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10 Best Anime Series That Set The Standard For Seinen

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While there is still plenty of shonen that thrive on fight scenes and violence, seinen generally gets more creative freedom in being able to be as gory and uncomfortable as it wants. Yet, this does not mean that seinen is limited to all-out violence, blood, and guts.


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This creative freedom allows for a whole host of series that feature different genres and themes that adults are generally more likely to connect with and enjoy. There have been numerous popular seinen anime that have paved the way and set the standard for new and aspiring entries.

10/10 Elfen Lied Went Hard With The Mature Themes Of Seinen

Elfen Lied is a dark fantasy, sci-fi, and horror hybrid, brought to life by Studio Arms in 2004. Elfen Lied is considered more popular than it is high quality, with its excessive use of its mature rating likely the cause of that. As a full-blooded seinen anime, Elfen Lied does not hold back on its graphic violence and gore, which hasn’t aged too well for some.

Regardless of opinion, Elfen Lied was undeniably one of the anime to put the main adult tropes of seinen on the map, and it ultimately succeeded in attracting its intended audience. Other seinen anime have since surpassed Elfen Lied in adding more purpose to their graphic violence, but Elfen Lied certainly still paved the way.

9/10 Mononoke Merged Thought-Provoking Themes & Compelling Action

Mononoke often finds itself being overlooked or simply confused with the popular Studio Ghibli movie Princess Mononoke. However, Mononoke was brought to life by Toei Animation, the studio behind One Piece and Dragon Ball. Released back in 2007, Mononoke is 12 episodes of seinen goodness, with its psychological horror and mystery aspects making for a seriously compelling short anime.

Mononoke follows a character known as the “Medicine Seller” as he seeks to find out about various unnatural spirits called Mononoke before acting to exorcise them. Mononoke has its classic seinen tropes of violence, but it also builds upon Mushishi‘s thought-provoking themes to make a more rounded experience.

Hellsing Ultimate was another seinen anime released in the mid-2000s that excelled with its gore, violence, and sheer intensity. It is still immensely popular and beloved, mainly for its over-the-top vampire-killing action. Many fans flock to the anime either for the first time or for a re-watch after finishing Netflix’s Castlevania series.

RELATED: 10 Scariest Seinen Anime, Ranked

In Hellsing Ultimate, Alucard is an overpowered main character who destroys his opponents, meaning that the classic violence and chaos are all but guaranteed in almost every fight scene. There are better seinen anime out there, but Hellsing Ultimate really helped to codify the adult tropes on this demographic.

7/10 Parasyte: The Maxim Popularized Generic Seinen Tropes

While Parasyte: The Maxim was only released in 2014, it was an adaptation of a manga that debuted back in 1988, and thus deserves to be labeled as a classic. Parasyte set the standard for many seinen tropes, from the ordinary protagonist becoming a reluctant hero to the gruesome gore and violence that ensues.

Shinichi Izumi is thrust into a war between mankind and parasitical aliens when his hand becomes the host to one such being named Migi. Madhouse brings the various seinen tropes to life, including psychological horror and shocking gore, keeping its audience enthralled throughout.

6/10 Tokyo Ghoul Showcased The Bleak & Edgy Worlds Of Seinen

Tokyo Ghoul initially aired in 2014 but feels as if it has been around for much longer. Its popularity still lingers to this day, in spite of it dividing audiences in terms of its quality. Many feel that the groundwork was there, but the anime simply didn’t adapt the manga appropriately.

However, Tokyo Ghoul has still done a lot for seinen anime, in showcasing a bleak world, psychological horror, and plenty of gory violence. Tokyo Ghoul leans into its tropes and clich├ęs, and the fact that its edginess has still garnered such a cult following speaks for itself. Aspiring seinen anime can use Tokyo Ghoul‘s bleak horror as a guide in terrifying and tense storytelling.

5/10 Black Lagoon Proved That Protagonists Don’t Have To Be Squeaky Clean

As crime thriller anime go, Black Lagoon is still one of the best. Released back in 2006, Black Lagoon was brought to life by Madhouse and became an action-packed masterpiece. The anime follows a team of pirate mercenaries who blur the lines between good and evil.

Anime isn’t always as easy as good versus evil, so exploring antiheroes and more complex characters can be rewarding if done right. Black Lagoon‘s moral ambiguity and captivating action have shown that seinen anime can have more substance than just mindless killing and that exploring these complex choices can also appeal to its target demographic.

4/10 Erased Reminds Fans That Not Every Seinen Anime Has To Have Mindless Gore

Erased is another seinen anime released less than a decade ago but feels like it has been around for much longer. This 2016 mystery thriller is 12 episodes of high-stakes intensity as Satoru Fujinuma finds himself time-traveling thanks to a phenomenon known as “Revival.” It gives him the chance to save lives that have already been lost.

Erased establishes itself as a seinen through its mixture of supernatural mystery as well as dealing with the heavy themes of death and loss. Erased is a prime example of a seinen not being all about gore and action. Yet, it’s still able to piece together a highly-engaging and entertaining experience for the audience.

3/10 Bungou Stray Dogs Has Inspired Other Anime With Its Complex Themes

Bungou Stray Dogs is an example of an anime that has improved considerably since its debut season. Its second and third seasons continue to build up high expectations for future seasons. Bungou Stray Dogs is intriguing thanks to its seinen tropes of moral ambiguity and dark, complex themes, but it still has its own unique identity and doesn’t feel too generic.

RELATED: 10 Best Seinen Anime That Embraced Its Cliches

Bungou Stray Dogs has fallen in with the other supernatural mystery seinen anime that present compelling narratives without resorting to mindless violence, and it excels as another stellar work by Studio Bones. While it is still ongoing and only debuted its first season in 2016, it can easily still be used as a point of reference for future seinen anime thanks to its impressive growth and reputation.

2/10 Berserk 1997 Showed How To Build Up A Narrative With Compelling Characters

Berserk‘s reputation is often called into question when considering its two revamped seasons that debuted in 2016, but the manga and 1997 anime series keep it as one of the best seinen series of all time. The 1997 series captured the true essence of Berserk, with its dark and bleak themes and setting, compelling characters, and violence.

RELATED: 10 Seinen Anime Every Anime Fan Should Watch At Least Once

This adaptation of Berserk quickly became a welcome trend-setter in seinen anime, with its dark premise rooted in fantastical horror and fantasy. None of the reboots or sequels or adaptations could surpass the original, and it remains one of the best anime series of all time.

1/10 Ghost In The Shell Made Seinen Anime Push Boundaries

Ghost in the Shell was revolutionary for anime in many ways. It popularized futuristic and sci-fi concepts that were aimed at a seinen demographic. The 1995 movie was a huge success, and it even paved the way for the 2002 Stand Alone Complex series to surpass it.

Ghost in the Shell really showcased how varied seinen anime could be. The franchise raised the bar for seinen anime at the time, but it also set a standard going forward. This ultimately encouraged a wide range of future anime that would explore more in-depth topics instead of just focusing on sheer violence and gore.

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