You won’t notice it unless you pay attention, but tons of anime have their own set of distinctive art styles.
Almost every show fits into at least one of these categories. Intentionally or unintentionally.
Let’s take an anime like Cowboy Bebop for example.
What kind of anime art style represents Cowboy Bebop? What’s the first thought that comes to your mind?
And what about an anime like Date A Live?
How would you describe the art style used in this Ecchi/harem series?
While you try to figure it out, here are 10 types of anime art styles we tend to see over and over again.
I’ve categorized each one into my own set of “phrases” to make it simple to understand.
Common Anime Art Styles:
1. Kawaii art styles
Kawaii art styles in anime are some of the “newest” in the last decade. Before then (1990’s or before), there was no such thing as Kawaii art styles.
One of the best anime shows that describe Kawaii art styles is: New Game!
New Game is a slice of life/comedy series about the gaming company: Eagle Jump, and the employees who work within it.
The first thing you’ll notice about New Game is how bright the colours are, and better yet: the kawaii drawings and art style of each character.
Despite the “Kawaii” art, the creators still manage to represent the ages of each character realistically. Or at least to a degree. it’s an impressive example of a Kawaii style anime in recent years.
2. Realistic art styles
Then there’s a style I call: “realistic”.
There aren’t many anime shows that fit into the realistic art style category. But those that do are some of the best shows on earth, statistically (and objectively) speaking.
Remember how I mentioned Cowboy Bebop earlier? That fits into the realistic art style category.
Alongside shows like:
All 4 of these shows are “Seinen” by definition. Which is aimed at older anime fans (20-30+). And each one of them feels realistic, looks realistic, and represents dark themes that apply to the real world.
Like arms deals who sell weapons and make tons of money, or how the wrong circumstances can turn a kind person into a monster.
Realistic anime art styles are one of my favourites.
3. Chibi art styles
There’s also “chibi” art styles. This is more obvious than the last 2 I’ve mentioned.
Chibi by definition is childish in every way, shape and form. And any anime with Chibi art styles has characters who look much younger than they actually are.
Though not all of these anime are like that.
Is The Order A Rabbit?
All of these shows have childish looking drawings and characters. Especially Lucky Star, which features 17-18-19 year old characters who look much younger.
In contrast: Kinmoza has a main character who’s 16 years old, but you wouldn’t believe it from the art style.
4. Moe art styles
“Moe” is confused with Kawaii for obvious reasons. They’re both so similar it’s hard to differentiate.
The best way to describe “moe” art styles is with anime shows created by Kyoto Animation. You could even say they’re 100% responsible for the phrase “moe” in the first place.
These shows best describe the art style of Moe better than any other series. I define it as a mixture of:
- Characters who “look” childish, but still believable for their age.
- Characters (and art) that’s Kawaii without being over the top.
5. Beautiful art styles
Beautiful art is a tricky one in the anime industry.
In some ways it’s close and comparable to realistic anime art. But in other ways it’s far beyond that. Because of how unbelievable the quality is.
The best shows that describe this art style are:
Garden Of Words
A Silent Voice
The Ancient Magus Bride
All of these 5 shows have realistic drawings and art, but there’s more to each one than that. The animation, quality, backgrounds and characters will blow your mind.
It’s “eye candy” at its best.
6. Weird art styles
And then you have weird anime art styles. The kind you can’t categorize because it’s too out of this world when compared to “normal” art styles.
The best way to describe this art style is with images from anime like:
Knights Of Sidonia
As you can tell – the anime art styles in these 4 shows is very strange. Compared to your everyday style at least.
But I respect the creators even more for “trying” to step into new territory, and try something new.
It’s no good if a creator rests on their laurels after all.
7. “Standard” art styles
It’s exactly as it sounds. Standard is the typical type of art we see in the average anime that’s aired.
I’d categorize anime like Date A Live, Katana Maidens, and similar shows as “standard”. Alongside series like:
Don’t get me wrong: standard styles aren’t bad, in fact they’re amazing (Sakura Quest, Clannad). But these types are hard to categorize, hence “standard” is the term used.
8. Ecchi art styles
Ecchi art styles are easy to notice.
Why? Because the characters are either half naked, have BIG boobs, or something else to distinguish them.
You know the kind of anime series I’m talking about.
High School Of The Dead
High School DxD
To Love Ru
Shows like these are classics in the harem/Ecchi genre. And so are their “over the top” art.
Especially for female characters in particular.
9. Cartoon art styles
“Cartoon” is the best way to describe this style, because it reminds you of the visuals done in American cartoons.
This is because of the colours used (and how much of it that’s used).
As well as how much emphasis the artists puts into each character (and backgrounds in general).
Kill La Kill
Little Witch Academia
The first 2 of these series were produced by Studio Trigger.
I like their way of animating and designing. It’s always fresh and stands out compared to other studios.
10. CGI art styles
CGI is the final one worth mentioning.
CGI is least common art style out of ANY anime combined. Because it’s a set of innovative techniques used to create more “realism”.
Besides it’s not something the anime community is fond of just yet.
It’s not perfect, but some shows do pull it off better than others.
Good examples are:
I put God Eater last for a reason. It has the best CGI of any anime I’ve ever seen.
The animation (and the art) is out of this world. It’s hard to say if even a series like Violet Evergarden could compare.
Can you add anymore anime art styles to this list?