Top 5 Military Focused Anime

I’m not the biggest fan of military movies or war focused stories (at least not realistic ones). I find them a little bit depressing to be honest. There are exceptions, usually science fiction or fantasy is enough of a hook (such as Starship Troopers), and I’ve definitely noticed a soft spot for anime that brings in the military (though being told something is military focused isn’t the draw).

Today I’m looking at my favourite military focused anime. Authenticity isn’t a concern. I don’t care whether the ranks and positions are wrong, whether characters would actually be able to behave in certain manners in a real army, or whether the military exists or is part of an entirely fictional setting. I’m just concerned with anime that I really ended up enjoying that had a strong military focus. As such, I’m sure there are many great military anime that aren’t going to get a mention and I’d love to know your favourites so feel free to give them a shout out in the comments below.

Honourable Mentions:

Honourable mentions this time around go to the entire Gundam Franchise, which I continue to have a love/hate relationship with as the various entries either really grab me and pull me in or I end up abandoning fairly early on, and Heavy Object. Now Heavy Object is an anime in general that doesn’t get enough conversation so I really wanted it on my top 5 list, but the numerous flaws with the show prevented me from putting it above anything on the list. That said, I really liked Heavy Object, a lot more than I expected.

Number 5: Attack On Titan

Now, I won’t deny that season two of Attack on Titan saw my patience wearing thin after a fairly big slow down in the second half of season one. But, the early episodes of season one really grabbed me and while the titan at the wall was a big part of that, so was Eren and crew’s original military training. It is such an integral part of the show and the characters and those early episodes were really good. Season three also picked up a lot of things and part of it is the power structure of the world including where the military fits into that. All and all, while this isn’t one of my favourite of all time anime, the military influence is quite strong and some of the better moments comes when the story focuses on these elements.

Attack on Titan

Number 4: Full Metal Alchemist and Brotherhood

Whether it is FMA or FMA Brotherhood, the military focus of Armestris is pretty clear. Love the uniforms, as impractical as they appear, and a lot of the drama in the show comes from the higher ups withholding information from subordinates. Also, characters are regularly compelled to act against their own nature because being in the military does mean following orders. Both versions of Full Metal Alchemist really do an excellent job of showcasing both the problems of large military organisations as well as the camaraderie and loyalty that can grow between soldiers working for a common cause. All and all, a solid anime with a military focus to sink your teeth into.

Full Metal Alchemist - Military

Number 3: Code Geass

Right, so we’re really moving away from realistic here, but I love Code Geass. The ongoing war, the terrorist tactics, the military responses and escalation of weapons of mass destruction… despite the mechs and the fantastical political scenario so much in terms of the themes and ideas are incredibly relatable but it ends up being over dramatised and becomes pure entertainment. From Lelouche’s flamboyant persona as Zero to the amazing feats Suzaku pulls off, everything about this story is great entertainment, even if a little tragic if linked back to reality.

Code Geass
Okay, I couldn’t find a nice picture of the military uniforms, but the school uniform is pretty military like.

Number 2: GATE

This one had to be on the list. In fact, this was where I started and I felt for sure GATE would end up being number one. Alas, I remembered something better, but for now I’ll just go through why I love GATE. It reminded me a lot of the early Stargate episodes with the military going through to other worlds and Daniel Jackson trying to talk with the populations why they looked for resources and the like. Yet, it had all the crazy anime trapping we’ve come to expect from isekai with elf-girls and magicians, and of course Rory Mercury… Want to see the Japanese military face off against a fire-breathing dragon? Helicopters taking on bandits storming a fortress? GATE was great fun to just strap in and watch.

GATE

Number 1: Full Metal Panic

Lastly, we get to my number one entry on this list. When thinking of military focus of course I thought of the number one military maniac himself, Sousuke Sagara. I absolutely loved Full Metal Panic’s ability to balance a fairly serious military style story with hired mercenaries and various agencies as well as the high school comedy aspects. It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense if you stop and think about it, but it absolutely gets the fun factor right and some of the fight sequences and the tactics they come up with are incredibly impressive.

Full Metal Panic

And there you have it, my top 5 military focused anime. As I said, I’d love to know yours so leave me a comment.

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37 thoughts on “Top 5 Military Focused Anime

  1. I actually would put Strike Witches as one of my five, but when I answered on Twitter I was really going for the ones that were purely military. LoGH, Zipang, GATE were all military anime in that they featured actual militaries and whatnot.

    I would add Strike Witches because I’ve actually seen past the fanservice and have said my opinion on the franchise quite a few times.

    1. I quite enjoyed the first season of Strike Witches. While it has some issues, and certainly fan-service, there’s a lot to like about it as well.

