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Popular Anime Art Styles From the Legends of Anime

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Anime and manga are filled with different art styles. If we think about Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, One Punch-Man, Pokémon, etc., we can easily see that every one of them is unique in its own way.

Anime and manga are extremely varied in art style, and in this post, I’ve gathered the most popular anime art styles seen today in the world of anime.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust Style by Yoshiaki Kawajiri

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Yoshiaki Kawajiri may not be a household name, but his contributions to the second generation of anime helped anime change its tone in the ‘80s and garner interest from the West.

Known for making dark, adult-themed, and violent action animes, Kawajiri often used dark palettes contrasted by neon-lit worlds, grotesque and nightmarish creatures, and hypermasculine characters with bulky muscles and defined jawlines. You can see these in his earlier works Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, and Cyber City Oedo 808.

yoshiaki-kawajiri-style-ninja-scroll

However, Ninja Scroll is his most iconic work, as he started to refine his character and creature designs, drawing style, color palette, and storytelling. This anime film brought elements of cyberpunk, body horror, monsters, action-packed scenes, and excessive stylization that is only possible through drawing and animation.

Dragon Ball Style by Akira Toriyama

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Akira Toriyama is the genius behind the globally popular Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball Z. Martial arts manga became increasingly common in the ‘80s. Dragon Ball set itself apart by its childish character designs, wide-eyed characters, original alien designs, gleeful expressions, and clear, bold linework.

Besides this, his art style showcases good framing, flow, and focus, where the reader naturally follows each panel’s flow with their line of sight. As a result, it gives the illusion of movement or animation while reading. Ultimately, Dragonball’s art and storytelling defined the shounen anime genre you know today.

While Akira Toriyama hasn’t drawn most of the animation frames seen in the Dragon Ball anime, the extremely unique art style (especially seen in how he draws the character’s eyes) is clearly visible in the anime.

One Punch-Man Style by ONE/Yusuke Murata

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ONE is the pseudonym of One-Punch Man’s original web series creator. Unlike many mangakas, he isn’t the best at drawing, so his art style looks plain and shoddy. However, this made his work stand out from other superhero-themed shounen series.

Later, Yusuke Murata remade One-Punch Man into a digital manga, showcasing the art style most fans know. Compared to ONE’s drawings, Murata’s illustrations show more detail, depth, and expression without veering away from ONE’s original character design and stick-figure-like drawings for comedic scenes.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Style by Kazuki Takahashi

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The late Kazuki Takahashi is the author of Yu-Gi-Oh!, a widely popular manga that produced the best-selling trading card game in history. Its unique premise made it a memorable and highly loved anime even today.

Besides this, the characters’ sharp lines and features, spiky hair, jaggedly-folded clothes, and angular eyes and sides make the anime stand out. Because of Takahashi’s unique illustrations, the protagonist Yugi Muto has one of the most recognizable hairstyles in pop culture.

One Piece Style by Eiichiro Oda

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Eiichiro Oda (one of the wealthiest manga artists ever) is the author behind the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, One Piece. Besides its grand storytelling and lovable characters, the series stood out because of its cartoonish and sometimes jarring art style.

In an interview, Oda said that he wanted to make a manga that broke traditional conventions in anime. So he drew a range of body types, ridiculous body proportions, and extremely stretched gaping mouths. He also drew simple or complex eyes depending on the character’s traits. Overall, Oda’s art style may have exaggerations, but it works for the manga’s storyline.

The unique art style seen in Oda’s manga has been transferred immensely well to the One Piece anime series.

AKIRA Style by Katsuhiro Otomo

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Katsuhiro Otomo is an award-winning manga artist, animator, screenwriter, and director known for his manga and film adaptation titled Akira. Along with Kawajiri’s Ninja Scroll, Akira grabbed the West’s attention for its story, direction, and art.

Otomo’s signature style of precise, clean, detailed, grotesque, and destructive illustration became a hit and benchmark for many. He also has an eye for mechanical design, creating iconic elements like the big, futuristic red bike in Akira. Ultimately, his art elevated the sci-fi and mecha animes of his time.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Style by Hirohiko Araki

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Hirohiko Araki is a legendary mangaka known for his great attention to detail, heavy shading, muscular characters, and grand poses. These elements can be seen in his hit manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, distinguishing it from other animes at a glance.

However, as Araki continues to write the series, his art style changes per arc. The first part showed muscular characters and eventually showed leaner characters in recent parts. However, one thing that remained was the characters’ sense of fashion (from which the artist draws a lot of inspiration from), as the characters often wear stylish clothes.

Yet again, the unique art style has made its way to the screens in the form of anime. Keeping the stylized black thick outlines and shades and unique eyelashes intact.

Studio Ghibli Style by Hayao Miyazaki

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Hayao Miyazaki is a universally acclaimed manga artist, animator, and director known for producing many Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo, among many others.

Each of his works has distinct art styles and color palettes. Still, they all showcase breathtaking landscapes, whimsical settings, entirely hand-drawn characters, soft-edged and wide-eyed humans, and an overall wholesome feel. The fluid, human-like animation makes Miyazaki’s (one of the most famous anime artists ever) style legendary and top-tier.

