A significant amount of anime can be cutesy, action packed, and full of romance. There are some titles where the characters can have the biggest disadvantages that life could offer them, and yet they find some way to stay positive and come out on top. After all, who doesn’t love an underdog story? However, there are types of anime that comes across as pessimistic and crosses certain boundaries that makes you think what the heck is wrong with the creators. Anime may have a superficial reputation of being animated porn, but that’s not the kind of boundary crossing that we’re sharing on today’s list. For today’s list, we wish to share which anime titles portray a world that is depraved and full of (and un) questionable morality.
10. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 3, 1998 – April 24, 1999
Just imagine 50 some odd years from now, SpaceX succeeds in sending mankind to Mars. It would undoubtedly be awesome to travel new worlds and find new ways of life, but would that change human nature? The world of Cowboy Bebop begs to differ. For anyone to make a living, you either have to turn to a life of crime, or catch criminals for a bounty! Even with the crew of the Bebop, they still have a hard time trusting each other despite living together. In the case of Faye, her situation is probably the ultimate case on why we (or mostly ‘Murica) need healthcare reform. When it comes to why Faye is distrusting of people and why she needs money, nobody can blame her on why she resorts to lying, cheating, and stealing.
Spike, on the other hand, is quite a puzzle to figure out when you watch this series for the first time. While he is capable of smiling, deep down inside, he’s largely empty. Even the first episode pretty much foretells his final fate and, once you recall the first episode at the ending, it’s a good indication to show how tragically depraved this anime was from the beginning. While Spike was always trying to move forward, he could never escape his past and fate only to lose everything.
9. Megalo Box
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 6, 2018 – June 29, 2018
In this steampunk homage to Ashita no Joe, the sport of boxing has done away with weight classes and judges so it’s a fight to the finish! In addition, combatants are encouraged to wear special augmented gear on their upper bodies for enhanced performance. Since the sport is privately owned without any commission to provide proper boxing licenses, just about anybody can participate! However, to Junk Dog, who later takes the name Joe, he cannot participate unless he has a citizen’s ID. Since he lives in the impoverished desert outskirts, Joe legally can’t fight and face the sport’s heavy favorite, Yuri (and the sport should be illegal to begin with).
Due to his coach’s heavy debts to the mob, Joe is forced to throw fights so he can pay them off despite being a talented boxer. Even when he gets a legitimate chance (thanks to forged documents), Joe still gets screwed by his coach and others that are supposed to care for him for their own monetary gain. Not only is his coach a crook that screws him at the worst possible moments, the series portrays how a class based society is unfair. Not only does Joe face numerous adversities (and chooses to fight without gear), some of his opponents have also been screwed by the system as well. As you watch this series, you start to wonder what defines a valued citizen? Can corporate control of a city really be a good or bad thing? The fact that people are stripped of their free will shows how depraved it can get.
8. Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Fullmetal Alchemist (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 5, 2009 - July 4, 2010
The Elric brothers share a very strong bond and would do anything for each other. For those that have siblings, you probably can relate to that. Even though their relationship is the most positive thing you can get out of Fullmetal Alchemist, what creates their bond is most certainly all the immorality they face in their world. What leads to their journey is how they tried to use their lack of alchemy training to bring their dead mother back despite knowing they’re not supposed to. As a result, Ed loses an arm and a leg, and Al loses his body (and gets his soul trapped in a suit of armor).
As their travels progress, they encounter situations and people beyond moral decency. In addition to learning the truth about how a war was intentionally started by a child getting shot point blank in the head, they witness how a mad scientist attempted to create a human/dog hybrid by using his own daughter and her pet! The fact that he would cross those lines only for her to die is enough to show how far this anime can go in terms of portraying immorality.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 12, 2012 – March 22, 2013
In the future, Japanese police computers can scan brainwaves and calculate the possibility of someone committing a crime. If the system finds that possibility to be high, then the police will apprehend that person and worst case scenario, execute them on the spot. Since the system reacts to certain emotions like anger, it could show you as a threat. Take for example, you’re driving down the highway and some jerk cuts you off and you flip him the bird or scream at him. Just based on those reactions, you’re considered a menace to society so you need to keep your emotions in check.
