Anime That Makes You THINK?

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Spice and Wolf comes to mind for me, got me thinking about church and politics and medieval economy, not exactly grand thoughts on life and the universe but made me think a lot. Very low on action, high on exposition that gets the cogs in my brain turning.

Fascinating but at the same time makes me feel incredibly stupid too, had to ask a friend to explain how the silver coin plot worked.

Hagi:
I found Welcome to the NHK to be a rather thoughtful Anime with a deeper point to make.

It's hilariously pathetic, especially the main character, but not in any bad way and it does make you think.

Try reading the manga, believe it or not, it's even darker than the anime.

I've got to give a shout out to Bakemonogatari for making me think, in so many ways.
Cause and effect between people.

Grave of the fire flies. A must see. Roger Ebert even added it to his list all time greatest movies.

I guess I must not like most "thinking" anime...

Most of the stuff listed here I've either never seen or really not liked.

The only thing that Neon Genesis Evangelion made me think was how stupid it was. Show would have been better if Shinji had gotten a bullet in the head in ep1. (just my opinion)

Well my list of animes that I've watched isn't as great compared to my list of mangas that I read, I probably cannot give a very good answer.

But I do know of one anime. Baccano. It was pretty cool how they managed to make story from multiple points of view, while the story was about theft on a train.

I would also suggest the manga Life is Money. My god, that manga will make you think about life in general.

Not enough Puella Magi Madoka Magica mentions! That show will make you question the true desires of any seemingly innocent wish and comtemplate the true value of a human life. All this somehow from a magical girl series. Oh, and it's only 12 episodes, so it's an easy watch.

Wow, has no one mentioned "Wolf's Rain" yet? It's not at all my favorite series, but holy cow is it packed with symbolism and religious/philosophical references. At the very least it will make you wonder why things are happening the way they are happening, and think about what it might mean.

Mnemosyne has been suggested, and it is a weird case; it's very heavy with references and a mythology all its own, but I wouldn't really say it's that thought provoking. Worth watching for sure, but when it's over you are left wondering less about what it all means than what the fuck were the creators thinking when they made it?

Fullmetal Alchemist is fantastic though. Great story, engaging characters, and some truly deep and touching moments of introspection on what makes a life real and worth living. One of my favorite anime/manga ever. And it doesn't matter which version of the anime you watch either, both are brilliant.

And NGE is another odd situation, in that some people think it's fucking deep as shit and defines their whole lives, and others think its just pseudo-philosophical bullshit with a meaningless layer of symbols over it that signify nothing. And you never know which you're going to be until you watch it. So I guess I am recommending it. (For the record, I'm a lot closer to the second position here, but I still think it's a relatively enjoyable story.)

Glad you're enjoying GitS, though, that is easily my favorite anime. In a way in even helped define the direction I've decided to take with my life.

Eureka seveN.

Love that Anime and it's complex as hell. I love it a lot more than the manga counterpart because it offers more mystery and complex arcs, as well as a fitting ending compared to the manga.

I would also say Death Note and Steins;Gate, but personally, I find the manga to be better.

Tanis:
Currently re-watching 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' and I realized how few 'cerebral' anime I seem to have found...

So...ya'll have any you can think of?

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

It basically takes this organization with super advanced giant robots, pits them against the 3 earth factions with far less advanced giant robots, and then proceeds to follow around the organization, the world leaders, and at least 2 citizens in order to detail the effects of this organization on a large and small scale. It's really good.

Tanis:
Currently re-watching 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' and I realized how few 'cerebral' anime I seem to have found...

So...ya'll have any you can think of?

Code Geass
Death Note
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Kiba
Busou Renkin(kinda)

Those all made me think, especially the first 3, but even the last two, to some extent.

Racecarlock:

Tanis:
Currently re-watching 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' and I realized how few 'cerebral' anime I seem to have found...

So...ya'll have any you can think of?

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

It basically takes this organization with super advanced giant robots, pits them against the 3 earth factions with far less advanced giant robots, and then proceeds to follow around the organization, the world leaders, and at least 2 citizens in order to detail the effects of this organization on a large and small scale. It's really good.

