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Welcome to a second installment of Top Seinen Anime, where we bring out the heavy artillery. A few months ago, we presented you with some of the best anime aimed at an audience of young adults (you can see that list right below this one), although many of those titles are a bit underestimated and certainly not the most popular around. That is exactly why we have now come to give you what you want; the most epic and representative anime of this demographic.
As seinen is not in itself a genre, although it seems to behave like one (nowadays there are as many fans of seinen as there are fans of any anime genre in particular), you’ll see we have included in our list very different types of anime; from mystery and horror to action and sci-fi, with a little gambling in between too. Also, you’ll find some of the latest additions to the world of seinen, which are must-watch shows as well. If you’re into this more mature type of anime then keep scrolling down for the Top 10 seinen anime… 2.0 version! ? Keep scrolling more if you want to see the original.
10. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2007 – Apr 2008
Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji is one of MADHOUSE’s many masterpieces. Some people may not be acquainted with this show since there really isn’t a big fanbase for gambling shows. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji is the story of Kaiji Itou, a good-for-nothing young man who one day finds himself owing a lot of money to the wrong people. His only chance to repay his debt is by participating in underground gambling events, where his own life will be at stake.
Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji is definitely aimed at a mature audience for its highly psychological content. This show explores the darkest and scariest corners of the human mind, such as greed, perversion, dishonesty and despair. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji is a show where we’ll see the main character being beaten, humiliated and taken advantage of constantly, and even though he never loses hope and has his little victories, Kaiji is definitely not the typical triumphant hero.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2005 – Jun 2006
Mushi are basic and mysterious forms of life that transcend what humans regard as good or evil. These entities have no purpose of being and they take many different forms. Ginko is a mushi-shi, someone who studies mushi in order to find more about them and their existence.
Mushi-Shi is one of those mind-blowing shows that make you meditate on some of the deepest and most philosophical aspects of life. It has a combination of mystery, fantasy, slice of life and adventure that make for a complex and meaningful high-quality show. Mushi-Shi is a beautiful seinen anime that can teach us a lot about life.
8. Byousoku 5 Centimeter / 5 Centimeters per Second
- Episodes: 3 (Movie)
- Aired: Feb 2007 – Mar 2007
Seinen also has a place for romance, and as it turns out, 5 Centimeters per Second is one of the best romantic seinen out there. This is the story of Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara, two middle school kids who begin to develop strong feelings for each other. Eventually, Akari has to move to a distant town, so she and Toono keep in touch mostly through mails, rarely visiting each other. The longer they are apart, the more they realize they love each other, but they also find out the distance is too great and life goes on. Will they ever be able to meet again?
5 Centimeters per Second is one of those stories that will make you cry your eyes out. Just keep in mind that this is not the typical high school love story that ends in a “happily ever after”. 5 Centimeters per Second presents a more down to Earth story that portrays in a very realistic way how love and relationships actually work… or should I say how they don’t work. Anyway, this romantic seinen is meant to appeal to those who are more emotionally mature and especially to those who’ve had some relationship experiences (whether good or bad).
7. Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2016 – Mar 2016
Boku dake ga Inai Machi (or Erased for short) was one of this last winter’s highlights. It is about Satoru Fujinuma, a young man in his twenties who has a rather peculiar ability; every time there’s an accident around him, he’s taken back in time a few minutes to prevent it. To his surprise however, one day he’s sent back 18 years in the past into his 11 year old self. Satoru realizes he has to prevent a series of murders that occurred when he was a child in order to make his present time right.
More than half of this show revolves around Satoru as a kid and his childhood friends, although that doesn’t mean this show is aimed at a young audience. Boku dake ga Inai Machi is clearly not the usual kawaii show about cute children playing around and holding hands in the park (well, they do hold hands in the park, but that’s not what this show’s about!). Boku dake ga Inai Machi is a dark and complex mystery show that will play with your mind until the very end.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 1997 – Apr 1998
An all-time classic, Berserk, tells the story of Guts (or Gatsu in Japanese), a young warrior who fights for profit, selling his sword to the highest bidder. Being a skilled and promising fighter, he is eventually recruited by the Band of the Hawk, led by the unrivaled Griffith. In his long journey alongside Griffith, Guts will finally find a purpose to fight for.
Berserk is almost unarguably one of the most legendary seinen shows ever. It just has it all, a bunch of gory action, a really dark atmosphere and the most twisted and dramatic turns of events. Berserk is a magnificent tragic tale about greed, ambition, lust for power and finding one’s own path. It’s obviously no surprise why we’re so excited about Berserk 2016.
5. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2002 – Oct 2003
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is an epic badass seinen anime. It is set in a future where humans can be transplanted from machines, enhancing their physical and cybernetic abilities. Motoko Kusanagi is a police woman belonging to the elite Section 9 unit, which fights against criminals who use this sort of cybernetic enhancements. Motoko will have to face a dangerous hacker known as The Laughing Man, who poses a real threat to everyone in Japan.
GITS is a fantastic sci-fi seinen filled with action and underlying moral themes. It deals a lot with the concept of humanity and what it means to be human. Furthermore, GITS provides some insight about such philosophical and moral themes in a very dark way as it blurs the line between man and machine. The awesome action in GITS may appeal to all kinds of audiences, but its complex plot is aimed at those who are mature enough to follow it closely.
4. One Punch Man
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2015 – Dec 2015
One Punch Man is an extraordinarily original show and one of the highlights of 2015. This show gives us the lamest superhero (in appearance only) we’ve seen so far. However, this bald guy with an awful taste for costumes, known as Saitama, hides the kind of power we’ve only witnessed in Dragon Ball Z. Saitama is in fact so strong that he always defeats his enemies with just one punch, regardless of how terrible they are. This is his main cause of frustration as he can no longer have a proper battle he can enjoy, and of course, it’s also what triggers the comedy in this show.
Obviously, seinen is not only about gore, tragedy and dark themes. Seinen come in all genres, and comedy is not the exception. One Punch Man is an action comedy and a parody of the usual superhero show. As we would expect from a seinen anime, the comedy in One Punch Man is not silly or kawaii as in most of the shows aimed at a younger audience, but it’s rather sour and filled with irony, often mocking the traditional canon of superpowered heroes. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a sophisticated comedy with subtle humor. One Punch Man may appeal more to young adults, but it’s still absolutely ridiculous and absurd.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 2011 – Sep 20119
Steins;Gate is probably one of the most celebrated seinen anime ever. It presents a fascinating sci-fi story in which a mad scientist, Rintarou Okabe, with the help of his two friends, Mayuri and Daru, creates a machine he baptized as the Phone Microwave. It’s not long before they realize this machine can do something they never expected: send emails to the past and change the course of history.
Steins;Gate is an original high-quality show that will blow your freaking mind. It deals a lot with the concepts of time travel and alternative realities or universes. Of course, the way Steins;Gate approaches these ideas are not as simple and linear as in… say, Back to the Future, but they are much more complex, mysterious and unpredictable. Steins;Gate is a brilliant adventure that is meant to captivate a mature audience with its intricate and well-developed storyline.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 2012 – Mar 2013
Psycho-Pass is a brilliant sci-fi police seinen. It takes place in Japan in the near future, where criminals are identified by special devices that analyze their mental state, known as their psycho-pass. In this way, the police can apprehend or neutralize criminals before they actually commit any crime, pretty much like Minority Report (has anyone seen that awful movie?).
Psycho-Pass is the perfect example of the gray morality concept portrayed in seinen shows. One of the main themes in this anime is the fine line between good and evil, between what sets the law-abiding citizens apart from the criminals. The highly psychological content of Psycho-Pass is one of its strongest points and what mostly defines it as a seinen.
1. Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2014 – Sep 2014
As you probably know, Tokyo Ghoul tells the story of Kaneki Ken, an 18 year old boy who’s deceived and ambushed by a female ghoul, a flesh-eating demon. Kaneki barely manages to make it out of that situation, but not without turning into a half-ghoul half-human hybrid. As such, he begins his new life trying to cope with his new self.
Tokyo Ghoul’s huge success may give the idea that this show is not aimed specifically at young adults, especially considering the amount of both male and female teens that watch it. Although it is true that Tokyo Ghoul appeals to a broad audience, this is intrinsically a seinen show. And it’s not just the gore and the disturbingly peculiar characters that make it fall into this category.
Tokyo Ghoul is a well-developed show with a rather complex storyline and psychological themes. There’s also hardly a distinction between good and evil, as the two races (ghouls and humans) fight each other not for justice but for their own survival. These are all particular traits of most seinen shows and they make Tokyo Ghoul one of the most representative anime of this demographic.
That’s it for our list of top seinen anime. These titles show exactly what seinen is about; complex plots, very often with dark and psychological themes and developing characters. Of course, there are countless other seinen works out there that deserve an honorable mention, just like Parasyte, Black Lagoon, Mononoke Hime, Cowboy Bebop (although its manga adaptation is considered to be shoujo rather than seinen) and Monster, which has been mentioned in the previous list.
