The best steampunk anime to watch are Last Exile, Metropolis, Steamboy, Trigun, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Fullmetal Alchemist.
These series masterfully intertwine the realms of advanced machinery with the enigmatic essence of magic, culminating in a whirlwind of chaos, adventure, and drama.
Whether you’re an fan of steampunk aesthetics or a lover of epic tales, these shows promise to deliver a captivating blend that will both enchant and thrill.
The Best Steampunk Anime
Steampunk, a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy, is characterized by its blend of historical elements, particularly those from the 19th-century Victorian era, with futuristic technology as if the Industrial Revolution had taken a different turn.
This is a list of some of the best.
I have a soft spot for this type of anime. They strike the perfect balance of fun, action, and playful hints, ensuring consistent entertainment.
The visuals are impressive, and every character brings a unique charm to the table. A bevy of admirers surrounds Raishin, yet he appears unphased by their affections.
Without giving away the finale, there’s a hint that a sequel might be on the horizon, which is exciting. If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted escape, this show is worth a watch.
As the name suggests, Steam Detectives is set in Steam City, a city completely powered by coal. The series follows a young detective named Narutaki and his quest to uphold justice against steam-powered criminals and the evil Dr. Guilty. The anime perfectly encapsulates the noir detective theme, draped in a rich tapestry of steampunk aesthetics.
Sakura Wars is an illustrious Japanese steampunk franchise masterminded by Oji Hiroi and under the banner of Sega. This eclectic mix centers on a string of genre-blending video games. Its journey began with its inaugural game in 1996, which paved the way for five successive sequels and many spin-offs in its wake.
The narrative plunges viewers into the complexities of fame, portraying actresses’ challenges in a metropolis as vast as Tokyo. The series doesn’t shy away from exploring the personal tribulations, anxieties, and adversities endured by its characters.
Among animated steampunk movies and series, Last Exile holds a special place. It entices viewers with its captivating world where battleships soar through the sky, and the grandeur of aerial dogfights becomes a norm.
Claus and Lavie, our two couriers, find themselves embroiled in a grand war, delivering messages between battling factions. The combination of compelling storylines and lush animation makes it a must-watch.
Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress
If you’re on the hunt for a steampunk anime on Netflix, “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress” should be on your list. Set during the Industrial Revolution, a sinister virus emerges, turning those infected into Kabane – ferocious undead beings.
To defeat these creatures, one must either pierce their glowing golden heart, encased in iron, or sever a crucial body part, such as the head.
While not strictly a steampunk anime in the traditional sense, Violet Evergarden is imbued with a post-war setting, featuring beautiful landscapes juxtaposed with the mechanical design of Violet’s prosthetic arms. Violet is an ex-soldier trying to reintegrate into society and understand human emotions.
Her journey as an “Auto Memory Doll” — individuals who help others express their feelings in letters — is both touching and visually breathtaking.
Espionage in a steampunk London? Say no more! Princess Principal revolves around a group of high school girls who aren’t just dealing with teenage problems but are also spies working for the Commonwealth.
This anime series seamlessly integrates the charm of steampunk aesthetics with cloak and dagger operations, offering a delightful watch that’s both thrilling and aesthetically pleasing.
In a distant future where humans and robots cohabit, the narrative zeroes in on a Private Investigator and his son, venturing into a city for the very first time in pursuit of a missing robot named Tima.
The cityscape is nothing short of breathtaking. Simply stated, the animation is a visual marvel. This expansive urban environment is masterfully brought to life on screen, teeming with meticulous details and bathed in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues.
It evokes the feel of a living, breathing piece of exquisite art. Equally compelling is the animation of the characters.
The series’ creators occasionally venture into experimental terrain, yielding varied outcomes. An early episode appears to be influenced by an artist from the “Fooly Coolly” series, showcasing an expressionistic and free-flowing art style that is both intriguing and jarring.