Props, very good anime. Don't know why I didn't think of that one.

TheVampwizimp:
Full Metal Alchemist

Same, why didn't I think of that one.

Oh, one last one: Darker than Black.

Ever think about becoming an assassin? Watch Noir and see if you still feel the same way.

the doom cannon:
So question. Am I the only anime can in existence who doesn't like Eva? Seriously I just didn't enjoy it at all. I could barely finish it, but then similar stories like rahxephon and asura cryin I couldn't stop watching. I mean this in an interested way and in no way as a thinly veiled insult/I'm better than you kinda thing

No, you're not alone. I liked Eva when I was an awkward, angry teen dealing with some depression and other stuff. Once I grew up, stopped blaming everyone else in the world for my problems, and took some control over my life my mood improved dramatically and all of the angst in Evangelion seemed well, pointless.

The symbolism for example: Yes, the "angel" Sachiel shoots blasts that explode in crosses. It's so symbolic! Except it doesn't mean a damn thing. It's just Hideaki Anno trying to make you think he's terribly clever and not just a moody bastard dwelling on miserable imagery because it helped him with his depression. But that's how almost all of the symbolism in Eva works- it doesn't actually mean anything, it's just a reference to something else. Evangelion is to Christian/Kabbalah imagery what Kill Bill is to classic movie fight scenes- just because they're references doesn't mean they have anything to say.

Also, part of what made Evangelion appealing for me as a teen was that we were watching it on VHS as fast as new releases came out stateside. Anime still wasn't super big then, so we had to drive an hour to the nearest store that carried anime, buy a tape, then come home and watch it together. It was a ritual bonding experience between friends. And especially towards the end, most episodes end on cliff hangers. When the episode with Bardiel (another religious reference, how symbolic!) ended, we literally stood up and shouted "No!". But when you can easily watch every episode and don't have to wait for the payoff from the engineered cliff-hanger, the ability to care drops dramatically. Actually, I had the same experience watching Battlestar Galactica. By about the end of season one I started questioning why people were making such a big deal about the series because I was watching it by renting DVDs, not episode by episode.

The biggest thing that sealed the coffin of Evangelion was going to Japan and seeing what sort of Japanese people are fans. To a man they seem to be awkward, miserable teenage males with crippling social issues.

Not going to mention which Gundam series or the character because I figure spoilers still exist out in the wide wide world of anime. I'm enjoying watching the good guys take out the bad guys and then my favorite character in the series gets killed. After the shock and crushing sadness it really made me think about the price of violence and if it's really worth it.

Recently watched To on Netflix. The first episode has an interesting twist even if I did figure it out before the twist was revealed. Kind of cool that the episode can make you think outside of the box enough to figure it out.

gamerguy20097:
Grave of the fire flies. A must see. Roger Ebert even added it to his list all time greatest movies.

I found the story deeply moving but not particularly thought-provoking in and of itself. The thing that made me think most about that movie:

Wikipedia's Grave of the Fireflies page

Wikipedia:
Some critics have viewed Grave of the Fireflies as an anti-war film due to the graphic and emotional depiction of the pernicious repercussions of war on a society, and the individuals therein. The film focuses its attention almost entirely on the personal tragedies that war gives rise to, rather than seeking to glamorize it as a heroic struggle between competing ideologies. It emphasizes that war is society's failure to perform its most important duty to protect its own people.[8]

However, director Isao Takahata repeatedly denied that the film was an anti-war anime. In his own words, "[The film] is not at all an anti-war anime and contains absolutely no such message." Instead, Takahata had intended to convey an image of the brother and sister living a failed life due to isolation from society and invoke sympathy particularly in people in their teens and twenties, whom he felt needed to straighten up and respect their elders for the pain and suffering they had experienced during arguably the darkest point in Japan's history.[9][10]

So, to many audiences the film seems like an obvious anti-war message. I was so convinced it was anti-war that I couldn't conceive of any other message. The director intended another message. Actually, I had heard the director had an even darker intended message- implying that the death of the children was almost deserved because they abandoned their duties and chose to enjoy childhood instead of sacrificing for their nation.

