Sunrise, currently known as Bandai Namco Filmworks, is undeniably the zenith for every mecha enthusiast.
We are, after all, referring to the creative geniuses behind the legendary Gundam, the most pivotal and iconic mecha franchise in history.
But what many people may not realize is that Sunrise offers much more than just Gundam, boasting a production catalog that shouldn’t be underestimated in the least.
That’s precisely why we’ve curated a list of the best anime produced by Sunrise that you shouldn’t overlook under any circumstances.
Table of Contents
12. Crest of the Stars
Crest of the Stars is an action romance anime released in 1999 in 13 episodes from which a sequel was also made in 2000 called Banner of the Stars.
The story is set in a future where humans are at war against an empire of genetically modified beings called Abh.
In this setting Ghintec, an ordinary boy, is about to become a count of the Abh, so he must learn their customs, along with Princess Lamirth.
Crest of the Stars packs vintage Sci-Fi, action, war, romance, and more than a few political intrigues into its 13 episodes, making it a series not to be overlooked.
And Banner of the Stars, its direct sequel, is also produced by Sunrise, so we highly recommend watching it if you’re seeking more after enjoying Crest of the Stars.
After all, we’re discussing one of the most successful space operas in history, that has managed to keep a high level of quality.
City Hunter is an iconic manga by Tsukasa Hojo, later adapted into a remarkably successful anime of the same name.
The main character is Ryo Saeba, a private detective with a peculiar personality operating in a dangerous Tokyo. Along with him works Hideyuki with his sister Kaori, and all three together are hired for various tasks and jobs.
The anime features a self-contained or episodic structure, and in each episode, the main character will work on different cases.
City Hunter is a straightforward and enjoyable series that blends action and comedy.
It will surely keep you entertained if you’re seeking a series to follow without the need to keep up with complex plots.
But if there is one thing City Hunter does well, that is to paint excellently the extravagance of Japan in the 1980s, the years when excess was the norm.
Inuyasha is an iconic anime based on the manga by the legendary Rumiko Takahashi, the legendary Queen of Manga, adapted in 167 episodes by Sunrise.
The story follows Kagome, an ordinary eighth-grade student who unexpectedly falls down a well in her home’s garden and is transported 500 years into the past, to the Sengoku era.
In this era, Kagome discovers that she is the reincarnation of Kikyo, a powerful priestess who had the responsibility of protecting the Shikon Jewel, a dangerous object coveted by villains.
Teaming up with Inuyasha, a half-demon with canine-like traits, Kagome embarks on a journey to safeguard the sacred jewel from falling into the wrong hands.
Inuyasha is one of the best examples, if not the best, of how to masterfully combine a fantastic action, a fantasy storyline and a stunning Feudal Japan setting with a remarkably well-crafted romance.
This series is a modern classic that is steadily gaining recognition as a cult favorite, much like many of Rumiko Takahashi’s other works.
If you’re reading this list and haven’t watched it yet be sure to add it to your watchlist as soon as possible.
9.The Vision of Escaflowne
The Vision of Escaflowne is a unique and possibly inimitable anime released in 1996 in 26 episodes. If you enjoy series that break away from the usual mold, then this is a must-watch.
The protagonist, Hitomi Kanzaki, is a typical high school girl with two passions: running and tarot cards. One day, during her tarot readings, she experiences a vision of being transported to an unknown world.
Initially dismissing it as a mere dream, she soon realizes its reality when a dragon and a swordsman named Van Fanel appear before her during a training session.
Van rescues Hitomi by defeating the dragon, and they find themselves mysteriously transported to the war-torn planet Gaia, where a battle against the Zaibach empire rages.
Nearly 30 years have passed and to this day and few, if any, anime have been able to replicate the magical blend of genres and themes that this series offers.
It’s not every day that you come across isekai, action, mecha, fantasy, war, and romance all in one series, right?
Not to mention its fantastic setting that blends fantasy, Sci-Fi, and a richly detailed political world. Sunrise pushed themselves on this one, and we love it.
8.Mobile Suit Gundam 0079
Let’s be honest, it would be impossible to compile a list of the best anime produced by Sunrise without including the classic original Gundam.
Launched in 1979, this series left an indelible mark on the anime landscape, changing it forever.
The background of Gundam is simple, there isn’t enough space on Earth and people have moved across space colonies.
In the year 0079 of the Universal Century, Side 3, the farthest group of colonies from Earth declared themselves the Principality of Zeon and fought for independence, seeking to subdue all other space colonies.
That’s the beginning of a devastating war, that will forever alter the course of history in the universe.
From here, you have a lot of OVAs, series and movies that describe the horrors of war under different circumstances while showcasing charming mecha designs.
Gundam has undoubtedly experienced a complex history of production and development, but there is absolutely no doubt that it stands as one of the most significant mecha franchises of all time.
7.The Big O
The Big O is an innovative mecha anime that has captivated fans since its release in 1999, especially for those who enjoy crime anime.
Set 40 years after an incident known as The Event, which wiped out the city of Paradigm and erased its citizens’ memories.
The story follows Roger Smith, the city’s protector who uses the giant robot Big O. But as he keeps Paradigm safe, a complex web of mysteries emerges, reaching back to events from four decades ago.
The Big O perfectly blends mecha, Sci-Fi, investigation, action, and a stylish Noir setting into a fantastic and compelling series.
