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5 Anime as Deep as a Philosophy Book — 57 Comments

    • Hey there, Thanks for the comment. I am not familiar with Moryo no Hako. The art looks really nice though. If possible, could you tell me how it made you think?

  1. First three are my top favorite anime. I re-listen to them in the car all the time. Definitely on spot recommendations for deeper, philosophical anime.

    I watched Wolf’s Rain when I was younger, and don’t remember much of the plot, but remember liking it. Perhaps I should give it another watch!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the anime for Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. It’s relatively long, but quite engaging and thought-provoking.

  3. I’m about halfway through Mushi-Shi at the moment and I completely agree with everything you wrote. In addition there seems to be a recurring theme of people’s relation to the past; there are a number of characters who are unable to move on from past events, and a few (spoiler, paste into rot13.com to decode) vapyhqvat Tvaxb uvzfrys who have had their memories of the past taken from them. I understand there’s a live-action film that adapts several episodes of the anime. I’m skeptical, but will probably check it out sometime.

    (As a side note, the kanji 蟲 seems interesting. At least according to jisho.org it’s an uncommon character which on its own means ‘insect’, same as the more common 虫, but the only word jisho lists with this character is 蟲惑 meaning “fascination; glamour; glamor; enchantment; seduction”, which also seems relevant…)

    As another entry to this list I’d like to nominate “Mawaru Penguindrum.” It’s core theme is family; what defines a family, what are the members’ obligations to each other, how far can/should one go to fulfill these obligations, and to what extent are members responsible for the actions of other members. The series also raises questions about fate, whether there is such a thing and how various characters relate to the concept. The way the story is told is at least as thought-provoking as what it’s saying. It weaves together the mundane, the supernatural, and characters’ delusions, along with lots of symbolism. I suspect that where viewers draw the lines between these elements will inform how they interpret the series. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but I think even where it’s flawed it’s at least flawed in interesting ways.

  4. What about Now and Then, Here and There. A boy follows a strange girl to another world (time?) where a crazy dictator is fighting an unknown enemy for water. If you want anything happy to happen you are probably out of luck. Children in the military, rape, whatever else you got.

  5. habane renmei and kino’s journey are fucking awesome. however, serial experiments lain isn’t on here but it should be at the top of the list. also, i second ‘now and then, here and there’ and ‘monster’.

    • serial experiments lain is a def. It is a hall mark of the genre. This list was never meant to be the end all be all, but a combination of some more well known and less know animes that represent the genre well. Thanks for adding Lain. Monster and now and then, here and there are great additions as well. I will be adding monster to a different list in the future. Stay tuned.

  6. Haay,

    the first three animes are literally masterpieces. Wolf’s rain is great as well.
    Although to put Psycho Pass on this list is an insult. Psycho Pass is a mindless run and shoot anime with zero depth and no creativity …

    • Psycho Pass is a really deep anime, however it is hidden behind the front of “a mindless shoot and run”. I assume you haven’t watched the series in its entirety, as the first few episodes definitely help lend to that impression. Honestly the last episode gave more stimulation for both thought and emotion than I have seen in quite a while in the world of anime. There were points I expected Psycho Pass to sink to cliches of the anime medium, but rather they used these to reel you in and ‘punch you in the face with realism’ so to speak. Additionally, while I agree that Serial Experiments Lain should be on here, I am hesitant to put “Now and Then, Here and There” and “Monster” on here. While they are very good anime, I don’t see them as on the same level as Mushishi or Kino’s Journey. If we are to consider those of the criteria for this list however, might I also recommend One Outs, Paranoia Agent, and Ghost in the Shell?

  7. Zetsuen no Tempest and both Ghost in the Shell TV series all make you think a LOT. Personally, I loved Zetsuen no Tempest because you can never guess what actually happens. Steins;Gate is also good in it makes you think about the different timelines throughout the series.

    • I’d also like to add Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi to my list. What would the world be like if everyone stopped dying? What if your deepest wish was granted? It’s a world where God has given up and left humanity to their own whims.

      Another show, which is absolutely essential to this list, is called Shin Sekai Yori. It takes place 1000 years after humans begin developing psychokinetic abilities. It span across the lives of a group of children and their knowledge of the world as they grow older. It is a very, very deep series which touches on things that might make some people uncomfortable. I didn’t like it overall but I respect the hell out of the themes it covered and can recommend it to anyone looking for a deep anime.

