Top 40 Best Psychological Anime Of All Time (Series & Movies)

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I might sound edgy or elitist for saying this, but I can’t deny that many of my favorite anime are psychological ones: and I never even actively sought titles under this category.

Perhaps it’s due in part to all the psychology classes I took in college, or maybe something else entirely…

No matter, I’ve grown to appreciate anime that carefully examines and portrays some pretty wild emotional states.

Psychological anime don’t come in big numbers like other genres, so finding even one good title for each new anime season can be difficult.

Still, it’s not impossible to find great psychological anime — you just have to know where to look! And some of the best ones are right down below.

 

40. Kakegurui (Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler)

Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler Anime Screenshot

I still vividly remember watching the OP for the first time.

The song was catchy and the accompanying video was oozing with desire. And it gives off a femme fatale vibe, which was fitting for a series starring someone like Yumeko Jabami.

Kakegurui isn’t a perfect series. But it’s very much enjoyable (and the same goes for the second season).

It’s hard not to admire the impressive design of characters like Mary Saotome, Kirari Momobami, Itsuki Sumeragi, and Yumemi Yumemite.

Seeing characters reach euphoria and then crash to the deepest levels of despair is a guilty pleasure — and MAPPA didn’t hold back with their outrageous facial expressions.

Truly, Kakegurui is addictive.

 

39. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)

Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Anime Screenshot

It’s hard to recommend a show like When They Cry, when one of its best elements is the surprise factor. So I’m not gonna go into specifics.

What I can tell you is that it aired way back in 2007, but has maintained its fame (or infamy) over the years.

Yes, it looks like another one of those shows where a city guy goes back to the rural side of Japan to relax and forget about the chaos of the urban jungle.

But given that I did include this anime here, it is psychological — it’s very psychological.

The 2007 series was a wild ride. I don’t know if the new (but sadly delayed) 2020 anime project can live up to it.

 

38. xxxHOLiC

Xxxholic Anime Screenshot

I know you might be freaked out with the character designs here, which is all about slender legs and arms that seem far longer than necessary.

But if you can forgive that aesthetic choice, I implore you to try xxxHOLiC — both the 24-episode Season 1 and the arguably better 13-episode Season 2 (along with the four OVA episodes if you have time).

The show features a guy named Kimihiro Watanuki who can see supernatural entities. That’s cool, right?

Well, he doesn’t want this ability.

Thankfully the eccentric lady Yuuko Ichihara says that she can remove his power. But there’s a catch: He has to work at her so-called store and help people get their wishes granted.

 

37. Death Parade

Death Parade Anime Screenshot

I have deep admiration for original anime.

In a world where anime studios & producers often don’t make a lot of profit, choosing to produce original stories is a high risk since it doesn’t have a built-in fan base.

But Madhouse took the risk and went with Death Parade, one of the most refreshing anime series in the last decade.

Its ending didn’t exactly feel conclusive. Bbut that doesn’t ruin the enjoyment I got right from Episode 01 (or, you could start with the 25-minute Death Billiards).

Death Parade forces two people who died to compete in a randomly chosen game, which will decide whether they get reincarnated or sent to the void.

It’s filled with tough moral choices and often involves grief and regret. But the people playing still have to quickly make their decisions.

 

36. Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen (Kaguya-sama: Love is War)

Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War Anime Screenshot

Kaguya-sama: Love is War may seem like an odd entry here if you only look at the poster. I mean, it’s just a bunch of teenagers in a school-based comedy, right?

To be fair, it is a school-based comedy — but it’s also quite ingenious in the realm of psychology.

The premise is simple:

Two of the smartest and most revered students in all of Japan are in the same school. Everyone sees them as a perfect couple, but they’re not in an actual romantic relationship.

And here’s the kicker:

Both Kaguya and Miyuki already have feelings for each other, but neither wants to confess first. It’s silly, but honor and pride are on the line. At least for them.

A-1 Pictures did a terrific job with the adaptation, and Season 2 is shaping up to be just as fantastic as S1.

 

35. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Re:zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu Anime Screenshot

With a second season on the way, one of the last decade’s biggest anime series has no signs of slowing down.

But while Re:Zero is a fine example of what White Fox can do (then again, they made Steins;Gate much earlier), the story itself is exemplary.

Instead of being another generic isekai or SAO clone, Re:Zero explores save points like in video games. No longer was it about the MC fearing death in another world.

Instead it was about dying over and over again — and trying to crawl out of this cycle.

