One of the concepts that is often explored in anime is one’s own humanity, or what it means to be actually human. While this topic is often approached in a variety of ways, some of the best examples of this tend to revolve around something that isn’t human achieve an “understanding” of some sort that makes them self-aware and question if they’re more than what they actually are. There’s no better way of illustrating this concept than through the use of androids.
Androids are simply defined as robots with a human appearance, but there’s much more to them than that. Like the main characters that are human in their respective series, androids have different personalities, motives, and abilities. While there are various depictions of androids used in anime, the concept of their self-awareness and whether they can be really considered human is something that can connect them all together. At the same time, some anime with androids do a real good job of focusing on other issues entirely. Here are the Top 10 Android Anime.
10. Plastic Memories
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2015 to Jun 2015
Even though Tsukasa Mizugaki failed his college entrance exams, he somehow finds himself working at the SAI Corporation, which was responsible for creating human-like androids called Giftia. Despite the many purposes Gifita serve in society, they are only able to last 9 years and 4 months before their personalities and memories cease to exist, or “expire”. Working in the Terminal Service Department alongside Isla, a beautiful and innocent Gifita, Tsukasa learns to come to terms with the short life-span of these androids as well as help save as many Giftia that are about to expire as he can.
One of the newer series to tackle the concept of androids, this series focuses a lot on the relationship between a human and an android. Because Giftia have been given the ability to feel human emotions, it makes the story that much more tragic knowing that Tsukasa and Isla’s time is limited. The “tragic young love” angle takes priority over the world that is described, leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to android-related ideas. That being said, Plastic Memories is a must see if you’re interested in androids and relationship-type anime.
9. Miss Monochrome
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2013 to Dec 2013
Miss Monochrome is just like any other Japanese girl that wishes to fulfill her dream of becoming a famous singer. The only difference is that unlike other girls, Miss Monochrome is an android capable of no emotion. This alone leads to all kind of hilarious situations as Miss Monochrome and her team purse their goal of helping Miss Monochrome become a famous idol.
This anime definitely has a humorous take on the android genre. With Miss Monochrome’s inability to express emotion, her taking everything she hears literally, the quirky ideas she has to become famous, and being surrounded by a humorous team trying to help her, the show has a lot of jokes that seem out of nowhere yet still hit their mark. Even though each episode is rather short, Miss Monochrome is very upbeat with its android-related humor, making this android anime stand out from the usual tone used in anime with androids.
8. Astro Boy
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: Apr 2003 to Mar 2004
Among the first anime ever, Astro Boy is about an android in the form of a young boy created by a scientist as a replacement for his late son. With super human powers and an artificial intelligence that can’t be matched, Astro Boy tries to live a normal live as a 6th grader under the guidance of Dr. O’Shay while helping the police protect the innocent from danger. Astro Boy must also learn the truth about his creator, Dr. Tenma.
One of the best themes androids can be used to help explore is the idea of racism, and Astro Boy definitely comes through in spades in regards to this topic. Despite the good he’s done, Astro Boy is still faced with racism for being a robot, and the show’s theme of mutual acceptance helps to resolve that tension, especially during the time it was first aired. With the proper exploration of human-android relations and plenty of episodes to develop it, Astro Boy would be among the anime to go to for this topic.
7. Dimension W
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2016 to Mar 2016
With the discovery of a 4th dimension possessing infinity energy, it was only a matter of time until humanity invented a way to control this energy. By 2071, the New Tesla Energy Corporation has control over the “coils” used to harness this energy, leading to the rise of illegally selling unofficial coils. When strange things begin happening, however, it’s up to an ex-soldier and a mysterious android to figure out what’s going on.
Unlike some other depictions of androids in anime, this anime definitely creates a unique world that celebrates it. Technology is everywhere, including androids, and the fact that Kyouma Mabuchi intensely dislikes this widespread use of technology certainly places him at odds with his world, making him seem like someone born in the wrong generation. As a result, we see a slow-building revenge-style story take place as Kyouma and his unlikely android companion Mira Yurizaki travel to find Mira’s connection to the “father” of coils. A very unique take on the android genre overall.
6. Time of Eve (Eve no Jikan)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Aug 2008 to Sep 2009
In a world where the 3 Laws of Robotics are upheld, androids are treated just as commonly as household electronic appliances, and android sympathizers are denounced as heretics. Rikuo Sakisaka was a normal kid who understood and obeyed these rules until abnormal data found in his android’s activity logs leads him to a café where androids and humans are treated equally…
Although this series is rather short and once again address the inequality issue between humans and androids that we’ve seen before, Time of Eve is recognized at accomplishing a lot in such a short amount of time. No line of dialogue or action is wasted, and we’re able to understand each character and their relations to one another as they visit the café one by one. Despite the lack of a true closure to the series, Time of Eve is definitely a short show that can be watched rather quickly, making it a good intro to the android genre for those wanting to learn more.
5. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2002 to Oct 2003
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex focuses on Major Motoko Kusanagi, who serves as part of an elite task force whose purpose is to protect Niihama. Technology has advanced enough to where anyone can have it integrated with their brain, resulting in both positive and negative impacts on humanity. The Major and many of her Section 9 teammates have had this procedure done, essentially making them cyborgs as well as being almost more machine than human.
This series’ tone is very much cyber-punk, and both the side missions as well as the main one all tend to revolve around the concept of what is and isn’t human as well as the ethics of said technology. We see the Major and her teammates achieve some superhuman things due to them being cyborgs, but at the same time we observe at times a type of detachment they have with normal people. There are so many philosophical themes that this show explores regarding humanity, so if you like anime series that explore deep themes while at the same time be action packed, this would be the series for you.
