5 Avant-Garde Anime That Will Change Your Perception of Japanese Animation

Zuleika Boekhoudt

Avant-garde: the term itself can even be confusing to the most seasoned mainstream fashion designers. It goes against tradition and what we know and are familiar with. This makes it daunting for artists to tackle, but for those few who dare, the result can be amazing.

But, avant-garde isn’t only found in fashion; it’s also in anime. Avant-garde anime are experimental and radical pieces of Japanese animation that have pushed the boundaries of what the audience has accepted as the norm. But despite its challenges, many consider avant-garde anime an indication of where anime is heading in the future. So, here are five avant-garde anime that will change your perception of Japanese animation.

Serial Experiments Lain

Featured in our weirdest and cyberpunk anime list, Serial Experiments Lain is an enigma that would baffle the most avid avant-garde anime fan. The series follows 14-year-old Lain as she explores The Wired, a world similar to the internet. But in her quest, several unrelated phenomena occur that will make you question: what did I just watch?

The avant-garde anime was never meant to be taken word-for-word or in this case scene-for-scene. Rather, Yoshitoshi ABe’s work should be seen as a metaphor. The series has a nonlinear narrative that can make you feel dazed and confused. The many themes that the series explores make it difficult to form a concise opinion after just one sitting. However, after many viewings, you will come to understand the intricacies of what is Serial Experiments Lain.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Loosely based on the 19th century novel of the same name, Gankutsuou follows the young aristocrat Albert Morcerf, who, through a series of bizarre events, befriends the Count of Monte Cristo. Spellbound by his charm and demeanor, they become friendly with each other, even introducing the Count to his family. But, the young aristocrat doesn’t suspect the true intentions of this enchanting new friend.

Gankutsuou is purely considered an avant-garde series due to its beautiful and yet unique art style. Series director Mahiro Maeda is credited for turning the 19th-century novel into a 21st-century anime masterpiece by using several animations techniques, such as Klimt style.


avant-garde anime Mononoke

Mononoke is a spin-off from the Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror Bakeneko story arc that follows the Medicine Seller as he encounters several spirits (Mononoke) in feudal Japan. The mysterious master of the occult can only destroy the Mononoke when he uncovers its Form (Katachi), the Reason for its behavior (Kotowari), and the Truth behind its appearance (Makoto). Each episode explores the different ways of figuring out these three questions.

Much like Gankutsuou, Mononoke uses a variety of rich colors that give the characters’ clothes and surroundings a unique look compared to other Japanese animation. But, more specifically, by using these vibrant colors and different techniques, Mononoke broke the norm by proving that horror can also be aesthetically pleasing, especially with bright colors.


avant-garde anime Texhnolyze

After the release of Serial Experiments Lain, Yoshitoshi ABe went on to work with Chiaki J. Konaka on Texhnolyze. The avant-garde anime follows prizefighter, Ichise who has lost a leg and an arm. At the brink of death, a female doctor saves him, but instead of nursing him back to health, she uses him to conduct experiments.

Not every avant-garde anime is about beautiful art and drama. With a heavy dose of violence and hopelessness, Texhnolyze may not be for everyone. But, the series will make you question a lot of things happening in our society and open the audience up to new ideas.


Tekkonkinkreet follows two orphaned street kids – the tenacious Kuro (Black) and the gentle Shiro (White), who protect the fictional city of Treasure Town from thugs and gangsters. However, Black and White face their biggest adversary yet when a giant corporation plans to tear down the city to build an amusement park.

At first glance, Tekkonkinkreet seems an anime for kids. But, never judge a book by its cover. The feature-length Japanese anime movie explores several adult themes and lets them come to life in its CG animation. And while fans are split on whether anime should have CG, the movie does a fantastic job of bringing the characters’ emotions to life.

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Zuleika Boekhoudt
Zuleika is a fan contributor at Fandom and focuses on Anime. Her anime specialties are horror, gore, and mystery anime. Loves series, movies, and games that have to do with bloodthirsty but equally intelligent psychos.
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