We like to believe that true appreciation in anime does not simply lie in admiration for the visual art, which can be stunning, but just as much for the story that feeds the animation. Our favorite anime is nothing without a solid premise and good writing by its author, regardless of whether it stems from a light novel or manga. One must be a great writer to fuel such great stories which work in tandem with the animation that help to tug at our heart strings, make us happy, sad, angry, etc.
This list is especially made with those writers, and those aspiring to be writers, in mind. Each item on this list found its way for touching on key elements within a genre or craft related to the written word that we believe can benefit writers by watching. If you have never considered it before, maybe this list will spark a bit of interest in you to put pen to paper.
10. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006-June 2007
Light Yagami is a highly intelligent and popular high school student who comes across a strange notebook that fell from the sky. Upon discovering that what he wields is a Death Note, where by if the wielder writes the name of any person in their notebook that person will die, Light takes the opportunity in stride. This notebook belongs to a Shinigami, a deity of death, named Ryuk. Light quickly allies himself with Ryuk and uses the notebook to kill criminals and become the God of a new world, destroying any who stand in his way.
Madhouse brings a thrilling supernatural mystery and suspense anime that offers a unique twist on the power which words can have on our lives and the way society is shaped as a whole. The instruction which Light dictates in his note are exact and precise and determine the success and/or failure of his work. If you are a freelance writer or copy editor, it might help to think of the rules of Death Note as a style guide. If it is not followed, it can result in unfortunate circumstances. Regardless of this analysis, Death Note is arguably one of the most popular anime ever made and for those seeking to learn how proper mystery and suspense is handled, look no further.
9. Aoi Bungaku
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2009 – December 2009
Different in nature to the other anime on this list, Aoi Bungaku takes six modern classics of Japanese literature and bring them to life through animation. Covering topics such as: a boy who loses his sense of self and a thief who must use a string to climb from Hell. The stories include: Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Hell Screen and The Spider's Thread, Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human and Run, Melos!; as well as Ango Sakaguchi's In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom.
Another work from Madhouse, the collection of the show’s stories can best be categorized as either psychological, thrilling, dramatic, or historical in nature. It makes this list for its adaptation of its source material and the opportunity to introduce new viewers to classical works of literature they might have otherwise not discovered. Yet it also introduces you to the telling of stories in an anthology/short story format, whereby you have abridged versions of tales that may be helpful to reflect on if you are seeking to write in a similar style and genre.
8. Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: September 2012 – March 2013
When a small portion of the world’s population wakes up with the ability to shape and move matter with their minds, it leads to many of these new power imbued individuals to become violent, spreading a wave of chaos and destructions around the world that was difficult to recover from, leading into a new era. Kamisu 66 is a village far off into the future, beyond the rise and falls of various regimes. The village is a peaceful community made up of these psycho kinetically empowered individuals, that contains its own history and rules that keep society functioning. As some of the youth begin to experience changes and disappearances, they will slowly uncover truths about the community that may have been better left undiscovered.
A-1 Pictures brings a super natural, sci-fi, and mystery anime set in a seemingly utopic future. What is particularly key for writers of sci-fi or mystery to take away from this is the atmosphere and tone that surrounds the community and the intricacy of how the story progressively reveals more about the world overtime. If you tend to fall into a trap of unraveling a mystery too quickly or waiting too long before releasing interesting details and not hooking your reader, consider this anime for a work to turn to for inspiration.
7. Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus Bride)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2017-March 2018
15-year-old Chise Hatori has been mistreated and abandoned for most of her life because of her odd behaviour and talent to see fey spirits and other creatures. One day her sorrowful existence brought her to an auction house where she would, of her own free will, auction herself off into slavery. She is purchased for a large sum and taken by a tall masked stranger to a cottage by the English countryside. There she finds out he is an ancient magus and there is a hidden world of magic, fairies, and dragons that she had only slightly unraveled glimpses of in her youth. As she is taken under the magus’ wing, she becomes his student as well as his bride.
Studio Wit (Attack on Titan, Seraph of the End) delivers a beautifully established hidden fantasy world with a classic aesthetic that shares similarity to the kind of fantasy in classic Germanic or Celtic mythos. This is an example of how to create an ever-expansive hidden world that an audience can explore along with the protagonist at the centre of the tale, in this case, Chise. The Ancient Magus Bride’s story presents itself more to a Grimm’s fairy-tale and is sure to please those who are fans of high fantasy literature or looking for inspiration to carve out their own universe on paper.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: April 2012 – September 2012
Hyouka follows the story of Houtarou Oreki, a smart but lethargic high school student who lives by his personal motto “I don't do anything I don't have to. What I have to do, I do quickly." Houtarou was content with his rather unexciting life until he is forced to join the Classic Literature Club at the behest of his sister, to make sure it doesn’t close. There, he and his friend, Satoshi Fukube, meet a bubbly classmate named Eru Chitanda. Together, Houtarou and his friends unravel daily mysteries all while delving deeper into the long history of the club and the space in which they reside.
Hyouka is a Slice of Life, School, and Mystery anime. This is probably best suited for those who enjoy or are working on contemporary young adult novels. It stands as a good illustration of managing a young cast of characters, each with their own unique voice, working towards specific goals that intertwine their lives. If you miss the days where you hung out with your school’s book, literature, or magazine club, this will certainly be a nice throwback.