Now it’s your turn to tell us about your favorite seinen anime. Is there another show you think should be included in this list as representative of seinen? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! ˆ_ˆ
The term “seinen” is an odd one when you re-apply it to the general anime community. What is actually a demographic is often mistaken to be a genre or set of narrative ideas encompassing darker, more mature stories. With manga originally aimed at kids who typically have more time on their hands, the medium eventually found the new (more wealthy) demographic of young adults who were looking for something more mature than the “shounen” manga that dominated the industry.
Nowadays, seinen publications have been turned into some of the top selling anime series such as Code Geass, Bakemonogatari and Mononoke. These are series that work to engage an older audience and have found their success through magazines or publishing directly marketed towards them. These series aren’t necessarily dark or gritty but if you’ve got a friend saying “Anime is just for kids!” then here’s some great series to point them in the direction of.
10. Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2014 - June 2014
Episode 1: The Earth is destroyed.
This is Knights of Sidonia, a mecha tragedy set on the gigantic spaceship, Sidonia as they escape from these freakish alien creatures determined to destroy the remnants of humanity. Following ace mecha pilot Nagate Tanikaze, we watch as this small group of survivors attempt to overcome their own goals and delusion of power just to escape from this alien threat. With CG animation by Polygon Pictures, it displays an incredible sense of depth as these worlds come to life.
Both seasons of Knights of Sidonia are available to watch on Netflix and I still consider it to be the best show on the service. It’s brutal, dark and most importantly: intriguing. It’s the sort of show that you can’t take your eyes away from as it presents us with another snippet of information about the cruel, desperate spaceship of Sidonia.
9. Lupin III
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 1971 - March 1972
Lupin III is a classic masterpiece of the ages. Whether it’s the first series, the darker spin-off “The Women Called Fujiko Mine” or the modern sequel, Lupin III: L’avventura Italiana, the Lupin series holds up as a great adventure series despite its age. With the character dynamics between the loyal Daisuke Jigen, the master swordsman Goemon Ishikawa XIII and the manipulative femme fatale Fujiko Mine, each episode plays out in a new way with these incredibly elaborate heists and trickery.
Lupin III is one of the best action-comedy series of all time and whilst you don’t need to have watched the originals to experience its new iterations, they’re great in their own right. Whilst the character dynamics remain consistent throughout the series, they all seem to grow in different ways as they go through these completely unique scenarios.
- Episodes: 74
- Aired: April 2004 - September 2005
Monster is a more realistic, mature narrative within the anime medium. Very much embracing the typical view of what a seinen anime should be, it’s a frantic escape from a corrupt world as Kenzo Tenma tries to prove his innocence in this incredible psychological thriller. Facing up against the manipulative ‘monster’, Johan, it makes for a brilliant conflict throughout this fairly long series. It turns from a story of corruption within the upper class of society into an exploration of the underbelly of the world as Johan leaves hell in his wake.
Monster makes for one of anime’s greatest thriller series and I can’t stop recommending it to anyone I meet. It’s a must watch seinen anime that will leave you breathless after each and every episode. Also, the English dub for Dr. Reichwein may be the greatest gift anime has bestowed upon us.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2004 - December 2004
Outside Japan, anime fans like to refer to themselves as ‘otaku’ without really understanding the real meaning behind the term. Rather than some prestigous label, the term is regarded as an insult. A jab at those who obsessively dedicate their lives to a fandom, whether it be anime, video games or even warplanes (Looking at you, Miyazaki!) Genshiken is an investigation into the lives of these people as they develop from teenagers into adults and their perspective on their hobbies change. It offers no dramatic message or ideology and plays out as a mature exploration into their lives.
It’s an exceptional series and it hits a brand new level in Genshiken: The Second Generation as it starts to deal with more themes and our characters must make way for a new sort of cast with their own unique obsessions. It’s a unique coming-of-age story that combines comedy and drama to create something inspirational.
6. Non Non Biyori
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 - December 2013
Sometimes seinen magazines need something light and enjoyable to counteract the more serious stories that they survive on. Non Non Biyori is one of Monthly Comic Alive’s flagship series with its heartwarming narrative and atmosphere that has inspired anime fans ever since its anime adaptation in 2013. With incredible visuals and a style of comedy that synergises with its endearing tone to create something indescribably wonderful. There’s moments that stand out within each episode as these kids in the countryside explore the beauties of everyday life.
