One of the major criticisms of anime is that “it all looks the same”. It’s not an unfair point: after all, most shows borrow aspects that work well from their rivals, and some, like those in the magical girl genre, try very hard to imitate the flashy transformation scenes from classics like Sailor Moon. However, below, we’ll explore four shows with their own stunning, visually distinct art styles to prove the haters wrong.

1. Ping Pong The Animation

ping pong the animation
Tatsunoko Production

Pong Pong The Animation looks about as far from anime as it’s possible to get. It uses sparsely populated backgrounds to focus the viewer’s attention on the sport itself. Further, you get a real feel for the speed and intensity of each match thanks to exquisitely fluid line art. Instead of just watching, you’ll experience every serve, volley, and smash as though you were actually playing.

2. The Flowers of Evil

the flowers of evil

Rotoscoping is nothing new, but few anime do it as well as The Flowers of Evil. By filming real actors and tracing over the footage, you get hyper-realistic and fluid movement which perfectly captures the small, often overlooked aspects of body language we all rely on. As a result, the characters seem more human and relatable. This heightens the emotional impact when things start going wrong, especially since this show builds a feeling of dread that only increases with each episode.

3. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

jojos bizarre adventure
David Production

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure clearly owes a lot to the pop-art movement, but there are also major comic-book influences in its art style. Characters are stocky and chiselled, and emphatic lines are accompanied by major shifts in artistic style. The colors pop, the backgrounds change, and the fight scenes, in particular, are impeccably designed. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure isn’t just a classic anime, it’s an incredibly engrossing glimpse into the world of graphic design.

4. Afro Samurai

afro samurai
Gonzo

We’ve seen super-deformed anime characters before, but never like this. Afro Samurai pays exceptional attention to the finer aspects of the human body, perfectly highlighting its casts’ every muscle, sinew, and wrinkle. Block shadow is used to emphasize these aspects, but also to allude to a character’s emotion – this dual-purpose approach to art and storytelling is fantastic, and something we’d love to see more of. With an all-star cast and a uniquely addictive soundtrack, Afro Samurai is a must-watch.

Conclusion

Anime doesn’t have to be predictable. You’d hate it if you could predict a show’s ending right at the beginning, right? So why then do so many anime rely on standard tropes and character templates? The titles above all dared to be different, and for their efforts, they’ve become cult classics of the medium. We just hope more shows take the same approach… in a different way, of course.

Ian Garland

Just an ordinary guy who woke up one day in the magical world of anime reviews. Check them out... or don't, i-it's not like he likes you or anything...

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