5. Fune wo Amu (The Great Passage)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2016 – December 2016
Mitsuya Majime, a timid and quiet bookworm, is working in the Sales Department of Genbu Publishing, a job for which, despite his pleasant nature, he does not appear to display the needed extraversion to excel in his position. One day, Mitsuya is approached by Kouhei Araki, the senior editor of Genbu Publishing’s Dictionary Department. Kouhei is seeking to retire and is need of a successor to help ensure the completion of “The Great Passage,” a brand new and incredible dictionary set to take a decade to finish. Can Mitsuya utilize his vast love of words to help navigate across a sea of vocabulary or will his self-doubt and anxiousness make him come up short?
Studio Xexsus brings a fantastic slice of life anime that follows a publishing team and the journey through many years to complete this one fantastic dictionary. When you walk away from this anime, you should have gained a new appreciation of words and their many meanings. More than this you will gain some fun insights, if just surface level, into the publishing process around producing a dictionary and getting it to print. The details of publishing a dictionary versus a trade paperback are fairly different but you should find it educational just the same.
4. Violet Evergarden
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2018 – April 2018
Violet was a young girl who was shaped into becoming an instrument of war, fulfilling the wishes of her country’s army to combat the enemy. When the war finally ended and peace returned, it did so at an incredible price for Violet who was only left with the final words of her commanding Major to comfort her, though she did not understand the meaning of those words. Claudia Hodgins, a friend of the Major and President of the CH Postal Service Company, befriends her and employs her as an Auto Memory Doll at his company. There, Violet transcribes thoughts and feelings of strangers while juggling various emotions which are so distant to her. Will she be able to grow beyond the weapon she was and learn to understand the words the Major told her?
Kyoto Animation brings a beautiful slice of life, drama, and fantasy story to life. As beautiful as its visuals and musical accompaniment are, the real value of this tale for writers lies in the importance the plot places in exploring emotions and the expression of precious thoughts through the written word, further showing us how these words can connect us. It should remind any aspiring writer who is reading this to paint vivid pictures of the characters you create beyond the personality and bringing your characters to life through their connections with each other and the world around them.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Seishuu Handa is an emerging talent in the world of calligraphy, yet despite his promising skills and awards, he seems to not take criticism lightly when a veteran in the industry criticizes his work at an exhibition. Seishuu loses it and, as a result of his actions, is sent off to the Goto Islands to cool off and reflect. While trying to practice and improve his work in his new home, Handa finds little peace or quite amongst the rambunctious children and neighbours who keep infringing on his private space. Has this island become nothing more than simply a distraction or will the people and his time spent in Goto, teach Handa what he needs to grow as a calligrapher and a person?
Kinema Citrus (Made in Abyss, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0) brings a bright and comedic slice of life anime. What brings this particular anime to such a prominent position on the list is the emphasis it places on the visual art of letters and the various ways one can convey emotion or style through typography. This anime will be of particular interest to those writers interested in typefaces and calligraphy. If you happen to be in the middle of designing a cover for your work or for someone else, you may draw inspiration from the characters passion for his craft and use it to help you in your creative journey.
2. Mimi wo Sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart)
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: July 15th, 1995
Shizuku Tsukishima is a book loving 14-year-old who is not too sure of her path in life but finds joy in writing and reading, secretly wishing to experience her own story like the ones she reads about. Perusing through her many books, Shizuku realizes they are all taken out by the same individual, a boy named Seiji Amasawa, an aspiring violin maker who appears to become more entangled in Shizuku’s life. One day while following a cat in hopes of finding her own adventure, she stumbles into an antique shop and comes across the statue of “The Baron,” an anthropomorphic statue of a cat in a suit with a cane that sets off a trial of self-discovery and brings her and Seiji closer together.
Studio Ghibli created a modern classic in Whisper of the Heart, a whimsical telling of a girl who discovers more about herself on her own little adventure. Whisper of the Heart makes its way to list for standing as a prime example of how to conduct an imaginative story for children, grounded in reality, that has appeal for adults. More than this, it encapsulates the small beginnings writers take at early ages to hone their talent and improve their craft. While any of Studio Ghibli’s works could have made the list, it was for Shizuku’s love of stories and writing that earned its place.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2010 – April 2011
When Moritaka Mashiro was a young boy, he aspired to be a mangaka (manga creator) like his uncle, the author of a popular gag manga series. However, when his uncle died from overwork, Moritaka, discouraged by his family, closed off the dream for good until one day Moritaka met a classmate, Akito Takagi, a writer interested in becoming a mangaka. Akito sought the artistic talents of Moritaka to work together to become serialized professional mangaka. A spark now reignited, Moritaka will work with Akito to achieve their goal and to keep a precious promise to a girl.
Bakuman. is a slice of life, drama, comedy, and romance anime. The central themes of this anime are around the pursuit of creating a fantastic manga. Artist and writer working in tandem, tirelessly, and with great persistence to see their goals and dreams achieved. Bakuman. teaches the viewer the importance of hard work and dedication to one’s craft. If you are a writer then you are most likely engaging in a very solitary activity apart from your editor, if you have one. Often, we can find productivity is stagnant if we have only ourselves to push us and so this anime can act as a conduit for your motivation. Beyond this, Bakuman. touches on the greatest fear of any writer, the fear of failure. The commonplace thought to imagine you won’t succeed before you have even begun. If you are looking for an anime to follow the creative process of a writer, struggles and all, you will find no finer anime.
The inspiration and lessons we take for writing can come from a variety of places, this list was an attempt to offer ten distinct anime in which to draw those inspiration or lessons from. We hope you have enjoyed this list. We would love to know if you agree or disagree with the list and if you have seen any anime suggested. Let us know in the comments.