Top 15 Beautiful Anime Movies And Series With The Best Art

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Written by Juha

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Considering that many people have limited knowledge of manga and anime, it’s easy to start believing that it “all looks the same.” It doesn’t.

In fact, scratch below the surface, and you will find some stunning works of art. Though some shows are produced purely for profit and tend to be carbon copies of each other (cough, UtaPri, and its clones, cough, cough), it’s not too difficult to stumble upon something that can take your breath away.

The past decade or so has truly raised the bar. We have seen some of the best anime art popping up regularly.

From the glorious wide shots of 19th century Kyoto and flowing cherry blossoms in Hakuoki to dynamic “shots” in Death Note to high fashion aesthetics of Nana, there’s no shortage of eye candy.

But if you are looking for the creme de la creme, here are some of the most beautiful anime shows that stand head and shoulders above the others.

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

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When Titans woke up centuries ago, they’ve developed a taste for human flesh. A special unit called Survey Corps battles against them and other merciless humanoids in order to protect mankind.

On the surface, this may seem like a classic action anime setup. Most of the main characters are even uniformed, and the world doesn’t seem to have that much color.

But then you look at the characters in the eyes and realize that they are not as soulless as most anime eyes tend to be.

But the key behind the attractiveness of the rest of the series is the amazing transformations that result in a titan form. The way the transformation and action are directed is just epic in every sense.

Nothing feels flat or boring, and the effectiveness of this style comes to shine once the Titans and other creatures appear. Even in bright light and even without looking grotesque, they become terrifying.

Quick overview

  • First Aired: Apr 7, 2013
  • Producers: Production I.G, Dentsu, Mainichi Broadcasting System, Pony Canyon, Kodansha, Mad Box, Pony Canyon Enterprise
  • Studio(s): Wit Studio
  • Source: Manga
  • Genres: Action, Military, Mystery, Super Power, Drama, Fantasy, Shounen

Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words)

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When skipping class leads to something beautiful. Takao Takizuki and Yukari Yukino meet in a beautiful garden and connect during the rainy season. However, will their bond survive in the end?

There is no part of this full-feature animation that is not beautiful. The story is a decent candidate for the romance of the century, and the animators use clever framing and storytelling to highlight every aspect of this budding relationship.

Though romance anime can often neglect everything else that is going on, this movie goes the extra mile to create a beautiful setting for a beautiful story.

Everything from droplets of rain, window reflection to the garden itself is unbelievably stunning and looks like it was pulled out of the sweetest of dreams.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: May 31, 2013
  • Producers: The Answer Studio, TOHO animation
  • Studio(s): CoMix Wave Films
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Slice of Life, Psychological, Drama, Romance
  • Duration: 46 min.

Howl no Ugoku Shiro – Howl’s Moving Castle 

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This Oscar-nominated film always ends up on any list whenever people are talking about beautiful animation.

A womanizing wizard, a jealous witch, and an unfortunate daughter of a milliner are embroidered in this unique fairytale.

Where to begin? The creatures? As it is Studio Ghibli’s tradition, we get to meet several creatures and characters that are quite lovely and charming here, but we know they would look grotesque in the real world.

There’s the castle as well. It’s a rusty hodgepodge of… stuff. However, even the film doesn’t do it justice.

We get to see the true brilliance of its creators through posters and other still images.

And if that’s not enough, there are the landscapes. The entire film is literally set into an oil masterpiece. It looks like a slice of Martin Johnson Heade’s world with a few hints of Claude Monet’s palette.

Quick overview

  • Aired: Nov 20, 2004
  • Producers: d-rights, Tokuma Shoten
  • Studio(s): Studio Ghibli
  • Source: Novel
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
  • Duration: 1 hr. 59 min. 

Death Parade

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What would you say if you didn’t meet St Peter in front of the pearly gates but ended up in a bar instead? In this bar, you have to play a game. The results will decide if you get to reincarnate or if you’ll fade into oblivion.

The show starts looking quite standard for what we have seen in the past decade. The style is overall attractive and modern, and maybe even safe. But then the details come in.

Madhouse is known for making series and movies that are stunning through and through (more on that later), so at first sight, Death Parade looks a bit boring.

That is until the game starts and you start noticing little things. Even something that is supposed to be on the screen for a few seconds is impeccable.

There’s also a slight change in style when the “magic happens.” It’s not enough to smack you in the face, but just the right amount to tell you that something interesting is about to happen.

Quick overview

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired/Premiered: Jan 10, 2015 to Mar 28, 2015
  • Producers: VAP, DAX Production, Nippon Television Network
  • Studio(s): Madhouse
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Game, Mystery, Psychological, Drama, Thriller

Sword Art Online (2012)

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In 2022, a group of gamers got their hands on a new virtual reality RPG only to find out that they can’t log out.

Now they need to fight it out to escape. Only, if they die in the game, they will die in the real world as well.

