I think there are many essential elements of animation. The story and worldview are important, but it is no exaggeration to say that the artwork is the first impression of animation.
If an anime has beautiful drawings, it is enough to make you think, “I want to watch this anime! It is not an exaggeration to say that beautiful drawing are the first impression of an anime! Animations with impressive drawings are called “anime with beautiful drawings,” but they are not just beautiful; there are many different ways to focus on the drawings.
In this article, we will carefully select ten such animated cartoon works and also report their characteristics.
1. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is an anime set in a post-war Europe-like world. The protagonist, Violet Evergarden, is a young girl devoid of emotions, having known nothing but fighting.
Despite suffering severe injuries and losing both her arms in the war, Violet survives thanks to the protection of Major Gilbert, whom she deeply admires. However, when she wakes up in the hospital, the war is over, and Gilbert is nowhere to be found.
After being discharged from the hospital, Violet takes up a job as an “Auto Memories Doll,” a ghostwriter who writes heartfelt letters on behalf of others to understand the meaning behind Gilbert’s last words: “I love you.” Through her work as a Doll, she gradually learns about emotions and undergoes personal growth.
Violet Evergarden is renowned for its beautiful animation, as expected from Kyoto Animation. The landscapes are breathtaking, and the characters’ eyes, resembling gemstones, are particularly striking.
In the series, Violet treasures a brooch with a gemstone of the same colour as Gilbert’s eyes, which he had given to her as a gift.
2. Demon Slayer
Demon Slayer is a story set in Japan during the Taisho era, depicting the battle between man-eating demons known as “Oni” and the Demon Slayers who seek to eradicate them. The protagonist, Tanjiro Kamado, is the eldest son of a large family. However, one day, upon returning from work, he discovers that almost his entire family has been killed by demons.
His sister, Nezuko, is the sole survivor, but she has been turned into a demon. To restore her humanity, Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayer Corps, an organization dedicated to exterminating demons. Thus begins Tanjiro’s arduous journey to avenge his family and find the culprit responsible for turning his sister into a nightmare.
The animation of Demon Slayer is notable for its strong and bold lines, resembling cut-out paper art, and the unique and expressive eyes of each character. Additionally, the landscapes are depicted with such realism that they almost appear like photographs. Many viewers were captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the scene in the first episode, where Tanjiro walks on a snowy path.
Another highlight of the series is the portrayal of the characters’ “Breathing Techniques,” which are their special combat techniques. The animation demonstrates strong attention to detail and creates a captivating visual experience.
3. IRODUKU: The World in Colors
Iroduku: The World in Colors is a work by renowned director Toshuya Shinohara, known for ‘Nagi no Asukara.’ Like the striking beauty of water in ‘Nagi no Asukara,’ this anime also presents vibrant flowers and sparkling stars in the night sky that appear even more dazzling than reality.
The protagonist of Iroduku: The World in Colors is Hitomi Tsukishiro, a girl who lost her ability to see colours at a young age and lives in a monochromatic world. Hitomi is a descendant of sorcerers, but she struggles with magic and gradually becomes resigned, lacking in emotions.
At that time, Hitomi’s grandmother, Kohaku, sent her back to a world 60 years ago. In this new era, Hitomi discovers that she can briefly see colours when she looks at the drawings of a boy named Yuito Aoi.
In Iroduku: The World in Colors, the keyword is “colour,” so great emphasis is placed on vibrant animation. It is also noteworthy how the world switches between monochrome when seen in vibrant colours through Hitomi’s eyes and vibranrtial colour,” where certain elements are highlighted in colour. At the same time, the rest remains monochromatic, creating a distinct visual effect that captures attention.
4. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is an anime that depicts the independent filmmaking activities of three unique high school girls in the Visual Research Club. The main characters are Midori Asakusa, who is curious and has a rich imagination; Sayaka Kanamori, who is interested in Asakusa’s ideas and is constantly thinking about making money; and Tsubame Mizusaki, a reader model who aspires to become an animator.
Midori firmly believes that “the setting is everything in anime” and dreams of adventuring in the ultimate world she has imagined.
The animation in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is noteworthy for its originality rather than beauty. The focus is on depicting the process of creating anime itself, and many scenes resemble sketches drawn with a pencil.
The world depicted when Midori vividly describes her rich imagination appears as rough sketches with varying colours. This unique expression of characters entering a world that resembles unfinished drawings adds to the charm of the anime.
5. One Punch Man
One Punch Man is an anime that portrays the story of an invincible hero who defeats any enemy with just one punch, which makes it difficult for him to feel the thrill of battle.
