Anime can appeal through its music, voice acting, animation, direction, characters, or themes. However, he is widely considered a narrative medium, so his storytelling takes center stage. This can take the form of action epics like A playsoap operas like Rose of Versaillesor episodic vignettes like Mushishi. These approaches can succeed on their own, producing some of anime’s greatest works.
Ambition and experimentation can push it even further. There are some amazing anime series and movies that defy the conventions of storytelling. These create storylines that might be difficult to script, produce, consume, and analyze. Their stories can be daunting from afar, but they’re engaging and rewarding when given the chance.
ten The Agent of Paranoia connects different stories together through fear
paranoia agent has a deceptive story structure. While nearly every episode focuses on a different person’s story, it’s all connected by Lil’ Slugger’s mysterious attacks. The anime uses the individual episodes to weave a confusing narrative about the legendary assailant.
Story elements intertwine to build the series’ looming horror figure. At the end of paranoia agent, the anime’s intent is only as clear because of how its structure made it possible. Its tale of fear and anxiety succeeds despite its patchwork approach.
9 Kyousougiga borrows meaning from outside religions and literatures
A summary view of Kyousougiga has the potential to leave the viewer feeling wronged. Understanding the show’s surface plot isn’t enough to get the most out of it. Perhaps due to its short duration, the story uses additional material to reinforce its meaning. It alludes to Buddhism, Japanese folklore and the works of Lewis Carroll.
The transposed meaning of these external texts serves both as accents to the story and as concrete elements of it. When Inari tries to destroy existence, the different planes of the world are concepts within Buddhism. Deeply incorporating these references into its narration gives a short anime an incredible density.
8 Princess Tutu develops her fairy tale story with Metafiction
princess tutu specifies from the outset that it will integrate aspects of metafiction. Drosselmeyer is the narrator of the series, but he is also a major character in the story. Its name refers to the Nutcracker ballet, which refers to the performance taking place in a fairytale ballet school.
However, no other anime takes metafiction as far as princess tutuis the second half. The story revolves around a human versus god conflict. The anime characters rebel against Drosselmeyer, especially Ahiru and Fakir. The background work necessary to carry out its fight against the authority of the author is immense.
seven The Millennium actress uses storytelling to blur reality with memory
Millennial Actress is an entire film that uses narration as a framing device. Chiyoko recounts her life as an actress through the various films in which she shot for a documentary. The visuals transport viewers and interviewers into the worlds of cinema. The romantic subjectivity of Chiyoko’s narrative blurs the line between her past and her perspective as an actress.
She tells the crew about her life, but is mixed in the roles she has taken on. It merges with the individual stories of the many films presented. Chiyoko talks about her life, her experiences, her lifelong romance, but also celebrates Japanese cinema and her career. Such a narrative would fall apart if done with less care.
6 FLCL’s manic plot presentation hides its density
FLCL should be considered one of the most experimental and ambitious anime in every way. It exists to test different animation techniques, styles and visuals. However, this requires a story that can keep up with his constant experimentation. With a lean runtime of 6 episodes, FLCL manages to tell a story of adolescence that still stands.
Each episode is dense and kinetic. Multiple meanings hide behind the careful dialogue. It paces extremely well for a show with 6 episodes. There’s a lot of goofiness with its combat and robot references, but the story around Naota’s growth never falters.
5 Lain’s serial experiments give cryptic clues to his true nature
The path Serial Experiments Lain tells his story is akin to horror. There’s always something looming behind the scenes, but the writing takes the audience away from it. The anime slowly builds its cyberpunk landscape, while weaving macabre imagery and eerie twists and turns.
Unlike a horror anime, it doesn’t view fear as an end goal. It just borrows aspects of it to wrap its plot in mystery. With this framing, the plot is allowed to develop its digital ideas boldly without compromise. It’s a notoriously difficult sight to tell apart due to the meticulousness of its construction.
4 The Tatami Galaxy Makes the Most of Time Loops
Time travel is a very difficult element to incorporate into an anime, but The Tatami Galaxy goes even further by making it the structural device of the story. Each episode shows the main character trying to navigate their college life in a specific way before the story goes back in time to make them make a different choice with their life. This is incredibly risky as it could make episodes repetitive.
Fortunately, the show is dynamic and creative enough to steer the narrative in new, new and interesting directions. The anime’s gimmick is integrated enough that each episode ties into each other at the end. The whole series is an exercise in storytelling skill.
3 The Galactic Heroes Legend Reach Is Massive
Legend of Galactic Heroes is a titanic work, but its magnitude is not only due to its length. There are plenty of other shows that last just as long, if not longer. What makes this anime so intimidating is that there are so many moving elements to its story and politics. There are dozens of characters with their own ambitions and machinations happening simultaneously.
The anime alludes to historical presentations to draw a parallel in their complexity. As in the story, many people are involved to achieve different goals. However, the show needs to explore this to still present it as an engaging narrative, rather than a lecture. Its success in this testifies to its quality.
2 Symbolism is one of the greatest tools in the story of revolutionary girl Utena
Director Kunihiko Ikuhara is known for his extensive use of symbolism. This is best seen in his masterpiece Revolutionary girl Utena. The whole show is dripping with symbolism. Particular images dominate the frame at all times, ranging from roses, cars, dishes or rings. The show’s storytelling is only complete once the viewer questions and understands what the multitude of symbols are.
The surface level of the anime is still clear, although the symbols are not fully explored, but the experience is muted. The anime’s strange stories and themes are partially told through the various symbols. Parts of the show would look like gibberish if the symbolism was ignored.
1 Monster’s cat-and-mouse chase is anime’s most complex
There will never be a mystery anime that pushes the boundaries of the medium like Freak. This is a 73 episode long series that unfolds to reveal an endless amount of secrets. It can’t be simplified as Tenma’s chase after Johan, because there are so many other stories going on at the same time. Lunge chases Tenma as hard as Tenma stalks Johan.
The show keeps growing, expanding the scope of its mystery and complicating character motivations and interactions. The plot is massive and twisty, requiring extreme commitment from the anime studio producing it. As far as suspense and mystery shows go, this is the pinnacle.
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