Whereas shounen and shoujo tackle themes and topics familiar and appropriate for teenage boys and girls, respectively, the josei and seinen genre are geared towards a more mature audience.
Technically, anything possessing a mature setting or characterization would be closer to josei / seinen than shoujo / shounen.
However, when originally writing this list, I was going to include shows like Cowboy Bebop and Psycho-Pass before realizing that they weren’t seinen adaptations.
So, I’ve decided to make this list based purely on anime featuring the seinentag on MyAnimeList, just to be fair. Let’s do this!
- Best Seinen Anime
- 25. Bungou Stray Dogs
- 24. Cowboy Bebop
- 23. Psycho Pass
- 22. Death Parade
- 21. Rainbow
- 20. Prison School
- 19. Tokyo Ghoul
- 18. Erased
- 17. Knights of Sidonia
- 16. Ajin
- 15. Mushishi
- 14. March Comes In Like a Lion
- 13. Kaguya: Love is War
- 12. Hellsing (and Ultimate)
- 11. Akira
- 10. Dorohedoro
- 9. Mononoke
- 8. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- 7. Parasyte
- 6. Ghost in the Shell (and Stand Alone Complex)
- 5. Ping Pong the Animation
- 4. Land of the Lustrous
- 3. Vinland Saga
- 2. Berserk (and movies)
- 1. Monster
Best Seinen Anime
25. Bungou Stray Dogs
If you’re looking for a more traditional action-packed seinen but with a supernatural twist, then Bungou Stray Dogs could be the anime for you.
The anime began airing in 2016, and new episodes are still coming out to this day! The story follows a young orphan, Atsushi Nakajima, who meets detective Osamu Dazai.
Later, Atsushi discovers he is able to transform into white tiger under moonlight. This special ability carries him through many stories and journeys as the show progresses.
What makes Bungou Stray Dogs even more interesting are the characters who were inspired by many famous authors and poets, making for a subtle historical genre addition.
24. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most well-known classic seinen anime still to this day. The anime originally aired from 1997 to 1998 and became a cult classic because of how it combined the neo-noir and space western genres.
Cowboy Bebop follows a group of characters with questionable backstories, but primarily the story of Spike Spiegel, an exiled hitman of an infamous crime syndicate. This anime includes it all: romance, drama, crime, and action.
With its gritty storytelling and combat scenes, Cowboy Bebop is a seinen that is still heavily cherished today.
23. Psycho Pass
Set in a cyberpunk version of Japan, Psycho Pass is a psychological thriller seinen that follows the story of rookie inspector AkaneTsunemori.
Throughout the anime, you follow Akane in his investigation of a criminal mastermind in a world where one’s state of mind and potential for committing crime can be analyzed and quantified.
But Akane isn’t just a rookie inspector. He also has mentalist abilities that allow him to experience actions through empathy training.
Split into two seasons, Psycho Pass is a more modern yet highly regarded seinen anime that is definitely worth a watch for crime and thriller fans.
22. Death Parade
In the world of Death Parade, watchers gain a more intimate understanding of purgatory, judgement, and the afterlife.
The story is mostly episodic in nature, following one bar that people are sent to when they die, which is run by Decim. However, the people sent to these bars are actually fighting to have their souls reincarnated.
This anime is a surprising seinen, to say the least, because of how subtle the action is, but what it makes up for with being a psychological thriller.
If you’re ready for an existential trip through a subtly-creepy yet beautiful purgatory, Death Parade is the seinen for you.
Shounen Special Reform School is a totalitarianism academy for institutionalizing teenage offenders. Rainbow follows 6 young criminals who happened to be assigned the same cell but different bunks.
This is where they meet Sakuragi, who acts as a father-brother figure to the terrified group, promising to protect them.
It’s got mature undertones wrapped up in an inspiring story about bettering oneself and fixing the path you’re on, complete with brilliant sound direction and a great though gritty art style.
20. Prison School
Prison School is a mind game ecchi comedy with some of the most intense and perverse moments in anime. It entails a group of high school boys who have been allowed to study at a corruptly ran all-girls high-school.
After their group is caught leering in the middle of the night, they are sent to the on-campus prison facility and given grueling tasks to do in inhumane conditions.
It’s bizarrely funny, bordering the explicit to tell crass and horrible humor in a way few anime achieve to do. Somehow, it’s also got a killer soundtrack and voice cast. Check this out if that sounds remotely up your alley but be warned!
19. Tokyo Ghoul
When Ken Kaneki, a meek and introverted bookworm, is seduced and attacked by the vampiricRizeKamishiro, he nearly dies but is saved by her death instead.
They transplant some of her organs into him, accidentally turning him into a half-human half-ghoul reliant on the consumption of human flesh to survive.
While later seasons never ever match the standard of the first, I’d highly recommend checking it out and then hopping over to the manga.
It’s an action-packed and emotional story all the way through, and the anime doesn’t adapt it properly later.
