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Sometimes we want anime to be fun, fantasize about the characters or to enjoy adventures in different universes. But what happens when we also want useful information? What happens when we are particularly keen to a certain branch of knowledge and it lurks or (even better) becomes the core of an anime show? Physics, Computer Science, Biology, Genetics… the possibilities are infinite!
So can all the science geeks please stand up and follow me for an amazing top 10 countdown of anime about science?
10. Red Garden
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 2006 – Mar 2007
Let’s start with a show that is all girly until a zombie attacks the four female protagonists, who live in New York. We later discover that someone is raising the death with the aid of biotechnology… Including the girls themselves! If they want the chance to know exactly how everything happened and if there is a way of becoming alive again, they will have to get involved in the battles against the undead.
Created by Gonzo, a studio with vast experience on groovy and graphically unconventional animation, this anime series mixes the typical elements of a shoujo with a sci-fi horror movie.
9. Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2013 – Dec 2013
On a planet devastated by global warming, a mysterious race called “The fleet of fog” attacks from the sea, isolating humanity and seeking to breed a more powerful version of themselves. Gunzo Chihaya, a human, and Iona, once part of the fleet of fog, join forces to end the oppression of humanity.
Originally created by Ark Performance, this anime has several sciences mixed in it, but mainly verses around naval vehicles engineering and the possible future of computer science. With constant battles, and a cute character design, this anime has everything to be memorable.
8. Moyashimon (Tales of Agriculture)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Oct 2007 – Dec 2007
Food biotechnologists, fear no more, you have an anime full with yeast and fermentation processes. Tadayasu Sawaki, a new student in a University of Agriculture, is able to see and communicate with cute microorganisms. Poor Tadayasu is never alone, but his microbe companions lead him to lots of adventures.
Originally created by Masayuki Ishikawa, this anime goes more into the comical and educational side.
7. Uchuu Kyoudai (Space brothers)
- Episodes: 99
- Aired: Apr 2012 - Mar 2014
Prepare yourselves for a long story full of astrophysics, especially if you ever thought of becoming an astronaut. Mutta and Hibito Nanba are brothers who made a promise to go to space one day. Hibito reaches his goal first, while his older brother has become an employee in a company without a great purpose in his life… until he is elected for training in NASA.
Created by Chuya Koyama, this space opera with high quality music and animation will enchant star dreamers everywhere.
6. Ergo Proxy
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: Feb 2006 – Aug 2006
Genetics have always make humanity wonder until which point we should apply it. The story of Ergo Proxy takes place in a futuristic scenario where humans are grown up in artificial wombs and there are mysterious and powerful creatures considered as Gods, called Proxies. Re-L Mayer, a policewoman, has the mission to follow the immigrant Vincent Law, who apparently has a close relationship with the Proxies.
Directed by Shuko Murase, who usually works in the action genre, this anime show has everything to entice a fan of science fiction. The story rarely slows down and the characters are all well developed.
- Episodes: 1 Movie
- Aired: Jul 2004
A movie by the great Katsuhiro Otomo made it to the list! How can we not mention this rendition to the engineering world? How can we ignore such a contribution to the passion for building and blowing things up?
The protagonist is Ray Steam, son and grandson of scientists. He has to guard a strange new form of energy from the ambitious hands of the O’hara Corporation, complete with chases in steam based transports. The animation is simply superb, and fans of steampunk will appreciate all the details in it.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2008 - Jul 2008
Imagine a world where genetics are so advanced that your memory can be saved and placed in a new body. This procedure also lets you manipulate other people’s memories, if you are powerful enough. But not matter what, memories will try to seek the people you have been involved with before, sending you into a psychological travel inside your own mind.
A boy named Kaiba wakes up one day without memories, being persecuted for unknown reasons. He starts a journey towards the place where the rich people live, meeting all sorts of characters and recovering his memories. Created by Studio Madhouse, this anime show has a retro look and feel to it. Nevertheless, the story is so interesting, that the visual style is not that important. It could be considered a grown up and psychological version of “The little prince”.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2003 - Jul 2004
Let’s go back to space science but combined with ecology. We know humans have left a lot of garbage in space. So, the responsible thing to do is to monitor the garbage and try to dispose it, as the characters in Planetes do. Ironically but unsurprisingly, our characters are considered the lowest in the space corps, so they have to prove their work is important.
Originally a debut manga by Makoto Yukimura, Planetes is a space opera full of human drama, attractive graphical sequences and classical music.
2. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Jul 2014 - Sept 2014
We have more computer science and genetics with this anime. In an alternate universe, Tokyo has become the target of several attacks by a terrorist group called Sphynx. Detective Shibazaki is determined to unveil their true objective, which might be connected to a mysterious project involving orphan kids in the past.
We know that Zankyou no Terror is mainly about terrorism, but protagonists Nine and Twelve were perfectly well aid by their hacking abilities, plus a boost on their genetics. The never slowing down story, masterful animation and music by Yoko Kanno made this one an instant classic.
1. Chikyuu Shoujo Arjuna (Earth Girl Arjuna)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan 2001 - Mar 2001
Finally, the anime that involves all the sciences in a bundle of complex graphical sequences and somehow manages to not explode in the process: Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Ecology… you name it.
Everything starts with Yuna and her boyfriend Tokyo having a date. She wonders how birds know what to eat. They later are involved in a traffic accident where she dies. A mysterious boy called Chris makes a deal to revive her: she has to become an avatar and save the Earth. From that point, Yuna experiences every daily life activity in a whole new way that will leave you asking as many questions as her. Although the topics are sometimes complicated and dense, the pace of the anime, the juxtaposition of 2D, 3D and even real footage, the music by Yoko Kanno and the engaging characters make of Arjuna a masterpiece of storytelling.
We also have three special mentions in the sciencey anime’s hall of fame. Sailor Moon (1992) was one of the first popular anime to have connections with Chemistry and Space Science, although they were more obvious in the manga. Serial Experiments Lain (1998) involves computer science and predicted with a surprising accuracy how “connected” the world was going to be in the internet era. Also, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) made an innovative usage of organic mechas, the genetics background of the story and psychological features expressed in a graphical way.
So, did you like this tour around the world of science anime? Which other anime do you think should be on this list? We welcome all of your comments and suggestions!