Mix this with witnessing your dear friends repeatedly perishing as well, and it’s easy to see why Re:Zero has become one of the more popular examples of psychological anime.

 

34. FLCL

Flcl Anime Screenshot

Despite being a cult classic, the hilarious and undoubtedly unique FLCL (pronounced as “Fooly Cooly”) hasn’t garnered much attention from younger anime fans.

This was strange because two new seasons popped up in 2016 and 2018. And they first aired on the US cable network Cartoon Network (particularly in the nighttime section Adult Swim).

I have fond memories of seeing FLCL for the first time. It didn’t make sense to me back then though.

Essentially, it’s a coming-of-age series complete with exaggerated facial expressions, guitar smashing, mecha (it’s a Gainax production, after all) and easily one of the best OSTs ever.

 

33. Mononoke

Mononoke Anime Screenshot

No, I’m not referring to Princess Mononoke.

Although that and Mononoke are both immaculate anime.

This 12-episode Toei Animation project feels like the child of Gankutsuou and Mushishi. By that, I mean that it boasts a truly distinct art style and an episodic structure meant to explore the mind and the soul.

But don’t get me wrong: Mononoke isn’t peaceful to the point of being a cure to insomnia like Mushishi. It has ghost and horror elements too.

If anything, Mononoke feels like an antithesis to senseless violence. And it starts with the premise that the MC can’t start exorcising spirits unless he understands their Form, Truth, and Reason.

 

32. Texhnolyze

Texhnolyze Anime Screenshot

People say not to judge a book by its cover. But I’d also argue that first impressions are important.

In the case of Texhnolyze, its title was what made me seek it out — and I’m grateful I did.

Texhnolyze, as you may have guessed, is a stylish sci-fi psychological series.

Is it edgy? Sure, but it’s also not the type of terrible anime people have come to associate the term with.

At its core, Texhnolyze is a slow burn that should satisfy patient viewers.

The underground urbanscape is intentionally bleak — and so are the outlook of its citizens.

But as the show goes on, anger and despair take less space as themes of identity and purpose take over.

 

31. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate Anime Screenshot

Is it a crime to place the critically acclaimed Steins;Gate at the bottom half (actually, the bottom quartile) of my list? No.

Don’t get me wrong: This sci-fi thriller is a classic. But it’s also primarily strong in… well, sci-fi and thriller.

I do love how it examines the psychological consequences of time travel. Like Re:Zero, it knows how to make viewers feel the same state of utter distress the characters are in.

And as I’ve mentioned earlier, Steins;Gate put White Fox in the map — showcasing its tenacity for visuals and sound.

 

30. Tekkon Kinkreet

Tekkon Kinkreet Anime Screenshot

Tekkon Kinkreet feels like a miracle.

It doesn’t look like your average anime, and yet it got enough film funding.

Perhaps Aniplex and its co-producers saw something special with the screenplay and storyboard — and they were right.

Plus Studio 4°C once again exceeded expectations with god-tier animation.

Tekkon Kinkreet is special because it mixes slice-of-life with psychological themes, focusing on the life of two orphan boys who go through emotional highs and lows.

As much as Tekkon Kinkreet is wildly colorful, the doldrums never feel far off from its city and people.

 

29. Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass Anime Screenshot

This list wouldn’t be complete without a Gen Urobuchi creation. Since its premiere in 2012, Psycho-Pass has become a decent hit among both sci-fi and anime fans.

I love Season 1. It remains one of my all-time favorites.

The worldbuilding was impeccable, constantly creating new questions and answers.

I mean, how would you live if a machine told you how to live your life to the fullest?

Psycho-Pass introduced one of the best female protagonists in anime: Akane Tsunemori. Then you had the main protagonist Shougo Makishima, who presented philosophical and psychological obstacles to Akane and her team.

Season 2 wasn’t consistent in its themes, and the movie was so-so. But I will always be down for more Psycho-Pass just because its dystopian world and characters are too amazing to let go.

 

28. Omoide no Marnie (When Marnie Was There)

Omoide No Marnie Anime Screenshot

Is it odd to have a Studio Ghibli movie here? Heck no.

Unlike Disney movies, Studio Ghibli films have always felt less about being cute, and more about being human.

When Marie Was There is an award-winning psychological drama. It stars a young girl named Anna who has troubles socializing.

As you may expect, she temporarily moves to the countryside to help relax her mind.

But then Marnie appears from a supposedly abandoned mansion. And the two start a riveting, sweet journey of friendship and truly learning to know oneself.

