It’s hard to resist the excitement and allure of a city; there’s always something new to discover, whether it’s a favorite new restaurant, a seedy bar perfect for haunting, hidden gems or major shopping centers. It’s even harder to resist the pull of our favorite cities in anime. While not necessarily as important as the cast of a series, cities help create a lived-in sense of place, and the best ones become as essential to the plot as our favorite characters. Here are our top ten anime cities.
10. Celadon City - Pokemon
The Pokemon series hosts a myriad of cities big and small on Ash and friends’ journey to become the best trainers around, but none stands out more than Celadon City, the grandest locale in the Kanto region in the world of Pokemon. It is almost like a fictional version of Tokyo, as it has sweeping skyscrapers, game centers, fancy hotels, and shopping malls.
And that’s to say nothing of the city’s gym, which is run by the accomplished trainer Erika, and focuses on formidable grass-type pokemon, fitting with the theme of the city’s name. While there’s plenty to do to keep busy, just be careful not to get too big a whiff of the city’s signature perfume, as it is potent enough to knock weaker pokemon senseless.
9. Teppelin/Kamina City – Gurren Lagann
Teppelin is the horrific spiral-city that acts as the headquarters of the Beastmen, soldiers created by one of the series’ main antagonists, Lordgenome, the Spiral King. While little is known about the city initially, it is eventually revealed that it is a giant machine called a Gunman, and becomes another tool in Lordgenome’s epic conflict with the series’ protagonists.
The legacy of the city isn’t entirely bad, of course. After the fall of Teppelin humanity rebuilds a capital city in the ruins. Named Kamina city, its towering spire represents the progress of the human resistance, and the distance they’ve traveled to make it above ground again.
8. Metropolis – Metropolis
Metropolis tells the story of a dystopian futuristic city where humans and robots live together. The city is both a futuristic marvel and a testament to how low mankind can fall. In the center is a grand tower called the Ziggurat, created by the de-facto ruler of the city, Duke Red, which he claims is the key to spreading power and influence to all reaches of the planet.
Although they exist, robots are treated like second-class citizens and relegated to the slums in the city’s lower levels, and tensions run high with the unemployed human populace. The established political powers that be appear impotent next to the influence and military might of the Duke. It’s up to the nephew of a private detective, Kenichi, and a mysterious young girl to get to the bottom of the Duke’s machinations, and keep the city intact.
7. Wall Rose/Trost District – Attack on Titan
For those that have somehow missed the iconic, monstrous giants that star in the insanely popular Attack on Titan, the show takes place on a fictional Earth where titans mysteriously appeared and caused an extinction-level event for humanity. The surviving members of mankind have managed to rebuild a semblance of life behind the protection of enormous walls, until an armored titan crashes through, causing death and destruction, as well as the abandonment of arable land for the safety behind Wall Rose, in the Trost District.
The settlement behind Wall Rose has a distinctly European feel; quaint stone buildings with towering spires behind an enormous wall that houses humanity’s greatest hope for combating the titans, the brave members of the military who bound from rooftop using their vertical maneuvering equipment and edged weapons to down the towering abominations that assault them with all too great a frequency. It takes a sturdy home base to wage war against an enemy like the titans, and the Trost District is one that is definitely worth fighting for.
6. Sidonia – Knights of Sidonia
The station Sidonia is a technological marvel. It is a self-sustaining city created from the remnants of a planet, floating through the vast reaches of space housing the last remnants of humanity as they attempt to survive the onslaught of the Gauna, a mysterious and aggressive alien race.
Sidonia is a sterile, futuristic wonderland. Humans are genetically engineered to survive using photosynthesis, and procreate asexually or by utilizing cloning. The highest members of society have even managed to achieve immortality. But the technical wonders don’t stop there; the Sidonia also houses the enormous mechs known as Gardes that are utilized by pilots in the city’s defense. If that wasn’t enough to set it apart, the lunch lady is a friendly bear with a hook for a hand!
5. Ecbatana – The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Ecbatana is the capital city of the Kingdom of Pars, a wealthy mecca ruled by Andragora, whose military prowess has earned him a reputation for being invincible. It is the crossroads between neighboring kingdoms, so caravans and traders from all over travel through to pedal their wears and display their exotic cargo.
The city is surrounded by towering walls, and the beautiful inner architecture is reminiscent of the renaissance in the Middle East, with glowing domes and pure white brick. But underneath the bustling veneer of Ecbatana is a boiling cauldron of classist tension, and a secret about Andragora’s rise to power. It’s only the invasion of Lusitania that brings these tensions to the surface, but at that point, the city might never return to its former glory.
4. Alubarna - One Piece
Although the freedom of sailing the high seas in a pirate ship is essential to the emotional core of the One Piece series, there are plenty of exotic destinations and cities that Monkey D. Luffy and his crew visit in their search for the series’ namesake and fabled treasure, the one piece.
Alubarna is the capital city of the Alabasta Kingdom, and its magnificence is all the more impressive due to the desolate deserts that surround it, while it rests on a giant rock. The architecture is simple white stone, but what really helps set it apart from other cities are its giant clock tower, reminiscent of London’s Big Ben, as well as its Royal Palace. It’s rich cultural legacy can stop the Straw Hat Pirates from stirring up more than a little bit of trouble.
3. Tokyo – Rurouni Kenshin
While fictional cities are fantastic for exploring a vast array of themes and plot devices that might normally be implausible, sometimes the best representations of cities in anime are those based on real life. Case in point: Meiji-era Tokyo, as brought to life in Ruroni Kenshin.
A far cry from the towering skyscrapers, swift trains, and crowded sidewalks, Tokyo is an idyllic capital in the throes of very real growing pains in a complicated period of Japanese history. Beautiful, traditional Japanese architecture dotted with cherry blossoms juxtaposed by the inherent political and social tensions of a rapidly modernizing Japan provides the perfect setting for the adventures of Kenshin and his friends, as they struggle to find their place.
2. New York City – Baccano!
The plot of Baccano! is dense. The story takes place in the U.S. in the 1930s, which saw a huge rise and consolidation of power in organized crime in major cities, thanks in large part to prohibition, and widespread political corruption. It centers around the exploits of a low-level thug named Dallas, the Mafioso Gandor brothers, a couple of foolish, down on their luck thieves, a powerful family, and of course, alchemists seeking immortality.
New York City has long been the crown jewel of the USA, as the entry point for individuals seeking opportunity in a far away land. Baccano! perfectly captures the quintessential Americanness inherent in the setting during a tumultuous era. The music, the speak-easy culture, and the danger and corruption that was part and parcel of the times ooze from every frame, especially in iconic locations like Hell’s Kitchen, while the supernatural elements give a larger than life city an even grander scope.
1. Akihabara – Steins;Gate
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No list of great cities in anime would be complete without mentioning the perfectly realized animated version of Akihabara, as seen in Steins;Gate. While the compelling story revolves around mysterious murders and time travel (as well as the complicated paradoxes therein), in this case, it really is the setting that brings the series to life.
Akihabara is a modern-day mecca for fans of all things otaku, whether that be anime goods, video games, electronics old and new, bizarrely themed cafes, and more, and must be seen to be believed. But for those that can’t make it there, seeing it in Steins;Gate is the next best thing. Its depiction in the series is painstakingly crafted, and is illustrated so well you could probably substitute an actual map for it. When it comes to memorable cities, you just can’t beat (incredibly accurate depictions of) the real thing.
With that, the list of top ten anime cities comes to a close. What do you think of the cities on the list? Are there any anime cities that you’d pack up and move to if you had the chance? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!