Pure-hearted shoujo heroines and morally upstanding shounen leads are great and all, but sometimes you just long for a look at the other side of the law. That’s where crime anime come in, specifically the kind that focus on the criminals themselves. Some are jovial, lighthearted affairs that thrive on the thrill of swindling, while others are dark explorations of the unforgiving underground and what tragic events lead someone down that path in the first place. We’ve got all kinds here for you today, so let’s take a look at the top 5 anime about dirty rotten criminals!
5. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 5: Ougon no Kaze (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind)
The previous four JoJo parts all focused on characters who, even if they were delinquents, more or less followed the law and didn’t go out of their way to kill their opponents. The villains they faced were immortal vampires, ancient god-like beings, and unrepentant serial killers. But Golden Wind flips the script by making its main character Giorno, son of Part 1’s protagonist and villain duo Jonathan and Dio (it’s complicated), who takes traits from both parents to infiltrate the mafia and kill anyone who opposes his war on drugs.
The cast of Part 5 consists of some of the most charming and relatable characters in JoJo history, but the corrupt mafia members who fight them never live to tell the tale (or, if they do, they’re subjected to hilarious torture methods instead). Giorno probably wouldn’t get along with most of the other JoJos, but that’s just what makes him and his series unique.
4. Black Lagoon
If you’re enjoying Fall 2020’s Akudama Drive, you may also want to look back at its spiritual predecessor Black Lagoon. The poor, crime-ridden town of Roanapur, Thailand is home to the Lagoon Company, a group of pirate mercenaries who transport contraband and perform various violent odd jobs for shady organizations. A down-on-his-luck businessman winds up in their clutches, but when he’s abandoned by his company, he ends up joining them – all the while trying and failing to mesh his upstanding morals with the heinous acts he’s forced to commit. Black Lagoon is truly a classic, so give it a try!
3. Banana Fish
Despite its odd name and shounen-ai label, Banana Fish is actually a very serious drama series about a teenage New York gang leader named Ash and the naïve Japanese journalist named Eiji who unwittingly falls into his life.
Ash grew up in the mafia as a sex slave, and now uses his charms and criminal connections to suss out the details of an experimental drug that the same people used to render his older brother braindead. The only person who can get past his mile-high defense mechanisms and help him heal is Eiji, but can Ash protect this kindhearted soul from the cutthroat world that he can never seem to escape from? This show excels at intricate character studies and cross-cultural relations, so if that sounds right up your alley, this is the crime anime for you!
2. Great Pretender
Speaking of Western criminals teaming up with Japanese ingenues who are completely out of their element, here’s Great Pretender! It’s a slick and very stylish original anime by Wit Studio that pairs small-time con man Makoto Edamura with expert gentleman thief Laurent Thierry, a Frenchman (who Edamura failed to con) who only targets corrupt high rollers preying on innocent people.
Great Pretender has its serious moments, but for the most part, it’s just a celebration of the crazy bluffing that Laurent can somehow get away with and Edamura’s floundering attempts to keep up with him. Plus, the ED uses a track by none other than Freddie Mercury and features his pet cats in the animation – who could possibly resist that?
1. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
Director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno (both of Cowboy Bebop fame) team up again, this time with studio MAPPA, to create a thematically rich tale of generational unrest in modern Japan. Nine and Twelve are two mysterious young terrorists who toy with the police by giving them riddles to solve before they blow up metropolitan buildings, a sort of Death Note style set-up that eschews edgy spectacle for realistic conflicts between revolutionary youths and conservative adults. It’s a story that really takes the more unsavory parts of Japanese culture to task, all seen from the perspective of young criminals who strive to change it in whatever way they can.
If you just can’t get enough lovable rogues and tales of the underground, also check out Gangsta, Code Geass, Dead Leaves, Baccano, 91 Days, and Death Note. But what are your favorite crime-ridden anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!