The 26 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series

Voting Rules
Vote up the greatest original anime that isn't inspired from a manga version.

While many of the best anime series are based on popular manga, some of them are entirely original. Believe it or not, some of the best anime have nothing to do with manga at all, and some even got a manga adaptation after they were aired or while they were in production. There is a shocking amount of shows that were first conceived as anime or adaptations of light novels. 

Compiled here are the very best non-manga-based anime that you need to add to your watchlist as soon as possible. Some of them are classics that you might have watched and re-watched many times before, while others are a bit more unknown. You may be surprised to see your favorite show on this list - check it out below and vote up the best original anime series. 

Photo: flickr / CC0

  • 1
    5,354 VOTES
    Cowboy Bebop
    Photo: Sunrise

    Cowboy Bebop is often considered one of the greatest anime ever made, and you'd be surprised to find out that the story is an original one. The anime is comprised of 26 episodes that are set in the year 2071. When you start the series, you think you're getting a show about a bounty hunter crew aboard the Bebop spaceship, but what you're actually getting is a philosophical exploration of concepts like ennui and existentialism. 

    5,354 votes
  • 2
    1,660 VOTES
    Violet Evergarden
    Photo: Kyoto Animation

    On top of gorgeous animation and art by the infamous Kyoto Animation studio, Violet Evergarden will make you ugly cry with its beautiful story. The series centers on Violet Evergarden - a former child soldier who is forced to reintegrate into society after the war. She becomes a ghostwriter, helping various people convey their true feelings through letters. And along the way, she discovers her own feelings that she's surpressed during the war and begins to heal.

    1,660 votes
  • 3
    4,248 VOTES
    Samurai Champloo
    Photo: Funimation

    Samurai Champloo ran for 26 episodes through 2004. It's set in an alternate version of the Edo era that has hip hop. Yes, you read that right. It's similar to Cowboy Bebop: both are original, critically acclaimed, and action-based. The story begins with a woman named Fuu, who is saved from abusive samurai by Mugen and Jin. Mugen and Jin end up fighting each other and get into trouble after their fight kills the magistrate's son.

    Once Fuu saves them, they go with her to find "the samurai that smells of sunflowers."

    4,248 votes
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
    Photo: Funimation

    Code Geass is set in an alternate historical timeline where a prince gains a power called Geass and decides to use it to annihilate the Holy Brittanian Empire, an oppressive superpower. The show eventually became a light novel and manga series, but the anime came first. 

    4,454 votes
  • 5
    3,065 VOTES
    Photo: Funimation

    Psycho-Pass takes place in a dystopia where Big Brother is always watching. The Psycho-Pass manga came out less than a month after the series premiere of the anime, and the light novel series began not long after that. The story follows the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division, specifically protagonists Akane and Shinya.

    The show is reminiscent of the movies Minority Report and Blade Runner

    3,065 votes
  • 6
    3,784 VOTES
    Gurren Lagann
    Photo: Gainax

    Gurren Lagann premiered back in 2007, but quickly became something of a classic among anime fans. The story is about two teenagers living in an underground village who want to go to the surface. They make it there by using a Lagann, this story's version of a mecha, and get sucked into a conflict of tremendous scale. 

    3,784 votes