11 votes

I'm looking for anime shows with a lot of depth

I'm not necessarily looking for a "deep" or intensely philosophical show, like NG Evangelion is often described as being. I'm interested in shows with a lot of thematic depth, kind of like Mad Men. As moocow1452, I'm looking for the anime equivalent of "prestige television," shows that actually have subtextual themes and messages that encourages the viewer to engage deeper with the media.
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21 comments

  1. Akir
    Link
    You are going to absolutely fall in love with Kunihiko Ikuhara. He eats themes for breakfast, breathes out imagery, and sweats subtext. Every anime he has made is worth watching, but the ones you...

    You are going to absolutely fall in love with Kunihiko Ikuhara. He eats themes for breakfast, breathes out imagery, and sweats subtext. Every anime he has made is worth watching, but the ones you would be most interested are the ones he had a direct hand in the story and development: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum, Yurikuma Arashii, and Sarazanmai.

    Sarazanmai in particular has some very powerful messages about society and how we connect to eachother. I'm not kidding when I say that when I first watched it, almost every single episode strongly effected me emotionally.

    The downside to his work is that you have to be familliar with a lot of japanese culture in order to fully understand all of the themes and how they work. For instance, Penguindrum has a number of references to a Japanese story called The Galaxy Express, and you won't understand some of the social criticism if you hadn't heard about the Tokyo subway sarin attack.

    Masaaki Yuasa is also pretty good at using themes in his work, but he does things very differently from anyone else. It's probably closer to motif. For you, I'd specifically recommend The Tatami Galaxy; it's perhaps his most relatable piece of work since it deals directly with the journey into adulthood.

    10 votes
  2. [2]
    determinism
    Link
    Mushi shi This was the last anime that I really binged, several years ago. I wouldn't describe it as the "prestige TV" of anime but it does have some interesting depth.

    Mushi shi

    This was the last anime that I really binged, several years ago. I wouldn't describe it as the "prestige TV" of anime but it does have some interesting depth.

    They are neither plants nor animals. They differ from other forms of life such as the micro-organisms and the fungi. Instead they resemble the primeval body of life and are generally known as "Mushi". Their existence and appearance are unknown to many and only a limited number of humans are aware of them. Ginko is a "Mushi-shi" who travels around to investigate and find out more about the "Mushi". In the process, he also lends a helping hand to people who face problems with supernatural occurrences which may be related to the "Mushi".

    7 votes
    1. NaraVara
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I loved Mushi Shi when I first watched it, though I think that was probably over 10 years ago by now. The vibe is so chill and Zen-like. There are some pretty dramatic stakes in some episodes, but...

      I loved Mushi Shi when I first watched it, though I think that was probably over 10 years ago by now. The vibe is so chill and Zen-like. There are some pretty dramatic stakes in some episodes, but the show approaches joys and tragedies both with a serene sort of acceptance.

      It’s very much about a stoic sort of appreciation for the beauty in everything. It is an ideal show to watch before bed, great for both allaying the anxieties of the day and for featuring the kind of understatedly gorgeous imagery that can usher you into having beautiful dreams.

  3. [3]
    guts
    Link
    I think this is what you are looking, these are some with great themes and some have deep story wise: Cowbow Bebop Samurai Shamploo Mushishi Space Dandy Parasite Monster Serial Experiments Lain...

    I think this is what you are looking, these are some with great themes and some have deep story wise:

    Cowbow Bebop
    Samurai Shamploo
    Mushishi
    Space Dandy
    Parasite
    Monster
    Serial Experiments Lain
    Boogiepop wa Warawanai
    Berserk
    Vampire Hunter D
    Ergo Proxy
    Ghost In The Shell
    3-gatsu no Lion
    Kino’s Journey
    Made in Abyss
    Death Note

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      TheWanderer
      Link Parent
      Excellent list I would add ghost in the shell and akira.

      Excellent list I would add ghost in the shell and akira.

      1 vote
      1. guts
        Link Parent
        Forgot Akira i liked it as well.

        Forgot Akira i liked it as well.

        2 votes
  4. moocow1452
    Link
    "Anime with depth" is kinda vague, but assuming you mean depth as in strong control of it's themes, I really like what Gatchaman Crowds does with the idea of a Sentai (Power Ranger) team kind of...

