Top 12 Most Inspirational Anime To Watch (Movies & Series)

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Anime is a beautiful medium. And its ability to inspire is one of the main reasons.

From the shounen escapades of Naruto and Ichigo, to the interpersonal conflicts of Steins;Gate and The Garden of Sinners, anime has this innate ability to embed the viewer with a sense of strength and mental fortitude.

For this ranking we’ll be looking at some of the best anime that push you to be better, do better, become better… and attempt to equip everyone with the emotional tools required.

Artists, athletes, academics, and writers are all welcome.

 

12. Barakamon

Barakamon anime screenshot

Barakamon is a story of the struggling artist in its purest sense.

It begins with our protagonist, a calligrapher by the name of Seishuu, punching an art critic upon hearing his work described as “derivative”.

His father sends him to an isolated island for self-reflection and inspiration. And Seishuu ends up befriending the locals.

Through these social adventures, he comes to discover a new style born out of companionship.

The inspiration from this one, for me, was in the form of how artist block is portrayed. Seishuu truly does struggle to pick himself back up and create something he’s proud of… and that’s something many people can relate to.

 

11. March Comes in Like a Lion

March Comes in Like a Lion anime

Though he’s brilliant at shogi, Rei Kiriyama is haunted by his depressing past, survival guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.

He lives alone in a barely-furnished apartment, sleeping when he isn’t required to do something.

While living in Tokyo, he encounters a family of sisters who take an avid interest in his well-being. They invite him to be a member of his family.

It’s hard to exactly explain what makes March Comes in Like a Lion so special. Every person will find something different that they connect with.

For me, it’s the portrayal of depression and the steps one can take to help themself.

This is a raw yet cute anime with a strong central message.

 

10. Mob Psycho 100

Mob Psycho 100 anime screenshot

Mob Psycho 100 takes everything that made One Punch Man so great, and then embeds it with soul, heart, and emotionally-connective characters.

It’s funny and absurd, sure. But this anime features some of the most touching character dynamics I’ve seen in the genre.

It touches on concepts of inferiority, superiority, loneliness, companionship, improvement, and feels like an inspiring tour de force.

The production quality is through the roof here. Some of Studio Bones’ best work yet, making everyone in the sakuga community impatient for a season 3.

Watch this, please – you won’t be disappointed.

 

9. Ping Pong

Ping Pong anime screenshot

A stoic boy named Smile, someone with little ambition with an incredible talent for Ping Pong.

His best friend, Peco, wants nothing more than to become a masterful Ping Pong player. And enlists Smile to help him.

They get into the inter-high table tennis tournament, and what follows is a wonderfully executed (and stylistically bizarre) tale of self-discovery and emotional support across a short but sweet runtime.

This is perhaps the best sports anime available for very unique reasons: its focus is far more on the artistic medium, rather than hype-building.

It’s structured meticulously, with an inspiring core at the center.

 

8. Legends of the Galactic Heroes

Legends of the Galactic Heroes anime

Two opposing forces (the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance) have been at war for centuries.

Each side hosts different players of a large interstellar play, pieces on a board constantly in motion. Two such players (Wen-li of the FPA, and Reinhard von Lohengramm of the GE) are striving for the same thing: peace, through different means.

One side favors democracy and socialism, the other monarchy and government.

This anime explores the opposing ways of governing society, and how there is no straightforward answer.

The speeches, the sacrifices, the fantastic dialogue, the attention to detail with strategy and historicism and its themes… Absolutely unmatched in scope and design.

Every episode will leave you thinking. Leave you wondering about the world the characters reside in, and also the world we all share.

 

7. Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope anime screenshot

Kaoru Nishimi is a delicately precise pianist with an innate ability to play. He’s perfect, more or less.

And the jazz drummer delinquent Sentarou Kawabuchi doesn’t like that.

He thinks Nishimi should relax, let go a bit, and let the music take him away.

Kids on the Slope is the story of a talented person finding his soul. It’s about reattributing his passions from the academic into the emotional space.

This is a wonderfully crafted tale of becoming an artist of the heart, directed by the acclaimed Shinichiro Watanabe and bearing the hallmarks of his productions.

