17+ Intellectually Stimulating Anime Shows That Will Stir Your Imagination

vivy beautiful anime scene
Written by Theo J Ellis

Intellectually stimulating anime shows are some of the best to get into. It can be subjective, but there is a certain criteria for it.

Anime like:

  • Psychological.
  • Mystery.
  • Action.

And the types of anime that provoke thought, make you think, cause suspense, or present a concept in anew, fresh and unique way.

These are the shows (and more) that fit into the intellectually stimulating anime.

Let’s talk about it!

 

Intellectual anime to stir the imagination:

 

1. Wonder Egg Priority

wonder egg priority girls

Wonder Egg Priority might not have the best ending or last few episodes, but even still. The anime can’t be denied in the intellectually stimulating department.

It’s about 4 teenagers. The main and first one is Ai Ohto. The yellow wearing hoodie girl with blue hair.

She’s depressed because a friend she recently made committed suicide, which is clear from the first episode.

Later the anime focuses more on her story, and other characters like Rikka and others.

The anime’s approach to suicide, depression, and living life as a teenager is realistic, fresh, and different. And that’s why it deserves to be on this list.

It has strong psychological elements that make you think as well.

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2. Kino’s Travels: The Beautiful World

Kinos Travels The Beautiful World kino image

Kino’s Travels is an old school series by today’s standards. It dropped in the early 2000’s and is an underrated but short series.

It’s about Kino who travels the world, living in each place for a max of 3 days. She has a talking motorbike, which is weird at first, but the conversations they have is what makes the anime.

More than that it’s the conversations Kino has with the diverse amount of people in different towns, cities, villages and countries.

Each person has a story because of how different each person’s environment is, upbringing, the laws and so on.

Kino’s Travels is a philosophical anime with some violence and definitely a lot that will make you think about what’s happening.

 

3. Higurashi: When They Cry

Higurashi When They Cry knife

Higurashi When They Cry is the kind of anime that messes with its cast, psychologically, as a way to test them and bring about a certain result.

That’s basically what Higurashi is in a nutshell.

One of the main characters moves to Hinamizawa, a cursed village as he finds out. And weird things start to happen.

People going missing forever, bodies showing up in lakes, random murders and more mysteries.

Each story is set in mini arcs that last 4 or so episodes, making this horror anime unique and constantly evolving, which makes it more entertaining.

 

4. Eureka Seven

Eureka Seven renton eureka holding hands

Eureka Seven is a Mecha/Mystery anime that released in the late 2000’s. It’s biblical, has relgious refernces, and generally is a deep series.

Renton Thurston is sick of the town he’s living in, and wants to experience something new. He gets his wish when a random girl shows up in a ship, and they leave together.

This random event is explained later.

There’s concepts ad parts of the story that give yo a lot to think about and uncover. Especially when talking about the main character called Eureka.

You just can’t find anime like this anymore given it’s about 50+ episodes with its own art style that differentiates from what’s common.

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5. Ascendance Of A Bookworm

Ascendance Of A Bookworm myne headband

Ascendance Of A Bookworm is an Isekai series more people need to watch and see. A third season has just been announced and the 1st season dropped in 2019.

It’s a female lead series with a girl called Myne. After dying from overwork in Japan, she’s reincarnated as a child with mysterious powers and abilities.

Her passion is reading books, hence “bookworm”. But being poor in this world and knowing that nobles have exclusive access to books, she invents things to make money to work towards her dream.

This leads to elements of entrepreneurship, business, sales, product management, and things along those lines.

Spice And Wolf fans will appreciate this series, and anyone who wants a quality Isekai series with some solid writing.

 

6. A Certain Scientific Railgun

Ascendance Of A Bookworm misaka shokuho cover

The Railgun franchise as well as the Index franchise it comes from, are all clever in the way they build the world’s around them. And how the characters fit into it.

It’s a world full of espers that number in the millions in a place called Academy city. Espers are put on a pedestal in this place.

Out of millions, only 7 are ranked level 5. Mikoto Misaka is one of them and she’s a celebrity unlike a few others.

With the ongoing mysteries, battles, action, and how each plot builds up, it would be wrong to not include this anime. And that’s in spite of it’s other “slice of life” style moments at times.

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7. Monster

Monster anime kenzo japanese man

Monster is an anime series made in the 2000’s. Also known as anime’s last golden era. It’s a Madhouse studios classic, of which there are tons.

Kenzo Tenma has a choice to make:

  • Come to terms with the fact he saved a future serial killers life, and move on.
  • Or confront this serial killer in order to get rid of his heavy guilt.

He takes the 2nd option and pursues Johan Liebert, the boy who’s life he saved after removing a bullet from his head in surgery.  Only for him to be a known serial killer years later.

Solid writing, but a slow build up so you have to bare with it.

 

8. Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song

Vivy Fluorite Eyes Song diva vivy eyes hair

Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song… One of 2021’s most underrated anime series that was overlooked.

It’s about Vivy who’s artificial intelligence. Her mission is to make people happy through her singing, and to improve at singing for this purpose.

The anime ends up going deeper than that when Vivy is told of a future where artificial intelligence kills the human race, which she then strives to protect because it aligns with her goals.

You can think of Vivy as a female terminator. But better.

