Madhouse, it’s your turn. And there is no doubt that despite the rather varied production lineup of the last few years, we are talking about one of the best animation studios ever.
We’re discussing the creators of masterpieces like Trigun, Perfect Blue, and Hunter x Hunter, as well as the more recent Frieren, which is one of the top series of recent times.
But let’s not delay any longer and explore the best anime from Studio Madhouse that you should discover and not miss.
Table of Contents
20. Summer Wars
Summer Wars is a movie directed by Mamoru Hosoda, released in 2009 that like all his works, is an animation gem.
The plot revolves around Kenji Koiso, a math genius with social problems who spends a lot of time in a virtual world called Oz.
At the start of the summer, the most popular girl in school Natsuki hires Kenji to pretend to be her fiancé in front of her grandmother.
But a mistake made by Kenji leads to the release of a powerful computer virus called the Love Machine, which attacks Oz and causes disasters worldwide.
Now it’s up to Kenji to stop the threat and restore peace in the network.
Summer Wars is a well-structured, ensemble anime movie that blends a cheerful and vibrant atmosphere with themes that shouldn’t be underestimated.
The movie tackles technology and the apprehension surrounding its advancement, highlighting the potential harm it may cause if left unchecked.
Hosoda also used this opportunity to exercise total creative freedom, resulting in a more mature product compared to his previous well-known work, Digimon: Our War Game.
If you’ve watched the latter, you’ll notice that the 2 movies are quite similar and this sparked some controversy among fans.
Chihayafuru is a criminally underrated anime that blends romance with sports, comedy, and slice of life, released in 2011 with 25 episodes.
The story follows Chihaya, an average girl with a dream of seeing her younger sister live a happy life.
But the arrival of Arata changes everything when he tells her she’s making a mistake by dedicating her life to others. Arata is a renowned player of the Japanese card game Karuta, and he soon gets Chihaya hooked on it too.
This starts her journey to become the number one player in the sport.
Chihayafuru is an excellent anime that weaves together various themes and elements, keeping the viewers engaged without ever feeling dull or unbalanced.
And whatever you do, don’t underestimate or avoid it simply because it’s based on a card game, as there’s so much more to it.
Similar to any sports anime, Chihayafuru blends a compelling narrative alongside the game sequences, featuring exceptionally well-crafted characters, unexpected twists, and much more.
Not to mention that during the Karuta games, you’ll be utterly captivated, experiencing gripping thrills that will keep you glued to the screen.
18. Death Note
Death Note is undeniably one of the most popular and influential anime series, and it’s not even a debate.
This series, adapted from the manga by Oba and Obata, has become a staple of pop culture and even those who don’t typically watch anime are familiar with it.
The story revolves around Light Yagami, a model student who is disillusioned with the world.
One day, he discovers a mysterious notebook, the Death Note, which has the power to cause the death of anyone whose name is written in it with the help of Ryuk, a shinigami.
Light begins using the notebook to kill criminals with the goal of purging the world of evil, and that’s why he’s one of the best evil MCs ever.
But he soon finds himself facing off against L, the world’s greatest private investigator, who is determined to stop him.
What more can we say? After all, we’re talking about Death Note, one of the best mystery and investigative anime ever created.
What’s even more remarkable is how it continually challenges your sense of judgment, keeping you in constant contemplation about who is right or wrong within the two factions.
The duality between Light and L is undeniably one of the most iconic elements in anime history.
17. Death Parade
Death Parade consists of 12 episodes and blends the tension of death games with an interest in the supernatural and mystery.
When two people die simultaneously, the law dictates that, before they move on, they must be summoned to a place situated between hell and heaven for judgment.
One such place is the Quindecim, a bar operated by an impassive, white-haired bartender and his dark, long-haired assistant.
Here, they will engage in various games of all kinds, but the participants are unaware that this process is meant to decide their fate…
Death Parade may seem on the surface like a lighthearted, colorful anime with supernatural elements at first glance.
But don’t be deceived, as beneath the playful surface of the games the characters partake in, there are sad, psychological, and even philosophical moments, especially in its unexpected ending.
16. Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasyte: The Maxim is a 2014 anime adaptation of a vintage manga from the 1990s, presented in a modern style with excellent results.
In this thrilling anime, Shinichi Izumi, a high school student, becomes a host to a parasitic alien called Migi, who fails to take over Shinichi’s brain, ending up in his right hand.
