Who doesn’t love a good detective story? Many of us remember watching the classic detective Conan (Case Closed) in our youth. The thrill of the chase and the mystery that surrounds a case is enough to get those brain cells working and start binge-watching.
So, what is a Detective Anime? In its definition, Anime works falling under the detective genre usually features a detective, professional or amateur, that aims to solve crimes or a long series of events. While works in this genre historically focused on murder or theft, it can include supernatural and even slice of life elements.
A wider coverage of the genre could include stories that features a “detective” in a loose sense of the word. Although they solve problems, they might not be as technical as your Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew stories. For fans of solving problems and suspenseful scenes, here are the 30 detective anime series and films that will draw out your Sherlock brain.
What is the Best Detective Anime series?
This is actually a tricky question. However, to stay in line based on MAL Scores, Death Note takes the lead as the best detective anime series. It is a largely technical series that actually keeps the suspense with unexpected twists and carefully crafted stories. The rather brief cat and mouse chase between L and Light has kept fans riveted up until its unexpected outcome.
In the light of this article focusing on Detective Anime works, we would like to note the classic Detective Conan whose anime has been running since January 1996 – 24 years ago! It has close to a thousand episodes (988), twenty-three feature films, and other media releases. Its fame and influence has even led to other series referencing and parodying parts of it (We’re looking at you, Sorachi-sensei!)
Also, there are other detective anime that goes far and beyond. From surreal artworks like Paranoia Agent to works that seem to walk the fine line between good and bad, or what is offensive and not.
1. Bungou Stray Dogs
MAL Score: 7.79
We start the list with Bungou Stray Dogs, written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. It features detectives (the protagonists work at the “Armed DETECTIVE Agency”), has superpowers, mafia, and non-stop action. I believe it’s a well rounded story that gives characters room to tell their story. It even has a good amount of side stories in addition to the main story line.
Bungou Stray Dogs follows Nakajima Atsushi, an abandoned orphan with a mysterious tiger spirit lurking within him. He meets a weird “detective” by the name of Osamu Dazai, who later reveals that *surprise* Atsushi is the tiger and this is his power. He joins the Armed Detective Agency, and meets fellow beings with powers like him. Together, they fight the Port Mafia while uncovering the secrets behind Atsushi and more importantly, his new partner Dazai.
While there are a lot of things to love about this series, let us focus first on the most detective-like aspects of the series. While Dazai is basically the active agent you’d usually find across the series, despite their quirks, they actually have a smart AF investigator by the name of Edogawa Ranpo. His ability, “Super Deduction,” supposedly activates when he puts on his glasses and solves cases in record time. While his deductions appear rushed and improbable, he breaks it down and makes sense of all this.
Be Detective Edogawa Ranpo Yourself and Find The References
Also, for a literary junkie like me, the best part about Bungou the names of major characters. Names, regardless of friend or foe, all come from real world authors! Their abilities usually take the names after the author’s greatest/ notable work. Ozamu Dazai (No Longer Human), Akiko Yosano (Thou Shalt Not Die), Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Rashomon), and many more. In some cases, the references are not that direct, but the choice of names and how their powers fit the titles of actual novels and poems still sends shivers down my spine.
Fun fact: Conan Edogawa’s codename comes from Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and Ranpo Edogawa (Kogoro Akechi). Additionally, Ranpo Edogawa is a pseudonym coming from Edgar Allan Poe, whom Taro Hirai admired greatly. Poe is Ranpo’s archnemesis in the anime.
Season 3 of the anime ended at Volume 13 of the manga. For fans who can’t wait to see what happens next, start with Bungou Stray Dogs Volume 14 and show some love for the author.
MAL Score: 8.39
Imagine if Minority Report had a baby with Cyberpunk 2077 (bugs and glitches not included) and turned into a Cowboy Bebop-eque work of art. There are ways to try and describe it but Psycho-Pass is definitely one of the best anime, hands down. Even its title whispers genius, if you think Psycho-Pass sounds like psychopath, you get free cookie points.
In 22nd century Japan, Justice and law enforcement has changed. The Sibyl System assesses the threat level of every citizen by checking their minds for criminal intent. The people’s mental state becomes their “Psycho-Pass”. Once a citizen crosses a threshold value, officers can apprehend, or even eliminate, the person.
Enter Akane Tsunemori, a naive rookie Inspector paired under Shinya Kogami, an enforcer – a latent criminal assigned to protect Inspectors. Tsunemori soon realizes that the Sibyl System is not as absolute as everyone thought it to be. She struggles with her naive perspective that initially clashes with her teammates and the Enforcers she works with. It is a treatise on ideas of justice, freedom, and the human nature coupled with futurism and copious amounts of blood and gore.
A Detective Anime Not for the Faint of Heart
As a detective anime, it is procedural like NCIS, CSI, and other alphabet soup crime dramas that mostly deal with murder cases. Even better, it all leads to a singular mastermind that the Sibyl System can’t even detect. As a murder-driven storyline, expect unsettling stories and modus operandi from the various killers in the series. It’s graphic: from disposing of bodies in sewage systems to displaying mutilated “artworks” in public places. This anime definitely requires a trigger warning for the faint of heart.
