Being more than 50 years old now, Madhouse Studio has truly earned a reputation where it can openly brag about all the amazing anime shows that are under its belt today. A mere mention of the Studio’s name can evoke excitement and high expectations in the minds of all anime fans. The plethora of renowned anime shows that come under the Studio’s name involves multiple genres, including fight anime, mecha, sports, horror, and even slice-of-life.
But with so many iconic Madhouse anime out there, choosing the best ones cannot be easy. The Studio has been literally shaping up the entire world of anime with old classics like ‘Cardcaptor Sakura‘ and the fairly new ones like ‘Death Note.’ Even then, we’ve made a list of some of their must-see anime shows. The list consists of dark thrillers and light-hearted rom-com anime that have exceptional artistic styles. These titles are testimonials for the Studio’s renowned quality. So scroll down to the list and find out which one of these “masterpieces” have you seen and which ones should be on top of your viewing list. You can watch several of these best Madhouse anime on Netflix, Crunchyroll or Hulu.
17. Perfect Blue (1997)
‘Perfect Blue’ is an absolute classic whose legacy goes far beyond the world of anime. Darren Aronofsky literally recreated an entire scene from the anime in his film ‘Requiem For a Dream.’ Though the anime is more than 2 decades old now, the visuals are terrifyingly beautiful and influential even today. The artwork of ‘Perfect Blue’ is one of the finest works of Madhouse Studio, and it seems like it has aged like fine wine.
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16. Rainbow (2009)
‘Rainbow‘ stands out from any other anime out there. Even though there’s no evidence of it being based on real-life events, it feels horrifyingly real. Set in 1955, it takes a look at the brutal justice system that harshly treats young delinquents who are all inmates at a correction facility. From the first episode itself, Madhouse Studio warned the viewers of explicit violence. Even with that warning, what lies ahead is something most viewers will not be prepared for. Disturbing and depressing to the core, ‘Rainbow’ is an anime that can evoke the kind of reaction from you that no other anime can.
15. Hunter X Hunter (2011 – )
‘Hunter X Hunter‘ is one of the best long-running shounen anime out there. It has absolutely no fillers and it just gets better with each episode. If you’re into intelligent battle anime with well-constructed plots and deep characterization, then this anime is exactly what you should be watching.
Despite being a long-running show with nearly 148 episodes, ‘Hunter X Hunter’ consistently maintains the quality of animation. The anime also features a lot of bright color schemes, which is a turn-off for a few viewers. But those color palettes actually compliments the uplifting and adventurous atmosphere of the anime. With its strategic fight scenes and unpredictable plot progressions, ‘Hunter X Hunter’ should on top of you battle anime watch list.
14. The Tatami Galaxy (2010)
Madhouse Studio is known for experimenting with its art styles and going way out of the confinements of what is considered to be “standard” for most shows. ‘The Tatami Galaxy‘ is a prime example of how the art of an anime, though a little strange at first sight, can make you wonder “Why aren’t there other anime shows like this?” In a matter of seconds, it throws at you a series of contrasting visuals, all of which representing a certain metaphor that points at the direction of the storyline. ‘The Tatami Galaxy’ is one of the best anime produced by the Studio. It deserves a lot more attention than it actually gets.
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13. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time‘ explores the idea of “cause and effect” through time travel. When it comes to its art, there isn’t anything too exceptional about it. Yet, the anime wins hearts with its simplicity and detailing. Madhouse Studio has done nothing too unique with the art style in this show. But the backgrounds, classrooms and streets are rendered with microscopic detailing that you may not find in any other anime.
12. Summer Wars (2009)
‘Summer Wars‘ toggles between two different worlds, a real world and a virtual world. The latter is an artificially created realm where everything is possible. The portrayal of both of these worlds is quite distinctive with the creative use of CGI.
While CGI has never been a strong suit for many anime, Madhouse Studio breaks through the stereotype with this anime which handles it dexterously. Every avatar that portrayed in the virtual world of the anime has a strangely impressive resemblance to their real-life counterparts. Intuitive and original are two words that very well summarize the style quotient of this show.
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11. Hajime no Ippo
With no bullets, fireballs or power-ups in its action scenes, ‘Hajime no Ippo‘ is a fresh breath of air for anyone who is tired of over-the-top and cliched action tropes. The good thing about the art style of this anime is that it is very faithful to the art of the manga. For a seasoned manga reader, this anime is like all of the characters coming to life on the screen. Even the training scenes are perfectly executed and leave you with an uplifted mood. Studio Madhouse did exactly what had to be done with this anime and anything more than that would’ve been a little over-the-top.
