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10 Animated Shows for Adults

Updated on July 19, 2013

Over in the west animation is still seen as something mostly suited for kids's shows or kids's movies. However resulting from the rise of Japanese Animation and Manga it is gradually becoming more acceptable for cartoons to be made for more mature audiences. However the attitude that animation is simply another way to tell stories is still not really mainstream.

In this hub we look at 10 Animated shows purely for adults to look at. Some for the entire family and some strictly for the older generation.

Fist of the North Star

People often confuse Anime as only adult animation which is understandable considering the anime shows that the west is exposed to. However anime is simply the name for the style and look of the animation. Manga can be for all ages and all genres. That being said, Fist of the North Star is one for the adults.

Fist of the North Star follows Kenshiro: a martial arts master roaming the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic world, protecting the innocent and battling his rivals. Even if you're not really a big fan of cartoons this show will have you hooked simply from the great martial arts action. The wacky opponents and fighting styles definitely evoke the fast paced fun of the Street Fighter games.

The story is easy enough to follow, but the more adult elements come from the fight scenes. Kenshiro's fighting style works on the principle of using pressure points to have his opponents be "destroyed from inside". This often results in some enemies literally exploding.

Simple fun to turn your brain off even if it's an adult brain.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Another anime for you. Based on one of the most famous anime movies ever made - Ghost in the Shell - and follows a futuristic cyber-crime police force as they seek out a terrorist who literally has the ability to hack people's brains. The setting to this piece was one of the precursors to movies like Blade Runner or games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Once again this is one of the best examples of Japanese Anime with one of the best written and thought out stories. The series will constantly have you on the edge of your seat as protagonists face off against inventive new enemies or flabbergasted at the latest plot twist.

If you want a roller coaster of sci-fi awesomeness then look no further.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Ever wondered why people hated M.Night Shyamalan for his movie The Last Airbender? Well after just one episode of this show you'll soon see what was so wrong with it. Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a mystical world where a select few are trained in the arts of controlling the four elements: Earth; Water; Fire; Air. We follow Aang and his friends who set out on a quest to end a war between the Fire Nation and the other three nations.

The only thing the movie got right was the names of characters and that's about it. The world of the cartoon series was fare more imaginative and the characters fare more engaging and funny. The movie couldn't even get the cool fight sequences right. Most animated shows go for simple punches and kicks, but this series showcases true martial arts spectacle with the element bending adding further to the visual feast.

But the thing many audiences remember from this show is that it was fun to watch. Something the movie just didn't get. Forget the big screen, because this story was perfect to begin with.

Batman: The Animated Series

This was really the first animated series that began to show cartoons as more than kid's stuff. When it was first aired many parents found themselves watching alongside their children. Batman: The Animated Series was rich with psychological drama and darker story lines of corruption and sometimes studies of insanity. Not only was the series one of the best versions of the Dark Knight story, but a fascinating and entertaining show for non-batman fans.

The production quality of the show was virtually unmatched at the time. Almost every voice actor involved was usually a well known stage/screen actor before hand which allowed for great performances. Some of the performances in this show are so renowned that many fans count them as the best version of those characters. I am of course referring to Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Top it all off with a Danny Elfman style score and you have one of the greatest animated shows ever made.

Batman of the Future

Otherwise known as Batman Beyond in the US, this story picks up where many years after the animated show and Bruce Wayne has become too old to be Batman. In order to continue fighting corruption and fight crime he recruits a young man named Terry McGinnis to don the suit. With a Blade Runner like Neo-Gotham as a backdrop, Batman of the Future is both a great superhero show as well as sci-fi show.

On top of all the action and moral tales, the series also adds a new angle to the Batman mythos. For the first time Batman is actually relatable. Batman has always been a brilliant character, but difficult to picture your self in the role. With a young college student behind the mask the show delivers those Spider-man like dilemmas where the life of a superhero clashes with the ordinary.

If you're a Batman fan and haven't seen this then you should go about correcting that.

Spawn: The Animated Series

Most shows on this list carry a 12A/PG-13 kind of rating. Not this show. Spawn: The Animated Series stands out as being one of the most mature animated shows ever made. It showcases unrelenting violence, sex and gore and deals with everything from child murder to arms dealing. The degree of adult content may through some at first, but at the heart of it all is a show of extremely high quality.

Spawn follows Al Simmons: a murdered government assassin now returned to Earth as a Hell-spawn. As the coming battle between Heaven and Hell looms, Spawn fights an inner battle to choose which side he will stand on. All the while Spawn's widow, now re-married finds herself at the heart of a dangerous conspiracy.

This series has all the makings of a great show in general and not just in animation. The tone is dark and downbeat with compelling drama as well as kick ass action. The art style is beautiful with stark shadows haunting environments. The voice acting is superb with Keith David cast in the lead role. His performance is incredibly powerful and every word he utters seems to carry a magnetic resonance. Either that or he was leaning really close to the microphone.

