There are countless anime series released ever, and modern anime have recently become much more popular around the world. Some smash-hits are well-known to not only anime fans but a wider range of people these days. A positive spiral is created as popular works are evaluated and become even more popular.
On the other hand, there are a lot of little-known anime series and movies whose quality deserve more recognition for their quality. Some of them are popular among Japanese but are hardly recognized abroad. It is a shame to miss the opportunity to watch the hidden gems.
Today, I’d like to introduce 10 underrated anime series to both experienced anime watchers who have completed many titles and beginners who wonder what to watch now. The lineup of these recommended underestimated anime may not be the best but is definitely worth watching.
Let’s venture even deeper into the world of anime!
Some fantastic anime are less popular among Japanese fans than international watchers, and FLCL is a prime example. FLCL is a comedy anime series mixed with science fiction and Surrealism, directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki. He is an important person who created the famous Neon Genesis Evangelion with its main director Hideaki Anno. FLCL was released as an OVA (Original Video Animation) series instead of airing on TV, which was part of the reason it did not become much popular. On the other hand, it has been well-known overseas, especially in America and Canada, as well as the Evangelion series. The first title was followed by the two films in 2018: FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative. The following two movies are directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro instead of Kazuya Tsurumaki, though.
Set in the provincial city named Mabase, FLCL focuses on a cheeky but pure-hearted and sensitive boy Naota Nandaba. Just when he is fed up with his normal routine, his daily life changes drastically when a powerful and overbearing woman Haruko Haruhara appears before him. It also features a 17-year-old high school girl Mamemi Samejima, who is the ex-girlfriend of Naota’s older brother, who left for America. Thanks to the sudden change of taste in pictures, humorous dialogue, and sentimental stories that stick in your mind, you can go through the whole story without being bored at all.
Studio: Gainax/Production I.G
Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is an underrated anime series, which is more highly regarded by part of anime fans abroad than in Japan. It was broadcasted with 13 episodes in 1998, when its PlayStation game was developed and released at the same time. Serial Experiments Lain, categorized as cyberpunk and psychological horror, is reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell, the flagship of cyberpunk, Paprika, an anime movie directed by Satoshi Kon, and Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh, a psychological thriller series with a gloomy world setting.
Serial Experiments Lain tells the story of a 14-year-old girl Lain, unfolding under the worldview of “Existence is defined by the connection of awareness = consciousness, and we are all connected. Memory is merely a record.” This is a psychological horror story portraying a world where the real world and a virtual world called Wired seem to be melting into each other. One day, Lain’s Internet terminal Navi receives an e-mail from a classmate who recently committed suicide. What lies at the end of the two worlds, the physical world and the cyber world?
Studio: Triangle Staff
Beyond the Boundary
Kyoto Animation, one of the most reliable anime studios, has made lots of renowned works since it released its first anime series in 2003. Some of them that are good enough to deserve to be watched are buried amongst some very fine masterpieces. Beyond the Boundary (境界の彼方) is an underrated anime series made by Kyoto Animation, which is globally less known than other school-themed titles such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On!, Hyouka, etc. Beyond the Boundary is composed of one season airing in 2013, adapted from Nagomu Torii’s light novel series.
The dark fantasy romance anime centering on Akihito Kanbara, a high school sophomore with a half-demon immortal body, and Mirai Kuriyama, a high school freshman girl who wears glasses. Mirai is a Spirit World Warrior, who makes her living by defeating yokai. She is considered a member of the cursed family because of their blood, and they have been abhorred by everyone around them. Akihito tries to save Mirai, who is about to jump off the roof. However, she chases Akihito, a half-demon, around the school in an attempt to defeat him.
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions (中二病でも恋がしたい!) is a Kyoto Animation anime series that is not well known abroad, but should be more appreciated. Categorized as romantic comedy, it is a representative anime which handles the theme of Chunibyo syndrome. There are the two seasons containing 26 episodes, followed by a sequel anime movie Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Take on Me in 2018. The series is based on the light novel series written by Torako and illustrated by Nozomi Osaka from 2011 to 2017.
Chunibyo is not a disease in the medical sense, but a symptom of puberty around the second year of middle school (the eighth grade.) It refers to narcissistic fantasies and preferences. Yuta Togashi, a first-year high school student, enters high school and makes a clean break with his past, in which he once had Chunibyo. At the same time, he meets Rikka Takanashi, a girl wearing an eye patch, and learns that she is still in the midst of Chunibyo. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a school love comedy anime that develops as the other students involved in Chunibyo get close to the two. It depicts the embarrassing behavior of Rikka and the occasional glimpse of Yuta’s Chunibyo in a humorous manner, while at the same time developing a serious human drama.
Aired: 2012 (Season 1)/2014 (Season 2)
Episodes: 13 (Season 1)/13 (Season 2)
Studio: Kyoto Animation
There are many Nichijo-kei anime that have high quality but not very well recognized worldwide. New Game! is a fine slice-of-life anime series made by Doga Kobo. The New Game! manga series, which was serialized on Manga Time Kirara Carat between 2013 and 2021, was made into the first anime adaptation in 2016.
