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What exactly determines whether or not a sci-fi anime series is good or not? Each fan has their reasons, but at the end of the day, sci-fi anime shows in general tend to be a lot more serious and thought-provoking than most of the other anime genres. This is mainly due to most of them exploring the possibilities and limits of certain ideas such as exploring outer space, newer forms of technology, and fictional phenomena such as time travel. As a result, exploring these mature themes and combining them with well-developed characters, an emotional impact, and a well-balanced story have resulted in some of the most popular anime of all time.
However, whether you’re a new fan of anime or have been watching it for a long time, chances are you’re already familiar with the defining titles of the sci-fi genre: Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop. While they are arguably the best, this list is focusing on some of the newer shows inspired by these iconic sci-fi anime in addition to other original shows that have been rising in popularity in recent years (some more than others). Keeping that in mind, here are the Top 10 Anime Sci-Fi Anime.
10. Code Geass
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 6, 2006 to Jul 29, 2007
Code Geass is one of those series where it seems like it could fit in almost every genre because it has an aspect of almost every genre in it. From kids going to school, to giant mechs fighting each other, to complex plots planned out by the main character, every genre seems to be represented. However, the sci-fi aspect of Lelouch’s ability of Geass ties the series together, as his use of this ability, in addition to the abilities of the friends and foes he encounters, adds yet another dimension to a series that already has plenty. If sci-fi is something that you enjoy only when it’s balanced with other genres, then Code Geass would be a great starting point.
9. Eden of The East
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 10, 2009 to Jun 19, 2009
An important aspect to most sci-fi series is the presence of a mystery, and Eden of the East takes a lighter yet successful approach to his idea. After traveling to America 3 months after a weird missile strike against Japan, Saki Morimi is unexpectedly saved from harm by Akira Takizawa, a man who is completely naked, is suffering from amnesia, and possesses a cell phone with more than 8 billion yen in digital cash on it. Despite these warning signs that something is amiss, Saki is able to befriend Takizawa, leading them both down a dangerous path to answer their questions. Certainly an original idea for a series that leads to some unexpected outcomes as well as a lot of details that can be left up to interpretation, even after the show ends. If you enjoy the mystery concept when it comes to sci-fi, then this is the series to watch.
8. Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 11, 2014 - Jun 27, 2014
Not all space anime is about space exploration. Set in outer space in the year 3394, Nagate Tanikaze comes to discover upon leaving his seclusion that the last remnants of humanity have been trying to escape Earth’s conquerors, the Gauna, for quite some time. With the help of some fellow soldiers, it soon falls to Tanikaze to defend from the alien invaders humanity’s last hope for survival: his ship Sidonia. If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic setting as well as humanity and aliens fighting each other in galactic warfare, then Knights of Sidonia provides that and then some.
- Episodes: 303
- ired: Apr 2006 - Mar 2016
Gintama is up there with One Piece as being one of the funniest anime in recent memory with its wide variety of jokes in addition to its memorable characters and their various quirks and running gags. All things considered, though, the setting of the series is very much science fiction-esque due to the various alien species that inhabit Edo Japan in addition to the alien technology brought by said aliens. Both the various alien species and their technology get introduced in the most random of ways as Gin and his friends get into wacky hijinks trying to make the world a better place. If you appreciate comedy as much as sci-fi and are more into the sci-fi setting aspect, look no further.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 12, 2012 to Mar 22, 2013
One of the bigger themes explored in science fiction is not only how a new technology or discovery makes the world a better place, but also its moral ramifications and how it can be used for selfish purposes. Psycho Pass wrestles with the concept of justice and whether the Inspectors and Enforcers carrying out the law are doing so for the right reasons or for their own reasons. As Akane Tsunemori, the newest member of the force, observes just how things operate, she is faced with these choices, with the right answer not as easy as she would hope it to be. If you enjoy the darker elements of sci-fi that take a mature approach to deep subject matter, Psycho Pass is worth your time.
5. Dennou Coil
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 12, 2007 to Dec 1, 2007
It’s 2026, 11 years after the development of immersive “cyber-glasses” that have turned the Internet into an augmented reality of sorts. Yuuko Okonogi and her family have just moved to Daikoku City, the technological center behind the creation of a new “virtual world”. It is here that she meets Yuuko Amasawa, an expert hacker of the new virtual environment that has developed and is chasing a big mystery. While not as philosophically deep or as intense as Ghost in the Shell, Dennou Coil is meticulously planned with its slow buildup of the world and the characters that live in it. Directed by Mitsuo Iso, who worked on animation for another sci-fi giant, Neo Genesis Evangelion, Dennou Coil overall is futuristic enough to bring something new, but at the same time is grounded enough to the point where it seems as if the technology is within our reach, something that makes the show seem that much more real. If you’re a fan of Ghost in the Shell in terms of the virtual technology used as well as the pacing of the story as well as character development, then Dennou Coil is a sci-fi anime that’s worth checking out.