 

27. Death Note

Death Note Anime Screenshot

Isn’t it amazing how psychological anime can go from kid-friendly When Marie Was There, all the way to Madhouse classic Death Note?

To be fair, this was the gateway anime for many kids back then. Even though they shouldn’t have been watching it, probably.

Death Note seemed too good to be true. Combining everything from police procedural to philosophy and psychology.

But if you remove or think of a different latter cour, then Death Note could stand as a perfect series.

The premise of a death wish-granting notebook is so simple, yet also opens up so much room to explore.

 

26. Bakemonogatari

Bakemonogatari Anime Screenshot

Informally known as Head Tilt: The Anime (along with other Shaft titles), Bakemonogatari may seem like nothing more than a showcase of style.

Yet the Monogatari franchise has always mixed weird phenomena with character examination. Yes, the ecchi elements are abundant.

But even those don’t feel out of character.

Bakemonogatari, during its peak moments, is a mature take on romance.

The relationship between Araragi and Senjougahara is palpable — and it’s amazing how the anime builds this from Episode 1.

 

25. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)

Zankyou No Terror Anime Screenshot

Zankyou no Terror won’t ever have the critical acclaim that Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo has. But that doesn’t mean I love this Watanabe project any less.

The anime is drenched in ambitious storytelling, complete with cinematic visuals and an outstanding OST from the legendary Yoko Kanno.

Understandably, not everyone loved the voice acting of one certain character.

Some also questioned the approach the main characters took in telling their message.

But in the end, Terror in Resonance remains a masterwork of animation of troubled teens and complex global politics.

 

24. Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED)

Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (Erased) Anime Screenshot

A-1 Pictures started 2016 strong with a complete adaptation of ERASED, a sci-fi anime that also had the cinematic grace of Zankyou no Terror.

The thriller and mystery moments sometimes feel heavy-handed or typical. But the anime excels in other aspects.

In particular, I love the focus on childhood friendship and domestic abuse. The latter is a deeply troubling and real issue, but ERASED handles it well.

The moments between Kayo Hinazuki and Satoru Fujinuma are precious. And I was brought to tears with the development of Kayo.

 

23. Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland)

Yakusoku No Neverland Anime Screenshot

A second season is on the horizon — and the author of the source material has already confirmed the finale!

Like Shingeki no Kyojin and ERASED, The Promised Neverland had a masterful first episode that quickly went from 0 to 100.

And just like those series, it featured young people who had to face the harsh reality all too soon.

The Promised Neverland is dark. But it’s also a testament to the idealism and tenacity of the youth.

Combine these with a mysterious world where some people are grown to be nothing more than feed for monsters, and it’s easy to see why the MCs always have to battle their inner selves, wondering if it’s still worth the fight.

 

22. Ping Pong the Animation

Ping Pong The Animation Anime Screenshot

While sports anime is mostly associated with shounen, some succeed as psychological anime.

And in the hands of auteur Masaaki Yuasa, Ping Pong the Animation was destined to be a modern classic.

Released in the same year as Zankyou no Terror, Ping Pong the Animation had only 11 episodes to tell the story of Makoto Tsukimoto, Yutaka Hoshino, Wenge Kong, and Ryuuichi Kazama.

Still, the anime succeeded.

In that short span, viewers understood why the characters behaved the way they did — and how they could change for the better.

 

21. Paprika

Paprika Anime Screenshot

Paprika is special for many reasons.

For one, it’s the last film of the late Satoshi Kon, one of the modern master filmmakers of the anime industry.

Second, the sci-fi film is often part of the discussion on Christopher Nolan’s beloved Inception. After all, Paprika is concerned with dreams and how these reflect people’s desires, motivations, and inhibitions.

Third, Paprika is crazy good with its trippy visuals and score… as if the engrossing story wasn’t enough to capture critical acclaim.

 

20. Ergo Proxy

Ergo Proxy Anime Screenshot

Like Texhnolyze, Ergo Proxy was a series that caught my attention because of its look.

But apart from its title, the many sleek GIFs featuring Re-l Mayer also contributed to my intrigue.

Yet the series was far from what I expected.

Ergo Proxy was no cringeworthy edgy anime. It does feel overly ambitious at times (given its dystopian setting and mystery), but I honestly admire it for taking risks. Even if many raise their eyebrows.

It’s a bleak, post-apocalyptic series. But hope is never gone.

