[Description]: Dramas are what they sound like – they are dramatic. They attempt to stimulate and appeal to their viewer’s emotions above all else. They often try to portray relatable characters so the audience can better understand what they are going through, sympathize, and share in their emotional experiences. While some shows only lightly play upon their viewer’s emotions, others go all-out. They’re full of tragedy, and loss and and aim to pull at their viewer’s heartstrings as well as their sentimentality. Dramas are about forming an emotional connection between you and the characters on screen as well as their narrative scenarios. Links to spoiler-free reviews of all of the shows that have them are included.
7. Haibane Renmei
Alternative Title: Charcoal Feather Federation
Episode Count: 13 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Radix; 2002
Details: Though initially more of a slice of life show than anything else, Haibane Renmei offers a highly imaginative world as well as a dramatic story once it gets its feet on the ground. After dreaming of falling through the sky, Rakka awakens inside a large cocoon from which she is soon birthed. Once emerged, she meets several winged beings adorned with halos called Haibane who welcome her to their abode of Old Home. Rakka’s own wings grow soon after and she joins the Haibane in their daily routines and lifestyle. Haibane Renmei, while very slow to develop, features an interesting world filled with its own rules and stories. Though much of its potential remains untapped, its setting as well as the nature of the Haibane and the mysterious wall that surrounds their town are none the less intriguing. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
6. Hibike! Euphonium
Alternative Title: Sound! Euphonium
Episode Count: 13 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Kyoto Animation; 2015
Details: Hibike! Euphonium is a slice of life drama centered around Kitauji high school’s concert band. Kumiko Oumae, having quit her previous band club after a poor competition performance in middle school, joins the band in the hopes of starting over. The show itself focuses on the politics of the band – who gets first seat, who’s practicing hard enough, who isn’t, and how the students balance their school work with their effort in band. It attempts to capture the feeling of what it’s like to play in a high school concert band. There is also a moderate amount of romance and drama that develops as the students attempt to better themselves and prepare for upcoming tournaments and competitions. If nothing else, Hibike Euphonium is absolutely gorgeous to watch and beautifully animated.
5. Death Parade
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2015
Details: The premise of Death Parade is that, in the afterlife, those who have died whose ultimate fate is contentious are sent to a bar where an arbiter named Decim awaits them. When there, the deceased have no memory of their deaths and are chosen to play a game with the person accompanying them ranging from card games to billiards and darts. These games always have a twist that allows Decim to divulge the true nature of his guests and pass judgement on whether they should be sent to hell or heaven – damned or reincarnated. For the most part, Death Parade episodically features pairs of characters who have recently died and by playing the games, it explores how they died, what kind of people they were, and the dramatic implications of them being there. The show wavers a bit near the end but its a very entertaining and dramatic watch regardless.
4. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
Alternative Title: Yuki Yuna is a Hero
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Studio Gokumi; 2014
Details: Often likened to Madoka Magica because of their myriad of similarities, Yuuki Yuuna is another dark twist on the magical girl genre. Yuuki Yuuna and her friends in Sanshu Middle School’s Hero Club are one day enveloped in a strange, white light and transported to a bizarre forested region. There they encounter monsters named Vertex that endeavor to destroy the Shinju tree at the heart of the forest which shields humanity from this strange world. Using phone apps provided by an organization committed to protecting the tree, Yuuki and her friends transform into heroes capable of battling the Vertex. Full of dramatic twists and turns, Yuuki Yuuna grows progressively more tragic and heartbreaking by the episode as the girls desperately battle to defend their world at any cost.
3. Aoi Bungaku Series
Alternative Title: Blue Literature
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (22-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2009
Details: Aoi Bungaku is a collection of six classical Japanese works of literature that investigate various themes within the human condition, often presenting the darker side of humanity in doing so. The featured stories in order are No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai); In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom (Ango Sakaguchi); Kokoro (Natsume Soseki); Run, Melos! (Osamu Daizai); The Spider’s Thread; and Hell Screen (both by Ryunosuke Akutagawa). Each new story and chapter is prefaced by Sakai, Masato in a brief live-action introduction. The quality varies between stories and some are more dramatic or comedic than others but they each present a mix of psychological horror and drama all the same. Run, Melos! is an especially strong part of the show and a near-masterpiece of drama by itself. The show also features an incredible soundtrack. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
2. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Alternative Title: Showa and Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo
Episode Count: 13 Episodes (26-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Studio Deen; 2016
Details: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu tells the story of Yuurakutei Yakumo, a renowned master of Rakugo theater, as he recounts his past to his newfound apprentice Yotarou. The show centers around his upbringing alongside his friend and fellow apprentice Sukeroku and how their relationship with Rakugo and each other shaped their lives. This show is a masterpiece of dramatic presentation – its scenes unfold artfully and intelligently and feature exceedingly human characters as they pursue the art form they love. Its layered with complex themes and provocative dialogue and at each stage of the story its characters are absolutely fascinating to watch. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
1. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
Alternative Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Shaft; 2011
Details: Famously renowned for its twisted nature and dark reimagining of the magical girl show, Madoka Magica tells the story of Kaname Madoka and her friend Miki Sayaka who lead normal lives as middle school girls until their chance encounter with their new transfer student Akemi Homura and a strange, magical familiar named Kyuubey. Kyuubey offers Madoka the opportunity to form a contract that will grant her one wish in exchange for her services as a magical girl. The plot that follows is far more grim and complex than the show initially lets on and it is certainly true that the less you know about it going in, the more dramatic and gripping the show will be. Set to an incredible soundtrack by Kajiura Yuki and presented with stunning, stylistic visuals, Madoka Magica forever has a place among the greatest anime of all time.