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Military is such a loosely defined genre that it’s really not even a genre in and of itself. Rather, it’s more of a collection in show’s that deal with settings or themes of war and conflict. A number of series take different approaches to the subject, as such, there’s something on this list for everyone.
Whether you want a sprawling, dramatic conflict that deals in depth with tactics or strategy, or a story about how war affects the world at large, you’ll do well with any show on this list.
10. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 6, 2006 to Jul 29, 2007
The world is dominated by the empire of Britannia, who possess Knightmare Frames which give their military an advantage across the globe. Japan has become Britannia’s latest conquest, and is now designated merely as ‘Area 11.’ Lelouch, an exiled prince of Britannia must throw in his hat with the nascent Japanese resistance movement in an attempt to remove the yoke of Britannian rule.
Say what you will about Code Geass, the series first season had some of the most compelling strategy-heavy action you’ll see in a long time. The show also had a very compelling character drama woven throughout. However, the battles between Knightmare Frames were truly the highlight, and you can tell the effort that was took in order to write interesting strategies.
- Episodes: 38
- Aired: Jun 4, 2012 to Feb 25, 2013
Kingdom is a fictionalized account of the warring states period in China. Shin and Hyou are war-orphans amongst the lower-classes in China. Hyou is taken by a minister away from the village, but returns as Shin meets a boy with a striking resemblance to Hyou, who happens to be the leader of the Qin dynasty. Shin must enter a power-struggle that will affect all of China.
Kingdom really goes out of it’s way to delve into the tactics and strategy of warring combatants. Shin is a refreshing main character, because it has less to do with him being an overpowered protagonist who can change a battle himself, and more with him fitting in with a strategy that requires numerous parts acting as one. Some of the CG is questionable, but there is definitely a lot to feel good about in this military series.
- Episodes: 7
- Aired: Apr 25, 1988 to Jun 25, 1989
Modern officers of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force set sail aboard the Mirai, one of the latest and most advanced surface vessels in the service. En route to a joint exercise with the American Navy, the Mirai goes through a strange storm, and comes out the other side in the heat of the Pacific War. Thrusted into a war they learned about in school, into a situation they don’t entirely understand, the crew must make tough decisions in joining, or avoiding the conflict.
Zipang has a really interesting premise that you won’t see often in Anime and/or Manga. Taken the well-warn time travel premise but given a different spin, the crew of the Mirai are torn over whether or not to enter into the conflict. It’s a show that really examines Japan and it’s relationship to the history of the Pacific war. It’s also got some really well-detailed attention to modern military hardware which will make military fans happy.
7. Sound of the Sky ? So Ra No Wo To
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 5, 2010 to Mar 23, 2010
Sound of the Sky is the story of volunteer Kanata Sorami, who opts to join the military in order to serve as a communications bugler. Though she’s inexperienced and somewhat childish, her bright outlook and unwavering optimism moves the soldiers in her unit to look for beauty in a world that has been torn asunder by a war.
‘Moeblob’ detractors aside, Sound of the Sky is more than a worthy addition to this list. The military genre is often defined by long-form, war dramas that focus heavily on the military or political sides of an armed conflict. Sound of the Sky takes a different approach, but is a meaningful and thoughtful story on how people try to make peace in a world with the threat of war everywhere.
6. Now and Then, Here and There - Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 14, 1999 to Jan 20, 2000
Shu is an average Japanese boy, who seemingly cares more about his Kendo studies than anything. He intercedes on behalf of a strange girl named Lala-ru, and is then transported into an entirely different world. It’s a land where water is in short supply, and Lala-ru is being hunted for her magical pendant which holds a vast reservoir of water.
Now and Then, Here and There is one of the most depressing entries on this list, and deals heavily with the horrors of war. It’s less about the specifics of tactics and strategy, or a war drama, but it’s more of a moral story about how much prolonged conflict can do to the human condition. It’s a show that’s not for the faint of heart, but stand’s apart for showing how horrible war can truly be.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jun 4, 2012 to Feb 25, 2013
Berserk is the story of Guts, a talented mercenary who is recruited into the Band of the Hawk. Led by a talented, ambitious and enigmatic ‘Griffith’, the Band of the Hawk rise to a prominent position within Midland, who consistently relies upon the group for decisive moments in various battles. Though Griffith has a dream in his mind, Guts and fellow warrior Casca must find their own reasons to live and fight.