It’s surreal how good Non Non Biyori really is and it’s the sort of story that only those that have really left childhood behind can truly appreciate. It’s a great callback to those moments where everything in life was an adventure and it stands out as something amazing. Make sure to also check out the sequel, Non Non Biyori Repeat.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2009 - September 2009
Probably one of the more popular series on this list, the Monogatari series plays out far differently from its light novel counterpart with the anime being directed by the slightly insane Akiyuki Shinbo. Within his series, every frame is regarded as a piece of art within itself and through impressionist and absurdist movements, Shinbo delivers the narrative of particular scenes through clever framing and set design. Whilst some may regard it as a harem anime, it’s focus lies in its exploration of traditional Japanese supernatural mystery.
The series has since expanded into a cult phenomenon with several sequels each covering a different mystery within the Monogatari story. Fans have already fallen in love with the cast over and over again and I reckon it’s about time you did as well.
4. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai)
- Episodes: 99
- Aired: April 2012 - March 2014
This is a long one, I’ll admit. It can be extremely difficult to persuade someone to give up their time to invest in a full 99 episode series but Space Brothers makes for a rewarding experience everytime as you watch through this incredibly grounded (Irony not intended) show. On the surface, it’s a really slow story about a man who becomes an astronaut, but at its core it’s far more than that. It’s a tale of working to make your dreams come true. No skipping steps, no lazing about and most importantly, no giving up.
Space Brothers is a show that not only makes its long run time digestible, but uses it in a way to deliver a genuinely realistic and mature story about following your passions. Unlike anime aimed at a younger audience, it doesn’t try to make out anything as easy and it balances reality and passion in such an incredibly charming way.
3. GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2009 - September 2009
It’s time for a confession. I’ve been keeping it a secret for a while (In reality, I don’t shut up about it), but I really really love GA Art Design Class. Skit comedy shows are a guilty pleasure of mine and despite those that try to pull me away from it, I’m always on the lookout for the best new comedy anime. However, it may surprise you to find that some of the best comedy series are not within the shounen or shoujo demographic, but are instead in seinen magazines. Many of these series started out as comic strips within magazines, intended to be short and quickly read by those commuting to and from work.
GA Art Design Class is an adaptation of one of these comic strip series (known as 4-koma) and is capable of delivering both fast paced comedy whilst sneaking in these cool little facts about art design and different styles. It expands from the source material to expand upon these moments into something more coherent whilst still playing into the same structure of jokes that fans of the source material will be used to. It takes a solid place as my second favourite comedy series and I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 - December 2013
Kyousogiga is the exceptional work of a legend within anime. Rie Matsumoto is one of the greatest directors within the medium and she displays her understanding of the limitations and advantages of anime in so many different ways. She takes concepts and ideas that anime directors have accepted as the normality for years and throws them out the window in this amazing mature story about family. Within a science fantasy world, Matsumoto uses the freedom within the world to influence changes in the visual design and narrative presentation to create something insanely unique.
Kyousogiga is the series that I believe any anime fan should watch. Yes, it has a great narrative and yes, it involves some breathtaking animation but it’s the visual style that you really need to experience for yourself. Although, maybe you shouldn’t. It kind of makes every other anime look worse.
1. Chronicles of the Going Home Club (Kitakubu Katsudō Kiroku)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2013 - October 2013
You’ve heard it here first, folks! Chronicles of the Going Home Club is the best seinen anime out there. Taking a classic high school joke of “Joining the Going Home Club” as an alternative to joining a real club, Chronicles delivers one of the best skit comedy experiences out there. With a combination between the simple recurring jokes and its more ridiculous moments, Chronicles doesn’t particularly introduce anything new, but delivers it in a way that surpasses so many other attempts within the genre. Because of its open concept, Chronicles refuses to present anything any less than its best and maintains on track without giving into typical comedy tropes.
It’s a series that is impossible to dislike and it completely self aware as it presents meta-jokes about the state of its popularity. It’s a series that quickly became one of my favourites with its brilliant comedic timing and delivery that transcends language barriers and if you’re a fan of other seinen comedies, then I can’t recommend this more.
And there we have it. Here are ten great anime that you may not have even realised were seinen anime in the first place. As the anime industry expands, demographics start to blur and the terminologies become more and more redundant. Series aimed at different demographics will constantly trade narrative elements, tropes and messages to the point where anyone can enjoy anything, regardless of the original target. Even Weekly Shounen Jump has more female readers than ever! Let me know about some of your favourite seinen anime in the comments.