So, does that mean I interpreted the movie wrong? Is the meaning of a work of art what the creators intended to convey, or what the audience gets out of it? Are we wrong because we didn't see what Takahata meant for us to see?

Death Note, Evangelion and Akira are all incredibly thinky animes. They're all absolutely brilliant too.

These have not been mentioned.

Noien
Ergo Proxy
Blame

The Second series of Darker than Black.

It's so full of Japanese mythology it's quite hard to follow at first, but when you get it it's fantastic.

Oh and Rurouni Kenshin, especially Trust and Betrayal, they're a lot more personal about Kenshin's personality and character.

Fenra:
Spice and Wolf comes to mind for me, got me thinking about church and politics and medieval economy, not exactly grand thoughts on life and the universe but made me think a lot. Very low on action, high on exposition that gets the cogs in my brain turning.

Fascinating but at the same time makes me feel incredibly stupid too, had to ask a friend to explain how the silver coin plot worked.

I second this. Not all thinking has to be so dark, sometimes it can be complex economics and political situations. Also a wonderful display of character development and them eventually realizing what they mean to each other. Finally, some pretty damn funny snark and banter.

WouldYouKindly:

Fenra:
Spice and Wolf comes to mind for me, got me thinking about church and politics and medieval economy, not exactly grand thoughts on life and the universe but made me think a lot. Very low on action, high on exposition that gets the cogs in my brain turning.

Fascinating but at the same time makes me feel incredibly stupid too, had to ask a friend to explain how the silver coin plot worked.

I second this. Not all thinking has to be so dark, sometimes it can be complex economics and political situations. Also a wonderful display of character development and them eventually realizing what they mean to each other. Finally, some pretty damn funny snark and banter.

Thirded.

Another one that no one else has mentioned is Eden of the East. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and it's definitely something of a thinking man's anime. In essence, the plot centers around the question "if you were given a huge but set amount of money and a goal to change the world, how would you do it?" It's not long, but it's interesting and worth watching.

Athefist:
xxxHolic. Interesting morality plays wrapped in an ultra stylized package. I love that anime.

Oh, if you love the anime, you'll worship the manga. The continuity in the manga is a lot better and character development is a lot more consistent with the relationships between the common pairings among characters gone into more depth. Also, the crossover with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is in the manga, and some of the stories make more sense knowing this.

OT: Oh bugger, how could I forget: Hourou Musuko (or Wondering Son), tackles the rather sensitive topic of homosexuality, transvestites, transgenderism and transexualism in youth. Thoroughly recommend it, considers the subject material very maturely, though perhaps a little too maturely, as the characters end up being more sagely than would necessarily be real.

One day I'm gonna find another anime to watch.

I loved Cowboy Bebop but I can't find the effort to find another one to watch. All my friend recommends is Naruto and One Piece

Grospoliner:
These have not been mentioned.

Noien
Ergo Proxy
Blame

I have seen/read the last 2,and upon finishing them,i wondered what the fuck just happened,does that count?

Darker than black makes you think about how people who think humans are logical beasts are idiots

Steins;Gate makes you think about how significant episode 1 is upon rewatching the series,also time paradoxes

Mirai Nikki makes you think about how the protagonist will be able to top his previous stupid act,and how much better the series would be with a different protagonist
PD:i haven't finished watching Mirai Nikki

Katatori-kun:
The symbolism for example: Yes, the "angel" Sachiel shoots blasts that explode in crosses. It's so symbolic! Except it doesn't mean a damn thing. It's just Hideaki Anno trying to make you think he's terribly clever and not just a moody bastard dwelling on miserable imagery because it helped him with his depression. But that's how almost all of the symbolism in Eva works- it doesn't actually mean anything, it's just a reference to something else. Evangelion is to Christian/Kabbalah imagery what Kill Bill is to classic movie fight scenes- just because they're references doesn't mean they have anything to say.

The religious symbolism was never supposed to mean anything. It's just a framing device for the lore and a way to create punchy visuals, that's all it was ever intended to be.