When it comes to the recent real life controversies such as the NSA and the police slayings of unarmed victims, it makes you question authority. No one wants a crime to happen but just because some algorithm thinks you MAY commit one based one whatever you’re feeling, should that give the government the authority to execute individuals? As for the good old US of A, unless the 4th and 5th Amendments of the Constitution are repealed, no way such a system can get implemented. As for Japan, we’ll admit we’re not experts on that nation’s constitution, but considering we can confirm there’s no concept of Miranda rights upon arrest, we can assume that such a system could be inevitable in Japan. In that instance, are we not allowed to feel some natural emotions like anger? While it is important to be safe and think positive, the threat of being executed should not be an incentive to seek proper law & order.
6. Ajin (Ajin: Demi-Human)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 16, 2016 – April 9, 2016
Ajin, or magic immortal beings, are officially acknowledged by governments worldwide and consider them a code red threat. Kei, the main character, discovers his status as an Ajin after a traffic accident. Now the government is after him and other Ajin for their own personal gain. To some viewers, Ajin could be a potential criticism of Japan’s most controversial WWII biochemical research team, Unit 731. Just like Unit 731, there are factions within the government who want to militarize Ajin as weapons.
Ajin deals with not only illegal experimentation and captivity, but prejudice as a whole. Many nations besides Japan consider Ajin to be a threat and there are other nations that want them eliminated. Even in the educational system, the youths are taught to see them as a threat! The fact that hate is promoted towards a group of people who have no control over who they are in a school setting and then trying to exploit them shows how sick the human race has been throughout history.
5. Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans)
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 4, 2015 – April 2, 2017
Throughout its near 40-year history, Gundam has always portrayed minors as mech pilots, but Iron-Blooded Orphans takes it to a new direction of extremity that makes the concept fresh. While Gundam pilots of previous series have been academic overachievers who joined at the spur of the moment, Iron-Blooded Orphans takes the trope of teenage soldiers more realistically and becomes much darker. This time, the motivations of children in warfare originates from harsh economic conditions.
Due to the economic restrictions on Mars, children resort to joining private security companies to provide for themselves and their younger siblings. As a result, a large majority of them, including Mikazuki (the main character), are illiterate since they’ve never been to school. Not only do we see kids in mechs, we see them operating tanks and using firearms like pros as portrayed in documentaries about child soldiers in Africa. Due to scenes of children killing enemies physically as opposed to through a mech, the networks actually got complaints from parents! Lastly, you’d have to watch the ending to see why it’s so depraved but it makes you wonder if the sacrifices were truly worth it due to its outcome, which you have to see to believe.
4. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 44+
- Aired: April 7, 2013 - Ongoing
If you spent your entire life behind a (supposedly) impregnable wall, you’d probably question everything around you. If you happen to carry some knowledge of the world outside the walls, then you’re going to get executed or disappear. Then when you discover the why behind everything, you’d probably go crazy, too. Attack on Titan truly pushes the envelope on everything you ever knew about morality once you see things in the point of view of that world. For starters, the walls failed to live up to their purpose of protecting the citizens from the Titans, and the elites of the inner walls treat the people of the outer walls like second class citizens.
To make things worse, the Scout Corps, the unit dedicated to fighting the Titans, are seen as tragic heroes since every time they go out, a majority of them are wiped out and they have never had a successful mission. As the series progresses, it makes you see the people lose their trust in others and wonder who the true enemies are. As for Eren, his story is probably the most depraved of the cast. He can’t stand that many people died just to save him and when he learns the true story about his Titan origins, he hits rock bottom and audiences can sympathize with why he’s so emotionally exhausted by the third season. Then when it comes to immorality, the present government organization behind the supposed royal family with how corrupt they are will disgust you.
