Top 25 not so well known Anime you have to seeby mlg-chur | created - 06 May 2011 | updated - 17 Sep 2016 | Public
Are you sick of hearing the same Anime-suggestions over and over again? Cowboy Bebop, Attack on Titan, Code Geass, One Piece, Evangelion, Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach, Deathnote, Fairy Tail etc.? This is the list for you. There are only two rules: 1. They have to be less popular than the Anime named above (which I cannot always be certain of). 2. I had to watch the entire series without hesitation after the first episode. The important factor is fun and engagement. Genre, intended age, stile: does not matter. Oh, and please, let me know what you think and if there is anime I might find entertaining. Now then:
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1. Mushi-Shi (2005–2006)
TV-14 | 25 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy
They are neither plants nor animals. They differ from other forms of life such as the micro-organisms and the fungi. Instead they resemble the primeval body of life and are generally known ... See full summary »
There are three reasons why “Mushishi” is the best show on this list:
1. It does not have any of the numerous anime-clichés that exist; it does not even feel like watching an anime. It is more like reading a good book, just beautifully animated.
2. The protagonist, Ginko, is probably one of the most likeable characters ever written – giving an interesting spin on the “lone wanderer” archetype.
3. Its relaxing. I am not kidding. The (still always engaging) stories are told in a very calm tone. It is fascinating to watch, without having to put in overblown fight scenes, panty-shots or giant robots. Every “Mushishi” episodes understands to weave a parable that makes for a good story – even if the intended messages flies over your head.
For that, I call it the best Anime I've seen so far.
*Edit: Everything said above is still true for the unexpected and still just as excellent second season "Mushishi: Zoku-Shou (2014)", so give that one a watch too.
2. Paranoia Agent (2004– )
TV-MA | 25 min | Animation, Drama, Horror
Seemingly unconnected citizens of Tokyo are targeted for bludgeoning by a boy with a golden baseball bat. As detectives try to link the victims, they discover that following the assaults, the victims' lives have improved in some way.
Brilliant. There is nothing more to say. From Satoshi Kon, the man behind "Perfect Blue", "Tokyo Godfathers" and "Paprika", this is the best psychological anime you have ever seen. Like “Welcome to the N.H.K.”, this still feels like a highly modern and relevant look at the societal problems of the 21st century. I was hooked from the amazingly haunting intro until the ending credits of the last episode – not many shows manage to do that. You may not get everything on your first watch through (or so I am told), but you are going to feel the urge to discuss the show or watch the whole thing again, it is that good. Just keep in mind that Satoshi Kon likes to play with the notion of time, perception and reality: everything you are seeing on the screen is from the perspective of one of the various protagonists - unfortunately they are all insane.
3. Gyakkyô burai Kaiji (2007–2011)
TV-14 | 23 min | Animation, Action, Thriller
Kaiji Itou is a good-for-nothing loiterer who spends his days drinking beer and stealing hubcaps-that is, until he ends up being tricked by his former co-worker. Unable to suddenly repay ... See full summary »
Do you know "Rock, Paper, and Scissors"? A game quite boring to watch, isn't it? Wrong. This show takes something as boring as "Rock, Paper, Scissors" ("Janken", I believe it is called in Japanese) and makes it seem like a matter of life and death. Mostly because it is. It is so exciting in fact, that I watched the entire first season in three days, which is really fast for me. I also like the style of animation, which is unique and interesting to watch. Oh, and the opening song is catchy too. There is also a second season; it is not as good because it has only two games to play, but it is also a ton of fun to watch. If I had to give one criticism it would be this: If you rewatch the show, you notice just how much some scenes get stretched for dramatic effect. Meaning important plotpoints can last two entire episodes without driving forward the main story.
4. Welcome to the NHK! (2006– )
TV-MA | Animation, Comedy, Drama
This surreal dramedy follows Satou Tatsuhiro as he attempts to escape the evil machinations of the NHK.
