While there are still plenty of shonen that thrive on fight scenes and violence, seinen generally gets more creative freedom by being able to be as gory and unpleasant as it wants. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the series is limited to total violence, blood and guts.
This creative freedom allows for a whole range of series that feature different genres and themes that adults are generally more likely to connect with and enjoy. There have been many popular seinen anime that have paved the way and set the standard for new and promising entries.
10/10 Elfen Lied went hard with the mature themes of Seinen
The Elf Lied is a dark fantasy, sci-fi and horror hybrid, brought to life by Studio Arms in 2004. The Elf Lied is considered more popular than it is high quality, with excessive use of the mature rating likely being the cause. Like a full-blooded seinen anime, The Elf Lied doesn’t hold back on its graphic violence and gore, which hasn’t gotten old for anyone.
Whatever the meaning, The Elf Lied was undeniably one of the anime that put the main adult troupes of the seine on the map, and it ultimately succeeded in attracting its intended audience. Other seinen anime have since surpassed The Elf Lied in adding more purpose to their graphic violence but The Elf Lied certainly still paving the way.
9/10 Mononoke merged thought-provoking themes and compelling action
Mononoke is often overlooked or simply confused with the popular Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke. But, Mononoke was brought to life by Toei Animation, the studio behind it 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 tries to find out about various unnatural spirits called Mononoke before acting to exorcise them. Mononoke has its classic tropes of violence, but it also builds on Mushishithought-provoking themes to make a more rounded experience.
Hellsing Ultimate was another seinen anime released in the mid-2000s that stood out for its gore, violence, and sheer intensity. It remains immensely popular and beloved, mainly for its over-the-top vampire-slaying action. Many fans flock to anime either for the first time or to re-watch after finishing Netflix Castlevania series.
IN Hellsing Ultimate, Alucard is an overwhelmed protagonist who destroys his opponents, meaning that the classic violence and mayhem is almost guaranteed in almost every fight scene. There are better seinen anime out there, though Hellsing Ultimate really helped codify the adult tropes of this demographic.
7/10 Parasyte: The Maxim popularized generic Seinen Tropes
While Parasite: The Maxim was first released in 2014, it was an adaptation of a manga that debuted back in 1988, and thus deserves to be labeled as a classic. Parasite set the standard for many seine tropes, from the usual protagonist becoming a reluctant hero to the horrific violence that follows.
Shinichi Izumi is thrown into a war between humanity and parasitic aliens when his hand becomes host to one such being called Migi. Madhouse brings the various seinen tropes to life, including psychological horror and shocking gore, keeping the audience enthralled throughout.
6/10 Tokyo Ghoul showcased The Bleak & Edgy Worlds Of Seinen
Tokyo Ghoul first aired in 2014, but feels like it’s been around a lot longer. Its popularity persists to this day, despite dividing audiences in terms of quality. Many feel that the groundwork was there, but the anime simply did not adapt the manga correctly.
But, Tokyo Ghoul has still done a lot for seinen anime, in showcasing a bleak world, psychological horror and a lot of gory violence. Tokyo Ghoul leans into its tropes and clichés, and the fact that its edginess has still garnered such a cult following speaks for itself. Aspiring seinen anime can use Tokyo Ghoulits grim horror as a guide in frightening and tense storytelling.
5/10 Black Lagoon proved that protagonists don’t have to be pure
As crime thriller anime goes, 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 anti-heroes and more complex characters can be rewarding if done right. Black Lagoon‘s moral ambiguity and engrossing plot has 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 all Seinen Anime have to have Mindless Gore
Deleted is another seinen anime released less than a decade ago, but feels like it’s been around a lot longer. This 2016 mystery thriller is 12 high-stakes episodes as Satoru Fujinuma finds himself traveling through time thanks to a phenomenon known as ‘Revival’. It gives him the chance to save lives that have already been lost.
Deleted establishes itself as a seiner through its mix of supernatural mystery as well as dealing with the heavy themes of death and loss. Deleted is a good example that a seinen is not just about action and action. Nevertheless, it is still able to put 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 significantly since its debut season. Its second and third seasons continue to build high expectations for future seasons. Bungou stray dogs is intriguing thanks to its late tropes of moral ambiguity and dark, complex themes, but it still has its own unique identity and doesn’t feel too generic.
Bungou stray dogs has dropped in with the second supernatural mystery anime that presents compelling narratives without resorting to mindless violence, and it stands out as another stellar work by Studio Bones. Although it is still ongoing and only debuted its first season in 2016, it can easily still be used as a reference point for future seinen anime thanks to its impressive growth and reputation.
2/10 Berserk 1997 showed how to build a narrative with compelling characters
Berserkits reputation is often called into question when considering the two renewed seasons that debuted in 2016, but the manga and anime series from 1997 hold it as one of the best seinen series of all time. The 1997 series captured the true essence of Berserkwith its dark and gloomy themes and settings, compelling characters and violence.
This adaptation of Berserk quickly became a welcome trendsetter in seinen anime, with its dark premise rooted in fantastic 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 aimed at a late demographic. The 1995 film was a huge success and even paved the way for 2002 Detached complex series to surpass it.
Ghost in the shell really showed how varied seinen anime can be. The franchise raised the standard for seinen anime at the time, but it also set a standard going forward. This eventually encouraged a wide range of future anime that would explore more in-depth subjects rather than just focusing on pure violence and gore.
NEXT: 10 Worst Couples in Seinen Anime, Ranked