No matter what you prefer: action or comedy, slow or fast stories, old or new shows, there is one fact that we can all agree on: good artwork can turn a good anime into an outstanding anime.
Of course, the quality of a show cannot be summed up with its artwork, but thoughtful designs can create an atmosphere more than action or dialogue ever will. That is why today we have come up with ten of our favorite anime with beautiful artwork. Whether it’s simply beautiful art or crazy and unique designs, all of today’s anime have stayed in our minds with their outstanding artwork.
To make sure we get a good variety, we have included both anime series and movies, so there are more than enough recommendations here to last you for a while. Enjoy today’s Top 10 Beautiful Anime Art!
10. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity Has Declined)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2012 - September 2012
First up on our list is a unique combination of real-life problems with cute character design.
As the name of this show explains, humanity is declining. The birth rate keeps dropping and soon enough, most of mankind has vanished. Now, the few survivors have to share their planet with new creatures: tiny faeries. It’s up to a young woman named Watashi to create peace and enable communication between the two races. Will she succeed?
As already mentioned, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is a rather strange story that walks the line between madness and satire. At the same time it has a lot to teach its viewers so you should watch it with an open mind. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita’s art perfectly accompanies its story. We have an abandoned yet beautiful world that shows the decline of humanity as well as innocently cute characters that are in fact not as harmless as they seem. Combining strong contrasts that still seem harmonious is the reason why Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is our first recommendation.
9. Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 1997
An oldie but still a goodie, Princess Mononoke deserves a shout-out for many reasons, its beautiful artwork just being one of them.
Prince Ashitaka saves his village from a wild boar, but he has to pay a price in return. A dangerous curse has befallen him and now he has to embark on a journey to find a cure. On this journey, he meets San, a wild girl who has been raised by wolves and detests mankind. The unlikely couple needs to pair up in order to save the ones they love from the wrath of nature.
Princess Mononoke is a typical Ghibli movie, in the sense that it combines a meaningful story with beautiful artwork. In this case, it’s really the world itself and the characters that stand out the most. The universe of Princess Mononoke shows mysterious forests, mythical beings and unique characters that all have their own touch. The artwork of this must-watch movie sucks you right into its universe and that is why we had to include Princess Mononoke on our list.
8. No Game No Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2014 - June 2014
A colorful and unique story deserves some colorful and unique artwork, right? At least for No Game No Life this is definitely the case.
Sora and Shiro like to do nothing else all day long than play video games. But don’t underestimate them since the siblings are in fact geniuses with an IQ way above average. A new challenge awaits them when a mysterious boy invites them into his world - a world where every dispute is resolved by games and gambles. This might be the world that Sora and Shiro have always dreamed of.
No Game No Life is a crazy story with weird character designs, playful outfits and lots and lots of colors. Once again, we have a fantastic universe with its own design that goes hand in hand with the story taking place in it. One of No Game No Life’s most unique features is the fact that the characters do not have a black outline, but a red one which gives the whole story an eerie and surreal feeling. It has already been two years since No Game No Life’s release, so watch it again and appreciate its beautiful artwork!
7. Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: March 2010
From a colorful “in-your-face” kind of story, we are now moving on to a quieter movie with Eve no Jikan.
We have travelled into the future, to a version of Japan where humans and androids live side by side. The human-like robots have become part of everyday life and assist their creators wherever they can. One day, student Rikuo realizes that his android Sammy has been returning home later than usual. The place she’s been visiting is a café called Eve no Jikan where humans and androids interact as equals. Will this place change the way Rikuo views modern technology?
When you think of science-fiction stories, you usually expect outstanding and vivid artwork that brings future technologies to life. Eve no Jikan cannot deliver that. Instead, you get a more subtle futuristic version of Japan that convinces with its simplicity and love to detail. Most actions are restricted to a couple of places, that is why more focus was put on the design of the characters themselves. Drawing emotionless, robotic characters while still keeping the artwork appealing is a good reason for including Eve no Jikan on this list.
6. Kara no Kyoukai 1: Fukan Fuukei (Kara no Kyoukai 1: The Garden of Sinners)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: December 2007
It’s time for another movie and more great artwork with Kara no Kyoukai.
The Kara no Kyoukai saga stretches itself over seven movies, all connected by the main heroine Shiki Ryougi. As member of a detective agency, it’s her job to solve a series of mysterious deaths involving schoolgirls jumping off buildings. Her ultimate weapon is not her gun, but her “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception” that allow her to see and bring end to all things. A great battle is about to begin.
Let’s come straight to the point and let us acknowledge the amazing design of Shiki’s eyes for a moment. Vivid eyes are a common design element in anime, but in this case the producers have really outdone themselves. Shiki’s eyes seem to glare right into your soul and indicate that an epic fight is about to begin. On top of that, all movements are fluid and take place in front of stunning backgrounds. Whether it’s indoors or outside, every background creates a certain atmosphere that supports the storyline effortlessly. Check out Kara no Kyoukai if you haven’t already.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2005 - June 2006
We are slowing down again and going back to nature with Mushishi, a beautiful and calming show.
