Anime is one of the most successful forms of visual entertainment globally. Fans flock to series with beautiful animations and uniquely designed characters every season upon new releases. There are many genres of anime for fans to browse, from romance to horror and Moe to Shonen, but anime does not always adhere to the recognizable art styles that fans have come to expect.
While, for a time, there were many styles that were used to make up anime, there has been a certain level of quality that all shows now maintain. However, there are still some anime that go the extra mile and do something risky, using an unconventional art style to make the series stand out and possibly add to the depth. Here are some anime with the most unique art styles.
Updated on September 8, 2022, by C.M Edwards: Art is a tool that makes anime stand out amongst a sea of creations. Each anime brings something unique to the table, whether it be character elements or a unique perspective, but a unique art style engages fans on a level like no other. While a very unique art style is a rare occurrence amongst releases with every anime season, sometimes hidden gems appear and are greatly enjoyed by fans all over the world. In addition, some series have received more content in the form of a second season. Revitalizing a fan favorite series can extend the legacy of shows who decided to try something different and create something truly special.
NANA is a romance anime created by Ai Yazawa and animated by Madhouse, and available to watch on Hulu. The story follows two young girls on their journey to discover themselves, figure out life’s struggles, and deal with the trials and tribulations of finding love. The story is beautifully told in a very loosely detailed art style with vibrant colors and masking for incredible-looking textures.
Depending on the characters present, NANA can look very muted and flat or incredibly vibrant to complement the two sides of the story. The anime mimics the manga appropriately as the original art for the characters had a very kawaii-influenced style.
12 One Piece
One Piece is a juggernaut series that has spanned over one-thousand episodes since its initial release. The series was created by Eiichiro Oda and has been honored as one of the greatest anime series of all time. Aside from its spectacular characters and action, One Piece shines because of its art style, which is vastly different from most mainstream anime.
Many modern series portray very grounded visuals based on reality. However, One Piece is a vibrant and eccentric show with unique designs of characters and vivid colors that explode off the screen. One Piece can be watched on Crunchyroll and Netflix.
11 Mob Psycho
As a series with a unique art style, Mob Psycho needs no introduction. The radical animation scenes that have come from this series will go down as some of the best to be created. Mob Psycho was created by the manga artist ONE and was animated by the Bones animation studio. The series has recently received a second season that has premiered on Crunchyroll.
Mob Psycho has a very rugged and over-exaggerated art style that adds impact to its characters and sequences. The fight scenes alone are comparable to other anime such as Demon Slayer and Blood Blockade Battlefront. Recently, Mob Psycho has received a continuation of its story from the original creators.
10 Kill La Kill
Kill La Kill was a wild series that burst on the scene with highly energetic characters and high-octane action. Paired with this was an incredibly unique animation style that fit the series perfectly. The art style of Kill La Kill is a mix of grounded yet flamboyant and playful sequences that catch viewers’ eyes with spectacular and sometimes wacky motions.
Kill La Kill was created by Trigger animation studio and headed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, known for his distinctive style and for notable works for Gurren Lagann and the highly acclaimed Star Wars visions. Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Hulu all have Kill La Kill available for streaming with a subscription.
9 Panty And Stocking
Panty and Stocking debuted ten years ago with a flashy and comical animation style. The series was spearheaded by many artists that worked on Gurren Lagan, including Hiroyuki Imaishi as a part of the Gainax animation studio. The series was a mix of adult innuendos and high-speed action. The creation of the show was thought up after an evening of heavy drinking after a celebration of the studio’s success.
Many members of the visual team sight western animation, Drawn Together, as inspiration. Panty and Stocking garnered a lot of popularity because of its flashy character designs and vibrant colors that filled every scene. Panty and Stocking is available to watch on Crunchyroll.
8 Devilman: Crybaby
The Devilman franchise has a long legacy, having been created in the late 1970s by Go Nagai, best known for the mecha classic Mazinger Z and Violence Jack. Devilman: Crybaby is an original series directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Ping Pong the Animation) and written by Ichirō Ōkouchi (Code Geass).
