Who says anime has to be all about big, cute, sparkly eyes? When you think about anime, you usually get an image of characters with big heads, large moe eyes, small mouths and noses.
The word anime is actually derived from the Japanese word for “animation”, which is 「アニメーション」 (animeshon). This was shortened to just 「アニメ」, anime. Therefore let’s not forget the vast genre of anime that we have. There’s a lot of anime that make use of odd, eccentric artwork and derail from the mainstream styles. Here are top 10 unconventional anime series and films.
10. Windy Tales / Fuujin Monogatari
Genre: Slice of Life, Fantasy
Rating: (G) All ages
Directed by Junji Nishimura and featuring music by Kenji Kawai, Yuu and Windy-S, Windy Tales tells the story of high-schoolers, cats and the wind. It is definitely an unconventional anime with its use of minimalistic but smooth art and animation. The protagonist, Nao Ueshima is a president of the school’s photography club. While on the roof taking pictures, she spots a flying “wind cat”. Trying to take pictures of it, she falls off the roof but is saved by somebody unexpected, her math teacher who is also able to manipulate the wind. Thus, Nao begins her pursuit of the wind users and wind cats.
9. Cat-Soup / Nekojiru-Sou
Film runtime: 32 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Psychological, Supernatural
Cat-Soup is an experimental film. Inspired by the manga artist Nekojiru, Tatsuo Sato adapted her story into animation. Cat-Soup tells the story of two cats, Nyatta and Nyako. Nyatta accidentally drowns and dies in his bathroom. But he comes back from the dead to save his sister Nyako’s soul, which was taken away by an enlightened being called Jizou. This unconventional anime has both surreal artwork and story.
8. Dead Leaves
Film runtime: 52 minutes
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and produced by Production I.G., Dead Leaves has one of the quirkiest art styles. The film is very prompt and has a very aggressive and flamboyant artwork. Dead leaves tells the story of two inmates, Retro and Pandy. The plot follows the two of them trying to make a prison break, uncovering the secrets of their identities and causing havoc on the way. The character design is also very eccentric, making Dead Leaves a unique and unconventional anime film.
Film runtime: 110 minutes
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Tekkonkinkreet is about two orphans, Black and White, known as the cats. Black and White roam the streets of Treasure Town, “cleaning it up”, as they say. They beat up whoever gets in their way, whether the people are plain thugs or even affiliated to the yakuza. They face danger as foreigners arrive planning to demolish Treasure Town in order to create an amusement part. The art direction in the film has been acclaimed by many. Full of detailed traditional drawings of the streets of Treasure Town paired with unique characters, Tekkonkinkreet is a great art film.
6. The Tatami Galaxy / Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Based on the comedy-drama college novel of the same name, The Tatami Galaxy tells the story of a lonely college student who is never named throughout the series. After bumping into a weird man at a ramen stand, the protagonist goes through a flashback. He reflects upon his life and how he has seemingly wasted his time in the campus. The art in the anime makes use of various color schemes and has a blend of both 2D and 3D graphics, making it very surreal and artistic.
5. Ping Pong the Animation
Genre: Psychological, Sports, Slice of life, Coming-of-age
Rating: PG 13
The protagonists, Yutaka Hoshino (Peco) and Makoto Tsukimoto (Smile) are members of the table tennis club in Katase High School. The two boys have to face their own challenges and struggle with their lives as they play rounds of ping pong. The art is very sketchy and subtle, unlike most anime these days. However this unique style is the reason why Ping Pong the Animation is a wonderful and unconventional anime.
Genre: Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Dystopian
The plot of Kaiba is that it has become possible to store memories as data, so even if the body dies, the mind lives on. Due to this, stealing and altering memories has become possible causing society to crumble. The story begins as a boy named Kaiba wakes up in a room without any memories. All he has is a pendant with a picture of an unknown girl inside. Kaiba begins to regain his memories through his travels, meanwhile the girl in the pendant has her own struggles to deal with. The animation is wonderfully fluid and the character designs are very well made.
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Horror, Supernatural
The story of Kemonozume revolves around two characters, Toshihiko and Yuka, and their forbidden love. Toshihiko’s father is the leader of the organization Kifuuken. Kifuuken is a group of beast hunters who work to exterminate man-eating monsters called the Shokujinki. Toshihiko himself is a master swordsman and the heir to Kifuuken. Unfortunately, the love of his life, Yuka, is a Shokujinki. The art and animation is a mix of sketchy, crude, irregular and beautiful styles.
2. Panty and Stocking with GarterBelt
Episodes: 13, +1 special
Genre: Comedy, Action, Adventure
It is not often that you come across something as weird as Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, PSG for short. This unconventional anime is one of the most distinct and stylized series, with scenes alternating between looking like American cartoons and plain anime. It features styles that are a mix of hand-drawn techniques and modern CGI. The characters are also amazingly well designed and frequently appear in a new set of clothes. The plot ranges from comical to heart-warming to mind screwing.
1. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Genre: Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Mystery, Drama
Based on the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas, Gankutsuou is the story of a young nobleman, Albert. The setting is in the 51st century, in the year 5053. While on a vacation in Luna, Albert befriends the Count of Monte Cristo, a mysterious man from the upper class. The anime makes use of various textures integrated onto the digital animation. This vibrant and unusual visual style, along with a great story makes Gankutsuou one of the best unconventional anime.
Anime is much more than what we usually see on the screens, there are various shows that utilize different mediums of art. Some anime are even influenced by Western animation and hence come off as very eccentric. However, the edgy stylization has never undermined their quality and of course, there are much more artistic and unconventional anime than shown in the list here!