10. Redline (2009)
Madhouse Studio is known for stunning anime adaptations with interesting and unique storylines. Unfortunately, ‘Redline‘ lacks both! Yet, what makes it a worthy entry on this list is the dominating art style which compensates for its sub-par substance. It took the Studio more than half a decade to produce ‘Redline.’ More than 100,000 handmade drawings were used for the animation process. You can feel the enormous amount of work done in the adrenaline rushing race scenes where you can literally pause on any given frame and have a piece of art worthy of being framed for the wall!
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9. High School of the Dead (2010 – )
The artwork of ‘High School of the Dead‘ is a little hard to describe for their complexity. Nevertheless, the visuals are impressive during the action sequences. But what really stands out in the most awkward way is the character designs. In other words, the proportions of the female characters are overtly exaggerated. But that’s exactly what most Ecchi fans want, right?
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8. Black Lagoon (2006)
‘Black Lagoon‘ is a quintessential classic in its genre. It perfectly balances the intense action scenes and acidic social commentary while delivering an entertaining plot. The animation quality remains consistent throughout the series and is beyond impressive during the action sequences. The diversity and detailing in its character designs is something that truly stands out. Even the CGI during car chase scenes is not all a bad work. ‘Black Lagoon’ is a good example of how an anime with fairly decent animation can further elevate viewers’ experience.
7. Parasyte: The Maxim (2014 – )
The world has been taken over by a race of parasitic aliens who directly enter the brains of humans to take control over the entire body. They are then able to reshape their bodies into beast-like creatures that feed on the unsuspecting prey to survive. When a parasyte tries to attack 16-year-old Shinichi Izumi, it ends up hiding in his arm.
Unable to move to Shinichi’s brain, the parasyte stays in his arm while becoming an entity in itself. When compared to the manga, the illustrations of the anime are a little disappointing. But what really steals the show is the graphic portrayal of the shape-shifting parasyte with blades which co-exists with Shinichi. The animation, at times, reminds us of Marvel’s ‘Venom, which that follows a similar concept.
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6. Overlord (2015 – )
‘Overlord‘ might seem like one of those gaming anime that try to rip off ‘Sword Art Online.’ But it is a lot more than that. What’s really impressive about this anime is how it builds up a vast universe within a game through its storyline, characters and animation. The CGI used is above average and feature stunning backgrounds. A lot of emphases has also been put on the animation of the main character. The art style symbolizes the amount of power he holds compared to other characters in the anime. As he grows more powerful, a shift can be seen in the detailing of his overall appearance.
5. Hellsing Ultimate (2006 – 2012)
The reason why this version of ‘Hellsing‘ is far more superior than its predecessor is that Madhouse treats the dark plot of the manga a bit more seriously. It does not cut any corners with the animation and brilliantly squares up on its horror side by portraying vivid suspense and action sequences. All the characters are detailed extensively and hence perfectly fit in with their respective personalities.
4. One Punch Man (2015 – )
Some might argue that there isn’t anything great about the animation of ‘One Punch Man.’ But if you rethink about it, you can see that most of shounen leads wield some sort of weapons. It is easier to add flashy effects to these characters. But Saitama uses only his fists during fights. Madhouse has very carefully drawn and animated all of it. You can feel the perfection in fluid movements and spectacular effects in the fight scenes. Another thing that will get your attention is the expressions of the characters that include the legendary meme-worthy “OK!” of Saitama.
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3. Monster (2004 – 2005)
Naoki Urasawa is the master of suspense who wrote some of the best anime series in the last decade. But ‘Monster,’ a tale of murder and guilt, is by far his best creation that will not be forgotten anytime soon. The art of the show augments its mysterious tone and adds more layers to the psychotic personalities of the characters.
Urasawa uses light and shadow to create the mystery in the faces of the characters who mask their actual identities. Each character has a distinctive body type and even the detailing based on the nationalities have been done with such perfection. You can tell if they are Asian, Slavic or Middle Eastern with just one glance. The background with pastoral vineyards and German towns are surreal and almost have photorealistic appeal to them. ‘Monster‘ is indeed as perfect as a mystery anime can ever be.
2. Death Note (2006 – 2007)
Every anime lover is familiar with the brilliance of ‘Death Note.’ But what makes it a worthy entry on this list is how its animation stands out from other shounen anime. Though ‘Death Note‘ rarely has any fight scenes, the backgrounds and dark themes are quite appealing. A right amount of drama and varying color schemes really grab our attention. Even scenes that involve Light writing names with his pen have been executed with magnificent details.
1. Nana (2006 – 2007)
‘Nana‘ avoids the typical female character stereotypes such as moe and tsundere. Yet, the anime shines brighter than most shoujo shows out there. The characters of the anime are so real that you can actually see a reflection of yourself in them. When it comes to the art side, it is not up to the mark of Madhouse’s standards. Still, the show provides a great experiences with attention to details like body shapes. The presentation of situations and the genuine personalities of the characters catapults this anime as a gamut of emotions.
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