Now, they are forced to rely on each other and defend themselves against other hostile parasites seeking to eliminate their species.
Parasyte is an incredibly well-rounded anime, blending lots of action and gore with a plot full of psychological twists and turns, even making room for romance subplots.
It will also pose several moral dilemmas as the parasites gradually evolve and cultivate their own intelligence and empathy, making you think that maybe they also deserve some sympathy.
Trigun is an iconic action anime set in a post-apocalyptic world that has inspired other series in this subgenre for years. It was released in 1998 and consists of 26 episodes.
The story revolves around Vash the Stampede, an infamous outlaw who leaves a trail of destruction in every town and village he visits.
To put an end to the chaos and save their failing insurance companies, two agents are sent to apprehend him. But upon encountering Vash, they discover that he is actually a kind and generous individual.
To this day, Trigun remains one of the best choices you can make if you’re looking for action, plot twists, Sci-Fi and characters written to the limits of perfection.
Another remarkable aspect is its pacing, initially composed of self-contained episodes that gradually coalesce to construct a progressively intricate narrative.
14. One Punch Man
One Punch Man is one of the most popular anime based on a seinen manga in recent years, released in 2 seasons so far.
The story revolves around Saitama, a 25-year-old boy who decides to become a hobby hero and possesses the power to defeat any enemy with a single punch.
But this power is also a curse, as it forces him into a boring life with no one to really challenge him.
One Punch Man is a perfect choice if you want to combine comedy and gags that will make you burst into laughter with lots of beautifully choreographed action and great animations.
This is even better if you have read a lot of battle shonen manga and you know the most common stereotypes but mind you that this show was adapted from a seinen manga.
In fact, despite its comedic and parody nature, there will also be space for serious moments and incredibly well-developed characters, rendering it all the more comprehensive.
Monster is a 74-episode anime based on Naoki Urasawa’s seinen manga masterpiece of the same name.
The story follows Kenzo Tenma, a renowned surgeon. One day he decides to rebel against his boss, saving a child from a fatal wound instead of the mayor of Düsseldorf, the city where the hospital is located.
Time will prove Dr. Tenma wrong as he realizes that the child he saved, Johan Liebert, has become over time a serial killer who continues to claim lives.
It will then be up to him to investigate to get to the bottom of it and stop Johan, to make up for his mistake.
Monster has now become a cult with its story being one of the best crime plots ever, with plot twists that are always unexpected and perfectly constructed.
Its true strength undoubtedly lies in its characters, written to perfection, especially when it comes to Johan, widely regarded as one of the greatest anime villains of all time.
12. Boogiepop Phantom
Boogiepop Phantom is a 12-episode anime in the fantasy, horror, and mystery genre, released in 2000 and based on a light novel and animated by Madhouse.
The story revolves around a small town where, 5 years after a series of murders, mysterious cases of student disappearances begin to occur, bringing back memories of the past horrors.
Soon these events lead to encounters with Boogiepop, the God of Death.
The anime was highly successful at the time, praised for its complex and fleshed-out characters, as well as the author’s extensive research that went into creating the work.
The result of this is an incredibly deep story that simultaneously delves into mystery elements that will keep you engaged, along with philosophical and horror themes that add a tremendous layer of depth.
Redline is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and best anime movies ever, boasting some of the finest animation in history. It was released in 2009 as an original story produced by Madhouse studio.
The setting of Redline takes place in a future where all modes of transportation have advanced significantly, and old tire-equipped cars are now used solely for entertainment in high-octane races.
Every five years, the legendary REDLINE race unfolds, drawing the most skilled and daring drivers from across the galaxy.
JP, the main character, is a cash-strapped driver whose unique style has won him a devoted fan following, despite his scarce victories.
JP yearns to compete in the REDLINE, but a past accident keeps him from qualifying for the race.
But a twist of fate occurs when, due to the withdrawal of 2 drivers and a public vote, he gains an unexpected spot in the REDLINE, even without the initial qualifications.
But is it just luck, or is there something more at play?
Redline’s themes align perfectly with its plot: pure entertainment. You won’t find profound or philosophical themes, but instead, pure adrenaline and one of the most avant-garde (and hand-drawn) animations ever.
10. A Place Further Than The Universe
A Place Further than the Universe is an anime with cool animations and direction, released in 2018 with 13 episodes.
