If you’re feeling particularly feisty and patriotic and you’re about to set foot in battle… then stop right there, because chances are you’re probably too young or inexperienced to fight a war yet. But these characters sure aren’t! And these shows are here to tell you all about them. Here we have ranked our list of the 30+ best war anime series that you should be checking out. Right now. From Attack on Titan and Grave of Fireflies to Violet Evergarden and Valkyria Chronicles, we have it all!
Take a few cues from these shows before deciding to become a brave soldier. Although, fair warning, mech tech shows might be lower placed on this list because, while there are tons of innovative ways to do mech anime series, basing a show off that concept alone is a little lazy and over-done. So let’s dive in!
In the continent of Cruzon, the Kingdom of Krisna and the nation of Athens on the verge of war? The warring countries employ mechs to do their dirty work, powered by quartz. However, one of the citizens of Krisna, Rygart Arrow, doesn’t have the quartz ability that everyone else possesses. He is an ‘un-sorcerer’ and can instead power an ancient Golem into battle. Rygart decides to learn how to master his piloting of the Golem and become a formidable opponent himself for the Athens army.
This war anime has a good setting. The premise is excellent, moves at a good pace, and the characters are no slouch either. The thing is, it’s another mech anime. We have enough of these with the Gundam series upon series, and there are countless more that aren’t even as popular. However, there is one thing that this series does stand out for, and that is its visual style. All the characters are hand-drawn and look pristine and colorful and pop right off the screen, better than a lot of CGI. And the sound’s okay too, the clash of metal against metal is music to my ears.
The Abh empire, genetically modified humanoid beings with superior technology, is on the verge of complete control over humanity in the distant future. An alliance of four human nations comes together to combat the Abh and save the race. In the middle of all of that is Jinto Linn, a human living in an Abh controlled nation as a count, who must maneuver the ways of nobility with the help of Lafiel Abriel, an Abh princess. To add to that, the two get caught up in one of the battles of the Abh vs. the Alliance. And this time, it’s war.
Seikai no Monshu has a great story and solid characters. You feel invested in Jinto and Lafiel’s journey, and you’re as invested in the war that’s going on. Plus, the music does pull you in. It’s an overall great package if you’re looking to experience it in every sense. Where it lacks is the visuals. Now Seikai no Monshu (or Crest of Stars) is a pretty old show. It didn’t hit the air till 1999. So its animation and art are going to be a little dated. It’s not like it was cutting edge even for its time. However, what it lacks in visuals it makes up for with a genuinely exciting war anime show that keeps you coming back for more.
Valkyria Chronicles or Senjou no Valkyria takes place in a continent reminiscent of 1930s Europe. The two main factions, the Imperial Empire and the Federation are at odds with each other. Both are jostling over control over the continent and its chief natural mineral, Ragnite. The story sets in the neutral country of Gallia, whose peace is disturbed when the attack lands up there. The story revolves around the son of a former Gallian General, Welkin, as he forms the mini-militia group Squad 7. Joining him are his adoptive sister Isara, a member of the town watch Alicia and other interesting characters.
This war anime revolves around the characters fighting for their homes. While all of this is there, it doesn’t feel like a grand war epic. Not as much as you’d think, anyway. The characters are quite all over the place. In a good way, though. It’s nice to see a bit of a different take on the genre with some different plot points than usual. And I’m not complaining about the romantic angle, either, it’s a nice break from all that gun-toting. No tech, though, all standard old school warfare. Although maybe they needed to exercise a bit more creativity before they decided to name the setting continent ‘Europa.’
31. Arslan Senki
Arslan Senki or The Heroic Legend of Arslan is set in 320, where the kingdom of Pars is taken over by Lusitania. The crown prince of Pars, Arslan, is on the run as the Lusitanians are out for his head. He needs to be able to find safety and gather an army strong enough to reclaim the throne. With his trusty general Daryun by his side, Arslan must hone his skills as a warrior and find a way to win back his kingdom from the Lusitanians and their mysterious champion, Silvermask.
