Most of the time when we watch an anime, it is usually based off a manga or visual novel, or some other kind of existing media. This is because anime developers know already that the franchise or series is popular enough and there is a demand for it. How about the type of anime that aren’t based on any precedential source material? Sometimes we find anime that are created by a director or producer, who has an idea for which anime is the best medium to represent it through.
Sometimes, this creates gems of anime that we come to love and enjoy because of their unique stories and nature in which they are developed, different to how traditional anime are made. So you may be wondering, what are the best original anime? This is why we created this list for you! Just to be clear, for this list we won’t be including anime films, as we are only focusing on anime series.
So here are the Top 10 Original Anime Series that we recommend:
10. Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan. 2012 – Mar. 2012
The first pick on this list is Ano Natsu de Matteru, an anime about a passionate videographer named Kaito Kirishima, who one summer night encounters a strange event where he gets knocked off a railing from an aftershock upon seeing a strange blue exploding light. Kaito wakes up the following morning in his bed without any injuries or any memory of what happened. At school, Kaito decides with his friends to make a film during the summer break.
Two upperclassmen join the small summer project, Ichika Takatsuki and Remon Yamano. Somehow due to strange circumstances, Ichika ends up living at Kaito’s house. Over time, they both discover more about each other and their feelings begin to develop for one and another, as they learn certain secrets that change their summer forever. Ano Natsu is a heart-warming gem of a slice of life/romance drama anime that has great characters and a good art style.
Waiting in the Summer - Japanese Trailer
9. Gurren Lagann
- Episodes: 27
- Aired: Apr. 2007 – Sep. 2007
Coming next is Gurren Lagann, set in a dystopian future in which the surface of the world has become a wasteland infested with humanoid creatures known as “Beastmen”. The remaining survivors of humanity are forced to live in isolated deep underground villages. The story follows the tale of Simon and Kamina who were born and raised deep underneath the surface of the Earth. Kamina is the leader of a gang known as Team Gurren, which has a goal to visit the surface world. Simon is a young digger who is tasked with excavating the Earth to expand the village’s living area
One day whilst on the job, Simon discovers a mysterious drill-shaped key known as a core drill that can be used to activate an ancient artifact of war, a mecha known as a ‘Gunmen’ that is used by the Beastmen. Shortly after Simon discovers the machine, the village becomes prone to a surprise invasion from the surface. With no other choice, Simon activates the Gunmen that he names ‘Lagann’ and fends off the attack with the help of a gun-wielding girl named Yoko Littner, who comes from the surface. They manage to fend off the attack and are able to break through to the surface where they see the sky for the first time in their lives.
Together with Kamina, the trio sets off to explore the surface and fight against the Gunmen to take back the land for humanity. Gurren Lagann is an instant classic with a lot of action and thrills, the attention to detail and production quality given reinforces the great story, which makes it one of the top original anime out there.
Gurren Lagann Trailer
8. Inferno Cop
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Dec. 2012 – Mar. 2013
8. Inferno Cop
Aired: Dec. 2012 – Mar. 2013
At number 8, we have a short but humorous web anime series called Inferno Cop, which is a tale about a messenger of justice with a flaming head named ‘Inferno Cop’ who came back from hell to seek revenge against an evil organisation known as the ‘Southern Cross’ that murdered his family. The Southern Cross hides in the shadows and attempts to take over the world by unleashing evil creatures. Inferno Cop liberates Jack Knife Edge Town of the many criminals inhabiting its streets, protecting innocent citizens from the darkness.
However, his occupation is not all that easy, as every criminal in the town is out for Inferno Cop’s head. What he doesn’t know is that the Southern Cross wants to bring about the apocalypse, using him as a key to bring their plans to fruition. Inferno cop is a unique creation with many twists and interesting characters.
Albeit short, it definitely shows that even a simple animated series with a good production quality is able to compete against mainstream anime.