Spawn: The Animated Series is the perfect balance of horror, action and drama with great characters at the center of it all. Also, what other show as the spawn of Satan going toe-to-toe with a cyborg hitman only two episodes in. This show truly is a forgotten gem that deserves more attention.

Red vs, Blue

Many forget that machinima is classed at a style of animation, but it is. So what better series to sing praises to than Red vs. Blue. Inspired by the Halo series, Red vs. Blue was one of the very first web series ever created and is still going strong today. While most shows on this list are adult for their violent content or mature themes, this one is up here because it's so damn funny...but with strong language.

The series follows the squad members of Red team and Blue team as they battle for supremacy over the other. At least that's the plan anyway. Red vs. Blue features some of the most memorable comedic characters ever created: The R.Lee Ermey inspired Sarge or the idiotic Caboose. The jokes are sharp and rarely miss their mark and despite the dated graphics of the first few seasons, nothing gets in the way of producing laugh out loud moment again and again.

As well as great comedic writing, Red vs. Blue also benefits from great sci - fi thriller stories which under the silliness are still intriguing with many twists and turns that will have you guessing to the very end as well as laughing.

At the time of writing Red vs. Blue is now past 13 seasons and shows no sign of slowing down. A good thing too. Find the series on youtube or and enjoy.

Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles

One of the first TV shows to utilize 3d animation, Roughnecks was an adaptation of the original novel, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, and the 1997 movie version. The series follows Alpha Squad as they journey across the stars with a united human military force combating a race of intergalactic bugs bent on mankind's extinction.

Overall there is only one aspect that the series doesn't hold up: the animation is a bit dated. However that's easily overlooked when the rest of the series excels so well in every other respect. Despite a long list of main characters each squad member and affiliate is well written and will have audiences routing for them. There's genuine character drama and arcs which are very well explored.

On the flip side, Roughnecks also features some of the most kickass action in a sci-fi show. Every episode guarantees at least one large scale battle involving unrelenting gunfire and earth shattering explosions all put to a great musical score. Plus a later episode has one of the best space battle sequences I've ever seen and I've seen a lot.

An unfortunate part of this show however, is that it was never finished. Roughnecks was cancelled because of dumb re-run decisions and shifting time slots which made it impossible for a consistent audience to be found. Although you can help by seeking out the "finish Roughnecks" fan petition to complete the series, because this show is worth it.

Star Trek: The Animated Series

In most cases animated versions of live action series/movies tend to dumb down the source material for younger kids. Not the case with Star Trek: The Animated Series. Aired between the original series' cancellation and the release of The Motion Picture, the Animated Series is exactly what it sounds like: Star Trek, but as a cartoon. Everything else in the series is the same. All cast members return to provide the voices for their animated counterparts, production design and music are the same. The only difference is that obviously it's animated.

To convince anyone of this series you just have to ask one question: are you a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series? If so then watch the cartoon show because it's practically the same. Star Trek has been called many things, but never a "kid's show" and the animated series is no different.


Was anyone else at RTX this year? If not you probably missed the premiere of this brand new web-series by Monty Oum. RWBY is a fantastic blend of 3d animation and manga style with everything anime fanboys could want.

Set in a fantastic fantasy world where a magical element known as "dust" controls the balance of power, RWBY follows four women all on their own unique intertwining quests. Not only is the animation beautiful to look at, but everything about it seems to intrigue. The world is fascinating and the characters immediately likable, but mysterious. On top of all this you get some of the coolest weaponry ever conceived of: 50cal. Scythe; rope dart pistol; shotgun gauntlets, the list goes on.

It's still in the early stages, but it's one to be on the look out for.

Honourable Mention: The DCAU

As well as other shows I mentioned on this list I just wanted to give a shout out to the DCAU or DC Animated Universe. This term is used to encompass both animated Batman shows as well as everything that came after it. Following Batman was Superman: The Animated Series, a Justice League show and countless direct to DVD movies. Every show and movie featured under this banner is a wise purchase and the team behind each edition is supremely talented.

I chose not to include all of these shows on the list because the two Batman shows are ones that non-comic book fans can still get into. However if you are a massive DC comics fan then the DCAU will be a dream come true.

If you're a geek who wants to relive your childhood as an adult then these shows still hold up just as well.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      good some cartons that are so good as the gargoyles DCAU, transformers beast wars, the maxx, avengers 2010 spider man 2008 young justice

    • Rae Saylor profile image

      Rae Saylor 

      5 years ago from Australia

      I'm no kid but I enjoy Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Bob's Burgers. Ha! Thanks for this great hub :) Voted up!

    • RowanJColeman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rowan J Coleman 

      5 years ago from Scotland

      Seconded, sir

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 

      5 years ago from The Garden State

      "Batman: The Animated Series" is still my all time favorite filmed version of the character. "Batman Beyond" was pretty bad-ass too.

    • RowanJColeman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rowan J Coleman 

      5 years ago from Scotland

      Good man :)

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Funny though, I may be at age 40's, I still watch Bart Simpsons and batman. LOL!


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