As a war anime series, this one is a lot more simplistic with its base plot, which in this case, is a perfect thing. The over-the-top tricks and frills don’t serve to complicate a perfectly good story, which allows you to focus on the characters. What’s worse is that the characters are slightly all over the place. However, we do enjoy seeing the weird mix of people thrown in there that are supposed to be Arslan’s ‘army.’ Either way, the show does have some solid writing and pretty good music and sound to boot. But the extremely modern looking animation is way too slick for it to look natural. If you like the premise, this show is a must-watch. If you like the show, an even better thing to do would be to read the novels it’s based on.
Mysterious human-like beings known as ‘Mu’ have invaded the Earth and captured Tokyo, encasing it in a shield that slows time down to one-third that of the outside world. Ayato Kamina gets caught in one of the attacks on ‘Tokyo Jupiter’ when he runs into his classmate Reika Mishima. Entranced by her singing, Haruka Shitow rescues him from the outside world. Ayato mysteriously comes into contact with a Dolem, mechs made out of clay, named ‘RahXephon.’ Ayato decides to pilot the mech and use it to stop the Mu, free his world, and discover the mystery behind Reika and Haruka.
Sigh. It’s another mech war anime. But this time, it stands out because, for starters, the mech isn’t made of metal. So there’s not a lot of metal clanging sound effects. Mainly, this series gets major props for being extremely innovative in its approach. Music is woven well into the battling style of the mechs and is a refreshing take on the tired genre. There’s a lot of philosophy and history that comes with the show that serves as a really great fodder for the more intellectual viewers. It might seem a little full of itself (and characters) sometimes, but RahXephon is an intelligent show that really won’t disappoint.
In the ongoing war between the Helic Republic and the Guylos Empire is Van, a teenage boy who tries to escape from two bandits. Zoids power the planet, beast-like machines that have unique capabilities, that can be boosted in power by tiny creatures called Organoids. Van finds an Organoid named Zeke and a mysterious girl named Fiona looking for something called ‘Zoid Eve.’ Zeke fuses with a Shield Liger Zoid, which Van takes command of. The trio journey to discover the mystery of the Zoids and help Fiona find Zoid Eve.
While it is, yet again, another mech war anime, it is a rather fun one. At least the mechs here aren’t large human-like fighter beings, that’s a relief. The adventure that the characters go through is a delightful one to watch regularly, and you won’t get tired that quickly of any of these characters. Especially Fiona, who is weird and utterly thrilling. The villains are a bit more ‘meh’ than everyone else, and the plot can come off looking a little recycled sometimes. But it’s a pretty great show, nonetheless.
We’ll call this by its simpler name, GATE. GATE is about, well, a gate. A mysterious portal opens up and unleashes supernatural creatures and medieval war heroes who start attacking everything in their path. The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) finally manage to stop them after a brutal recon. One of those members of the JSDF is Youji Itami, a typical otaku who is then entrusted with making his way to the other side of the gate. His task is to try to bring what’s there on the side of the Japanese forces. Failing would mean risking engulfing both worlds in a bloody war that could eradicate both sides.
This war anime does sometimes take a slightly duller turn, although it always picks right up. It tackles the usual supernatural military themes but with a lot of time-traveling, between the chainmail suits of armor and the wormholes. Youji is a standard otaku, although you don’t mind rooting for him from time to time. Sometimes, however, it feels like the show gets that and tries to force it down your throat. ‘Youji is our God!’ could pass as a title, too. Overall, perfect on paper, not too shabby in execution. High points, either way.
King of Roland, Sion Astal, orders his closest friend, Ryner Lute, and gifted swordswoman, Ferris Eris, to find the relics of the legendary heroes of the past. He feels that these could help save his kingdom from despair. Ryner possesses a power known as ‘Alpha Stigma’ that gives him immense power that could be very destructive. Together, the two must brave the challenges of a nearly broken kingdom and find the ancient, powerful relics and simultaneously understand Ryner’s purpose with the Alpha Stigma. If not, the kingdom could divulge into endless war.
Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu lives up to a pretty intimidatingly weird name in its English version, The Legend of the Legendary Heroes. The question is, does it? In some crucial ways, it does. This war anime series has a story with a lot of twists and turns that can make you laugh and gasp at the same time in an instant. Ryner and Ferris are also thoroughly entertaining and engaging characters, both very gray ones at that. The show’s made pretty well, too. Where the fault lies is in the inconsistency. The story could employ extremely random plot points in between major arcs that could confuse viewers, and its artwork might also change up slightly here and there. But if the technical things don’t matter for you, then you’ll dig into the journey of Ryner and Ferris Eris.
