Anime for grownups

FINE I’ll make my own thread! Wiiith blackjack! And hookers!

Okay so, in another tangentially related thread, anime started to be discussed and I think some of us share the same issue: a LOT of anime is aimed at teens and young adults and starts to become uninteresting or awkward as time goes by and we get older.

I had the whole Love Hina manga series when I was a teen. I do not have these anymore.

So I wanted to put together a guide/essay for what makes good anime for adults—which maybe you can share with others to get their thoughts and suggestions—and then open the floor for ideas, suggestions, and general discussion! So without further ado, here’s an overview of what I think makes for good adult-oriented anime.

Right out the gate, one of the biggest things we’re looking for is characters and themes we relate to and are interested in. The kinds of things that interest teens and young adults (henceforth called the Demo for brevity) don’t click with us; we’ve largely moved on from, or are receiving therapy for, the issues of youth, and we have new problems we’d like our media to connect to.

For an example, contrast relationships: your typical Demo individual simply hasn’t had time for a serious relationship lasting more than a few years on the high end, but at our age we start to be dealing with relationships spanning decades, and that’s a whole different ball of fish. How you say goodbye to a true love you’ve dated for a year is significantly different than saying goodbye to a spouse you’ve been with for fifteen years.

So, mature themes that address the sorts of things we’re going through in our stage of life is very valuable and makes a story connect much more strongly. Which brings me to my next point: “sexual” and “violent” are not synonymous with maturity, and in fact can be even less mature than choosing not to include them. What makes a story mature is that it has more meaning and significance to a viewer with more life experience—so punching a hole in a dude’s chest isn’t “mature”, but why it’s happening may be.

It can help the exploration of such themes to involve characters who themselves are our age and can share these experiences and feelings with the viewer (and younger characters), and still older characters to share their own wisdom that we’re becoming more receptive to as we start to look ahead to the twilight years we know are around the corner. That said, mature themes can be carried by characters of any age, because raw reality is always a mature topic no matter how old you are.

That’s why taking place in a high school or being about children don’t have to be dealbreakers, but often are. Flagrant upskirting of school-age girls may be okay for a 17-year-old reader, and is certainly not kids’ reading, but it’s also hardly mature; as we get older we start to see how prurient and meaningless it is outside of momentary pleasure. However, two kids discovering a friendly mythical beast and going on fun adventures may seem childish, but with life experience it gains a melancholy poignance as we look back on things we remember but can never go back to, and for some of us can even give us a lifeline to our own children.

And speaking of a lifeline to the youth: good humor is ageless, and in my experience there are far more adult-friendly comedic animes than dramas, because in fact it’s in the humor genre where the age range of the characters is far less important than the humor itself. Japan seems to have a fairly madcap sense of humor, with a lot centered more around absurdity than pop culture or making fun. Couple that with having a much less “won’t somebody please think of the children” attitude than media in the States, and we find that humor in anime often has more staying power for adults than cartoons in America, where we tend to underestimate and talk down to our kids, resulting in media that appeals only to the very young.

Another area where anime shines for adult viewers is escapism; anime themes are all over the map, and while there are certainly a good chunk of them that are Demo-centric, there are many incredibly creative takes on genres that American media hasn’t even come close to. I’m sure all of us who’ve enjoyed anime over the years can immediately pick out at least one or two shows or films that took us somewhere utterly unique where we’d never been and will never forget. For those of us who are starting to feel that certain ennui that can result in mid-life crises, visiting completely new worlds can be incredibly valuable.

And I think that pretty much nails it down, from my perspective at least, but I’d love to hear other ideas, experiences, and input! And specifically, what animes have you seen over the years that you think ticks off these check boxes that you’d recommend for us “mature” old fogies? Sound off below!

