Madhouse is probably the most legendary anime studio ever. Since its formation in the 80s by Masao Maruyama and a team of visionary directors, it has never stopped producing some of the most beloved and mythical anime in the entire medium. Here I will present what I think are the 10 best anime this studio has produced. Of course, because of the number of excellent anime, they have produced, and because of my own preferences, some of your favorites might not be included. But anyway I invite every reader to check out their entire catalog to see if something picks their interest.
Lux, simply referred as “The City” by its inhabitants, is an underground city that seems to have been abandoned by the surface. The town is on the verge of collapse after years of decay, and is ravaged by gang wars. Ichise is a former boxer that has been left for dead, and who has had one arm and one leg cut off by the mafia that used to employ him. As he tries to survive in the city, he gets implicated in the gang wars, and realizes that the city will soon be destroyed from the inside. With the help of a strange girl who seems to be able to see the future, he’ll try to prevent the destruction of Lux, to uncover the mysteries surrounding it’s foundation and the surface, and to survive in this brutal environment. We’re not starting with the easiest anime Madhouse has produced, but it is certainly an unique experience. This anime is a crushing tale, that tends to show the worst humanity is capable of, whether it is the beast-like ferocity of Ichise or the cynic reckonings of Onishi the gang leader. With its unique and depressing setting, and memorable art-direction by Yoshiaki Abe, Texhnolyze has a very oppressing atmosphere, fitting for this brutal tale of a fight for survival.
2003, 22 episodes
9. Paranoia Agent
There’s a strange rumor running in the town of Musahino. One of a boy armed with a baseball bat, going around and beating the inhabitants at random. As the Trying to stop him, detectives Mitsuhiro Maniwa and Keiichi Ikari interview each of its victims, as the identity of the delinquent gets more and more mysterious, and as fear permeates the city. For another challenging watch, we have the only TV serie the great Satoshi Kon. His works always explore how the human psyche can blur the line between fantasy and reality, here through a phenomenon of mass hysteria.
2004, 13 episodes
Nana, a joyful and a bit naive young girl, finally gets to go to Tokyo and meet her boyfriend that she hasn’t seen since 1 year. In the train to Tokyo, she meets another girl, also named Nana, but very different from her. She’s an orphan, that used to be the frontman of a punk band back in her hometown, and she’s going to the capital to try and make her professional debut as a musician. By a set of circumstances the two girls are led to rent the same flat. This anime tells the story of both of them, about how their relationship, about one’s struggle to maintain stable relationships and one’s struggle to make her band go big. This anime is an excellent drama. We see the characters having to accept their responsibilities as adults, and trying to deal with their conflicting feelings.
- 2006, 47 epsiodes
7. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Makoto is a cheerful highschooler, who especially likes to play baseball with her two friends Chiaki and Koususke. One day, she almost gets run over by a tramway, and only survives thanks to a strange phenomenon: it seems that she has jumped through time, to the moment she was a few hours ago. After experimenting with her newfound ability, she tries to use it for her own benefit, but realizes that by doing that, she is putting the ones close to her in danger. A charming movie with charming characters, that combines interesting time-travel mechanics and a nice romance story. The excellent direction really captures something about adolescence, and despite it’s mostly carefree and refreshing atmosphere, manages to deliver a hard-hitting emotional climax.
2006, 1 movie
6. Death Parade
When someone does, his soul can reincarnated. But to provide the energy necessary for doing that, another soul needs to be consumed and returned to the void. Deciding which soul is worth of being reincarnated and which is to be consumed is the role of the arbiters of the Quindecim. In this strange place that looks like a bar, the dead souls have to play the games assigned by the arbiters, ranging from a game of darts to bowling. Behind each of these seemingly harmless trials hides a darker concept: they are designed to put the participants in desperate situations, thus making their true nature surface. The story follows Decim, a stoic and cynic arbiter, and the apprentice arbiter Chiyuki, more innocent but nonetheless strong willed, who will have to learn the harsh rules of the Quindecim. With an unique setting and an unique concept, Death Parade doesn’t really has any equivalent. Still, its excellent writing has led it to become a beloved and popular classic. Despite their brevity, the individual stories are very impactful and will leave you thinking. This anime indeed explores some very heavy themes, even if it’s packed in a very entertaining package. The unique aesthetic and visual direction make the death games even more memorable.
