Over the last few decades, fantasy anime has been taking huge strides in both traditional and creatively fresh takes on western fantasy. And while many still look to novels for inspiration, there’s a lot of great anime out there that might inspire a system, a setting, and/or a campaign. So in this post, I’ve selected a variety of fantasy anime shows that are currently available to watch that I think offer some great inspirational ideas and material. So let’s look at four anime series that really bring it home.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (2015)
This OVA series takes a very different approach. It begins as a very conventional high fantasy human vs demons conflict set up, where the chosen few will band together to save the world. Then it goes sideways hard when at the first challenge of their world saving quest, they discover that they’ve been betrayed and that there’s an imposter among them. The series becomes a whodunit and borderline procedural as the heroes struggle to survive and uncover the imposter among them.
Why watch Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers?
To be frank, there aren’t a lot of good or accessible mystery-fantasy hybrid genre shows or books. This show embraces its concept and runs with it, and if you’re planning to run this kind of game, it could be invaluable. The pacing is good, the action scenes and how they deal with and showcase how to mix lethal and non-lethal PvP combat with RP is great.
Where to see it?
At the time of writing, this series is streaming on the Crunchyroll App.
Dragon Goes House-Hunting (2021)
At the time of writing, this series is still unfolding, and it’s amazing. The premise of the show is that a young dragon has been kicked out of his parent’s place and has to find a new home. They encounter a mysterious and powerful elf who is also a real estate broker, and the two investigate various potential homes and locations. This series is another in the new tradition of “video game world as the world”, but isn’t (as of writing), an Isekai. Now, there’s a whole other post investigating game worlds as worlds, but suffice to say, this does not detract from this series at all.
Why watch Dragon Goes House-Hunting?
The opening credits alone are worth their weight in gold for both conventional and non-conventional world building. The creators of this show are putting a lot of thought into the kinds of homes and communities that monsters and non-monsters alike might build or want to live in. It even gets into how and why dungeons exist, and doesn’t shy away from fun and unflattering depictions of adventurers and their effects on people and monsters who are otherwise just minding their business.
Where to see it?
At the time of writing, this show is streaming on the Funimation App.
Fairy Tail (2009)
I know what you’re thinking, why a sprawling Shonen anime series? Well, Fairy Tail has a lot more to offer than its continual action scenes and cool synthesis of martial arts mayhem and high fantasy magic. Now, the series itself is huge, clocking in at over 300 episodes, but offers a lot in terms of world building and conceptualization of magic. The core plot is pretty basic, but few shows are willing to challenge the levels of magical integration and developments around it as this show does.
Why watch Fairy Tail?
As a world building exercise, Fairy Tail offers a surprisingly functional high fantasy setting where things more or less make sense within its own confines. And if you’re building a world where adventurers are common, it’s invaluable. The Guild and Dark Guild system, the governing body that watches over stuff, how jobs (quests/campaigns) happen, competitions, and even the various types of magic and how they work all contribute to a functional and immersive high fantasy campaign.
Where to see it?
At the time of writing, this series is streaming on both the Crunchyroll and Funimation Apps.
Record of Lodoss War (1990/1998)
This series is the granddaddy of western fantasy anime, and feels very much like Dungeons & Dragons. And this isn’t just a feeling. The anime was based on published actual plays of a fantasy campaign in Japan that started as Basic D&D, but soon incorporated aspects from RuneQuest and other games until eventually it generated its own unique RPG, Sword World (currently in 2.5e). There are two major series under this broader title, a 13 episode OVA called Record of Lodoss War (1990), and a 27 episode TV series called Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998). Broadly, they both tell the same story, but the latter is truer to the longer and fuller actual plays.
Why watch Record of Lodoss War?
It’s a classic take on a conventional fantasy world. If you need to get a vibe for what kind of world D&D was more or less going for in its development, this is it. The story comprises several quests that form parts of a larger campaign, with good inclusion of character backgrounds and outstanding pacing in terms of world development/character development to action and combat sequences.
Where to see it?
At the time of writing, both series are available on DVD, and the OVA is available via the Funimation streaming App.
Anime, manga, and videogames are leading the way for how many people are first exposed to fantasy these days, and they’re trying out new ideas and concepts that aren’t necessarily common or even considered in a lot of traditional world builds or approaches. Even Lodoss, a game literally stepped in D&D, has value for the vibe it gives and its illustration of a fantasy world. Obviously, not all these series are for everyone, and check them out before watching, but each series here has something interesting to offer in terms of world building.