It’s a beautifully short production with some of the greatest sound design and performing scenes I’ve watched in all of anime.

 

6. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! anime

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a love letter to art, the development of anime, and the imagination of creative souls.

Flavored with distinctly youthful hints of Masaaki Yuasa’s style, Eizouken! otherwise adapts the manga perfectly.

It tells the story of Midori Asakusa, a young girl with a vivid mentality and a passion for drawing.

One day, she meets the business-like Sayaka Kanamori and animator Tsubame Mizusaki. And the three decide to start a school club for their animation!

The fluid storytelling and animation makes this a must-watch for anyone interested in art, or anybody who feels an intrinsic desire to create wonders from the imagination.

 

5. Run with the Wind

Run with the Wind anime screenshot

Inspired by Shion Miura’s novel, Run with the Wind is a story about trying your hardest despite the odds. Even with slim reason to do so.

Our protagonist Kakeru is accosted for shoplifting and fleeing the scene on foot. Caught by a boy called Haiji, who wants Kakeru to join him as a professional runner.

Haiji wants to compete in the Hakoke Ekiden alongside eight other people, so he’s roped into the arrangement with free lodgings and food. The only downside?

Outside of Kakeru and Haiji, they can’t run at all – let alone an intensive marathon relay race.

This is one of the best and most overlooked sports anime to watch, and is constantly engaging throughout with a brilliant pace and fantastic direction.

 

4. Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru anime screenshot

Chihaya was quite a directionless child up until meeting Arata, a wallflower boy with an intense love and talent for Karuta(an esoteric card game revolving around Japanese poetry).

She finds herself enamored and determined to be the Queen of Karuta someday. Really, she wants to be the best player in Japan (and thus the world).

The anime Chihayafuru chronicles her struggles with becoming the best. Realizing the difficulty of the task and the countless losses she will incur along the way.

It’s some of the greatest anime character writing wrapped in a beautifully odd bow that I never expected to love as much as I do.

Give this one a shot, as it’s a wholesome take on trying your best. And it doesn’t shy from the darker and harder parts of life.

 

3. The Tatami Galaxy

The Tatami Galaxy anime

Loosely based on the novel authored by Tomihiko Morimi, this is Masaaki Yuasa’s magnum opus and the anime about living in the moment.

The dreamlike atmosphere and zany art style lend to the mature themes, and often absurd scenes.

The protagonist, Watashi, is a student about to graduate university. He becomes suddenly aware of one daunting fact: he’s squandered his days as a student, refusing to mingle with others and always pushing himself away from confessing to his crush or socializing with his peers.

Luckily, he’s sent back in time (through weird circumstances, of course) to his first day at university. And he’s given the opportunity to try again.

 

2. Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart anime

Shizuku is an avid bibliophile, unsure of what she wants to do. But sure she loves to write.

After a circular encounter with a boy at her library, she ends up befriending Seiji – a talented violin maker with lofty ambitions of studying his craft abroad.

Shizuku, shocked by the upcoming loss of her new friend, and jealous at his artistic accomplishments, resolves herself to finish a novel.

This is a romance piece with an emphasis on individual growth. And it is wonderful.

From the soft Japanese renditions of ‘Country Road’ down to the imaginative dreamscapes of her story’s world, Whisper of the Heart never stops inspiring.

 

1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann anime

Inspiration is just one of many words to get us started here. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is the animated personification of suspended disbelief in the face of unwinnable odds.

The stakes constantly raise, yet our characters are left mostly unperturbed. Instead they’re determined and willing to sacrifice anything for total freedom.

It’s as entertaining as it is inspiring.

Gurren Lagann excitably pushes down the pedal of hype at every opportunity to tell a rollercoaster of a story.

This is one of the most inspiring pieces of art I’ve experienced, from the disarmingly powerful dialogue to the incredulous levels of escalation. It aims to give you a good time, powering you up to take on anything. A must-watch series.

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Kafka Champin

Kafka was playing games in utero, and writing lists even longer. He has published numerous books and video essays, and is currently a student at university.