Running from the scene of his mother’s death, knowing he’s been pinned for the crime, the thirty-year-old FujinumaSatorou is sent back in time to when he was in high school but with the mind of his future self.
He realizes the recent crime is heavily connected to the disappearance and murder of a schoolmate as a child and decides to solve the mystery.
While it doesn’t function amazingly as a mystery (I guess the perp before the mid-point), it’s still a gorgeously animated thriller with a truly cinematic feel.
17. Knights of Sidonia
Knights of Sidonia is a story set aboard a large colony called Sidonia housing the remnant human population after an overwhelming alien species, Gauna, destroyed their planet.
NagateTanikaze is a stowaway deep in the colony’s mechanisms who have never even seen another human. However, quickly after incorporating himself into society, he’s thrust into a mecha and tasked with protecting them all.
It’s got the same animation style as the next entry in this list, but the sound design is some of (if not the) best in any anime TV-show.
By the same studio that made Knights of Sidonia, Ajin concerns the titular species: an immortal human discovered two decades earlier.
The government, and society at large, is so terrified and jealous of these specific humans that they put out man-hunting bounties for them to be experimented on.
Kei Nagai is our main character, an antisocial high schooler who holds reserves against most of society. One day while walking home, he is struck by a truck and dies before standing back up.
He becomes the target of a large-scale manhunt, allying himself temporarily with an elder Ajin named Satou with dreams of terroristic violence and genocide.
It’s a spectacle through-and-through with a resolutely satisfying conclusion: check this out if you’re up for a mature seinen with a shounen vibe.
Mushishi follows Ginko, a wandering gentleman who treads the world looking for and treating Mushi – nothingness creatures that exist through mimicking yet carry no conscience, or so the general consensus suggests.
This series is a slow, quiet, meditative experience with small moments of enthralling narrative punctuating the calming atmosphere it seems to cast over the watcher. It’s best watched right before bed!
14. March Comes In Like a Lion
ReiKiriyama is a shogi prodigy haunted by the death of his family and feelings of worthlessness. Living alone in a sparsely decorated flat, he sleeps whenever he’s not needed.
So, when he accidentally encounters a family of sisters who regularly ask him to come round for dinner, Rei learns what it’s like to have a truly loving family.
It’s animated with SHAFT’s known ability for vibrant and dynamic shots, and the soundtrack is exceptional, making March Comes in Like a Lion a soulful and touching experience anyone could enjoy.
13. Kaguya: Love is War
Mayuki and Kaguya are top of the school; the former is a lower-class boy who has pushed his way to the top of the student council, and the latter is a prestigious and affluent yet incredibly intelligent woman.
They are unabashedly ashamed to admit that they are in love with one another and so wait for the other to make a move.
This series follows the two of them engaging in Death Note styled cat-and-mouse mind games that never stops being entertaining across its two-season run.
It’s also animated with so much care, gushing with style and atmosphere in every scene.
12. Hellsing (and Ultimate)
Hellsing (and its later and greater remake, Hellsing Ultimate) is a gorefest, dripping with bloody action in every fight sequence.
It follows Allucard, a bombastic and arrogant vampire enslaved by the Hellsing foundation to be their guard and attack dog. One day, he murders and resurrects a policewoman known as Seras, who falls under his liege.
It’s constantly entertaining and absurd, accentuating violence and insanity over a truly cohesive narrative, yet still manages to be an understandable story. This is one of the must-watch anime for any mature action lovers.
Traditionally drawn, Akira’s cell is rendered to life laboriously to illustrate a post-devastated Neo-Tokyo rife with gang crime and governmental corruption.
We follow Shoutarou and Tetsuou, two members of such a gang, who end up mixed in a planet-threatening conspiracy.
Akira is one of the most important anime ever released, introducing Western audiences to the medium upon release. It has inspired movies, comics, video games, and other anime.
It’s still a gorgeously unique watch with some brilliant art and sound direction, so please check it out if you haven’t!
Keeping with a very similar art style but very different animation style, Dorohedoro is a lot like Akira, actually, just even wackier and more bizarre.
It’s just as dirty and gritty, with bloody combat set across a disgusting locale known as ‘Hole’ filled with crazy and entertaining characters.
We follow Kaiman, a magician with a reptilian head who can’t remember who he is or why he’s dead. He’s looking for the one who killed him, and his search takes him deeper and deeper into the gangs and warfare prominent throughout Hole.
I can’t wait for a season two, as the first left us on a really good cliffhanger, and I enjoyed my time immensely.
Also, a big plus for the sound design – it has constantly shifting music, and each effect is dynamic. Check this one out, as it’s fairly new!
Mononoke’s greatest strengths are in its visual storytelling, comprising bursts of color and traditional line work that brings every dramatic or climactic moment to life.
It’s a short 12-episode story following a Medicine Seller who visits an inn to find it infested with malevolent spirits. He promises to exorcise them – as it is his duty.
