Top 25 Most Absurd, Ridiculous & Surreal Anime Ever MadeThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Anime can get weird.
And since mostly all constraints fly out the window with animation, the medium can go to some bizarre places.
To help you find some really odd ones I’ve compiled this list of anime that will make you wonder what the hell you’re watching.
From distorted imagery to narrative nonsense, to psychedelic mind trips, to cerebral brain breakers, to abstract takes on mental health… We’ve got some truly unusual art or you!
25. Mind Game
Nishi is killed by Yakuza and is approached by a God. The God mocks him, which annoys Nishi to the point of running past him and back to life.
Now back moments before his death, he fights of the Yakuza pursuing him and flees alongside his crush, Myon.
What follows is a crazy, hard to follow adventure, with the two of them encountering crazier and crazier scenarios in the pursuit of freedom – and loving every moment.
Mind Game is one of the weirdest pieces of art I’ve seen. Which isn’t surprising considering it was Masaaki Yuasa’s debut project as a director.
The popping visuals that distort and warp in impossible ways gives an energetic vibe to the whole production.
24. Gantz 0
One day the kind Masaru Katou is unceremoniously stabbed to death in an alleyway, before waking up in a small room overlooking Tokyo.
He’s soon given the opportunity of reincarnation depending on one thing: whether he can exterminate an invasion of aliens attacking the city and survive.
Gantz 0 is a CGI sequel to the 2-season anime, but can be watched standalone.
The animation holds up well, building on the outrageous things actually happening on screen further into the uncanny valley.
Ever seen a small monk turn into a naked woman before transforming into a pair of breasts that then evolves into a gargantuan woman made of breasts? No?
Wow alright, that’s surprising – nothing to see here, then.
23. The Diary of Tortov Riddle
Tortov Riddle is a mute adventurer crossing an abstract landscape, on foot or aboard his long-legged pig companion.
Throughout his journeys he encounters many unusual characters each struggling or engaging with their own lives.
He observes the customs of these people then moves on, in an endless expedition into the weird.
The indie unknown Kunio Katou possesses the incredible ability of telling bizarre, soulful stories in a short-form, artistically unique format.
Many of his other works reach similar heights of brilliance, so please check them out – they’re free on YouTube!
58-year-old Ichirou Inusashiki is sick of life, suffering from aching bones and an underappreciating family.
This gets worse when he discovers he has stomach cancer.
He’s so disheartened by the way his wife and kids react, that he flees to a field to cry.
It’s here where he is reborn as a cyborg weapon capable of complete destruction.
He decides to use these powers for good, but eventually comes across an apathetic, sadistic teenager capable of firing invisible bullets out of his fingertips.
Written by the same twisted mind behind Gantz, Inuyashiki is completely absurd from its initial episode and only escalates the violence and disturbing content into darker places.
Seriously, it’s an old man robot fighting a psychopath – watch it.
21. Humanity Has Declined
Due to decreasing birth rates, humanity has been pushed to the brink. In their place has risen fairy kind, extremely advanced but infantile creatures lacking in common sense.
Watashi is a young girl who has just started her job as an arbiter between the two species, and we watch her as she struggles with sentient chickens, masochistic gory slices of bread, and other completely normal incidents.
Humorous in tone but with a deep existential backdrop to accompany it, Humanity Has Declined is an under watched delight due to its beautiful color palette and happy world building.
It’s one hell of a tonal clash, but its tongue in cheek approach makes it work.
20. 1001 Nights
1001 Nights is basically a twenty-minute sex scene depicted through psychedelic artwork and a stellar orchestral score.
The narrative is entirely audiovisual, relying on viewer interpretation to discern the story.
This is an under-rated, under-appreciated piece of art that has stayed far out of the mainstream’s eye.
It’s graphically tasteful, artistically seductive, using colors and warping forms to tell a story of lust and deceit.
Complex, deep, and brilliant.
19. Paranoia Agent
In the usually dull city of Musashino, something strange is happening.
An enigmatic roller-skating figure keeps beating people in the streets with a baseball bat.
The public dubs him ‘Lil’ Slugger’ and an investigation is launched; but the truth of this illusive malefactor is far more disturbing than anybody expects.
One of Satoshi Kon’s most cerebral works revels in its disturbing content and consistent ‘wtf’ factor.
The mystery is held together through a thick fog of mania and confusion that propels the weirdness to the forefront. Absolutely check this one out, because it is a gem.
The DC Mini is a revolutionary device that lets you jump into the dream of another (yes, Inception – but it came before)!
Unfortunately one of the models is stolen from the research facility, and Atsuko Chiba and Kosaku Tokita are tasked with recovering it.
One of Satosi Kon’s all-time best works, Paprika is intoxicatingly vibrant, disorienting, dark, and just really beautiful.
One scene in particular – the parade – is the first thing I thought of when approaching this list. This is a must watch!
17. Welcome to Irabu’s Office
Ichirou Irabu is a child-like genius who heads the psychiatric ward of Irabu General Hospital.
