Anime is an incredibly wide medium. It can cover just about any story, from crime dramas to slice-of-life shows. It really is a type of medium unlike any other. Now, action shows like One Piece, My Hero Academia, Black Clover, or even Full Metal Alchemist are usually all the rage.
But, there's an entire category of anime that is universally underrated, and that is the ones with historical themes. People like learning, as long as it's entertaining. And that's why these shows are great. Sure, a lot of them add supernatural elements or embellish stuff, but here are our top ten favorite shows that have a backbone from Earth's history.
10 Tanya The Evil
Right off the bat, we've got an absurdly dark show, The Saga of Tanya the Evil. This show is an odd take on the "Isekai" genre, where characters are usually reborn in video game-esque worlds to play out their power fantasies. But, Tanya is a bit different, she's actually a middle-aged salaryman reborn into the body of a powerful but young magician girl.
All of the names in this show are obviously fictional, but it's very heavily based on aspects from Europe and both World War I and II. There are a lot of uncomfortable things about the show, but at the end of it all Tanya is an absolutely outstanding show to suffer through.
9 Samurai Champloo & Other Edo Period Pieces
There are just so many shows set in the Edo Period! Seriously, there's Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, Rurouni Kenshin, Gintama, and even Samurai Champloo. All of these shows have a couple of things in common.
First, they all feature katana-wielding swordsmen/samurai. Second, they all have a bit of a fantastical element about them. And third, they're all about honing skill and traveling the world. I guess people really just loved feudal Japan, at least as a setting. In any case, all of the shows we just mentioned are absolutely worth a watch, so check them out.
8 Legend Of Arslan
Ever play Dynasty Warriors? Maybe Hyrule Warriors? How about Fire Emblem? All of these games have one thing in common, there are generals who serve as demi-god-esque figures in the war, that can mow down thousands single-handedly.
What's that got to do with Arslan? Well, it's an entire show about people like that set in Pre-Islamic Persia. It's a bit grandiose at times, but with the creator of Full Metal Alchemist at the helm, Arslan is 100% worth a watch. Again, this show borrows aspects, names, and events from history, but it isn't at all a historical retelling.
For all the fans of Vampire Hunter D out there, Hideyuki Kikuchi is back with Drifters. This time the history is a bit more...real, but the figures themselves are brought to a fantastical sort of Valhalla-esque afterlife. Basically, famous tacticians, heroes, and warriors from all across history are brought into a fantasy setting after they die in order to duke it out with each other.
And of course, Nobunaga plays a huge part as always. Basically, those who loved the unique artstyle and tone of Vampire Hunter D will be enraptured by Drifters as well. Especially since it has this weird blend of Middle-Earth fantasy, feudal Japan ideologies, and modern-day sensibilities.
6 91 Days
91 Days is a roller-coaster ride of emotions because at its core it's a revenge story. But, as events progress, it becomes a tale of friendship, family, and an overarching mystery. Set in the era of Prohibition, the story follows Avillo and Nero as the latter tries to keep his mafia family safe while Avilo tears them apart from within.
The story is nothing insanely new, but the style, music, and atmosphere of the show are top-notch. Plus there's Fango, who is working with the Orco family and is an absolutely delightful wild card character.
Remember how we said Arslan Senki was like watching an anime made up of Dynasty Warrior characters? Well, Kingdom is like following the story of Lu Buu as a kid. Kingdom follows the story of Shin, a boy in the state of Qin during the Warring States period in China. Shin (or Xin) is aiming to become the greatest general in the world.
The battles are brutal, the tactical warfare is top-notch, and the betrayals are frequent. A lot of the characters are modeled after real-life historical figures, while some others are completely fictional. But, otherwise, Kingdom is one of the best and longest-running war-centered anime/manga out there.
Baccano was the introduction to anime for many people, as it was one of the earlier anime to show up on Netflix, which is no longer the case. The story is again set during the roaring twenties, during the age of mobsters and prohibition. But, like most of these anime, there is some fantastical elements mixed in as immortality, alchemy, and a bit of magic are included as well.
The storytelling of Bacanno is intentionally all over the place, as the threads between character-specific stories become more clear the further viewers watch. But, at the end of it all, Bacanno is an absolute treasure to watch, and the couple of Isaac and Miria are the best part by far.
Gintama is a really unique show. It's been running in manga form since 2003, and the anime is one of the longer ones out there up next to One Piece and Detective Conan. Basically, the world has been taken over by aliens called the Amanto, and fearing another uprising, these extraterrestrial creatures ban swords and those who would wield them.
That sounds like a pretty serious set-up for a hero to come in and take them down, but in all actuality, Gintama is a comedy anime. It's wacky, heartfelt, and chaotic. And honestly, at the end of the day, main lead Sakata Gintoki just wants to sit around, drink Strawberry milkshakes, and read Shonen Jump. Seriously, give it a shot.
2 Golden Kamuy
Golden Kamuy is an enigma of an anime. Its main plot is about a war veteran murdering and skinning prisoners in order to find the hidden treasure, while an Ainu survival expert helps him along the way regardless of her peoples past. It's a show that should be grim, dark, violent, even a bit edgy, and it is.
But more than that, Golden Kamuy is a hilarious, heartwarming, and tense show that takes real good care of its characters. Just pay attention anytime Sugimoto and Asiripa have a conversation about their cultures, and it'll be clear what the appeal of the show is. Sure, the plot is made up, but the facts about Russo-Japanese Warrior and the treatment of the Ainu people of Japan are very real.
1 Vinland Saga
And finally, there's a relatively new anime, Vinland Saga. This may show our bias a bit, but we're huge fans of the Vinland Saga manga. In fact, other than maybe Vagabond or Kingdom, Vinland Saga is one of the only other substitutes we have that bears any sort of similarity to Berserk.
The story of Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn and the events of his life that unfold. The anime will probably only cover his journey with Askeladd and his arrival in Denmark, but believe us, there is so much more after that. Vinland Saga is a story of finding peace during the turbulent times of the Vikings, and that's what makes it so interesting.