Ginko is a mushishi: a man who tries to understand beings called mushi. They are neither good nor bad, neither playful nor evil. These beings simply exist and go way beyond what humans can understand. Still, Ginko is on a journey to find out more about these mushi in the hopes to eventually understand them and the meaning of life itself.
Sounds deep, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what Mushishi tries to be. There are no action scenes, no dangerous monsters and no epic fights in Mushishi. Instead, you get a slow-paced story with - you’ve guessed it - outstanding artwork. Once again, the beauty lies in its simplicity and the love for detail. Ginko himself might be rather unspectacular looking, but he moves inside a universe with stunningly beautiful nature. If you are a fan of slower stories or the simplistic beauty of nature, then check out Mushishi.
4. Gankutsuou (Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2004 - March 2005
Some stories try to incorporate art while others become pieces of art themselves; Gankutsuou belongs to the latter one.
Loosely based on the famous novel The Count of Monte Cristo, this anime tells the story of young aristocrat Albert Morcerf and the Count of Monte Cristo who start an unlikely friendship. Albert is more than ready to invite the Count into his life and social circles, but he does not realize that he is blinded by the nobleman’s charm. The Count has ulterior motives on his mind and with the help of Albert he finds his way into the high ranks of society.
The artwork in this movie is not something that needs to be pointed out to you; it jumps right into your face starting from the first scenes. The unique design might confuse or even distract you at first, but give it a chance and you will see that the mixture of textures and bright colors creates an enchanting atmosphere. Gankatsuou isn’t afraid to try something new and ends up being one of the most creative and unique anime movies out there. Obviously, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it at least a try.
3. Nagi no Asukara (A Lull in the Sea)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2013 - April 2014
Only three spots are left on this list; what will our final recommendations be? First up is Nagi no Asukara, a drama mixed with romance and a little bit of fantasy.
A long time ago, all humans lived underwater until some of them decided to leave their home and travel to the surface. These individuals lost their “Ena”, a power that allows them to breathe underwater. Even though communication between the two types of humans slowly ceased, there are still some people left who haven’t forgotten about their past. This is the story of a group of friends that try to overcome their diversities.
The premise of Nagi no Asukara might make you question whether it’s really worth a watch, but trust us: this story has surpassed the expectations of many viewers. More importantly, the beauty of this anime’s artwork doesn’t need any explanations. Every scene is filled with so many beautiful colors and designs that you just want to pause the show and stare at your screen for a couple of minutes. Nagi no Asukara has founds its theme and stuck to it until the very last episode, that’s what makes it so successful in our eyes. Also, it is a perfect story for the hot summer days, so give it a try!
2. Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 2013
You didn’t really think we’d leave out a creation of Makoto Shinkai, did you?
The Garden of Words is a short movie of 46 minutes that shows the fateful meeting of student Takao and middle-aged woman Yukino. Both of them like to skip their daily duties on rainy days and watch the rain fall at a local park. Eventually the two of them get closer and start learning more about each other’s dreams and personal struggles.
In case you are not familiar with Makoto Shinkai, he is the creative mind behind stories like 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days and is known for creating artwork that is even more beautiful than real life. Every single scene is more colorful and rich in details than the previous one and random screenshots are material for gorgeous wallpapers. He takes anime artwork to a new level and we highly urge all of you to give The Garden of Words or one of his other creations a try.
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: August 2009
What can you expect from a movie that took seven years to finish and used an astonishing number of 100,000 hand-made drawings? Some amazing artwork, that’s for sure!
Redline, the greatest race in the galaxy, is a competition between humans and aliens and only one racer can win. JP is one of the few humans making it into the race. Unlike other competitors, he refuses to add weapons to his car and rather relies on nothing else than his skills to win the race. Can JP beat the odds and become the winner of Redline?
Redline’s producers definitely took their sweet time with this piece of art. As we have already mentioned, unlike other movies, every single scene of this story was drawn by hand and later animated. The resulting artwork is so vivid and rich in details that you actually have to watch the movie a couple of times to take everything in. All the hard work and hours upon hours of drawing cannot go unnoticed and that is why we reserved the final spot on this list for Redline.
Our list has already come to an end and there are still so many more shows out there that deserve to be mentioned. Art is a very subjective topic and we are sure that all of you have your own preferences. Today’s list simply reflects our opinions and offers some recommendations that we want to share with those of you who haven’t enjoyed these outstanding stories yet.
So what are your personal favorites? Which shows or movies have we missed out on? Leave a comment down below and share your opinions with the community!