There are so many anime that lack the spotlight that various mainstream anime like One Piece and Naruto do but have the same, if not more, depth and story to them coupled with exciting themes. These are what people call “underrated anime.”
I’m here to list to you 10 anime that range from slightly- to criminally-underrated. These specific anime were picked based on their average rating among many websites cross-referenced by the number of people who showed interest/watched the anime.
Included in this list are anime that have not been given much love, whether it be ratings or numbers, but they still tackle complicated themes and revolve around an enticing story.
In the Sengoku era of Japan, a greedy feudal lord’s land is dying and in order to maintain his status and control, he will do anything. Even if it means renouncing Buddha and making a deal with 12 demons, the feudal lord Daigomaru creates a pact with 12 demons for the power of his prefecture’s agricultural and imperialistic growth but at a price. In exchange for power, Daigomaru offers anything of his and the demons decide to take the skin, limbs, nose, eyes, and ears of his first newborn son. Disgusted with the sight of his baby, he orders his servants to cast him away.
This boy is rescued by a medicine man who equips him with prosthetics and nurtures him. The boy grows up to become a skilled swordsman, using the prosthetics on his limbs as blades and using only his innate sense of detecting life to go on a journey to kill the 12 demons and take back the body they took from him. One day, he encounters a young child named Dororo who he inadvertently saves and Dororo tags along with him for the rest of his journey.
I only came across this anime when searching up historical action/adventure anime and had to scroll down a decent bit to finally see this masterpiece but I’m so glad I did. This anime mainly focuses on the story of what it means to be human and what exactly the concept of “revenge” entails. Is revenge justified? How much will you pay for the price of salvation and to get back what you lost? Very, very, very good anime with lots of action and will make you question your resolve in life.
2-Darker than Black (Kuro no Keiyakusha)
10 years ago, two extra-dimensional gates opened in the world: one in South America known as “Heaven’s Gate” and another one in Japan known as “Hell’s Gate.” This dystopian city in Japan is enveloped in an unfamiliar, fabricated sky caused by the Gates’ activity. From the opening of this gate came the appearances of certain individuals with abilities gifted from the Gate who are known as “contractors” due to their powers coming from them paying a price, whether it be breaking a finger, cutting yourself, smoking, etc.
Darker than Black follows Misaki Kirihara, a detective who is chasing the elusive and deadly contractor: “Black Reaper” who is freely able to manipulate molecules to his will. Little does she know that who the “Black Reaper” is and the events surrounding her will unveil in a way she would never imagine.
This is an extremely undermentioned sci-fi thriller that perfectly captures the true inner struggles that humans have. It juggles the concept of what exactly is human. This anime is slightly old and shows clear signs of a 2000’s-style animation but the story progresses slowly until around the middle of the first season and pieces of the puzzle are put together and the suspense will leave you binging this entire series. Like other deep anime, this series tackles a very sci-fi and trippy setting and juggles themes like sacrifice, motive, purpose, and cost. What is the cost of your humanity?
On a lonely night at an enigmatic street ramen stand, a lonely third-year college student runs into a man with an eggplant-shaped head who claims to be God of Matrimony. Initially confused by this mysterious man, the college student starts to reflect on his past two years in college filled with ridiculous schemes construed by his “friend” Ozu. These schemes include breaking up couples for fun and making his and others’ lives miserable. Realizing he had enough of this life, he decides to ask out his kind but introverted underclassman Akashi but fails to go through with it. He instantly starts regretting his college life and the second that thought passes through his head, he is transported through space and time to redo his college years and life.
Tatami Galaxy sets itself apart from many anime due to its unorthodox animation style. It utilizes such a plain yet abstract animation style that accurately conveys the emotions and thoughts that flood through the main character’s inner dialogue throughout the show. This anime is about seizing opportunities and never turning your eyes to the opportunities that are presented right in front of you. Living your own life and making your own decisions is the path to a happy, self-driven lifestyle because no one else should be making the choices in the life that you live. Tatami Galaxy is the reason I started taking more initiative in my own life choices and I’ve become such a happier person because of it so I HIGHLY recommend you watch this anime. It’s very short as well with only 11 episodes.
Katanagatari is an anime based in Edo Japan, a time where a myriad of colorful and different sword styles are practiced. Shichika Yasuri practices the most unique of all sword styles: Kyotouryuu, a style that hones and utilizes the user’s own body as a blade. As the seventh head of the Kyotouryuu style, he practices and lives on an isolated island with his older sister. One day, he is visited by the Shogunate’s master strategist Togame who has her sights set on collecting all 12 of the Deviant Blades across Japan and requires Shichika’s help.
