The 5 Best Intellectual Anime Series

Love anime? Heard of it but never indulged and looking to check it out? Why not start with the five best?! As an anime conoisseur, I can say without a doubt that the fundamental aspects of intellectual anime are the ingenuity, originality, and high-level of intelligence that go into the writing of these iconic titles. You may have heard of the first two series here, but that's why I'm including five, so even people who're familiar with Death Note and Code Geass can find something of a similar intellectual caliber to watch. If you've been hesitant about anime in the past, it's never to late to start, and there's no better place to begin with than those which contain some of the smartest writing in the animeverse.



1. Death Note


Genres: Mystery/Thriller/Supernatural

Description: A brilliant young idealist finds a journal granting him the power to decide who lives and who dies.

Why: Death Note is one of the most popular anime franchises in all of Japan, and for good reason: it's extremely original. It is not an action-based series, but rather the start of a small sub-category of anime that focuses on extremely intellectual writing, including mind games, brilliant plans, masterminds and games of cat & mouse. Like the BBC’s Sherlock where you watch and become entranced by the ingenious deductions of the protagonist, Death Note is similar as you watch the protagonist, Light, attempt to use the titular "Death Note" to create a world free of crime—and the brilliant ways in which he hides himself from the genius detective that is after him. It’s truly unique.






2. Code Geass & Code Geass R2


Genres: Mecha/Action/_television/genres/syfy

Description: A man with a mysterious paranormal mind-control ability uses his gift to start a rebellion in a world rife with turmoil.

Why: Unlike 99% of mecha anime, if you Google Code Geass, you will be hard pressed to actually find a giant robot. That's because although the show focuses on combat, the method of combat for a considerable amount of time, it isn't the focus of the show. What makes Code Geass so exceptional is how main character Lelouch uses his ability to read the battlefield, plant spies from within, and create a whole hidden network/rebellion all while maintaining a separate identity.







3. Eden of the East


Genres: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Action

Description: Three months after a carefully orchestrated missile attack on japan with no casualties, 12 seemingly random people are given ¥10 Billion by the terrorist and told they must spend it to "save the world"—or be killed

Why: Eden of the East, like Death Note, is highly intellectual. While not primarily an “action” show, it doesn't lack for suspense. It's somewhat conceptually similar to FOX’s 24: using a large pool of money, but given virtually no clues, Akira must use everything at his disposal to uncover a terrorist plot, and save Japan from total annihilation. Along the way he encounters other players in the game: a detective, a hospital director, a serial killer, and more. Rather than a second season, there are two movies that continue the story.






4. No Game No Life


Genres: Fantasy/Ecchi/Adventure

Description: The world's best online gamers—a brother and sister collectively known as blank—are sucked into an alternate reality in which the outcome of everything is determined by games.

Why: First of all, No Game No Life has some of the most colorful and beautiful art of any anime out there (though, fair warning, this series is intended for a male audience, and it can be intensely sexual). Everything in the world of the show must be solved using games, of which the creators determine the rules. The loser of the game is then magically forced to comply to the agreed upon terms. It features clever schemes, plots, and games orchestrated to bring humanity—here a nonmagical group—to the forefront of the many powerful, magical races that populate this strange colorful world. Don’t underestimate protagonist Sora: he may be a pervert, but he's no less a hero than the others on this list. Together with his sister, they can beat anyone—even a god.





5. Steins;Gate


Genres: Science Fiction/Mystery/Comedy

Description: Real world Mad Scientist Okabe Rintaro accidentally invents a time machine, triggering a series of events that put him and his friends in danger.

Why: Stein’s;Gate is both a highly popular anime, and a game series. It’s quirky and fun with a good balance between humor and seriousness. In this mind-bender, Okabe and his friends must wrack their brains to unravel the mystery of how their (accidental) time machine works. Though not as good as any of the above animes, it still stands above the rest of the anime genre in terms of intellectuality.








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May 18, 2015 5:08PM EDT

1 & 4! ♥

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Jan 31, 2015 10:01AM EST

No way is death note at the top

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Feb 2, 2015 2:39PM EST

iv seen no game no life. One piece is way better and still running, i actually havnt seen new episodes for this one. it was entertaining yes but not one of the top 5. death note is a good one, if so Bleach should be on the list instead of steins gate, attack on titan should be up there as well. whoever narrowed down the list got maybe 2 out of the 5 right. code geass and death note. the other should be bleach, one piece, parasyte the maxim is a current mindbender that should hav made the list over one game one life


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Feb 3, 2015 1:41AM EST

I think you missed the point of the article. It's not the top 5 best anime, its the top 5 best intellectual anime. As in, anime about deduction, and smart writing. None of the anime's you mentioned are that, they are action animes where the protagonist trains and gets stronger over the course of many seasons. Parasyte is a bit different, but its not intellectual, it's an action anime as well. I'm watching Parasyte now. Hope it doesn't end anytime soon. Got to wait so long between season 1 and 2 with anime.

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Jan 26, 2016 3:46PM EST

This is a great list that still holds up today. Great job!!!

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