I promised myself I would take some time to admire anime on technical merits and then promptly forgot all about it. It’s not that I don’t want to. I just started watching these really fun and endearing shows (Gurren Lagann and Cells at Work), that slowly develop characters by giving them benevolent but challenging foils and… Sorry , I did it again…

For my first celebration of production values in animes, I’ve decided to talk about 5 shows that have gorgeous movements. I’ve omitted movies because reasons. These are all series that had me gawking at the marvel of animation while detailed characters flew around the screen. Of course the list is subjective and limited to my personal experience. So please let me know your picks. Especially if it’s shows you didn’t necessarily like but still admired on a technical level. I did like all of mine….a lot…..


5 The Saga of Tanya the Evil

I was a bit hard on Tanya when I first watched/reviewed her. She was one of the first shows I sat through after ending my very long anime hiatus and starting this blog. At the time I longed for a little extra polish on the animation. To be honest, I’m not even sure what I wanted. It’s not as if there was a dramatic loss of detailing or the action looked sluggish. I think I just wanted to be a *serious critic*. Don’t worry, I got over it.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that for a random single cour anime, Tanya looked fantastic and moved like a dancer. To this day I can picture those high speed aerial battles with wild explosions blooming across the screen. The action was rapid and responsive. What more can you ask for. In a show that needed the the tension of combat to come across yet remain light and entertaining, the fighting animation was key. And it was great.

kenshin stance

4 Rurouni Kenshin

Kenshin is over 20 years old now… And let me tell you boys and girls, it holds up! I am biased. I do know about the author’s personal issues and I am also very conflicted. That’s a different post.

I’ve rewatched Kenshin more recently for various reasons and I caught myself just staring slack jawed at the sword play on display. Forget good for the time. Kenshin would have no problem competing with a brand new anime when it comes to choreography. Now that’s really impressive for a senior citizen.

Zvezda fight

3. World Conquest Plot Zvezda

Why do I pick shows with such long titles? Ok they don’t really compare to light novel titles but still… I’m typing this on a phone… Anywhose, I’ve been annoying you all with my newly discovered love of Zvezda for a minute now. Seems I use any possible excuse I can find to sneak in a reference to this show. However, it really has earned its spot on this list. I mean as much as anything can earn it’s spot on these arbitrary and subjective top lists…

Wait no, ignore nitpicky Irina. She’s probably drunk anyway. Zvezda has earned a spot because some of those fights were pure visual delight. The more cartoonish design of the characters might have helped in keeping them so beautifully consistent throughout high speed confrontations and impressive super powers. Mind you this is exactly the type of aesthetic I particularly like.

Haikyuu libero

2. Haikyuu!

Haikyuu was always a very well made show but season 2 featured an impressive animation boost. And boy was that a good thing. Watching those boys scramble around the volleyball court was like ballet. Just breathtaking. The animation would also speed up or slow down to convey emotion and keep you vested in the match.

I’ve watched other volleyball anime since, heck, I’ve even watched actual volleyball. Neither quite lives up to the enjoyment of taking in a Haikyuu match. It was just such a pleasure to see all the separate moving pieces unfold on the screen and reminded me of the simple joy of animation. The are a few beautiful looking sports anime out there, but as far as animation goes, I’ve yet to see Haikyuu’s match.

Kill la Kill

1. Kill la Kill

I feel like this is self-explanatory. Nevertheless, I’m going to explain it. Kill la Kill is stylish AF. You’re not cool enough to hang out with Kill la Kill, that’s how stylish it is. And that stone cold flair extends to actual movement in the series.

Everything is exaggerated. Breasts don’t bounce, they bound. A simple flick of one’s hair is a veritable performance. This sheer mastery of hyperbolic animation kept me riveted to the screen… as if there wasn’t enough to hold my interest already.

Kill la Kill is far from photorealistic in either art or animation but that’s part of what I like so much about it. Despite obvious budget constraints, it decided  to parray loss of detailing by doubling down on rag doll metrics. This show really makes the most of not being limited by physics. When you compare it to the admittedly beautiful Your Name that had more than one scene where characters would have torn ligaments if they actually moved that way, I found this over the top approach way more satisfying.

There you have it. There are definitely many more shows out there with absolutely stunning animation. And as usual, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you have a favourite?

anime tired

37 thoughts

  1. One that comes to mind right away is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which for a 15 year old anime still looks terrific.

    A more recent series that I especially enjoyed for the animation (more so than the story) was Wish Upon the Pleiades. The story was charming but not especially original, but I ended up buying it anyway, in part because it had some gorgeous scenes that I really wanted to be able to enjoy at full resolution on Blu-Ray.

    Personally, I’m heavily partial to the KyoAni style, though mentioning any of their stuff almost feels like it’s too obvious. But one KyoAni series I will mention that I think sometimes goes a bit underappreciated – especially compared to the likes of Hyouka and Euphonium – is Chuunibyou. And I’m not even thinking so much about the fantasy sequences, although naturally those look amazing, but more about how freely and confidently that series employs physical comedy, both as a way to enhance the comedic scenes and just as often to deliberately undercut the more self-seriously dramatic scenes (like when Rikka uses her “powers” to open the train door at the station, and then immediately breaks character by doing that silly stutter-walk as she boards the train).