He meets many peculiar people with the aim of dispelling whatever mental ailment has possessed them.
Gangsters afraid of sharp objects, OCD businessmen, constant 24-hour erections, and insomniac trapeze artists. These are just some examples!
Welcome to Irabu’s Office mixes media constantly, using live-action, CGI, digital, and traditional animation to constantly shift the tone for humorous and dramatic purposes.
Along the way you might just learn something, too.
16. Angel’s Egg
In a barren wasteland full of dark figures and laboratory nature, a little girl spends every waking hour collecting water in jars whilst protecting her prized possession: a large and mysterious egg.
One day an unusual boy enters her life. Andthey begin a long dialogue on the nature of humanity, being, reality, and existence.
This hour-long fever dream of an anime is dense in metaphorical imagery, constantly complex in its themes and presentation, and leaves you hanging on every word without understanding most of it.
Well, on your first viewing, at least.
Each time you watch it you’ll understand more.
15. Space Dandy
Shinichiro Watanabe’s space-set comedy is weird for many reasons.
We follow Dandy, a bounty hunter who always seems to encounter the craziest parts of space. He’s accompanied by QT (a robot vacuum with a personality) and Meow (a cat alien) aboard the Aloha Oe, charting species and making connections.
The first season stands as a solid, insane adventure.
But it’s the second season where things get truly bizarre.
Not just because of the narrative, for each episode is animated and directed by a different, critically acclaimed talent, creating a tapestry of constantly shifting styles and tones that makes each episode new and exciting.
The Medicine Seller roams feudal Japan hunting Monoke, lingering parasitic spirits refusing to move on. He needs to understand its form, truth, and purpose before exorcism.
When he stumbles across an anachronistic inn, he discovers the place to be infested and launches an expedition into the surreal, an investigation of the paranormal, and a reflection of the self.
Abstractly animated with gorgeous colorization and a unique form, Mononoke is a bizarre horror that is as trippy as it is frightening.
13. A Country Doctor
Unable to find a horse, a country doctor is forced into accepting one from a mysterious man who proceeds to kidnap his assistant.
Before he can retaliate, he’s rushed to the bedside of a dying man who doesn’t seem to even want help… yet won’t hesitate to make the doctor feel bad for being unable to provide any
The Country Doctor is based on a short story by Franz Kafka, and tells the narrative of a stressed, pre-occupied doctor given an impossible task in the middle of the night.
An absolutely perfect adaptation of the sensation the Kafkaesque entails, copying the original storyline beat for beat, line for line.
12. The Tatami Galaxy
Watashi has wasted his time at university.
Near to graduating, he realizes he never once seized the day.
His crush was left unconfessed. He made one friend, a thorn in his side. And he didn’t join any clubs or attain any talents or skills.
That night, he encounters an eggplant-shaped-man who grants Watashi the ability to try it all over, sending him back three years to his first day as a student.
Beautifully animated by Masaaki Yuasa, and adapted from the acclaimed Tomihiko Morimi, The Tatami Galaxy is a mature anime meant to inspire and remind us of the fleeting parts of life.
11. Mawaru Penguindrum
The Takakura family comprises three members.
Two brothers, Kanba and Shouma, and their little sister Himari. She’s always sick, and near death, so when she is given a short break from the hospital the brothers decide to take her to the aquarium.
Unfortunately she dies, only to be resurrected by a hat she purchased in the shop.
The hat tells them to retrieve the ‘Penguindrum’ to save Himari’s soul.
Soon penguins are commonplace compared to the bizarre nature of the Penguindrum, and what their quest entails.
The animation is wonderfully colorful, with abstract design choices used to accentuate the themes.
For instance, anyone who isn’t a key character – pedestrians, classmates, etc – are rendered as stickmen silhouettes. This is a whirlwind of an anime, so strap in!
10. Spirited Away
Chihiro Ogino is sick and tired of her parents and the choices they make.
They decide to move from her hometown to somewhere new, tearing her from her friends and lifestyle for reasons she doesn’t understand.
Along the way, the family encounter an abandoned amusement park and decide to stop and explore – much to her chagrin.
Things get worse when her parents are transformed into pigs and she is sent into an alternate world, where ghosts and monsters and dragons are commonplace.
Now she needs to find a way to get home. But that ends up being way harder than expected.
One of Studio Ghibli’s all-time greatest masterpieces tells an emotional story of childhood, family, and learning to engage with alien and unknown.
It’s also rife with abstract imagery and wacky designs, ensuring a feast for the eyes of any watcher.
The desolate district of Hole is the home of two types of people: magic users, and regular people.
Unfortunately, the magi reign supreme and don’t really care about the lives of those lacking power.
We follow Kaiman, a magus with a large reptilian head, who has no recollection of his past and is searching for who transformed him into the monster he has become.
Honestly, absurd doesn’t scratch the surface.
Every inch of this anime is coated in the bizarre, painting a repulsive city of delinquency and corruption hosting some of the most unhinged characters the medium has to offer.
Cannot wait for a second season!
