Cult anime exist on a plane between mainstream and obscure. They are popular enough to garner a loyal fanbase while still being relatively unknown to the mainstream. These anime are entertaining in their own right, and you might even become a fan after viewing them!
1. Senki Zesshou Symphogear
Genre: Action / Magical Gir / Music / Science Fiction
Quick Pitch: Hibiki attends a “Zwei Wing” concert, which is suddenly attacked by monsters called Noise. Tsubasa and Kanade, who make up Zwei Wing, are magical girls who use battle armor called Symphogear to combat Noise by using the power of music. However, Kanade sacrifices herself to save Hibiki.
Two years later, the Symphogear shard in Hibiki’s chest awakens and gives her same powers that Kanade had.
2. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Genre: Psychological / Thriller
Quick Pitch: Kaiji is good-for-nothing loiterer who wastes his life drinking and stealing hubcaps. Just when he thinks life couldn’t get worse, he is tricked into repaying a friend’s debt to the yakuza. Faced with choosing to work at a labor camp for 10 years or boarding an illegal gambling cruise, Kaiji decides to test his hand at gambling.
Genre: Drama / Slice of Life
Studio: Palm Studio
Quick Pitch: Ryu is a bartending prodigy who is known for mixing the best cocktails. He spends most of his days tinkering at the bar, which attracts visitors from all walks of life. With guidance from Ryu, his customers are able to reflect upon their lives and face their problems.
4. Only Yesterday
Genre: Drama / Romance
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Episodes: 1 Movie
Quick Pitch: Taeko is in her 20s and works at an office in Tokyo. During the summer, she visits her brother-in-law’s farm to help with the safflower harvest. While traveling, Taeko is overwhelmed with memories as a 10-year-old. All of the good and bad memories as a child result in Taeko questioning her adult life.
5. Speed Grapher
Genre: Action / Mystery / Supernatural / Romance
Quick Pitch: Tatsumi is a former war photographer and he is tasked with investigating a fetish club for the ultra-wealthy. He tries to photograph the club’s “goddess,” who is an exploited 15-year-old girl named Kagura. After Tatsumi is caught, he is kissed by Kagura and is granted the ability to destroying anything he photographs. It turns out that Kagura is “worshipped” because her bodily fluids can grant abilities based on a person’s desires, sexual fetish, and obsessions.
6. Serial Experiments Lain
Genre: Cyberpunk / Drama / Mystery / Psychological
Studio: Triangle Staff / Pioneer LDC
Quick Pitch: Lain Iwakura is a reclusive 14-year-old girl who receives an email from a supposedly dead classmate. The email introduces Lain to The Wired, which is a virtual world that supports the sum of all human connection and allows unconscious communication between humans and machines.
Lain’s sense of reality is quickly thrown off-balance as she stumbles across mysteries, “Men in Black,” and surreal events.
7. Mawaru Penguindrum
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Mystery / Psychological
Studio: Brain’s Base
Quick Pitch: Himari is a terminally ill girl, but she is miraculously saved by a strange spirit that lives in a penguin-shaped hat. In exchange for extending Himari’s live, her two brothers must find the elusive “penguindrum” with help of three penguins.
8. Revolutionary Girl Utena
Genre: Drama / Psychological / Romance / Yuri
Studio: J.C. Staff
Quick Pitch: Utena dreams of becoming a prince after a traveling prince consoled Utena after the deaths of her parents. The prince gives Utena a ring with a rose crests and promises to meet her again. While attending Ohtori Academy, Utena takes part in a game of duels.
What are your favorite cult classic anime?