There are a lot of different types of anime out there, so finding a show that has more mature overtones and themes can be difficult. Given the vast array of fantasy, slice of life, sport, comedy, and science fiction shows out there, it can be hard to find an anime that is focused for adults. However, there have been some truly amazing anime series that are not only geared for adults, but offer high-quality storytelling, characters, artwork, and in some cases action.
Before we begin, here are some honorable mentions that are worth checking out as well:
- Knights of Sidonia
- Prison School
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Cowboy Bebop
Here are our choices for the top 10 best adult anime you need to watch:
(Author’s Note: This list is in no particular order)
A personal favorite, Psycho-Pass is a cyber punk themed anime where all of Japan is defined by a new crime prevention method called the Sibyl System. People are now judged on a number scale, with the higher rated citizens being deemed as criminals and thus subsequently disposed of. Dispensing out this justice are the investigators and their latent-criminal assistants known as Enforcers.
Where Psycho-Pass shines is in its storytelling and grand themes about what it means to be human, free, and ultimately a criminal. The relationship between the Enforcers and Inspectors is a genuinely compelling one that helps drive the main story. Psycho-Pass also sports gorgeous visuals and has some entertaining action scenes that feel ripped from some of the best crime films in existence.
2. Deadman Wonderland
Deadman Wonderland follows a young boy named Ganta who was the only survivor when his high school class was massacred. Blamed for the crime, he is shipped off to Deadman Wonderland which is a prison that doubles as an amusement park for people to visit. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more going on behind the scenes and it’s up to Ganta to figure this out before he ends up being executed in this twisted theme park.
While Deadman Wonderland is light on action until the second half of the show, the concept alone is fascinating enough to keep audiences engaged. The moment to moment storytelling always gives Deadman Wonderland a nice sense of urgency, which is reinforced by the prison’s various rules.
3. Tokyo Ghoul
The world of Tokyo Ghoul is a vicious one, as some humans have been turned into flesh eating ghouls that hide in plain sight, waiting for their next victim to come walking by. The newest addition to this race is Ken Kaneki, a young man who was forcibly turned and thrust into this world with little knowledge on how to survive. Watching Ken’s transformation and eventual embrace into a ghoul is a fantastic way to develop the character, but where Tokyo Ghoul really excels is world building. There are a lot of different cultures within the ghoul world and getting to see them all interact lends this anime a nice sense of depth.
4. Attack on Titan
If you’re looking for a show that is still going, Attack on Titan is a fantastic anime that pits humanity against giant humanoid giants known as Titans. Forced to hide behind giant walls, this world is turned upside down when a massive Titan knocks down a door and releases a horde of these mindless monsters among the masses. Attack on Titan is a very violent anime, but there is always a sense of hope that never leaves both the characters and story.
This anime is full of twists, turns, and sudden character deaths that really helps preserve the idea of how dangerous this world really is. The action is also exceptioanlly well done that delivers and incredible sense of momentum. Currently, there are two seasons out, with the third one scheduled to release some time in 2018.
5. Black Lagoon
Set in a world of pirates, murders, and various criminal organizations, Black Lagoon follows the story of a mundane office worker who is pushed into this dangerous culture. After teaming up with a small crew of three, the main hero Rock must learn to embrace the criminal world before it gets him killed. There is a lot of action in Black Lagoon, but it’s balanced with a rather humerous set of characters that offer up a light hearted take. Yet, there is a hidden depth to who these people are and uncovering it is half the fun. You also get to see a crew of pirates take out a ship full of Nazis and really, who doesn’t want to see that?
Perhaps the most violent anime on our list, Berserk is legendary for how gory and twisted many of its episodes are. Following the story of a wandering mercenary, Berserk eventually comes into contact with everything from a powerful mercenary army to some truly twisted demons. While Berserk is undoubtedly defined by gory action, don’t outright dismiss this show as the plot is one of the best in the fantasy genre.
Instead of adhering to cliche tropes, Berserk subverts cliches and tropes we have come to expect such as the shining white knight, damsel in distress, and what it means to be a monster. There’s also a more updated version of the show that just released if you’re looking for something more modern.
7. Death Note
Considered by many to be one of the best anime ever released, Death Note is a psychological thriller that offers up an exceptionally complex story. After a young student named Light Yagami discovers a magic notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it, he becomes obsessed with cleansing the world of evil. However, his actions are seen by many as cruel and thus Light must contend with a special task force that is trying to hunt for him.
Where Death Note shines is in the cat and mouse storytelling that makes up both seasons of this show. There are a lot of big twists that always help keep viewers on their toes and the voice work is absolutely top notch. Death Note challenges our moral compass and constantly asks viewers how far should one be willing to go to when dealing with criminals?
8. Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo is a fairly straight forward anime that follows a ronin named Jin, the vagrant Mugen, and a waitress called Fuu. During a fight, they accidentally kill the son of a noble and are condemned to execution. However, the group eventually escapes and end up going in search for a mysterious samurai that Fuu is looking for. While Samurai Champloo is full of great action, it’s defined by a sense of style and the main cast of characters. Each one of the three leads could easily earn a show of their own, but when combined they have fantastic chemistry and interactions.
9. Elfen Lied
This science fiction/horror anime follows the story of a mutated girl named Lucy who possess incredible telekinetic abilities. After years of being held in isolation, Lucy escapes and goes on a murderous rampage until she manages to make it to the real world. Discovered by two school students, they agree to take care of Lucy despite her rather destructive gifts.
Attempting to live in peace, Luvy and students are constantly attacked by special recovery teams and other mutants like Lucy. Be warned, Elfen Lied is a rather brutal anime and it can be quite hard to watch at times. Yet, there’s an intriguing story to found under all the blood that is worth seeing this show until the end.
10. Hellsing Ultimate
Running only 12 episodes long, Hellsing Ulitmate follows an exceptionally powerful vampire named Alucard who is bound to the vampire hunting family, Hellsing. After turning a young girl into a vampire, Alucard and his master Integra are targeted by an army of Nazi vampires called “The Last Battalion.” What follows is a globe spanning story that climaxes in one of the most chaotic endings to an anime ever. Hellsing Ultimate is a fantastic introduction into anime thanks to its relatively short season and easy to follow story. This show also boasts so incredible art, great fight scenes, and absolutely top notch voice work.