It’s the Industrial Revolution (boy, time sure took a step back for this one), and a deadly virus is spreading. This virus turns the infected undead, into the vicious Kabane, who stop at nothing to satisfy their taste for human flesh. The only way to stop them is by piercing their hearts. A young engineer, Ikoma, decides to test that theory with his new weapon, only to be bitten by one of the Kabane. However, he prevents the resists of the infection and becomes a human-Kabane hybrid called Kabaneri. He must journey to seek shelter from the Kabane and, of course, fight hordes of them along the way.
Now, this show may sound very strangely familiar to a lot of readers and anime fans. You got it! It seems almost exactly like the plot of Shingeki no Kyojin, better known as Attack on Titan. The flesh-eating creatures. The protagonist with mad fighting skills. The walled city. It all falls into place. But if the show ever needed a sequel, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress could just be it. It’s animated in a theatrical manner for a war anime. Again, one of its many similarities to Attack on Titan. But its characters are a lot more morally ambiguous, and don’t we all love a good twist in the tale?
There were two planets one, the Eastern one, and the Western one, both connected by a chain called the Dragon Stream. But the chain has since broken, and the two planets are now engulfed in an endless series of wars. The sacred treasures represent the only thing that could save the planets, something only Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc can understand. Jeanne ventures from the Western planet with her friend, Leonardo da Vinci, to the East in search of the ‘savior king.’ Her quest, somehow, lands up in her finding the heir to the Eastern throne and the ‘greatest fool of the day,’ Nobunaga.
This is an interesting take on war anime with its wildly imaginative storyline and premise. This show might also be the closest we come to a female-led war anime on this list (so far, that is). The characters can be quite comical (one is a branded a ‘fool,’ they have to be), and their conflicting personalities go well together. The same mech battles do get annoying, but the overarching plot pulls you in. Nobunaga is the usual unwitting hero but an admirable one at that. You can’t help but live for his foolishness. Although, will someone, please tell me why one of the main characters is named Leonardo da Vinci?!
In the late 16th century, two rival ninja clans, Iga and Kouga, are called into a ceasefire from their long years of war under the governance of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Soon, however, the Tokugawa shogunate is on the verge of ruin as his two grandsons dispute over the throne. And just as the Iga and Kouga clans are about to reach a level of peace with the union of their two heirs, Gennosuke and Oboro, Ieyasu has an idea. He calls both clans to send forward their ten strongest ninjas to fight against each other in a battle royale. The side with the most left at the end wins a thousand years of favor and gets to choose who takes the throne. Now Gennosuke and Oboro must decide whether to sacrifice their love for the clan or the other way around.
This is, surprisingly, the first ninja war anime to make this list. And it’s a pretty solid representative for the genre. Basilisk smoothly blends more modern anime with the traditional style and puts up a great show that a lot of people would enjoy. It’s part Romeo and Juliet, part Hunger Games and I’m kind of here for it. Although be warned, it can get very bloody and very gory. Attack on Titan level bloody. But, if you’re willing to look past that, I’d suggest going in for this show as a gentle relief from the more done-and-dusted content out there.
In Aldnoah.Zero, the Earthlings, have found a portal on the Moon that allows instantaneous transport to Mars called Hypergate. After discovering the advanced Aldnoah tech on the planet, they establish the Vers Empire on Mars and wage war against the ‘Terrans.’ However, this war shatters the Hypergate, leading to the two to call an uneasy ceasefire. Until 15 years later, when an assassination attempt is carried out on the princess of the Vers Empire on a peacekeeping mission to Earth. The war’s back on, and this time, there will be only one victor.
As a war anime series, Aldnoah. Zero lives up to its name because it’s at the center of a massive war. The characters of the show are quite entertaining to watch, and you kind of flit back and forth between rooting for them and not like Inaho, the emotionless fighting machine with one mission and complicated feelings. What stands out is the excellent animation. It can be a little over-the-top sometimes, but it’s pretty realistic and awe-inspiring for the most part. For some zippy and intense battles spanning all of the cosmos, check this show out.