Also, since it is actually more of an intellectual cat and mouse rather than high-speed chases, it also features a lot of literary references. A personal favorite is the character of Toyohisa Senguji, a cyborg CEO known to the public. He is, however, the anime version of “The Most Dangerous Game” brought to life. If you know the 1924 short story by Richard Connell, that explains itself. Also, references to a lot of authors like Franz Kafka, Shakespeare, and George Orwell abound in the series. This alone makes for a richer, nerd-worthy anime experience.
3. Detective Conan
MAL Score: 8.17
As a child who grew up with Detective Conan on local TV, I feel obliged to explain that some people might grow to find the series formulaic or repetitive, as shows with more than 900 episodes tend to encounter every once in a while. Some shorter stories, like Psycho-Pass and Death Note, deliver a strong flavor in a rush. Detective Conan ran longer, but with the slight bumps over the years.
Gosho Aoyama’s enduring work focuses on Shinichi Kudo, a high-school student. He is also a detective regularly the local police comes to in solving confounding cases. During one of his cases, assailants got him. They drugged Shinichi with an experimental poison that transformed the teenager into a grade-school child. While working to return himself to normal and protect his loved ones, he took on the alias of Conan Edogawa. He continues to investigate cases with the help of his friend and caretaker Professor Agasa. Conan also enlists his “classmates” and teammates in the Junior Detective Club.
More than a CSI-type series in anime form, Detective Conan has grown to cover most genres – comedy, slice of life, romance. Most of the crimes revolve on murder-themed stories which might come across as repetitive and episodic for some. But don’t worry, once the mystery of why he was shrunk, and the evil organization they are against shows up, it starts to tie a number of cases together.
4. Death Note
MAL Score: 8.63
A cult classic and arguably one of the best detective anime of all time, Death Note draws audiences in with a deceptively complex storyline. A supernatural notebook gives one man (at first) god-like powers to decide life and death. This has opened years of debate on the concepts of justice, right and wrong, and conflict of morality and legality.
Yagami Light is your average anime shonen – good looks, strong morals, and sense of justice. Not to mention his advantages of being extremely smart, having connections to the local police force (he’s like a local Sherlock), a god of death beside him, and the continuously growing messiah complex. On the tail of the hunt is L who has the cards stacked against him. However, he still managed to get too close to the truth and set up his successors for victory.
It boasts some of the most suspenseful cat and mouse moments in modern anime. If you know the potato chip trick, you will understand. Also, while the story is based on supernatural elements, the response of its human characters keeps the story grounded and relatable.
Note that the second half of the anime series has divided fans of the series. Still, there’s no doubt that this remains a must-see for fans of the detective anime genre, as well as for anime newcomers.
5. Erased (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)
MAL Score: 8.39
Ah, BokuMachi, one of the gems from the previous decade. Now that I got to rewatch it for this article, the show has taken on a new life. It gave me a new appreciation for this Kei Sanbe masterpiece. Having seen more anime at this point, there were parallels and possible references to other works in the genre.
Erased follows Satoru Fujima, a 29-year-old struggling mangaka/ pizza delivery guy with a strange ability. He experiences a phenomenon called “Revival,” allowing him to go back and time and change an (often fatal) event. While this is a good premise in itself, Kei-sensei turned WTF levels to 11 and introduced us to his mom. The cool mom with an unusually sharp sense, which, unfortunately, gets her killed. This sends Satoru 18 years back in time, for a chance not only to save her mother, but to prevent a string of kidnapping that resulted in three of his childhood friends dying.
To describe it in terms of other anime alone is a disservice to one of the best anime released in Winter 2016. Satoru is not a genius, not an entirely noble and heroic character. His “power” or “curse” is not even explained – just a blue butterfly appears when it’s about to activate. However, the innate desire to do something makes you root for him.
While traveling back in time to save a loved one has been found in Puella Magi, Steins; Gate, Higurashi, and more, Erased mainly focuses on 2 things that make it memorable. One is the focus on child kidnapping. The nature of these cases always has that “innocence gone too soon” that makes them unnerving. The other is the presence of other observant and sharp characters in the series, making it realistic and relatable.
MAL Score: 8.74
For fans looking for a slow burn, where all players are made known early in the series yet the chase goes on, Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER is a great entry to start with. Running for 73 episodes, MONSTER remains committed to its main story despite the break offered by its subplots. Needless to say, this entry deserves all the praise and clout you might have about it before reading this article.
MONSTER follows a skilled neurosurgeon named Kenzo Tenma. He first prioritizes saving the life of a popular singer over a construction worker. The neglected patient who soon dies and leaves him resentful of his decision. Sure enough, another pair of patients arrive after a few days. This time, it was a child who got a bullet in his head and the city mayor. Together with the young boy is his traumatized twin sister, who was also admitted after only muttering the words “kill… him…” Tenma saves the boy, Johan, who later turns out to be the titular monster.