Ergo Proxy doesn’t have easily recognizable moments of character development, but they’re there — subtle and rewarding to those who finish it.

 

19. Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World (Kino’s Journey)

Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World Anime Screenshot

How can a wandering teenage guy and his talking motorcycle beat so many other acclaimed titles?

Well, that’s the magic of Kino’s Journey — it’s an episodic masterpiece offering a multitude of both social and psychological themes.

Rather than radical change or overthrowing a totalitarian regime, Kino’s Journey is more about cultural relativism.

It’s about seeing other people’s way of life through their eyes rather than one’s own.

It is certainly a psychological treasure chest, because it challenges viewers to understand rather than recklessly persuade and convince others.

Moreover, Kino’s Journey seamlessly illustrates how the larger systems governing human societies shape how they think and value things.

 

18. Yuri Kuma Arashi (Yuri Bear Storm)

Yuri Kuma Arashi Anime Screenshot

My friends and I referred to this as Lesbian Bear Storm because… well, that’s one of its actual translations.

Like other Kunihiko Ikuhara projects, Yuri Kuma Arashi takes pride in its symbolism.

But you don’t need to pause every frame and look at all the small details to appreciate the show (although doing so is truly rewarding).

Granted, I won’t recommend this for casual viewing with friends. Or when you want something playing in the background.

Why?

Simply because Ikuhara and his team deserve respect for the imaginative world they’ve built. It’s powerful when it needs to be. And it manages to deal with big social issues related to how we think and feel about other people.

If this odd series succeeds in making a viewer realize their own discriminatory beliefs through symbolic imagery, then it’s worth recommending to as many people as possible.

 

17. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Anime Screenshot

I grew up watching both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura on local television.

Thus, the impact of Gen Urobochi’s take on magical girl shows is huge on me. I don’t want to ruin the series by giving away spoilers. Especially since you already know it has psychological themes.

But take my word for it when I say that this 12-episode Shaft series is outstanding.

It garners top marks for its animation, character design, score, story, and themes.

Those who finish it should definitely watch the sequel movie Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion.

 

16. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)

Kiseijuu: Sei No Kakuritsu Anime Screenshot

Initially I thought of Parasyte as nothing more than an edgy Madhouse title.

Okay, there’s a hand that can turn into a deadly weapon. So what?

Well I was wrong.

Parasyte is more than blood and violence (although the action scenes can be amazing). Migi is more than a shapeshifting, invasive alien.

By the latter half, I was enthralled. Shinichi Izumi’s character development is amazing.

Ryouko Tamiya’s arc nearly brought me to tears.

Parasyte challenges its characters to evaluate their way of thinking, asking them what they’re willing to sacrifice for their lofty goals… all the while introducing philosophical concepts like the meaning of life and the role of humanity in the universe.

 

15. Rebuild of Evangelion

Rebuild Of Evangelion Anime Screenshot

Will fans ever see the final entry of the four-film Rebuild of Evangelion project?

Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time was supposed to be in June 2020, but that’s been delayed (and it’s been delayed since 2015).

Still, even without the fourth film, Rebuild of Evangelion is already a groundbreaking work from the legendary Hideaki Anno and his studio Khara, Inc.

The movies all introduce new characters, settings, and situations (and a new ending).

But it remains true to what made the original appealing:

Its colossal mecha fights and symbolisms were always accompanied by rich character studies and themes of mental health and inner struggles, with Anno mentioning Jungian concepts and scholars adding Freud to the discussion as well.

 

14. Mind Game

Mind Game Anime Screenshot

I wonder how the judges felt back then watching this film, not really knowing who Masaaki Yuasa is — because this was his debut film.

Even then, his innate skill for trippy storytelling was apparent.

Mind Game earned accolades in 2004 and 2005, including Best Film and Best Director at the Mainichi Film Awards.

Animated by the like-minded visionaries of Studio 4°C, Mind Game is a surreal take on encouraging one to live life to the fullest.

I mean, it involves the MC dying at the hands of the yakuza who attempted to rape his love back in high school. It goes deep.

And then our MC gets reincarnated and starts a wild journey of taking hold of his life and not looking back.

 

13. Kaiba

Kaiba Anime Screenshot

Kaiba was the recipient of the Excellence Prize for Animation at the 2008 Japan Media Arts Festival.

It was a well-deserved award, not only because Madhouse knocked it out of the park, but also because Kaiba proved that original anime can be worth the investment.

In Kaiba, people can store their memories outside their bodies. As if memories were just another digital file.

