In an industry bursting with so much creativity, it’s inevitable that some anime will turn out to be controversial in one way or another. From production troubles to touchy subject matter to downright criminal creators and more, these five shows stirred up their fair share of trouble back when they came out. Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 controversial anime!
*Spoilers for Attack on Titan!*
5. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
Anime fans became suspicious of Attack on Titan’s motives near the end of season 3, when the characters are revealed to be members of a race called the Eldians, who are persecuted by outside forces called the Marleyans because they can turn into Titans. The slums where Eldians are shown to reside in Marley heavily resemble Jewish ghettos during WWII, complete with identifying armbands and Nazi-like officers presiding over them. This would be more or less fine, except that both sides can be heroic or villainous depending on the situation and it’s been rumored that mangaka Isayama cribbed some character designs from real-world Nazis (Erwin Smith resembling Erwin Rommel being the most obvious one). Is it okay to portray Jewish and Nazi analogues as morally ambiguous? We’ll let you decide.
Incestuous little sister shows are nothing new in the world of anime – weirdly enough, it’s a pretty common subgenre. However, this esteemed anime that comes from the creative visionary behind Oreimo aims to be the trashy imouto show to end all trashy imouto shows... and it certainly accomplishes that. It features a gaggle of not-remotely-legal girls exposing their panties and excitedly exclaiming that they love dick, all presided over by an older brother character who is somehow an award-winning light novel author at the age of 15. YouTuber Gigguk’s two videos satirizing the anime have over 4 million collective views and its MAL page is splattered with negative reviews, so that should tell you everything you need to know about how it was received.
3. Dragon Ball Kai (Dragon Ball Z Kai)
There’s nothing particularly controversial about Dragon Ball Kai itself – after all, it’s basically just a re-cut version of the original with a few technical updates – but plenty of drama surfaced on the sidelines. The music composer was accused of plagiarism, so his score had to be replaced in all re-runs with recycled pieces from the old series. And in Latin America, the initial broadcast was heavily censored and almost all of the beloved original voice actors were nowhere to be seen. Luckily, Toei remedied the situation in Latin America so that the second half of the series featured the voices that fans knew and loved. Finally – internet outrage actually accomplished something!
2. Goblin Slayer
This anime looked like a generic JRPG-inspired fantasy show to anyone perusing the seasonal charts, but those preconceived notions were shattered the second Goblin Slayer’s first episode came out. A party of newbie adventurers sets out on a quest to kill some goblins, but they’re so woefully unprepared that the monsters murder the swordsman, fatally poison the mage, and sexually assault the fighter. The sole remaining member – the priestess – only survives because a heavily armored man straight out of Dark Souls swoops in to murder the goblins right back. The rest of the series didn’t turn out to be quite this graphic, but it did its job of drawing attention to itself – countless condemning editorials and social media posts decried the depravity of Goblin Slayer, which ended up setting it apart from the safely mediocre competition and carving out a place for the show in the popular consciousness.
1. Ishuzoku Reviewers (Interspecies Reviewers)
Oh, Ishuzoku Reviewers... Eromanga-sensei looks like Sesame Street compared to this celebration of sexual deviancy. It’s an anime about three buddies in a fantasy world who make it their mission to review every monster girl brothel around and spread the news to the dudes of the world. It’s actually a pretty well-made show, with strong world-building and likable characters, but the sex scenes are so explicit that Funimation and several Japanese TV stations dropped it from their lineup. Does this mean that more series will follow Ishuzoku Reviewers’ brass-balled example to make mainstream anime hornier than ever before? Only time will tell...
Of course, we couldn’t talk about controversial anime without bringing up Eromanga-sensei’s incest-laden sisters, Domestic Girlfriend, and Citrus. It’s amazing how much promotion Crunchyroll gave Citrus when it came out, considering how trashy it is...
Also be sure to check out the previous list for gems like Shoujo Tsubaki, Boku no Pico, and Barefoot Gen. But do you have any other favorite controversial anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!
People always want to argue that anime is for kids. It’s animated with brightly colored characters so it’s a cartoon, right? People from all around the world will continue to say that anime is a childish cartoon, but really, what do they know? Do they even realize that there are some controversial anime out there?
Oh yes, controversial anime do exist and the themes in them are all over the spectrum. Anime can be controversial for graphic content, radical ideas, or taboo. You know, those ones that are banned in certain countries. Do you think anime is for kids, now? This list is for all those haters who just don’t understand. If you ever come across one of them, tell them about this list to shut them up.
This is our Top 10 Controversial Anime!
Beware of possible spoilers.
- Episodes: 137
- Aired: April 1983 - October 1986
As a superhero, Kinnikuman is a terrible one until he comes across a man named Meat. Meat explains that he is the prince from an alien planet. Now, Kinnikuman has a mission: to compete in tournaments and save the day from evil Chiyojins to become the hero he has always wanted!