The 12 Deviant Blades are special blades known to be worth a country’s monetary value each. Shichika brazenly accepts to travel with her for the sake of love and together, they journey across Japan and fight master sword wielders, deadly ninjas, unexpected enemies, and much more.
Katanagatari is one of those anime that will remind you of Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop. The journey that one experiences when watching this 12-episode (45 minutes per episode) anime outshines many other elements in popular anime. Each episode focuses on a Deviant blade and the story and message behind each blade ties together so intricately like a spider web. The animation style is a bit different than most anime with it’s opaque lines and simplistic facial drawings but the fight scenes are so well choreographed and executed that I got shivers every time Shichika went against a strong opponent. This anime makes you think about how the destination is not what’s only important but the journey as well. Meeting new people, sharing fun and tears, experiencing life-or-death situations with your companion, all these things bring two people closer and closer together in a way that will warm your heart.
Monkey men, sea-dwelling monsters, vampires, humanoid insects, and so many odd beings roam the street of Hellsalem’s Lot. Hellsalem’s Lot is the post-apocalyptic version of New York City after the gate to the Beyond opened and spilled in radiation and beings from another dimension, forever changing the city. In order to keep the city’s monsters and threats at bay, the underground organization Libra is there who consists of individuals who can freely manipulate their blood as special abilities.
Pursuing a passion in photography, a young man Leonardo Watch walks the park with his crippled younger sister and parents when suddenly a god-like being appears and gives a choice to who will receive the “All-Seeing Eyes of God” and everyone else will become blind since that sole person is the “witness.” His younger sister, Michella, sacrifices her eyesight for her brother and as a result, Leonardo gains the “All-Seeing Eyes of God.” With the objective of gaining back his sister’s eyesight, Leonardo Watch moves to Hellsalem’s Lot and gets involved with many different villains, monsters, and Libra, in this action-packed anime.
This is an extremely action-packed anime that not only provides a very intriguing backstory on the protagonist but appropriately delves into the stories behind the supporting characters. Themes like love, purpose, family, dignity, and compassion are juggled throughout this anime as our seemingly “weak” protagonist struggles to adapt to his newfound power and life in a city of hell. A lot of the story revolves around Leonardo’s moral choices about whether or not using his powers is allowed or not, given that they’re the product of his sister’s sacrifice. However, throughout this anime, you will see such amazing character progression from many members of Libra and the bonds they form between one another makes for an amazing show. The comedy mixed in with the absolutely heart-racing action absolutely killed me while watching. The action scenes are also animated mainly by Yuki Hayashi and Yutaka Nakamura who are some of the most famous animators (Boku no Hero Academia, Sword of the Stranger, Mob Psycho 100, One Punch Man, etc) so you know they’re absolutely insane.
6-Daily Lives of High School Boys
In Sanada North High School, an all-boys institution stars three comrades: an eccentric ringleader with a wild imagination Hidenori, a blond-haired passionate idiot Yoshitake, and the rational and shrewd Tadakuni. Together, these boys get themselves involved in outrageous schemes and wild skits that surpass anything anyone can imagine. Love, sword-fighting, giant monster robots, and so much more are involved in their everyday lives but who doesn’t want to enjoy their high-school life?
This is probably one of the funniest anime I’ve ever watched. With many voice actors from Gintama and the choppy scene transitions akin to Grand Blue, this anime couples great voice acting with hilarious short stories every episode. Each character is so unique and has their own quirks and passions that when you jumble them all together, it makes for a show that you cannot stop clicking “Next Episode” on.
Have you ever lived a life that you don’t want to show other people? Is it something so embarrassing that you can’t show or is it because you don’t want people seeing that side of you because of respect and adoration? Meet Kakushi Gotou, a popular mangaka who writes dirty-humor manga for a living. He loves writing manga and enjoys what he does but with one downside: he can NEVER let his elementary-school daughter Hime know about it. Hime is a sweet, innocent girl who cares deeply for her single father, causing Kakushi to do anything within his power to hide his occupation from his daughter out of fear that she will start to never respect or like him again. Ranging from setting up elaborate trips that coincide with her daughter’s school excursions, changing clothes in a nearby convenience store, remodeling his work office, hiring doppelgangers, etc. Kakushi will do anything to keep his job a secret in this hilariously sweet slice-of-life anime.
At first, this concept seemed pretty mundane to me and watching an anime about elaborate lies and schemes to hide his career from his daughter didn’t seem like something I thought I could get myself into. Boy was I wrong; this anime is the personification of diabetes and happiness. The light comedy and eccentric characters made me literally laugh out loud so many times just because of how crazy Kakushi was in his plots. Although this might seem like some unfinished slice-of-life anime, it actually follows a well-developed plot and ends on a very filling note towards the last episode. I highly recommend watching this if you want to feel good after a bady day or two.
