Many animated works are still being drawn by many animators. What is the most difficult thing to draw in general? It would have to be the expression of “water”.
Generally, water depicted in animation is painted in colors and is not realistic in nature. However, colored water sometimes looks more like water than real water. Blue-green water is sometimes better than blue-painted water. It can be said that the expression of water is one of the crystallization of drawing techniques born from the trial and error of our predecessors.
In this article, we will introduce 15 water-based anime that take the concept of water and meticulously intertwine it with the storyline.
1. Spirited Away
This film is written/directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. Spirited Away has been widely regarded by critics as one of the greatest films of the 21st century and is among the best-animated films ever made.
Vivid and intriguing, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro’s journey through an unfamiliar world as she strives to save her parents and return home.
In the scene where Chihiro cleanses the stink spirit, we find out that the spirit is actually an ancient river spirit who had to succumb to the pollution of mankind. Water in this scene is used as a source of revitalization.
- The art is, of course, amazing. The colours are rich and the animation is fluid
- This critically acclaimed film has won numerous awards, including the Academy Award—more commonly known as the “Oscar”—for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003
- The English version of Spirited Away was dubbed by Walt Disney Pictures and premiered in 2002
2. Garden of Words
The film focuses on Takao Akizuki, an aspiring 15-year-old shoemaker, and Yukari Yukino, a mysterious 27-year-old woman he keeps meeting at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on rainy mornings. The film performed well in theatres for an extended period of time and was hosted at many local and international film events.
Takao continues to meet with Yukari throughout the rainy season, and without even realizing it, the two are able to alleviate the worries hidden in their hearts just by being with each other. However, their personal struggles have not disappeared completely, and as the end of the rainy season approaches, their relationship will be put to the test.
Rain is the primary theme of “The Garden of Words”, both in narrative and aesthetics. In storytelling, rain is often used to represent loneliness. Here instead the rain symbolizes happiness and peace. It succeeds in creating the appropriate atmosphere for the film, ensuring that there is more here to experience than the visuals. It is just as much an experience to feel as it is to gawk at.
- Made by Makoto Shinkai, a don in the Japanese animation scene
- For a film whose strengths lie in its representation through resigned soliloquies, much of the portrayal lies in the hands of the artwork and animation which are nothing short of a masterpiece
- The soundtrack is entirely piano-based and ranges from subtler pieces that capture the ambience of the moment to more prominent pieces such as “Greenery Rain”
3. Nagi no Asukara
Long ago, all humans lived beneath the sea. However, some people preferred the surface and abandoned living underwater permanently. A manga adaptation by Risō Maeda began serialization in the June 2013 issue of ASCII Media Works’s Dengeki Daioh magazine.
Nagi no Asu kara follows the story of Hikari Sakishima and Manaka Mukaido, along with their childhood friends Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki, who are forced to leave the sea and attend a school on the surface. There, the group also meets Tsumugu Kihara, a fellow student and fisherman who loves the sea.
Water in this anime is portrayed in a plethora of ways ranging from the calm pool that club members use, to the raging water spirit. The group of friends live in an underwater village called Shioshishio
- For one, the main character cast of Nagi-Asu is rather large as well as evenly divided in gender. There is also no one that really can be called a protagonist in this series
- The visuals of Nagi-Asu are simply out-of-this-world phenomenal. I’m not talking as much about the facial expressions etcetera although those are certainly very good as well, but this category is all about the environments
- This show is a “slice of life, fantasy and romance” show, in a nutshell, however, it takes these themes and fulfills them really rather well and isn’t without some original twists
This anime carries multiple seasons and even adapted a storyline about the 2022 Tokyo Olympics. This anime is mainly centred around teenage boys and their quests to out-swim one another. There are 3 seasons and 3 films to fill your binge-watching needs.
Haruka Nanase has a love for water and a passion for swimming. In elementary school, he competed in and won a relay race with his three friends Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki, and Makoto Tachibana. After claiming victory at the tournament, the four friends went their separate ways.
