The 15 Best Anime That Use 3D Animation

Voting Rules
Vote up the anime that used CGI most effectively.

CGI, also known as 3D animation, gets a bad rap. Some people simply feel that more traditional methods are superior, while others don't mind innovation, but don't think that CGI has been executed particularly well so far. While there are definitely some bad examples - the 2016 version of Berserk that aired on TV comes to mind - CGI can be used to beautiful effect. 

The best anime with 3D animation doesn't just choose the technique for no reason. 3D animation is used intentionally, either to smooth out action sequences, to underscore science fiction or supernatural characters and themes, and more. Some of the best 3D anime include Land of the Lustrous, The Count of Monte Crisco and Ajin. Without CGI, these anime would have a markedly different look and feel, and might not be quite so remarkable.

Let's give a shout out to the anime that best used modern technology to its advantage. 

  • 1
    431 VOTES
    Photo: Fate/Zero / ufotable

    Not every entry into the Fate series makes good use of CGI, but ufotable, the company responsible for Fate/stay night: Unlimited Bladeworks and Fate/Zero, uses it to beautiful effect. ufotable combines 3D animation with photography, 2D drawings, and other special effects to make the incredible Holy Grail Wars come to life. The bloody, intense nature of the story itself won't appeal to all viewers, but it's hard to argue with the visual quality. 

    431 votes
  • Land of the Lustrous
    Photo: Land of the Lustrous / Orange

    You can't talk about 3D animation and not mention Land of the Lustrous - it's one of the stand-out anime of 2017, and it's one of the most effective uses of CGI in the medium's history. While the characters do not look human, that is an intentional choice rather than an off-putting mistake. They are humanoid gems whose bodies don't operate the way that human bodies do, and the CGI does a great job of getting that message across. 

    Still, shots appear to be drawn in 2D, while the animation itself uses everything that 3D has to offer to create a rich and beautiful world. Not only that, but the story it tells is wholly unique - the whole gem thing might sound like Steven Universe, but its tone and themes could not be more different.

    329 votes
  • Harlock: Space Pirate
    Photo: Harlock: Space Pirate / Toei Animation

    Harlock: Space Pirate is a 2013 anime film that's based on a 1970's anime. To give the movie an updated feel, the whole thing is rendered in some of the most high-quality CGI in anime history. This level of detail would be impossible for a multi-episode anime, but because this is a big-budget film, Toei Animation can go all out. 

    With animation this good, the movie hardly even needs a good plot to carry it, but the science fiction tale of trying to recolonize earth after a centuries of being exiled to other planets is a fascinating premise and a grim reminder of how corruption and failure to care for the earth can lead to humanity's doom. The only drawback is that it's not really recognizable as anime - it's literally Japanese animation, which is all that anime means, but it doesn't have the same feel that viewers expect.

    205 votes
  • 4
    384 VOTES
    Photo: Ajin / Sentai Filmworks

    Ajin is a Netflix exclusive anime about a new species of human that possesses a panoply of special powers, including immortality. Because they're labeled as a threat, anyone found to be an Ajin is immediately arrested. When Kei Nagai gets into an accident that should have been fatal, he realizes that he might be a member of this mysterious species. 

    This is a compelling story, but how's the animation? Actually pretty good. The reason for this is the frame rate. Some anime swap out 3D animation for 2D animation regularly, and the resulting shift in frame rate speed can be jarring. Because Ajin relies solely on 3D animation, it's able to be consistent. 

    384 votes
  • Trigun Stampede
    Photo: Trigun Stampede / Orange

    The CGI team at Orange added another impressive production to their roster with the 2023 release of Trigun Stampede. As a revamp of the classic '90s anime Trigun, this show intially left fans skeptical after it was announced it would be in 3D as opposed to the usual 2D style.

    Almost immediately, though, the fans’ worries subsided. The CGI in the show does an impressive job at capturing all the action of Vash’s battles, while still emitting the charm that the original series is known for.

    49 votes
  • 6
    24 VOTES
    Photo: Dorhedoro / MAPPA

    Dorohedoro is another Netflix project that uses CGI animation, and it comes out closer to the top than some of the others. Produced by MAPPA, this series originated from a manga with extremely detailed art, and was even considered by some to be too hard to adapt into an anime. Considering this, a 3D art style was utilized to make creating the show easier on the animation studio.

    Some fans actually didn't realize the show was in 3D at the beginning, and this is largely due to the beautiful 2D backgrounds incorporated throughout the series. While this hybrid style wasn't ideal for the fast-paced action shots, it was still well-received by the vast majority of fans and did well at capturing the finer details of the story.

    24 votes