And let’s just say, the way the game looks, it’s worth the risk.

The animation is standard TV fare (though of slightly better quality in comparison to some series that came out the same year).

But the setting is superb. Both landscapes and architecture are very beautiful.

It’s a bit ironic how so much work was put into world-building for a game where players can’t afford to stop and smell the roses. Or enjoy a gorgeous stained-glass wall.

Quick overview

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: Jul 8, 2012 to Dec 23, 2012
  • Producers: Aniplex, Genco, DAX Production, ASCII Media Works, Bandai Namco Games
  • Studio(s): A-1 Pictures
  • Source: Light novel
  • Genres: Action, Game, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy

Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)

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Another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli and the origin of many people’s obsession for beautiful anime.

The story centers on the conflict between mend and gods, technology, and magic.

As with the Howls’ Moving Castle, this is also a creature-heavy film. Though this time around, they feel more real, like you could just stumble upon them if you were to take a walk through some woods.

Even the ones that are supposed to be scary are stunning and drawn beautifully.

And there’s the landscape as well. Nature itself is a major player in the story, so it shows through some of the most breathtaking reproductions of the Japanese countryside.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Jul 12, 1997
  • Producers: Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network
  • Studios: Studio Ghibli
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Duration: 2 hr. 15 min.

No Game No Life

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Siblings Sora and Shiro are hikikomori NEETs and behind the legendary gaming username “Blank.” At the peak of boredom, they stumble upon a game that sucks them in.

Now they have to navigate the world where all conflicts are settled with high-stakes games.

This little piece of fluff is what you want to see if you have a thing for those brightly colored online games. There’s nothing beige about it, and it might be a good idea to watch it with another source of light in the room as well.

And get ready for some intricate and detailed landscapes. No copy/paste action here. Every single square inch of the background is carefully designed and thought through.

You may need to re-watch the series solely to experience that alone.

Quick overview

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Apr 9, 2014 to Jun 25, 2014
  • Producers: Frontier Works, Media Factory, Movic, AT-X
  • Studios: Madhouse
  • Source: Light novel
  • Genres: Game, Adventure, Comedy, Supernatural, Ecchi, Fantasy

Kara no Kyoukai 1: Fukan Fuukei (Kara no Kyoukai 1: The Garden of Sinners)

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The Garden of Sinners is the first in the series of 8 films. The story starts in 1998 with a string of seemingly random suicides. Two investigators are dispatched from a paranormal detective agency, and… shenanigans ensue.

The creators behind these movies are utter masters and using the light and shadows to create a narrative.

The animation itself is what every single piece of shaky-cam footage hopes it will grow up to be – it creates a sense of action and urgency out of seemingly simple movements and static poses.

The entire series sets the standards very high. It’s what we hope we will get every time we pick up something from this genre, and what, unfortunately, not many can measure up to.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Dec 1, 2007
  • Producers: Aniplex, Kodansha, Notes
  • Studios: Ufotable
  • Source: Light novel
  • Genres: Action, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller
  • Duration: 50 min.

Nagi no Asu kara (A Lull in the Sea)

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In a different take on the mermaid legend, we see a group of sea-dwellers who are forced to attend school on land.

There’s no singing, running forks through hair, or making deals with sea-witches. Just a lot of kids that have to deal with hatred and discrimination, and maybe even worse things that are yet to come.

You’ll come in expecting some gorgeous images of underwater cities, and you will not be disappointed. But then, the “camera” moves above the water and shows how the land glitters and shines as well.

The entire show looks like and feels like a postcard from Greece, South Italy, Jeju, or Okinawa, and that calm and beauty shines through even during drama and conflict.

Quick overview

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Oct 3, 2013 to Apr 3, 2014
  • Producers: Geneon Universal Entertainment, Sotsu, Animax, Rondo Robe, Showgate, Infinite
  • Studios: P.A. Works
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

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A renowned vampire hunter, D is born to a human mother and a vampire father. He answers the call when a rich young lady is abducted and races other bounty hunters for the prize.

At first sight, there are all the elements that were “on trend” in anime at the time – a bud guy hunting other bad guys, willowy characters, low color saturation, etc.

The action scenes are also nothing we haven’t seen in the two decades prior. But, unlike the majority of works that both came before and since then. The animators made everything look more alive.

Simple shade and highlighting techniques that make everything pop. The film doesn’t feel like yet another animated vampire movie, but a high-end graphic novel comes to life.

Also, the animation of the character’s facial features is so well-made that the movie just sucks you in and drains the blood from you.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Aug 25, 2000
  • Producers: Animate Film, Movic
  • Studios: Madhouse
  • Source: Light novel
  • Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama, Romance, Vampire, Fantasy
  • Duration: 1 hr. 42 min.

Redline

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Coming from the same studio as the previous entry, Redline is the Mad Max minus the Fury Road. If you like yourself a good rat race where cheese is not the only thing at stake, this is a good pick.