It’s bizarre yet oddly frightening, managing to achieve what very few anime can and actually scare me at times, making it a one of a kind horror must watch for anybody who wants something a bit more intense as opposed to gory.
8. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
This is gambling anime. Intense, nerve-wracking, and absolutely horrible, Kaiji is a garish tale of gambling addiction.
It follows the titular character, a poor delinquent who inherits a gargantuan debt and is offered a place aboard an illegal gambling ship to win the money (and perhaps more).
He ends up thrown into a whirlpool world of cheating and strategy with him needing to adapt to win, with the stakes constantly rising to the point of amputation and destitution.
This is all made even better with the wholly unique art style and animation, as well as sound design that all serves to keep you on the edge of your seat with every episode.
When a parasitic lifeform attempts to control Shinichi, it fails to reach his brain and becomes trapped below the elbow.
When he wakes up for school the following morning, he discovers eyes and a mouth attached to his hand; it’s a creature that refers to itself as Migi, there to take over the human race alongside others of his species.
Without any choice, they form an unlikely and worrisome companionship in order to defend themselves from the other creatures out there keen to see them dead.
Parasyte is an entertaining horror-action throughout with a simple but effective philosophical, moral center.
The soundtrack comprises dubstep and electronica for the set-piece moments, with the occasional piano for emotional moments. It’s one of Madhouse’s contemporary best and an unforgettable example of body horror.
6. Ghost in the Shell (and Stand Alone Complex)
Ghost in the Shell is perhaps one of the highest regarded anime properties to exist. It’s set in a not-so-distant future Japan, during a cybernetic revolution that has both enhanced and harmed society.
The main constant throughout each series (with fluctuating designs, art style, and animation) is the cast of Section 9, led by Major MotokoKusanagi – a cybernetically transposed soldier who switches bodies between each iteration.
Their squad deals with misconduct within this new societal fabric, tackling topics like the Self, identity, existence, terrorism, digital warfare, and more.
I recommend you begin with the 1995 original movie before moving onto Stand Alone Complex; then, you can check out SAC_2045, Innocence, and ARISE. It’s a classic of cinema, so at least check out the first movie!
5. Ping Pong the Animation
Ping Pong is a tough sell, so bear with me. This is Masaaki Yuasa’s (my favorite director) magnum opus, entailing two friends – Smile and Peco – as they strive to compete in an inter-high table tennis tournament.
It’s got some of the best animations in the game, blurring the lines between realism and absurdly distorted wackiness so much that it becomes synonymous Yuasa’s work.
It’s mature, tackling topics of self-realization, transcendentalism, determination, and emotional support with a high degree of care. It’s incredibly inspirational and manages to do what few sports anime can in only 11-episodes!
4. Land of the Lustrous
Studio Orange is so damn good at 3DCGI anime. Beastars would have been on this list were it not for the fact it’s far more of a shounen, but Land of the Lustrous still deserves as much praise. Without a doubt, this is one of the nicest looking anime to have been released this decade, and it’s a shame it’s slept on.
Production quality aside, it tells a wonderful story about existence, memories, and personality across a vibrant and imaginative world rife with lovable characters.
We follow Phos throughout the first season, a young and weak ‘Gem’ useless in the fight against her species’ enemy, Lunarians. It’s got plot twists, tender moments, and some purely gorgeous shots that will leave your jaw on the ground.
3. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is a story about pacifism set in a Viking era. The first season follows the young Thorfinn, who possesses warfare and combat ambitions when his pacifist father is slain.
He tags along with the murderer, biding his time when he can be strong enough to murder him, his father’s philosophy long gone from his mind.
It’s action-packed and entirely shounen with mature elements throughout the first season, but once the second drops, expect an exploration of morality and selflessness that’s near-unrivaled among most seinen.
Studio WIT threw everything they had into this as it’s likely going to be their flagship property now Attack on Titan is out of their hands and nearly finished.
2. Berserk (and movies)
Berserk really doesn’t need too big of an introduction. Guts is a wandering mercenary who falls in with a small unit of fighters known as the Band of the Hawk, led by the ambitious and regal Griffith.
It’s tragic, heartbreaking, horrific, adrenaline-pumping, epic, and one of the most influential manga to have ever been released. It’s grimdark without the edgy qualities similar titles contain, telling a purely barbaric and gothic tale of revenge and self-discovery.
Check out the 90s TV-show and then the trilogy of movies if you must, but Berserk is really worth reading if you can, as it’s the highest-rated manga ever made, and it likely deserves that title for the art alone.
One day, the highly regarded Dr. Tenma is given a choice: save a young boy’s life, or aid the recovery of the mayor (who funds the hospital).
After choosing the latter, he is ostracised and loses everything before years later discovering the young boy has aged into a serial killer.
It’s deep, dark, and winding, adapting Urasawa’s masterpiece manga with huge amounts of respect.
This is the seinen, all things considered, that manages to appeal to anybody from anywhere in the world with its graphic and complex exploration of morality and nature vs. nurture through a Paradise Lost / Frankenstein lens.
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