Now this is an anime for adults and young adults. The story has some interesting insights in our consumption culture and everybody who is into anime, games, or Japanese pop-culture in general should really watch this show (you will see why very fast). It is also very psychological and somewhat sad. “Welcome to the N.H.K” presents us with a very modern look on what effect our society can have on the adolescent mind – dealing with topics ranging from depression to hikikomorism (google it) and even suicide.
Despite all that, the show does not feel heavy or saddening – it keeps up a certain levity in most scenes by pointing out the absurdism of feeling sorry for a guy who could do anything he wants and still manages to be miserable while doing nothing.
Of course, our protagonist is an extreme case, but he remains relatable, because his plight reminds us of the darker hours I am sure most of us had to endure sometimes in our life.
---Do not worry; the story does not end in suicide. However, you will not see the perfect happy ending either.---
5. The Tatami Galaxy (2010)
TV-14 | Animation, Comedy, Drama
When a nameless student at Kyoto University encounters a demigod one night, he asks to relive the past three years in order to win the heart of Ms. Akashi, the object of his affection.
At first, I wanted to put this show, "the Tatami Galaxy", lower on the list. Sure, the characters are fun, the visual style is beautiful, but despite the fact that the narrator talks fast as hell, the episodes felt a bit slow. Fortunately, they were about a topic I could relate to, which made me continue watching until I hit the last two episodes (10, 11). Maan was it worth it. I think this series has one of the best finales in anime-history. It has a clear moral, ties up the few loose ends that happened in the episodes and had me smiling all the way to the end. P.S If you are not Japanese, and wondering what the title of this show "Tatami Galaxy" is about; even that is explained in the finale.
6. Future Boy Conan (1978– )
TV-PG | 24 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy
After the world is nearly destroyed by a war, a young boy and his friends must fight to save the world from those who seek to conquer what is left of civilization.
A show made by the one and only Hayao Miyazaki, founder of the beloved "Studio Ghibli". It shows: the story plays out like "Nausicaä from the Valley of Winds" mixed with "Castle in the sky". Sure, it is mainly a show for children, but you will not feel dumb while watching it. The characters are all very likeable, and the story is easy to follow but very interesting nevertheless, just like all the movies Studio Ghibli has made. I find it odd that only few people seem to remember this show, even though it is the only full TV-series Miyazaki has ever done. I hope that this post manages to give the show some more well deserved attention.
7. Dennou Coil (2007)
TV-14 | Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Eleven years after the introduction of internet-connected, augmented reality eyeglasses and visors, Yuuko Okonogi moves with her family to Daikoku City, the technological center of the ... See full summary »
I am not quite sure if this was supposed to be a show for kids or not. Not that it matters; the story is engaging and even thought provoking at times ("The Matrix" meets "TRON"... well sort of). It is similar to Myazaki's stile, family-friendly, but still interesting for everybody. However, perhaps the better comparison would be the Persona series: slice of life with a dark undercurrent.
8. Kemonozume (2006– )
Animation, Adventure, Drama
Kemonozume "Beast Claw" is an anime series written and directed by Masaaki Yuasa, animated by Studio Madhouse. Since ancient times a race of flesh eating monsters called shokujinki that can... See full summary »
Now as far as I can tell, this one is quite unknown when compared to most shows on this list. It is about a group of monster hunters, struggling to find a way to deal with the rapid changes in society. It is also a love-story, a drama, a slasher film, a comedy and a fighting show. However, what sounds like a huge confusing mess of an anime, like FLCL, is in fact a very well told story. Sure, it has its share of "WTF?"-moments, but they usually have a point and make sense if you think about them. Another thing this show has going for it, is the wonderful and unique animation and a kick-ass opening theme song (which was my ring-tone for quite a while). It is a bit like "Elfenlied", if it was an arthouse film.
9. Samurai Champloo (2004–2005)
TV-MA | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
Fuu, a waitress who works in a teahouse, rescues two master swordsmen, Mugen and Jin, from their execution to help her find the "samurai who smells of sunflowers."
