Look, we all love anime. It's over-the-top, high energy, and can serve as a much needed reprieve from the doldrums of everyday life. After a while, though, much of the genre starts to look a little... derivative. If you're not paying attention, you can watch multiple episodes of different high school dramas or action-adventures from different series and they all sort of blend together. There are, however, some glowing exceptions to this rule. Aside from an anime’s fascinating story line or imaginative setting, the distinctive art style is a huge reason viewers become immersed in a show.
Additionally, not all anime has to be vibrant or cheerful to be enjoyed. In fact, there are some anime titles that share a darker, more complex atmosphere. However, this doesn’t mean that its art style can’t be admired. Awaken your senses with these visually stunning anime titles that will tug at your heart-strings and open your mind. At the very least, it's something new.
- Photo: Studio Ghibli
This award-winning film from Studio Ghibli is, quite simply, an animated masterpiece. Spirited Away follows a young girl as she learns to overcome her fears and take responsibility for her actions. The character designs and layouts are so gorgeous, they're visually addicting. Adorned with vivid colors and intricate details, these images are impossible to get out of your head.
Take the bathhouse, for example. The walls, ceilings, and floors have so many complex details added to them it’s hard to keep your eyes focused solely on the action in the foreground. The unique hand-drawn art style of the film has an old-school animated feel to it, which is pure magic and exactly what Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki are known for.
- Photo: CoMix Wave Films
A three-part movie from CoMix Wave Films, 5 Centimeters Per Second follows the story of two childhood friends that become separated by distance, time, and the realities of life. The art style in the film does a wonderful job of providing mesmerizing visual elements to captivate the viewer.
The background scenery effectively uses bold contrasting values of lights against darks, along with a unique combination of imaginative colors. In addition, the strategic configuration of viewpoints and long shot angles helps highlight the animated foreground elements.
Overall, the most impactful views in the film are the breathtaking skyscapes. These often includes a mixture of warm hues, such as red and orange, which are placed within cooler hues of blue and purple. The use of purposefully placed clouds only adds further interest, direction, and beauty to each setting.
- Photo: Studio 4°C
This award-winning film from Studio 4°C is a visual feast for the eyes. Tekkonkinkreet follows two orphan children living on the tough streets of the misleadingly named Treasure Town. The spectacular characters and unique architectural design of this film stand out as the most memorable elements.
Quite often the characters and buildings appear distorted and disproportional, or set at an odd angle. It can be disorienting, but ultimately visually fascinating. The colors of the film are an eclectic mix of vibrantly bright and subdued gritty hues. These characteristics help the film archive a sort of eerie wonderland setting, which is a perfect match for the theme: a juxtaposition of darkness and light.
- Photo: A-1 Pictures
From A-1 Pictures animation studio, Doukyusei is a touching tale of two male classmates who fall in love. The subtle line work and beautiful backdrops in this 60-minute film hold true to the original manga style employed by creator Asumiko Nakamura.
Nakamura’s unique character design of long exaggerated forms completed with simplistic line work has been wonderfully transitioned over into the animation. In addition, the colors of the film are soft and gentle, evoking sensations similar to a lovely watercolor.
In some instances, the backgrounds are a simple solid color or a soft gradient, allowing the viewer to focus their attention on the character and foreground. This particular anime is really more of a work of art.