3. Elfen Lied
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 25, 2004 – October 17, 2004
So a new life form comes to being. They have horns, and super deadly telekinetic powers. What do you do about it? If you’re familiar with Elfen Lied, then you already know. While it is notorious for its excessive nudity and grotesque violence, that’s only the surface as to why it made this list. It truly explores the notion of nature vs. nurture when it comes to immorality. Is Lucy, as a Diclonii, violent by nature? Or did the experiments make her that way? Through extreme means, this anime explores themes of revenge, prejudice and isolation. As you watch this series, you’ll not only see countless examples of immorality (warning: be careful of episode 8), but ponder what causes it. Where does the cycle start? And how do we end it?
When you take into consideration the nature of the powers of Diclonii, it’s only natural for regular folks to fear them. Fearing them is one thing, hating and isolating them is another. Should we treat people different than us any less human? Or should we see them as a threat? Can humans and Diclonii live together in peace? When you learn the truth about a person’s past and the sins they committed, can you still accept them? Those are questions this anime does its best to answer.
2. Shinseiki Evangelion Gekijouban: End of Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: July 19, 1997
Evangelion is considered by many authorities in the anime industry to be the best of all time. It’s full of mechs, monsters, political intrigue, and teenage hormones. And what’s the worst that could happen? Giving a 14-year-old with MAJOR issues the fate of the human race in his hands. But before we get to that, the beginning of the movie is enough to make it a close second on this list. Asuka is still a vegetable due to the events of the series and Shinji tries to wake her up. While shaking her body, her breasts are accidentally exposed and he immediately jacks off to her! After that, it’s pretty much a blood bath due to the political selfishness of the organizations within the movie.
After everything, Shinji is finally given that responsibility on what to do about mankind and what does he do about it? KILL’EM ALL!! And he doesn’t choose to do away with mankind because of the politics, he does it out of spite because life sucks. The fact that mankind nearly goes extinct (or evolves into a single consciousness as a form of liquid) due to growing pains is pretty much the poster child of an anime that is devoid of any morality. However, we have to keep in mind that the content of this anime is pretty much Anno’s preverbal middle finger to audiences who sent him death threats over the ending of the original TV series, so whatever happens here, was all intentional by Anno.
1. Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 14, 1999 – January 20, 2000
Shu may come across as your typical optimistic Shounen protagonist, but the world of Hellywood in Now and Then, Here and There challenges that. Due to the influence of Hamdo, Hellywood’s neurotic and brutal dictator, everyone lives in fear and the people there could care less about each other. Hamdo pretty much drives the immorality and depravity of this series. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He abuses his men and exploits children who in turn become killers without remorse. When things go wrong, he becomes maniacally violent.
As a result, his soldiers are cruel and abusive towards women. If there is any character that is the ultimate victim of Hamdo’s cruel rule, it has to be Sara. Once you see things from her point of view, you see how sick the alternate universe of Hellywood truly is, and why she hates Lalaru, even though she isn’t directly responsible for her suffering at the hands of Hamdo’s soldiers. You see how innocent people can be victimized by brutal regimes driven by harsh conditions.
Lastly, we would like to make some honorable mentions to Steins;Gate 0, Aki Sora, Yosuga no Sora, Sword Art Online and Masou Gakuen HxH. All anime listed here push a moral envelope for reasons that we can see happening if governments or others abuse their power. It is human nature to be scared of the unknown or things of immense power, but the true question is how do we react to that? Do we eliminate it just because the threat, no matter how legitimate, is there? Or do we exploit it for personal gain? Can we ever find ways to co-exist? Are we programmed in our DNA to do bad things? Or does years of exploitation and abuse make someone do such things? That’s what the anime we listed does best to address. It explores these questions in a very open manner. While some of these titles portray their moralities more definitively, there are others that are still open-ended. So what do you readers say? Please leave a comment.