Kirara Mikumari stands out as a quintessential steampunk anime girl. Driven by a quest to enlist samurai for her village, she also confesses a desire to explore the world beyond her home. She wears a unique dowsing crystal necklace, which identifies underground water sources and grants her insight into the emotions of those around her.
Steamboy is not just a steampunk anime but a love letter to the genre. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo (the genius behind Akira), this film explores the life of a young inventor named Ray.
After receiving a mysterious package from his grandfather, he’s thrust into a world of conspiracies, innovations, and industrial espionage. It’s a visually stunning masterpiece that captures the very essence of steampunk.
D Gray Man
I’m absolutely enamored with this steampunk anime series, so much so that it prompted me to delve into the manga. The series weaves an enthralling narrative, showcasing genuine character development without veering into the absurd.
What’s commendable is its refusal to capitalize on the overt sexualization of female characters for appeal. Even the Noah representing lust isn’t depicted this way.
This approach accentuates the characters’ distinct personalities, ensuring they captivate audiences based on their depth, not just their physical attributes.
The series immediately captivates with its action-packed dynamism, peppered with sharp wit and comedic mayhem, epitomizing the best in steampunk anime shows. Beneath its humorous facade and ingenious premise, as episodes roll on, an intricate mystery unravels.
Between uncontrollable laughter and awe-inspiring action sequences, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, eager to uncover what’s next.
With its impeccable animation, distinctive character designs, smart humor, robust narrative, and endearing characters that linger in your memory, Trigun is a top recommendation in steampunk anime shows.
Howl’s Moving Castle
“Howl’s Moving Castle,” a 2004 steampunk anime film, is inspired by a novel penned by Dianna Wynne Jones and directed by the illustrious Hayao Miyazaki.
In my opinion, this might be Miyazaki’s most mesmerizing creation. While his other films exhibit a clear, linear progression and boast visually striking realms, there’s something uniquely enchanting about the surreal landscape of Howl’s Moving Castle. Among all the universes crafted by Miyazaki, this stands out as the most spellbinding, eccentric, and imaginative.
Laputa: Castle In The Sky
Directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky is a cornerstone of the steampunk anime genre. The story follows a young girl named Sheeta and a boy named Pazu as they unlock the mysteries of the floating city of Laputa.
I’ve watched myself in both the 2003 and 2009 series versions. Although I side with many fans in considering the 2009 adaptation superior, it’s undeniable that the 2003 version often doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
While it veers off from the manga’s storyline, its original narrative isn’t just a subpar filler. It holds its ground, delivering a captivating story that had me captivated.
Admittedly, specific character illustrations sometimes felt off (take Roy Mustang’s widely spaced eyes as an instance), yet the overarching animation quality is commendable. The action sequences are meticulously illustrated, exuding just the right amount of tension and drama in line with the show’s somber undertones.
While sporadic humor lightens the mood, the series undoubtedly leans toward the darker spectrum, especially when juxtaposed with its subsequent adaptation’s equally thrilling but more balanced humor.
What Makes a Good Steampunk Anime?
Distinctive Visual Style: A hallmark of steampunk is its unique aesthetic. Look for animes that beautifully merge the old with the new, showcasing steam-powered machines, intricate gears, brass fixtures, and often a blend of urban and rural settings.
Complex Characters: Just like the mix of old and new in its visual style, a good steampunk anime will often feature characters that embody contrasts — traditionalists vs. innovators, for instance.
Intricate World-Building: The setting should be immersive. This means crafting a world with its own rules, technologies, and cultures, often blending historical realities with imaginative inventions.
Engaging Plot: Whether it’s a tale of rebellion against a corrupt system, the challenges of technological advancements, or personal quests in a steam-driven world, the storyline should be compelling and make good use of the steampunk elements.
High-Quality Animation: Given the intricate designs associated with steampunk — from sprawling cityscapes to detailed machinery — the animation needs to be of high quality to do justice to the genre.
Soundtrack and Audio: The audio design, including background scores and sound effects, should complement the era and ambiance. A blend of classical scores with industrial sounds can enhance the steampunk feel.