Many of the top anime series are inspired by popular manga, but did you know that some of the best anime have no connection to manga at all? In fact, some of them even got a manga adaptation after their release or during production! It’s amazing how many shows were originally conceived as anime or adaptations of light novels.
Here, we have gathered a list of the absolute best non-manga-based anime that you absolutely need to add to your watchlist. From beloved classics that you’ve probably rewatched countless times to hidden gems that may have flown under your radar, this list has it all. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised as you discover your next favorite show! So, without further ado, let’s dive into the exciting world of original anime series.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is widely regarded as one of the best anime ever created, and it might surprise you to learn that the story is completely original. The anime consists of 26 episodes that take place in the year 2071. At first glance, it may seem like a typical show about a crew of bounty hunters on the Bebop spaceship, but in reality, it delves into deep philosophical themes such as ennui and existentialism.
2. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is a must-watch anime series that will definitely tug at your heartstrings. With its stunning animation and art, courtesy of the renowned Kyoto Animation studio, be prepared to shed some tears as you delve into its beautiful story.
The series revolves around the central character, Violet Evergarden, who was once a child soldier and now finds herself trying to adjust back into society after the war. As she embarks on this journey of reintegration, she finds herself becoming a ghostwriter, assisting various individuals in expressing their true emotions through heartfelt letters.
Through these encounters, Violet not only helps others but also begins to uncover and process her own suppressed feelings from her time in the war. It is a tale of healing and self-discovery that will captivate viewers from start to finish.
3. Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo, aired in 2004, consists of 26 episodes. This unique series takes place in an alternative version of the Edo era, infused with the unexpected addition of hip hop. Yes, you heard it right. It shares some similarities with Cowboy Bebop, as both are highly regarded originals known for their thrilling action. The narrative kicks off as Fuu, a woman facing mistreatment from a samurai, is rescued by Mugen and Jin. However, their subsequent clash leads to unintended consequences, resulting in trouble when they unintentionally cause the death of the magistrate’s son.
After being rescued by Fuu, the trio embarks on a journey together in search of “the samurai that smells of sunflowers.”
4. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Code Geass takes place in a different timeline from our own, where a prince gains an extraordinary ability called Geass. He decides to utilize this power to bring down the oppressive Holy Brittanian Empire, which holds immense control. Interestingly, the anime was the first form in which the story was presented, later expanding into light novels and manga.
Psycho-Pass is set in a dystopian society where surveillance is constant, giving off some serious Big Brother vibes. Interestingly, the Psycho-Pass manga was released just under a month after the anime premiered, and shortly after that, the light novel series kicked off. The narrative primarily revolves around the Criminal Investigation Division of the Public Safety Bureau, with Akane and Shinya taking on the lead roles.
If you’re into movies like Minority Report and Blade Runner, you’ll definitely find Psycho-Pass reminiscent of them.
6. Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann, which first aired in 2007, has become a beloved classic among anime enthusiasts. The plot revolves around two teenagers residing in an underground village, driven by their desire to reach the surface. In their quest, they utilize a Lagann, a mecha unique to this story, and unwittingly find themselves embroiled in a colossal conflict.
7. Death Parade
Death Parade isn’t actually adapted from a manga, but it did draw inspiration from a short film called Death Billiards. The whole idea behind this anime is pretty straightforward: once you kick the bucket, you end up in one of these strange bars managed by arbiters who also double as bartenders. In these bars, you’re required to participate in a Death Game that sheds light on your predicament.
Basically, the outcome of your Death Game holds the key to figuring out what lies ahead for you in the afterlife.
8. Angel Beats!
Angel Beats! is widely recognized as one of the most heart-wrenching anime series ever created. At first glance, it may seem like your typical supernatural school anime, with a group of deceased students battling against the student council president. However, as the story unfolds, a poignant twist emerges. Gradually, the students regain their memories of their past lives and find solace in moving on. But the truth behind their predicament turns out to be even more devastating than initially presumed.
9. Kill la Kill
This anime might sound a bit strange at first, but trust me, it’s actually pretty popular. Oh, and guess what? It’s made by the same creators who brought us Gurren Lagann. So, let’s dive into the world of Kill la Kill.
The story revolves around our protagonist, Ryuko, who’s just an ordinary student trying to uncover the truth behind her father’s murder. But things take an unexpected turn when she finds herself constantly clashing with the student council president.
Now, don’t let Ryuko’s seemingly helpless situation fool you. She’s got some tricks up her sleeve. First off, she wields a badass sword that can slice through school uniforms. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s a bigger deal than you might think. And as if that wasn’t enough, she also has a sentient school uniform that literally feeds off of her. Interesting, right?
So, get ready for a thrilling and unique anime experience with Kill la Kill. It may sound weird, but that’s part of its charm. Trust me, there’s a reason why it’s so popular.
Durarara!! is actually not your typical manga-based adaptation. Instead, it draws its inspiration from a series of light novels. Set in the vibrant Ikebukuro, the story revolves around a diverse group of characters and their intertwined lives. What makes it intriguing is its emphasis on the ripple effect within a bustling city, where the actions of individuals or even gangs can have far-reaching consequences for others.
11. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion has a manga, but here’s the thing – it’s actually based on the anime, not the other way around. Yeah, you heard that right. The manga came out in the ’90s, but the idea for the anime came first. The clever publishers thought it would be a good way to drum up excitement for the show by using the manga format.
So, what’s the show all about, you ask? Well, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2015, and it follows the story of a young boy. This kid ends up becoming a pilot of this super cool bio-machine called Evangelion. But here’s the kicker – this ain’t your typical mecha anime. Nope. It goes way beyond that. This show tackles some seriously deep stuff about life and existence. It’s like a philosophical journey wrapped in a mecha package.