#SaturdaySpecial: 7 must-watch superhero anime that are hidden gems

When people talk about superhero comics, images of manga and anime rarely come to mind. Of course, many manga feature intense action sequences and superpowers, but have you come across a full-blown superhero that typically wears a mask and fights crime with wild alter egos in an anime or manga?

Although the world of anime is filled with people and animals with amazing powers and characters that have above-average strength, speed, and shoot lasers from their eyes; however, in order to classify as superheroes, they need some arch-enemies to fight. Over the years, several manga and anime have attempted to tell compelling superhero stories. Inspired by their American counterparts, superhero anime came into the picture in the 1970s. 

Some are cerebral, others inspiring; and surely there are plenty of superhero anime and manga you cannot afford to miss out on. We’ve enlisted seven awesome superhero anime that are a must-watch!

Here’s the list:

1) Sailor Moon (1992)

Sailor Moon focuses on the adventures of one Usagi Tsukino, an immature crybaby who is in reality the reincarnation of the Moon Princess Serenity. She, along with the reincarnations of Serenity’s guardians, known as the Sailor Senshi, are assigned with defending the planet from ancient civilisations, time-travelling empires, outer-dimensional destroyers, evil circuses, and a cosmic overlord hellbent on blotting out the entire galaxy.

The series has received critical acclaim since its inception in the early ’90s, becoming one of the biggest influences on the anime genre in the years that followed. Despite its sometimes not-up-to-the-mark animation and occasionally underwhelming filler episodes, Sailor Moon has earned a place among the greatest anime of all time because of its iconic cast of characters and unforgettable moments.

2) Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor (2005)

Guyver is an exceptionally well-written superhero manga. It has been adapted several times, including as a 12-episode OVA back in the ’80s that was a staple in many old-school anime fans’ collections.

However, the 2000s adaptation, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor, is a far more complete telling of the story, which focuses on a biological suit known as a Guyver. Developed by an evil organisation obsessed with genetic testing, the suit lands in the hands of Sho Fukamachi, who is forced to defend himself and his loved ones from the suit’s inventors. The owners are also the same ones who are hell-bent on bringing it back under their control.

The anime lives up to modern standards as far as animation and sound are concerned. Although dark, one of the most appealing aspects of the series is the growing relationship between Sho and his girlfriend. The development of her character is excellent and adds a lot of emotional flavour to the story, increasing the suspense and never getting in the way of the action-killing.

3) Tiger and Bunny (2011)

Old-school hero Kotetsu Kaburagi (Wild Tiger) is an outdated relic in an era where individuals known as NEXTs (humans with superhuman abilities) fight crime for the sake of drawing publicity deals. Along the way, Kotetsu meets Barnaby Brooks (Bunny), a new kid on the superhero block. Together, they work together to fight crime in a world that glorifies crime-fighting.

The plot of the anime is unique and offers a colourful commentary on what it really means to be a hero. Tiger and Bunny share a beautiful bond that is sure to make you smile and ask for more. The visuals are stunning, the artwork is excellent and there’s a nice variety of character designs, settings, and outlandish costumes that uphold the reputation of superheroes everywhere. The series is well animated and unmissable. 

4) Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica follows the titular Madoka, who, along with her friend Sayaka, comes in contact with an enigmatic entity known as Kyubey. It promises to grant any wish so long as they become magical girls who can fight nightmarish entities known as Witches. However, as the series unfolds, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems. Also, why did that dark-haired girl tell Madoka to make a wish?

Although underrated, it is one of the most outstanding series you will come across in recent times. What are the ingredients that classify a superhero anime as a masterpiece? Well, Puella Magi Madoka Magica answers the question quite well in its near-perfect execution. The episodes are thoroughly entertaining and sure to get you hooked. The animation style is original, unique and stunning. The design of the characters are simple and you’ll get to see futuristic monochromatic buildings along with well-shot action sequences.

5) Cyborg 009 (2012)

Cyborg 009 tells the tale of a group of cyborgs forced to fight together to survive. The group of nine are forced to confront mad scientists who are hell-bent on starting a new world war, ancient civilisations, and other anime superheroes.

The anime has had numerous adaptations over the years, but the most well-known is Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier because it aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami. The series has survived the test of time due to its focus on sci-fi action and team dynamics in the face of insurmountable odds.

Cyborg 009 boasts one of the greatest endings in any anime. It also has some of the best stand-alone episodes and the music and art designs are spectacular. Each character has a unique backstory with some being serious while others providing comedy relief; thereby providing a good variety. The anime has it all: heroism, rebellion, mystery, a great story and fight scenes.

6) One-Punch Man (2015)

Saitama has a peculiar hobby, being a superhero, but despite his heroic deeds and superhuman abilities, a shadow looms over his life. He’s become too powerful, to the point that every opponent ends up defeated with a single punch. The lack of challenge has driven him into a state of apathy, as he watches his life pass by having lost all enthusiasm, at least until he’s unwillingly thrust into the role of being a mentor to the young and revenge-driven Genos.

Watching the superhero anime is as fun as the plot sounds, if not more. Very different from the others on this list. One-Punch Man is an action-comedy you wouldn’t want to miss. The music is superlative, the fight scenes are amazing, and the art of the anime is fabulous. 

The secret behind One-Punch Man’s amazing graphics lies behind the fact that it has been directed by Shingo Natsume (key animator of Gurren Lagann, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hachimitsu to Clover). His other team members include Kazuya Murata, the legendary Kenichi Konishi and Sejoon Kim (Gundam).

7) Devilman Crybaby (2018)

Akira is a wimpy kid who cries at the drop of a hat. However, after a chance encounter with his old friend, Ryo, Akira’s spirit is intertwined with that of a brutal demon named Amon. From there, they become Devilman, fighting demons by moonlight. But are the demons really the worst thing that can be thrown at Akira and his friends, or is the human heart the foulest thing on this rotten earth?

Beautifully animated and dreadfully disturbing, this superhero anime remains a classic to be watched and re-watched for years to come. The story of the short series is quite good, the pacing is solid throughout and there are no unnecessary dips. The plot manages to push through to the end and conclude in a satisfying way, which many movies fail to do. Not many people are aware of the anime and it surely deserves more love and attention than most popular films with a half-decent plot.

~ Hope you enjoyed the list!