Most wouldn’t expect anime to be a medium rich in social commentary and deep thought, but avid fans know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every work of fiction has a moral behind its story. Some anime deal with related themes like bullying, dealing with adversity, and working hard to achieve a dream.
Others deal with serious subjects, including fascism, what it means to be a hero or a villain, and even the meaning of life. Anime considering what it means to be human isn’t as uncommon as one might think. Some of the lighter series carry heavier undertones behind every joke.
10/10 Lain’s serial experiences blur the lines between the real and digital worlds
Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain follows a socially awkward and detached middle schooler who receives an email from a classmate she believes to be dead. After that, Lain immerses himself in the Digital World, or The Wired, and takes on a false identity while solving mysteries.
In Serial Experiments Lain, cyberspace is a surreal haven where no one is who they say they are, and it’s easy to get lost. The series blurs what was once a distinct boundary between the physical and digital worlds.
9/10 Ghost In The Shell Calls Out Humanity’s Relationship With Technology
ghost in the shell
ghost in the shell is a legendary animated film. Motoko Kusanagi, the protagonist, is a cyborg whose existence encapsulates some of the film’s key themes. Many characters talk about their body, calling it a “shell”, while they describe their soul as a “ghost”. This reasoning makes major body modifications seem like no big deal and even implies that some people are entirely artificial.
Motoko is a shell, but since she’s a cyborg, it’s hard to tell if she has a ghost. Eventually, Motoko realized her individuality and really got in touch with the tiny amount of humanity she had inside her robotic body. Motoko constantly wonders if she is human or not.
8/10 Assassination Classroom proves assassination is no laughing matter
Assassination Classroom is about a group of students defeating their alien octopus teacher before he goes insane and destroys the planet. However, Koro-sensei is surprisingly endearing and the best teacher these kids have ever had. They developed a significant bond with him while attempting to kill him.
However Assassination Classroom is full of hilarious gags and constant jokes, its heartbreaking ending proved that assassination is no laughing matter. The students realized that while they had fun learning how to kill all year, it wasn’t as fun when the time came. Many thought they were taking their time with Koro-sensei for granted, while others wanted to prevent that from happening.
7/10 Monster proves that every action has a consequence
Tenma Kenzo faces a troubling decision in Freak when he must choose between saving the life of the mayor or a young boy he has never met. He decided to save the young boy. However, the choice came back to haunt him years later when he realized he had saved Johann Liebert, a prolific serial killer.
Many anime series that consider the meaning of life focus more on what it means to be a human. Freakhowever, is an insight into the idea that every action has a consequence and that a decision can change anyone’s life, for better or for worse.
6/10 Parasyte deconstructs the boundaries between man and monster
Parasite: The Maxim
Parasite follows Shinichi Izumi after a Parasite attempts to possess him, but fails and only reaches his right hand. He and the alien monster named Migi learn to coexist. Although they have totally different views on the world, Migi’s understanding and communication skills have allowed her to bond more easily with her host.
Rather than an internal man versus monster struggle like in other anime, like tokyo ghoul Where Jujutsu Kaisen, Parasite takes a different approach. Instead, Shinichi and Migi force each other to coexist and understand both sides of the aisle.
5/10 Sunday without God presents a world where no one dies
Sunday without God
Sunday without God entirely eliminates society’s collective fear of death by creating a world where no one dies. God abandoned the earth, leaving society in turmoil. Even if the unknown is scary, Sunday without God tells the audience that life would be meaningless without a conclusion.
In Sunday without God, people who are “dead” are living on borrowed time and wandering the world recklessly with no end in sight. Ai, the protagonist, is a tomb guardian and the only one who can lift these poor souls out of their misery.
4/10 The Mushi live without being confined to human standards of “good” or “bad” in Mushishi
Mushishi follows Ginko, whose entire life revolves around protecting others from Mushi. Mushi are basic life forms whose sole purpose is simply to exist. They have no other ambitions, hopes or dreams. They do not live by human standards of what is good or bad because morality does not exist among these supernatural entities.
It is unknown why Mushi actually exists, but Ginko has dedicated his life to finding out. He researches these creatures while keeping them away from the general public, even though most people don’t even know they exist. Mushishi is an empowering series that inspires audiences to break away from societal constructs and consider the concept of simply being.
3/10 Death Note compares the value of humanity to the stroke of a pen
The whole concept of a death notebook is terrifying. After all, millions of lives could be wiped out with the stroke of a pen. If such a thing existed in real life, it is inevitable that it would fall into the wrong hands and become the target of political warfare, with average citizens caught in the crossfire.
Death threat follows Light Yagami after gaining such power. Despite being just an average high schooler, Light decided he was the most qualified to eliminate the so-called “varmint” from the world and become its new god.
2/10 Death Parade puts people’s souls on trial after they die
Many people fear death because they don’t know what comes next. Some envision a giant void, others consider their own concepts of heaven or hell, and some even ponder the possibility of reincarnation. death parade shows what happens to people’s souls after they die. After entering the afterlife, they enter a bar owned by Decim.
Decim puts these people’s souls through a series of trials and games that determine whether their souls will be evaporated into nothingness or allowed to reincarnate. Decim, despite having worked with so many human souls over the years, barely understands the concept of emotions and has little understanding of the human condition.
1/10 Violet Evergarden explores what it means to feel emotions
Violet Evergarden is about a former soldier who was basically raised as a human weapon. She was trained to be emotionless. After the war ended, Violet began writing ghost letters to better understand human relationships and emotions. The main thing that drives her to find out more about emotions is that she doesn’t understand why her mentor said he loved her before he died.
Reintegrating and getting used to how society works after periods of isolation or war is difficult for everyone. This is especially true for someone like Violet, who barely understands the human condition since she wasn’t raised as such.
NEXT: 10 Anime Series That Are Better When You’re An Adult