Anime has become very popular over recent years and many mainstream services like Netflix and Hulu started offering more and more anime for viewers to enjoy. If you are new to anime, it might be a bit complicated to wrap your head around the idea. What’s most important to know is that there are various animation styles and a plethora of genres you can choose from. If you like watching fantasy and sci-fi shows, you will most definitely enjoy the same genre of anime. If you prefer mystery, thrillers or drama, there’s a lot anime can offer as well.
Here’s a short rundown of the anime genres, coupled with the most popular series for each genre:
Action – one of the most common genres, packed with action scenes but lacking character development or an in-depth story. The genre is most commonly mixed with other genres, like adventure, fantasy of comedy. The most popular examples include: Bleach, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.
Adventure – another very popular genre; the main protagonists explore new places. The anime series are typically slower in development, but feature characters with great background stories. The story line is always present and well formed, but some viewers might find this genre boring because of the slow progression. The genre is most often coupled with the following genres: action, historical, slice of life. The most popular examples include: Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro and Slayers.
Comedy – the genre is loved among many anime enthusiasts. What’s important to know is that it’s almost never a standalone genre; it’s most commonly mixed with action or romance, and some of the most popular series feature Full Metal Panic, Lucky Star and Once Punch Man.
Demons – this is a surprisingly popular genre, although many would call it niche. It often portrays demons, witches, evil spirits and is commonly combined with action and adventure. Examples include Princess Mononoke, Inuyasha and Shingeki no Bahamut.
Drama – suspense, shock and a lot of emotion is what defines this genre. It’s one of the most popular genres to date, and characters and story are so well defined that viewers often side with a character or a group of them. The most common mixes include romance and adventure, with the most popular examples including: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Shingeki no Kyojin and Spirited Away.
Fantasy –magical powers, worlds and monsters are key to this genre. It’s most commonly combined with adventure, history and action. Folklore and myths are usually the base. The genre features breath-taking art and scenery, but characters might lack development and depth. Notable examples include Mushishi, The Vision of Escaflowne, and Spice and Wolf.
Game – the protagonists of such an anime usually play a competitive game, most commonly a card game. It’s not a genre of its own, but a recurrent theme, usually paired with Adventure or Psychological genres. Some examples include Yu-Gi-Oh and Bakugan.
Historical – animes from this genre are most commonly based in a certain time period (Edo and Tokugawa are most prominent). The protagonists are often well-known individuals from the Japanese past, like commanders or shoguns. Some good examples include Baccano, Ruroni Kenshin and Katanagatari. You should know that Katanagatari is rated R – 17+ though.
Horror – sometimes scary, but the genre’s selling point is violence, bloodshed, and mutilation. It’s most often paired with drama, psychological or demon. Notable examples include Mnemosyne, Berserk and Hellsing Ultimate (all the mentioned examples are rated R+ or R-17 and are indented for mature audiences only.
Kids – intended for younger audiences. The protagonists are often small, likeable and cute and the themes are kid friendly. Notable examples include: Pokemon, Chi’s Sweet Home and Digimon.
Martial Arts/Sports – full of scenes typically including martial arts (mixed, boxing, kenpo) or sports. Most commonly paired with School Life or Action genre. Most notable examples include: Hajime no Ippo and Diamond no Ace.
Mecha – most commonly paired with action, fantasy and Sci-Fi genres, but also drama and thriller. It employs giant robots or Mechas to tell action packed or thrilling stories, often with a military background. Notable examples include Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Mystery – this genres keeps the viewers glued to the screen, with episodes often ending with a “cliff hanger”. It often portrays a chain of events that have to be explained. The protagonists usually have above average intelligence and often become obsessed with cases they are trying to solve. The story unfolds slowly, showing only bits and pieces, to finally reveal everything at the end of the series. Notable examples include Death Note, Darker than Black and Monster.
Psychological – similar to mystery, keeps viewers on edge through the whole series, with many additional twists and turns that completely change the way the story is perceived. As far as storyline goes, this is one of the best genres out there. Notable examples include Death Note, Psycho Pass and The Tatami Galaxy.
Romance – portrays the progression of a romantic relation between two characters. It’s often paired with comedy genre. Notable examples include: Clannad, Toradora! and Love Hina.
Samurai – very often coupled with Historical anime, the time frame often
being the Edo Period of Japan’s history. The action elements are also prevalent, and so are elements of drama. Samurai genre coupled with comedy has received very good responses as well. Notable examples include: Samurai Champloo, Ginatama for comedy, and Blade of the Immortal for a more serious approach.
School Life – Usually centred around a group of middle-school students and their everyday interactions. It’s often focused on lighter themes, romance and comedy, but has some elements of drama as well. The progress if often chronological and the atmosphere varies on the level of the institution (college would have a more mature setting than middle school). Notable examples include The Melanchony of Haruhi Suzumiya, Great Teacher Onizuka and Beelzebub.
Sci-Fi – often coupled with Fantasy and Mecha, the genre typically revolves around future technology (teleportation, intergalactic travel, advanced civilization) and often include creatures of alien origin. Notable examples include: Level E and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Slice of Life – The focus is often mundane everyday realism, often mixed with romance and school. Notable examples include School Rumble and Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day.
Super Power – the genre is based on adventure and action and involves protagonists with super powers. Notable examples include: A Certain Scientific Railgun, Kill la Kill and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Supernatural – often portrays supernatural entities (spirits, demons) but also aliens, time travel and protagonists with psychic powers. Notable examples include ERASED, Another and Kokoro Connect.
Vampire – this theme has become so popular in anime that it became a genre of its own, completely splitting from the supernatural genre. Notable examples include: Hellsing Ultimate, Blood+ and Blood Lad.
What’s your favourite anime genre? Did you find any new anime after reading our list?