From Gundam to Cowboy Bebop, the Best Anime NOT Based on Manga

Usually, an anime series is produced when there is an increase in the popularity of its original source material, whether it be a manga series, light novels, video games or other media. Manga, however, is the most common source from which an animated series is adapted. But sometimes, the best anime series comes not from manga, but instead from the creativity and originality of anime writers, artists and producers. Here are a few of the best original anime television series currently out there.


The Gundam franchise, created by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, started in April 1979 with the release of its first anime series, Mobile Suit Gundam. Every Gundam series is set in a fictional era in which a catastrophic event occurs between Earth and other space colonies. As a result, the people of Earth and these other colonies end up at war using giant robots as mobile suits for battle. The franchise continues to be popular in Japan and internationally, and now consists of several anime series, movies, manga, video games and Gunpla -- Gundam models from the series that you can build yourself.

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Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann, also known as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, is a mecha anime series from director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, and playwright, Kazuki Nakashima, who also collaborated in other anime projects including Kill la Kill in 2013 and Promare in 2019 for Studio Trigger. This series is set on an alternative version of Earth where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces humans to live in isolated subterranean villages. The two main protagonists, Simon and Kamina, desire to explore the Earth’s surface and so they embark on a journey to the surface by piloting the mecha known as Lagann. While on their adventure, they battle Lordgenome’s forces alongside other humans who want to get to the surface. This series received critical acclaim for its brilliant sci-fi storytelling and animation and received numerous awards from Japan Media Arts Festivals and Animation Kobe.

Genesis of Aquarion

12,000 years ago, an alien race known as the Shadow Angels attacked Earth, but thanks to a miracle, the Shadow Angels became dormant. Soon after, a catastrophe awakens the Shadow Angels and they attack Earth once again. To stop them, the organization known as DEAVA uses a robot, Aquarion, which is piloted by special individuals known as “Elemental Users,” in battle. The series focuses on Apollo, a poor young man, who decides to become an Aquarion pilot after his friend gets kidnapped by the Shadow Angels. Genesis of Aquarion is a sci-fi romance anime series that pays homage to the 1970s and 1980s Super Robot subgenre. Both Genesis of Aquarion and its second season, Aquarion: EVOL are worth watching.

Eden of the East

Kenji Kamiyama’s Eden of the East begins with a terrorist attack known historically as “Careless Monday. 10 missiles struck Japan; yet, there were zero causalities and no one was held responsible for the incident. Three months later, Saki Morimi visits the United States and encounters a naked Japanese man with amnesia who goes by the name Akira Takizawa. Takizawa claims himself to be a terrorist, but Saki still befriends him. Takizawa possesses a mysterious cell phone that contains ¥8.2 billion. The two then become involved in a game where 12 individuals known as Selecao must use the money to help save Japan. If they use the money for selfish purposes, they will get eliminated by the Supporter, the 12th person of the group. This series won the 2009 TV Feature Award at the Animation Kobe Festival and the Best TV Series of the Year at the Tokyo International Anime Fair.

Michiko & Hatchin

Michiko & Hatchin is Sayo Yamamoto’s directorial debut, but she has contributed her expertise to series like Yuri!! On Ice, Ergo Proxy and Samurai Champloo. The story is set in a fictional South American country called Diamandra. Michiko escapes prison and kidnaps her previous lover’s daughter, Hana “Hatchin" Morenos, whom she saved from abusive foster parents. Now on the run from the police and Hatchin’s foster family, these two young and free-willed women go on an adventure in search of independence, freedom and Hatchin’s father, Hiroshi Morenos. The series incorporates vibrant artwork and character designs, as well as music from Brazilian musician, Alexandre Kassin.

Angel Beats!

Jun Maeda’s Angel Beats! is considered one of the saddest anime series of all time. The series is set in a high school resembling purgatory, where students who faced hardships and trauma during their previous life must overcome their inner demons to reincarnate in the next life. The main protagonist is Yuzuru Otonashi, who happens to have amnesia and wakes up in the afterlife. He meets Yuri Nakamura, who invites him to join the Afterlife Battlefront to rebel against the God who granted them depressing and unfortunate lives. Angel Beats! received high praise among critics for its balance of action-packed sequences and humor, as well as the emotional rollercoaster it brings to its viewers.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a dark magical girl series created by an artist collective group known as Magica Quartet. In the series, a group of young junior high girls, led by Madoka Kaname, make a contract with this magical cat-like creature named Kyubey to become magical girls and fight “witches” in alternate worlds. However, these young girls soon learn the dark truth about their contract and what it means to be a witch. Puella Magi Madoka Magica provides a fresh new perspective on the popular magical girl genre, which is known for classics such as Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. This series has received critical acclaim worldwide for its narrative, visuals and soundtracks, and has won several awards, including the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Arts Awards.

Ergo Proxy

Shuko Murase and Dai Sato’s cyberpunk series, Ergo Proxy is set in a utopian and futuristic city called Romdeau, where humans and androids live peacefully. The peace between humans and androids is threatened when androids and robots infected with the Cogito virus murdered some humans. Re-l Mayer and her android partner, Iggy, investigate these murders only to find out that a Proxy is involved, a mysterious humanoid life form that the government has been conducting secret experiments on. Critics praised the series for its visuals, aesthetics and the incorporation of philosophy, like Gnosticism, into the storyline.


Gen Urobuchi’s cyberpunk, psychological crime thriller Psycho-Pass is set in a futuristic version of Japan in which society is run by a supercomputer known as the Sibyl System, which numerically measures a person’s Crime Coefficient, a number that determines the likelihood of a person becoming a criminal. The series is about a rookie Inspector, Akane Tsunemori, and her partner, Shinya Kogami, who are trying to arrest a criminal mastermind named Shogo Makishima. Psycho-Pass is equivalent to the American television series Criminal Minds because the anime dives into societal and psychological issues about morality, stress, anxiety and the fear of crime. The first season of Psycho-Pass is by far the best one, but the next two seasons and films are still worth watching if you enjoy psychological crime thrillers.

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

It is no surprise that Shinichirō Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop is on this list. Cowboy Bebop is about the adventures of Spike Spiegel and his group of bounty hunters who chase after criminals and bring them to the Inter Solar System Police for rewards. This series received critical acclaim and commercial success in both Japan and other countries and won numerous awards for its storyboard, animation and soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop has also been recognized as a “gateway” anime and created a whole new generation of anime fans in the early 2000s through its mixture of neo-Noir, science fiction and western influences.

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