[Description]: Generally speaking, the fantasy genre is about strange and imaginative settings full of magic and otherworldly beings. This can range from high to low fantasy – some shows featuring entire worlds that have their own set of rules and histories while others merely augment our own reality with the strange and the supernatural. These kinds of shows often place a focal emphasis on the fantastic environments within which their story unfolds and their characters exist. Magical abilities, spirits, mythological creatures, and outlandish world concepts are all pretty common elements of the genre. Links to spoiler-free reviews of all of the shows that have them are included.
Episode Count: 24 Episodes (22-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Daume; 2010
Details: Featuring some of the most bizarre character designs in all of anime, Shiki is a vampire horror about the fallout of a small village after vampire-esque beings named Shiki move into the neighborhood. The story focuses upon a handful of students in the village as well as Ozaki Toshio, the head of the village hospital who desperately tries to treat his fellow villagers after the appearance of a strange epidemic. With a strange illness spreading all througout the village and deceased friends of the characters beginning to rise from the dead, Shiki steadily grows from a mystery into an outright horror show. It’s absurd character designs can sometimes offset the dark tone of the show but baring their influence, the plot is actually quite interesting and presents a number of engaging developments and questions. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
8. Uchouten Kazoku
Alternative Title: The Eccentric Family
Episode Count: 13 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: P.A. Works; 2013
Details: Uchouten Kazoku centers around a family of shape-shifting tanuki who live in Kyoto where the human residents unknowingly live alongside them and their race as well as other supernatural beings. The show focuses on the bustling city, its inhabitants, and the lives they lead as explored by the curious, second-oldest son of the Shimogamo family, Yasaburou. Full of family feuds, magical tengu, and flying, alcohol-fueled tea houses, Uchouten Kazoku is all about the whimsy and fantasy of its character’s lives and environment. Though initially kind of a slice of life show, it eventually manifests drama through the recent death of Yasaburou’s father and the upcoming annual celebration of the Friday Fellows – a group of humans who prepare a tanuki hot pot each year. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
7. Kyoukai no Kanata
Alternative Title: Beyond the Boundary
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Kyoto Animation; 2013
Details: KyoAni’s unusual, supernatural, action fantasy – Kyoukai no Kanata is about Mirai Kuriyama, the sole survivor of a clan of Spirit World Warriors who manipulate their blood as weapons, and the immortal, half-youmu Akihito Kanbara. The two form an unlikely friendship with each other after she stabs him with her blood weapon. Mirai then uses him as practice to boost her poor confidence as a Spirit World Warrior so that she can defeat other youmu – physical manifestations of negative emotion and hatred. Kyoukai no Kanata hosts some truly breathtaking and inventive animation as well as a small cast of highly entertaining characters. If a story about a girl using her blood as a sword to defeat otherworldly spirits sounds appealing then this show delivers in style. Narrative issues and conflicts in tone somewhat compromise what remains a moderately entertaining show.
6. Kyousou Giga (TV)
Episode Count: 10 Episodes (25-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Toei Animation; 2010
Details: Kyousou Giga is a rather odd anime. It’s about a young girl named Koto who wanders out of her own dimension into a mysterious, hidden city called the ‘Mirror Capital’ while searching for her mother and clues about her family. The city is populated by both humans and youkai living together and features a lot of eccentric and absurd characters. Koto’s appearance upsets the balance of the world and a strange narrative begins to unfold. Matsumoto Rie’s directing style is a pleasure to watch and it brings a lot of excitement and visual imagination to Kyousou Giga but the narrative is also nearly incomprehensible. Though hard to follow, the show is a lot of fun and Koto’s own hyperactive silliness closely parallels the show’s own attitude. It’s a crazy, fun, mess of an action fantasy.
