Anime offers incredible variety, but many popular titles focus on high school students, leaving adult fans wanting characters and stories they can better relate to. Fortunately, countless anime series deliver more mature themes suited for older viewers. Here are 10 phenomenal anime to watch if you want complex adult narratives beyond high school tropes.
10 Anime Series for Adult Fans to Watch
1. Honey and Clover
Captures College Life and Quarter-Life Crises
Honey and Clover revolves around art school students Yuuta Takemoto and his friends as they try balancing relationships, schoolwork, and insecurity about their uncertain futures post-graduation.
Set at college rather than high school, Honey and Clover realistically portrays experiences like burnout and anxiety about adult responsibilities that many viewers will identify with. As characters contemplate what they want to do after school, they face universal struggles of early adulthood and finding purpose.
With its college setting and romantic entanglements, Honey and Clover makes for an excellent adult anime choice for viewers nostalgic for their student days or currently enrolled. The characters’ sincere self-discovery resonates at any age.
An Emotional Rollercoaster of Love and Heartbreak
The essential coming-of-age story Nana follows two girls with the same name who meet by chance while moving to Tokyo to start new lives. Despite different dreams – one wants to be a singer, the other seeks love – they vow to support each other’s ambitions.
But their friendship faces many hardships as both Nanas struggle with messy romance, career setbacks, and the general growing pains of being twenty-something. Nana puts characters through the emotional wringer, evoking the turbulence of young adulthood.
Viewers become invested in the endearing leads as they persevere through hard lessons about independence, trust, and compromise. Nana’s realistic look at adult relationships makes it a standout.
Finding Inspiration and Community in an Isolated Island
After angrily punching an art curator, calligrapher Seishu Handa exiles himself to a remote island, expecting isolation to reinvigorate his craft. But local villagers have other plans, insisting on constantly visiting and engaging him in their affairs.
Despite wanting solitude, the once tightly-wound Seishu starts finding inspiration and purpose interacting with his quirky neighbors, especially the energetic local children who see him as an uncle.
This heartwarming anime provides a poignant look at rediscovering passion and shaking off big city disenchantment through community. Seishu’s profound island transformation resonates with adult viewers feeling burnt out or unfulfilled.
Captures the Grind of Achieving Dreams in the Real World
Shirobako revolves around five friends who promised to make an anime together after meeting in their high school animation club. Now adults, they work in various animation jobs, but still struggle chasing their vision.
Some grapple with unfulfilling jobs despite it supposedly being their dream role. Others face dismissive attitudes as they try progressing in the industry. Shirobako highlights the difficulties of actually making aspirations, however creative, come true in the “real world.”
The group’s perseverance through setbacks while retaining their passion is inspiring. Shirobako offers an adult perspective on hopes versus reality without losing a sense of wonder.
5. Cowboy Bebop
A Stylish Sci-Fi Take on Existential Themes
The fantastical futuristic sci-fi series Cowboy Bebop instantly drew fans with its cool style upon release in 1998. But beneath the space cowboy action lies poignant themes.
Set in a colonized solar system, the story revolves around anti-hero Spike Spiegel, a guilt-ridden hitman turned bounty hunter carrying inner pain, and the eccentric allies he gathers. Haunted by his past, Spike wrestles with isolation and finding meaning.
These mature existentialist undertones resonated with many adult viewers. Cowboy Bebop uniquely blended eye-catching action with philosophical depth for an generation-defining anime.
6. Wave, Listen to Me!
Finding Redemption and Passion Through Late Career Change
After her boyfriend suddenly leaves her, protagonist Minare Koda accidentally rants about it on a radio show while drunk, prompting an offer to guest host. She uncovers a talent for radio and pivots her drifting life towards an unlikely new career.
Wave, Listen to Me! delivers a very adult story, balancing Minare’s series of failures with humor. Watching someone Written off by society unexpectedly find professional redemption resonates strongly with viewers also encountering professional and personal crossroads.
Despite mishaps, Minare’s willingness to seize an unexpected second chance inspires. Her evolution feels familiar to anyone undergoing major life change.
7. Life Lessons with Uramichi-Oniisan
A Dose of Misanthropic Millennial Humor
Beneath its cute exterior lies an incredibly adult dark comedy. Protagonist Uramichi Omota is a 31-year-old former gymnast now bitterly going through the motions as a children’s show host, despite hating his job and life.
His cynical attitude clashes with his colorful young audience for maximum comedic effect. Uramichi’s constant fatalism about adulthood hits home for any viewers who feel similarly disenchanted or aimless in their early 30s.
For older millennials in particular, Uramichi’s satirical misadventures deliver much-needed catharsis through humor. It’s a rare mature comedy showing the less glamorous side of being a young(ish) adult.
8. Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-San
Retail Workers Will Relate to This Surreal Workplace
Adapted from a comic about the creator’s real experiences working in a bookstore, Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-San puts a surreal spin on the retail grind. The titular character Honda and his eccentric coworkers are depicted with animal masks and strange nicknames.
But the absurdity can’t mask the sheer realism of the daily customer interactions they face and the resulting exasperation familiar to anyone in hospitality or service roles. The exaggerated art contrasted with relatable workplace dynamics makes for side-splitting humor.
Retail veterans will chuckle knowingly watching Honda-San tackle achingly familiar headaches with wit. It’s a cathartic must-see for service industry survivors.
9. Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku
Nerdy Adults Balancing Geek Life With Work-World Demands
Wotakoi focuses on childhood friends Narumi and Hirotaka, who reunite as adults at an office job and discover they both still love anime, gaming, and cosplay. They start dating amidst a friend group who share similar double lives.
Few anime explore the juxtaposition of professional careers and geeky hobbies like Wotakoi. Watching the ensemble balance their passions with workplace expectations makes for entertaining clashes.
Older viewers trying to maintain their interests alongside real-world duties will find the characters’ struggles highly relatable. It captures the adult geek experience like nothing else.
Millennial Workplace Woes Get a Cute Cathartic Twist
Aggretsuko struck a chord by depicting the daily frustrations of Retsuko, a put-upon anime red panda accountant facing absurd workplace problems and rails against via death metal karaoke.
Despite the cute aesthetic, this show examines real workplace dynamics through satirical slice-of-life stories familiar to anyone who’s held a draining office job. Retsuko’s struggles to get respect and achieve work-life balance mirror millennial crises.
Aggretsuko’s mix of adorable and bleak resonated widely. Retsuko’s uncensored misadventures provide stress-relieving laughter for corporate survivors.
So for adult anime fans tired of high school stories, these 10 picks offer thought-provoking alternatives tackling relatable grown-up themes through comedy, drama, sci-fi, and more. There’s incredible variety, but they all deliver the poignant storytelling maturity that adult viewers crave.