After I wrote my retort to the idea that “old anime is somehow better” last week, some of you remain unconvinced. I realized this belief goes far deeper than I thought.
“Each anime used to look unique,” say people who haven’t been paying attention to the clearly iconic art styles that characterize ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s anime. This viral K-on image does a great job of quickly indicating the way a certain style characterized a decade.
Once again I believe that today, we have more variety than ever before as creators experiment with different visuals and pacing for anime. I asked on Twitter for suggestions for favorite unconventional looking anime, and everyone seriously delivered. Here are 10 fairly recent anime that have their own distinct look and feel.
Forget anime with a different look. Space Dandy gives nearly every episode a distinct look. Classic Atomic Age inspiration soon gives way to a variety of experimentation. And at the end of each episode, it’s back to the sandbox.
Ping Pong The Animation
Painterly backdrops and organic-looking line drawings give a fluidity to characters’ movements. This anime is overflowing with artistry and pays close and careful attention to motion and form.
It’s by the same director as Ping Pong but you wouldn’t know by the look, which is all its own. I like the simplistic wood-block appearance the first time I watched it. (Fun fact: I actually reviewed it for Japanator way back when.)
Panty, Stocking & Garterbelt
It may not look that different if you watched Cartoon Network in the late ’90s, but it’s definitely a break from the norm for anime. The juxtaposition of American cartoon bodies and crass violent and sexual themes is certainly jarring.
This supernatural horror was the first anime that came to mind. I just reviewed it and noted its “dizzying kaleidoscope backdrop of wild colors, elaborate Edo-period composition, and parchment paper texture.”
Flowers of Evil
This show used rotoscope animation—it animated traced frames from live action film. The resulting choppy realism is unsettling and deliberately slow, providing an ideal medium for a show in which a tense build-up is everything.
A lot of people recommended this one as an anime with a distinct look, more than any other. I think it’s because it also has a very distinct atmosphere, too. Muted colors and watercolor washed backdrops make for a mysterious take on the natural world.
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
A little old but I don’t care, because those patterns are like richly colored origami paper. According to Wikipedia, the effect comes from Photoshop textures layered into digital animation, and the result is stunning.
There’s a reason people still watch this when the plot is just so-so, and it’s the unusual animation. It’s got a look like graffiti which exaggerated and bright, perfect for its crass, wannabe-edgy, urban future-punk plot.
This movie looks more like superhero comics than a racing anime. Perhaps that’s because it’s entirely hand drawn in a time where most animation is digital. According to the DVD extras, it took 7 years and over 100,000 hand-drawn frames to make it, and it shows.
Of course, this selection is just scratching the surface. What’s your favorite uniquely animated show?