5. Kekkai Sensen
Alternative Title: Blood Blockade Battlefront
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (26-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Bones; 2015
Details: Another product of Matsumoto Rie’s directing style – Kekkai Sensen is very similar to Kyousou Giga in a myriad of ways and people that enjoy one will likely enjoy the other. Kekkai Sensen focuses on the daily goings-ons of Hellsalem’s Lot – what was previously New York City before a gateway between Earth and ‘The Beyond’ appeared 3 years prior to the story. In this city, alongside the human residents, there live all kinds of bizarre, supernatural monsters which present their own unique societal problems and eccentricities. Leonardo Watch, a young boy possessing the ‘All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods,’ falls in with Libra by accident, an organization tasked with keeping order in the city. The show details his many absurd experiences. Kekkai Sensen is a hilarious, energetic, jazzy romp through a ridiculous city possessing little if any coherence. It’s a ton of fun – just don’t expect everything to make sense by the end.
4. Kemono no Souja Erin
Alternative Title: The Beast Player Erin
Episode Count: 50 Episodes (25-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Production I.G; 2009
Details: The show I fondly refer to as ‘War Lizards: The Animation’. Kemono no Souja Erin is about a young girl named Erin who lives with her mother So-Yon in the village of Ake where they raise war lizards called Touda. The lengthy story chronicles her growth over many years, how she changes and matures, and finds her place in the world. Erin’s coming-of-age story is charming and heartfelt, full of fantastic creatures, political intrigue, and war. The world of the show has a rich, complicated history and in it’s slow procession it presents the wonderfully detailed and endearing story of Erin’s’ life as a caretaker of beasts and various animals. Kemono no Souja Erin is certainly one of the better stories about growing up and it’s ultimately more complex than it initially lets on.
3. No Game No Life
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 203
Details: No Game No Life centers around Sora and his younger stepsister Shiro who make up the undefeated gaming identity of ‘Blank’. One day, the prodigiously skilled duo are challenged to a chess game by the god of games Tet. After besting him and proving their skill, they are summoned to the realm of Disboard – a world where all conflicts, wars, and disputes are settled through games. Dissatisfied with humanity’s powerlessness and underprivileged position in the world, the two geniuses set out to uphold their reputation as the unbeatable gamers they are and conquer the 16 other races of Disboard in order to challenge Tet once again. Delivered with unique visual palette, No Game No Life is all about the fun and inventive games Sora and Shiro play and the way in which they subvert expectations and try to come out on top. For anybody looking for a bit of over-the-top fun, this one is a blast to watch.
Episode Count: 60 Episodes; 4 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Brain’s Base; 2010 – 2014 / Studio Deen; 2014-2015
Details: Durarara!! is about the chaotic intermingling of a massive cast of characters in Tokyo’s commercial and entertainment district of Ikebukuro. Thrill-seeking high schoolers, street gangs, yakuza, fanatical otaku, scheming information brokers, superhuman bartenders, headless dullahans, and more all come together to form a grand narrative of intersecting plots and events. The characters and their stories are just as bustling and boisterous as the city they live in. Instead of focusing on any one individual, Durarara!! paints all of its characters as protagonists in their own right in a complex, often nonlinear, narrative. The interplay between these extremely distinct and memorable characters is fascinating to watch unfold. At the end of the day, the show is all about how each character fades in and out of the other’s lives and the fast-paced, intricate presentation within which this exchange occurs.
1. Bakemonogatari (The Monogatari Series)
Alternative Title: Ghostory
Episode Count: 89 Episodes; 8 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Shaft; 2009 – 2016
Details: Bakemonogatari is a hard show to pin down, not just because of its wide range of genres but because of its especially unique visual design and cast of characters. The story is about Koyomi Araragi who has just recently returned to being mostly human after becoming a vampire for a brief time. The series generally details the various girls he meets and their supernatural, often spirit-related, afflictions. The story is driven by the relationships of its characters and the way in which they interact, develop, and play off of each other through their personalities and banter. The show is really something that has to be seen to be understood and its wonderfully creative and stylistic presentation is only one of many qualities that make it the masterpiece that it is. The narrative often unfolds in a nonlinear fashion, Araragi’s own faithfulness as a narrator continuously comes into question, and the series’ fascinating, dialogue-heavy, subject material makes it an endlessly engaging experience to watch. Watch the show in the order in which it aired.