Devilman: Crybaby was essentially a reboot of the original anime that debuted on Netflix and met wide success for its intense story and dazzling art. Masaaki is known and celebrated for his directorial vision as well as his extravagant art vision. This is blatantly present throughout the Devilman: Crybaby series and fits like a glove around the new direction the anime goes.
Katanagatari is a creation of Nisio Isin, also the creator of Monogatari. The series follows the young swordsman Yasuri, who practices a unique style of swordsmanship while living in exile. He is contracted by the attractive strategist, Togame, who wishes to retrieve a set of legendary weapons with his help. To do so, Yasuri must face the wielders of these weapons and take on others after the same goal. Katanagatari is an action-packed series that also wields a unique art style with opposing colors and extravagant character designs.
6 Gankutsuou: The Count Of Monte Cristo
Not many series go to such lengths to make something as unique as Gankotsuou, an adaptation of the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo. The series was produced by Gonzo and written and directed by Shoichi Kouyama and Mahiro Maeda.
While initially based on the story The Stars of My Destination, by Alfred Bester, because of litigation problems, the series was instead taken in another direction. The series itself was produced beautifully, having a mix of several visual effects, including 3D rendering, before it became so popular.
5 Afro Samurai
Afro Samurai is a series created by Tokashi Okazaki and animated by Studio Gonzo. The series itself was a visceral and bloody action epic that took place in a world ruled by combat where the strongest were awarded headbands by number.
The story followed Afro, the toughest samurai who dawned the number-one headband. Afro Samurai gained a fair amount of popularity for its urban cultural themes and talented creation in both voice casting, action, and story. Afro Samurai is filled with a deep, flat tone that amplifies the grit and carnage of the series’ action.
xxxHolic was a very popular anime upon its release in the early 2000s. The series adopted a very apparent gothic theme that echoed throughout the series in droves which attracted a cult following. xxxHolic was created by the manga author and illustrator group Clamp, well known for their series Tokyo Babylon and X.
The series was animated by the studio Production I.G and was instantly recognized for its unique art and themes. xxxHolic took viewers by storm with victorian style clothing, dark and dismal images, and defined facial expressions.
3 Angels Egg
Angels Egg is not only a uniquely animated film but a fascinating story sure to wow viewers. Angels Egg was written by Mamoru Oshii, known for his work with Patalabor and Beautiful Dreamer, and respected for his philosophical way of storytelling. Angels Egg is highly praised as one of the writer’s best, even though the film’s release was less than ideal.
Angels Egg takes place in a dismal post-apocalyptic world where a young girl tries to survive in an abandoned city. With her, she carries an egg of mysterious origin. The journey this young girl embarks on after encountering a strange young boy will blow fans away, leaving them with more questions than answers, which is seemingly the point of the film.
Mononoke probably has one of the most unique art styles on this list, written by several prolific Japanese writers, including Chiaki Konaka, known for the Air Gear and the Hellsing anime. Mononoke follows a character known as the medicine seller, Kusuriuri. However, this title is misleading as he is actually a hunter of dangerous evil spirits called “Mononoke”.
While wandering in the time of feudal Japan, Kusuriuri happens upon a pregnant woman haunted by a band of evil spirits. Kusuriuri must investigate the source of the spirits and do so quickly in order to save the woman’s life. Visually, Mononoke is a masterpiece of color and design that will leave viewers in awe of its quality.
1 The Tale Of Princess Kaguya
Created and Directed by the great Isao Takahata, formerly of Studio Ghibli and writer for Grave of the Fireflies and Kiki’s Delivery Service. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is loosely based on the novel The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, with the story following a young girl who is found by a local bamboo cutter thought to be a princess sent down to heaven.
Highly acclaimed as one of Takahata’s best works, the story shines as an in-depth story about responsibility, parenthood, and, most notably, the rights of women within the community. The tale of princess Kaguya is a masterfully told story with strong visuals in a melancholy, almost oil painting style of delivery.