The love and passion for water are portrayed through the character’s competitive spirits, and the act of swimming plays a central role in the storyline.
- In terms of Art and Sound, I can only say that both are outstanding. The animations are at the peak of what the anime industry could deliver during the time of the release and specially “the diving in the water” and, of course, the bodies of the characters are just beautiful
- Using a cliché isn’t bad in itself, but there are ways of doing it well and ways of doing it wrong, this show does it splendidly
- If you do not mind the easy-going pace, lack of suspense and excessive drama at times, Free! is a notably pleasant break from the enthralling, heart beat-enhancing usual anime
5. Weathering with You
The film received positive reviews, with praise for the animation, narrative, music, visuals, and emotional weight, although some reviewers were divided over perceived similarities to Your Name. A light novel of the same name, also written by Shinkai, was published a day prior to the film’s premiere, while a manga adaptation was serialized in on July 25, 2019.
Both fates intertwine when Hodaka attempts to rescue Hina from shady men, deciding to run away together. Subsequently, Hodaka discovers that Hina has a strange yet astounding power: the ability to call out the sun whenever she prays for it. With Tokyo’s unusual weather in mind, Hodaka sees the potential of this ability.
Water is used as the antagonist of this film, it is a problem everyone faces every day, and it dulls out the happiness in the city of Tokyo. The eternal downpour of rain gives way for Hina to become a hero for her people.
- Weathering with You sold more than 1.1 million tickets, grossing 1.6 billion yen (about US$15.22 million) in its first three days in more than 350 theaters. The film ranked #1 in its opening weekend and is currently the #7 highest-earning domestic film of all time in Japan and the highest-grossing film in Japan in 2019
- Weathering with You is also Japan’s submission for the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd Academy Awards—the first anime that Japan has submitted in the category since Mononoke Hime in 1998
- It won the prize for Animation of the Year award at the 43rd annual Japan Academy Prize ceremony. It also won the Social Impact Award at the 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival
If you’re looking for an amazing anime to watch then this is the one for you. it has everything you would want, an awesome story, hilarious characters and one epic goal to bring them together. The first Shonen anime to be heavily focused on fishing. Tsuritama was created by the same director who did Mononoke and Trapeze – two series memorable for their distinctive visual style and approach to storytelling.
The story is set in the quaint town of Enoshima. There, the show’s protagonists—Yuki, Haru, Natsuki, Akira, and Tapioca—all come together to share in a singular pastime: fishing.
Fishing is an acquired taste when it comes to sports/hobbies. Fishing in this instance is the solution to the mysterious looming threat in the ocean, it’s up to Yuki and his friends to save the world, by fishing.
- The main theme behind Tsuritama is a very simple one, and one which is very common in media – the power of friendship
- Beyond its excellent slice-of-life portion, the show also features a very bizarre plot
- The show mixes its ‘serious’ side with some very hilarious scenes, resulting in a great experience. The actual plot is pretty well done as well, resulting in a satisfying ending that perfectly concludes the series
7. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
The genres that would best suit this anime would be mecha, science fantasy, and dystopian. Gen Urobuchi explained on the official website that the message of the story is aimed towards those in their teens and 20s, who are either about to enter into society or recently have, and is meant to cheer them on and to encourage them that “going out into the world isn’t scary”. The anime staff hosted a competition in which a viewer’s drawn character would make an appearance. Among the final 12 that made it through, they were all showcased in the final episode of the series.
On the blue planet, Gargantia—a large fleet of scavenger ships—comes across Chamber and retrieves it from the ocean, thinking they have salvaged something of value. Mistaking their actions for hostility, Ledo sneaks aboard and takes a young messenger girl named Amy hostage, only to realize that the residents of Gargantia are not as dangerous as he had believed.
The world is flooded by water in the far-off future, there is bare land. What remains of human civilization live their days in fleets of antiquated ships, free from any worry but the rare threat of pirates.
