Thought Provoking Anime Shows You Need To Watch
Avatar of Theo J Ellis

19+ Thought Provoking Anime Shows You Need To Watch

There are over 10,000+ Anime shows in the world, as shown by the website – MyAnimeList (if added up).

Many of those Anime are hilarious, eye candy, and full of action and romance. While others are more adult orientated like Seinen, or psychological that highlights aspects of a person’s mind.

In today’s list, we’ll focus on thought-provoking Anime shows in particular.

Each show may have you thinking deeply about life and could change the way you see the world on some level.

 

1. Code Geass

Code Geass cover with multiple characters

Code Geass is about a war between Japan and the Holy Britannian Empire. It kicks off when Britannia invades Japan, takes over their country, and renames Japan Area 11.

Code Geass is the type of Anime you can’t help but be impressed by.

The main character, Lelouch Vi Britannia, is intelligent, witty, strategic, clever, and smart to say the least. A forward-thinking person who’s a fan of chess.

As the series starts to progress the events that take place will blow your mind, have your jaw on the floor, and even make you angry.

You might develop a love-hate relationship with the main character’s motives and the method he uses to achieve his goals.

But that’s what makes Code Geass such a good series. The mix of emotions and how it’s written.

YouTube video

 

2. Higurashi: When They Cry

Mion and shion sonozaki school uniform wallpaper

The Anime kicks off in an area known as – Hinamizawa. It’s a town that’s cursed by the village god – Oyashiro. The main character: Keiichi Maebara has just recently moved to Hinamizawa as the Anime starts.

Each year when the festival arrives, someone’s murdered and another person mysteriously disappears into thin air.

But what happens in between is nothing short of a psychological experiment. Trust me it’s insane.

If you’re looking for something mysterious, dark and mind-boggling, Higurashi is the Anime for it. It’ll have you thinking – “how the F did that happen” as each episode progresses.

The unpredictability of Higurashi is one of its most attractive elements as far as I see it.

 

3. Ergo Proxy

Re-l Mayer in a dark alley from Ergo Proxy

Ergo Proxy is easily one of the strangest, most thought-provoking Anime shows out there that many swear by as an underrated classic.

The story starts in a city called Romdo. A city where a catastrophe took place thousands of years ago that endangered the planet.

I won’t go too much more into it, I’d recommend you watch the trailer below. Then get into the Anime if it suits your taste.

 

4. Elfen Lied

Lucy from Elfen Lied cover

Elfen Lied is about Lucy, a government experiment who happens to escape from her laboratory.

This Anime will have you thinking about the cruel side of life, how unfair certain situations are, and just how evil and wicked human beings can be.

It’s extremely violent, more violent than the average Anime that’s considered “violent” and it being the most famous horror anime might have something to do with it.

This becomes brutally obvious after witnessing lots of bloody and depressing scenes (like dogs being abused).

But if you can make it past that, this is a rewarding Anime to watch. And is bound to make you question things in your own life, and society itself.

 

5. Full Metal Alchemist

Elric brothers from fullmetal alchemist

Full Metal Alchemist is an anime about the lives of Edward Elric And Alphonse Elric. Two brothers who after losing their mother, try to bring her back to life with the power of Alchemy.

The tool needed to make it happen is The Philosopher’s Stone. I have to say out of all the anime on this list, Full Metal Alchemist is #1 for how thought-provoking it is.

It not only makes you think with its meaningful quotes, but you’ll see life from a viewpoint you never considered.

You might start using the principles in your own life. A principle they call – The Law Of Equivalent Exchange.

 

6. Violet Evergarden

GIF of Violet Evergarden blue skies

Violet Evergarden is named after the main character of this show and produced by Kyoto Animation.

The story follows Violet and her journey of discovering what it means to “love” someone. After all – her general in the army’s last words to Violet was “I love you”, but she was too uneducated to understand when it happened.