Without warning, a race of aliens invades Earth.
These are inherently violent organisms that burrow into brains before possessing the host.
Shinichi Izumi narrowly avoids becoming one such host by cutting off circulation to his wrist where a parasite had injected itself.
He now has a mutating alien hand capable of distorting itself for multiple purposes.
It even has a personality, and names itself Migi. Neat…
If that’s not bad enough, there are plenty of aliens out there who succeeded in their invasion, and their plans directly interfere with his life.
Adapted from the 1989 manga in 2014, the world of Parasyte had been updated to the modern age. The soundtrack is incredible, and the plot twists are constantly engaging.
Just plain old fun.
What do global warming, dubstep, and aliens have in common? Right here.
7. Kill la Kill
Equipped with a large scissor blade and skimpy clothing that embeds her with power, Ryuko Matoi must overcome all internal and external obstacles in the way of finding who murdered her father and enacting revenge.
Studio Trigger are known for taking the absurd and making it feel somehow rooted.
Their expressive, overly animated style has an ADHD energy to it that keeps you constantly engaged.
Plus this is one of Hiroyuki Sawano’s best scores.
6. Welcome to the NHK!
After dropping out of university, Tastuhiro became a reclusive hikikomori with a drug problem and intense paranoia.
He’s so frightened of the world around him and the people in his life, that he’s convinced there’s a conspiracy designed to torture him.
When a confused troubled girl knocks on his door and decides to help him out, he’s launched into a world of reflection and doubt.
Welcome to the NHK! doesn’t avoid the gritty side of life, touching on themes of mental illness, depression, and suicide, in a thematically deep but overtly bizarre way.
5. Flowers of Evil
Kasuga Takao is an avid bookworm, particularly fond of Baudelaire’s decadent collection of French poems, Les Fleurs du Mal.
One day he discovers his crush’s gym uniform and steals it on an impulsive.
Unfortunately, the school bully saw him. And the class is disgusted with the illusive thief.
What follows is a crushing decent into trauma, depression, and psychosis.
The Flowers of Evil is one of my favorite manga, and though I was initially disgusted with the wholly unique rotoscope animation style, I soon learned to love it.
The abstract imagery, distorted sound design, and almost grotesque pseudo-realistic art paints a disturbing portrayal of inner-hate and the downward spiral.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Shinji Ikari is a teenager constantly neglected by his father, Gendo.
That’s because he’s working as the head of NERV, an agency dedicated to repelling the alien invasion of the Angels by harnessing large mecha called Evangelions.
He requests a meeting with Shinji, but this ends up being a ploy designed to get his son into the mecha – which he does reluctantly.
Unfortunately this ends up not just being a test of his physical resolve, but of his mental strength. Slowly, the story descends into nightmarish madness.
One of the most legendary, important pieces of anime ever crafted, is also one of the most disturbingly abstract.
The original ending deteriorates into a weird collage of imagery due to the budget restraints, but the equally disturbing sequel movie – The End of Evangelion – proves that those atypical elements were likely by design.
3. Serial Experiments Lain
Lain Iwakura does not fit in.
The new technological fad – the WIRE – doesn’t interest her. But that changes quickly when a member of her class commits suicide yet sends an email to all of Lain’s classmates from beyond the grave.
She hastily gets a compute and over immerses herself in the Cybernet, gradually bridging the large gap between reality and Cyberspace.
This is a stellar portrayal of technological ennui, of how it can connect and disconnect, and the effects of dissociation and psychosis symptoms.
It’s constantly making you ask questions, twisting your perception on the narrative with every episode.
2. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
One of my all-time favorite franchises.
As hypermasculine as it is flamboyant and fabulous, JoJo’s embodies the absurd.
I mean, it’s got bizarre in the name.
We follow a lineage of JoJo’s worldwide across over a century of worldbuilding and character growth.
I’ll just go ahead and list some moments off the top of my head…
There’s a tense moment where a man has to protect a zippo lighter from extinguishment, and so delicately places the lighter into a croissant.
There’s a whole part(the longest part) dedicated to a cross-American horse race in the late 1800s, with our protagonists attempting to stop the President of the United States from acquiring the corpse of Jesus Christ.
One of our MCs has four testicles.
Ever tried to stop a homosexual prison warden priest from accelerating the universe?
This is an anime where “The Grateful Dead and Beach Boys versus Sex Pistols and Sticky Fingers was hype as hell!” is just a normal statement.
Need I say more?
1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Simon and Kamina are two underground dwelling boys dreaming off the world above.
When their wish comes true, they don’t hesitate to jump headfirst into the world they don’t know, aiming to make it their own.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann doesn’t just suspend your disbelief, it evaporates it.
As the stakes raise, as does the absurdity – taking us from a slow-paced underground setting into the stars and beyond.
It embodies the absurd, making absolutely no sense and wearing that as a badge of pride.
Gurren Lagann is an inspiring, beautifully-crafted labor of love towards the medium that aims to do one thing, and it does it perfectly: Entertain.