Humans are now living on Mars, along with other extra-terrestrial locations, but aren’t given the freedom or room to grow from the Earth regime. To give her subjects a better life, Martian noblewoman Kudelia hires the security company CGS to escort her to Earth for some negotiation talks. However, in a battle with the military organization Gjallarhorn, the adults of the CGS abandon the children and teen soldiers to die. This leads to them defeating the Gjallarhorn forces on their own using piloted Gundam mechs and deciding to undertake the journey to Earth themselves.
It’s another mech war anime. Yay (unenthusiastically, of course). But this time, it’s the younger ones who’ve taken the lead. Iron-Blooded Orphans keeps with the theme of its audience and delivers a more toned-down version of their usual styles with a more cartoony animation as well. That doesn’t make it bad, just different. And it addresses a lot of central themes in war, poverty, politics, economic development, and, most of all, slavery and child soldiers. The child soldier thing did garner a lot of criticism from some people. But it is fiction, so as long as those robots keep fighting, a lot of people will be happy.
21.Owari no Seraph
Yuuichirou, a fugitive who ran away from the exile created by Vampires when he was a child, has now turned into a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. The army has one goal, and it is to take over the control from Vampires who have risen to power many years ago after a particular virus broke and infected everyone above the age of 13.
Along with Yuuichirou, there is someone else who shares the same tragic past as him, Mikaela Hyakuya. They have both been the victims of cruelty shown by Vampires and would do anything to restore the world’s order to what it was before. The plot has a twist and turns as any good storyline should have, and coupled with breathtaking fight scenes and character upgrades that we all love to watch, Owari no Seraph stands as one anime you should add to your watch list.
Ikta Solork is an excellent war strategist, a man who oddly enough likes nothing more than a good nap. However, this all goes to dust when the neighboring kingdom wage war. Joined by childhood best friend Yatorishino, sniper Torway, fellow academy student Matthew, medic Haroma, and princess Chamille, Ikta enrolls in the military as a soldier to defend his kingdom and prevent the war from getting any bigger. And all he wanted to do was find a nice looking girl somewhere and get some rest.
This is a fascinating pick for this list, purely because of the several differences in each character. Sure, it’s animated well and looks pretty amazing. And it has a terrific story, too. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it has six leads with entirely different personalities. Sometimes, keeping up with all six and their eccentricities can be pretty hard. But Alderamin is a show for the thinking man. The man who can appreciate just how much each character compliments the other. You’d think that the lead character represented an anti-war message. But really, he wants to end this because he’s incredibly lazy.
19. Tokyo Ghoul
The world is divided between two halves, one consists of humans, and then some Ghouls don’t have a distinctive feature as compared to humans but are the complete opposite in every sense of the world. In between this bleak world of two entities, there exists a normal boy, Kaneki Ken, whose life changes after a specific incident, after which, to save him, he undergoes a transplant and received organs from another victim of that same accident.
Stuck between two worlds and belonging to none of them is the idea around which the life of one-eyed ghoul, Kaneki Ken, revolves. The struggle to find one’s own identity in a world that is too lost to acknowledge that it’s already rotten and instead point fingers is the everyday challenge. The series has some of the best-created opening themes and the ending of every season makes us want for more and more. Coupled with fighting scenes that can make you want to crack some bones and a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from sadness, laughter to even rage, Tokyo Ghoul should be your pick if you still haven’t watched it.
Tatara Totsuka, a vital member of the Red Clansmen of Kings, has been murdered, and its video is going viral. The ‘Kings’ are humans with stupendous abilities who move around in clans. Naturally, the death of one of their own leads to the Red Clansmen beginning a search for the killer. And that leads them to the usually affable naturally forgetful schoolboy Yashiro Isana. As he tries to prove his innocence while on the run from the Clansmen, he uncovers a lot more mysteries than he intended to. He soon gets wrapped up in what could become a colossal war between the Kings and challenge the fate of the Earth.
Don’t get me wrong. K is an exceptionally well-made show. It looks really good. Very well-animated and the characters pop. The thing is, there are WAY too many characters who. They keep coming by, popping in and popping out just as quickly. It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on when you have more characters than Game of Thrones. Aside from that, K is a pretty good war anime series that’s a little more adventurous and conspiratorial than most. Yashiro is an excellent protagonist to root for and is a lot more enjoyable than the silent brooding types. Overall, a good show, not great.