1 Like



  • Cowboy Bebop — Space Western; good action, good comedic elements, adult main characters, themes of just trying to get by. One of the best animated shows ever made.
  • Samurai 7 — Futuristic re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s film “The Seven Samurai”. older characters, themes of fatalism and loss.
  • Hellsing — Zero stupid romance, 100% incredible violence, vampires. The only time “Alucard” has been a cool character.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist — Nina Tucker. Nina fucking Tucker. If it doesn’t make you cry you are a monster.
  • Gurren Lagann — Mecha show that somehow makes an incredible tonal shift from silly comedy to epic action that takes you into territory you would have thought was stupid at the beginning but you are totally on board with at the end. ALSO has a blatantly non-binary character who everybody is fine with and whose enby-ness never comes up or has a “very special episode”, which is super refreshing.
  • FLCL — Nearly incomprehensible story but wacky out-of-control humor and a stunning soundtrack.


  • Metropolis — Holy crap does this film have a slappin’ soundtrack. Based on a manga by Osamu Tezuka of Astroboy fame. A lot of fun.
  • Steamboy — A great dip into steampunk aesthetic and adventure with a solid cast.
  • Grave of the Fireflies — Two runaway children try to survive in WW2 Japan. If it doesn’t make you cry you are a monster.
  • Nausicaa and the Valley of the Winds — one of those “unique worlds” I mentioned in my guide/essay.
    • Castle in the Sky — If you’ve seen Nausicaa and haven’t seen Castle—it’s less well known—you might enjoy Castle as well.
  • The Wind Rises — fictionalized historical film about Japan’s plane designer in WW2. Powerful and insightful; and all of the foley is done by vocal sounds which I didn’t notice until halfway through the movie.

Note: I know a good chunk of my film recommendations are Ghibli films; this is because Ghibli is almost universally a good place to look for adult-friendly anime.

1 Like

Just wondering if you mean Hellsing ultimate and FMA Brotherhood. Just to bring it to your attention if you didn’t know as those are considered improved versions. I own both on bluray along with Metropolis which I bought just before lockdowns started yet still haven’t watched them somehow.

And Ghibli is ageless.

I will list a few series I am currently following. Just know many of these fall into what is known as the Isekai genre. Which is typically a person from the contemporary world gets transported to another one, usually in a fantasy setting.

  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: @Ducky this one has ‘some’ jrpg inspiration to it. So main character Naofumi is transported to a world with 4 others each of them given a weapon, Sword, Spear, Bow and Naafumi gets a shield, only a shield. Things take a quick downturn for him shortly afterwards as he is accused of rape in a country that is matriarchal.
  • Re Zero: Subaru Natsuki is transported into a fantasy world seemingly with no special abilities. Until he experiences death. At which point he ‘returns’ to a safe point before he expires and has to experience that time over again.
  • Overlord (i will try to make this the last isekai i mention sorry): The story is of a character who was the leader of a powerful guild within a VR MMORPG, his guild is defunct and the game is coming to an end with the servers about to be shut down. He decides to wait out the time in game in the hall of his guild surrounded by the NPC’s his friends had created. The time for shutdown passes and suddenly the npc’s can speak. What makes this series interesting is unlike many of this genre the protagonist is far from being a hero. He doesn’t go out of his way to be cruel unlike some of his underlings, but he also has few compunctions as he is not human in that world.
  • Made In Abyss: You can be fooled by the imagery that this series is for children. It is not. It is the story of the girl Riko and her companion robot boy Reg living in a city on a remote island that is cratered in the centre by the abyss. They leave on an adventure to reach the bottom of the abyss and reunite with Riko’s mother. It’s an interesting exploration on how nature and the world doesn’t care if you’re a pair of happy go lucky kids. If you don’t learn you don’t eat or are eaten. @arcanethewoof if you don’t cry after the story of Nanachi and Mitty do I even need to finish that sentence.
  • Konosuba: Ok I lied it’s another isekai but this is a comedy. Kazuma dies in a pathetic emasculating way and finds himself before the goddess Aqua and is given two choices. 1. Go to heaven which is apparently really boring (they don’t even get to do the sex) 2. Go to this totally cool fantasy world and defeat the Demon King, also be granted one cheat ability to take with you. After a time trying to decided on what to take Aqua rushes him to make a choice and so he does. He takes Aqua. And then hilarity ensues.
  • Ghost in the Shell: a cyberpunk manga series that has been adapted into films and series a couple of times.
  • Akira: Possibly the best animation I’ve seen in an anime. The story of a biker punk teen who is experimented on to give him telekinetic powers which quickly run out of control.

