12+ Important Anime With Substance And Meaningful Messages

Sunday Without God Ai Aston Girl
Written by Theo J Ellis

Anime shows with substance are a different breed of anime all together. Not to say many anime don’t have substance, they do.

It’s just some anime shows stand out more than others in this category. Because:

  • They have more depth.
  • Touch on points relating closely to real life.
  • Have practical messages.

And themes you can take something from directly, rather than something more superficial (like some Isekai for example).

Let’s focus on these types of anime with meaningful messages.

If you’ve got something to say, leave it in the comments.

 

1. Shimoneta

Shimoneta okuma decency squad funny

A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist. This anime‘s English Title is a mouthful.

It’s an Ecchi anime with obvious fan service, and would be ignored by the average Joe or Karen.

That’s a mistake. This Ecchi has more substance than not just more serious shows, but Ecchi shows in the same genre.

The main theme is about political correctness, and what the world looks like when political correctness has gone MAD.

YouTube video

Not being able to make lewd jokes, being monitored to the point of facing jail if you say anything “unclean”… These are real issues in the Shimoneta series.

It aired back in 2015 and when we look at real life for comparison, the SJW-ism and self censorship we see today mirrors what you see in Shimoneta.

It’s almost like Shimoneta was warning us of what the world could look like if things get too ridiculous.

It’s realistic, relevant, but under the guise of Ecchi and foul language that would make a bible basher vomit.

 

2. Shirobako

Shirobako episode 15 anime screenshot 2

Shirobako is an important anime series. I’m surprised few people talk about it so openly. It hardly ever shows up in discussions Twitter threads, or whatever else.

The anime is a masterclass on the anime industry itself. Or at least the best masterclass you’re likely to see in animated form.

It goes through what it takes to be an animator, the hustle and grind, the shifts and schedules, and the meeting of anime deadlines.

It also goes through the process of making an anime, being in the studio, how parts are added, taken out, and so much more.

It’s about as real of an anime as it gets. If you’re an anime fan for real, it’s not an anime show you can ignore. Unless you’re wilfully ignorant.

Anyone who cares about the state of the anime industry NEEDS to watch this for insight.

 

3. Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass akame tsunemori table

A society so technologically advanced that robots and tech runs everything. Robots even clean the streets, and it goes a step further.

People can get dressed with the help of a hologram or robotic assistant. And it can be done in the blink of an eye.

That’s not the main premise, but it’s a picture of what this anime‘s world is designed to look like.

Psycho Pass tells a story from the perspective of police officers in this society, and how they go about doing their job and apprehending criminals.

psycho pass gun dominator 1

There’s a gun called a Dominator. This gun can measure the mental health of a person.

If it’s too high, the gun decides whether killing the individual is justified.

If it’s too low, no action is taken.

The anime has substance baked into it, and it goes deeper than what I’ve mentioned.

 

4. NANA

NANA komatsu crying funny

NANA is a classic 2000’s romance/slice of life Shoujo from Madhouse studios. It’s a quality series that only gets better.

2 girls meet on a train, and even sit next to each other as it’s packed. They’re on their way to Tokyo for their own reasons.

Both girls happen to talk and they’re both called NANA (first name). They also end up living across from each other in a set of flats.

Nana Komatsu is the ditzy, clumsy girl in her 20’s. She came to Tokyo to “live the dream” as you’re told at that age, and despite being naive, she’s lively and brings everyone together.

Nana Osaki is more edgy, straightforward, and tough on the outside. A musician with dreams, and a talented one.

The substance in this anime comes down to its portrayal of what it’s like to be in your 20’s, and the lifestyle that comes with it.

Relationships, sex, romance, pursuing your dreams, the challenges along the way, the anime gets the message right and is relatable for anyone in that age group.

 

5. Death Parade

Death Parade decim moments

Death Parade is an anime with so much substance I can’t ignore it.

  • What happens when you die?
  • Where do you go?
  • Who decides whether you should go to hell or heaven?
  • How is it decided?

This anime answers, or tries to answer these questions and many more.

It takes people who’ve died, puts them in a realm between heaven and hell, where they’re “judged”, and from there it’s decided where they should go.

Each person is forced into situations that reveal who they really are on the inside. This is the basis for judging them (morals, ethics, etc).

 

6. Akame Ga Kill

Akame Ga Kill tatsumi and esdeath moments 1

Akame Ga Kill is what happens when you take Shounen, and give it a new spin and don’t follow the usual cliches.

It’s about revolution. Society is being oppressed by the corruption in the government. Prime Minister Honest, an ironic name for something so wicked and evil, is responsible for the carnage.

He’ll have someone beheaded for something small like dropping money on the floor, just to make a point.