Attack on Titan Style by Hajime Isayama

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Hajime Isayama is well-known for the globally popular Attack on Titan manga series that ended in 2021. Besides Isayama’s incredible storytelling, unique setting, and complex characters, his art stands out from other works in the genre.

Isayama’s raw and emotional style uses expressive, bold, and detailed lines. He also uses a cross-hatching technique and a bit of greyscale tones for shading to give characters more depth. 

Some may find his art sloppy, but his style brings the characters to life and sets the tone for the scene and the entire series.

Ghost in the Shell Style by Masamune Shirow

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Masanori Ota, known by the pen name Masamune Shirow, pioneered cyberpunk themes in anime and manga in the ‘80s. His most notable work is Ghost in the Shell, which received a successful print run, a two-season anime series, and a Hollywood movie adaptation.

You can distinguish Shirow’s style by his attention to technical detail and unrealistic character design, which adds to the tone of his work, especially Ghost in the Shell.

Afro Samurai Style by Takashi Okazaki

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Takashi Okazaki is a manga artist, graphic designer, and visual designer known for the manga series Afro Samurai. Besides its unique premise, his art style for Afro Samurai used unusual techniques to set the tone and highlight the violence in some scenes.

For example, the series used dark and cool-toned palettes, heavy shades, and silhouettes. Okazaki also likes contrasting monochromatic backgrounds with red-colored blood to make the scene pop. Overall, he has a unique way of visually emphasizing certain scenes for better impact.

Gurrenn Lagan Style by Hiroyuki Imaishi

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Hiroyuki Imaishi is a key animator, director, and co-founder of Studio Trigger, known for producing Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill. His signature style includes fast and frenzied animation, over-the-top scenes, elaborate storyboarding, and punchy direction.

Meanwhile, his art presents a peculiar but familiar aesthetic with an old-school vibe. The line art looks rough and expressive, giving its distinct look. Also, the color scheme he uses is vivid and heavy-handed cel shading.

Anime Art Styles By Anime Categories

Shōnen

Shōnen means “boy” in Japanese; it’s commonly used to refer to a teenager.

Shōnen is a type of both anime and manga that has been created especially for male audiences because this is a genre that contains themes that are more appealing to a male audience, such as themes of violence, action, and even romance, but seen from a male perspective.

Thanks to all the varied content that we can find in this type of anime, ranging from battles to comedy, it is one of the most-watched and sought-after anime genres worldwide.

When you want to see an anime shōnen, these are easy to recommend and get familiar with:

  • Dragon Ball Z
  • One Piece
  • Naruto
  • Akame Ga Kill

Shōjo

Shōjo means “girl” in Japanese.

Unlike shōnen anime, shōjo is a type of anime that is aimed exclusively at a female audience. This is because shōjo anime deals with themes that are attractive to girls, such as romance from a female perspective, companionship, friendship, and comedy.

This type of anime contains stories that are based mostly on feelings and human relationships. Shōjo-style anime is not as popular or as sought after as Shōnen-style anime.

If you want to see some of the best shōjo-style anime, these are some of the highest-rated shōjo-art style animes:

  • Ouran Koukou Host Club (Ouran High School Host Club)
  • Kaichou wa Maid-sama!

Seinen

Seinen means “young man” in Japanese. In the anime-type seinen, the aim is to attract the attention of a male audience but, in this case, adults. It is a type of anime that is usually more sophisticated than shonen anime.

The most frequent topics that we can find in anime seinen are politics and violence.

Seinen and shōnen are eventually confused, but what differentiates anime seinen from shōnen is that seinen contains a much greater variety of artistic styles.

In seinen anime, the characters and interactions are occasionally more developed than shōnen. In seinen, there is more emphasis on plot and less emphasis on direct action.

Hard to believe this when One Punch Man is on the list, but it’s what seinen is described as.

The seinen anime, in general, is strongly related to reality, they have a greater amount of added detail that increases the feeling of realism as well as possessing elements of fantasy that are the object of a strong logical reality.

If you want to see a seinen type of anime, these are some of the best ones

  • Berserk
  • One Punch Man

Kodomo

Kodomo means “child” in the Japanese language.

However, in the field of anime, it is used to refer to the child audience.

In the Kodomo type of anime, the stories contained are characterized by themes for children and the family. This anime is distinguished by the lack of elements that are created and directed for the adult audience.

This is a style of anime that is also often sought after by adults interested in the Kodomo series because of its short duration and simple plot.

If you want to see some kodomo style anime, you can find it as a great option:

  • Pokemon Sun & Moon

Josei

Josei in Japanese means “feminine”; it has no sexual connotations.

Josei is a type of anime that is oriented exclusively toward adult women. Josei is the female equivalent of gender seinen.

In this type of anime, the stories are usually about the everyday life experiences of women in Japan.

Occasionally josei also includes themes of women in university or even high school. The truth is that most josei anime is about the lives of adult women.

You could say that this is an anime-style that is a more realistic version of shōjo. Josei keeps the characters’ graceful features but gets rid of the big, glassy eyes. However, some exceptions can be found.

