Anime isn’t solely the work of Studio Ghibli; there are many more. The background art in these series is some of the most exquisite I’ve seen.
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The films of Studio Ghibli are beloved for a variety of reasons, among them the endearing characters, the deeply emotional tales, and the imaginative scope. The most enticing aspect of both films, though, is the stunning artwork: seeing Spirited Away makes you want to explore the mystical bathhouse, and watching Howl’s Moving Castle makes you want to eat dinner in Howl’s kitchen. There are a lot of vast landscapes and open skies in all of their flicks.
While Studio Ghibli’s work is unquestionably the pinnacle of anime background art, there are many other works that are just as impressive. Characters and action scenes get all the attention, but these ten shows prove that what’s going on in the background can be just as compelling as what’s on screen.
1. Tsuritama Feels Like A Piece Of Summer
Tsuritama is a show with a novel premise: it combines fishing with an alien invasion. Considering that the show is set in a seaside town, the scenery is almost exclusively made up of sandy beaches and expansive views of the blue Pacific Ocean.
While most anime sky are perfectly pleasant, these have a dynamic aspect to them.
The vivid colors and wide swaths of shading give the image an almost artistic quality. Viewers will be grabbing for their sunglasses just by watching this show.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion Is A Feat Of Sci-Fi Imagination
Misato brings Shinji to a hill overlooking Tokyo-3 at sunset in Neon Genesis Evangelion. A magnificent piece of science fiction world-building, she shows him (and us) what a wonder the city they’re guarding really is by having the buildings retract into the ground.
Even before the audience sees the bizarre landscapes where Lillith and the Rei-clone soldiers are imprisoned, the underground offices of the NERV appear like a surface of a foreign planet, thanks in part to Evangelion’s background art.
3. Girls’ Last Tour Makes Ruins Beautiful
When compared to concrete and metal metropolises, finding beauty might be a lot easier in the natural world. This is why Girls’ Last Tour, which plays place in a huge, half-destroyed cityscape, is one of the best-looking anime ever filmed.
There is no better example of world-building than this metropolis, which appears weird enough to indicate that this is a sci-fi setting, but also practical and believable. To keep things interesting, the girls visit a number of locations in the city, including an aquarium, a graveyard, and a temple.
4. Bakemonogatari Is SHAFT At Peak Artsiness
“Bakedogana” has a unique style that makes watching it feel like you’re watching experimental art, not a “ecchi” program, rather than “a less-than-human” harem.
Despite their simplicity, the backdrops play an important role in this aesthetic; they are typically luminous and otherworldly in appearance, and they are virtually always devoid of any background people. Really to the protagonists, it feels like they’re walking through a set of images that aren’t even real in their minds.
5. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Brings A Sketchbook To Life
because of the director’s signature cartoony, free-flowing aesthetic, stands out from the rest of the pack right away. This series really shines, though, when it focuses on three girls making animation.
An animated sketchbook style is used for anything from a helicopter’s propellers to a gigantic robot’s torso. There is no denying that Asakusa’s mind is an intriguing place to visit.
6. A Lull In The Sea’s World Will Make Viewers Want To Get Their Feet Wet
It’s hard to think of a more intriguing question than “what if humanity could survive under water?” In a world with both land-dwelling and water-dwelling societies, A Lull In The Sea achieves the best of both worlds. Beautiful artwork portrays both a familiar beach town and an extraordinarily inventive aquatic world in a single piece.
It’s no surprise that P.A. Works tried to reproduce the magic with a second slice-of-life show with supernatural aspects, GLASSLIP, thanks to the lovely scenery and superb storytelling.
To say that was a failure is an understatement.
7. Flip Flappers Is Over-The-Top In The Best Possible Way
Papika, the intriguing and eccentric narrator of Flip Flappers, lures Kokona into the other universe of Pure Illusion, where she must search for shards of crystal. Whether it’s a candy-colored children’s daydream or a cyberpunk city, each task in Pure Illusion transports players to a new universe, one that is exquisitely detailed.
It doesn’t matter where Kokona and Papika are in the actual world; the town they live in looks like something out of a fairy tale, giving the show a distinct fairy tale feel.
8. Serial Experiments Lain Creates A Haunting Atmosphere
In Serial Experiments Lain, you don’t have to go overboard with the visuals if you want to carry a visual punch. In this cyberpunk series, much of the background art is plain; in fact, the shadows contain the most interesting features. They appear to be covered in red blossoms that look unnervingly like bloodstains throughout the series.
With the washed-out, pale quality of much of the other backdrop art, the effect is something that looks like no other anime. No wonder this series has become one of the most recognizable cyberpunk series of all time.
9. March Comes In Like A Lion Features Stunning Watercolors
With a light touch, March Comes in Like a Lion touches with difficult topics such as sadness, bullying, and grief in a way that is both comforting and poignant. So it’s hardly surprising that the anime’s backdrops are painted in exquisite watercolors.
Rei lives in a lovely riverbank area, with an artistry that also makes sense in the context of the story: as he gets to know more people, he begins to perceive the world around him in a new way.
10. Mononoke Is A Cavalcade Of Color
Mononoke, a supernatural anthology series, uses art that is almost garishly bold in place of the darker, more subdued palettes typical of horror series. They precisely reflect the bizarre and chaotic conditions that the mysterious Medicine Seller finds himself in on a weekly basis.
It takes place near the conclusion of the Edo period in Japan, and the clean lines and vibrant colors of the background art evoke classic Japanese woodcuts. Every scene in Mononoke is a work of art in its own right.