  8. I have not seen Zetsuen no Tempest, but I have seen Ghost in the Shell, which is a great for making you think. I will look into Zetsuen later on. Thanks for the recs.

  9. Just watched all 13 episodes of Kino’s journey in a row, truly inspiring, will definitely check the rest of the list

    • In a row….that`s great. I love it when a story really catches your interest and thrusts you through the story. It is a great feeling. Hope you are feeling accomplished! Good luck with the rest!

  10. Although a romantic film, Makoto Shinkai’s 5cm Per Second has some philosophical themes such as destiny, predestination, what’s “meant to be” and the power of love when faced with distance and estrangement.

  11. I just finished watching Kokoro Connect.
    I think it’s a perfect answer to your question :)
    You should really try watching it.

    • I second the vote for “Kokoro Connect”! Brilliant and brilliantly-constructed series that dives very deeply into the psychology of several characters and raises many thought-provoking questions about identity. Not to mention one of the most genuinely creepy and unsettling antagonists I’ve ever seen in anime (although you can argue whether he really is an antagonist).

      • Kokoro Connect is my favourite anime! It is very interesting exploring all the characters in such depth and it was amusing too. I really feel quite annoyed that I am yet to find another series like it. They also did a very small thing with the production to make it very addictive; they put the preview before the closing credits, meaning you have no time to skip/miss them before you’re drawn in. It’s probably been done in other anime but I’ve never seen it before.

        I’m rather sad that because of that childish scandal that went on with the series that the show was cut so short. I hope to read the light novels in the future.

  12. I know it’s a little obvious to mention but both the Ghost In The Shell series are staggeringly deep. It explores consciousness, AI as an evolutionary step and the phenomena that emerge when lots of the human race is connected to cyberspace via an artificial cyber-brain — all while being insanely entertaining.

    • A classic indeed, worldofsleepers. It is a wonderful watch and well deserved on this rec page. Thanks.

  13. Honey and Clover. You could pretty much say that it is a about the different philosophies of love. If you want something that is consistently deep then you better watch Ghibli movies, most of them are deep :)

  14. Not that I’ve seen any anime that really touched the beauty of Plato’s Symposium or the sheer brutality of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature but I will say there are several anime that do a good job of being deep without being pretentious or preachy.
    In spite of the foolishness of Japanese “school comic relief” and the massive “mecha” fighting that surrounds it, Code Geass is brilliant in fleshing out many philosophical dialogues in a way anyone can stomach and even enjoy.
    Where most people, for some reason, tend to be drawn to Phcyo-Pass I would say over all it was disappointing to me and only because you had to wait until 15 episodes for it to get past that “we are deep b/c of gruesome deaths and strange bad guy spouting off random quotes” to the true question begging to be asked “what is justice” that they seem to just ignore… Still, some find it worth the watch.
    DeathNote I never could really get past episode 8, but it had some good questions posed on justice and power. Nothing against the anime, I just “knew where it was going” after ep 8. Kinda a bummer.
    Where it is over the top, silly and down right crass BlackLagoon posses some great question not just with story and situations, but their characters are literally a question to the audience. Really a surprising gem and one of the few anime that makes me love it for how I hate the violence in it.
    If you haven’t seen ErgoProxy, just do yourself a favor and do it. Good depth all around including beautiful drawing style.
    Monster is a good deep anime all around as well.
    The one I’ve been kinda impressed with lately is Steins;Gate. Seems like your typical happy buddy adventure until about episode 8. You get slapped in the face and a harsh dose of WTF. They do a great job in almost drowning you in time theories but letting you stay just above water to enjoy the next 15 episodes.
    And I save this one for last because you won’t believe me unless you saw at least one or two above you could agree with (cause I was the same way, but Princess Tutu might be the deepest anime I have ever taken the time to watch. Masterfully crafted from each character to episode based on a famous or influential ballet to the over all story arch. Really… masterful. Questions of the psyche, good and evil, free will, the internal battle of man, the power, influence and mystery of love… the list goes on and all handled with care and balance.

  15. Wow, talk of deep anime without mentioning Evangelion… I applaud the originality, but it’s not just hot air when people talk about the mind-expanding effects of the show.