The romance shown in the Josei anime art style is realistic, as opposed to the romance shown in the shōjo type anime series.

If you want to see josei-type anime, these are some of the best ones:

  • Chihayafuru
  • Nodame Cantabile

Manga and anime sub-styles

This list is by no means complete or something that is fully definitive. There are plenty of other anime and manga sub-styles, but the following ones are some of the most known.

Bishōjo/Bishōnen:

The bishōjo is characterized by the variety of female characters that possess great beauty. It is usually aimed at a male audience, no matter what the subject matter is.

Like the bishōjo, the bishōnen is also characterized by having beautiful characters, but in this case, it is the male characters.

Maho shojo/shonen:

Mahō shojō is a sub-style of manga as well as anime that treats as its main theme stories of girls who have or obtain magical powers which they use for some specific purpose, whether it’s sorcerers, witches or superheroes.

On the other hand, in Mahō shōnen, the main characters are boys who, like Mahō shojō, also possess magical powers which they use for a special purpose.

If you want to read a good manga or see a good anime in the Maho Maho shojo/shonen style, you might be interested:

  • Sailor Moon

Kemono

Kemono is a sub-style sub-style of anime art in which its characters possess certain animal traits while acting in human situations. This means that its characters are usually fused with certain attractive or cute animal attributes.

Although most of the characters in this genre have a mainly human personalities, they seldom act like the animals from which they were created. Also, the characters are living a normal human lifestyle, so what differentiates kemonos from normal humans is not noticeable.

In case you want to read a manga or watch a kemono-style anime, among so much variety, you can find:

  • Tokyo mew mew power

Kemonomimi

Kemonomimi is a term used in manga or anime to refer to human characters that have some features or attributes of an animal, such as a tail, claws, or ears.

It is important to mention that, in some cases, these characters also possess the personality or behavior of the animal whose traits they possess.

If you want to see some kemonomimi, you may be interested:

  • Gon

Mecha

The mecha is one of the styles of anime art that contains as its main theme the robots. Generally, in mecha animes, the protagonist is in charge of piloting a robot. His objective is to defeat other robots that other people also pilot, but in this case, they are evil or even fight with certain monsters or beings from another world.

They could also be robots that have a life of their own because they are built or created by a robotic company with fairly advanced technology.

In case you are looking for some manga or mecha anime style, one of the best options would be:

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion

Jidaimono

Jidaimono is a Japanese dramatic style adapted to manga as well as anime. It can be identified with Japanese dorama.

This sub-style of manga or anime is set in feudal Japan. The jidaimono, in its stories, tells the exploits and lives of historical warriors, usually having as its protagonists the ninjas and samurai.

If you want to read a manga or watch a jidaimono-style anime, some good options are:

  • Rurouni Kenshin
  • Samurai Champloo

Gekiga

The gekiga style manga can vary considerably due to the different artists of the genre that exist, but despite this, the gekiga style has certain elements that it maintains unaltered, like an image that shows a quite realistic expression due to the details that the facial expressions have.

Unlike many classic comic books or classic manga, in the Gekiga style manga, the heads of the characters maintain a realistic proportion to that of human beings. In this style of manga, moreover, the muscular expressions of the faces are drawn by the feeling or emotions they are trying to convey.

If you are looking to get into gekiga manga, you could start with:

  • Neji-Shiki

Gakuen

The Gakuen this style is well known as school, high school, or college, where the animes and mangas have school relations

If you are interested in an anime or manga of this style, I can recommend you:

  • Harenchi Gakuen

Ecchi and Hentai:

Hentai is the name given to the manga and anime style that deals with pornographic content. The drawings that can be illustrated of sexual activity in anime or manga of this type have a great variety, as well as the types of sexual activities and the characters involved, which have minimal restrictions since they are fictional characters.

The ecchi is erotic and daring. It is a style of manga and anime that is somewhere in between flirting and obscenity, adding a bit of perversion but at the same time staying moderate. It is connected to anime and hentai manga due to its connection to pornography.

There is a very wide variety of mangas and animes of this style, among which we can find:

  • Angel
  • Bible black

Yuri/Yaoi

 Yaoi is a Japanese term that focuses on representing homosexual love between two men in a romantic, erotic, or artistic way. It is usually only applied in anime, manga, or fiction and is mainly oriented to female audiences.

It can be confused with Shōnen-ai, which is sweet and innocent and, on many occasions, funny, where love is shown from a pure and beautiful side, excluding the sexual, unlike Yaoi, where it is not excluded.

On the other hand, Yuri, like Yaoi, is a Japanese term that refers to love between two women in various Japanese media, including manga and anime.

There are several animes and mangas of this style, but this is one of the good ones:

  • Revolutionary Girl Utena

J Horror

If there’s something Japanese know how to do, it’s creating horror in their anime and manga series.

I’m not sure why it is so, but some anime series are totally nasty, brutal, and horrific and truly create horror on a new scale.

If there are anime series that fall into this category, these are the ones:

  • Dragon Head
  • Uzumaki
  • Another
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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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