Anime Underground

The 24 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series  

Christine Rivas
28k votes 5.7k voters 118.7k views 24 items

List 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. 

1 2,700 VOTES
Cowboy Bebop is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The 24 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series
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. 

More Cowboy Bebop

#14 of 927 on The Best Anime Series of All Time #2 of 106 on The Best Old School Anime From 1999 and Before featuring 11 Things You Didn't Know About Cowboy Bebop The Best Cowboy Bebop Fanfiction, Ranked

Is this series good?
see more on Cowboy Bebop
2 2,333 VOTES
Samurai Champloo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The 24 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series
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."

More Samurai Champloo

#29 of 927 on The Best Anime Series of All Time #60 of 317 on The Best English Dubbed Anime of All Time featuring The Best Anime Like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba The Best Anime Like Philosopher's Grandson

Is this series good?
see more on Samurai Champloo
3 2,045 VOTES
Code Geass is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The 24 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series
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. 

More Code Geass

#8 of 927 on The Best Anime Series of All Time #14 of 317 on The Best English Dubbed Anime of All Time #7 of 290 on The 100+ Best Anime Intros of All Time #19 of 76 on The 25+ Best First Anime to Watch for New Fans

Is this series good?
see more on Code Geass
4 2,026 VOTES
Gurren Lagann is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The 24 Best Anime That Isn't Based On A Manga Series
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. 

More Gurren Lagann

#44 of 927 on The Best Anime Series of All Time #56 of 126 on The Best Fantasy Anime of All Time #19 of 25 on 25 Examples Of Silly Anime Logic That Fans Just Roll With #37 of 317 on The Best English Dubbed Anime of All Time

Is this series good?
see more on Gurren Lagann