Yeah, one of my favourites: Samurai Champloo! This show would be higher on the list, but it heavily breaks my own rule by just being way to well known. It is from the creators of "Cowboy Bebop" (often considered the best anime ever made), but I think this is the superior show. The animation is fantastic: fast, colourful - it just feels alive. The modern soundtrack is great and fits the setting surprisingly well - especially the opening. The story has everything: comedy, drama, action (which unfortunately could put some people off) but it still feels like a cohesive whole (at least to me). Think of it as the younger, happier brother of Cowboy Bebob (which was often just depressing).
10. Ping Pong the Animation (2014)
TV-14 | Animation, Drama, Sport
Five ping pong prodigies learn to navigate the harsh climate of competitive sport and the even more frightening realm of self realization.
Because I wanted to try something new, I started watching sports anime. Even though I watched some decent ones (e.g. Bamboo-Blade, One-Outs), I did not exactly think any of them would belong on this list. Well lucky for me, I stumbled across this gem. Do not let its dumb title fool you: This show does far more than the average sports-anime. The story follows a satisfying, character-driven arc (11 episodes); the animation and sound-design are gorgeously unique (well... If you do not mind the rotoscoped faces and dirty designs) and it manages to be exciting, even if you know nothing about the sport.
11. Tiger & Bunny (2011– )
TV-14 | Animation, Action, Comedy
In a world where superheroes have corporate sponsors and are the stars of their own reality TV show, a new superhero team is born as the veteran hero Wild Tiger is assigned to be partners with rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr.
I really like recommending this show to people who think stereotypes and formulas cannot make for a good show. While it is true that Tiger & Bunny seems almost completely constructed from stock characters and predictable arcs, it also manages to deliver all of them in a believable way. To give some broad examples:
- It is a superhero show that does not rely too heavy on crazy powers and battles.
- It is a buddy-cop show whose two leads actually have two separate character arcs.
- It features camp villains, whose motivation is not completely incomprehensible or confusing.
12. Tsuritama (2012– )
TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Drama, Sci-Fi
Four individuals' adventures on an island while fishing; Yuki, who is terrible at communicating and hence never made any real friends, Haru who attempts to teach Yuki fishing, Natsuki an ... See full summary »
This is by far the happiest show on the list and it kept me smiling all the way through. It has a similar random style like the Dr. Irabu series and a weird premise: It's about a group of friends, consisting of a socially awkward wreck, a hard-core fisherman, an alien with a water pistol and an Indian agent who has a pet duck. These four have to save the world by catching an alien fish, because it forces people through mind control to dance a silly dance. If you can tolerate a little nonsense, you will find an interesting, surprisingly simple but entertaining story about friendship and doing what you desire.
13. Kuuchuu Buranko (2009– )
25 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama
Many patients with different problems visit the psychiatric ward of Irabu General Hospital; a trapeze artist suffering from insomnia after suddenly failing his jumps, a gangster afraid of ... See full summary »
This show is perfect for this list: Not only is it imaginative and fun, but it is so unknown, that I had some trouble finding the right IMDB-entry. "Kūchū Buranko" a.k.a "Welcome to Irabu's office" feels like a mix between the "Tatami Galaxy" and "Paranoia Agent". It is a semi episodic anime, with a strange visual design (lots of rotoscoping, crazy colourful) about an eccentric psychiatrist and his patients. What sounds like a boring idea is a wonderful trip with great visual storytelling and relatable characters. However, two minor flaws prevent this show from being higher on the list: 1. I do not think this is a show for everyone. Watch the first two episodes; if you are not hooked by then, it will not get any better for you. 2. I was a bit disappointed by the ending. Do not get me wrong, it is a solid ending. I just felt a little cheated, because I thought this show was building up to something huge and campy. It keeps on counting the days that pass by, to give you a feeling that something is big coming. I will not spoil what it was counting down to (I just realized it myself), but I rather hoped for more.