Inferno Cop Preview
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul. 2015 – Sep. 2015
Charlotte is about an intelligent student named Yuu Otosaka who awakens a special ability that allows him to temporarily enter the mind of someone he sees and can control his or her body for up to five seconds. Yuu abuses this ability by using it to cheat in exams to gain the highest grades to live an easy, carefree high school life, however he is not the only one with special abilities as he later finds out that there are others like him. Nao Tomori is the student council president of Hoshinoumi Academy, a special school just for people with supernatural abilities. Yuu’s fraudulent activities catch Nao’s eye, who exposes his powers and convinces Yuu to transfer to the academy.
Yuu is forced to join the student council that is tasked with finding other adolescents who abuse their supernatural abilities. Along with Nao, who is able to make herself invisible to a target, and other members of the council, they confront other potentially dangerous people to bring them to the academy. Their main objective is to ensure the safety of people with abilities and to make sure that their power isn’t exploited by organisations aiming to exploit their powers.
Charlotte has a good story that brings out many emotions as you learn more about the characters, and the art style is unparalleled as it’s created by P.A. Works, who are one of the best animation studios out there.
6. Nagi no Asukara (A Lull in the Sea)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct. 2013 – Apr. 2014
The next anime is Nagi no Asukara, which is an anime about a fictional world where a long time ago, humans had once lived beneath the sea. However, when people wanted to live on the surface instead and had given up living underwater, they lost their ability to breathe underwater. As time went on, the divide between the people of the sea and land greatly widened, resulting in discrimination and hatred spawned from living different lifestyles.
Nagi no Asukara tells the tale of Hikari Sakishima and Manaka Mukaido, along with Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki, who together are a group of childhood friends that live in the sea. However, their lives change as their school closes down and they are forced to go to school on the surface. Naturally, unwelcomed by the people of the land, their struggle begins as they adjust to their new lives, being in a foreign place, trying to get along with the people and mend their relationships. Nagi no Asukara is a beautifully animated show with great characters and an interesting story. It is a gem of a slice of life and romance anime that provides many emotional moments that leave a lasting impression.
Nagi no Asukara PV
5. Suisei no Gargantia (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr. 2013 – Jun. 2013
Half way up the list we have for you, Suisei no Gargantia, an anime set in the future, where humans have abandoned Earth to live in space, due to there no longer being any land left on the waterlogged planet. The Galactic Alliance of Humanity was created to ensure the survival and prosperity of mankind. The alliance uses autonomous robots to fight against a major threat to humanity’s extinction known as the Hideauze, squid-like creatures that roam in space.
The series follows a 16-year old lieutenant by the name of Ledo who, using his autonomous robot ‘Chamber’ in a battle with the Hideauze, gets knocked unconscious and becomes cut off from his fleet due to a wormhole. Ledo crash lands in a universe far away, on the planet, Earth. Knowing it only as a myth, he discovers that there is still human life there and that everyone lives on ships. He finds himself on ‘Gargantia’, a large fleet of scavenger ships, and meets a girl named Amy who he learns to communicate with. Ledo realizes that their technology isn’t as advanced as in space, he is stranded and has to work in order to survive, hoping to find a way back to the Alliance with Chamber.
Suisei no Gargantia is a unique anime that is filled with many outstanding visuals and a great story. It has many creative ideas and exciting moments that bring out much joy to the viewer, all topped up with a great soundtrack.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Trailer
4. Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2016 – Jul. 2016
- Read More
Nearing the top of the list is the recently aired Kabaneri, set during a fictional industrial revolution where a viral pandemic has caused humans to turn into horrific undead creatures that look like a mix between a titan and a zombie. They are known as “Kabane” and the only way to kill them is by piercing their hearts, which is protected by a layer of iron. The story follows a young engineer named Ikoma, who lives on the island of Hinomoto, which is protected with a fortified gigantic wall. Entrance to the city can only be achieved through heavily armored trains.