4. Serial Experiments Lain
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 1998 - Sep 1998
An older show that is often brought up when discussing the best of the best sci-fi anime but not nearly as popular as GitS or Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain nails the darker and more ominous tone of sci-fi anime. Lain Iwakura is a 14 year old girl who doesn’t really use technology and yet somehow ends up being taken to a strange virtual world known as the Wired. As events begin to spiral outside of Lain’s control, the line between reality and virtual becomes more blurred, and the very meaning of consciousness begins to be called into question. There are a lot of difficult ideas to comprehend when regarding this series, but Serial Experiments Lain is the anime to watch if you’re into the type of sci-fi anime that makes you think a lot both during and after the episode is over.
3. Legend of the Galactic Heroes
- Episodes: 110
- ired: Jan 8, 1988 to Mar 17, 1997
A rather different take on the “space exploration” category of sci-fi, this sci-fi anime stands out in terms of the epic struggle between 2 opposing sides in what seems like a never ending war. However, with the war being set in outer space, an extra dimension is added that can’t be achieved compared to a war being fought on Earth, as the setting itself is used in multiple ways to better convey the moods of various characters and their personal struggles. It also helps to explore the ramifications of warfare in general and the difficult decisions Yang Wen-Li and Reinhard von Lohengramm have to make. Another great sci-fi setting for a show focused on other subjects.
2. Space Dandy
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jan 5, 2014 to Sep 25, 2014
Cowboy Bebop defined the popularity of the anime space western genre, and Trigun and Outlaw Star continued its success in their own ways. In recent years, however, the creator of Cowboy Bebop is back with Space Dandy, the newest iteration in the space western genre. There’s definitely more of a sci-fi element in terms of the various aliens and worlds Dandy and his crew encounter as opposed to just the various outlaws Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed met. Be that as it may, if you loved Cowboy Bebop for its exploration and badass cast of characters and want to watch something very similar but with more aliens and alien tech, then it doesn’t get much better than Space Dandy.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 6, 2011 – September 14, 2011
Without a doubt one of the most popular sci-fi anime to have recently been released, and for good reason. Time travel is a tricky concept to approach, but it doesn’t get more sci-fi than your main character considering themselves a mad scientist only to accidentally create a device that can actually achieve time travel. Not to mention the fact that both the positive and negative outcomes of time travel are explored in depth while at the same time helping to further develop the core cast of characters. In the end, while Steins;Gate has become very popular in the sci-fi genre, it’s certainly for good reason, and is worth watching if you’re a fan of the genre.
Sci-fi is all about asking questions and exploring the ramifications of various possibilities while at the same time providing a sense of wonder and adventure for the viewer. While the newer shows may not be as popular as the sci-fi giants thus far, these 10 shows certainly explore most of the types of aspects you would hope to find in sci-fi anime. But what do you guys think? Should Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop have been included? Is there a sci-fi anime missing entirely that you think should have been mentioned? Post your thoughts in the comment section below!
This is a list that I just cannot label in a 1-10 fashion, because they’re all just too good to label.
When it comes to sci-fi, some of the most badass of shows have been born from them, not including the movies as well – making it one of the genres that really helped to shape the western views on anime entirely.
Most fan favorites come from this genre as well showing just how incredible an impact it has on anime itself!
1. Cowboy Bebop
It’s 2071 A.D. and humanity has been driven away from Earth and into the stars!
Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter in this new age of space travel and a completely new type of criminal activity. He travels through space, drifting with his good buddy Jet and getting into all different types of trouble.
This is one of the absolute best anime I have ever had the pleasure of watching, with an ending that did nothing but depress me because it was just that – the end.
The character stories and the action completely immerse you inside this new world, definitely worth a re-watch or several.
Akane Tsunemori is a brand new detective in this new world where crime is kept at bay by machines reading a person’s crime coefficient – that is to say, someone’s capability to commit a crime.
The only thing standing between the would-be criminals that manage to avoid detection and the unsuspecting public would be the detectives and their dominators.
If you’ve not yet gone aboard the hype train for Psycho-Pass, all I can say is you’re missing out!
This is an incredible show that completely sets itself apart from other sci-fi anime by taking what you think you know and twisting it completely.
3. Ergo Proxy
In the distant future where the world has been transformed by our own wars, Proxy are made to create and establish new societies under domes.
