When I say war, you probably start thinking of a conflict between two or more parties. But there is so much more to it than just that. You’ve got a whole warfare situation in context to the experience of soldiers, you have all the politics that are involved and not to mention, the negative impact that it has on the life of all civilians. War is like hell and its aftermath is usually quite devastating. To put it simply, in a typical war setup, “Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late.”
But these inhuman events make for unforgettable cinematic experiences. While Hollywood is very well known for creating some of the best war movies like ‘Saving Private Ryan‘, ‘Dunkirk‘ and many others, there are quite a few anime as well that have left their mark on this genre. Here’s the list of top war anime ever made. You can watch several of these best war anime on Crunchyroll, Netflix or Hulu.
15. Fate/Zero (2011)
Almost the entire ‘Fate Series‘ revolves around the Holy Grail War. Set 10 years after the events of ‘Fate/Stay Night‘, ‘Fate/Zero‘ is about the 4th Holy Grail war. While the entire anime series is pretty entertaining, ‘Fate/Zero’ has by far the best visuals and characters. If you haven’t started watching this huge franchise yet, then you should definitely give it a shot right away. The watch order of this anime is a little complex, so you might want to check out our recommended watch order for this one.
14. Basilisk: The Kouga Ninha Scrolls (2005)
If you’re into ninja anime, then ‘Basilisk‘ should definitely be your go-to show. It has a simple plot that revolves around the battles between two ninja clans that are both determined to be the next heir on the throne. The action in this anime is simple, gory and raw. Unlike other shounen that involve power-ups and flashy attacks, this one is all about bloodshed and unexpected deaths. Even the war is rather silent where each clan is only represented by 10 ninjas. ‘Basilisk’ presents ninjas in a way that they deserve to be portrayed and exactly how we imagine them to be.
13. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (2013)
Though the war in ‘Maouyuu‘ takes a more fantasy-based approach by portraying a battle between humans and demons, the anime will at some point make you think about the state of the world we live in. It shows that a war may just come to an end after a Demon King is defeated but even after that, there is no “happy ever after”. While war can be ended with guns and blades, it takes kindness to end other evils like poverty and slavery that coexist in this world.
12. Valvrave the Liberator (1992)
With the introduction of a new advanced system called Dyson Sphere, almost 70% of humans have been able to live in space. This has divided the world into two major powers known as The Dorssia Military Pact Federation and The Atlantis Rim United States. When a war is sparked between the two main powers, Haruto, a normal school going kid from JIOR, must use his now found humanoid weapon to protect his nations from the Dorssian army. Compared to most others on this list, ‘Valvrave The Liberator‘ is a lighthearted show that has elements of comedy as well. Apart from war, you’ll also find many other different genres during its runtime.
11. Darker Than Black (2007)
Created by Tensai Okamura, ‘Darker Than Black‘ is a sci-fi thriller that presents a war where justice and political positions don’t play a role. It all starts off when a Heaven’s Gate magically appears in South America and a Hell’s Gate appears in Japan. The origins of these gates are completely unknown and even the spaces around them completely defy the laws of physics known to man. Soon after the appearance of these gates, a few selected humans started turning into these supernatural beings known as the Contractors. One of these Contractors, known as the Black Reaper, uses his abilities to help the Syndicate and while he’s at this, he slowly discovers that a war is being waged in the shadows that threatens the very existence of all the Contractors.
10. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Known to be one of the best works of Studio Ghibli, ‘Grave of the Fireflies‘ is the story of two orphaned children who have lost pretty much everything because of World War II. Seita and Setsuko are forced to move to the countryside that has been plagued by diseases and endless starvation. While the world around them continues to crumble, the two of them still keep a youthful hope which makes them believe that things will eventually get better for them.
During their journey, they also learn that the atrocities of war can even turn the cruelest people into the kindest individuals. Over the years, this film has gained a lot of acclaim from critics and fans alike. Instead of portraying direct combat, this anime teaches sympathy to the younger audience through its portrayal of the lives of two young children in the most brutal conditions known to man.
9. Now and Then, Here and There (1999-2000)
‘Now and Then, Here and There’ is an Isekai that revolves around the life of an ordinary schoolboy named Shu. When one day, he runs into a mysterious girl named Lala-Ru, he is magically transported to another world. Soon, he realizes that a brutal war is going on in this new world and Lala-Ru has been abducted by some really powerful people. He must now race against time to not only save Lala-Ru but to also bring amend to this horrific war. Overall, ‘Now and Then, Here and There’ is a pretty dark anime that explores the terrifying realities of war. A must watch for anyone who wants to experience a streak of reality along with some Isekai-based fantasy.