  2. FMA is an easy choice. I was never able to get into Code Geass, but it’s still worth listing.

    I suppose my own favorites would depend on how one defines “military.” Like Anime Planet tags Joker Game as a military anime, but it doesn’t tag Gunslinger Girl as one, even though the latter’s black-ops unit has a more traditionally military feel to me than Joker Game’s espionage ring. I liked both of those, though. Lyrical Nanoha Strikers evolves that franchise from sci-fi magical girl into sci-fi military magical girl. And of course Girls und Panzer is basically more like a sports anime with military trappings, but that’s another favorite of mine (the OVAs are just slice-of-life vignettes and don’t have anything to do with the main story, though). Those, FMA, and the more traditionally military-minded Macross are the first ones that come to mind for me.

  3. No love for Girls Und Panzer? 😛 I had a feeling Strike Witches wouldn’t be on this list! 😉 I also recommend Sora no Woto (weird last episode aside). 🙂

    1. I actually didn’t mind Strike Witches (the first season at least). It isn’t a favourite but I found it quite watchable and was interested in a few of the ideas. Girls Und Panzer I still haven’t watched though I have the OVA’s on DVD (got it in a mystery box). Eventually I’ll get around to them.

  4. Code Geass will always be my best in Army and Strategy wise. Also waiting for the movie to be available in my region.
    But the only anime I hadn’t watch on this list is full metal panic so I’ll be sure to watch it.

    1. Season one and Second Raid are fantastic from Full Metal Panic. The filler season (Fumoffu) is more school comedy focused looking at Sousuke’s day to day life in the school and stuffing things up due to not understanding civilian life. It is really funny, but not necessary to the story overall. The latest instalment, Invisible Victory is okay but currently left the story hanging which isn’t satisfying. Second Raid at least gave us a good ending point so it didn’t matter if no more of it came out.

  5. Being prior military, I do look for some sense of realism in a show with a proclaimed military focus. (Although, being prior military, I tend to avoid watching strictly military shows, just as I tend to avoid watching most police shows. Too much like work.) While I’m not a stickler for anything in particular, I just want to feel a certain authenticity to something, be it characters, situational development, or whatnot. To that end, my own brief list:

    4) Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World–in the military, you’re always
    craving good food; proper libations go a long way, too, in taking the edge off.

    3) Outbreak Company–yes, it’s true: your brave soldiers and sailors are used to
    enforce the will of oft-corrupt politicians. We get sent places to do things that
    make absolutely no sense to us (or make a little too much sense). Realistically,
    though, once we get there, it’s no longer about the politicians; it’s about the
    mission and protecting each other.

    2) Sora no Woto (Sound of the Sky)–a lot of military assignments involve a sense of
    isolation due to the mission, no matter how closely you’re quartered to civilians.
    It’s just an inescapable part of the job. (Sadly, that might be one reason that
    military suicide rates are so high: an inability to push past that isolated mentality
    in order to seek help.)

    1) GATE–sometimes everything just goes straight to hell and you’re the ones
    everybody looks to for help, no matter how overwhelming the situation. You don’t
    get to say: “I wasn’t trained for that.” You improvise until you receive orders, then
    follow those. Regardless, you face the problem that others might escape.

    1. I have no idea why the computer spaced my reply like that. It’s rather irritating.

    2. Thanks for your list and your reasons.
      I get what you mean about it being hard to watch fictional depictions of your professions. It sometimes hurts and sometimes it hits too close to home. That and a lot of us watch anime to escape reality, not see more of the same old stuff.

  6. Thanks for including Gate! I was a _little_ surprised that it was “only” second place, but then, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Chidori and Sagara! Tokiwa, too.

    I still rewatch Gate from time to time. Even the bit characters like Sherry and Kuribayashi were enjoyable.

    1. I know, GATE was kind of the anime I thought would be first place, but I really do love Full Metal Panic and ultimately it had to take number 1. I recently managed to get GATE on DVD and I’m looking forward to a full rewatch in a few weeks when I’ve got a bit more time.

    1. I’d recommend finishing the second season. While there is some padding in the series and a few moments that just don’t quite land, overall it is a very satisfying watch.

      1. I should probably finish season one first too. It was on a subscription service at the time, but the service quality dropped horrendously (like, only two episodes out of everything they had avialble worked) so we left it.

  7. Full Metal Panic is a great choice. Other military based anime that’s good would be Now and Then Here and There (especially for it’s deconstructive elements), Gasaraki, and The Siberia arc of Yugo the Negotiator to name a few.

    1. But it is a longer series and I always find those a lot harder to commit too, particularly when they are outside of my preferred genres. Still, FMA Brotherhood has a pretty impressive narrative arc and the conclusion is solid. FMA has stronger character development early on and does a better job establishing the early stages of the story but then just kind of flails about. Still fun but the narrative doesn’t conclude particularly well even if you watch the follow up movie.

      1. It’s defintitely the length that intimidates me… It’s hard to commit to something so long when you could watch 3 shorter anime in the same amount of time… Of which I don’t have much! 😅

      1. The manga is the original story. I’ve read some of it before the anime came out.
        There are some parts that the anime skipped. Also, it’s still on-going.

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