Many years later this knowledge is mainly forgotten, and these societies are no longer in contact. Re-l is a detective in one of these domes who becomes center to a whole new set of problems – not to mention the start of a whole new world.
This is one of the best shows I’ve seen that show the different sides of the human psyche and really delve into what those are; all without giving it away (it makes you really think about it). If you’re looking for an anime that you can multitask to and still have some idea of what’s going on, this is not it.
It really forces you to pay attention to it; however, at the same time it doesn’t disappoint!
4. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
One year after Colony 195 the war between the Space Colonies and the Earth has started.
In order to give the Space Colonies an edge against the Earth forces they’ve been sent five different, albeit young, soldiers who pilot new mobile suits named Gundam.
I can’t delve too far into this series without completely ruining every plot point it has to offer. This is the show that got me into anime in the first place and set my expectations for mecha anime unreasonably high.
This is one of the best shows to start you off on a sci-fi adventure in anime, and many fans would have this high up on their recommendations list.
5. Ghost in the Shell
In the year 2029 cybernetics and the web have completely redefined the world as we know it today.
With a new era of technology comes a new era of criminals – and what better way to fight a new wave of criminology than with a new wave of cybernetically enhanced police? The Puppetmaster has staked his claim as one of the times newest criminals and Project 2501 is sent to stop him.
Ghost in the Shell is one of the shows from the 1990’s that managed to shape how we in the western world look at anime in general.
The characters are so intriguing and well defined; the action is beautiful and is definitely something everyone needs to see at least once.
6. Eureka Seven
Renton Thurston is a boy looking to ride the perfect wave, but not in the sense of how we know it today.
To Renton, the perfect wave isn’t one you can always see, the perfect waves are made of Trapar Particles.He’s always dreamed of piloting an LFO for the Gekkostate group, often daydreaming about just that. One day an LFO crashes into his grandfather’s garage, the pilot being a beautiful young girl named Eureka and starting him on his new adventure in life and love!
Eureka Seven is a fantastic anime to watch if you have kids around; a great way to introduce them to the world of anime or even the sci-fi genre.
While I stated earlier I have high expectations for mecha anime, this one did not disappoint in the slightest and you won’t be put off by starting this series!
7. Neon Genesis Evangelion
It’s 2015 and the Earth is being attacked for the second time by the Angels, giant alien war machines sent to eradicate us.
Our only hope of survival lies in the Evangelion mechanoid fighting machines developed by the special United Nations agency NERV. The only drawback to the Evangelions is that they can only be piloted by babies conceived on the day of the initial invasion, making the pilots of today only fourteen years old.
Many mecha fans also attribute this show as being one of their top favorites and not without reason! With so many thrilling scenes compacted into this series it’s no wonder why fans love this series.
If you’re looking outside of the classic Gundam franchise for a good older mecha to watch, this is your best option!
It’s 2019 and the 31st year after the start of World War III when a child with amazing psychic abilities breaks free from custody and gets involved in a motorcycle gang.
Tetsuo, another member of the gang soon starts to show psychic abilities of his own and becomes the next target for experimentation by the army. Because of this he sets out to take vengeance on the society that once made fun of him for being weaker than they.
Akira is a classic anime film that came out in 1988 and has done much to enrapture fans worldwide.
The story is refreshing from the mass amounts of magic filled anime that fill our must see lists and giving us a realistically new look at what the human race would be capable of with psychic abilities.
Ichise is an orphan turned prize fighter who loses an arm and a leg in an attempt to satisfy the rage of a fight promoter. In order to save his life a young woman doctor used him as her own private guinea pig and implanted the next generation of Texhnolyze to replace his missing limbs.
In order to gain control of Lux, a crumbling city; wars must be had.
This is an absolute stunning show that really makes you think about where we as a society are heading.
Will we be heading to the stars or underground – or will we work on the surface of the Earth without destroying it?
Humans have relocated to Mars through the use of a hypergate discovered on the surface of the moon; and their utter technological superiority has left the humans on Earth at a disadvantage.
Through the use of Kataphrakts the Martians begin a takeover of their once home planet for its resources, ending the fight in a stalemate as most of the moon gets destroyed when the hypergate explodes.
Years later the Martian princess wishes to make peace with the world, but can that be accomplished?
This show had an amazing hype train following it and it certainly lived up to its expectations. Hitting the ground running in a very strong pilot episode and keeping the equilibrium between action and excitement while filling in the backstory is no easy task, but Aldnoah.Zero manages it without a hitch.
It also tells the tale of what humanity is capable of when someone has something the other wants, giving the entire show a chilling sense of dread.
That wraps up the list of Top Ten Sci-Fi Anime! If you feel there’s a different anime that’s been left out feel free to let us know in the comments section below!