Never have I seen an anime capable of being this stunning, able to pull on the heartstrings, and be thought-provoking all at once.

It really does make you think: what is love? How do you define it?

How do you get over the tragedy of losing a loved one, or worse: taking someone’s life as a soldier in an all-out war?

That kind of thing is bound to haunt you for life, and it’s clear that Violet is scarred by the dark past she was forced into living whether she liked it or not.

 

7. Jormungand

Koko Hekmatyar and her crew smiling inside car

Jormungand is about an arms dealer and her bodyguards who travel the world.

Arms dealers by their nature fund wars, and sell guns to warlords, shady politicians, and anyone who works in the underworld.

This anime is dark and depressing, but fun and full of adventure. And the fact it’s so realistic is what makes Jormungand so thought-provoking and mind-opening.

It’s a good alternative to Black Lagoon, but Jormungand is completely different in how it sells itself and the type of message it gets across.

You’d be mental to NOT give it a try.

 

8. Monster

kenzo tenma with kid GIF

Monster is a classic series I’ll never forget, produced by Madhouse.

It’s about a doctor named Kenzo Tenma. And his journey in discovering that a kid’s life he saved… is actually a serial killer later on.

Imagine that – you’re a surgeon and you save a kid’s life by safely taking a bullet out of their skull. Only to find out that same kid, 10 years or so later is a serial killer.

That’s deep.

And this is exactly why Monster is so thought-provoking and powerful in the way it tells its chilling story.

 

9. Cells At Work

Cells At Work off

Cells At Work is one of the most creative TV projects ever made in the 21st century, never mind just the anime industry. It’s a work of art.

The anime explores red blood cells, white blood cells, and their functions in your body on a biological level. Alongside what a person does to their body that can affect their immune system, etc (like smoking).

It’s done in a Shounen style of writing so the setting is comical, engaging, funny, and grabs your attention with all the bright colours and exaggerated (but well-done) illustrations.

Very thought-provoking and it could be used in schools in science to better illustrate points.

 

10. Ascendance Of A Bookworm

Ascendance Of A Bookworm myne tuli sisters

A unique Isekai in its own right. This series follows a girl who’s a book lover. She dies of overwork in her past life and is reincarnated as a kid who’s slightly sickly.

She learns how to use her knowledge of the future in the old-school world she finds herself in, which many consider her a genius (without knowing the real reason).

Business lessons, life lessons, this anime has it all and a lot more.

 

11. Eighty-Six

Eighty Six soldier

Eighty-Six is the anime everyone was raving about back in 2021 and it received an anime adaption which continued until 2022 thanks to delays.

The anime is about Vladilena Milize, a naive elite republican soldier who sees the world with colourful glasses until she realizes the grim truth of those in Area 86.

They’re not classed as human and are subject to racist abuse and manipulation by the rich and wealthy republic, and Vladilena (or Lena for short) tries to intervene.

This anime is the best we’ve had from a Mecha series in years in what is a declining genre (as far as new content).

 

12. Gakkou Gurashi

Gakkou Gurashi ep 4

Gakkou Gurashi is a horror series dressed up as a cute slice of life with cute female characters who do cute things until you watch long enough to see that’s all a lie.

Yuki Takeya, the pink-haired MC has a mental illness. It started from trauma. She has what’s called psychosis. She also has severe PTSD and copes by imagining things that aren’t there, and even talking to these imaginary people.

The anime is one of the best there is about mental health, and does have somewhat of a happy ending.

 

13. Shadows House

Shadows House emilico kate moments

Adapted from a manga, this anime has 2 seasons so far and is still going somewhat unnoticed to the larger anime community. The anime is a 10X better version of The Promised Neverland.

The plot is a house, a big ass mansion with many connecting doors and almost no way to escape other than death. Dolls as they’re called are made to serve what they call shadows.

That’s their lot in life.

The anime goes much deeper in its 12-episode (seasons 1 and 2) series, each episode revealing a little more than the last. With many big secrets revealed down the line.

