It’s common for animes to be based on a manga. Think Death Note, Boys Over Flowers and Gin Tama: huge franchises that all began on black-and-white panels. But there have also been some amazing anime that had their own original stories. Here are 8 animes you will not believe, that are not based on a manga.

1) Five Centimeters Per Second

You’ll struggle to find a more serene story about that bittersweet feeling of heartbreak than this gem from Makoto Shinkai. Takaki and Akari met in elementary school. Akari moved away. The two promised to keep in touch. And, although they eventually drifted apart, both remained in each others' lives. We see them across various stages of life and, for one magical moment, they come back together. Or maybe they don’t. The viewer, like its protagonists, is left with a feeling they can’t quite identify but can’t quite forget either. A brilliant story, a breathtaking film and, sadly, no manga to follow.

2) Cowboy Bebop

Spoiler alert: towards the end of this iconic series, there is an emotional blitzkrieg upon your heart that you won’t soon forget. And with the mandatory disclaimer for the big death that every anime fan already knows about out of the way, let’s talk about the anime that defined a generation of antihero stories. Frequently imitated but rarely bettered, this action tale of the bounty hunter group aboard the spaceship Bebop in the year 2071 flawlessly mixes the retro with the futuristic. Director Shinichirou Watanabe gets a lot of (deserved) acclaim for his work on this series, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Keiko Nobumoto’s original screenplay.

3) FLCL

If you are going to watch one coming-of-age story that begins with a 12 year-old getting run over by a scooter, make it this one. Naota lives with his widowed father and grandfather. One day, the seemingly insane Haruko shows up and runs over Naota with her scooter. She fortunately gives him CPR…but also hits him on the head with her guitar. What follows is a conspiracy of intergalactic intrigue, all centering on the bump on Naota’s forehead, which also acts as a portal for giant robots. The biggest mystery, however, is what Youji Enokido was smoking when he wrote this piece of genius.

4) Kiznaiver

There are those who believe that the secret to world peace lies not in sympathy but empathy. It was this line of thought that brought about the “Kizna System,” a large-scale experiment that forces subjects to feel each others’ pain as they attempt to complete various missions. Katsuhira Agata is one such subject who was once a part of this experiment, and has now been recalled in his high school years to again communicate with his fellow subjects through the joint bond of pain as they attempt to complete some experimental tasks while bearing the burden of each others’ suffering. For even a career as distinguished as writer Mari Okada’s, this compelling series is a philosophical and psychological high point.

5) Eden of the East

Imagine waking up one morning. Now imagine waking up with no memory. Now imagine waking up with no memory and a bunch of fake passports. Now imagine waking up with no memory and a bunch of fake passports and a gun and 8.2 billion yen in digital money on your phone. That is what happens to our protagonist, and to give away any more would be a disservice to Kenji Kamiyama’s brilliant story, which really needs to be experienced in the form it was intended: as a brilliant anime that shows, more than any other, what animation can do for espionage fiction.

6) Kill la Kill

Studio TRIGGER and its associates have made several contributions to the list of great anime based on original screenplays (in addition to the already mentioned Kiznaiver, they have also worked with the creators of Gurren Lagann), but the honor of their premier contribution would have to go to Kill la Kill, the story of wandering girl Ryuko Matoi, whose search for her father’s killer brings her to Honnouji Academy, and its maniacal management of student council president Satsuki and her minions of evil. Both a parody of and tribute to the psychotic killer schoolgirl genre, Kazuki Nakashima’s writing actually inspired a manga and follows so many of the medium’s conventions that it would easy to believe that was the origin of this thoroughly senseless and utterly enjoyable story.

7) Darker Than Black

Think espionage mixed with a dose of supernatural chaos, some theological pondering and more than a touch of political warfare, and that’s basically Darker Than Black in a nutshell. After magical portals open throughout the world, super-charged beings called Contractors appear, working to spy and destroy for nations in a struggle for supremacy. Few anime have stories deep enough to have peripheral characters and ideas that can run their own manga, but Darker Than Black is living proof that, sometimes, a story can have the depth to command so much further attention than any singular series allows. Show runner Tensai Okamura perhaps wanted to craft a narrative that shows just how many characters are at play in our world at any given time and, in doing so, successfully creates a series that makes you question just how much (or how little) separates the doors between Heaven and that other place.

8) Punch Line

And to end it with a story that is actually seeing a sequel in the form of a manga, Punch Line is the story of Yuta Iridatsu, a boy who is ejected from his body and becomes a guardian spirit to the four girls he used to live with in his life time. He can gain spiritual abilities when leveling up. He can possess people when in the vicinity of cinnamon. He switches bodies with a girl named Chiyoko and is therefore biologically female. And if he twice sees a female in her underwear, he will pass out and a meteor will destroy the earth. If you are looking for sense in Kotaro Uchikoshi’s scripts, you will not find it. But if you are looking for rollicking good entertainment, there’s more of that here than in most others of the “harem” genre of anime.


So what other shows do you know and love that are based on original screenplays and not those soundless, voiceless, motionless manga? Upset that I didn’t include Anohana simply because the full title is so ridiculously long? Sound off in the comments below! And for all your anime needs, be sure to follow DramaFever on Twitter and Facebook!

COMING SOON

Jealousy Incarnate

Starring Jo Jung Suk and Gong Hyo Jin

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