Just like before, the movie is made to look like a graphic novel that came to life right before your eyes. The illustrations are very 2D but in no way, flat and boring.

Everything is in full technicolor with deep black shadows and outlines. This gives everything structure and dimension without a single hint of traditional shading techniques in sight.

There’s no attempt at making anything seem remotely real – from characters to scenery and to light and explosions. Yet, it still works and pulls you in for a ride.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Aug 14, 2009
  • Producers: Tohokushinsha Film Corporation
  • Studios: Madhouse
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Cars, Sports
  • Duration: 1 hr. 42 min.

Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.)

beautiful_anime_best_art_kimi_no_na_wa

This award-winning movie follows two teenagers, Taki and Mitsuha, who swap bodies one day.

They’ve never met and live in completely opposite environments, and now must find each other.

The movie was advertised with these beautiful images of vast blue skies, and yup, what you see is what you’ll get. And not only perfect skies, but beautiful Japanese countryside landscapes and sparkling Tokyo vistas.

In other works, the background is just… in the background. In this movie, it IS another character in the story. It often seems that there is more detail put into the blades of grass or droplets of water than it was in the human figures.

There’s only a handful of films and series that make the real world look that beautiful, but even they don’t come near to what you can experience with this movie.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Aug 26, 2016
  • Producers: Toho, Sound Team Don Juan, Amuse, JR East Marketing & Communications, Kadokawa, voque ting
  • Studios: CoMix Wave Films
  • Source: Original
  • Genres: Romance, Supernatural, School, Drama
  • Duration: 1 hr. 46 min.

Fate/Stay Night Movie: Heaven’s Feel – III. Spring Song

beautiful_anime_best_art_fate_stay_night

Third and last chapter in the collection of Fate/Stay Night full feature movies. We are still in the midst of the Fifth Holy Grail War with the fate of the world at stake.

Fate/Stay Night series offers this fantastic blend of several animations and illustration styles, utilizing both classic 2D and more realistic images to create a more dynamic effect.

Character design is also on point. Everyone has a distinct look that describes their powers and story without looking cartoonish. Even Sakura and Rin, the “girls in uniforms,” have vastly different styles.

There is a good reason why the series is often on the top of the list of cosplayers all around the world.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Aug 15, 2020
  • Producers: Aniplex, Notes, Kadokawa
  • Studios: Ufotable
  • Source: Visual novel
  • Genres: Action, Supernatural, Magic, Fantasy
  • Duration: 2 hr. 2 min.

Made in Abyss Movie 3: Fukaki Tamashii no Reimei

beautiful_anime_best_art_made_in_abyss

Sinking deeper into the abyss, this is the third installment in this series that follows the “adventures’ of our chibis Riko and Regu. They managed to pick up two new friends as they descend further into darkness.

The most striking feature of this anime is the contrast between the “good” and “evil.” On one side, we have children in this adorable mix of fae and steampunk garb, while on the other are a bunch of droids and a mand dressed in black that picked up styling tips from Cybermen.

But if the character design is not enough for you, there’s also the landscape of the abyss – especially what it sees when it looks back at the world above.

This one is a lot darker than previous releases, but it doesn’t lose to them when it comes to design and attention to detail.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Jan 17, 2020
  • Producers: Media Factory?
  • Studios: Kinema Citrus
  • Source: Web manga
  • Genres: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy
  • Duration: 1 hr. 45 min.

Violet Evergarden Movie

beautiful_anime_best_art_violet_evergarden

A sequel to the anime series that aired in 2018, this film finds the titular character, Violet Evergarden, in search of her former employer.

Violet is an Auto Memory Doll that learned how to love, and we see her journey and struggle to stay true to her feelings.

The art style is not too different from many other offerings from this and similar genre. It doesn’t even miss out on dubious European “historical” elements that we’ve come to expect from anime.

But where this movie shines is in adapting the atmosphere and environment to characters’ emotions.

We don’t only have to rely on their inner monologue, but we get to see what’s in their heart through beautiful landscapes like the infinite stretch of clear blue skies and sea, or with glimmers of light in complete darkness.

Quick overview

  • Premiered: Sep 18, 2020
  • Producers: Shochiku
  • Studios: Kyoto Animation
  • Source: Light novel
  • Genres: Slice of Life, Drama, Fantasy
  • Duration: 2 hr. 20 min.

Conclusion

It feels like we could list hundreds of more great anime movies and series. Think about it, Ghost in the Shell, Spirited Away, among other greats from the past and present.

There are so many great ones out there, but if there’s one thing that is given, it is that whenever you see an anime movie, you can think of it being the best and most beautiful version possible.

For example, Made in Abyss, while being a gorgeous looking anime series already, the movies are the ones where animators can go all out and produce the best version possible.

Anime is beautiful and when made correctly is a work of art in every sense.

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