The series follows the journey of four high school girls: Mari Tamaki, Shirase Kobuchizawa, Hinata Miyake, and Yuzuki Shiraishi, as they embark on an expedition to Antarctica in search of Shirase’s missing mother.
Throughout their adventure, they encounter both physical and emotional challenges, discovering more about themselves and each other, while experiencing the adventure of a life.
A Place Further than the Universe tells a captivating story of adventure and the bond between the main characters, in a chill and laid-back atmosphere.
Their journey is utilized as a pretext and metaphor to depict the growth and evolution of the characters, a narrative approach that will make you feel part of their group.
9. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is an iconic 2001 anime movie featuring horror and action themes, as well as some fine gore scenes.
It serves as a spiritual sequel to the 1985 original movie, but you can enjoy it without having watched the first installment, as both are self-contained stories.
The story unfolds in a dystopian future dominated by vampires and their reign of terror.
Many individuals, including a girl named Charlotte, have suffered at their hands, with Charlotte recently falling victim to a kidnapping.
In a desperate bid to rescue her, her father has enlisted the services of vampire hunters and D, a half-vampire, half-human hybrid.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a hidden gem with a story waiting to be uncovered. Its production started in Japan and later transitioned to the West for its final stages due to the prospect of American production.
This transition significantly influenced its themes, delving into the origins of the vampire stereotype and its various interpretations in Hollywood and Western cinema history.
And the outcome is this small masterpiece that blends Eastern and Western elements into a unique mix that will go on in history.
8. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
This anime is a ray of hope for fantasy anime in a world full of isekai and this anime adaptation is doing quite well so far.
Frieren is an elf-sorceress who belongs to the team of heroes that vanquished the demon king.
As an elf, the 10 years she spent with her fellow heroes represent only a small portion of her long life, a fact that doesn’t apply to her companions who must endure the consequences of their actions.
This situation leads Frieren to contemplate the significance of her memories and the broader meaning of life.
Frieren is a rare gem in the world of fantasy that has emerged in recent years. Finally, we have a fantasy series that takes a different approach, breaking free from the genre’s usual stereotypes.
The story begins at the end, with the main characters having already achieved the grand feat typically central to other series of this kind, and it centers on the aftermath, not the action itself.
Don’t get fooled by these premises because Frieren isn’t as sad as the trailer lets you believe and you will get plenty of slice-of-life moments and fun scenes with the cast.
One thing we love about it is the detailed combat system focused on magic that valorizes the prowess and expertise of the main character (and not only).
Kaiba is a one-of-a-kind Sci-Fi anime that explores the theme of memories.
In this world, memories are stored in chips outside the body, and the show presents viewers with a range of scenarios showcasing the impact this technology could have on people’s lives.
From machines that allow interaction with a chip to shuffle multiple individuals into one body to save money, the creators deliver new and innovative ideas that will leave you captivated and engaged.
Although the first few episodes may require some patience, the storyline picks up in the later episodes with many plotlines revolving around sorrow, greed, separation of rich vs poor, and romance.
But its themes don’t end there, as Kaiba goes even deeper by exploring topics of identity and offering sharp critiques of objectification and the loss of self.
And let’s not forget Yuuasa’s animation and style, which are among the best and most experimental in the industry.
6. Cardcaptor Sakura
Cardcaptor Sakura is a well-known majokko anime adapted from an equally renowned shojo manga created by the iconic CLAMP.
The story follows Sakura, a young girl who accidentally releases a book of magical cards, which grants her magical powers.
As she sets out to retrieve the lost cards, she discovers new magical abilities and forms close bonds with those around her.
If you’re a fan of magical girl stories, filled with enchantment, fantasy realms, captivating plot developments and even romance subplots, Cardcaptor Sakura is undeniably a timeless essential.
But it should be noted that this animated adaptation by Madhouse deviates from the manga in certain parts, particularly in the ending.
This isn’t necessarily a negative aspect, and it might inspire you to explore the excellent original work as well, which we recommend.
5. Hellsing Ultimate
Hellsing: Ultimate was released in 2006 and was made as an adaptation that was more faithful to the original manga written by Kota Hirano compared to the 2001 version.
Both series are produced by Studio Madhouse, but we highly recommend watching Ultimate, which excels in every aspect. Personally, we see no reason to opt for the 2006 version, as it falls short in every way.
The name of the series comes from the homonym secret organization Hellsing, whose duty is to hide the existence of Vampires and to keep the population safe.