- Fanservice is found in abundance here
- A refreshing take on a post-apocalyptic matter
- Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet was nominated for the Seiun Award in April 2014
8. Ride Your Wave
The film premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 10, 2019, and was released in Japan on June 21, 2019. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 93% approval rating based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. Ride Your Wave won 4 awards and reached global acclaim with it.
Hinako is enamoured by Minato’s reliable personality and passion for saving others, while Minato is intrigued by surfing and is eager to learn how. As Hinako begins to teach Minato about surfing, the pair eventually fall in love and begin a gentle and devoted relationship
Surfing may seem fun and carefree, it can still be a dangerous and unpredictable activity. This is what Hinako learns when a surfing incident completely changes her life, leaving her forced to contemplate her undecided future.
- The art style and animation in this film were absolutely gorgeous. The colours were bright and used effectively and I really enjoyed the pleasant look of the whole film
- The soundtrack in this movie was very well done. The composition was put together in a way that I thought worked well
- An emotionally challenging film
9. Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
In mankind’s grasp for the future, a sinister foe known only as Gargoyle, obsessed with restoring the former Atlantean empire to the glory it once held, begins his plans to take over the world. The series was created by NHK, Toho and Korad, from a concept of Hayao Miyazaki, and directed by Hideaki Anno of Gainax.
Nadia, with the help of a young inventor, Jean Roque Lartigue, and Captain Nemo of the submarine Nautilus, must fight to save the world from Gargoyle and Neo-Atlantis. Based on the Novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
Water is malleable yes, but it can also be sharp as a spear as well. In this animation, we see water used in a variety of forms with many hidden meanings behind them.
- Hayao Miyazaki helped produce this series
- The series won the 1990 Animage’s Anime Grand Prix Award
- Nadia: the Secret of Blue Water is supposedly based on the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Naruto is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It tells the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who seeks recognition from his peers and dreams of becoming the Hokage, the leader of his village. The story is told in two parts – the first set in Naruto’s pre-teen years, and the second in his teens. This anime is known for being part of the “Big 3” in the anime fandom and giving birth to a whole new era of storytelling.
Naruto is a hyperactive and knuckle-headed ninja still living in Konohagakure. Shunned because of the Kyuubi inside him, Naruto struggles to find his place in the village, while his burning desire to become the Hokage of Konohagakure leads him not only to some great new friends but also some deadly foes.
Many forms of jutsus are used in this anime with varying elements and histories behind them. Water-style jutsus are popular and widely practiced by ninjas of many levels due to its fierce but flexible strength.
- Naruto received numerous awards during its airing, including the “Best Full-Length Animation Program Award” in the Third UStv Awards and the 38th “Best Animated Show” in IGN’s Top 100 Animated Series
- Known as part of the “Big 3” in the anime world
- Go watch it, you will have no regrets!
This anime carries 2 seasons which are filled with heartwarming and wholesome content for your viewing pleasure. The music was composed by GONTITI and produced by Flying Dog. These studios are well known for their expertise in making really catchy theme songs.
Struggling to adapt to the change of pace in her life, Futaba finds herself strung along by Hikari’s vast energy and passion for diving. Together, they join the school diving club, led by their homeroom teacher Mato Katori. With Hikari by her side, Futaba works to earn her diving certification while experiencing new friendships and possibilities.
The vast expanse of the sea can be interpreted as a metaphor for endless possibilities. That’s what happens to our MC when she is introduced to many new things she previously never would have dreamed of.
- In general, the show is pretty much a golden slice of life
- It’s a series that doesn’t rely on complex storytelling but rather on its themes and characters. A major theme in the show is also friendship with Pikari and Teko’s relationship being the most prominent
- Wholesome 1000
12. Grand Blue
Based on Kenji Inoue and Kimitake Yoshioka’s popular comedy manga, Grand Blue follows Iori’s misadventures with his eccentric new friends as he strives to realize his ideal college dream, while also learning how to scuba dive. The series is also streamed exclusively on Amazon Video worldwide. This series is known for its comedy and has always received positive feedback with each chapter released.