- 2015, 12 episodes
Hundreds of parasitic aliens descend on Earth, infecting and controlling the body of humans, while being able to transform into powerful and terrifying monsters at will. Shinichi Izumi, a reserved high-school student, is infected, but manages to keep the parasite confined tohis arm. With his arm now having a personality of his own, and it also being to transform, Izumi will have to fight for his life against the aliens trying to take control over humanity. The dark but grounded story, typical from Madhouse, keeps the viewer at the edge of it’s seat, as the main character and his alien companion Migi are confronted to merciless fights and moral dilemmas.
2014, 24 episodes
4. Legend Of The Galactic Heroes
35th century. The inhabited portion of the galaxy is divided in two super-entities: The Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. The story focuses on two main characters: Reinhard Von Lohengramm, from the Galactic Empire, a brilliant and passionate officer determined to climb the hierarchy and take revenge against the aristocracy that humiliated his family, and Yang Wen Li, a strategic genius from the FPA, that will be forced to fight for democracy by the circumstances, even if he hates war. The story follows these two charismatic protagonists through their lives and battles, and how those will intersect, in what probably is one of the most epic and important story ever told through animation. This anime’s old school style and limited animation will maybe put off some viewers, but the excellent writing of the anime more than makes up for it. Its length allows for a lot of development, excellent world-building, nuanced characters and great payoffs.
1988, 110 episodes
3. Hunter X Hunter (2011)
Hunters are the most brave and powerful adventurers in the world. Their talent allows them to look for hidden treasures, hunt for rare creatures and monsters, defend their employers… and their status gives them rights to achieve their means, that any human would dream of. But becoming one isn’t easy. Just after he was born, Gon’s father left his home to take the Hunter exam, and never came back. But now that he’s grown, Gon only has one thought in his head: he will become a Hunter and find his father. Hunter X Hunter, like all of the most beloved battle shounen series, feature an exciting world, likeable characters and an epic narrative. Still, Hunter X Hunter stands out in a number of ways, the most notable being it’s arc structure. Even if they are perfectly tied one into another by a well planned writing, each arc feels totally different from the other, with new stakes, new characters and different atmospheres. Whether it is the tournament arc of Heaven’s Arenas, the tense thriller-like strategies of Yorknew City, or the incredibly complex and detailed narration of the chaotic and epic battle against the Chimera Ants, Hunter X Hunter never fails to surprise and to amaze the viewer.
2011, 148 episodes
2. Perfect Blue
Mima is a member of the popular idol group CHAM. However, her manager convinces her to change her career plan and to become an actress. Despite her fear to disappoint her fans and her uncertainty about the future, she gets into the world of TV crime dramas, but she soon realizes how hard the job of a debutant actress is. Worse, a number of her old fans have felt betrayed by her departure from the band. She finds herself very disturbed when she finds an online blog retracing all her activity, written like it was her diary. Exhausted and stressed, Mima tries to keep her life and her mental state together, as her life as an actress, her movie roles, her public images, and the imagination of her fans all seem to blur together in an intextricable tapestry of parallel realities. Watching this anime is an unique experience, one that will leave you stunned and looking for answers questioning what is real and what isn’t. The contrast between the very grounded art-style and setting against the total dissolution of reality is mesmerizing. Legendary director Satoshi Kon used all the potential of animation and cinematography to deliver this fascinating and terrifying movie, about the dissolution of identity in the modern world.
1998, 1 movie
1. The Tatami Galaxy
Our narrator, only known as “watashi” (me), has just entered college, and dreams of living a happy, rose-colored campus life (and to ask out the beautiful but intimidating Akashi), but despite his efforts, he ends up stuck in frustrating situations, because of the bad advice of his friend Ozu. At the moment when he think he’s done for, the clock starts ticking… and he is suddenly taken back at the start of the school year. This strange cycle repeats every episode of this unconventional anime, and in each one, Watashi will make different choices, join a different club, meet different people… will he break free from this curse? Will he manage to attain that rose-colored campus life? This anime is a joy to watch. It’s intense pacing coupled with lightning fast narration doesn’t let you keep your eyes off the screen until the episode is finished. The inventive and splendid visuals are perfectly used to complement this dream-like tale, and the unique narrative structure is perfect to tell intricate story of self-betterment and self-acceptance.
2010, 11 episodes