4. Big O
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 1999 to Mar 2003
40 years ago, an event happened that wiped out the memories of everyone in Paradigm City. Now those memories are slowly coming back. Roger Smith, with the help of his giant robot Big O, his android Dorothy Wayneright, and his butler Norman, works to unlock the many mysteries of his city as well as protect it from those who wish it harm. But with many people building newer and stronger machines because of the memories that keep resurfacing, it’s only a matter of time until Roger’s past and what exactly happened is revealed…
While there are androids that are citizens of the city as well as some of the foes Roger goes up against, the main plot of the series focuses on the giant Megadeus’ and their dynamic. However, the series begins with Roger discovering that Dorothy is actually an android with genuine feelings, rescuing her, and having her assist him in his “negotiations”. Even though their relationship isn’t the focus, seeing their dynamic in a post-apocalyptic setting is definitely refreshing. If you are interested in androids but not enough to where you need the whole series to be defined by them, Big O is definitely a positive take on that dynamic.
3. Casshern Sins
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2008 to Mar 2009
Casshern wakes up only to have no memory of who he is or where he comes from; he has no idea if he’s human, an android, or something else altogether. As he travels the world, he learns that it is turning into ruin, with the weaker robots doing whatever it takes to survive or completely giving up and the stronger robots fighting each other with the winner taking the best of their opponent’s parts so that they can survive. There are some robots (and humans) who share a positive outlook on life with Casshern, while others reveal who exactly Casshern was before his amnesia…
Not many series begin with the main character questioning whether he’s human or android, so to start off with questions of who someone really is right from the beginning sets Casshern Sins apart from many. The series also combines the simple with the complex in a marvelous way; even though the pace is very much slower compared to most anime series, this leaves a lot of time for reflection as to what exactly is going on as well as what will happen. If you enjoy philosophical themes but want the proper time to think and reflect on them, Casshern Sins may be the anime for you.
2. Ergo Proxy
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: Feb 2006 to Aug 2006
The remaining survivors of mankind after the explosion of the methane hydrate layer live in isolated cities scattered throughout Earth. The one positive thing for these survivors is that they are helped by AutoReivs, or autonomous androids, in their daily living. However, with the development of the Cogito Virus leading to AutoReivs going insane, it’s up to a small group of humans and AutoReivs alike to travel to Mosk in order to set things right.
Unlike Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which mainly focuses on cyborgs as opposed to androids, Ergo Proxy is definitely android centered in terms of its characters. Ergo Proxy is also similar to Ghost in the Shell in the sense that a lot of complex themes are explored each episode that you may not understand until the characters reflect on everything that’s happened in the last few minutes. If you’re a big fan of philosophy, thought-provoking symbolism, and constantly wondering what exactly is going on, then Ergo Proxy should be right up your ally.
1. Cyborg 009
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: Oct 2001 to Oct 2002
9 humans were captured and turned into cyborgs by Black Ghost, a powerful terrorist organization. However, with the help of one of Black Ghost’s scientists, Dr. Isaac Gilmore, the cyborgs are able to escape. With Black Ghost looking to start another world war and possessing other powerful cyborgs and weapons in order to do it, it’s up to the 9 cyborgs that escaped to stop them, as they are the only ones who can.
This series does a great job of exploring one’s own humanity by thoroughly developing each of the 9 cyborgs. We learn who each of them were before they were captured by Black Ghost and how they handle their new abilities as well as their new existence. Being at different ages and coming from completely different backgrounds, each cyborg has a different reaction to their new reality, with some of them able to handle it and some of them struggling to cope. 4 of the cyborgs being kidnapped during World War 2 and waking up in a completely different time only makes things more complex for them, as the only people they have now is each other. Definitely a must see of you want a series of different reactions to the same cause of losing one’s humanity forever.
Dragon Ball Z
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: Apr 1989 to Jan 1996
Whosoever gathers the 7 Dragon Balls together to summon the Eternal Dragon Shenron will be granted one wish. This special power is the driving force behind many of the villains Son Goku and his friends go up against. With each opponent being stronger than the last, Goku and his friends must find a way to get stronger in order to defeat them as well as protect the Earth.
Although Dragon Ball Z is mainly focused on fighting, there are many androids seen throughout the series. One of the main arcs of the series focuses on both androids and cyborgs being the main opponents, and some of the movies have androids being the main villain(s) Goku and his friends have to face. Even in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT, the use of androids is very much prevalent. Even though there are no real deeper themes regarding them other than being another way for a powerful opponent to enter the series, it’s almost impossible to talk about Dragon Ball Z’s villains without bringing up characters such as Android 18 or Cell. If you like seeing androids without any of the deeper meanings behind their presence, then the Android/Perfect Cell Saga as well as Dragon Ball Z Movies 2 and 7 may be right up your alley.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jan 1998 to Jun 1998
Gene Starwind has always dreamed of being the pilot of his very own ship and exploring the vastness of space. But when an odd job lands him and his friend James Hawking in a situation where his dream can come true at the expense of protecting an android named Melfina from mysterious outlaws, it’s not exactly how Gene pictured his dream beginning. Yet Gene finds himself piloting the Outlaw Star and somehow assembling a crew of random strangers that choose to join him as he sets out to find the answers to the mysteries concerning Melfina.
While Outlaw Star is similar to Cowboy Bebop in terms of being a space adventure type of anime, the driving force behind the adventure lies in Melfina, an android who wants to know why she was made and who exactly was responsible for making her. Even though this series starts out in a simple manner, it does address some philosophical ideas, especially near the finale. If you want to watch an android related series with a sense of adventure, then Outlaw Star is an anime that can fill that void.
In any case, here is the final ranking of the top 10 Android Anime plus some honorary mentions. Should one of the honorary mentions have made the final cut? Is there an android anime you enjoy that you don’t see on this list? Post your opinions in the comments!