The visuals are absolutely stunning, not even Violet Evergarden could win in a battle of aesthetics. Ansd that’s saying something.

 

9. Cells At Work

Cells At Work duo

Cells At Work is intellectually stimulating in ways most anime just can’t compare to. It’s not even trying to be this way, but its creativity is the reason for it.

This anime makes learning about biology and cells interesting and without the boredom that usually comes with it. It’s portrayed in a Shounen style, artistically.

White blood cells, Red Blood cells, Platelets, and other cells get character roles and everything from how your cells work to how they keep you alive is innovative.

You get to learn in a way that’s simple, but stimulating enough to keep your curiosity going.

 

10. Mieruko Chan

Mieruko Chan miko mirror ghost

Mieruko Chan is another anime that does things differently and has given the industry a taste of what horror and comedy looks like.

It’s horror and comedy done right, with enough suspense and fear driven moments to make you feel Miko’s emotions and anxiety.

Miko’s friend Hana can’t see spirits like Miko can, but her positive energy helps. And Yulia Chan, Miko and Hana’s eventual friend can see them, but she’s fearless.

Almost every episode improves on the last in one way or another.

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11. Shadows House

Shadows House emilico kate season 1

Shadows House is a 2021 underrated anime series, with enough mystery, suspense, and plot twists to keep the average fan interested.

The anime is about dolls and nobles. The dolls serve the nobles, but nobles have their own classes in the hierarchy.

Kate, a noble that Emilico the doll serves, is a lower class noble and is treated that way. They work their way up the ranks and things start to get out of control.

You can think of this anime as a massively improved version of The Promised Neverland, but without the horror elements.

Relevant: The 19+ Cutest Anime Girls Of The Year (2021)

 

12. Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass episode 6 anime e1641323290239

Psycho Pass a 2010’s classic from Production I.G. It’s one of the only police anime in the genre to get so much attention and recognition.

This anime mixes police, law enforcement, robots and a futuristic society together, and shows you the potential end result. With the negative consequences and all.

Akane Tsunemori tries to change this internally as a new recruit, but struggles. And this effort leads to a solid story (in part) later down the line.

 

13. Death Note

Death Note yagami suit e1641323302736

Death Note is a classic. Not much needs to be said. A death note falls out the sky, a bored teenager picks it up coindientally, and shit hits the fan.

Society is never the same. He develops a god complex and starts dishing out “justice” as he see’s fit by writing down the names of those he doesn’t like, and having a demon kill them.

People have a lot to say about this anime’s ending, or certain parts of the anime as a whole. But at the core of it this anime has solid writing and some of the best suspense ever  built into an anime.

It lives up to the hype in so many ways.

 

14. Happy Sugar Life

Happy Sugar Life shio satou artistic e1641323321112

Happy Sugar Life is a horror series that I feel is slightly underrated and deserves more attention. It’s messed up but the writer does a good job of organizing these messed up ideas.

Satou Matsuzaka falls in love with a child no older than 7 years old. Shio Kobe the child is called.

She’s abadoned by her mother, and Satou runs into her and adopts her into her own home. And that’s where this twisted relationship of love begins.

Masochists, normal teenagers turned into creeps through painful experiences, a strange but curious auntie, and a Yandere style MC with pink hair.

Happy Sugar Life breaks down these elements and more with the right amount of suspense, horror, and fear factor that makes the writing style special. And the use of art is unique as well.

 

15. Hyouka

Hyouka squad characters

Hyouka is a school anime that doesn’t seem like it’ll be much as far as story. But it develops and becomes more than it should.

It’s basically one guy who’s got free time and is bored who decides to use his time to solve “mysteries”. Either real mysteries or one’s they make up.

About 4 characters get together in total, and then pursue that. But it goes from a mundane topic and is turned into something funny and entertaining.

It’s intricate and it makes you think.

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16. Code Geass

Code Geass all hail lelouch

Code Geass is a masterpiece in my eyes. Ignoring that for a hot sec, this anime is intellectually stimulating from start to finish because of how it’s written.

Lelouch almost dies, but is saved and gains the power of Geass. With it he can command someone to do whatever he wants.

In the first season the results of his actions goes horribly wrong, and will leave you conflicted. This happens a lot throughout the anime.

Lelouch isn’t a cliche hero type, he’s the opposite. A conflicting protagonist who’s fighting for the sake of his sister, but is willing to get down and dirty (no pun intended) to achieve his goal.

The plot can be summed up as a game of Chess but in a military/mecha context.

 

17. Talentless Nana

Talentless Nana scene episode 7

Almost every episode of this 2020 anime is different, progressive, and continues to evolve on the plot with some allusive details thrown in to keep you in the dark.

Right from the first episode it involves thought to pick apart, dissect, and decipher what’s even happening. The character designs are intentionally misleading (main character more so).

It’s a mysterious anime with a psychological plot. Meaning it’s the type of anime that focuses on the mind state of its characters, keeps you guessing, makes you think, and so on.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Death Parade.
  • Skip Beat,
  • Madoka Magica.
  • Eighty Six.
  • Assassination Classroom.
  • Monogatari.
  • No Game No Life.

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Alice Harcourt
Alice Harcourt
Fabulous list! Some of my all-time faves are on here & I'll definitely check out the few I haven't seen yet. Thanks for posting! 
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