Humans have colonized the Milky Way. Yes, you read that right. And in a one-star system, males and females live on two different planets called Taraak and Mejere, respectively. The two genders have gone above and beyond in the race to eliminate each other and don’t even look at each other as the same species anymore. One unlucky male, Hibiki Tokai, gets caught in one of the males vs. females duels when a wormhole pulls him and two male compatriots along with three female pirates to a different part of the Universe. They must learn to put aside their differences and make it back to their homelands. There’s a whole other war brooding, and this time, it isn’t just about the ‘battle of the sexes.’
This war anime series probably has the most, well, wacky plot. The whole males vs. females thing were fine, did they have to add the entire angle of the Earth dwellers trying to kill all other inter-galactic humans for body parts? Anyway, this show doesn’t stray away too much from cliches in a lot of regards (space, mechs, space opera). However, the plot alone entails that there’s a lot more fun with this show. Which isn’t necessarily as dark or as bleak as the ones before and after it. There are some fun characters, no one too extraordinary. You’ll probably keep watching just because it’s so pointless, and it’s addictive.
In 2199, Earth and its inhabitants are under attack. Constant bombing by the alien race, Gamila has put the planet on the verge of extinction. When all of humanity has lost hope, the planet Iscandar comes forward and offers aid. That would require the Earthlings first to make the 148,000 light-year journey to acquire it aboard the Space Battleship Yamato. With a bunch of young officers taking the reins, trying to figure out their way aboard the ship and its advanced technology, the show revolves around one question: can they save their home?
This show has been dubbed a ‘space opera.’ No, there are no fat ladies singing in spacesuits. Just very cinematic and grandeur-esque experiences. This war anime gives us one of the most formidable foes yet, the Gamilas. If you need to go to another planet for back-up, you know you got it bad. This show banks on the ‘lost in space’ idea that somehow kind of works for it. And the characters work pretty well as a cohesive unit. You can’t help but look up in the night sky from time to time. Gazing. Wondering if the Battleship Yamato finally managed to find Iscandar.
Kagemitsu Daigo forged a pact with 12 demons to allow for him to rule his land and let it prosper. In exchange, he offered each demon whatever part of his son they wanted. His son was born malformed, limbless, and without facial features or organs and was set adrift in a river by his mother so his father wouldn’t kill him. Soon, that boy grows up to be Hyakkimaru. A ronin with a blade for an arm. Who has set out on a quest to find and slay each demon to regain his body and humanity. On the way, he meets the young thief Dororo, who decides to accompany him on his journey. Because kids are allowed to tag-along anywhere these days.
Dororo, as a war anime show, can get very dark and dirty. And can also be a little more violent than intended. But it’s a very intriguing plot, and the lead character of Hyakkimaru is a very mysterious protagonist with many shades of grey. My one gripe, a technical one, is about the fact that this show and manga is named after the secondary protagonist of the series, rather than the main one. He doesn’t even possess some great power, and he’s just a tag-along kid who has a bit of history. Other than that, it’s a dark and gripping show. Is it outstanding? Maybe not. Is it good? Yeah, for sure, give it a watch and see for yourself.
An anomaly known as ‘Heaven’s Gate’ opened up in South America, followed by ‘Hell’s Gate’ in Japan, wreaking havoc and almost destroying Tokyo. The incidents gave birth to beings known as Contractors, cold-blooded killers acting on pure logic and rationale. These beings have lost their humanity and are represented by the fake stars that have appeared in the night sky. An organization known as Syndicate employs the Contractors, and one such Contractor, Hei, finds himself feeling a lot more than the others. As he starts discovering more about himself, he uncovers more of the sinister plots of the Syndicate, including getting rid of Contractors altogether.
Darker than Black certainly lives up to its name of being very dark. As a war anime, it’s certainly not as explicit. There’s no big war that encircles the show, mostly just the prospect of one. The characters are incredibly ambiguous, although there are some clear heroes and villains. Hei is a very mind-boggling protagonist, straddling the line between good and evil quite often. But you can’t help but fall in love with him. At least, we know the ladies for sure can’t. What is with anime and lovely characters? Ah, well, watch Darker than Black and find out!
