Age arcs in 25 episodes. The journey of Guts, Casca and co. is a poignant yet insightful story of healing from trauma, punctuated by a compelling dark fantasy setting and brutal action.
6 sample (8.7)
For fans who want a grounded crime drama, Sample perhaps the best option out there. An adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s manga, Sample is a riveting 70+ episode crime series that would feel right at home as a live-action HBO original. The series revolves around Kenzo Tenma, a former Japanese doctor living in Germany.
After Tenma refuses to operate on a high-ranking political figure to save a young boy’s life, he is exiled and later chased by that same child – now grown up and turned into an elusive serial killer. It’s a gloomy and arresting watch that skillfully conveys tension and an air of fear all the time, exploring dark philosophical themes.
5 Code Geass (8.7)
Code Geass is an anime-original series that puts a sci-fi twist on alternate history, with a story characterized by flashy action. But beyond the colorful mecha combat and bizarrely stylized character designs, the story revolves around themes of greed and imperial power obsessions of older generations of authoritarians.
Following the story of protagonist Prince Lelouch, the young man is given the “Power of Kings” to rally a team of allies and launch a rebellion against the oppressive Holy British Empire. The lively sense of spectacle when it comes to action, a wide cast of characters and a large-scale story Code Geass‘ brand of melodrama go down easier.
4 One Punch Man (8.7)
Widely acclaimed as one of the best modern seinen anime on IMDb and elsewhere, One Punch Man is excellent for several reasons. Whether it’s the stunning animation and action (from Season 1) or the cleverly subversive comedic elements, manga writer ONE’s superhero series is refreshingly sincere with what it sets out to do.
Saitama has in fact become the strongest being on the planet, but that power has bored him and led him to lead an indifferent life. Coupled with breathtaking fight scenes and clever comedy, One Punch Man is an incredibly entertaining experience that puts superheroes and shounen anime/manga tropes on their heads.
3 Vinland saga (8.8)
Vinland Saga is another more recent anime adaptation that has been massively acclaimed in the seinen space. It’s deserved, as writer Makoto Yukimura’s manga source material is a gripping, character-driven odyssey, and Wit Studio’s Season 1 adaptation beautifully covered Thorfinn’s tragic coming of age.
After the once fortunate Thorfinn sees his father murdered by the Viking private Askeladd, the former joins his band in hopes of gaining the strength to kill him in a duel. What begins as a bitter revenge story culminates in a deeply thoughtful tale of living for the future and the fascinating stories of Thorfinn’s supporting cast. Fans will certainly be eagerly awaiting the continuation of MAPPA in Season 2.
2 Steins; Port (8.8)
As for science fiction, Steins;Gate is one of the darker, more grounded anime. It has been hailed as a modern classic, with the series gradually and methodically building its world before evolving into a plot with large-scale consequences.
Okabe Rintaro is a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” with an ego problem, and he and his friends indulge in his scientific obsessions and accidentally stumble upon the technology behind time travel. Steins;Gate has a serious commitment to the world, but part of what makes this anime fantastic is how the massive conspiratorial threat is conveyed through a small-scale and intimate setting that almost makes audiences think it’s a slice of life.
1 Cowboy Bebop (8.9)
When it comes to the term ‘anime classics’, Cowboy Bebop is probably one of the first series to enter the minds of experienced fans. It was one of the industry’s crown jewels in the ’90s, combining slick art direction and acid jazz to create one of the moodiest stylish anime ever. Bebop is also one of the most influential series in the industry, but it wasn’t a matter of style over substance either.
The series follows the adventures of Spike, Jet, Fay, Ed and their Corgi Ein as bounty hunters in a world that masterfully blends the sci-fi and western genres in an anthology-style narrative structure. By addressing themes such as loneliness, existentialism and the consequences of corporate greed, Cowboy Bebop also tells compelling and deeply emotional stories of character drama spanning its diverse cast.
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