Posted by Zuleika Boekhoudt @fanimeblog
I love English dubbed horror, gore and mystery anime.
Zuleika Boekhoudt

While many of our favorite anime are based on external sources such as manga, light novels, and video games. There are some anime series that have no source material, in other words they are 100% original. These series and films have become such a success that they’ve received widespread critical acclaim and have even revolutionized the anime industry. As a result, inspiring both manga and anime series. Let’s take a look at several original anime works that you should start watching.

1. Spirited Away

While Western Literature has inspired many of studio Ghibli anime, Spirited Away is a studio Ghibli original. The film’s writer and director, Hayao Miyazaki has expressed that his inspiration for the movie came from his friend’s ten-year-old daughter who came to visit Miyazaki's house each summer. In the film a young girl named Chihiro unwittingly crosses over into the spirit world. Now there she has to summon the courage to live and work amongst spirits.

2. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Despite the fact that many anime series come from external sources, Code Geass is an anime that deviates from this standard. The series has spawned not only manga but also light novels and video games.

Viewers will follow Lelouch Lamperouge who as a child witnessed the onslaught of the Holy Britannian Empire on his home nation of Japan. Years later, the timely appearance of a mysterious girl, grants him the power of absolute obedience - Geass. With this new power, Lelouch can seek revenge on the Holy Britannian Empire. One of the reasons that Code Geass has received widespread critical acclaim is partly due to it perfectly combining political, mecha, and supernatural themes.

3. Psycho-Pass

While Psycho-Pass might be considered an original anime, it originated from the studio’s interest in making a spiritual successor to Mamoru Oshii's work – Ghost In The Shell. Where GITS deals with terrorist groups, Psycho-Pass is more about low-level criminals. Set in a dystopian world, crime has dropped to record low numbers thanks in part to public sensors which continuously scans citizen’s probability in committing a crime. However, having such advanced technology to control crime, is bound to be corrupted.

4. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion commonly referred to EVA has received global critical acclaim for deconstructing the mecha genre. The series revolutionized not only the anime industry but also western animation, consequently, generating new anime fans. EVA follows Shinji, a young teenage boy who is tasked to pilot Evangelion Unit-01 against those who want to destroy the human civilization, i.e. angels.

While this might seem a straightforward robot anime, it explores several themes, one of them being its extended take on religion. Currently, there are four movie adaptations of the series - Rebuild of Evangelion - with the last one, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 set to be released soon.

5. Kill la Kill

A series that has inspired some beautiful and yet NSFW cosplay, Kill la Kill is an original anime from studio Trigger. While the release date of both the anime and manga were on the same day, the manga is an adaptation of the anime. Kill la Kill follows a girl named Ryuuko Matoi who carries a large weapon in the shape of half a pair of scissors. Her goal in life is to look for the woman with the other half, who incidentally killed her father. To fulfill her quest, Ryuuko transfers to Honnouji Academy. Those who arrive at the school receive a special "Goku uniform", and student council president Satsuki has used the “Goku” power to rule the school in fear.

6. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

Taking inspiration from the financial crisis (which is still having an effect on many countries). [C], sheds light on the financial struggles that a person can go through. It poses the question to the viewer "would you put your future on the line for money?" This is the story of Kimimaro who puts his life on collateral for money, and now must compete in weekly tournaments called "deals" to keep his money and avoid losing his future.

7. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Don’t let the title fool you this is not your typical magical girl anime. When producer Atsuhiro Iwakami wanted to make a magical girl anime he wanted it to have a wider appeal. As a result, Madoka Magica was born. The anime follows a group of girls whom in order to get their wishes granted would have to fight and win dark beings as known as witches. However, not everything is what it seems as the series deals with dark themes such as hope and despair. Consequently, making the anime one of the darkest takes on the magical girl genre.

8. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

One of the most outstanding and realistic anime about a natural disaster is an original anime from studios Bones and Kinema Citrus. As the title suggest, the series is about an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that strikes the Tokyo Metropolis. What makes it a noteworthy original anime is that it gives a very accurate and real view of people in catastrophic situations.