13. Youjo Senki
Also called The Saga of Tanya the Evil, this show revolves around the young orphaned soldier Tanya Degurechaff. Fighting in an alternate World War I, Tanya is a ruthless tactician with zero mercy and limitless magical ability at her disposal. She is one of the fiercest warriors in the empire, which stems from her burning desire for vengeance. Tanya was, in fact, a Japanese supervisor who challenged the God-like ‘Being X,’ thus being reincarnated as Tanya. Tanya now seeks to ascend the ranks of the military and become powerful enough to get back into her own time, and maybe leave a few bodies on the way.
This show is a head-scratcher because, on the one hand, it’s a little too dark and disturbing. Especially the ‘you don’t believe in God’ moments. But on the other, it’s quite insanely good. The plot is inane and different and very intriguing to follow. Tanya is evil and vile, but she’s also the one you’re supposed to root for. It’s like if someone gave you a Nazi and told you a love story was being made on them. It’s confusing switching allegiances in this take on war anime. But it’s well done and definitely worth watching.
Record of Grancrest War or Grancrest Senki is the story of Chaos. The Chaos is a mystical energy that takes over the land occupied by two kingdoms, Fantasia Union and Factory Alliance, and kills the archdukes of both lands before their children are to be wed. Young mage Siluca sets out to study under a master magician when she is saved from a group of soldiers by Theo, who bears a crest that allows him to banish the Chaos with supernatural powers. The two join forces to try and eliminate the chaos once and for all and reunite the two kingdoms.
As a war anime show, this particular series isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking. It’s a war between two kingdoms involving a lot of dark energy and two people destined to end it. That’s nothing spectacular. What is spectacular are its characters. One can’t help but loudly cheer on for both Siluca and Theo, whether they’re fighting the Chaos, reuniting the land, or showing off their more affectionate side. This show loves to put its romance a little more ahead of the rest, and that works well by giving it a decidedly more light-hearted tone. Although, if you did like playing a lot of medieval RPGs as a kid (or if you still do, no judging), you could potentially enjoy this show.
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni or In This Corner of the World is the story of Suzu, a charming and vibrant young woman who moves to the small Japanese town of Kure. She draws in her spare time, supports the family, and enjoys the pleasures of life with her loving husband. However, her peaceful life comes to a standstill when the second World War breaks out, and US bombs start dropping. Trying to keep her family upbeat in such trying times, Suzu uses her creativity to keep the attitude light, even when she goes through her share of personal tragedies.
One of two war anime films on this list, Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, is vaguely similar to the other, Hotaru no Haka. This film could very well be considered an anti-war film and has received a variety of acclaim for its positive outlook on family-life in war. Just a warning, though, it can be very emotional at times. You need some absorbent tissues or a steady heart to watch this film. But it is deserving of at least one go. Suzu is an inspirational protagonist, the kind that sometimes is too real to be true. And, to be honest, it’s not like we’re looking for real people here anyway.
Kingdom is about Xin and Piao, two war-orphans who live in the kingdom of Qin in war-torn China. Through all the hardships, their dream of becoming Great Generals in the warring forces remains strong. However, Piao suddenly gets taken away from Xin and returns months later on the verge of death. To discover what happened to his friend, Xin discovers that Piao served as an identical-looking body double for Ying Zheng, the current king of the Qin empire. Xin uses it as his chance to not only avenge his friend’s death but also fulfill his dream of becoming the greatest general of all time.
Kingdom is a show about a boy’s attempts to become a part of history and his journey towards doing so. This is a war anime series less about the fighting of the characters and more about the legacy they try to build. Its central leads are unique little creatures. You can’t help but become invested in the life of Xin as he tries to move forward with his dream. This is a show about honor and vengeance, two of my favorite ingredients for great TV and epic battles.
Hotaru no Haka, or Grave of the Fireflies, revolves around children Seita and Setsuko. Seita and Setsuko are separated from their mother after a bomb hits their town of Kobe. They’re shipped off to their aunt, who resents them for not pulling their weight, unlike the other refugees. So the two run off and decide to stick it out on their own with limited food and supplies. But there’s still lots of hope and love. Did I mention this is set in Japan during the aftermath of World War II?
