Seinen anime is one of the few anime genres that even comes close to its more kid-friendly counterpart, shonen, in popularity. This category does not shy away from explicit violence and sophisticated themes, making it a hit with a more mature audience. Most popular seinen shows share common elements that ensure their popularity.
Still, some titles succeed despite not seeming that captivating at first glance. Be it the unusual theme, the unique art style or the atypical narrative direction, these seinen anime found no one as a potential crowd puller. Against all odds, they still received massive recognition, joining the ranks of fan favourites.
10/10 Land Of The Lustrous made unpopular CGI graphics work
CGI anime often gets a bad rap. While in most cases people’s distrust of 3D anime is justified by negative experiences, Land of the Shining surprised even the most skeptical viewers. Not many expected big things from a fully CG anime about the war efforts of anthropomorphic gems.
Still, the show’s visuals were unexpectedly impressive, and 3D graphics added realism to Gems’ unique texture. Land of the Shining became a hit out of the blue, blowing everyone away with its smooth animation and deep writing.
9/10 Non Non Biyori was a breath of fresh rural air for Seinen fans
Slice-of-life anime aims to relax viewers by transporting them away from their hectic lives into a carefree world. The purpose of this often misunderstood genre differs from the ultra-violent nature of most hit-and-miss titles. Yet, No not Biyori surprised everyone by uniting the life and note communities.
This soothing series about a group of schoolgirls looking for mundane experiences in the Japanese countryside may not be for everyone. Still, enough seinen fans found No not Biyori amazing to make the show hugely successful.
8/10 Kiss X Sis is controversial yet popular
Harem ecchi shows rarely get universal acclaim, especially those that deal with more morally ambiguous relationships. By all means, Kiss x Sisa sassy seine about two attractive twin sisters, Ako and Riko, fighting for the attention of their stepbrother Keita, shouldn’t have been a hit.
Yet, Kiss x Sis became much more than a niche guilty pleasure, and entered the mainstream. Even more than ten years after its premiere, this controversial series remains the most popular seinen ecchi of all time.
7/10 The Space Brothers’ subtle genius did not go unnoticed
At first glance, Space Brothers doesn’t stand out as a particularly exciting seinen title. Its simple premise promises viewers a rather boring story about two brothers working to achieve their dream of becoming astronauts. Also, the show’s realistic but bland art style doesn’t help it establish itself as captivating.
Still, the show’s mature, touching character writing is head and shoulders above all other not-shows. Excellent reviews by all who gave Space Brothers an attempt helped the title gain the attention it deserved.
6/10 Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor took a risk with the visuals
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor’s The main difference from other brave gambling seinen anime lies in its unusual art style. Initially, many wanted to reject this unorthodox series, believing its unique visuals to be ugly and unappealing. Still, Kaiji’s incredibly exciting writing eventually made the skeptics reconsider their harsh judgment.
As more and more people gave it a shot, the show shot up in popularity. Kaiji became a universally recognized master class in gambling anime, setting the standard for truly unpredictable and violent seinen titles about the dangers of the underworld.
5/10 Elfen Lied Ebmraces Seine Cliches
Considering how many fans criticize the seinen genre for selling pointless, shocking gore under the guise of maturity, The Elf Lies success is contradictory. The show is panned for its nonsensical writing, flat characters, and unnecessary violence even two decades after its premiere.
Still, no one argues for it The Elf Lied is one of the most popular seinen titles of all time. In fact, an entire generation of anime fans were introduced to the mature and violent seinen genre through this infamous series, which explains its enormous reach.
4/10 The prison school makes little apology for being generous
Surreal and explicit, the ecchi gag comedy The prison school embraces some of the seinen genre’s most hated clichés. This unusual series follows a group of perverted middle school boys locked and tortured in the all-girls school prison for peeking at their classmates in the bathrooms.
Although the show’s premise doesn’t make it sound more sophisticated, fans aren’t looking for intellectualism in the The prison school. Instead, the series became popular among seinen audiences for its over-the-top humor, explicit ecchi scenes, and fearless commitment to being different.
3/10 Ping Pong The animation carved out its own identity
The Ping Pong animation is arguably the most distinctive sports anime out there. Created by the industry’s infamous creative genius Masaaki Yuasa, this distinctive seinen story is not like most series in the genre. Its experimental art style, sophisticated writing, and unorthodox narrative structure make it seem inaccessible to the masses.
Instead, The Ping Pong animation was phenomenally successful. This unique series’ popularity proves that fans of seinen anime are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone and give experimental shows a chance.
2/10 Mushishi is not boring despite the slow pace
The Iyashikei genre is a subcategory of anime characterized by an even more relaxing atmosphere and slow-paced narration. Unlike conventional shonen spectacles, the appeal of this niche genre is hard to put into words. It’s even harder to imagine such a meditative show becoming a successful crowd-puller.
However, the classic supernatural seine Mushishi acquired a massive cult following against all odds. Fans fell in love with the show’s soothing depiction of the historical Japanese landscape, thought-provoking philosophical writing, and intricate fantasy world.
1/10 Mars enters like a lion surprising everyone with his heartfelt writing
A melancholic seinen sports drama about a shogi prodigy struggling with depression might sound like an unengaging downer of a show. Nevertheless, Mars enters like a lion is a surprisingly uplifting series regardless of whether it deals with several heavy subjects.
Despite going against the grain of conventionality, the show made a name for itself as one of the most authentic and relatable depictions of mental illness in anime. Yet there is the hopefulness of it Mars enters like a lion message that made it a true cult classic.
NEXT: 10 Seinen Anime That Turned Out To Be Surprisingly Deep