9. Princess Tutu

Granted that many popular series are about physical combat and futuristic elements, Princess Tutu breaks the mold as the characters dance against each other instead of fighting. Much like The Princess and the Frog, the anime follows Ahiru, a duck who transforms into a ballet dancer named Princess Tutu. The journey of Tutu is a tale of heroes and their struggle against fate. Their actions – good or bad - will determine whether this fairy tale can reach a "happily ever after.”

10. Death Billiards/Death Parade

Originally based on the Young Animator Training Project short film, Death Billiards. The series dwells on what happens when we die. Do we get the chance to live again or perish into nothingness? You decide your fate in a random game where you are either reincarnated or fall into a void. Even though the series is not technically an original anime it is, however, an expansion of the short film.

11. Paranoia Agent

While working on his previous three films (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers), Paranoia Agent creator Satoshi Kon was left with an abundance of unused ideas. As a result, this hit psychological thriller was born. The series focusses on a boy, a.k.a. “Lil’ Slugger” who goes around assaulting the citizens of Tokyo with a golden bat. However, there is more than meets the eye in this psychological thriller.

Honorable Mentions:

91 Days

FLCL/Fooly Cooly

Eden of the East

Samurai Champloo

Voices of a Distant Star

12. Michiko & Hatchin

Based in a fictional Southern American of Diamandra, Michiko & Hatchin tells the story of two different women. The “free-willed diva” Michiko who has escaped police custody and rescues a young girl named Hana “Hatchin” Moreno from her abusive foster parents. On the run from the authorities and Hatchin's abusive foster family, the duo sets out to find Hatchin’s father Hiroshi and ultimately discover their freedom. What stands out from this series is the beautiful interpretation of Latin American architecture, landscape, and societal structure. Subsequently, the series highlights the lack of diversity in Japanese anime.

13. Sword of the Stranger

Another original work of breathtaking action anime, comes from the studio Bones. The film follows Kotaro, an orphan boy who is hunted by a group of swordsmen for mysterious reasons. Among the group is the formidable Western fighter Luo-Lang, whose only desire is to find a worthy opponent. While fleeing from the swordsmen, Kotaro and his dog, meet "No Name", a nameless ronin - a wandering samurai who had no lord or master. The reason behind the swordsmen pursuit, tests the bond between Kotaro and No Name.

Although Sword of the Stranger is a movie with a somewhat overused theme, samurai. Studio Bones has managed to create astonishing fighting scenes along with a gripping storyline, which many samurai anime lack.

14. Terror in Resonance

Even though the #animation was 11 episodes long, it did have the strength to retain audience’s attention. In an alternate setting, Tokyo has been plagued with numerous terrorist attacks. The only evidence of the perpetrators is a cryptic video they uploaded to the internet before each attack. Consequently, this ignites a sense of fear and paranoia all across Japan. Although the authorities believe that these terrorists have only evil intentions, their real purpose is just to wake up the world.

15. Cowboy Bebop

Rounding up the list is the classic space western anime, Cowboy Bebop. The series has received critical acclaim and other accolades for being an original anime and setting up its own path in the animation world.

The series follows the crazy adventures of Spike Spiegel a bounty hunter with a dark past. While many series portray the life of a bounty hunter as a life of wealth and luxury, this can’t be said for Spike. He lives from bounty to bounty, barely making it each time, or more specifically not making it at all. Along with his partner Jet Black, they meet Faye Valentine, a wanted criminal with a bounty on her head and the Radical Edward with his dog Ein.

Cowboy Bebop became a commercial success due to it perfectly mashing up various genres. Not only that, the OST was unique for anime at that time too. It moved seamlessly through genres, from rock to jazz to pop to country and so on.

One of the drawbacks of having a manga based – or other source material - anime is that the studio has to wait months and sometimes years to have an adequate season or ending to the series. To keep up with the demand of anime fans, many studios have turned to their creative teams to create their own series or films. While the amount of original anime barely reaches the large volume of manga or visual novel based anime. There are many original anime that have become commercial successes and even pop culture icons.

See Also:

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Should Studios Stick To Manga Based Anime Or Create Their Own?