One of only two war anime films on this list, this entry is quite possibly the one that could be termed as the most ‘depressing.’ The very beginning of the film already gives you a massive spoiler (I won’t), and that ruins the mood instantly. Don’t go into this if you’re looking for a happy ending or a cute kids’ tale. Especially do not go into this if you want something that doesn’t haunt your very existence. However, it’s worth viewing maybe once (more viewings are difficult) for how exceptionally well it’s made (Studio Ghibli magic). This is one film that’s been termed as being more ‘anti-war’ than anything. And we might be able to take a gander that ‘anti-war’ isn’t too far off.
No Game No Life is the story of recluse step-siblings Sora and Shiro, undefeated gamers known as ‘Blank.’ The two are challenged to a game of chess by Tet. When they beat him, he transports them to Disboard, the world of games. And Tet, surprise surprise, is the God of games. In Disboard, all conflicts aren’t resolved through wars but gaming. The two decide to take on the challenge and embark on a quest to conquer and usurp all sixteen nations and finally challenge Tet to a game.
No Game No Life is an exciting take on war anime. In the sense that there’s quite possibly nothing like it. Regardless, this show is top-rated and has a lot of die-hard fans (please don’t kill me). The show is funny, bright, colorful, and poppy, and the characters work well together, especially Sora and Shiro. Although, that’s not to say this show doesn’t have its detractors, and you can see why. Shiro, probably 11 years old, is often seen in…well, perverse ways, and that’s not exactly something that should be happening. Plus, the extremely bright color scheme can get a little too much at times. But this is a very entertaining show that does keep you at the edge of your seat with each game and is famous for a reason.
The two main interstellar factions of the Universe, Galactic Empire, and the Free Planets Alliance, finally start butting heads when a new generation of leaders arises. First, the visionary military genius Reinhard von Lohengramm, entirely motivated by the desire to free his sister from the Kaiser and end the Goldenbaum Dynasty to unify all of humanity under his rule. And second, the FPA’s reserved historian, Yang Wen-li, an unwitting leader who demonstrates the extremely intuitive skill of military strategy and uses historical contexts to predict battle moves.
This 2018 reboot of the original gets mixed reviews in terms of sheer visual appeal alone. While everything looks a lot prettier and cleaner, the same can’t be said for our two leads, Reinhard and Yang. The two already making a mark as the weirdest and most noble pair of war anime heroes. On the one hand, they’re complete gentlemen. On the other, they wouldn’t mind blowing up the other’s head off. The show often attempts to decipher the need for war in the first place and gets bonus points for philosophy. Plus, it’s like a full-blown space odyssey, with all the different characters who pop in and out all the time. And also, it’s almost impossible to gauge how much time passes in the show. Kudos to them for taking the Wong Kar-wai route with the time distortion.
Shingeki no Kyojin is the story of Eren Yeager, a young boy who witnesses the destruction of his hometown and the brutal death of his mother at the hands of colossal humanoid creatures called ‘Titans.’ The Titans have managed to breach the walls that humanity built to ensure their safety. They’re coming back in stronger numbers than before to fulfill their taste for human flesh. Eren decides to join the Survey Corps to defeat the Titans himself, along with some help from Armin and Mikasa.
Sound familiar? Maybe the show’s English name will ring a bell, Attack on Titan. By and large, this particular war anime is the most popular show on this list, especially on an international scale. Attack on Titan has established itself as a true franchise and poster-child for anime in the West. Its characters are unique and complex, and each supporting cast adds to the story. However, the show can get quite bleak and violent on occasion. It’s to be expected from a war series. But Attack on Titan is a severe show, and it takes just one viewing to confirm that.
Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Mar is a child soldier with little sympathy for war, weaponry, or those who deal in them. Yet, he ends up in a predicament that contradicts the very essence of that when he gets hired by Koko Hekmatyar, an arms dealer, as one of her bodyguards. Koko’s dealings are illegal and borderline unethical, and he must protect and encourage the one activity he hates the most while protecting her. Joining him are her other bodyguards, ex-soldiers themselves.
