Top 7 of the Best Seinen Anime to Watch

Darker and more mature-themed anime are called seinen. Beyond the loud, adrenaline-fueled action sequences of the more child-friendly shounen genre, seinen shows place greater emphasis on the viewer’s ability to contemplate and reflect, providing them an avenue to explore a show’s conflicts with more gravitas, and in a grounded, realistic manner.

While it isn’t a rule, seinen excels in the grimdark, the solemn, and the cynical. Most seinen anime are aimed towards the young adult demographic, although many enjoy broad appeal from both adolescents and old-timers interested in deep, philosophical discussions, character dramas, and more serious portrayals about society and human nature. 

This article lists down some perennial favorites of the seinen genre. After bingeing a series, viewers should feel well-equipped to discuss quandaries such as morality in organized crime, the rise of artificial intelligence and transhumanism, the inevitability of death, or the thin line between humanity and monstrosity.

Death Parade

Don’t let the catchy opening theme song lull you into thinking this show is about happy hour at some ordinary bar. 

For starters, said bar caters to the souls of the dead. There, emotionless entities called “Arbiters” serve drinks and preside over Death Games, in which two souls compete over whimsical bar games such as twister, darts and billiards to earn a chance at resurrection… or eternity consigned to the endless void.

The show explores the sordid scenarios that led to each player’s demise, depicting how different people would react to their deaths and the afterlife. Its story is a tear-jerking, existential ride that’ll pair well with any alcoholic drink on the shelf.

Black Lagoon

For the adventuring type, Black Lagoon will let you explore the criminal underbelly of Southeast Asia with the help of the Lagoon Company mercenaries. 

This show is a slick symphony of gun-running, diesel-burning, thug-torturing action, revolving around the mercs’ missions as modern-day pirates at sea. While Rock is ostensibly the main character, the real captain of this show is Revy, a rough, loudmouthed and lethal hitwoman.

The violence can get unapologetically insane, boasting such sights as an operative dressed as a nun assassinating criminals at a church, or a gunship launching its undersea torpedoes at a helicopter – and winning. With swagger in spades, this show is a staple for any seinen spree.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Not all seinen series have to be violent, melodramatic and depressing. 

As a romantic comedy, Kaguya-sama is a mostly light-hearted dive into the minds of two of the most intelligent but emotionally-stunted geniuses in an academy for the elites. It is, however, interwoven well with commentary on Japanese society.

The show’s leads, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, secretly like each other, but with their fragile egos on the line, neither is willing to make the first move and confess their feelings first. This has, quite logically, led to them pursuing a variety of strategies more complex than those used in the actual Cold War to get a confession out of the other.

With a lovable ensemble of side characters like the society-lamenting Ishigami, and a pink madwoman named Chika, Kaguya-sama has risen into one of the decade’s newest and most popular seinen so far. 

Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate

When the Catholics go crusading, and the Nazis start invading, odds are that they’re both after anime’s premier vampire anti-hero, Alucard. Most horror anime series pit the main characters against all sorts of vile, nightmarish monsters. In Hellsing, the main character is the monster. 

The Hellsing series is a maddeningly fun power fantasy, following Alucard as he goes on missions at the behest of the Hellsing Organization, an order of Protestant knights tasked with protecting the United Kingdom by exterminating the forces of the undead. 

Both the original and OVA series are excellent escapades into a world where people explode into oceans of blood and firearms are as abundant as rosaries. 

Early in the series, Alucard turns a dying policewoman named Seras Victoria, who tags along as another main character through whose perspective are concepts such as retaining one’s humanity and embracing vampirism are explored.

Cowboy Bebop

What could be more aesthetically pleasing than being sad in space? 

Decades after a catastrophic hyperspace incident ruined life on Earth, humans have settled into colonies based on the Solar System’s other planets and moons. Bounty hunters known as Cowboys are paid by the Inter Solar System Police to capture criminals, with the series’ main characters being said Cowboys operating aboard their spaceship Bebop.

The action and excitement of navigating space as the new Wild West only serves as a backdrop for the intensely melancholic and existential internal issues that plague the cast. 

The recent Netflix adaptation was a ridiculous disaster, and this classic science-fiction seinen is best enjoyed in its original 1998 version, where its comedic elements shine and its cyberpunk space opera aspects are the most visually stunning.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is violently fabulous. A persisting aspect of modern-day meme culture, this seemingly easy-going series is home to one of anime’s most malevolent entities – DIO – as well as a cadre of other unforgettable villains.

The series is split into different seasons, each set in various periods – from the Victorian era to modern-day Japan. Members of the Joestar family and other gifted individuals have the power to wield Stands, psychic manifestations of their spirit that can meddle with the real world.

Berserk

Chances are that you’ve heard Guts’ theme from this anime on several memes or videos before. The lamenting tone of that song may have become the background music for many hilarious shorts, but Berserk itself is a never-ending thrill ride of horrific tragedy, brutality and despair in a dark world of fantasy. You have been warned.

Centered on Guts, a drifting mercenary whose mother was a hanged corpse by the time he exited her womb, the show deals with his employment under a bandit guild known as the Band of the Hawk. Prominent characters include the guild’s leader, Griffith, whose ambitions to start his own kingdom cause an astronomical amount of mind-shattering anguish to everyone throughout the series, and Casca, Guts’ unit commander turned lover. 

Berserk has been praised for its realistic depictions of characters in various states of trauma, angst and depression, with its cerebral and thought-provoking themes complemented by a nice amount of exhilarating violence and vengeance.

Photo by Senad Palic on Unsplash

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