This allows them to live forever.

But like any file, these externally stored memories can be modified. And if your memory isn’t true, are you still the same person?

Is a person nothing more than their brain?

Kaiba offers a way for viewers to explore what identity means for them, of how they can discover their “true self” (if they believe that exists).

Simply put, it’s a celebration of moments and memories, and life itself.

 

12. Mousou Dairinin (Paranoia Agent)

Mousou Dairinin Anime Screenshot

This is another Satoshi Kon anime, so the blend of mind-bending intrigue and visionary directing is once again observable.

But this isn’t a feature-length movie like Paprika.

It’s a 13-episode Madhouse series that involves a bat, a boy on rollerblades, and the spread of rumors (or should I say paranoia) among terrified citizens.

Many viewers didn’t like the supposedly unrelated stories in some episodes. But I love the eerie world of Paranoia Agent and how it examines not only collective unease, but also violence, anger, and how mass media shapes perception and truth.

 

11. NHK ni Youkoso! (Welcome to the NHK)

Nhk Ni Youkoso! Anime Screenshot

I’m eternally grateful for Studio Gonzo for pushing on with Welcome to the NHK, a heartfelt study on existential crises and mental health issues like addiction, depression, suicide (or suicidal ideation, at least), and failures/regrets in life.

Yet despite the many serious themes it tackles, NHK ni Youkoso! never felt like its characters were made to lead to their discussions.

In contrast, Tatsuhiro and others are fleshed out individuals who bring about these issues through realistic conversations and situations.

This is an important series, one that even non-anime fans should try.

 

10. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy) + The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei + The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl Anime Screenshot

Now this isn’t my favorite Masaaki Yuasa series. But it’s one that excels in its psychological aspects — and it’s refreshingly structured (although it may not be that new if you’ve seen Groundhog Day).

The award-winning The Tatami Galaxy is only 11 episodes long.

But it’s packed with gorgeous animation and incomparable storytelling.

Like any human being, the MC has regrets in life. And so the anime takes him in parallel universes every episode, presenting his many “what-ifs”.

Will he find that one life decision that won’t make him feel regret?

Or is every path, as different as they may seem, leading to the same end?

Once you’re done with the series definitely check out Yuasa’s 2017 film The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, which has the same university setting and even some characters.

 

9. Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain Anime Screenshot

Have you ever listened to the opening theme here?

It’s one of the all-time bests. An English song that perfectly sets the entire mood of this psychological, supernatural, mystery classic from 1998.

If Serial Experiments Lain makes you think of Texhnolyze, that’s no coincidence: both series were written by the same guy, Chiaki J. Konaka.

I’d argue that it’s one of the most important anime of the past century. Even though its popularity isn’t as huge as Cowboy Bebop or Dragon Ball Z (or my top pick).

Starring the introverted Lain Iwakura, Serial Experiments Lain is a big mystery. Set in a world where tech permeates Japanese daily life but doesn’t help eliminate issues like identity crises, familial neglect, social ineptitude, and mental illness.

If you feel nothing makes sense at first, keep watching. The dots will eventually appear for you to trace.

 

8. Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feather Federation)

Charcoal Feather Federation Anime Screenshot

Despite featuring characters with halos and wings, this isn’t about the Christian view of heaven, nor is it about religion.

So what is Haibane Renmei?

Think of it as slice-of-life with clever introspection thrown in.

Here, viewers follow Rakka as she learns the ways of Haibane.

Along the way Rakka better understands identity, and the same goes for viewers, who all have questions about themselves and have always wanted to deal with regret, envy, and repentance, among others.

Sometimes dreamy, sometimes depressing, Haibane Renmei will leave different impressions on different people.

 

7. Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)

Shinsekai Yori Anime Screenshot

Admittedly, it’s difficult to make people watch Shinsekai Yori.

Its source material, a thick novel of the same name, is available in three separate volumes.

The 25-episode A-1 Pictures adaptation isn’t exactly “exciting” either if you’re used to seeing anime kids duke it out in large-scale supernatural battles.

But Shinsekai Yori is an ultimately rewarding watch, with a world so rich that it’s like the main character is the world.

The anime features a futuristic Japan where some people have psychokinesis.

Like any seemingly utopian setting, you just know that something dark is lurking underneath it all.

Shinsekai Yori genuinely succeeds as horror in certain, utterly cruel yet human moments.

But it’s also a journey of growing up and establishing or discovering one’s self-identity.