Aoba Suzukaze, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, joins a game production company called Eagle Jump, which produced a game called “Fairy’s Story” that she fell in love with in elementary school. She is assigned to work under Ko Yagami, a female character designer whom she has always admired. New Game! depicts the behind-the-scenes of game production and focuses on the relationship between Aoba and her team members, who are full of individuality.
Aired: 2016 (Season 1)/2017 (Season 2)
Episodes: 12 (Season 1)/12 (Season 2)
Studio: Doga Kobo
Air is a slice-of-life drama anime series made by Kyoto Animation, based on the same-named visual novel game developed by Key, a visual novel brand under the publisher Visual Arts. It is undeniable that Air is overshadowed by the much more famous drama series Clannad, which was also made by Kyoto Animation from a visual novel produced by Key. However, Air has also gained support from some fans as a very emotional anime series since it aired in 2005.
Focusing on Yukito Kunisaki, a wandering young man who moves from town to town, Air spins a summer tale with a group of girls he meets by chance in a country town by the sea. He somehow manages to make a living by street performance with puppets controlled by his mysterious powers. In the small seaside town, he meets Misuzu Kamio, a bright and honest girl who is always smiling. The film depicts the personal problems of Misuzu and other heroines from Yukito’s point of view.
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Deca-Dence (デカダンス), which is classified into science fiction and coming of age, is not very popular, but it is a good work. It was made as a brand new animation by NUT, the anime studio that also produced The Saga of Tanya the Evil (2017) and FLCL Alternative (2018), and directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa, who is also famous for the Mob Psycho 100 series (2016-2022).
In the late 2400s AD, the world is under great threat from an unknown life form, Gadoll. People have lived in a huge moving fortress called Deca-Dence. The human race consisted of Gears, warriors who fight against Gadoll, and Tankers, who do not have the power to fight. Natsume, a Tanker girl, dreams of becoming a warrior to defeat Gadoll, but in reality, she works as a Deca-Dence armor repairman under the supervisor Kaburagi. This anime can be enjoyed not only as a story of a girl’s growth, but also as an epic fantasy that unravels the great mysteries of the world.
Darling in the Franxx
Mecha anime is a popular genre that has spawned many masterpieces, and its fans are discerning. That is why some mecha anime tend to be neglected these days. Darling in the Franxx (ダーリン・イン・ザ・フランキス) is a good modern mecha anime made by Trigger and CloverWorks in 2018. It may not be as influential as other greatest works including Neon Genesis Evangelion and urren Lagann have been. The original anime series was made into the manga adaptation almost at the same time.
Darling in the Franxx is set in a devastated world where crustal movement and environmental destruction have progressed. This is a story of children who are trained to become pilots of Franxx, a robotic weapon developed to combat the mysterious Klaxosaurs, a threat to peace. The main character, Hiro, was once considered an excellent pilot candidate, but he has lost the ability to synchronize with Franxx and has lost sight of his own existence value. One day, he meets Zero Two, an ace pilot and a girl who is said to have the blood of Klaxosaurs, and she takes an interest in him.
Studio: Trigger/CloverWorks (A-1 Pictures)
Love Live! Superstar!!
Idol anime is one of the most popular genres nowadays, which has been led by the live-legend idol anime series Love Live! since its first title was released in 2013-2014. Love Live! Superstar!! (ラブライブ!スーパースター!!), the fourth title of the Love Live! series, seems an underrated anime, which may be overshadowed by the great past titles Love Live! (2013-2014) and Love Live! Sunshine!! (2016-2017). However, it is as good as its predecessors and worth watching.
Love Live! Superstar!! casts a spotlight on the school idol group of Yuigaoka Girls High School, set between three Tokyo towns Omotesando, Harajuku, and Aoyama. Kanon Shibuya, a high school sophomore, loves to sing but has extreme stage fright, so she failed the music department entrance exam at Yuigaoka Girls High School. However, at the invitation of Keke Tang, a student Shanghai who loves idols, Kanon forms the school idol Liella! with other unique students and begin her illustrious idol career.
Aired: 2021 (Season 1)/2022 (Season 2)
Episodes: 12 (Season 1)/12 (Season 2)
Studio: Sunrise (Bandai Namco Filmworks)
Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン) is a very well-known anime all over the world, but not necessarily unanimously highly regarded. Based on Reki Kawahara’s light novel series published since 2009, the anime series of Sword Art Online started in 2012, which was followed by the second season Sword Art Online II in 2014 and the third season Sword Art Online: Alicization and Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld in 2019 and 2020. An anime movie Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale was a big hit of 2017, and the anime movie series of Sword Art Online Progressive was launchsed in 2021.
Sword Art Online is an important pioneering anime that was one of the first to popularize the now-common plot of being trapped inside a game, which can be found in the genre of Isekai. In the year 2022 AD, the main character Kirito is unable to log out of the world’s first VRMMORPG “Sword Art Online”. Life in the virtual world affects life activities in the real world. In other words, death in that game means death in the real world. In order to log out and survive, Kirito cooperates with the heroine Asuna and other players to conquer the death game.
Did you find something nice for you? I have already watched all of the underrated anime listed above and can absolutely guarantee that they are interesting. Just try some!
Then, what is the best anime series ever?
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