    "Anime with depth" is kinda vague, but assuming you mean depth as in strong control of it's themes, I really like what Gatchaman Crowds does with the idea of a Sentai (Power Ranger) team kind of going through the motions, beating up the rubber monsters until their new recruit takes a more socially proactive approach to city protection, getting involved in the community and putting effort into fixing the underlying causes of villainous behavior around town.

    In the similar vein is Concrete Revolutio, sort of similar to Watchmen in that it's a period piece of a bunch of anime heroes (magical girl, child ghost, forest yokai, devilman, et al) except it takes place in Japan, in 1968 and the world is changing out from under them. This is probably the most "prestige television" of my picks if that's what you're looking for, but it is still very anime.

    On a more personal scope, I'm going to round out picks with SSSS.GRIDMAN, which sells itself as a standard "kid who is contacted by an alien robot to merge with him and become big to fight kaiju" story, but unfolds into an exploration of the kind of people who get wrapped up in sending kaiju to a city and defending the city against them. It dragged it's feet a little compared to some of the other shows that are still talked about, but once you're halfway through, it's something else.

    4 votes
  5. Staross
    (edited )
    Link
    Shigurui, from an imdb review : Or the last part of that review : https://youtu.be/VyhRd5UGjaA?t=390

    Shigurui, from an imdb review :

    The content maybe quite distasteful to some but I would quietly urge the casual viewer to please NOT simply take in the graphic violence at face value and instead look at them as symbols to what may unravel the conflict between the two principal antagonists. Unlike most hero worshiping stories out there, this story has no heroes, only villains with a unique sense of morality and justice. These are stories that can be endlessly dissected and with every viewing this new found perspective can serve aid you decipher a little of that vast unknowable known as Japan. The style of the anime is very decadent. And very much like the politics of Japan during the Edo period - was vastly tumultuous. This story serves as an allegory to that time period through the choices its antagonists makes and its consequences they eventually face. The anime has flawlessly taken in the elements, details and nuances from the manga, and taken it to the next level. The greatest achievement in my opinion was the foreshadowing of the events to come were executed to perfection, like a well aged single malt whiskey. These details can only be noted from repeated viewing.

    Or the last part of that review : https://youtu.be/VyhRd5UGjaA?t=390

    3 votes
  6. PetitPrince
    Link
    I'm not sure what you mean by "engage with the media" but here some of my takes, assuming you meant "thinking about stuff" : Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex discusses a lot of societal and...

    I'm not sure what you mean by "engage with the media" but here some of my takes, assuming you meant "thinking about stuff" :

    Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex discusses a lot of societal and philosophical issues, all within a framework of a police procedural.

    In particular, the title refer to memetic imitation, and 4chan and reddit weren't even an idea when the show was first released.


    The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is a intelligent deconstruction/reconstruction of the anime tropes of the naughties (or anime in general).

    3 votes
  7. WendigoTulpa
    Link
    Maybe due to the language barrier, I don't think I've ever found any anime to be particularly "deep". Ergo Proxy is about a future where people are dependent on androids in many ways, but a virus...

    Maybe due to the language barrier, I don't think I've ever found any anime to be particularly "deep".

    Ergo Proxy is about a future where people are dependent on androids in many ways, but a virus is going around that gives the androids consciousness, causing them to retaliate against the humans. The plot is weirder than just that, and it is VERY philosophical, maybe a little too much so, but it has a cool story, interesting concepts, and is rewarding overall. The first episode will suck you in quick if you're anything like me.

    Steins Gate explores the concept of time travel pretty deeply, and is also very enjoyable and less brooding than Ergo Proxy for sure. It was actually popular enough to get a movie, which doesn't really happen much with more serious anime (aka not moe crap).

    Baccano! is about the search for a mystical immortality elixir in 1920's America. It an interesting story line, and from what I understand is the only anime whose dub is better than the sub, due to it being about westerners.

    Mononoke is about a demon slaying medicine salesman. Each episode is its own story, and it explore the mythology of feudal Japan.

    I feel like I probably don't watch a whole lot of very deep anime. Hope you find some good stuff in the thread!

    2 votes
  8. DanBC
    Link
    Haibane Renmei is a bit obvious but it's something that creates a world which feels coherent and solid and weird.

    Haibane Renmei is a bit obvious but it's something that creates a world which feels coherent and solid and weird.

    2 votes
  9. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Yeah, I think you must provide a better definition of “depth” otherwise suggestions may not mean much to you...

