There’s something incredibly special about animation; in that the universes that are created are crafted entirely from scratch. Every expression, colour and background detail is put in by someone, so when unique choices are made, the art really stands out. I really love watching animators get creative with their work, so in this post, I’ve listed 5 anime with visually stunning art styles that I feel really helped to elevate the stories presented. If you’re someone who cares about the art in anime, these are for you.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
PMMM is a truly iconic dark fantasy anime about a group of girls who obtain magical powers to fight evil witches in exchange for any wish they desire. As the girls delve deeper into the world of the witches, they begin to uncover the dangerous consequences of their choice.
Given the magical girl and action elements PMMM combines, a unique and vibrant visual identity really complements this show. The studio also managed to incorporate dark colours with high contrast into the backgrounds, giving visual clues that the magical world isn’t as wonderful as it seems. They get really creative with these backgrounds and the designs of the witches. The transformation sequences are also really great!
San Gatsu no Lion
San Gatsu no Lion is a coming of age story about Rei Kiriyama, an orphaned professional shogi player as he grapples with his relationships and profession. As we follow his story, we meet different people who play different roles in his life and learn about his feelings towards these people who shape his life.
One of San Gatsu’s greatest strengths lies in its visual storytelling, and its use in the illustration of the main character’s feelings and mental state. When he is surrounded by those he loves, the show uses soft lines and warm colours. In moments of despair, dark colours envelope him and harsh lines drown him. It’s simply phenomenal how these stunning visuals capture the beauty of love and loss; happiness and despair.
Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 follows the titular ‘Mob’ who is a powerful psychic, unbeknownst to most around him. Despite his immense power, Mob tries to live a normal life but is dragged into encounters with the supernatural by the local sexy conman. Through these interactions he goes through a journey of self-discovery and defines his own life values for himself.
What I love about Mob Psycho 100 is how quickly and often the art style changes up. In points of high intensity, Mob Psycho 100 makes use of this highly stylized, unique art style with bold strokes and fluid animation. For comedy, the art shifts to simpler, plain drawings more akin to the original comic. It really feels like the animators had a lot of fun with this one!
Mononoke is a collection of short tales about a mysterious medicine seller and the horrific spirits he encounters. Set in feudal Japan, the wandering medicine seller seeks to banish the malevolent supernatural mononoke but must first investigate and unravel their mysteries.
The art style of mononoke really helps to create the unsettling atmosphere that the anime goes for. It mimics the Ukiyo-e genre of Japanese art, which ties in nicely with the setting of the stories. What’s more, the colours and textures are reminiscent of traditional washi paper, which honestly is a stroke of genius. Mononoke is truly one of a kind!
Totsukuni no Shoujo
Totsukuni no Shoujo follows a little girl names Shiva as she encounters a creature named ‘Teacher’. In her world, humans who are touched by the outside world are cursed to turn into beasts. The anime, at this point, is just a 10 minute short film but there’s a proper adaptation in the works!
If there’s one word I would use to describe the art (and story) of this anime, it would be enchanting. I absolutely adore the fairytale-esque art style of Totsukuni no Shoujo. As you can see, it uses these beautiful water colour-like textures to create this dark and ethereal world. It feels like an old British children’s story come to life.
Whether you’re a long-time anime fan or just getting started, these series are sure to impress with their stunning visuals and unforgettable designs! Which anime would you recommend for its art style?