Just wondering if you mean Hellsing ultimate and FMA Brotherhood. Just to bring it to your attention if you didn’t know as those are considered improved versions.

Either/or/both. Personally I actually preferred the original of both and got kind of annoyed with people telling me how wrong I was. As I recall a constant point of argument was that the “improved” versions were closer to the manga, and I argue that doesn’t matter at all; if I cared about the manga I’d read the manga. It’s roughly the same argument as “the book is always better, therefore the closer the movie is to the book, the better the movie”. Anyone who’s seen and read The Shining can tell you that basically ignoring the source material does not always make the adaptation worse.

Personally, I thought Hellsing Ultimate was a little too unhinged and hectic—in part because the manga was as well. Hellsing toned it down just a notch, and while I will admit the ending was a little wonky, it didn’t ruin the rest of the show for me. Plus, the intro theme, c’mon, what a bop. Granted, Police Girl’s accent was atrocious in the first, but she was kind of boring in both so it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

As for FMA, I didn’t like Brotherhood as much because the original spent so much more time on Ed and Al as characters, and Brotherhood was more “go go go have to progress the story”. There was a lot more time spent on the rest of the cast, which would be great if they were as interesting or important as the brothers. However, I will admit that I have a weak spot for brothers and brother-likes in media—if that’s not obvious.

I’m not shitting on Ultimate or Brotherhood at all; I just preferred the originals, and I’d encourage anyone who watches one version to watch the other as well and discover which one they prefer, and they’re not wrong whatever they like.

Yes exactly. It’s like having a song you like then finding a cover of it that you enjoy as much if not more.

Then you have people who have a preference for subtitles or dubbing. I understand the argument for subtitles but I still prefer dubbing. Just because no matter how fast I can read the subs I miss something on the screen. But I can enjoy an anime either way.

1 Like

Then you have people who have a preference for subtitles or dubbing.

I heard a really good argument for dubbing a while back. Subtitles are usually praised as being more true to the original Japanese, and while that may be true, the thing is that “true to the original” may not be as useful to the American viewer as proper localization.

A great example is Osaka from the anime Azumanga Daioh. She’s a student from the Osaka province—hence the nickname—and a source of commentary in the show is her accent. Thing is, American viewers aren’t going to pick up on that accent at all in the original Japanese, so when they dubbed it, they gave her an American Southern accent as an approximation, and while not accurate, it gets the point across—and it can only do that dubbed.

There are a lot of situations like that where the acting is lost in the subtitles because, to those who don’t speak the language, how people talk in circumstance A is indistinguishable from circumstance B. A strong argument can be made that in a visual medium, the acting is more important than the actual script, so providing localized acting that isn’t perfectly representative of the original script will provide those viewers with a better experience.

HOWEVER, ultimately it’s the preference of the viewer whether they want accuracy or relatability, and neither of these preferences are wrong.

Well I can offer one point of view for why subtitles are important. Akira has been dubbed twice. Now that film is in a unique place because all the characters faces weren’t just given simple lip flapping they were animated to look like they were speaking japanese phonetically. I think that affected the dub because they seem to alter some dialogue to make it match the animation of the faces, as a result some of it doesn’t make sense.

Then comes the redub. The dialogue now generally fits throughout the film however the acting and choice of voice actor for most characters were terrible.

But that was a unique case.

1 Like

Excellent list, thank you for the suggestions. I’ll probably try out The Rising of the Shield Hero and Re Zero. Maybe Made in Abyss as well.

The way I feel about subtitles vs dubbing always comes down to the quality of the dub. If the voice actors are terrible, I’ll stick with the original audio and read subtitles. Same if there’s an abundance of exaggerated non-verbal noises like “eeehhuuurrr?” “uuhhwaaa” “urrugh” “uuhhh” and far too many gasps.


I sincerely don’t understand why characters can’t be silent for any length of time in anime. Sometimes people just stand in stunned silence.

1 Like

Silence was used at least once in Evangelion