16 Anime Based on Novels that Mature Fans Will Love

16 Anime Based on Novels that Mature Fans Will Love

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Anime fans know that most of their favorite shows are adaptations of manga, light novels, or games. But, regular novels tend to get overlooked.

Standard, prose novels can be the source of great anime and filled with uncommon themes. While not always the case, these adaptations tend to be more character focused and have mature themes.

1. Welcome to the N.H.K.

Genre: Black Comedy / Drama / Romance

Studio: Gonzo

Episodes: 24

Quick Pitch: Creator Tatsuhiko Takimoto used his own experience as a hikikomori when writing Welcome to the N.H.K. The series is filled with dry wit as college drop-out Satou struggles to overcome his hikikomori ways and social anxiety.


2. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Genre: Fantasy

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Many of Studio Ghibli’s movies are based on novels. Kiki’s Delivery Service is based on Eiko Kadono’s award-winning children’s novel of the same name.

The story follows Kiki, a witch-in-training who must leave her home for an entire year. Upon arriving at a coastal town, Kiki takes a delivery job for a bakery in exchange for boarding. It’s a classic coming-of-age story that has aged really well.


3. Howl’s Moving Castle

Genre: Fantasy

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Based on a British novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle is considered one of Studio Ghibli’s best movies. The enchanting tale centers around Sophie, Howl, and his moving castle. Sophie becomes physically 90-year-old due to a witches curse and sets out to break it with the help of Howl.

Miyazaki pairs strong anti-war message and the importance of compassion with beautiful visuals. He even calls Howl’s Moving Castle his favorite movie.


4. Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider

Genre: Mystery

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Episodes: 11

Quick Pitch: Based on Hiroshi Mori’s 1996 novel, Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider follows an associate professor and his student as they travel to a remote island for a class trip. The duo plan on meeting a genius programmer, but are caught in the middle of a locked-room murder with the killer testing their wits.


5. Perfect Blue

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Studio: Madhouse

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis novel, the movie was originally planned for live action. The story follows Mima as she transitions from a J-Pop idol to a movie actress. However, her first movie role proves to be stressful and a stalker threatens her safety.



Genre: Psychological Thriller / Science Fiction

Studio: Madhouse

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name, Paprika challenges your sense of reality using psychotherapy and surreal scenes. Doctor Chiba uses a machine and her alter ego to illegally help psychiatric patients as they are dreaming.


7. From the New World

Genre: Drama / Horror / Science Fiction / Supernatural

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Episodes: 25

Quick Pitch: Yusuke Kishi wrote this award-winning novel in 2008, which has since been adapted into an anime and a manga.

From the New World is split into three parts, with each segment following Saki as she tries to learn the world’s mysteries. As children, Saki and her friends develop psychokinetic powers and attend a special school for their powers. However, the appearance of a grotesque creator named Squealer challenges their view of the world.


8. Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit

Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Studio: Production I.G.

Episodes: 26

Quick Pitch: Guardian of the Spirit is the first novel in Nahoko Uehashi’s dense epic.

Balsa is a wandering bodyguard and agrees to protect Prince Chagum from his father’s assassination plot. Chagum has been possessed by a powerful water spirit, which is deemed a threat to the Yogo Empire.


9. The Tatami Galaxy

Genre: Comedy / Drama / Mystery / Psychological / Romance

Studio: Madhouse

Episodes: 11

Quick Pitch: Tomohiko Morimi is a novelist whose works tend to get adapted into anime. The Tatami Galaxy is his best-known work thanks to Madhouse’s anime adaptation.

The Tatami Galaxy centers around a third-year college student who feels his life has been a waste. After meeting a “god of matrimony,” the student is given a chance to relive his college life and attempts to enter a relationship with Akashi.


10. Joker Game

Genre: Drama / Mystery

Studio: Production I.G.

Episodes: 12 + 2 OVAs

Quick Pitch: Joker Game is an award-winning mystery novel series written by Koji Yanagi.

Japan establishes a spy agency on the dawn of World War II to gather intel on other nations. Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki commands the agency and sends eight agents to spy on power nations and to carry out dangerous tasks.


11. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Genre: Drama / Fantasy / Mystery / Science Fiction / Thriller

Studio: Gonzo

Episodes: 24

Quick Pitch: Gankutsuou is a loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo novel.

Albert de Morcerf and Franz d’Épinay visit Luna for a festival. While there, they meet the self-made nobleman The Count of Monte Cristo. Taken by The Count’s charm, Albert invites him to Paris. Little did Albert know that this would kick off a series of events.


12. Shiki

Genre: Horror / Mystery / Supernatural / Thriller

Studio: Daume

Episodes: 22 + 2 Bonus Episodes

Quick Pitch: Fuyumi Ono wrote Shiki as a two-part novel in 1998, but she is more known for The Twelve Kingdoms light novel series.

The quiet village of Sotoba is plagued with mysterious deaths. Doctor Toshio initially believes it’s due to an epidemic, but learns that vampire-like creatures called shiki are behind the deaths. At the same time, Natsuno is haunted by the death of a friend.


13. Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Genre: Action / Drama / Science Fiction / Space Opera

Studio: Artland / Madhouse / Magic Bus

Episodes: 110 + 3 Movies + 52 OVAs

Quick Pitch: Yoshiki Tanaka’s sprawling sci-fi epic is credited for reviving interest in the space opera genre in Japan when the first book was published in 1988.

The series covers an epic war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance while diving into the personal stories of Imperial Admiral Reinhard (Galactic Empire) and Commodore Yang Wen-Li (Alliance).


14. Sound! Euphonium

Genre: Drama / Music / Slice of Life

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Episodes: 26 + 1 Movie + 1 OVA

Quick Pitch: Ayano Takeda’s novel series consists of three books, a short story collection, and three spin-off novels!

Sound! Euphonium chronicles the dramatic tale of the Kitauji High School concert band club and their rise to relevancy. The club used to participate in tournaments but fell into years of mediocrity. Due to the pressure of some friends, Kumiko decides to join the club to play the euphonium. Kumiko is reunited with old childhood friends Reina and Shuichi.


15. Hyouka

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Genre: Mystery / Slice of Life

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Episodes: 22 + 1 OVA

Quick Pitch: Hyouka is the first book in Honobu Yonezawa’s Classic Literature Club novel series. Kyoto Animation adapted four of six books for the anime.

Oreki is a student who doesn’t believe in expending energy, but at the request of his older sister, he joins the school’s classic literature club. At the club, he meets the incredibly energetic Eru and is roped into solving mysteries with the club’s other members.


16. The Eccentric Family

Genre: Comedy / Drama / Fantasy / Slice of Life

Studio: P.A. Works

Episodes: 25

Quick Pitch: Written by Tomohiko Morimi, there are currently two novels in the series.

Modern day Kyoto is home to humans, tanuki, and tengu. Yasaburou is the third son of the Shimogamo tanuki family and he tries to live a care-free life. However, his crush Benten is a member of the Friday Fellows, which is a group of humans that eat a tanuki hot pot at the end of the year.

What are your favorite anime adaptations of novels?

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