 

14. Call Of The Night

Call Of The Night intimacy moments

One of the best and most liked summer 2022 anime series that aired after July 2022. It’s one of those anime you can see being good and it exceeds all expectations.

Nazuna Nanakusa is a vampire girl who takes an interest in a boy named Yamori. They meet up, talk, and have deep conversations, and this all happens during the nighttime.

Yamori like many people in life has trouble sleeping because of the things he’s dissatisfied with.

This is an important theme and it’s what makes the anime thought-provoking as it explores many aspects of these troubles and stresses people face in their complex situations.

The music and instrumentals are addictive.

 

15. Happy Sugar Life

Happy Sugar Life satou chan emotions

The “happy” in the title is misleading, and the sugar life represents the fantasies and dreams of the main character Satou Matsuzaka. 

This girl who works and messes around with boys one day takes in a homeless girl who’s no older than 6 or 7. And Satou’s life becomes centred around her.

She hustles harder, works longer hours, endures bullshit at work and more to support her. Though the relationship becomes dangerously close to paedophilia because of Satou’s twisted sense of what “love” means.

The anime’s strong themes, sometimes violent scenes, and extreme personality types are a reflection of the reality we live in but choose to ignore a lot of the time.

Happy Sugar Life has it all: mental issues, horrors, crimes, and how we think about things because of being brought up the wrong way. And it’s as thought-provoking as it gets.

 

16. Parasyte

Parasyte

Parasyte is both a sad anime series, a depressing one, and an anime that constantly finds ways to make you think about life.

Shinichi the MC is almost absorbed by a parasite that fails to take over his brain and instead becomes part of his arm. This Alien can talk and learn the local language over time by being part of Shinichi, which he hates at first.

Slowly but surely the parasite makes Shninchi less human, and he becomes colder and less sympathetic. And this realization makes him feel somewhat depressed and numb.

There is violence, action, but lots of reflection and deep questions.

 

17. Zetsuen No Tempest

Zetsuen No Tempest yoshino mahiro

Aika Fuwa, Mahiro, and Yoshino are key characters in this series. Aika is the girl who dies suddenly and is assumed to be the sister of Mahiro (a blonde guy).

Yoshino is the brown-haired friend of Mahiro and they’ve been friends for a good time.

The anime character the series focuses on is Kusaribe Hakaze, a woman whose power is unrivalled but she’s been trapped on an island and uses a magical means of communication to speak to the main characters (a medium).

The mystery element keeps your curiosity going, and the more you watch the more the plot thickens and the thought provoking element starts seeping out.

It’s almost Code Geass level.

 

18. Sunday Without God

Sunday Without God series cover

Ai Astin is a grave digger. In this world where God had abandoned everything on Sunday, there now is nothing but corpses, zombies, and people who can’t die walking around.

In other words, this anime is a depiction of what it would look like if the world was abandoned by God, so it’s spiritual in nature and does make you think a lot.

This was one of my first 100 anime shows.

 

19. Dark Gathering

Dark Gathering characters

Dark Gathering is an anime airing as we speak in October 2023. It’s a series about ghosts, the supernatural, spirits, and those who have an affinity for seeing and sensing them.

One of those characters is Keitaro, a guy who is an introvert, is shy and was cursed years prior along with Eiko, a girl he’s known for years who are inseparable.

The other character who can see spirits is Yayaoi, who after her parents are killed by spirits (seen with her own eyes), becomes obsessed with capturing spirits, mercilessly.

More so if they’re evil spirits.

Trauma is the underbelly of this series, and it makes you think every step of the way since deduction, intellect, figuring things out, planning ahead, and similar ideas are part of the anime’s story. With mystery elements that provoke thought.

 

Other Mentions:

  • Assassination Classroom.
  • Akame Ga Kill.
  • The Royal Tutor.
  • Psycho Pass.
  • Gunslinger Girl.