While Kinnikuman may sound like any other shounen series, it has a special place in France. That is, away from France. While Kinnikuman did air in France, out of the 137 episodes, less than 50 were actually aired due to the presence of Brocken Jr. While he does have swastikas on his uniform, they have more Buddhist symbolism than Nazi. However, it’s Brocken Jr.’s Nazi uniform that made airing this anime a big no-no, thus, only a handful of episodes were actually shown in France.
9. Hetalia Axis Powers
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: January 2009 - March 2010
Hetalia Axis Powers is a controversial anime that takes different countries and personifies them into whacky characters. These characters interact and take on important political decisions during the time of World War I and World War II. Who are our main characters? There’s Italy who is rather carefree but loves pasta, the strange Japan, and of course, the serious Germany.
While this hilarious anime may seem like it’s all laughs, but underneath it is a hotbed of political humor sure to piss off many countries. With the concept of this anime so hot, South Korea was in an upheaval about this anime due to the tensions between South Korea and Japan. So much so that even when South Korea’s character was removed from the anime so that it could air in South Korea, many petitioned the station and they were forced to cancel the anime before its broadcast. Did we mention there were also death threats?
8. Yosuga no Sora: In Solitude Where We are Least Alone (Yosuga no Sora)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2010 - December 2010
Kasugano Haruka and Sora have been orphaned when their parents were killed in a car accident. The twins have gone to their grandfather’s house to start over, haunted by memories from their past. Here, Haruka and Sora meet childhood friends Yorihime Nao and Amatsume Akira, as well as a new friend Migiwa Kazuha. Life seems peaceful, but below the surface emotions are boiling and secrets are untold.
Yosuga no Sora was a hot topic when it aired in 2010. Despite being a daytime anime, Yosuga no Sora featured sex scenes that really should not be easily accessed by young children. However, it wasn’t the sex scenes alone that struck a nerve in viewers. It was the sexual relationship between twin brother and sister that really jarred viewers, causing controversy in Japan as well as internationally. While Japan is known for playing with the idea of incest in harem anime, no one was prepared to see it play out on screen in broad daylight! It was due to the incest and sex that Yosuga no Sora was brought to the attention of the Tokyo Government in hopes of banning it, but it managed to escape the ban.
7. Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 1983
Japan and the USA have been at war for three years now. Our main character is a boy named Gen who lives in Hiroshima city with relative peace as the city has not had to deal with wartime tragedy, except for scarcity in supplies. Gen and his family are coping with malnutrition due to the shortage in supplies, putting Gen’s pregnant mother in danger. Gen and his family are just trying to work to survive the wartime, but little do they know what is about to happen.
Barefoot Gen is an anime movie based on the manga written by Nakazawa Keiji, a man who actually survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It is one of the few anime that have actually tackled the atomic bomb subject and depicted it graphically. In Barefoot Gen, the real effects of the atomic bomb are shown as people’s eyes melt out of their sockets, skin and muscle fall over the bone, and people are literally burned. While the movie does depict the real suffering of victims of Hiroshima, it does not make Japan out to be a victim, as is common in most atomic bombing memorials in Japan. In fact, the original manga highlights the wartime atrocities committed by Japan while the anime briefly mentions Japan’s inadequacy in responding to the atomic bomb. The manga was briefly banned from a handful of school libraries in Japan for its one-sided portrayal, violence and the use of derogatory terms. The anime movie was restricted in schools in Japan and the U.S. for its graphic imagery.
6. Boku no Pico
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: September 2006
This summer, Pico is working for his grandfather at his coffee shop, Cafe Bebe. Pico is a young boy who is rather feminine. Tamotsu is just a salaryman trying to relieve his everyday boredom. These two meet at Cafe Bebe sparking feelings that drive them together in a carnal relationship that does not consider conventional notions. However, is this love?
As a yaoi anime, Boku no Pico has more than shocked the world by opening the door to shotacon yaoi, a subject that many are not very comfortable with. While Boku no Pico portrays consensual sex between a child and an adult, the subsequent episodes feature added children making this OVA series quite a controversial one. While Boku no Pico itself is not banned outright in other countries, due to the fact that Boku no Pico is animated child pornography, watching this series in certain countries can result in some trouble with the police for you!
5. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 - June 2007
Shinigami are capable of killing people with the use of a Death Note, as long as they have seen the face of their victim and know their name. Bored Shinigami, Ryuk, decides it might be interesting to watch what happens when a human is given a Death Note, so he drops one into the world of humans. Yagami Light, a high school prodigy, comes across the Death Note and tests it on a criminal. Upon seeing the power of the Death Note, Light decides to use it to rid the world of criminals. Unfortunately, the police realize that a serial killer is on the loose, killing criminals, but cannot fathom how or who the culprit could be, so they recruit the help of a rather odd, intelligent man known only as L.
