While it may seem like there aren't many anime that take place outside Japan, there are actually more than you think. Several anime feature globetrotting characters and plots that span countries and continents; others, like Emma - A Victorian Romance, just use the medium to tell unconventional stories.Whether you’re a Japanese fan looking to experience another culture through anime, a fan from outside Japan who wants to see your own country onscreen, or just someone looking for a fresh new setting, this list of anime set outside of Japan will make your search a little easier.
In a fictional South American country comparable to Brazil, criminal Michiko Malandro has just escaped from prison. Meanwhile, her apparent daughter, Hatchin, is being abused in a foster home. Michiko rescues her, and the two set out to find Hiroshi, Hatchin’s long lost father.
Why You Should Watch It: The setting is unique - you're rarely going to find an anime that takes place in South America, so it’s worth watching for that reason alone. The beautifully detailed backdrop ranges from jungles to slums, creating an entirely different world than anime viewers are used to. Add subtle character development, great music, and a delicious mix of humor and drama, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a show.see more on Michiko to Hatchin
When Katsuki Yuri, a figure skater, loses at the Grand Prix, he sinks into a depression and vows to give up skating. His plans are derailed by fellow skater Victor Nikiforov, who is so impressed by his skating that he decides to be his coach.
While Yuri!!! on Ice does include scenes in Hasetsu, Yuri's hometown, it definitely qualifies as an anime set outside of Japan. The first skating competition takes place in Sochi, Russia. Later competitions are set in China and Spain.
Why You Should Watch It: The non-Japanese characters are real people, not stereotypes. The series acknowledges cultural differences without making a joke out of them. Jean-Jacques Leroy, the Canadian skater, is arrogant and rude, defying Canadian stereotypes of excessive politeness. Leo de la Iglesia is Mexican-American, an unprecedented choice considering that Americans in anime are almost always white.
Like many stories set in Victorian England, Emma is about love that transcends class boundaries. Emma, a poor maid, falls in love with William Jones, the son of a wealthy family, who is expected to marry a wealthy woman and take over his father’s business.
The anime is a historically accurate representation of Victorian England. Rico Murakami, a historian, worked with the production team to make sure of this.
Why You Should Watch It: This is one of those series that really transports you out of your regular life and into its world. You won’t see characters walking down a lifeless street, you’ll see Victorian England coming to life around them. From cobblestone streets to children selling flowers, this is a series that is rich with detail.see more on Emma - A Victorian Romance
Joey Jones is a young boy struggling to support himself and his grandmother. One day, Joey finds a broken toy robot called a Heybo. He takes it home intending to fix it, but when it gets struck by a lightning bolt, it transforms into a super-powered mecha that obeys his commands. Joey isn’t sure how to use this new power, but the answer becomes clear when his science teacher accidentally summons an alien race called the Skrugg, who want to destroy Earth.
The series takes place in Center City, which is a fictional town clearly recognizable as Los Angeles. The setting is detailed and realistic—the creators clearly did their research.
Why You Should Watch It: Heroman was created by Stan Lee, also known for creating Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and other superheroes you’ve probably heard of if you are alive. Heroman takes a typical superhero storyline and fuses it with an anime aesthetic, resulting in a fresh, fun anime well worth your time.see more on Heroman
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is the sprawling family saga of the Joestar family. The show is divided into multiple parts, each with a different protagonist. Every protagonist, from Jonathan Joestar to Josuke Joestar, is nicknamed JoJo. The series revolves around a supernatural power called Stands, which can be tremendously strong. Each character has their own version of it - one is even called "Spice Girl."
Each part takes place in a different location, including Japan, England, Italy, Florida, and New York. These exciting settings drive the plot—in Italy, the characters hunt down a Stand-using mafioso, while in the USA a new cast must foil the President’s evil plans.
Why You Should Watch It: It’s a cultural phenomenon. You will find references to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in plenty of other anime, including Gintama, Lucky Star, and Kill la Kill. You'll also find it in music by Kyari Pamyu Pamyu and Starbomb, video games like Resident Evil and Touhou Project, and much more. No matter what you think of the premise, this series is worth watching if you want to get those references.
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The word "baccano," which is Italian for “turmoil,” describes this chaotic delight of a series perfectly. Set in Chicago and New York during the Prohibition era, the series follows an immortality elixir which, through a series of coincidences and accidents, repeatedly ends up in unexpected hands.
Why You Should Watch It: Like all good anime set outside of Japan, Baccano! makes good use of its setting. Many of the characters are involved in a type of gang warfare that was unique to 1930s America, which creates some exciting action scenes. Besides the setting, Baccano! is great because it weaves together so many seemingly unrelated stories into a tight, well-plotted storyline that makes an unexpected amount of sense.
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Hellsing is centered around the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, an organization led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, which is dedicated to eliminating ghouls, ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. Helping this organization is Alucard, a vampire who has sworn allegiance to the Hellsing family. So it’s kind of like Ghostbusters, but with a lot more blood.
The series takes place in England, which means that if you watch the dubbed version, you get slight British accents.
Why You Should Watch It: Because who doesn’t want to watch a John Lennon-glasses-wearing vampire murder neo-Nazis?
Also Rankedsee more on Hellsing
On her graduation trip to Washington, DC, college student Morimi Saki meets Takizawa Akira. Takizawa has no memories and no clothes, but he does have a phone loaded with 8.2 billion yen. The two find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes competition that might reveal who Takizawa truly is and might even save the world.
The series takes place in not one, but two American cities, Washington, DC, and New York—and aside from a few details about the subway system, they get them right.
Why You Should Watch It: Not only is the anime set in outside Japan, its theme song reflects this choice. The theme is Falling Down by Oasis, and while this is a British band, not an American one, it still helps set the mood. But don’t watch for the theme song alone—it’s suspenseful, high-energy, and a ton of fun.
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