If you didn’t grow up with anime, it’s highly probable the first time you saw Dragonball or Sailor Moon, the thought “That was random” crossed your mind. After becoming more acquainted with anime, you found out that such randomness isn’t random at all. It’s normal, if not formulaic. You’ve come to realize “random” in anime is a totally different monster altogether. Welcome to the fold.
You may have enjoyed ubiquitous anime randomness up until now, but the time has come to see something that would be considered wacky relative to the rest of anime. You’ve gotten used to anime’s antics, but you want something that makes you question its random plot points but also makes you want to watch it all over again. Yeah, where can we find some of that?
This list is for you. Here are the top ten very random anime—random anime, as in, absurd, bizarre, unique, and unpredictable anime. We didn’t just make a random list of anime. This isn’t the Netflix recommendation algorithm.
10. Yuri Kuma Arashi
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan. 2015 – Mar. 2015
Being on the random side can be extremely polarizing with viewers. We randomness fans like things getting a little out of hand, but not every one likes the craziness. Some want a well-connected plot with predicable animation and understandable character archetypes. When you shake up a well-made anime with randomness, all the haters start coming out of the woodwork.
It should come as no surprise that #10 on our list is highly polarizing. Yuri Kuma Arashi is a bold deconstruction of the yuri genre with respectfully excessive symbolism used in every random and aesthetically pleasing way possible to make all your brain synapses fire at once in a moment of, “Oh, I get it… Okay, maybe I don’t get it.”
As for the basic story, intelligent bears eat humans. Humans build a wall to ineffectively keep out the bears. A girl and a bear fall in love. Everyone else freaks out. What do bears have to do with yuri? That’s exactly the question creator Ikuhara Kunihiko (Revolutionary Girl Utena) wants you to ask with his thought-provoking strangeness. Surreal animation and over-arching themes of love and individualism in the wacky-world package of Yuri Kuma Arashi is perfect for randomness fans who don’t mind a little yuri with their random.
9. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct. 2010 – Dec. 2010
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is a rude and crude adventure following the quest of two fallen angels trying to regain their entrance into heaven, but they spend more time appeasing their addictions than actually getting work done. When the stakes get raised high enough, the angels go into action and vanquish every random ghost that is causing havoc on their world.
Their world, for that matter, isn’t your normal anime world. The art style is particularly western with bold lines and bright colors, but the actual story and dialog is decidedly vulgar. The over-the-top action sequences have so many tantalizing random elements, you can’t help but feel giddy watching each and every outlandish explosion. Meanwhile, the actual plot points literally pop out of nowhere, but viewers can’t get enough of this foul and wild ride.
8. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct. 2015 – Mar. 2016
A sleeper hit with an unfortunately unappealing synopsis, Osomatsu-san is the reboot of the Showa era (previous generations) anime Osomatsu-kun from the 1960’s or 1980’s, depending on which Showa generation you’re referencing, about a family of sextuplet brothers and their daily adventures in being NEETs. To address the giant elephant in the room, the first episode has the brothers wrestling with the idea whether old-timey characters can survive in the glitz and glam of contemporary anime. As recent history tells us, they’re not surviving. They’re dominating.
Excluding the first episode, Osomatsu-san keeps the old school character designs and combines them with an interesting color palette and elite-level voice acting. In each episode, there are various, unrelated comedic skits with the brothers filling in for the distinct personalities needed to pull off the punch line. The skits range from your normal slapstick affairs to delightfully way-too-in-depth analyses of mahjong strategy or joke telling. Instead of “a cast of eccentric characters” we have a cast of identical characters that slip in and out of their respective eccentricities. This versatility is nothing short of genius in this silly romp through nonsensical humor.
7. Arakawa Under the Bridge
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 2010 – Dec. 2010
On the banks of the Arakawa River lives a small community of people who have fallen to their own delusional fantasies and take refuge under the bridge away from the rest of society. Ichinomiya Kou, a man who excels at everything but is otherwise normal, is recruited into their ranks after a self-proclaimed Venusian girl saves his life. Through each episode, the anime pulls together all the character pieces and builds the weird and entertaining world under the bridge, where viewers find themselves slipping in and out of believing in the delusional.