    Yeah, I think you must provide a better definition of “depth” otherwise suggestions may not mean much to you...

    2 votes
  10. Apos
    Link
    One Piece has a lot of depth. The first 4 seasons (whatever that means) are on Netflix. It takes a bit of episodes to realize that depth. At first you enjoy the ride, then the story starts to sink...

    One Piece has a lot of depth. The first 4 seasons (whatever that means) are on Netflix. It takes a bit of episodes to realize that depth. At first you enjoy the ride, then the story starts to sink in. Here is a good meme about One piece: https://i.imgur.com/Somx4.png

    Since you said Mad Men, then my real recommendation would be Uchuu Kyoudai / Space Brothers. It's about two brothers that want to become astronauts. The story is rather realistic and the characters act like real people.

    Otherwise some other good ones: Hyouka, Violet Evergarden, Chihayafuru, Attack on Titans(Not the same depth as Mad Men, but really awesome story buildup with story elements planned from the start.).

    2 votes
  11. Surira
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    Perhaps consider the OG Mobile Suit Gundam?

    Perhaps consider the OG Mobile Suit Gundam?

    2 votes
  12. culturedleftfoot
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    I think I probably have a few shows I can recommend, but I'm new to the term prestige television, have never seen Mad Men, and am also a bit thick in general... so, when you say "encourages [you]...

    I think I probably have a few shows I can recommend, but I'm new to the term prestige television, have never seen Mad Men, and am also a bit thick in general... so, when you say "encourages [you] to engage deeper with the media", engage with it how? Do you mean thinking about levels of meaning? Puzzling out clues, symbolism, etc?

    2 votes
  13. Pistos
    Link
    I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but one anime I like is The Twelve Kingdoms. It seems (to me, anyway) targeted at older, more mature audiences on account of it being devoid of a lot...

    I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but one anime I like is The Twelve Kingdoms. It seems (to me, anyway) targeted at older, more mature audiences on account of it being devoid of a lot of cliches, whether in drawing style, cookie-cutter character personalities, commonly-used plot lines, or clear delineation between good guys and bad guys.

    2 votes
  14. [2]
    DrStone
    Link
    I haven't seen it myself yet, but Legend of the Galactic Heroes is on my list and seems like it fits well what you're looking. It's a long 110-episode space opera packed with well-developed...

    I haven't seen it myself yet, but Legend of the Galactic Heroes is on my list and seems like it fits well what you're looking. It's a long 110-episode space opera packed with well-developed characters, political machinations and intrigue, religion, governing, and of course, huge space battles. I've seen multiple comparisons to Game of Thrones (when it was good).

    2 votes
    1. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      I generally recommend LotGH to anyone, but I'm not sure how much it applies here. There are themes but it doesn't really delve into them apart from the general idea of styles of government....

      I generally recommend LotGH to anyone, but I'm not sure how much it applies here. There are themes but it doesn't really delve into them apart from the general idea of styles of government. Basically, it has a lot of complexity but I wouldn't say it has a lot of depth. YMMV though, because I don't think it's quite as magnificent as it's often regarded (I think it's best as a drama). Still, it's worth watching.

      1 vote
  15. [2]
    braingoo
    Link
    for anime with real meaningful depth, skip anything form the past 15 years. most of the suggestions in this thread are kinda weak. Real depth? Go try Rose of Versailles from the 1970s. Supremely...

    for anime with real meaningful depth, skip anything form the past 15 years. most of the suggestions in this thread are kinda weak.

    Real depth? Go try Rose of Versailles from the 1970s. Supremely intense, and every glance, every eyelash, is full of meaning.

    1 vote
    1. Akir
      Link Parent
      This is a really interesting take, and I would love to hear more if you would care to elaborate. Or even if you just have more recommendations.

      This is a really interesting take, and I would love to hear more if you would care to elaborate. Or even if you just have more recommendations.

  16. wossab
    Link
    Honestly, a lot of anime get surprisingly deep once they established the basics of the story with -sometimes painful- cliches. Where Western stories tend to establish a base line and go with it,...

    Honestly, a lot of anime get surprisingly deep once they established the basics of the story with -sometimes painful- cliches. Where Western stories tend to establish a base line and go with it, anime often keep adding layers throughout the series. A lot of them are surprisingly deep and adult.

    1 vote