Urban Fantasy is one of my favourite genres in general so naturally, urban fantasy anime is also something I like a lot. As with many things, Urban Fantasy is a descriptor with a set meaning that I completely ignore and make up my own meaning for. In this case, I tend to be much more literal and strict than the genre actually calls for. Basically, for me to consider an anime to be urban fantasy, it has to be very urban and very fantasy.
For example, Natsume has all these Yokai, spirits and fairies that are certainly in the fantasy realm but it’s a bit too rural to be urban fantasy. Not just in terms of the setting, although that certainly plays into it a lot, but also in terms of the themes.
On the other hand, Bungo Stray Dogs is quite urban. Yokohama even plays an important narrative role. It’s important to the narrative that these adventures take place in a modern and densely populated city, and occasionally, it has to be Yokohama. But humans with gifts is closer to the superhero genre than anything else and there just aren’t enough fairies or dragons or traditional magic for my personal fantasy requirements.
With all this nitpicking you must think that there’s nothing. Well, there are at least 5! Here are my current top 5 urban fantasy anime!
As far as they go, Midnight Occultist Civil Servants is what I consider a quintessential urban fantasy. It’s modern and set in a big city. The actual political and administrative structures of the city are an important part of the plot and it’s full of classical fantasy creatures from a whole bunch of different cultures. That last bit is a huge plus.
Yes, the anime had some issues and weaknesses but I really liked it and I wish I could see more. Or at the very least more like it. It’s not an over-saturated genre and you can adapt it to be anything else. Urban fantasy harem. Let’s do it!
Once again, we have all these fantasy creatures, demons and angels in this case, as part of a very normal urban setting. And what’s more, they have to adapt to it which highlights both how fantastical they are and how normal the world they exist in, is.
Having reviewed this particular show not that long ago, I know for a fact that I am not the only one who would have watched another season. It’s a sweet series and the only thing I could reproach it is that I wish there was a greater variety of fantasy. I sort of hoped Emi’s magic-wielding friend would have made it over eventually.
I feel like I should say that these are not in order of overall anime preference or enjoyment. They are weirdly numbered according to which is most urban fantasy in my head. And honestly, it’s a bit arbitrary. I think all top 3 spots could have been no 1.
I say this because I really like Noragami, I’m making my way through the manga right now and it’s reminded me how great a series it can be. But Noragami is kind of suburban fantasy. Which is also great. But city life doesn’t play a big role and the action often takes us away from urban streets. So it lost some points there on the urban fantasy scale.
Otherwise, it is a great story full of gods, ghosts and ayakashi. I still wish they would make another season. I’ve been saying that a lot in this post…
Now this one seems unmistakable as an urban fantasy. The city itself is such an important part of the show that I would almost call it a character, and it is as urban as they come.
Blood Blockade Battlefront does have a lot of science fiction elements that may dilute the fantasy side of it but it is still a vampire story full of magical creatures and actual magic. So what if there are also tons of really cool gadgets? The two can coexist.
I thoroughly enjoyed both available seasons of Blood Blockade Battlefront and, say it with me now, I wish they made another season!
Durarara is probably my favourite anime that I almost never talk about. I really love this series. And it’s such a perfect blend of magic and fairies and just gritty modern crime action comedy..stuff…
Durarara does such a great job at blending its many disparate elements that the fantasy becomes almost commonplace. Like sure, one character is a headless ancient Celtic fairy but that’s not really all that important. Like it doesn’t define her character, you know? And that kind of rocks. That’s what I love about urban fantasy, it makes the extraordinary seem mundane and then by contrast makes the everyday seem just a bit more magical.
Considering the source material has dried up I figure we’re not getting any more seasons, but I wish we would 🙂 I would watch them a lot!
My favourite series change all the time as I discover new anime. For instance, I considered putting Kobayashi on the list but once more, it didn’t seem urban enough for me. I could change my mind about that tomorrow…
Do you have any favourite urban fantasy anime? Do you have a different definition of urban fantasy?