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15 Anime with Amazing Art Direction

Updated on July 2, 2021
Tatami Galaxy
Tatami Galaxy

Some Super Stylish Anime

Anime has come to have a style independent of its roots copying old Disney films.

Over the years, Anime has departed from this and its conventional style and has started to became even more visually stylized.

This page is dedicated to the some of the most stylized, different looking and interesting looking anime. Be it through colors, character design or weird texture, visuals is the main criteria.

I would say that all anime these days has their own elements of stylization and beautiful animation, so this list is liable to be missing a lot of shows which is why it is a more general list instead of a top ranking list.

This list is in no particular order, List is always in state of flux and could change at any time.

Gankutsuou; The Count of Monte Cristo

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Gankutsuou is single season 2004 anime and is based of off Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

It is one of the most stylized anime to exist. It's just a vast array of colors and digital textures that really makes this anime stand apart from so many other shows and makes it unique.

It was one of the first to anime in heavy patterned style of making the textures prominent.

It's a very beautiful to just watch.


Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Even when Puella Magi Madoka Magica was first released in 2011 it was hailed as one of the best shows and is considered still among the gold standard of dark shoujo anime. It's popular has spawned movies and video games.

One of the anime's highlights of the show is its art design which can either nightmarish or very dreamlike.

In the anime the main character has to go in to barriers created by witches, these barrier are the trippy surreal places. The style is said to be reminiscent of Polish artist Jan Lenica.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei
Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei

Unlike Gankutsuou and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is little subtle in its style for the most part but there are certainly times when the visual do get a little more crazy and fun.

It uses digital textures and has a very washed out color palette but watching this anime in action and you can see what makes the visuals great, plus it's hilarious.

Soul Eater

Soul Eater
Soul Eater

Soul eater may not employ digital textures or super crazy surreal animation but it's very stylish and fits in well with it Halloween-like theme.

The stylization of this show makes. it stand out and it does feature some very surreal imaginary given the world in which the characters occupy.

The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge/ Perfect Girl Evolution)

The Wallflower/Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge/ Perfect Girl Evolution)
The Wallflower/Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge/ Perfect Girl Evolution)

The Wallflower may seem like most conventional anime on the list (visually speaking) bu. this anime has the habit making its main character look very visually different most of the time to convey her character.

The main character Sunako spends most of time in a chibi form (Chibi means small). When she reverts to looking most people tend to be shock that she is in fact beautiful.

Another thing this anime does is tend to white out characters to simplify them. It almost looks like a stick figure and they'll do this to main characters and extras alike.

Panty & Stocking with Gater Belt

Panty & Stocking with Gater Belt
Panty & Stocking with Gater Belt

Panty & Stocking with Gater Belt has been liken to the Power Puff Girls in style.

It certainly does look like a mash of a more conventional American animation styles but unlike the Power Puff Girls it's more crude than most children cartoons in both content and style. However it's a very fun anime to watch.

Mononoke/ Samurai Horror Tales

Mononoke/Samurai Tales
Mononoke/Samurai Tales

Mononoke is a Spin-off show based on Ayakashi; Samurai Tale which is made of three separate episodes. Mononoke is based on the third episode called Bakeneko.

The show follows The medicine seller, or Kusuriuri, a mysterious character who tries to learn the reason and true behind spooky events involving a Mononoke. Basically it's a series of scary mysteries with each story making up three to four episodes.

The whole series looks like it was animation of Rice Paper. It has digital textures and very surreal nightmarish imagery, The effect is beautiful and kind of trippy.

Hell Girl

Hell Girl
Hell Girl

Hell Girl is lot like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the surreal cool animation takes place in specific parts in an episode.

In Hell Girl when the main characters are doing their "job" there is a ton of surreal imagery and when the titular character Ai Enma (Hell Girl) is taking a soul to hell the landscape is very cool and not what you would except of the out lands of hell. It almost looks serene.

Summer Wars

Summer Wars
Summer Wars

Summer Wars has some gorgeous/ surreal animation which looks similar to Takashi Murakami's work.

But again it's like Hell Girl and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the surreal animation is during specific parts of the movie. In Summer Wars these parts with the surreal animations are when the movie enters the virtual world of OZ where the climax of the movie takes place.

Katanagatari

Katanagatari
Katanagatari

Katanagatari has a very interesting style.

It's almost look like a hybrid of older comic books and old fashion Disney style (a la Steamboat Willie.)

However the animation style that this show has emulated, it still feels cool and modern.

Genius Party

Genius Party Gala
Genius Party Gala

Genius Party is a series of short animations. In total there are twelve.

There are a few Genius Party DVDs. The picture above is from "Gala," which is technically from Genius Party Beyond.

All the shorts have a distinct feel and premise and they all have weird and crazy animation. Each short was done by a different director which further gives the short their own individuality.

1001 Nights

1001 Nights
1001 Nights

If you have seen a artwork by Yoshitaka Amano then you know how beautiful it is.

Just imagine that artwork moving and that's 1001 nights.

Millennium Actress

Millenium Actress
Millenium Actress

Millennium Actress, by the Late Great Satoshi Kon,

It came out in 2001 and is a wonderful piece of cinema. It's a kind play within a play with a documentary of the main character.

The storytelling in the movie moves seamlessly back and forth between past, present and future and it's masterfully interwoven with the animation.

The intent of the film's seamlessly merging of reality and illusion is Trompe-l'cœil which is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that depicts objects in 3D.

Millennium Actress was also intended to be a sister movie with Kon's other great work Perfect Blue.

Paprika

Paprika
Paprika

What can you say about a movie that prominently features a lively parade of inanimate objects, instrument-playing animals, and various cultural icons?

Paprika was the last feature film made by the Late Great Satoshi Kon in 2006.

The plot features characters going in and out of dreams and sometimes not even knowing they are still in a dream. With this kind of plot the animation has to match the surreal-ness of a dream and it does.

Tatami Galaxy
Tatami Galaxy

Tatami Galaxy is a 2010 anime that follows a university student who uses parallel dimension to see how his life could have been different in he had join a campus group.

The show has a surreal sense of colors to convey moods but also as a contrast it uses a washout monochrome pallet to should banality of the protagonist's existent outside the tatami world.

It won the grand prize at the 14th annual Japan Media Arts Festival.

Art Anime Poll

Mononoke/Samurai Tales
Mononoke/Samurai Tales

Do you watch an anime for its art style?

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