Bringing a story from a script to the screen isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true when it comes to anime—an animated medium with breathtaking action and equally stunning visuals. While it’s not always a great idea to judge a book by its cover, the first impressions are usually based on “how good” something looks, and that applies to anime as well. Sometimes, a shabby story can be redeemed with great animation, but subpar animation can’t redeem even the best of stories.
With that said, we present you with eight of the most visually stunning anime series ever made.
8. Samurai Champloo
Coming from a renowned director of Cowboy Beebop, Shinichiro Watanabe, Samurai Champloo is a masterful blend of Edo-period Japan with modern hip-hop vibes, which presents a unique anachronistic fusion that’s rarely seen in anime—the one release that also comes to mind in that regard is the legendary Afro Samurai.
The show’s protagonists embark on a quest to find a samurai that smells of sunflowers, with their individual backgrounds and personalities clashing and complementing in delightful ways—especially when Mugen and Jin are surrounded by hordes of enemies, in which case the samurai battles are always merged with rhythmic hip hop and R&B beats.
7. Attack On Titan
Attack of Titan is a visual spectacle that offers a harrowing glimpse of the world under siege, where humans face extinction from the mindless, human-eating Titans. The aesthetically stunning animation is masterfully done to express a variety of human emotions and the Titans’ complete disregard for the same.
In fact, the animation is so masterfully done that you can read the expressions on the protagonists’ faces, ranging from dread to anger, happiness, sorrow, etc. The story of this anime isn’t negligible either, as it dives deep into themes of freedom, sacrifice, and blurred lines between good and evil, which constantly challenges the viewer’s perception of conflicted parties.
6. Kabanaeri Of The Iron Fortress
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is produced by the same studio that worked on Attack on Titan, from which it takes a lot of inspiration when it comes to action, while adding its own special twist and style. Of course, the story, character designs, and action vary, but the recipe Kabaneri took is quite recognizable. Unfortunately, it isn’t as famous among anime lovers as Attack on Titan, despite being a great show that really marries steampunk style with a zombie apocalypse setting, showcasing the intricate details of steam-powered machinery and the iron-coated hearts of the undead plaguing the world.
5. Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen is a rather popular anime series coming from the same studio that produced Attack on Titan: The Final Season. It centers on a high school student who ingests a cursed item and gains the ability to combat curses—here’s an explanation of how curses work in Jujutsu Kaisen. The aesthetics are pretty common for an anime in the shonen genre, with masterfully choreographed fights and magic offering a memorable blend of both.
4. Demon Slayer
Similar to Jujutsu Kaisen, at least when it comes to the art style, Demon Slayer is one of the most popular action anime that has emerged in recent years—with its polished animation and visuals being the driving factors behind its appeal. The makers of this anime even went so far as to use experimental techniques and combined art styles. The battle sequences between Demon Slayers and their demonic opponents are incredibly detailed, and the same applies to the show’s Breathing Styles, which are special combat techniques.
Fate/Zero’s narrative is filled with complex characters, moral quandaries, and the ambitions and traumas of its cast, all of which are complemented by breathtaking animation. The series serves as the prequel to the Fate/Stay Night anime series, and its narrative is centered on the events of the 4th Holy Grail War tournament.
The story struggles with philosophical questions about heroism, sacrifice, and desire, but tackles darker themes as well, contrasting the noble intentions of protagonists with the cruel realities of their choices. It’s really a compelling watch for both Fate veterans and newcomers.
2. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden was based on the novel by Kana Akatsuki and Akiko Kakase, who created the foundation for this incredible anime, which was produced by Kyoto Animation, along with the two subsequent films. The protagonist of the is an ex-soldier trying to find her purpose in a post-war world, as she tries to recover from her physical pain, grief, and loss of a loved one, and everyday employment at the most horrible position ever—the transcriber at the postal service.
Mononoke is produced by Toei Animation, a studio most famous for anime, such as the Dragon Ball series and Sailor Moon. Mononoke centers on a Medicine Seller as he travels through Edo and Meiji periods in Japan, introducing the audience to more traditional Japanese arts that have emerged in the midst of a transition period. The animation is filled with impressive decorative visuals and classical paintings in every episode, basically making Mononoke a visually appealing history lesson (and a fun one at that).