This is not a fault of the show, but a misunderstanding of the people from both sides of the fence who put too much weight on the issue.

Gundum wing

The show kept me up all night once. It takes a completely logical and though out approach to how "freedom" of people can be achieved. And in the end Fighting is what gives freedom it's purpose and meaning.

gamerguy20097:
Grave of the fire flies. A must see. Roger Ebert even added it to his list all time greatest movies.

Having watched both Sage and JO's reviews of the film, I'm not sure what I want to think about it. The director really laid it on thick not to showcase how war sucks, but to shame the 1980s japanese Youth into respecting their parents. To the point where he was willing to alter the actual story the film was based on to better allow him to attack kids by guilt tripping them.

I think I'm with Sage on this, intentionally changing the tragedy of a real life survivor's tale so you can manipulate your target audience into compliance is rather terrible. And how he was adamant that the film was not meant to be anti-war really doesn't put Takahata in my good books. Force these cyphers to suffer horrifically without learning or character development so that you can better project the youth rebellion's parents onto Saeda and Setsuko is really stooping low in my opinion.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. Simply put: medieval economics and politics made incredibly engaging.
It's the sort of thing I hold up as an example whenever someone says 'Oh we need more bland hero's journey schlock'. And this anime starts out as that, and has elements of it, but it's very subversive and quite smart.

spartan231490:

Code Geass

Only if you were thinking "How the fuck can this get any more ludicrous?"
*sees first two episodes of R2*

Well, that's how. Still pisses me off.

Gabanuka:
One day I'm gonna find another anime to watch.

I loved Cowboy Bebop but I can't find the effort to find another one to watch. All my friend recommends is Naruto and One Piece

Check out the film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Commentary on 1960s Japan disguised as allegory dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. And one hell of a soundtrack.

TheVampwizimp:
Wow, has no one mentioned "Wolf's Rain" yet? It's not at all my favorite series, but holy cow is it packed with symbolism and religious/philosophical references. At the very least it will make you wonder why things are happening the way they are happening, and think about what it might mean.

Yeah, I was going to mention it but now you did, so this.
Except Wolf's Rain is my favorite series ;P

"Psycho-Pass" is currently simulcasting on Funimation that really makes you think, I recommend everybody giving it a shot.
"Welcome to the NHK" and "the Tatami Galaxy" really make you examine your life if you are in your emerging adulthood stage, or college years.

All three anime should be given the chance really.

edit:

Tanis:
Currently re-watching 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' and I realized how few 'cerebral' anime I seem to have found...

So...ya'll have any you can think of?

Psycho-Pass has the same feel as Ghost in the Shell, some of the staff is from GiTS is working on it, it's much more cerebral though.

Since it seems like most everything else has been said, Elfen Lied. I liked the idea of trying to protect humanity but in the end being forced to do terrible things because of it. I spent alot of time with that one trying to decide whether I wanted Lucy to die or just repent. Also I actually ended up kinda rooting for the military group (forgot its name), sure they are hunting down, torturing, and killing little girls but each one of them tends to leave a trail of blood and guts where ever they go, so yeah hunting them is probably the smart thing to do.

Closest as I ever got to such anime would be Full Metal Alchemist which I just started watching but even there they just repeat dozen times each episode that to gain something you must sacrifice something else and only thought that ever sparked in my mind is "Disagree".

aegix drakan:
Steins;Gate

DAMN that was a good, smart anime.

Also, to a lesser extent, Gundam 00 season 1.

Steins;Gate was packed full of fridge logic it was my AOTY but probably not one you want to go super deep into.

Mr.Squishy:
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. Simply put: medieval economics and politics made incredibly engaging.
It's the sort of thing I hold up as an example whenever someone says 'Oh we need more bland hero's journey schlock'. And this anime starts out as that, and has elements of it, but it's very subversive and quite smart.

I watch Maoyuu for the plot.
image

Most anime makes me think "Why would you react like that in that given situation? Are you bipolar or incapable of rational thought?" or "What is stopping you from shooting them? They're RIGHT THERE. Stop staring with your mouth open. You can end this right now."

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