One day, the Kabane manage to hijack a train and it crashes into the city. Ikoma defends himself and the city with an invention of his, a deadly weapon capable of piercing through the hearts of the Kabane. In the process of testing his weapon, he becomes infected, but somehow is able to resist the virus and becomes a human-Kabane hybrid. Together with the other survivors, they fight through hoards of Kabane in hopes of getting to another safe shelter somewhere. Kabaneri is a tense anime that keeps you on your toes wanting for more, with lots of thrilling moments and a good original story, in addition to a good music and a unique art style.
3. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr. 2011 – Jun. 2011
Making it to the top three is AnoHana (short name), which is about a young boy named Jinta Yadomi who lost a childhood friend. Since that day, Jinta had changed and isolated himself from society, staying at home most of the time and not going to school. One hot day, during the summer, Jinta sees ‘Menma’; the girl that had died when he was a child reappears in front of him. At first, he believes that it is just a hallucination, but later realizes that she is really a ghost, and only he can see her. Jinta discovers that she had a wish, but had forgotten what it was and wants Jinta to help her find it.
Jinta sets out to find out about this forgotten wish and one-by-one revisits his old childhood friends that he used to be close with, along with Menma. However, they all have moved on with their own separate lives since that day and believe that Jinta is just mentally unstable. Slowly, Jinta brings everyone back together and convinces them to believe in Menma. Together they try to find out what the wish is to bring peace to Menma’s soul, whilst reliving the pain and guilt of what happened. This is an emotion-filled anime with great character development and good quality production, as well as music that is able to leave you with a long lasting impression.
Anohana ~ The Flower We Saw That Day PV
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 1998 – Apr. 1999
Taking the runner-up spot is an ‘Oldie but a Goldie’, Cowboy Bebop. It is the year 2071, Spike Spiegel is an outlaw bounty hunter that chases people through space to collect hefty rewards to make a living, referred to as ‘Cowboys’. Together with his partner, Jet Black, another bounty hunter who also is quite adept in mechanics, they get caught up in many strange situations and meet many new people as they venture the galaxies in their spaceship, the Bebop.
Along the way, they meet Ein, a genetically engineered Welsh corgi; Faye Valentine, a trickster female bounty hunter; and Edwards Wong, a genius computer hacker. Together, the ragtag team of individuals ventures forth on thrilling adventures to earn some money. However, everything doesn’t go as smooth as you would hope, as each person has a different agenda or goal in mind whilst they travel together. Soon enough each member of the team finds out about one another’s pasts and their secrets. Cowboy Bebop’s unique use of music, and animation style for its time, truly make it one of the classics. It has inspired many people and spawned a new genre of anime, Cowboy Bebop is so unique, that it is incomparable to any other anime that try to follow its style.
Cowboy Bebop Official Trailer
1. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct. 2006 – Jul. 2007
At number one, is the one and only Code Geass, a highly popular series that is set within a fictional 2010, where the military nation of Britannia is aiming to take over the world, beginning with Japan. The story follows Lelouch Lamperouge who is an exiled prince belonging in Britannia. Sent to Japan as a bargaining chip, he one day becomes trapped between the opposing forces, but is saved by a girl named C.C, who bestows upon Lelouch the ‘Geass’. This is a special contractual power that allows him to control people through looking into their eyes and forcing absolute compliance.
Donning a mask and becoming the vigilante known as Zero, Lelouch sets out to take revenge against Britannia for exiling him and becomes the leader of the resistance known as the ‘Black Knights’. Everything is not as smooth sailing as it seems, as even though he has an incredible power, intelligent enemies oppose him.
Code Geass has an outstanding story and character development, backed with many tense and thrilling moments and twists that truly make it hard to beat. There is no anime that can be compared to this unique creation, as it has been able to hold its own against other popular mainstream anime, which were based on previous successful material.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Official Trailer
There you have it, a list of what we think are the Top 10 Original Anime Series. Which of these have you seen already and which would you recommend? As always, we welcome your opinions, tell us about your favorites and why by leaving a comment down below.
Do you think that anime created this way is better or worse than the traditional method where it is based on a precedent, such as a manga or visual novel? Does this kind of anime stand up to the usual standard of what you’d expect from a mainstream developed anime? Please tell us about it!