Seinen manga and anime have always been aimed at adult males, with seinen enjoying more creative freedom and fewer restrictions on properly presenting mature themes than other genres like shonen. Seinen anime doesn’t always have to embrace violence and gore, as adult themes can also be more psychologically and existentially deep and taxing.
There are many seinen anime, both classic and new, that have become staples over the years by laying the groundwork and adhering to typical seinen tropes, but there are also those who have raised the bar. These examples either broke typical stereotypes or simply stood out from the rest and raised expectations for seinen anime in the future.
10/10 Land of shattered expectations lustrous with its premise
When it comes to unique premises, very few come close to Land of the Shining. The story centers on living crystalline beings called Gems, who serve their purpose of fighting back against the Lunarians. The Lunarians seek to invade and harvest the gems as valuable resources, adding some unusual but real stakes to the proceedings.
Land of the Shining strays from standardized tropes and concepts, and even its art style has an appropriate uniqueness that brings its premise to life. Studio Orange will once again contribute to the success of Land of the Shining bringing another groundbreaking anime to life in Beastars.
9/10 Mushishi Raised Expectations For A Challenging Anime
When first released in 2005, Mushishi served as a standard bearer for a seinen hosting stimulating adult themes. Mushishi follows a sympathetic character in Ginko as he investigates supernatural beings known as Mushi. Mushishi is masterful in the way it presents a calm setting for a supernatural mystery but doesn’t reduce its complexity to suit the needs of younger audiences.
Mushishi is the perfect series for those who want a cleverly written and unique story, with beautiful visuals and lessons to learn. A more challenging seinen anime would follow Mushishithe steps, but Mushishi he himself has certainly set the bar very high.
8/10 Monster took psychological torment to another level
Freak is an older seinen anime that had such a huge impact that it raised the bar and expectations for seinen drastically. FreakThe manga began in 1994, and in 2004 it finally got its highly anticipated anime adaptation. Freak follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma as he makes the difficult decision to save a child’s life rather than the mayor’s as the child grows up to be a serial killer.
Johan Liebert is a terrifyingly cold “monster” while Tenma deals with the guilt he bears responsibility for. Freak truly changed the game in psychological thrillers and suspenseful mysteries, and remains one of the best seinen anime of all time.
7/10 One-Punch Man has mastered the perfect combination of comedy, courage and heroism
At face value, One-punch man should be a generic seinen concept with a hero battling various grotesque monsters and the chaotic violence that ensues. Still One-punch man embraces its comedic, parody charm, following a superpowered protagonist to Saitama but making it deep and meaningful enough that it’s also entertaining and fun.
One-punch man doesn’t take himself too seriously but is still perfectly capable of presenting serious threats, even if they could be defeated by Saitama within seconds of combat activation. One-punch man shocked the masses with its impact, and its first season is still hugely popular.
6/10 Vinland Saga focused more on compelling stories and characters
Vinland SagaThe manga has been highly revered since its debut in 2005, so fans were understandably excited when an anime adaptation was slated for release in 2019. Vinland Saga anime duly delivered. It showcases the chaos and violence of Viking culture, but it thrived on inserting compelling stories and intriguing characters into this setting.
Complex characters like Askeladd and Thorfinn have truly changed the game and raised the bar in terms of what seinen fans want for their main characters. Blind violence and one-dimensional characters will no longer be enough for them.
5/10 Kaguya-Sama reaches the highest echelon of romantic comedies
Kaguya-Sama: Love is war is proof that seinen anime doesn’t always have to be dark, gritty, violent, or existentially challenging. Kaguya Sama gained its popularity through comedy and romance. Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane are Shuchiin Academy’s top students, and when they both have obvious feelings for each other, it becomes an entertaining contest.
The first to confess their love shows weakness, so shenanigans, tricks, and general mayhem ensue as Kaguya and Miyuki fight with their pride at stake. Kaguya Sama the anime debuted in 2019, improving and gaining popularity with each new season. Kaguya Sama led the way in seinen romantic comedies earning the highest approval, and the likes of Sweetie dress up followed.
4/10 The kingdom has captivatingly highlighted the pains of war
While anime likes Vinland Saga pride themselves on complex themes that stand out from the resulting conflicts, Kingdom is a contrasting example that actively explores its war themes. Kingdom is a historic military seinen, following Xin in his quest for honor and glory.
Kingdom had to wait to get into the thick of things and gain momentum, with its third and fourth seasons really catching everyone’s attention. It surprised fans with its depth in political plans and war intrigue, as well as emotional and hilarious beats, while including plenty of action as expected.
3/10 Mars is coming like a lion highlighted important topics of insecurity and social anxiety
Mars is coming like a lion is another great example of seinen anime that doesn’t have to just focus on dark and dark settings, violence and gore, or psychological trauma. Mars is coming like a lion tackles serious issues and life’s complexities, but in an authentic way. Rei Kiriyama is an exceptional shogi player, and the series balances his life and struggles alongside his shogi career.
Mars is coming like a lion deals with both the physical and mental toll of how harsh realities and social pressures affect people, but it’s not just a dark narrative. Instead, it takes the complex emotions of Rei and other characters and makes them truly compelling.
2/10 Ping Pong Animation was a masterstroke to show the reality of the competition
Whereas Haikyu!! is a very popular shonen, ping pong animation is at the top of seinen sports anime. ping pong animation was released in 2014 as an adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto’s 1996 manga and focuses on how the competitiveness of sports can affect lives.
table tennis and its realistic themes paired with its gripping story catapulted it to the success it enjoyed. No bloody violence or dark psychological trauma was needed for this anime – just drama about the consequences and pressures of competition in sports and the people affected, with impressive thematic complexity.
1/10 Akira was revolutionary for fantasy horror and anime as a whole
Akira is an old anime classic released in 1988, and it was seriously revolutionary, not just for the seine but for the anime as a whole. Akira thrown into fantasy, sci-fi, and supernatural horror all at once, with plenty of gore and carnage on display. Akira is a film that has inspired so many series across anime, from its jaw-dropping visuals to its dramatic storytelling.
Akira put seinen anime on the map in the late 80s and set a daunting precedent for others to meet or surpass. New anime have the luxury of advanced technology and resources, but it will be hard to replicate Akirasuccess in relation to the tools at his disposal.