14. Barakamon (2014– )
TV-PG | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama
As a punishment for punching a famous calligrapher, young handsome calligrapher Handa Seishu is exiled to a small island. As someone who has never lived outside of a city, Handa has to ... See full summary »
I was looking for a comfortable anime - one that is not too heavy to sit through and just leaves you smiling. Fortunately, I ended up watching this show. As story, characters and design goes, this anime really is not anything very special; it is the well-explored "summer that changed my life, power of friendship" kind of show and as such, most characters and scenarios are really just stereotypes. We have the awkward protagonist, the energetic child, the shy child, the nerd and their adventures are the beach-episode, the festival-episode or the fishing episode. You get the idea. However, it all fits together so very well. Apart from a sometimes absurdly idealistic representation of the countryside and its denizens, the show is really a perfect example of a light-hearted slice of life comedy. So if that is your thing, definitely check it out.
15. Rokka no Yuusha (2015– )
TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
When evil awakes, the deity of Fate will choose six heroes to save the world from ruination.
This was the first show in a long time that I binge watched right through to the end. I can’t really tell how many people watched it – but considering that only a month after its finale it was completely overshadowed by one punch man, I feel pretty safe putting this show in. At least for the moment. What we have here is a really clever take on the “isolation-whodunit”. For the first two episodes, you might mistake this show for just another hero’s journey – just with six heroes instead of one. However, just past the third episode the show morphs into a fantasy version of Sherlock Holmes, as the protagonists try to find out who among them could be a traitor. With lots of fun characters, a solid plot and its fair share of shonen melodrama, this show is perfect if you crave something short but highly entertaining. The only other thing I could say against the show is, that I wanted to see more – but unfortunately, a season two has yet to be confirmed.
16. Katanagatari (2010– )
TV-PG | 50 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
Kyotoryuu, is the legendary fencing school. However, instead of a sword, it uses one's hands and legs as weapons. Shichika and his sister Nanami are the sole remaining descendants of the ... See full summary »
This anime weirdly fascinates me. It played with my expectations quite a lot (except at the end) and in a good way. From afar, this looks like any samurai-adventure show you have seen, maybe with a more developed visual style. However, do not let the first few episodes or the weird character-design put you off, it will get much more interesting. I cannot tell you much without spoiling everything, just this: When I say it played with my expectations, I do not mean it has lots of twist in the story.
17. Guardian of the Sacred Spirit (2007– )
TV-PG | 25 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
The Second Empress hires a spear-wielding woman to save her son from the Mikado (emperor) who believes the young prince is possessed by a water demon foretold to bring a terrible drought upon the land should he live.
This is an easy binge - watch. Think of it as an anime bedtime fairy-tale. The story is simple and engaging, it is quite immersive and the world and character-designs are a lot of fun, despite the boring animation. “Guardian of the Sacred Spirit’s” greatest strength lies in its characters, who manage to be interesting without relying too heavy on dialog and exposition-dumps.
There is not much to think about, but I do not mean that in any negative way. If you just want to relax but still want to see something with a little substance, this is the anime for you.
18. Baccano! (2007–2008)
TV-MA | 384 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
A crazy fantasy caper involving alchemists, immortals, gangsters, outlaws and an elixir of immortality, spread over several decades.
I remember watching the first two episodes of this show and having no clue what was going on. Therefore, I stopped watching and forgot about it. Fortunately, a friend of mine told me that I was missing out on a great ride. Right he was. The first episodes may be a bit tough to sit through, but it is all worth for the final five episodes where so much stuff is happening, you cannot stop watching.
19. XXXHOLiC (2005– )
TV-PG | Animation, Comedy, Drama
Kimihiro Watanuki, a high-schooler, is troubled by monsters and spirits who are magically attracted to him. However, nobody else can see them but him. One day, Watanuki stumbles into a shop... See full summary »
One of the shows on this list that can only be called unknown in comparison with the absolute mainstream. However, I meet many people who only heard the name, but never watched the show (or manga) itself. Should that be the case, let me tell you that this show is dumb and the animation horrible. Not all the time of course. My problem is, that there is so much silly and over the top distractions (mainly the humour and some annoying character traits), that sometimes overshadow the good designs and great stories. The show has a fantastic mysterious atmosphere, especially with some of the surprisingly mature and cruel episodes. I also like all of these characters, even though they feel the need to repeatedly fall back into the same comedy-routines. Still, it is well worth watching through to the end, especially because of the more serious second season and the movie.