 

6. Mawaru Penguindrum (Spinning Penguindrum)

Mawaru Penguindrum Anime Screenshot

Kunihiko Ikuhara’s top entry on my list is none other than his stellar and unabashedly strange Mawaru Penguindrum.

Released in Summer 2011 (a time when Usagi Drop and Natsume’s Book of Friends were also airing), the 24-episode Brain’s Base production has become a cult classic.

Still, it’s not weird for the sake of being weird.

Mawaru Penguindrum is a consciously messy exploration of its characters, their motivations, and a commentary on the emotional troubles of Japanese youth.

 

5. Mushishi

Mushishi Anime Screenshot

I love Mushishi. And I will always find the time to recommend it to anyone.

But I’d especially recommend this to people who want to relax while also reflecting on their life.

Mushishi is about a well-mannered researcher named Ginko who wants to better understand fascinating entities called mushi.

Granted, Mushishi has a lot more going for it in the philosophy department.

But its psychological value is hard to come by; especially when it illustrates the different psychological states of humans under the influence of mushi.

And as much as Mushishi feels like a palette cleanser for the viewer’s weary mind, the series itself is filled with conflicting viewpoints on how to resolve issues.

One could say it’s a psychological battle in itself.

 

4. Koukaku Kidoutai (Ghost in the Shell)

Ghost In The Shell Anime Screenshot

I’m not at all interested in the upcoming second season of SAC_2045 (that’s being promoted by Netflix).

And that’s okay.

The Ghost in the Shell franchise isn’t perfect. But the good parts significantly outweigh the bad.

You can’t go wrong with the iconic 1995 film or both seasons of Stand Alone Complex.

Think of The Matrix: it changed Hollywood forever with its blend of sci-fi, philosophy, and psychological concepts of the unconscious and the self. Yet that film wouldn’t even be what it is without Ghost in the Shell.

Identity formation is an essential aspect of the franchise’s most notable entries. And it presents viewers a peek at the psychological effects of living in a highly technological dystopia where boundaries between man and machine become blurry.

 

3. Monster

Monster Anime Screenshot

Monster is a series people will likely recommend if you say you liked Ghost in the Shell or Psycho-Pass.

Why?

Well, Monster also involves investigating crimes — and also well-designed antagonists who have convincing moral inclinations. It’s satisfying to see the good guys deal with morally complex issues and face their own biases and prejudices.

Life isn’t black and white, and Monster embraces this fact.

Likewise, Monster is 74 episodes long. So it has more than enough material to haunt and mystify viewers.

 

2. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue Anime Screenshot

As the top standalone film in my list, Perfect Blue represents the storytelling prowess of anime.

It baffles me that this was Satoshi Kon’s first film.

Perfect Blue debuted back in 1997 at the Fant-Asia Film Festival in Montreal, winning Best Asian Film and Best Animation Film. More than two decades later, and the film hasn’t lost its socio-cultural relevance.

The way this film tackles issues of the male gaze, objectification, exploitation, and the commodification of the female body is simply genius.

And in today’s world filled with idol groups (both men and women) vying for attention online and offline, one can’t help but think back to Perfect Blue. Of Mima Kirigoe’s internal struggles, of seeking one’s value and identity in a world of glamor and artificiality.

No other anime film represents the psychological thriller genre as Perfect Blue.

And I’m glad that critics and scholars continue to examine its impact and symbolism today.

 

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion / Evangelion: The End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion / Evangelion: The End Of Evangelion Anime Screenshot

Some call it pretentious, others say it’s a masterpiece filled with religious iconography, or a deconstruction of the mecha genre and the greatest contribution of Gainax.

Even if I never uncover the truth of why Evangelion is the way it is, the franchise will forever be popular. Especially now that it’s on Netflix.

If you didn’t like NGE with your first watch, try viewing it again after a few years.

It’s like Bladerunner — a flawed sci-fi masterpiece that warrants repeat viewings because it always has something new to offer.

Together with the iconic movie sequel The End of Evangelion, the 26-episode series will take you through paranoia, existential crises, teen anxieties, familial burdens, and angels that don’t look like typical angels.

It’s amazing that NGE created lasting anime archetypes. In fact, many shows today feature characters inspired by the quirks and personalities of Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and Kaworu.

You don’t have to prioritize NGE, but you should pay close attention once you do decide to watch it (assuming you haven’t already).

It’s not by luck that the franchise has had a lasting legacy even outside Japan for nearly 25 years.

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