The war anime keeps shifting back and forth as it tries to advocate for war while also admonishing it. It plays a delicate game of trying to show why something is bad by doing just that. And it’s played up exceptionally well in the central contradictions made between Jonah and Koko. The truly intriguing part of this show is the duality of the character of Koko. A character who simultaneously encourages war as much as she wants to give world peace a chance. The show pools together its dark and light moments quite effectively, although the dark does outweigh the light sometimes. Ultimately, you’re just watching without knowing who’s the side your own. And isn’t that like any other war?
Yoshiharu Sagara quite suddenly ends up in the Sengoku period, where his presence causes a big rupture in history. The famed Nobunaga Oda has been replaced by Nobuna Oda, an ambitious and feisty teenage girl, and almost every other Japanese warlord is now a teenage girl. The world of tsundere! Yoshiharu must help Nobuna conquer all of Japan, which works out oddly enough, just like his video game, and find his way back to his own time before he’s too late.
This particular war anime isn’t about one massive central war per se, and it’s more about the little ones. This show may not be the best animated, or the best written, but it is the most fun! Yoshiharu, when it comes down to it, can be a bit of a perv. And Nobuna can be a little too jumpy for her good. But that compliments each other very well, and the two are TV gold. The premise of the show is bizarre and works in an even stranger way. You can’t watch this for it being ‘quality anime,’ but it’s the kind of enjoyable anime that you really should indulge in once in a while.
The story follows Violet Evergarden, who works in the post office as an Auto Memory Doll, responsible for ghostwriting letters for people unable to express their feelings. Violet herself, however, is incapable of processing her feelings. She used to be a soldier in the war, a competent one at that, serving alongside the man who raised her, Gilbert. As Gilbert sacrifices himself to save her, his last words to her are ‘I love you.’ Violet spends her days writing letters for others while unable to find the words herself to understand what Gilbert meant.
It’s quite odd that Violet works with these other robot-like beings when she is more robotic than the rest. But Violet shows incredible growth through the course of this war anime. As a character, she goes from one up to one down and back to it all very quickly. Viewers very promptly get interested in Violet and would enjoy seeing her journey, an admirable quality for a lead character. The show is animated beautifully and addresses some stunning themes of love and loss at a time of war. Beautiful. Yes, that’s the best word for this show.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who decide to attempt human transmutation: the one forbidden act of Alchemy. As the law of Alchemy states, to obtain something, something of equal value must be lost. This results in Edward losing his left leg and right arm and Alphonse his complete physical body, having to replace them cybernetic ‘automail’ and integrate his soul into that of a suit of armor, respectively. The two then set about on a pursuit for the mystical Philosopher’s Stone that could potentially reverse the effects and put them back in their original bodies. The two brothers simultaneously become part of their country’s political intrigue and recruit a rag-tag team of sidekicks along the way.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has been subject to consistent critical acclaim ever since its release. This is generally for its profound themes, and exploration into more mythical and scientific mix-and-match and its thoroughly memorable characters. The war anime always pits ‘humanity’ against ‘war’ and is on a quest to see how they work. As the characters try to regain their humanity, the war waging around them might just be taking it anyway. And that’s honestly worth giving a watch. Maybe twice.
Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, lives in Japan, aka Area 11, which resides under the control of the Holy Britannian Empire. As the Area 11 resistance rebel forces fight the power, a mysterious girl named C.C. saves Lelouch from a military onslaught and gives him the power of Geass or ‘Power of Kings.’ This power grants Lelouch the ability to have someone obey him unconditionally. He decides to use it to end the war and get his revenge on his father, the emperor of the Britannian Empire. On the way, he must confront his friends and family, the tragic incidents in his family, and try to understand how his powers work in the first place fully.
The war anime series Code Geass has a massive following in Japan and worldwide. Probably because of how well it balances the conflict on the outside with the one inside Lelouch’s head. It quite likes to mess with your head on occasion. Not with mind-bending and mysteries, more like with philosophical and moral questions that genuinely leave you stumped. Why can’t the world be just as easy as black and white? That’s one thing you’ll keep asking yourself as you keep watching. It’s a series that talks about the futility of war and the absolute destruction that too much power can cause. And there’s no better figurehead for it than Lelouch Lamperouge. The perfect war anime.