20. Desert Punk (2004–2005)
TV-MA | 580 min | Animation, Action, Comedy
In the future, Japan is a wasteland. In the Great Kanto Desert, scattered humans eke out a living in the hot sand. Among them, a short-statured man they call "Sunabozu" makes a living as a ... See full summary »
Ahhh Desert Punk... A series that could have made the top of this list, if it had just sorted out its act. Let us get the praise out of the way first: This is the only anime I know, that does the "magnificent bastard" as the main character right. Kanta is not a hero - he is greedy, a swine and murderer but not a one-dimensional villain. He is simply smart enough to recognize that this is the only way he can survive the harsh life he is forced to life. Does this excuse his actions? No - but it gives them meaning. Despite being a scrawny guy with seemingly no education, Kanta managed to become the desert’s number one bounty hunter. Not thanks to exceptional talent, but through hard work and the willingness to do what it takes – even if it falls well outside any moral restraints. The second thing the series does right is world building - it starts off with the familiar post-apocalypse setting and then slowly keeps adding interesting details from there (e.g. *beep* being a valuable resource as fertilizer). Unfortunately, a weird story-structure, stupid filler episodes and repetitive horn dog -humour, dominate large parts of this series. To top it all of the series ends at a rushed stalemate, leaving us wanting more once the show finally got consistently good.
21. Hyouka (2012)
TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama
Houtarou is usually quite apathetic, however when his sister forces him to join the classic literature club at Kamiyama High School, his worldview begins to change. Once there, he discovers... See full summary »
I have a soft spot for slice-of-life shows, but I mostly treat them like junk food: consume and forget. However, “Hyouka” stuck with me, even though I do not think it is anything that special. It just does enough things right. The show feels like a mix between "The melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "Detective Conan" with much lower stakes. From the former it takes its protagonist as well as a sense of wonder and from the latter it takes the interesting deduction problems. My only two gripes with the show are the slow start and its abrupt end. Then again, if an ending felt abrupt it maybe just means that I wanted to see more.
22. Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time (2014– )
TV-14 | 8 min | Animation, Comedy
In the middle of class at a certain school, a diligent student, has her in-class life turned upside-down when her next-door desk mate "Seki" creates intricate activities to play at his desk during class.
If you are looking for a short break between two shows you want to complete; Tonari no Seki-kun is here for you. This very simple slice of life show creates with a small budget and timeframe (5min/episode) something truly charming. Think "Calvin and Hobbes" from an outsiders perspective. Due to its short length its highly formulaic plot does not get repetitive, the comedy stays fresh and the two main characters interesting.
23. Coppelion (2013– )
TV-14 | Animation, Adventure, Drama
20 years after the meltdown of a nuclear power plant caused a big catastrophe in Tokyo, a special unit known as Coppelion is dispatched to find survivors when a distress signal is received.
This is a weird little show. I am not too wild about apocalypse or environmental stories, which is why I was surprised that I enjoyed “Coppelion” as much as I did. The story tries its best to not hold you down and hit you over the head with its point, but it does not always succeed. I also have a problem with the nonsensical plan of the primary antagonists, which unnecessarily raises the stakes to a "destruction of the world" level and is resolved excessively easily. Of course, I would not have put the show on the list, if there were nothing to enjoy. Its interesting story concept, beautiful designs and some of its more subtle scenes manage to save the show.
24. Fruits Basket (2001)
TV-PG | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama
After her mother's death, Tohru Honda finds herself living with the Sohma family consisting of three cousins: Yuki, the 'prince charming' of their high school, Kyo the hot headed, short ... See full summary »
Sooo, how do I put this...? It is a little embarrassing to put this one on the list. It is so unbelievably girly. I do not like the art-style, the music is forgettable at best, there are so many cheesy and annoying moments and the morals are sometimes on care-bears level... buuut it still works somehow. I cannot really explain it; it is just pleasant to watch the show. The cast boasts a rather large list of stereotypes, ensuring that you will like one of them. There is not much else to say besides... well... Girly but pleasant.
