Top 5 Anime in Historical Settings

Tuesday's Top 5

I’m going to be honest, this list was harder than I first thought and that is because I made the decision early on to not include anime from fantasy historical settings. They had to be real places (or close enough). Now, that doesn’t mean my choices are based on historical accuracy, because they definitely aren’t, but I just wanted to exclude all the vaguely European/pseudo-medieval fantasy settings before I began thinking through the list. That said, there are still a few anime, like Princess Principal, that just didn’t make the final list. So as always, I’d love to know what some of your favourites are so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Number 5: Sirius the Jaeger

Admittedly, this one is a newer anime for me as I’ve only watched it recently, but I had a lot of fun with it. I also enjoyed the 1930’s setting in Tokyo and the travelling about the group did. While it probably isn’t going to get massive points for historical accuracy (not entirely convinced about vampires plotting to take over the world and working with factions of the Japanese military), the time period felt very much a part of the story and the setting was very nicely integrated. All and all, this one was just fun to watch.

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

Number 4: 91 Days

Set in the Prohibition Era (1920’s – 1930’s), 91 Days isn’t set in a real place but is kind of a composite of fairly similar places in America during the era. And again, the setting is very much a part of the story and the era, and its many cliches that have been constructed largely through fiction, are very much integrated into this story. I really did like the set up for this anime and the setting was great, or at least it was different from another Japanese classroom setting, so while I found the middle of the narrative got a little lost, I really did enjoy a lot of aspects of 91 Days.

91 Days

Number 3: Baccano

Well, we’re still stuck around the 1930’s, but this time we’re in Chicago. Baccano is just fun from start to finish with larger than life characters all with their own stories being interwoven in a fast paced mess that comes together beautifully by the end. Whether you are enjoying the story of the immortals gangsters, wondering what happened to the missing brother, following the massacre on the train, or any of the other events, Baccano is one story that knew exactly what it wanted to be and it took the audience on an incredibly ride.

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Number 2: Katanagatari

I knew at some point on this list I’d have to include something from the Edo period in Japan, and then I remembered Katanagatari is incredibly loosely set in the real world and not a fantasy setting. Now, I loved this anime and I’ve recently fallen in love with the first volume of the books, and it is just a great story in its simplicity. Two characters are trying to collect 12 swords. There’s a lot of politics and character background information that fleshes out what seems like an incredibly simple story, but ultimately this one is really fun, visually stunning, and the setting is fantastic.

Number 1: Black Butler

It is a good thing I clarified I didn’t care about historical accuracy because one friend of mine at least found Black Butler truly dreadful. Set in the Victorian era in England, the story follows a young Earl and his butler as they go about solving mysteries on behalf of the Queen and while the Earl tries to find those responsible for the death of his parents and his own trauma. And yeah, there’s a lot of liberties taken with the setting and time period but I absolutely love Black Butler so it had to top this list.

As I said, I’d love to know your top picks so be sure to leave a comment.

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Karandi James
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29 thoughts on “Top 5 Anime in Historical Settings

  1. I knew Black Butler would be at the top of your list. Never change, Karandi šŸ™‚

    People mentioned Kenshin but a more recent contender for that time period is Golden Kamui. It’s about 50 years later and from a very different perspective, but still hearkens back to a lot of interesting stuff about Meiji Japan. It’s that pre WW2 era when Japan (among other countries) was trying to forge a national identity that I find fascinating.

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  2. anime 91 days and Black Butler would certainly be on my list oh and Nobody’s Boy, Mysterious Cities of Gold and Rose of Versailles.
    But if I had to include manga Count Cain and Moriarty the Patriot would probably higher on the list..

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    1. I always forget Mysterious Cities of Gold but I loved that when I was a kid. I remember my sister and I were addicted to it and just had to find out what happened next.

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  3. I have only watched 91 days completely, while Baccano and Black Butler was dropped. I know that these two anime are really great but I think it’s more suited for the patient audience, I’m not that big of a fan of jumbled storyline.

    I would like to add Gosick and Violet Evergarden to this list though. For me, these two series have been by far, one of the best anime with a historical setting

    Great list, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosick and I never really saw eye to eye for some reason. Everything about that series looks like it should work for me and yet I never really got into it. I’ve yet to finish Violet Evergarden. I think I need to be in a fairly relaxed mood for that one to be affective and the couple of times I tried to watch it I just ended up distracting myself and moving on.

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      1. Oh I feel that!
        I tried to watch Violet at least 3 times, but somehow I ended up getting off track Midway the first episode.
        But hey, when you do have the time, try to watch at least 3 ep straight, it’ll make it hard for you to focus on other series for the time being.

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  4. WOW those are some awesome pics!! I love these choices! I’ve seen all but Sirius. Baccano is a favorite and 91 Days was really interesting though I didn’t like the conclusion. I came to love Katanagatari over time, at first not impressed by it. What I love most are the seiyuu performances for Shichika and Kagone. (I hope I remembered their names right…) And I’m pretty sure we all love Black Butler! šŸ™‚

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    1. I will admit Katanagatari originally just kind of perplexed me with its 40 minute first episode that just seemed to meander about. I ended up falling in love with the series and binge watching the remaining episodes, but it definitely comes across as odd at first and slowly creeps up on you during the first watch. That said, I’ve since watched that series a lot of times and it just gets better and better.

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  5. “Hidomari no Ki” – Tezuka’s historical manga about the friendship between a doctor and a samurai before and during the Meiji restoration. It was made into an anime by Madhouse in 2000. (It’s loosely based upon the life of Tezuka’s grandfather.) It’s a great anime and if you can find it anywhere you should watch it.

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  6. I unfortunately have not watched any of those five. Rurouni Kenshin (Meiji period), Joker Game (late 30’s/early 40’s), and The Cockpit (OVA collection of World War II-era short stories by Leiji Matsumoto) would be my top three choices, and if the 1990s are long enough ago to count as “historical” (God, saying that makes me feel old!), then you can add Hi Score Girl to that group too.

    Out of curiosity, have you seen “From Up On Poppy Hill” and/or “Grave of the Fireflies”? I can’t quite bring myself to put either of those up with the other four on my list (largely because I’m not especially eager to watch either one again, good as they are), but they’re definitely “historical.”

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    1. I’d put both on the list… I’ve watched Poppy Hill any number of times. (Oddly enough, in dub. I have an inexplicable fondness for Ghibli dubs.)

      I’ve watched Fireflies once. An experience I haven’t repeated. As Mr Incredible says… “I’m not strong enough”.

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    2. I refuse to count the 90’s as historical mostly because I just don’t want to feel that old.
      I expected a lot of people to suggest Rurouni Kenshi for this list. I still haven’t gotten to it but it is one people keep recommending I watch so one of these days I will definitely have to get to it.

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    1. They both have definite appeal to particular audiences. I love both, I have a friend who really enjoyed Baccano and couldn’t stand Black Butler and another friend who felt the other way. Both are worth giving a go.

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  7. Surprised at the lack of accurate Samurai anime. In the future, you’ll DEFINITELY include Vinland Saga once it comes out, one of the absolute best historical manga ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is this where I confess I actually genuinely dislike most anime focused on Samurai? As much as I love anime and Japanese culture, I don’t find that particular aspect very interesting. I have watched a few anime and movies and enjoyed them with a samurai focus but it definitely isn’t something I seek out.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It would probably be another one I’d put as a fantasy setting, but all things considered, if you’re picking your favourite, you can have what you like. Spice and Wolf is at least more accurate to a time period than a lot of the shows I ended up including on the list.

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