Space is a vast region of lifeforms, planes, and other variants that most of us don’t even know. With such an array of mystery floating around the universe, curiosity is sure to peak. Enter Space Dandy, an alien bounty hunter who hunts down unclassified aliens and registers them for a reward. Sounds easy enough right? Well, it really doesn’t add up that nicely with zombies, perverted tentacle aliens, mysterious ramen shops, and so much more getting in his way. No matter what obstacles get in his way, Space Dandy will always search to find the rarest alien and get the biggest prize along with his adorable robot vacuum QT and cat-like alien Meow. Traveling in his plain, slightly-used ship Aloha Oe, Dandy journeys across the galaxy encountering adventure, danger, romance, and so much more.
This anime is honestly CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED. My initial impression before watching this anime was to compare it to the likes of Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. Seeing such a lively, vibrant color scheme coupled with goofy characters made me think that this was just a cheap comedy attempt by Shinichiro Watanabe. HOLY SHIT WAS I COMPLETELY WRONG. I have never really watched any humor material that Watanabe has produced with Space Dandy being the first one but after watching both seasons, I am in shock. The comedy is so mellow yet makes me giggle every time mainly because of how manly Dandy tries to be, pursuing his perverted and money-driven senses.
With comedy aside however, Space Dandy has amazing storytelling with such an intricate plot line behind every character that is introduced in each episode. Behind all the gags and perverted jokes, Space Dandy perfectly narrates tales throughout the galaxy utilizing a protagonist who proves himself to be a man amongst men. Some of the episodes made me almost tear up and some made me rethink about life. Passion and goal-driven motivation is something that is so important to the human psyche and pushes life forward. Watching Dandy do whatever it takes to secure his goal is inspiring behind all the stupid jokes.
Tada Banri is an average 19-year old guy starting his first year at law school. After experiencing a tragic accident that caused him to develop amnesia, he decides to make new friends and meets Mitsuo Yanagisawa. Everything goes normally and the two hit it off really well until a strange girl around their age walks up to Mitsuo and slaps him repeatedly with a bouquet of roses. This girl is Kouko Kaga, Mitsuo’s childhood friend, and is obsessed over Mitsuo, wanting him to marry her. As the show progresses, the two get more involved in Banri’s life and meet other people. Banri starts to realize the glory of bright, beautiful college life as he looks forward to his future of romance, school, and fun.
Golden Time is not to be mistaken with the much below-average movie sharing the same name. This show is not mentioned that much when romantic dramas are recommended but it lives up and can compete with romance anime like Toradora and Pet Girl of Sakurasou. Twists and turns with spicy drama mixed into it made this show an absolute binge watch for me. Certain scenes made me cringe, with some making me laugh, and a lot of them making me feel thrilling and daring for more. This anime’s main point is just the sheer level of drama and story progression that follows this entire show.
10-Bungou Stray Dogs
Starving and on the brink of death, Atsushi Nakajima sits on the banks of a river pondering his life after being kicked out of an orphanage at a young age. Things change when he unexpectedly saves a man from drowning. The man’s name is Osamu Dazai and he offers Atsushi a meal as thanks and introduces him and his irritable partner Doppo Kunikida as detectives in the Armed Detective Agency. It’s an organization composed of gifted individuals who tackle cases that the police cannot.
Dazai offers to employ Atsushi to help search for a fabled tiger responsible for killing innocent people when in full moonlight and Atsushi reluctantly agrees. Little does he know that he’s wrapped himself in an unimaginable world filled with danger from the Port Mafia, a powerful crime syndicate, and individuals possessing abilities that balance the fate of Japan. Using his newfound powers, Atsushi must work with the Armed Detective Agency to tackle cases and maintain peace in Japan.
Hands-down one of the best seinen action anime I’ve ever watched. This anime’s characters are based on famous authors, even sharing the same name. All the people who possess special abilities have the name of an author and their ability’s name and mechanisms are linked to a work by said author. This series is almost akin to Durarara!!! with gangs and dangerous individuals coupled with gore and themes that will make your skin crawl. Each member of the Armed Detective Agency has such intricate and complex personalities and abilities that watching them work together to put them in use makes for one hell of an action anime.
I hope you enjoyed my list of anime that most people have seen, maybe taken a glance or two at, and left. These anime really are some of the hidden gems and missed opportunities that some avid anime fans skip over due to various different factors. Since most of these anime have high ratings but are mentioned a lot less than many worse anime, I wanted to give you guys this list so that you can enjoy more anime that you maybe haven’t heard of.