Animes are seen by most non-anime fans as weird funny cartoons made with pencil and crayons in a studio portraying nothing but comedy and imaginary nonsense all day long but that’s just shallow thinking, anime are way more beneficial and most of the time, they tend to carry out more meaningful message to the audience than most movies do.
There are so many genres of anime that I could recommend to you (but that’s gonna be in future post) but for the main topic of this post, I am gonna be listing the top ten psychological anime series you should definitely watch(if you’re someone with a thing for pschi).
Psychological anime don’t come in huge numbers like other genres, so finding even one good title for each new anime season can be difficult.
So here goes the list:
10. NHK ni Youkoso! (Welcome to the NHK)
I’m so grateful for Studio Gonzo for pushing on with Welcome to the NHK, a heartfelt study on existential crises and mental health issues like addiction, depression, suicide (or suicidal ideation, at least), and failures/regrets in life.
Yet despite the many serious themes it tackles, NHK ni Youkoso! never felt like its characters were made to lead to their discussions.
In contrast, Tatsuhiro and others are fleshed out individuals who bring about these issues through realistic conversations and situations.
This is an important series, one that even non-anime fans should try.
9. Rebuild of Evangelion
Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time was supposed to be in June 2020, but that’s been delayed (and it’s been delayed since 2015).
Still, even without the fourth film, Rebuild of Evangelion is already a groundbreaking work from the legendary Hideaki Anno and his studio Khara, Inc.
The movies all introduce new characters, settings, and situations (and a new ending).
But it remains true to what made the original appealing:
Its colossal mecha fights and symbolisms were always accompanied by rich character studies and themes of mental health and inner struggles, with Anno mentioning Jungian concepts and scholars adding Freud to the discussion as well.
8. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy) + The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
The award-winning The Tatami Galaxy is only 11 episodes long.
But it’s packed with gorgeous animation and incomparable storytelling.
Like any human being, the MC has regrets in life. And so the anime takes him in parallel universes every episode, presenting his many “what-ifs”.
Will he find that one life decision that won’t make him feel regret?
Or is every path, as different as they may seem, leading to the same end?
Once you’re done with the series definitely check out Yuasa’s 2017 film The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, which has the same university setting and even some characters.
7. Serial Experiments Lain
If Serial Experiments Lain makes you think of Texhnolyze, that’s no coincidence: both series were written by the same guy, Chiaki J. Konaka.
I’d argue that it’s one of the most important anime of the past century. Even though its popularity isn’t as huge as Cowboy Bebop or Dragon Ball Z (or my top pick).
Starring the introverted Lain Iwakura, Serial Experiments Lain is a big mystery. Set in a world where tech permeates Japanese daily life but doesn’t help eliminate issues like identity crises, familial neglect, social ineptitude, and mental illness.
If you feel nothing makes sense at first, keep watching. The dots will eventually appear for you to trace.
6. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)
Initially I thought of Parasyte as nothing more than an edgy Madhouse title.
Okay, there’s a hand that can turn into a deadly weapon. So what?
Well I was wrong.
Parasyte is more than blood and violence (although the action scenes can be amazing). Migi is more than a shapeshifting, invasive alien.
By the latter half, I was enthralled. Shinichi Izumi’s character development is amazing.
Ryouko Tamiya’s arc nearly brought me to tears.
Parasyte challenges its characters to evaluate their way of thinking, asking them what they’re willing to sacrifice for their lofty goals… all the while introducing philosophical concepts like the meaning of life and the role of humanity in the universe.
5. Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)
Admittedly, it’s difficult to make people watch Shinsekai Yori.
Its source material, a thick novel of the same name, is available in three separate volumes.
The 25-episode A-1 Pictures adaptation isn’t exactly “exciting” either if you’re used to seeing anime kids duke it out in large-scale supernatural battles.
But Shinsekai Yori is an ultimately rewarding watch, with a world so rich that it’s like the main character is the world.
The anime features a futuristic Japan where some people have psychokinesis.
Like any seemingly utopian setting, you just know that something dark is lurking underneath it all.
Shinsekai Yori genuinely succeeds as horror in certain, utterly cruel yet human moments.
But it’s also a journey of growing up and establishing or discovering one’s self-identity.
4. Mawaru Penguindrum (Spinning Penguindrum)
Kunihiko Ikuhara’s top entry on my list is none other than his stellar and unabashedly strange Mawaru Penguindrum.
Released in Summer 2011 (a time when Usagi Drop and Natsume’s Book of Friends were also airing), the 24-episode Brain’s Base production has become a cult classic.
Still, it’s not weird for the sake of being weird.
Mawaru Penguindrum is a consciously messy exploration of its characters, their motivations, and a commentary on the emotional troubles of Japanese youth.
3. Koukaku Kidoutai (Ghost in the Shell)
The Ghost in the Shell franchise isn’t perfect. But the good parts significantly outweigh the bad.
You can’t go wrong with the iconic 1995 film or both seasons of Stand Alone Complex.
Think of The Matrix: it changed Hollywood forever with its blend of sci-fi, philosophy, and psychological concepts of the unconscious and the self. Yet that film wouldn’t even be what it is without Ghost in the Shell.
Identity formation is an essential aspect of the franchise’s most notable entries. And it presents viewers a peek at the psychological effects of living in a highly technological dystopia where boundaries between man and machine become blurry.
Monster is a series people will likely recommend if you say you liked Ghost in the Shell or Psycho-Pass.
Well, Monster also involves investigating crimes — and also well-designed antagonists who have convincing moral inclinations. It’s satisfying to see the good guys deal with morally complex issues and face their own biases and prejudices.
Life isn’t black and white, and Monster embraces this fact.
Likewise, Monster is 74 episodes long. So it has more than enough material to haunt and mystify viewers.
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion / Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
Some call it pretentious, others say it’s a masterpiece filled with religious iconography, or a deconstruction of the mecha genre and the greatest contribution of Gainax.
Even if I never uncover the truth of why Evangelion is the way it is, the franchise will forever be popular. Especially now that it’s on Netflix.
If you didn’t like NGE with your first watch, try viewing it again after a few years.
It’s like Bladerunner — a flawed sci-fi masterpiece that warrants repeat viewings because it always has something new to offer.
Together with the iconic movie sequel The End of Evangelion, the 26-episode series will take you through paranoia, existential crises, teen anxieties, familial burdens, and angels that don’t look like typical angels.
It’s amazing that NGE created lasting anime archetypes. In fact, many shows today feature characters inspired by the quirks and personalities of Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and Kaworu.
You don’t have to prioritize NGE, but you should pay close attention once you do decide to watch it (assuming you haven’t already).