There’s been a seeming resurgence of the survival anime throughout 2021 as we had High Rise Invasion, the recently completed Battle Game in 5 Seconds, and the Fall Season is bringing us Platinum End. There’s been plenty of others as well and for live action you can always jump on the Squid Game bandwagon.
As such, it seemed kind of appropriate timing for me to look at my favourite survival anime and count down my top 5. I will admit, I didn’t stick to just death match games but looked at anime where there was a focus on the character surviving a situation. That said I did consider and leave a few prominent titles off of my list.
What are your top 5 survival anime? Leave a comment below.
For instance Btoom and Deadman Wonderland both didn’t make my top 5 in the end largely because without any kind of resolution in the anime (or even really feeling like we’d gotten to something resembling a reasonable stopping point) they have limited rewatch value unless you really do just like watching anime characters die in painful ways. However, both are actually probably better quality and potentially better stories than some of the titles I did include on my list and fans of the survival genre should probably check them out anyway.
No. 5 Bokurano
Bokurano is an anime I have talked about before and it definitely falls into the category of survival anime given the kids who are tricked into piloting the robot know they will die if they are the selected pilot.
However it isn’t just the kids who find themselves needing to find a way to survive as Bokurano puts entire realities on the line and the lives of everyone and everything is at stake in what is seemingly a fairly pointless excuse for a giant robot battle and the worst game of musical chairs ever.
Here murdering your companions won’t do you much good so at the very least we are spared a massacre of 12 year olds (actually I can’t remember how old the kids are but either way that would be tragic).
No. 4 King’s Game
Well, those who have followed my blog for any length of time had to know I was going to include King’s Game on a list of survival anime. It is so bad it is almost hilarious as a group of teens get roped into a game where they receive instructions on their phone that they must complete or suffer horrible punishment (usually horrific death).
I can’t even remember if the worst moment was when they tried to suggest a real world virus somehow became a computer virus infecting mobile phones or whether it was the character who was on fire calmly delivering exposition to the characters who were going to survive after her. There were a number of other equally ridiculous moments along the way.
What I do appreciate about King’s Game is that despite the standard horror trope of knowing that the game will start up again (because there always has to be an opening for a sequel), King’s Game as a series does conclude well enough. This group of characters are mostly dead and there’s been a final confrontation between the two main rivals in the plot. It ends up being pretty satisfying if you can handle how decided b grade (okay maybe c or d grade) the overall anime is.
No. 3 Eden of The East
The last thing you expect when you meet a naked man holding a gun while on vacation is that said naked man is actually an amnesiac who is part of the weirdest game ever. Eden of the East has our main character carrying a phone which allows him to access a lot of money and seemingly unlimited ability to spend it to make things happen. Only thing is he is tasked with saving Japan and failure does mean death.
Not to mention there’s a whole bunch of other phone wielding characters, some of which seem very unbalanced, and ultimately surviving is going to depend on out-thinking them in how you creatively use that money and power at your disposal.
Again, this one isn’t just a blood bath or battle royale, but more a situation where really only one character can save Japan. There’s always the question of who is pulling the strings to make his requests happen and how do you place value on something like making a politician say uncle while in parliament?
Anyway, Eden of the East is an intriguing watch and what could have turned into a simple fight for the phones actually ends up being a much more complex and interesting story.
No. 2 Future Diary
I just realised that 3 of my top 5 survival anime revolve around the use of phones. Anyway, Future Diary or Mirai Nikki is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a survival anime. Here are twelve characters given special powers through their phone diaries (are phone diaries even a real thing?) and now they are going to kill each other in order to become God.
I still wonder about this system because being ruled over by someone ruthless enough to slaughter 11 others on their way to victory doesn’t sound like a positive outcome.
That said, Future Diary is unapologetically violent and boasts some of the most ridiculously over-the-top moments in anime ever. Expect bomb blasts in a school, blood splatter of all descriptions, and one yandere character who still kind of tops the list in Yuno Gasai.
Do not expect anything resembling nuance or subtlety and don’t expect the characters to really get much in the way of growth or development. While they are interesting, the vast majority of the cast are one-note and it works for this survival anime as it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than an excuse for a slaughter.
No. 1 School Live
Still with me?
Okay, School Live is a survival anime in the very strictest sense of the word. Our cute female students are actually the only known survivors of the zombie outbreak and they are sheltering in their school.
The cute contrast between the character designs and the bright fluffy moments where we see their everyday friendship versus the real risk of being attacked by zombies as well as the way this story deals with the mental impact of the horrific situation really does make it something special to watch. While it doesn’t bring the mindless death and carnage of so many other horror or survival anime, it gives us a very human story set in a horrific environment.
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10 thoughts on “Top 5 Survival Anime – Murder Games, Zombies and More”
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What about the Naruto Senki game?
I liked both “Future Diary” and “Eden of the East”, albeit I thought the former went too long and the latter seemed to get confused about what the point of it all was. But I thought “Eden” at least subverted the convention that all the participants in such shows are out to kill each other regardless, and that there isn’t any room for a higher or deeper perspective. I am waiting for the next season of “Darwin’s Game” (assuming one is being made, and assuming also that it doesn’t arrive so long after the first series that I can’t be bothered watching it). I also think it’s a real pity that a second series of “Btoom!” was never made (or that it hasn’t been rebooted).
A roboot of Btoom! would be great. I enjoyed that series but it just doesn’t give you any kind of closure.
Sorry this is so random in comparison to the topic, but your comment about phone diaries being a ‘real’ thing – they were and somewhat still are depending on where you look. Back in the mid-2000’s a lot of Japanese people wrote cell phone novels (referenced in Bakuman, and quite a few were actually printed for real) and cell phone diaries when it started becoming more common and a basic internet connection was able to be established.
The diary aspect came from websites like Mixi (still around but not popular) which was a hybrid of blogging and Facebook. Most entries contained a short blurb about a user’s day, maybe a picture or two if their phone could handle it, and done. There was a mix of public and private pages, etc. As far as I know, having a cell phone diary is significantly less common now that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc are popular and phones can handle more internet pages. It also was deemed very much a ‘girl’ thing to do, so it was written off as being a fad. But there’s always a few hangers on, and I’m sure there’s a corner of the internet where it’s still alive and well.
I knew phone nivels had been a thing. Thanks for the info.
No problem! Sorry if it was a bit of an info dump lol
YES! I totally agree with you on King’s game. It was just so bad! I honestly struggled to finish it. Though it was bad enough that I did get a few laughs out of it. Bokurano actually sounds kind of interesting, I might just check that one out. My watch list is a little full right now, so I might have to put that one on a back burner though.
Bokurano is one of those often overlooked anime. It has some really good moments though it takes a little to get going.