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5 underrated anime you should check out

Being an anime fan has never been as convenient as it is now, with the genre enjoying a global renaissance in popularity. It’s far from being the ultra-niche form of entertainment that longtime fans had to scour the internet for fan-dubbed rips of the latest series. Anime has only gotten more accessible over time, largely thanks to the rise of TV and movie streaming services.

Fans are now more acquainted than ever with contemporary hits, but there are plenty of more under-the-radar anime that are more than worth looking into. From genre-dedicated streamers like Crunchyroll to mainstream platforms like Netflix, these are excellent shows to watch that got buried under the hype of blockbuster productions.

91 Days

Two men point guns at each other in 91 Days.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Over-the-top action in Shounen anime is expectedly what sells the best. But for those looking for grittier, more grounded stories, 91 Days is a riveting watch. Animated by studio Suka, 91 Days is an anime series dripping with a crime-noir atmosphere that also serves as a period piece.

It takes place in the 1930s Prohibition era of the United States, centering around Angelo Lagusa as he embarks on a long, bloody mission to exact revenge on the Italian mafia that murdered his family. 91 Days is a relentless, hard-boiled revenge story, holding little back in the brutality of its depiction of the criminal underworld — but looking moodily stylish in doing so.

91 Days is available to stream now on Crunchyroll.

Ping Pong the Animation

A guy plays ping pong in Ping Pong Animation.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While sports-themed anime aren’t the most popular subgenre, several series like Hajime no Ippo and Haikyuu!! managed to burst into the mainstream. But one series that seemed to fly under the radar compared to recent adaptations is Ping Pong the Animation. Animated by Tatsunoko Production and adapting Taikyo Matsumoto’s manga, Ping Pong the Animation follows two high schoolers as they strive to compete against the best ping pong players in the world.

Its art and animation style is striking and unique compared to the genre’s more stylized approaches elsewhere, and where it flourishes is how it uses the sport as a gateway to nuanced storytelling. It psychoanalyzes the players in the heat of the moment as well as tells a poignant coming-of-age tale.

Ping Pong: The Animation is available to stream now on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Great Pretender

4 men sit in a limo in Great Pretender.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Wit Studio has an impressive catalog of anime under its belt, from the first season of Vinland Saga to the first three seasons of the juggernaut that is Attack on Titan. However, one of the studio’s most underrated efforts has to be the colorful misadventures of Great Pretender.

A Netflix anime original, this series features one of the most stunningly vibrant art directions in the genre, but it more than matches in the story department as well. Great Pretender is more than meets the eye, with the series balancing an equal parts thrilling set of heist capers with emotionally engrossing character arcs of its main cast.

Great Pretender is available to stream on Netflix.

Darker Than Black

Three people stand in the shadows in Darker than Black.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A sci-fi series animated by veteran studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Mob Psycho 100), Darker Than Black takes place in a fictionalized version of Japan where a scientific anomaly known as Hell’s Gate has opened above the sky.

This paves the way for superhuman people known as Contractors to be employed for various — and grisly — jobs. The series shows an impressive level of worldbuilding in its neo-noir sci-fi world. It’s punctuated by the enticing mystery surrounding Hell’s Gate, all while functioning as social commentary on the political and economic cruelty of war.

Darker Than Black is an unfortunate exception when it comes to accessibility, as it’s currently unavailable to stream anywhere. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic anime series for those willing to go the extra mile to find a hard copy.

Currently, Darker Than Black is only available to purchase in physical DVD and Blu-ray formats on Amazon.

Mushi-Shi

A man stands in a forest in Mushi-Shi.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Similar to cases like Ping Pong the AnimationMushi-Shi is an acclaimed anime series for those that looked into it, but it doesn’t seem to get talked about as much as it deserves. It’s a refreshing departure from world-ending threats and high-octane action, as Mushi-Shi is breathtaking in how it takes its time with storytelling and opts for a subdued approach to the supernatural.

Animated by Artland and adapting Yuki Urushibara’s manga of the same name, Mushi-Shi follows Ginko, whose profession revolves around studying the otherworldly Mushi, their relationship to the world around them, and how they interact with people. Thematically profound and anthological in structure, Mushi-Shi is an immersive watch.

Mushi-Shi is available to stream now on Crunchyroll.

Guillermo Kurten
Freelance Writer, Entertainment
A University of Houston graduate in Print Media Journalism, Guillermo has covered sports entertainment and practically all…
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