Impossibly high taxes are forced upon the poor. No one feels safe. Everyone is sh*t scared but anger is brewing.

akame ga kill army 1

That “anger” is what leads to an assassination group called Night Raid. And a group called the revolutionary army who created it.

They plan to overthrow the government, destroy it, and then bring about massive change.

This theme is why the anime is so violent, savage, dark, disturbed, and overall – meaningful and relatable.

Relevant: 17+ Of The Greatest Female Lead Shonen Anime Worth Watching

 

7. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue pop idol screenshot

An anime movie by Madhouse studios, it’s about a lot of things. One thing being celebrities who deal with stalking.

The main character is an idol, but she quits to avoid the limelight. The pressure is too high and it’s getting too on top for her to deal with.

Once she steps out the limelight and it’s made public, one creep in particular starts to stalk her.

Her mental health from that point takes a turn for the worst. But there’s more to it than that (plot twists).

It’s a meaningful insight into not just women who may experience stalkers, but celebrities who deal with it on a higher level.

 

8. Cells At Work

Cells At Work red blood cell white blood cell opening

Cells At Work is dressed up as a fun Shounen with laughs, comedy, and characters representing cells that live in your body.

Underneath the colorful animation and art, is a message relating to how important each cell is in your body. And how vital it is to your overall health.

It’s no surprise that after watching Cells At Work, fans have been motivated to take their health more seriously. And it makes you think deeper about it (clarity).

How the anime is presented is on point, anyone of almost any age can watch it. But it has substance built into it, and you get to learn while you’re at it and be entertained.

 

9. Plastic Memories

Plastic Memories isla white hair cute

Plastic Memories is a romance series with a first episode that makes it seem like it’s all jokes and giggles. The first episode is one of the funniest.

Isla, an android girl with a synthetic soul, works with Tsukasa, a human. They both work to find other android girls who are reaching their expiration dates.

There’s a deeper reason as to why this is.

The main theme in this anime is the painful truth of mortality, and having to come to terms with it.

I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but you’ll understand as you get through it and come to understand the context.

It’s a disheartening anime, but inspiring at the same time. It’s one of the best romance anime of all time in my eyes.

 

10. Happy Sugar Life

Happy Sugar Life satou and shio happy face e1633297499440

This is a horror series with the classic “pink haired” main character who looks cute and sassy, but has a darker, more savage side.

Satou Matsuzaka is a girl who has no trouble attracting boys. But after we’ll say, “adopting” a girl who no longer has parents to go home to, things change.

Satou develops a crush, an almost paedophilic (but platonic) love for this child who’s called Shio Kobe.

shio and satou marriage

They share baths together, Satou works hard for Shio’s sake, and she’s seemingly happier because of Shio being in her life.

There’s a deeper message to this anime that reveals itself, and it relates to Satou’s past (in part).

It’s a horror series with substance like no other, because it’s portrayed and written in a way comparable shows just aren’t.

It’s both twisted and meaningful. It’s only 12 episodes long.

 

11. Gakkou Gurashi

yuki takeya gif cute funny

Gakkou Gurashi is another horror series, also with a pink haired main character. But she’s doesn’t have a dark side and isn’t a Yandere.

Yuki Takeya, one of the MC’s of this series, is cheery, bubbly, optimistic and a positive thinker. It’s her normal state of being.

While the anime dresses itself up as a fun school anime, you learn fast that it has depth and substance hiding under the surface.

The world is now overrun with zombies. The main characters are living in a pandemic.

gakkou gurashi megurigaoka building

They’re trapped in their school, which is strangely prepared for a pandemic given how many rations there is.

Yuki Takeya can see things that aren’t there, not because she’s special, but because she has a mental illness called Psychosis.

This plays into the deeper, darker parts of the anime from episode 1, but it goes even further than that.

 

12. Talentless NANA

nana hiiragi cute face

Talentless NANA. This anime again has a pink haired main character, but this time around there’s more than meets the eye, just like Satou Matsuzaka.

Nana Hiiragi, the pink haired MC, is gentle, kind, giving towards others, and is easy to trust. And that’s where things get dark.

The main theme running through this anime (and life lesson) is about trusting people, and the concept of lying to get what you want.

What pushes a person to lie or manipulate people’s trust? This anime shows you, and not in the prettiest way.

The plot twists only makes this more complicated and cruel as the episodes go by.

 

Similar anime:

  • Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple.
  • Samurai Champloo.
  • Assassination Classroom.
  • Gunslinger Girl.
  • Sunday Without God.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka.
  • Black Lagoon.
  • Jormungand.
  • Violet Evergarden.
  • Hinamatsuri.
  • Skip Beat.

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