The main character Alucard works for Hellsing as a vampire exterminator, being himself a member of the vampire race. He is supported by his new assistant Seras Victoria, a former policewoman who he saved in the past.
But a deep web of mysteries will soon arise.
If you want a series with action, gore, and lots of monsters and vampires, then Hellsing Ultimate is hard to beat. We also featured it as one of the best gory anime on Hulu and for valid reasons, as you have just read.
And this applies to all of Kota Hirano’s work, which you should check out if you like intense visual scenes.
4. The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy is an anime consisting of 11 episodes based on a novel written by Tomihiko Morimi and adapted in 2010 by Yuasa.
The beauty of The Tatami Galaxy is that it is seemingly simple in its unfolding but manages to enrapture because of its surreality and especially because of the stream of consciousness.
Yes, you read that right, the whole work gravitates around the streams of consciousness of the protagonist, so an incessant flow of words and tangled thoughts, a little like the hard life we live every day.
Tatami Galaxy is an anime in which you can see and mirror yourself, especially if you are a college student or have ever thought about different choices in your life.
In a society constantly in motion, where fashions shift as swiftly as the seasons, we often find ourselves discontent with what we have, always yearning for more. But yet, what we already possess holds significant value.
This is the message that Morimi and Yuuasa aim to communicate to us, amidst a backdrop of visionary and psychedelic scenes.
3. Wolf Children
Wolf Children is an underrated masterpiece, released as an anime movie in 2012 and a collaborative effort of various animation studios, including Madhouse.
The story revolves around the life of Hana, a 19-year-old student who falls deeply in love with a charming wolf-man.
The two marry and have two children, Yuki and Ame, who are wolf-children themselves.
The narrative traces the life of this family as they strive to lead a tranquil and secluded existence to avoid complications.
Wolf Children tells a gentle and heartwarming tale of the pure and sincere love shared between Hana and her children.
It delivers an exceptionally well-crafted slice-of-life and coming-of-age story, complete with several surprising twists and moments that will deeply touch your emotions.
And let’s not forget the animation and character design, among the best on this list.
2. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
Hunter x Hunter is unquestionably one of the best fighting anime ever, written by the iconic master Togashi, the same author behind Yu Yu Hakusho.
Hunter x Hunter follows the tale of Gon Freecs, a young boy raised in the wilderness. One day, he discovers that his father long believed to be deceased, is actually alive and one of the most formidable Hunters in the world.
Determined to follow in his father’s footsteps, Gon embarks on his own Hunter journey, setting the stage for one of the most promising narratives in anime history.
Hunter x Hunter has left an indelible mark on the fighting genre, establishing new standards that continue to influence and endure today. Even Naruto, another enduring series in the genre, drew inspiration from Hunter x Hunter.
Regarding the animation studios, you may have noticed that there are 2 versions: one from 1999 by Nippon Animation and one from 2011 by Madhouse.
Madhouse’s version is preferable in many aspects, featuring more modern animation and staying truer to the original manga, and indeed is the one we recommend.
But it must be acknowledged that the 1999 version also has its charm, especially if you’re a fan of vintage animation and those magic darker vibes.
1. Perfect Blue
In his debut as a director, the legendary Satoshi Kon in 1997 gave us a masterpiece like Perfect Blue, one of the best anime movies ever.
Mima Kirigoe is a young girl belonging to the Chams, a trio of J-Pop idols. The group is having a fair amount of success, but Mima wants to become an actress, so she leaves the group.
Amid the discouragement of the fans, Mima will start acting in a small role in a drama and some strange events will begin to take place.
A fax will be delivered to her in which she is accused of treason, and even more disturbing is the existence of a website called Mima’s Room in which someone describes her days in great detail.
Perfect Blue is the perfect representation of how to create a drama-centered story with an ever-increasing climax. It has perfect direction, with a plot that will make you feel constantly anxious and in danger just by watching it.
The movie’s central motif revolves around the theme of the loss of awareness of reality and, in a critical tone, draws inspiration from the phenomenon of idols and their objectification.
This timeless theme also serves as a precursor to an introduction to more visionary concepts, including the blurring of lines between real and parallel lives.
This is a theme later explored in works like Serial Experiments Lain and, if we so desire, also in the more recent Oshi no Ko.
Perfect Blue is actually adapted from a novel that we don’t recommend reading because it’s quite different and overall mediocre compared to this rework by Kon.