Anime Underground 13 Prestigious, Genre-Defying Anime Masterpieces  

Anna Lindwasser
1.5k votes 516 voters 8.1k views 13 items

List Rules Vote up the unique anime that can't be distilled to a single, conventional genre.

The text flashing in the background of the title sequence for Cowboy Bebop boldly declares the show "becomes a new genre itself." While the series certainly delivers on this lofty promise, it's not the only anime worthy of the distinction.

There's a whole world of unique anime that can't be easily classified as shonen, harem, or one of the style's numerous other genres. These singular series cover a wide variety of topics, and often have little in common with one another.

While the stories can vary drastically, all genre-defying anime offer multi-layered viewing experiences that could never be perfectly replicated in another medium. 

1 266 VOTES

Cowboy Bebop is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 13 Prestigious, Genre-Defying Anime Masterpieces
Photo:  Cowboy Bebop/Sunrise

Prior to the show's release in 1997, the creators of Cowboy Bebop were certain they were unleashing something Earth-shattering into the world. Their conviction spurred them to hide a declarative manifesto in the anime's title credits:

They must create new dreams and films by breaking traditional styles. They are sick and tired of conventional fixed style jazz… the work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called COWBOY BEBOP, will play without fear of risky things.

While this might seem immodest, it's also shockingly accurate. The series abandons typical anime tropes, and instead draws inspiration from jazz and bebop music. This influence carries over into every facet of the show, from the brilliantly crafted soundtrack to the sharp, free-form lines, skewed camera angles, and vibrant colors that comprise the series's art style. 

Each episode is referred to as a "session" (furthering the musical theme), and titles are references to specific songs or genres (such as "Toys in the Attic," or "Asteroid Blues"). The result is a show that's absolutely unforgettable; it has carved out a space in the anime canon that no other series can fill. 

Also Ranked

#48 on The Greatest Animated Series Ever Made

#14 on The Best Anime Series of All Time

#2 on The Best Adult Anime of All Time

#94 on The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time

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2 197 VOTES

FLCL is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 13 Prestigious, Genre-Defying Anime Masterpieces
Photo:  FLCL/Gainax

The original season of FLCL is only six episodes long, but its influence has been felt since its debut in 2000. A sixth grader named Naota (AKA Ta-Kun) just wants to live an ordinary life, but his dreams of normality go out the window when he meets Haruko Haruhara. 

The Galactic Space Police Brotherhood investigator explodes into Naota's life on a Vespa that defies the laws of physics. Within a few moments of meeting the boy, Haruko clobbers him with a bass guitar, leaving a strangely phallic welt on his forehead. 

FLCL offers flashy, minimalist art and unpredictable storylines that to this day feel largely inimitable. 

Also Ranked

#25 on 25+ Anime With Great Rewatch Value

#1 on The 40+ Trippiest Anime That Mess With Your Head

#16 on 20 Anime That Can Change Your Life Forever

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Yuri!!! on Ice is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 13 Prestigious, Genre-Defying Anime Masterpieces
Photo:  Yuri!!! On ICE/MAPPA

Yuri!!! On ICE cannot be confined to a single genre. The 2016 series could be labeled a sports anime, since the narrative regularly features feats of athleticism and tense competitions. However, Yuri sets itself apart from more conventional series – like Haikyuu!! or Yowamushi Pedal – by having competition take a backseat to Yuuri Katsuki's emotional growth, and his romantic relationship with his coach, Victor Nikiforov.

While this might make the show seem like a romance, it defies the typical romantic anime tropes by centering its focus on a queer love story. Even then, it can't be described as yaoi, as it lacks all the genre-specific tropes that define boys' love series. 

Instead of following convention, Yuri!!! On ICE pulls from multiple sources to create a a resonant, character-driven story that depicts members of the LGBTQ community with dignity. 

Also Ranked

#46 on The Best Anime on Crunchyroll

#98 on The Best English Dubbed Anime of All Time

#42 on 25+ Anime With Great Rewatch Value

#76 on The Best Anime Soundtracks of All Time

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Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 13 Prestigious, Genre-Defying Anime Masterpieces
Photo:  Jojo's Bizarre Adventure/David Production

If you want to see battles involving balloons that act like dogs, transmission towers that imprison people, and a transforming carnivorous monster called Notorious BIG, you need to check out JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

The 2012 series is one of the weirdest anime ever created, and there's nothing else like it.

Also Ranked

#39 on Which Anime Universe Would You Want To Live In?

#49 on The Best Anime on Crunchyroll

#56 on The Best Adventure Anime of All Time

#31 on The Best Anime With Adult Protagonists

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