  16. i have a habit. if i read a praising comment on sg, i can easily ignore that persons all anime critics. it is a personal choice of me of course. i prefer watching good animes and reading good mangas. both with art style and story. basicly; sg is a commercial product, produced to support the game itself. unlike “good derived” animes, which born after their manga, sg manga was written after the game and anime. my personal deep list is like; space brothers (space&art documentary), kaiji (darkness of humankind), animatrix (tribute to some written and visual distophia products on sci-fi grounded existentialism), nana (emotions), redline (art), slam dunk (purpose to teach), hikaru no go (purpose to teach), kuroko no basket (tribute to real nba players) etc. of course these animes may not enter to the “depth” qualification area which shall be following “philosophy books”. but, i dont see why animes shall be following “philosophy books” to be “deep”. either way, sg does not fit the description. since, it has no philosophy in it, only some science and rumour hoaxes (because the game created that way), which was way better drawn in a dean koontz book.
    other than that, i saw some other comments and i agree that evangelion and ergo proxy deserve this pages label. but wolfs rain? well, if so, lets put claymore and snk to this list also. darker than black, even van helsing..and since they can enter, why not add bleach and naruto too? i may sound harsh, but seeing “deep” always taken in animes as “questioning of being, loneliness, power, good and evil, love and hate bla bla bla” is a really bad joke.

  17. You should definitely give Shin Sekai Yori a watch hauntingly good. One of the unknown gems floating around in the recent anime seasons!

  18. Psycho Pass is the only one I’ve seen and it’s amazing!! Psyched for season 2 coming out :3 I’d personally include Angel Beats and Durarara as well, maybe FMA Brotherhood.

    • For an anime about gambling, Kaiji is actually incredibly deep. A lot of life messages, character building, and analyzing human thinking.

      While I don’t know how realistic the underground empire is, the story is more grounded in reality than others!

  19. みなさん、こんにちは!
    I have just ordered the complete set of Haibane Renmei. Unfortunately, while it comes with English and Japanese language and English subtitles, it does not have Japanese subtitles. I have attempted to search the web, using both English and Japanese keywords, to try to find the Japanese subtitles or transcript, but no such luck. I am about level 10, so I definitely need some assistance in understanding the spoken Japanese. I would much prefer to struggle with the Japanese subtitles rather than turn on the English subtitles, so does anyone know the web location of any Japanese subtitles or transcripts for this series?
    Thanking you in advance.

    • Unfortunately it can be very hard to find Japanese subtitles for many anime series. They often aren’t included even on the Japanese disc. This is why a lot of people like learning with J-Drama as it is much easier to find scripts.

    • Google “Old Home Bulletin Board” which is the HR fan forum. Within the Clock Tower you will find scripts, in Japanese and English. You will also meet lovers of the show there.

  20. David,

    Go to the Old Home Bulletin Board at:

    http://cff.ssw.net/forum/index.php

    . . . Where you will find, in the ‘Clocktower’ section, some very careful and thoughtful translations of many episodes.

    Also much discussion in the rest of the forum on the ideas and meanings of a work that to me seems to go through anime and out into something else.

  21. >anime as deep as a philosophy book
    it’s like you’ve never actually opened a philosophy book
    I recommend Schopenhauer, Deleuze, Husserl for starters.

  22. For me, nothing beats Monster so far. It explores the concept of good and evil. Very realistic in portraying every character. It will immerse the viewer to the uncomfortable dark realities of life. I will check out your list though.

  23. I think Shinsekai Yori would also fit this theme. It really makes you think about their world and themes such as peace. One of my favorite quotes is when Squealer/Yakomaru says, “We are humans!”

  24. I’d recommend “Yahare ore no Seishun wa Love-Come machigateirru” (“Oregairu”, for short) for something to make you think. It’s not supernatural or ‘larger than life’ (it’s “school life” as a matter of fact) like most of the other ones, but it definitely makes you think of the aspects of everyday life that seem common, or acceptable, and expose them for what they represent.
    The main character’s a pessimistic loner that’s forced to help people out against his will (just as an introduction).

  25. Finally, I found this kind of website. I’m not so good at English, but this is easy to read .

    Thanks you

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