The characters are especially random. A militaristic male nun, a bird-headed gangster, and an Amazon warrior with the mentality of a high school girl are just a few of the fantastically strange cast. Even with all that crazy, viewers are more taken by the unusual but extremely fitting animation: sudden close-ups of character body parts, blinking, well-timed zoom-ins, and the unfiltered and verbose inner thoughts of the main character. Welcome to Shaft!
If you’ve seen Shaft’s Monogatari series, you will be familiar with the animation in Arakawa Under the Bridge. Naysayers will find this style distracting and superfluous, but many enjoy the random Easter eggs and ingenuity in the visual somersaults of Shaft’s most distinctive style. If you’re reading this list, you’re probably in the latter, and in that case, you’ll enjoy Arakawa Under the Bridge.
6. Nichijou (My Ordinary Life)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 2011 – Sept. 2011
In the wake of Azumanga Daioh, the classic comedy anime featuring eccentric school girls doing everyday things with a hint of the surreal, we have been inundated with similar slice of life comedies with varying degrees of moe and absurdity that promise to keep us in stitches. These include Minami-ke, The Daily Lives of High School Boys, Pani Poni Dash, Plastic Neesan, and Lucky Star, to name a few.
Nichijou is the most outrageous in recent history for this trend. Sometimes, we experience the perils of eating a tako-chan from a bento box, and at other times, we get a tsundere with a vast arsenal of military-grade weaponry. Why? We don’t know, and we don’t care. We are laughing, because it’s so absurd that the logical pathways in our brains aren’t working correctly. Nichijou and its cohorts take already-unusual anime logic in a seemingly realistic school anime, Hulk Smash it into rubble, and replace it with a nonsensical idea. All we can do is laugh over the remains of what we once thought was true. We applaud them for it.
5. Kuuchuu Buranko (Welcome to Irabu’s Office)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Oct. 2009 – Dec. 2009
Dr. Irabu Ichiro is an enigmatic psychiatrist who easily appears crazier than his patients. When you walk into Irabu’s office, you’ll be greeted by a psychedelic interior and Dr. Irabu himself, a doctor who can inexplicably shape-shift in a man-bear or a young child with pink flower designs in his hair. Many different patients with various ailments will visit Dr. Irabu for counseling, be it a sports star who chokes under pressure or a man with a constant erection. His advice is confusing. His insistence on giving all his patients injections is questionable, but somehow, he and his gravure model nurse lead all his patients and the viewers to the peace they’ve been looking for.
It’s easy to get lost in the world of Kuuchuu Buranko with its distinctively uncommon art style that blends animation with live-action footage and enough polka dots that you think you walked into Yayoi Kusama’s mind. The animation emphasizes the psychological aspect of this seinen anime, but it’s not the dark and disturbing kind of psychological. The mental ailments are realistic, and in a stroke of genius, Kuuchuu Buranko has a commentator popping in to give real psychological facts throughout the series, making viewing this anime all the more worthwhile. After all, if you feel yourself going a little crazy after watching all the anime on this list, you can count on Kuuchuu Buranko to bring you back to homeostasis.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2008 – Jul. 2008
The first thing you’ll notice about Kaiba is the animation. Although very different from the conventional anime style, Kaiba’s art will feel otherworldly and unexpectedly nostalgic, which is perfect for its dreamlike story. Kaiba is a man who wakes up in an unknown land with no memories and a hole in his chest. He learns he is in a world where memories can be downloaded as data and kept eternally or implanted into a new body when the original body dies. In this world, life is bound to one’s memories, and immortality can be bought. In the first episode we are briefly introduced to how the beings in this world deal with such a reality, but soon we embark on a search for forgotten memories, while learning about this beautiful and complex world.
As you would expect, when you’re watching a philosophical anime dealing with body switching, it will take some time to get past, “Oh man, what am I watching?” Once we get into the story, though, we were happy we stuck around. Ever so gradually, the pieces of story start to gather into a comprehendible shape. As a testament to how well all the random and unusual elements were brought together, the first viewing of Kaiba is intriguing and thought-provoking, whereas a second watch of Kaiba is an enlightening and fulfilling experience.