25. Now and Then, Here and There (1999–2000)
TV-14 | 25 min | Animation, Action, Drama
A Japanese boy named Shu tries to save a strange girl, Lala Ru, from kidnappers and is transported to an alternate Earth on the brink of being swallowed by the sun. There he meets an ... See full summary »
Before I watched this show, I have had heard lots of comments describing "Now and then, here and there" as the saddest anime ever made. It is not. Sure, many shocking and sad things happen, but it is too exaggerated. I mean we have rape, child-murder, child-soldiers and even genocide; which would be effective if they used these events to the story's advantage, but they amount to nothing and are just sort of there. We also do not know that much about this cold world which makes it especially hard to care for the characters. However, this does not mean I did not enjoy the show. Some of the characters are very effective and although there are some major plot-holes (like the traveling between worlds, which is never used!) the story is interesting and yes, sometimes sad in a more subtle way.
26. Lupin the 3rd (1971–1972)
TV-PG | 23 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
The adventures of the master thief Lupin III and his cohorts as they dive into various escapades, all the while in pursuit by the tenacious Inspector Zenigata.
This is just an honourable mention, not part of the list. If you are into anime at all, you know who Lupin III is.
Buuuut then again, the show is old, so it might have slipped past your radar. Should that be the case, go watch it. Now. You are missing out.
IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: I also want to use this entry to tell Lupin III fans, that the 2015 series of Lupin's "Italian adventure" is well worth your time. I think this is the first successful modernization of the series, and manages to capture the fun and campy feeling of the first two seasons much more than any other attempts before it.
27. Soul Eater (2008– )
TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
Set in the Shinigami technical school for weapon meisters, the series revolves around 3 duo's. These pairs are a partnership between a weapon meister and a human weapon. Trying to reach a ... See full summary »
Yes, I know. I agree that “soul-eater” is not unknown enough for this list; it does have quite a large fanbase. I just had to put it here as an honourable mention. Why? Because it is the one of the best Shonen anime I know. Sure; it is sometimes cheesy as all hell, but that is part of its charm. The style is like nothing else on this list, the attention to details given is uncanny at times. The fighting, which is not even the core of the show, is nail-bitingly exciting. The characters seem a bit unreal at first, but I grew to like them (except one, that damn Excalibur). I appreciate that it manages to emulate the goofy fun of Shonen action shows without falling into the trap that plague most of its more popular peers fall into (Bleach, One Peace, Fairy Tail, etc.). Meaning no lack of character arcs, no status quo formula and thankfully not much power creep. So all in all: weird story, bizarre settings and great action/animation.
28. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (2012– )
TV-MA | 30 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
The story of the Joestar family, who are possessed with intense psychic strength, and the adventures each member encounters throughout their lives.
***Edit: I’ve moved the show to the honourable mentions, because by now Jojo probably has the largest fan base of any of the series on this list.
Of course, the generation-spanning epic of the Joestar-family is anything but unknown; after all, it is one of the longest running manga series out there. However, as an anime, this franchise has not drawn much attention to it. Maybe I was just living under a rock back in 2012, but I don't remember there being much talk about this series and there certainly isn't now. Which is a shame, because not only is it a great adaptation of the original story but also a fantastic show on its own. If you like the 80s-90s anime-aesthetics of straight-faced melodrama mixed with great animation and competent sound design, you should definitely watch this show,
*Edit: At the time of writing (now 2014); I finally see the series getting some attention from around the internet - thanks also to its still entertaining and even more over the top sequel "Stardust Crusaders" - but I'll leave it on this list, just for the folks who might have missed it.
**Edit: Ok. Anyone reading this entry in the year 2015 or later must think I was living under a rock for putting this show on the list, because nowadays many people are talking about it or sharing pictures of it. Just believe me when I say, that when the first episodes were released not that many people talked about this show.