One of the most interesting and exciting genres in anime is noir. Not many anime can pull off the mysterious and harsh tone of noir where most likely a disheveled detective or a rebel without a cause must take on the ups and downs of life and all it has to offer. When animated correctly and with care, a noir anime can be a groundbreaking series that makes a huge impact on anime fans all over the world.
When an anime can harness the cynical tones of noir and the dread of the main character or their environment without making the series overly bleak, a unique story can be told that allows viewers to walk in the main protagonist’s shoes and feel the weight on their shoulders. These are some of the best examples on offer.
Un-Go is an anime specializing in the suspense and dread that stands side by side in the noir genre. Un-Go is a frightening mystery occult anime that many fans will get hooked on in the first few episodes. A young Detective named Yuuki, and his assistant, Inga, must get to the bottom of the tragic murders that begin to take place in Tokyo.
Yuuki has an enigmatic reputation amongst his peers, but his detective skills are top-notch and earn him their respect. When things begin to take a turn for the worst, Yuuki must put his intellect to the test and accept the impossible to come out alive or let his cases consume him.
When a famous surgeon saves the life of a young boy, his fate is changed forever in the most tragic of ways. Kenma Touzo had the life he always dreamed of until he was faced with the ethical choice of saving a politician or a child; he chose the latter.
While Kenzou would fall from grace after making this choice, the consequences of his actions had yet to truly reveal themselves. Thanks to several deaths of his colleagues, Kenzou’s position and standing would be restored, but Kenzou suspects that a dark shadow is following him and wishes to embrace him in its darkness at the cost of those around him. Monster takes viewers on a dark and gruesome journey when saving a life costs dozens of others.
5 Ergo Proxy
Set in a dark post-apocalyptic future where humanity resides in the last city on Earth under a glass sky, what’s left of humankind now lives alongside cybernetic beings called “AutoReivs.” AutoReivs are servants that were seemingly created to aid and advance the survival of human beings.
Re-L is charged with investigating recent murders and getting to the bottom of a series of occurrences where AutoReivs have begun turning on their human masters and become self-aware. In her efforts, Re-L discovers the twisted history of humans and a secret that was buried for thousands of years.
4 Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost in the Shell is a classic among anime and stands at the top of the futuristic/cyberpunk genre next to legendary animations such as Metropolis and Akira. The Ghost in the Shell franchise consists of five full feature films and four original anime series.
Makoto Kusanagi is the main protagonist of the series and the focus of the story’s study of the human condition. Ghost in the Shell takes place in a grim Tokyo future where cybernetic enhancement and human-machine hybrids are typical aspects of everyday life. Along with a suspenseful mystery of cerebral cyberterrorism, Ghost in the Shell also asks the question, “can a cyborg be human?”
Gungrave is one of the most captivating anime in the noir genre. While it’s not the most well-known anime of its creator, Yasuhiro Nightow, whose known for the Trigun anime, it has stood the test of time and become a cult classic alongside other giants in the genre. Gungrave tells a story of ambition and betrayal when two childhood friends embark on a quest for power, fame, and fortune.
With dreams of making it big, two street punks are handed the keys to the universe after they join the most prominent crime family in the country. However, absolute power corrupts, and the ties that bind are torn to shreds by the greed and ego that develop while living a life of privilege. Harry McDowell and Brandon Heat face off in a war built on friendship, lies, love, and loyalty.
Psycho-Pass is a unique twist on the crime hunting and suspenseful noir genre. In a distant future, Tokyo crime is now ruled by a special organization and overseen by a system known as the Sibyl system. The Sybil system analyzes a complete registry of every citizen’s brain chemistry to determine whether they are prone to violent crime and stops the act before it happens. The Sibyl system is absolute and serves as the Judge and Jury of the people it prosecutes. Special agents are assigned to hand out the Sibyl system’s justice, which is where the main character, Akane Tsunomori, comes in.
A fresh rookie recently assigned to a squad of veteran inspectors, Akane now works to apprehend and slay charged individuals. During her new job, Akane is at constant odds with the lethality of her profession while still being completely dedicated to the Sibyl system. However, Akane peeks behind the curtain of the Sibyl system and discovers a world-altering secret that could throw the city into chaos.
1 Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is a classic among classics. The anime single-handedly defined an entire generation with its incredible story, beautiful animation, and immaculate direction. Created by the late great Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop took anime fans to the stars in a dramatic tale of a lost assassin turned bounty hunter on his journey of self-reflection and revenge.
Along with the main character, Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop also tells the stories of several supporting characters who have been around the galaxy and back. Cowboy Bebop has also received a live-action adaptation that was recently released on Netflix. Tears, laughs, anger, and stoicism are the main themes of this emotional rollercoaster of a story that all can enjoy.
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