If you’re looking for a mecha anime that breaks away from the norm, The Big O is the perfect choice for you and the fights are always great to watch.
Code Geass marked the anime landscape thanks to its interesting alternate-history setting and its edgy main character.
Japan has become a colony of the British Empire and is now known as Area 11.
The main character is Lelouch, a guy who gets caught in the crossfire after a normal day at school and manages to escape after receiving the Geass from C.C., a mysterious girl.
This power enables him to have absolute power over others simply by direct eye contact, allowing him to control their minds.
This is where his revenge against the British Empire begins, sparking a terrible war guided by rebels.
Code Geass is well-known for its intricate psychological and political entanglements along with its plot twists, so you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for an anime in this genre.
As a Sunrise production, it revisits the real-robot-style mecha theme, which surprisingly complements perfectly its themes.
The mecha designs aren’t the best but fit into the story as they are the main weapon you will see during conflicts.
Code Geass is a story of tyranny, justice, rebellion, loyalty, and the repercussions of choices, offering ample opportunity for moral reflections.
Gintama is one of the most popular and unique anime in recent years, consisting of 357 episodes and based on Hideaki Sorachi’s manga of the same name.
The series follows the adventures of Gintoki, Shimpachi, and Kagura, 3 boys who make up the Yorozuya handyman agency.
The whole story is set in a world where an alternative ancient feudal Japan has been conquered by aliens and is now confronted with a major technological advancement imposed by the invaders.
Gintama makes demented comedy its strong point, basing entire sagas on utterly silly pretexts and never failing to throw in the laughs.
But every now and then, to break the seriousness, we will also have serious, action-packed story arcs.
If we had to pick a single word to describe Gintama, it would be mayhem, but in a good sense. It’s hard to put it into words… watch this crazy mess and you will notice what we mean.
4.Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team was released approximately 15 years later the original series and is part of the golden age of Gundam OAVs.
It’s set 1 month after Gundam 0079 and is made up by 11 episodes along with a 12th that concludes the story.
There is also a medium-length movie that fills in the gaps in the story after episode 8, following the unexpected death of the original director.
Set during the One Year War, this installment departs from the franchise’s typical space settings by primarily taking place on Earth.
The central focus of the story revolves around the tumultuous romance between Federal Sub-Lieutenant Shiro Amada and noble Zeon pilot Ayna Sahalin, with their forbidden love story despite being from opposing factions.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is a series within the franchise that we couldn’t avoid featuring in our selection of the best Sunrise anime.
This is due to its significant quality and even differences from the Gundam mainline, such as setting its story on Earth and having one of the best mecha fights in the entire genre.
Planetes is a niche animation gem, released in 2003 in 24 episodes.
It’s 2075, and humanity has colonized space. In this setting, we find Ai Tanabe, a bold young girl who joins the Technora Corporation as a member of the debris section.
Here she will make the acquaintance of her peculiar colleagues, with who she will develop a fantastic relationship and find her love.
Planetes is a fantastic and unique slice of life and anime, with a spectacular setting and animations and an excellent cast of characters.
It deals with a wide array of themes, including environmental issues, pollution, space policies, international collaboration, and the quest for meaning in life.
All the while, it pays significant attention to the dynamics between the characters.
Another one of its merits is the plausibility of its science fiction. There’s nothing overly exaggerated or unrealistic, and instead, everything depicted in the anime could readily become a reality in the future.
2.Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is the second Gundam series, released in 1985, 6 years after the first installment, with 50 episodes.
This series, set in Universal Century 0087 and 7 years after the One Year War, follows 17-year-old Kamille Bidan as he gets caught up in the conflict between the Titans and AEUG factions after stealing a prototype Gundam.
While the first 2 episodes may seem a bit absurd with their over-the-top action, the show quickly finds its footing and dives into a complex storyline that delves into the relationships between the characters.
Speaking of the (many) relationships, the romance between Kamille and Four Murasame is both heartwarming and tragic, and showcases how Zeta is even deeper than 0079.
This sequel represents a significant advancement from the first series, not only in terms of animation but also because it’s evident that Sunrise was beginning to grasp the vision it wanted to instill in the franchise.
This series is considered one of the best in the Gundam franchise on many fronts, managing to provide a profound exploration of themes and genres.
Some may complain about the slow pacing but we think the cast and what actually happens in Zeta are more than worth it.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is regarded as one of the best anime series of all time, and it’s unlikely to lose this title anytime soon.
Set in a not-too-distant future where inter-spatial travel is the norm and Mars is a vital part of human life, the show follows a group of bounty hunters, or cowboys, as they chase down intergalactic outlaws.
Meet Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter, in the year 2071, and witness Spike’s many talents and abilities in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, garnering a reputation as one of the strongest fighters in the universe.
He chases criminals with his partner, Jet Black, and together they team up with a con artist, a child hacker, and a Welsh Corgi to form a bizarre family.
But when an old enemy comes back into Spike’s life, he must now choose between his past and his newfound family.
Cowboy Bebop was, is, and will be for a long time one of the best choices you can make if you are looking for an adventure, Sci-Fi, set in space, drama, and even a tear-jerking series.
And how about its jazz soundtrack? It’s one of the best in anime history, and some might even argue that it’s the best.