8. In This Corner of the World (2016)
‘In This Corner of the World’ focuses on the impact of the Hiroshima bombings on the life of a young girl named Suzu. In the beginning, the anime sheds light on the life that she lived before the bombings. Then it focuses on the aftermath of the event, as she ends up losing her family and also her entire home. With limited resources, health defects, and consistent acid rains, she tries to keep her head above the water and even tries to help those around her. ‘In This Corner of the World’ is a very moving anime movie that will give you a realistic glimpse of all the innocent civilians whose lives changed drastically in a matter of days.
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7. Aldnoah.Zero (2014)
With some great visuals and brilliant tactical war aspects, ‘Aldnoah.Zero‘ depicts the growing tension between two different planets that belong to the same people. After a portal to Mars is discovered on the surface of the moon, a huge chunk of the human population moves to the planet. There, they discover a highly advanced technology which initiates conflicts and misunderstandings between the ones who moved to mars and the ones who were left behind. To bring peace between the two, Crown Princess of the Mars settlement travels to Earth to make an attempt to resolve all the problems. But when she is assassinated on Earth, a furious war ensues which can only be stopped by the ones who know the truth behind her murder.
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6. Jormungand (2012)
Unlike all the other anime on this list, ‘Jormungand‘ portrays the perspective of an international arms dealer who snuggles weapons into countries to help them wage wars. Instead of focusing more on a war that involves two parties, it tells the story of the young boy who tries to be on a neutral ground when it comes to wars. But the battle that goes on in his mind with his past memories will be far more difficult to conquer.
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5. The Heroic Legend of Arslan (2015)
The Kingdom of Pars is at peace and has been growing gradually towards a brighter future. But all of this ends abruptly when the noble king is betrayed by one of his own men and this leads to the entire army getting decimated. As all the capital cities start taking over the Kingdom, the Price Arslan is forced to flee with General Daryun. The two must now strategically allocate all of their allies and find a way to regain control over their lost kingdom. In ‘The Heroic Legend of Arslan‘, war plays a major role in developing the main character. From having a luxurious comfortable life, Arslan is forced to adapt to a life of survival. While coping up with the atrocities of war, the Prince must overcome all of his doubts and risk everything to retake his country.
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4. Kingdom (2012)
Based on the Warring States Period of China, ‘Kingdom’ very well portrays a civil war where countrymen wage war against their own countrymen and amid all of these brutalities, the ones involved in the war are determined to prove that they deserve to survive. The story focuses on two main characters named Xin Li and Piao who both train together to be the Great General of the Heavens. Separated by the war, Xin later finds his way into the Kingdom under King Zheng Ying.
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3. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006)
‘Code Geass‘ is more about the consequences of war where there’s no actual winner. One side might be able to triumph over the other, but in the end, the conflict only stops when everything is sucked out of the lives of both the parties. The story of ‘Code Geass‘ revolves around an exiled prince named Lelouch who is Japan’s last hope after it is conquered by the Holy Empire of Britannia. Britannia was able to create an advanced humanoid vehicle called the Knightmare Frames. This advancement has made them the strongest Empire in the world and no one even dares to cross their path now. But after Lelouch gains the power of the kings, he may be the only one who can finally defeat this seemingly insurmountable force.
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2. Valkyria Chronicles (2009)
Based on a strategy game, ‘Valkyria Chronicles’ is about a country named Gallia that has an abundance of a rare resource known as Ragnite. This resource has several applications and can act as a fuel for everything from vehicles to weapons. When another empire invades Gallia to get their hands on the resource, Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melcott must somehow save their country and protect its citizens by joining the militia.
While the primary focus of this anime is more on the strategies used in war, it does shy away from negative themes such as the tragedies and losses faced during such a scenario. It also has a lot of action going on, so if you’re looking for a well-rounded war anime, then this is the one you should go for.
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1. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009)
It’s been around 10 years since ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’ debuted and arguably, it’s one of the best stories told in an audiovisual medium — animated or not. While there are several typical shounen themes that run throughout the anime, the ones that we are referring to here are more about “forgiveness” and “breaking the cycle of violence”. The whole idea of forgiveness in ‘Fullmetal Alchemist‘ comes from the Ishvalan Civil War part of the story where Scar, the overarching antagonist, spreads a vicious cycle of hatred that is motivated by nothing but prejudice.
After the entire population of his own people is killed in mass genocide, his hunger for vengeance drives him into doing things even he didn’t know he was capable of doing. But somewhere along the way, he realizes that he was so blinded by his hate that he even ended up killing innocents who were just looking out for him. This theme of forgiveness not only applies to the anime but reflects on real-life war scenarios as well.
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