The 10 Most Experimental Animes

Jun 04, 2023

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

Anime – and, by extension, all forms of animation – can express itself and experiment with visual storytelling in ways other mediums can only dream of. It is more common than one might expect to see anime that pushes the boundaries of animation and expectations, but only the truly unique ones stand out.

As a result, not all experimental anime were appreciated by viewers. Some of them were hated when they aired. In many cases, these anime had to wait years before they were given the respect they deserved. These anime may have been too ahead of their time, but their creative risks paid off because they’ve since become timeless works of art.

10 His & Her Circumstances

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

A lot of anime on this list are experimental, but His and Her Circumstances had no choice but to do so. Director Hideaki Anno and mangaka Masami Tsuda had such intense creative differences that they stormed out midway through production. From leftovers and notes, the animators crafted the anime's second half.

As a result of its paper doodles, manga scans, internal monologues, and voiceovers, His and Her Circumstances became a reflective reflection of itself as a romantic-comedy anime. The anime's experiments were born out of necessity more than anything else, but they certainly left an impression.

9 The Flowers Of Evil

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

Shuzo Oshimi's The Flowers of Evil (or Aku no Hana) had a distinct style that toed the line between realism and heightened features. As a result, the manga gained an uncanny feel that enhanced the dark and disturbing story of adolescence. The anime by Studio Zexcs, on the other hand, emphasized photorealism entirely.

The Flowers of Evil looked and felt more tense and uncanny than the manga already did, but not always for the reasons Nagahama intended.

8 Devilman Crybaby

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

It was expected of fans that Devilman would be a straightforward gorefest in its previous adaptations. In contrast, its 2018 remake was a surreal nightmare. The experimental style was typical of Science SARU and director Masaaki Yuasa, but Devilman was the last thing people expected.

In Devilman Crybaby, darkness and madness are captured through wild visuals that don't follow anime's unspoken rules. Demon transformations were more terrifying than usual, and massacres were deliberately over the top. Devilman Crybaby's experimental look took viewers a while to accept.

7 Chainsaw Man

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

One of Toshiki Fujimoto's most famous mangas was Chainsaw Man, which exhibited his love of cinema. As a result, MAPPA went out of its way to maintain Fujimoto's vision intact for the anime, making it one of the most cinematic anime releases in the 2020s. His designs and paneling were inspired more by movies than other manga.

MAPPA experimented with the ending songs and sequences for each episode of Chainsaw Man, eschewing anime's usual visual language in favor of looking more like a film adaptation of the manga. In the end, Chainsaw Man actually split viewers, but its creative ambition cannot be denied.

6 Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

The cartoon Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt looks like an Adult Swim cartoon at first glance. Gainax and director Hiroyuki Imaishi wanted to make a show that resembled American cartoons rather than anime, so this was an intentional decision. This mindset was also evident in the humor, which was incredibly vulgar and crass.

The anime looked and sounded nothing like Gainax's previous works or any other anime, for that matter. The characters swore heavily in English, a sneaky way to get foul language past Japanese censors. The film failed in Japan, but found a dedicated fanbase abroad.

5 Pop Team Epic

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

The format of Pop Team Epic, which was a sketch comedy, and King Records' seemingly limitless budget allowed it to experiment whenever it could. The anime even changed mediums just to make a joke, making one skit appear to be a respectable adaptation of Bkub Okawa's manga, only for the next to be designed by mecha genius Masami Obari.

In some cases, Pop Team Epic jokes used new animation styles, while others used felt dolls or mascots. The anime's most extreme gag was live-action sequences starring the real-life actor Shota Aoi. In the series' second season finale, Aoi and other actors appeared in a full-blown tokusatsu episode with Popuko's and Pipimi's countless designs.

4 Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

Each episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi was completely different from the one before it. There were the same characters in every episode, but each episode had its own genre and style. This wasn't a parodic gimmick, it was an integral part of the anime's message and story.

Gainax's experimental animation and storytelling were used to explore the limits and potential of boyish escapism. It is unfortunate that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is largely forgotten because it is one of the most bizarre and unique slice-of-life animes ever produced.

3 The Monogatari Series

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

Despite being ostensibly a harem anime, Bakemonogatari and its follow-ups were the most literal adaptations a light novel could have had. Monogatari ditched the genre's conventions and usual excesses in favor of a minimalist aesthetic. In order to emphasize emotions, characters often launched literary monologues, and the anime flashed words and passages.

As the culmination of studio Shaft's experimental style, Monogatari is easily their best and most famous work to date. This unconventional romance anime's vision was so rich, you couldn't take in every detail all at once. Monogatari is one of the most influential experimental anime shows ever made, and it continues to be referenced by countless other shows today.

2 Revolutionary Girl Utena

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

In spite of its ostensible shojo fantasy, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a surreal interpretation. In addition to his experimental animation and backgrounds in Utena, Ikuhara's subversive take on shojo fiction and gender identities made him a surrealist director.

The movie finale, Adolescence of Utena, took the experimental nature up further by being a complete surrealist fantasy with more abstraction than plot. Utena's influence can still be felt in modern shojo anime, including the latest Mobile Suit Gundam series.

1 Neon Genesis Evangelion

The 10 Most Experimental Animes

However, Neon Genesis Evangelion is undeniably the best known and respected experimental anime of all time. The anime started as a dark, but otherwise familiar mecha story before gradually transforming into a surreal psychoanalysis of shonen anime and series creator Hideaki Anno's mind.

Evangelion became more experimental as its finale neared, thanks to budget restrictions and Anno's emotional state. The movies went further by defying any expectations fans had of the series and anime itself. Evangelion is now widely respected and mainstream experimental fiction.

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