There is no list of controversial anime that can ignore Death Note. Children all around the world have taken it upon themselves to make Death Notes out of notebooks and write the names of people they wish died into them. In New Mexico, a school district attempted to ban the series from their schools, but children from all over the US have been reported and punished for owning Death Notes. In Russia, attempts are being made to ban the series for its influence on children. In China, Death Note is completely banned due to its perceived influence on children, although it is available in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Let us not forget the Manga Killer who received its name from the two Death Note related notes stating: “Watashi wa Kira desu” (a possible transliteration mistake) found near the mutilated remains of a corpse in Belgium in 2007.
4. Chika Gentou Gekiga: Shoujo Tsubaki (Midori)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 1992
While circuses appear to be full of life and laughter, there is a much darker side that is not privy to outsiders. Once Midori was a carefree elementary student until one day when she is forced to give up her livelihood to sell flowers to make ends meet after her mother falls ill. Midori’s world falls further when her mother dies and a stranger takes her to the circus. Midori continues to fall deeper into the depths of darkness, but is there a light at the end?
Known more commonly as Shoujo Tsubaki, this anime movie has been banned in several countries for imagery that was controversial at the time it was released. There’s rape, enslavement, animal cruelty, and so much more that make it the ero-guro that it is known for. Shoujo Tsubaki has been cut so many times and the original version destroyed that you cannot find this anime movie in its entirety, although in 2006, a subbed version of this anime did resurface.
3. Kodomo no Jikan
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2007 - December 2007
Aoki Daisuke is a new teacher who is having trouble with his first class. Kokonoe Rin, one of the third graders in Daisuke’s class, has decided to make Daisuke her lover. What feelings reside behind this decision? Is there a deeper, underlying reason? To make matters worse, Daisuke finds that he is a bit popular amongst Rin’s friends as well!
If the summary didn’t allude you to the controversy behind this anime, then let us enlighten you. Kodomo no Jikan does not merely hint at but rather throws out the idea of a taboo relationship between an adult and a child who is 12 years old, although let’s not forget the taboo of a student-teacher relationship. There is over-sexualization of a 12-year-old girl, but Rin also appears to be calling the shots as she actively pursues a sexual relationship with her teacher! While lolicons are not exactly illegal, promoting pedophilia is and it is no surprise that Kodomo no Jikan was never aired outside Japan.
2. A Kite (Kite)
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: February 1998 - October 1998
Sawa is an orphan who is an assassin under the control of a corrupt cop who is also her guardian. Sawa is ordered to kill men who have allegedly committed crimes. One day, a boy assassin, Oburi, comes to help Sawa. The two begin a relationship that heals the other. Oburi and Sawa begin to dream of a life together without murder.
This cult classic cannot be forgotten when it comes down to controversial anime. Kite is known to be extremely graphic in violence, sex, and gore. If the bullets exploding inside the bodies of their victims weren’t enough, it’s the graphic rape scenes with Sawa that will really shock your system. In fact, the sexual scenes in Kite were so graphic that this cult classic is banned in several countries as being child pornography. How’s that for a controversial anime?
- Episodes: 276
- Aired: April 1997 - November 2002
Satoshi is at the ripe age of 10 when he leaves home with the goal of becoming a Pokemon Master. He is given Pikachu as a starter Pokemon to help him in his travels. Along the way, Satoshi meets a Rock Pokemon Trainer named Takeshi who is a bit girl crazy, and a Water Pokemon Trainer named Kasumi who seems to have a crush on him. On this journey, they will butt heads with Team Rocket, who want nothing more than to steal their Pokemon.
Pokemon may seem like any kids’ anime, but it is one of the most controversial children’s anime out there. Pokemon was completely banned in Saudi Arabia for its perceived Zionist ideals due to its depictions of imagery that promoted other religions. Jewish civil rights group believed Pokemon to promote Nazism due to the depictions of swatzikas on Pokemon trading cards and several Nazi-like scenes in the anime. Pokemon has even garnered the anger of the Christian community where some believe Pokemon to be demons and the entire franchise related to Satanism. Let’s not forget that Pokemon has been under blast for being being racist with Jynx’s design and promoting animal cruelty by forcing animal-like creatures into small spaces and depicting fights similar to cock fights. Not to mention that certain Pokemon episodes are considered controversial due to showing guns and threatening to shoot at kids, genderbending, and of course, who could forget that infamous episode with Porygon that gave children all over Japan seizures? Yes, there’s a hodge podge of controversy in this anime!
From one hemisphere to the other, there are plenty of anime that have been banned around the world for a plethora of different reasons. And while yes, anime like Shingeki no Kyojin and Deadman Wonderland have been banned in China, if we included every anime banned in China, it wouldn’t be an interesting list due to the reasons the People’s Republic of China cite. These are the top 10 controversial anime (banned) from around the world. Some even Japan won’t tolerate!
Now, for all you otaku out there, are there any controversial anime that you think belong on this list? What makes them so controversial?