The protagonist, Saitama, helps a young boy about to be attacked by a monster while walking around, feeling frustrated due to his unsuccessful job search. At that moment, he recalls his childhood dream of becoming a hero and decides to pursue it as a hobby.
However, after three years of intense training, Saitama becomes incredibly powerful, defeating any enemy with a single punch and becoming the strongest hero.
The animation in One Punch Man is particularly noteworthy for its depiction of the intensity and impact of the battle scenes. The animation effectively conveys his overwhelming strength by emphasizing the size of Saitama’s clenched fist. The attacks of both Saitama and the monsters are portrayed with solid lighting and lines, creating a sense of power and excitement.
6. Guilty Crown
Guilty Crown is an anime that portrays Japan, placed under American governance, where a mysterious virus has spread, disrupting order.
The protagonist, Shu Ouma, is an ordinary high school student who is a fan of the internet songstress Inori Yuzuriha. One day, when Shu goes to his favourite spot to eat lunch, he finds Inori hiding there, badly injured. However, Inori is suddenly taken away by soldiers who appear out of nowhere.
Shu sets out to rescue Inori, and, in the process, his right hand becomes imbued with the power of the “King’s Ability.” From that point on, Shu’s destiny undergoes a rapid transformation.
Guilty Crown boasts impressive animation that goes beyond what one would expect from a series aired in 2011. While not consistently surprising, the anime features beautiful scenes that use lighting and captivate the viewers.
7. Yuri!!! on Ice
Yuri!!! on Ice is a unique anime that revolves around the theme of figure skating. The protagonist, Yuuri Katsuki, is a figure skater with great talent but struggles with his weak mental state, preventing him from achieving the desired results.
While contemplating retirement and isolating himself at his family’s home, Yuuri receives a sudden visit from Viktor Nikiforov, a top world figure skater, who offers to become his coach!
Yuri!!! on Ice realistically portrays the smooth and continuous movements of figure skating. The anime also features real-life locations as models, including train stations and the hot spring facility run by Yuuri’s family, exhibiting great detail and accuracy.
Furthermore, the opening sequence cleverly utilizes colour schemes to create strong impressions. Amidst the realistic visuals, incorporating comical scenes adds a delightful contrast, enhancing the overall appeal. The animation of this series is genuinely meticulous, with attention given to every detail.
8. Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions
Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions is a story where boys and girls who have lost their memories live in the mysterious world of “Grimgar.” The protagonist, Haruhiro, is one of them and forms a team with six others in the same situation, working as volunteer soldiers to fight against enemies.
However, Haruhiro and his team struggle to defeat even the weakest goblins and can’t earn any income. Determined to become stronger, they join a guild and start putting effort into surviving and thriving in this world.
One of the captivating aspects of Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions is the unique art style that occasionally incorporates watercolour-like touches in the backgrounds. The colours, especially in depicting the starry sky, are beautifully rendered, creating an atmosphere different from the everyday world.
9. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is set in a fictional island country called Hinomoto during the height of the industrial revolution. The people fear the “Kabaneri,” immortal monsters that suddenly appear, and innocent lives are often lost in the struggle to protect themselves.
The protagonist, Ikoma, carries the burden of killing his sister, who had become a Kabaneri. He quietly researches technologies to counter the Kabaneri. Finally, he gets to test his invention, the “Tsuranuki Tube,” and discovers its effectiveness against the Kabaneri. However, he becomes infected with the Kabaneri virus…
The armoured steam locomotives that protect people from the Kabane in ‘Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress’ have an incredible sense of depth and impact, almost resembling 3D. The characters are also beautifully depicted, adding realism to the combat scenes. The way light shines through, and the headlights of the steam locomotives are illustrated with stunning beauty akin to the real world.
Fate/Zero is a spin-off of Fate/stay night and tells the story of the “Holy Grail War,” a battle for granting wishes by the Holy Grail. Seven magicians, known as Masters, summon heroic spirits called Servants and fight until only one remains.
The protagonist, Kiritsugu Emiya, participates in the Holy Grail War as a Master and summons the knight Saber. He is the sixth generation of a lineage of magicians but has a dark past as a mercenary involved in assassinations.
Fate/Zero features numerous battle scenes due to the nature of the Holy Grail War. The animation quality is outstanding, surpassing expectations for a series released in 2011. The beautifully intense depiction of flames and light dramatically enhances the stunning backgrounds and adds to its allure.
The characteristics and points of focus vary depending on the animated cartoon. The production and expression methods that suit the animation make the animation more exciting and impactful.
If the animation has beautiful drawings, you will be drawn into the world of the characters’ expressions and movements, and the mountains, starry sky, and ocean in the background are more beautifully depicted than in reality!