  2. This was great to read. especially since you’ve given me a reason to look back at Rurouni Kenshin. I miss that show very much. I’m also happy to see Kill la Kill at the top. It was truly great and was one of the anime to get me into seasonal anime at the time it started broadcasting. I will def have to check out the ones I’ve never seen before

  3. Gotta agree with Derek on Violet Evergarden…what I’ve seen of the show (one episode) looked good, but seemed like it was trying too hard to look good that it didn’t seem like it could do anything else…like convey proper emotion. But I may just be jumping the gun there…because I’m currently chugging through Hyouka and the difference between the two in that regard is /massive/.

    Well, for great animation you can’t look past the obvious culprits – the ones sakuga fans love to analyse for who did what scene (One Punch Man, Ping Pong, BnHA…). Studio Bones has some great sakuga, for instance, even in works people don’t praise for sakuga that often, like Star Driver and Concrete Revolutio.

    1. I do love bones for art and fight scenes. I prefer gainax and the babies for overall movement personally

  4. Moribito.

    Also, (whistles nonchalantly at how you already forgot the technical aspects in favor of the story, much like forgetting the kitchen in favor of the food…)

  5. You made some good choices! No surprise there, of course!

    Saga of Tanya the Evil was really something — not only visually, but thematically as well. Lots of folks maintain that Tanya was evil — but I didn’t see it that way at all! I think her reactions against a capricious and unjust god bordered on heroic!

    But that’s me.

    I’d like to offer Beyond the Boundary as another series with great animation. Not only the fight scenes like the one in “Bitter Orange,” but even something “simple” like the song and dance number in “Shocking Pink” was fantastic.

    Even the OP was beautiful!

  6. Does it still as impressive if you can tell they’re deliberatley trying to be visually stunning? BecauseViolet evergand was beeautiful, but you can tell that they were reeeaally trying.

    Also I think Fate/Zero has great animation. Even better than the other ufotable works.

    1. Fate/Zero animation… Good stuff! Some of Saber’s fight scenes in particular were spectacular!

  7. Interesting choices. My list as far as series I like with great animation would be Haibane Renmei, Texhnolyze, Read or Die (both the OVA and the TV sequel), Shamanic Princess, and Monster.

    When it comes to anime movies with great animation (not animated by Ghibli because I’d feel that I’d be cheating by mentioning anything from that studio) would be Paprika, Jungle Emperor Leo (1997), Perfect Blue, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, and The House of Small Cubes.

    1. Haibane? I love the show but always thought the animation was a low point. The art is absolutely stunning mind you. Eye of the beholder and all that

      1. Fair enough. I know some of the CGI has aged, but a lot of the 2D stuff still holds up. The art is certainly stunning. Then again, the story and characters were more interesting than the animation quality.

  8. Ah, animation. I’m not very good at judging it, and part of it is that tend towards motionsickness and/or photosensitivity. Your book-end shows are good examples for different reasons:

    Tanya the Evil is a show I quite literally couldn’t watch without getting sick. It was most apparent in “God scenes”, the lighting and blurry filter made me so queasy I had to look away. I didn’t last long with the show, and you’re screenshot is a good example (I’m fine with it as a gif, but blow it up full screen, and headaches are the least of my worries).

    Now, Tanya the Evil is an extreme case, but shows that are too busy with motion can get unconsciously uncomfortable for me, so that I somwhat automatically tune out. This happened at times with Kill la Kill. The camerawork and distortions could at time overtax my visual faculties and I had to tune out. As a result, the action scenes aren’t usually what I remember about the show, and I lost part of the show’s appeal in the process.

    I’m not quite sure what it is that triggers me. I was totally fine with both Zvezda and Haikyuu. I think that the animation in Ping Pong must have been good, because I find the art ugly, but I cared for about half a minute at the start of each episode until something I think must have been animation drew me in.

    As a result of my condition, I tend to like subtle movements, but then I have a hindsight problem: I often can’t remember whether it was good animation, good storyboarding, or both. I really like the Rurorin Kenshin gif for example. (What does it say about the show that I instantly and without a shred of doubt recognised it, even though I actually haven’t seen it yet? It says the show’s just that memorable, visually.)

    When I remember a show for animation, it’s usually because other people pointed it out to me. An example would be Love Lab, a slice-of-life comedy you occasionally post images/gifs from. Slice of life often really profits from subtle movements, but again my problem: suggestive stills or movement? I can’t always remember.

    It’s a really interesting post.

    1. See i have studied a lot of physiology and incoherent body movements that still look good really bug me. Ghibli does that a lot. So i either like super coherent and realistic animation (not rotoscoping for some reason) or completely impossibly exagerrated…

      1. I’m not sure I’d recognise incoherent body movement if I saw it. For example, when you say that Gibli’s guilty of it, my immediate reaction is Miyazaki, sure, but Takahata? I’m far from confident, though, that I’m not just playing favourites (because that hunch of mine suspiciously aligns with my favourites).

  9. I’m always happy to see Zveda on your lists. That is a good one.

    Tanya was on my list to finish but then Funi went away for me so it may be awhile yet…

    1. If it means anything, it was a Trigger show I watched and didn’t totally hate. I’ve only really loved Luluco but at least Kill la Kill was overall decent.

  10. I like Kill la Kill’s style, too. It’s hugely dynamic. All of Watanabe series (Bebop, Champloo, Space Dandy, Kids on the Slope) are brilliantly animated as well. The scene where Spike is falling from the building and rose petals are dropping into a puddle…any animator in the world would kill to have done that.

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