Berserk is one of the most beloved manga series to ever be written, and though the original anime series does not capture all of it’s glory, it does recount one of Berserk’s best story arcs. There’re a lot of things to like for fans of the military genre that’s typical, be it the detailed battles, the over the top violence.
But all in all, Berserk is a tragedy of truly epic proportions, and really makes you look at history’s famous, ambitious conquerors in a new light. Berserk is a story you don’t want to miss, be it the manga, anime, or recent film series.
4. Armored Trooper Votoms (Soukou Kihei Votoms)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: Apr 1, 1983 to Mar 23, 1984
Votoms is the story of Chirico Curvie, the member of an elite unit for the Gilgamesh confederation, fighting their enemies in the Balarant Union. Chirico is put on a suspicious mission and is eventually betrayed, and branded a traitor. Chirico goes on to search for the truth and unearth the conspiracy behind both warring powers.
Votoms is an old series, which may be a barrier to those who try to watch it. It’s also without the name recognition of series like Gundam or Macross, however, it’s a pioneer in the ‘Realistic Mecha’ genre, and sometimes feel’s more like a typical military series as opposed to Gundam, which feels very Space Opera-esque.
This realistic approach has endeared fans of the military/war genre, even taking in some notice from those who typically don’t watch Anime.
3. Legend of the Galactic Heroes
- Episodes: 110
- Aired: Jan 8, 1988 to Mar 17, 1997
Despite sounding like a cheesy 70’s B-movie, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, often abbreviated as LOGH, certainly lives up to the epic scope of it’s title. Often thought as the crown jewel of the Space Opera genre, LOGH follows the war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. Following the stories of the Empire’s Reinhard von Lohengramm and the FPA’s Yang Wen-Li, the two young commanders will attempt to make a difference in the conflict.
LOGH is a titanic plot in a pretty titanic (For anime standards) series length of 110 episodes in addition to some extra entry’s into the series. Be ready for the long haul, when going into this anime, because it’s by all accounts worth the time invested into it.
LOGH is simply another series you can’t leave off a list like this as it’s one of the most influential and acclaimed entries in it’s genre.
2. Mobile Suit Gundam
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: Apr 7, 1979 to Jan 26, 1980
It’s impossible to do this list and leave out Mobile Suit Gundam, Not only the original series, but also some of the OVA’s and Spin-offs that derived from it. The original series follows Amuro Ray as he pilots a new Mobile Suit called Gundam, fighting the forces of Zeon.
Still only a teenage, Amuro has to take the horrors of war head on. He and his Rival, Char Aznable, an ace of the Zeon, become bitter combatants and it seems that Zeon and the Federation will have to settle their disputes on the field.
There are so many entries into this universe, many of them worthwhile, many of them not so much, but the original is still a must-watch for all anime fans. There are bits and pieces of the Gundam franchise that everyone can get behind without being 100% familiar with one another.
For example, you can enjoy the OVA War in the Pocket, or the shorter series 08th MS Team without being 100 percent familiar with the original series, or vice-versa.
1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 1, 2002 to Mar 25, 2003
War is nebulous, and even with today’s technology, we have little idea how the next generation of conflict will look like. This may be why Ghost in the Shell is such a stand-out. For those unaware, Ghost in the Shell follows Motoko Kusanagi and her compatriots at Section 9, a special unit technically part of the police but seemingly near independent in Japan’s byzantine labyrinth of a state security apparatus.
Ghost in the Shell is such a stand-out for a number of reasons. The first to me is the quality of the series writing and composition. Both seasons of Stand Alone Complex are a blend of incredible separate one-episode stories as well as those which tie in more closely to a central plot for each season.
Some of these one off episodes really make you wonder about how far technology will take us, and if the post-human world depicted in Ghost in the Shell will become a reality. As a military series, it’s captivating to watch a show like Ghost in the Shell spell out what could be a very possible, very near, and, in many eyes, a very unnerving reality that could soon be our own.
There’s a number of notable show’s that can be called ‘military series,’ and we hope we got some of your favorites. Did we miss any? Or should the list be rearranged? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!