3. Space Dandy
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jan. 2014 – Sept. 2014
Space Dandy is what happens when you take the original basis of Watanabe Shinichiro’s biggest hit of space adventurers, erase the melodramatic characters, replace them with caricatures, and then let a diverse group of talented animators take a personal swing at one of the group’s random adventures. Dandy and his two buddies are alien hunters, who search to find new alien species in order to register them for cash. Their work takes them to all reaches of space and across dimensional boundaries.
With jokes and parodies targeting science fiction and anime, Space Dandy may look similar to other satirical anime like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (2003) or Watanabe’s own Excel Saga (1999), but don’t be fooled. Space Dandy isn’t your everyday hilarious nonsense. Besides having a plethora of American and Japanese pop culture references and some honestly touching moments, the series is also littered with hypothetical thought exercises for viewers to enjoy. In one episode, can a world without sadness exist? Then, on a more scientific strain, how would a two-dimensional being interact with three-dimensional or even four-dimensional beings?
It’s a fun and interesting ride, but just when we think the plot is completely out the window, we find that the many plot lines are tied together by a string of parallel universes. At the same time, Space Dandy doesn’t shove scientific theories down our throats. It’s a simple kind of charm that has us watching and rewatching Space Dandy in hopes of finding the signal in all the gorgeously animated noise.
2. FLCL (Fooly Cooly)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Apr. 2000 – Mar. 2001
Yeah, yeah, FLCL has been riding the hype train since you were a kid, but there’s good reason for that. On top of its musical supremacy, FLCL’s particular brand of random employs iconic items in visual impressive ways. Naota has a head-splitting collision with a mysterious woman Haruko, who rides a yellow Vespa while wielding a Rickenbacker bass guitar that she uses to open a trans-dimensional channel in Naota’s head, from which a Gibson Flying V guitar and humanoid mecha with an antiquated CRT TV for a head emerges. Meanwhile, the plot can only be pieced together through a series of action and reaction with little exposition.
To describe the story in normal terms, FLCL is a coming of age saga of a cynical boy who persistently refuses his own emotions, but eventually finds his place in the universe with the help of a crazy space lady and a TV-headed robot. In only six episodes filled with sexual innuendo and implausible action, we witness pure insanity from the moment of their first collision. Die-hard fans are quick to suggest multiple viewings—an easy task thanks to the series’ brevity; however, making sure the viewer “gets it” is overlooked in favor of the story’s super-fast progression in this completely random but well-worn and well-loved anime.
1. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr. 2010 – Jul. 2010
Director Yuasa Masaaki has shown us he knows how to handle the bizarre. Kaiba and the critically acclaimed short film Cat Soup (2001) are just a couple examples of his surrealist vision. The Tatami Galaxy is no exception.
In The Tatami Galaxy, a fast-talking and overly specific narrator enters university life expecting the beginning of a great love story, but after years of toiling away in the university’s social tennis club, he has gained only regrets, a devilish best friend, and no love story to tell. How did it end up like this? What could he have done to change his romantic life? What if he joined a different social club, like the English conversation club or the film making club? What if he could go back in time and start over? That’s exactly what he does.
Mimicking the annoying randomness of life, each episode is distinctly different but weirdly similar, as our pensive narrator joins a different club each episode and gives his all to find the love of a lifetime. Each time, he runs into a strange twist of fate that only keeps getting stranger as the series progresses. The Tatami Galaxy, then, effectively becomes an anime exploration into the butterfly effect. By changing the start of his college career, his love life takes various chaotic paths, but then what of soul mates? What of fate? Tatami Galaxy playfully guides its viewers with an awesomely intriguing art style and destabilizing over-narration in this charmingly unique and entertaining anime.
After all, life is random.
Outside of Japan, the fact that anime is unconventional is part of its appeal, so why not take a dive into the random end of the crazy? Of course being random for randomness’s sake isn’t always the answer, but these ten anime here truly excel at doing the unexpected. Sometimes they can be confusing. They even can make our brains hurt, but all that hardship is paid off with a bucket full of laughs or a truly thought-provoking experience. A little crazy in your anime could be just what Dr. Irabu ordered.