Iori has high hopes and dreams about having the ideal college experience, but when he enters the shop he is sucked into the alcoholic activities of the carefree members of the Diving Club who frequent the place. Persuaded by upperclassmen Shinji Tokita and Ryuujirou Kotobuki, Iori reluctantly joins their bizarre party. His cousin Chisa Kotegawa later walks in and catches him in the act, earning Iori her utter disdain.
Diving is a popular sport in Japan, especially in the western part of it. This anime brings a new concept of water for viewers to learn about and enjoy while laughing like crazy.
- If an anime held the title of “The Funny”, it would be Grand Blue
- Humour to be enjoyed by many audiences
- Received a live-action adaptation that was good to say the least
13. High School Fleet
High School Fleet follows the Harekaze’s valiant crew as they navigate treacherous waters and other obstacles on their quest to become fully-fledged Blue Mermaids. An anime film was created by A-1 Pictures.
Childhood friends Akeno Misaki and Moeka China are reunited at Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School. Here they are joined by others who share their dream of becoming Blue Mermaids. Soon, training exercises commence, with Akeno and Moeka being put in charge of their own ships and crew.
Water plays the role of adventuring into the unknown with your friends at your side.
- Cute girls doing cute things
- Lots of light-hearted comedy
- Beautiful visuals and animation that a treat to the viewers eyes
14. Kantai Collection
The season, subtitled “Let’s Meet at Sea”, is directed by Kazuya Miura, with scripts written by Kensuke Tanaka, the game’s original writer, character designs handled by Chika Nomi, and music composed by Kaori Ohkoshi. This show is keen to detail when it comes to being faithful to its source material. The director made the anime have to same voice actors as the game.
Fubuki, a young Destroyer-type Kanmusu, joins the base as a new recruit; unfortunately for her, despite her inexperience and timid nature, she is assigned to the famous Third Torpedo Squadron and quickly thrust into the heat of battle. When she is rescued from near annihilation, the rookie warship resolves to become as strong as the one who saved her.
This anime focuses more on warships rather than water, then again, the two work in tandem with one another to create some pretty rad scenery.
- The anime is based on a free-to-play web browser game that released in 2013
- When this first dropped, the sheer amount of doujins that were created was crazy
- KanColle’s art style uses a bright blend of colours to breathe life into the show for the viewer. Each of the characters has been given a unique personality, making them stand out compared to one another and easily recognizable to the viewer
The story follows Seishu Handa, a calligrapher who moves to the remote Goto Islands off the western coast of Kyushu, and his various interactions with the people of the island. A spin-off manga series titled Handa-Kun started serialization in the November 2013 issue of Square Enix’s Monthly Shonen Gangan magazine. Funimation has also licensed the series for streaming and home video release and plans a broadcast dub for the series.
Seishuu Handa is an up-and-coming calligrapher: young, handsome, talented, and unfortunately, a narcissist to boot. When a veteran labels his award-winning piece as “unoriginal,” Seishuu quickly loses his cool with severe repercussions.
Being on an island surrounded by water and knowing nothing about survival can lead to 1 of 2 outcomes. Either you adapt and become like water, or you end up going crazy. Be like water, my friend.
- There are few, if any puns and stereotypical Japanese humour, even if it does still follow the typical manzai format of stupid-thing-happens-and-people-react-to-stupid-thing
- Barakamon knows how to strike a perfect balance between its humour and the more heart-warming moments. These moments are well-placed and purposely kept rare so that they may carry meaning
- Barakamon also deserves some praise for its willingness to tell a story with characters of all ages. There are the kids, a few teenagers in the local high school, the adult protagonist and his friends from the city, and the middle-aged and elderly villagers
To conclude, the idea of “water” itself is a concept that can only be understood in the field of fiction production. Conversely, it doesn’t matter what kind of “water” is expressed in anime.
In Nagi-Asu, even the emotions of the characters are expressed in water. The expression should be as free as possible. Thus water is used to express a plethora of things, it is used to feed one’s creativity. Water is endless possibilities and an infinite horizon.
Be sure to keep checking back on our site for more great anime recommendations.