The conflict in this detective anime entry unfolds slowly and roots its story in realism. Kenzo Tenma is no genius, no ace shot. He is, however, a humanitarian and presents the innate kindness in every person. Johan, on the other hand, is the result of some experiment that created the “monster.” He is cunning, charismatic, intelligent, and unapologetic. This seemingly hopeless case and its pacing make MONSTER a memorable watch! I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that kindness goes a long way.
MAL Score: 8.15
“If I don’t have to do something, I won’t; but if I have to, I’ll do it quickly”. Ah, why is it that outrageously smart characters are cursed with laziness, or as Hotarou puts it, energy-conservation? Anyway, Hyouka is a work of art deserving to be placed among the best entries in this list.
Hyouka follows the “energy-conservative” Hotarou Oreki, convinced by his older sister to join the school’s Classic Literature Club. His sister convinced him mainly to stop the old club from being abolished. However, he finds to face more than he bargained for. He soon faces mysteries he can’t escape, mostly because of the persuasion of his curious and inquisitive clubmate Eru Chitanda. Together they enlist the “human database” Satoshi Fukube, and the artistic Mayaka Ibara. The group then uncovers mysteries in their school and in their town, and fall in love.
Most of the time, the hype in detective anime is created through large risks: world domination, death, being “gods,” etc. In Hyouka, and it does so perfectly, creates riveting mystery cases without any of the above. It ranges from family histories, student projects, or even urban ghost stories in their town. The cases are nothing really harmful but everything turns out suspenseful and even interesting. It actually feels more like slice of life/ romance, story-wise. The Japanese natives themselves said watching Hyouka is a good gateway to discovering how school life in Japan looks like. Hyouka tells us that even normal, everyday life can be full of small mysteries that adds fun to it.
MAL Score: 8.11
As you will no doubt find in this list, the detective genre has mashed together with other genres and elements to make it interesting, if not to stand out among the rest. GoSick, for its share, goes heavily with period-drama. Its story unfolds in a school in a fictional alpine nation in Europe, within the Interwar Period, 1924. It is the brief time of peace between the first and second World Wars.
The son of a Japanese Imperial solider, Kazuya Kujo goes to study at St. Marguerite Academy in Sauville, at the foot of the alps. Seen as weird and called the “Black Reaper” by his classmates, he soon finds Victorique. The doll-like genius, with her blonde hair and short stature, has been largely confined to the library. This quintessential tsundere also has another hobby – solving cases detectives. Together they solve mysteries and develop feelings towards each other, facing Victorique’s past and Kazuya’s future amidst a historical backdrop moving towards WWII.
In our futile attempts to minimize spoilers, GoSick has one of the most heartwarming endings in anime ever. Also, it goes back and forth in time and space – from the school, to other places and back, and with flashbacks present in almost every episode. It manages, still, to weave these things without getting too boring. The relationship between Victorique and Kazuma slightly falls into the common formula of romantic pairs. GoSick uses the tsundere female and the moldable “blank slate” main character. But still, as a detective series, it manages to fit that “love conquers all” trope nicely.
9. Detective School Q (Tantei Gakuen Q)
MAL Score: 7.77
Q follows Kyuu Renjou, a bright and optimistic fan of everything detective (like you) with a knack for observation and deduction. Nevertheless, he has trouble interpreting Japanese phrases. Inspired to be a detective when he was saved by one, he becomes the de facto leader of the Class Q of the Dan Detective School – the creme de la creme of their batch.
As a detective anime series, Detective School Q starts with the mandatory introduction arc. After this, the anime becomes slightly episodic ala Detective Conan until Pluto is introduced – a sinister organization bound on developing supposedly fool-proof crimes. It comes to a head in the episode titled “The Future Detective,” creating that very high level of hype before landing a vague ending.
It also takes common tropes and breathes new life into them. For example, the separation of logic and deduction (Kyuu/ Ryu), attention to detail (Megu), tech-savviness (Kazuma), and instinct and fighting ability (Kintarou). However, it doesn’t turn them into fat and boring characters, as the series finds ways to highlight each character. It’s fair to say that Detective School Q is a necessary part of must-see detective anime, always.
10. Lupin III (Rupan Sansei)
MAL Score: 7.67
For the sake of transparency, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure which of the Lupin III series I’ve watched growing up. Thankfully, the first three parts of the animated series can be differentiated through Lupin’s outfit – green jacket (Part I), red (Part II), and bright pink (Part III). I still remember his signature outfit as having a red jacket. But in my defense, this was an international rerun of the series sometime in the 90s.
Lupin is the quintessential gentleman thief and an inspiration to most heist anime series that follows. It still falls under the detective anime genre because of the technical (and often unexpected) ways on how the robberies are pulled off. Also, for technicality, Inspector Zenigata of the Interpol is an esteemed detective – although it’s not always evident.
As a detective anime, it offered one of the most iconic presentations from the “criminal’s side.” If I were to recommend an episode for starters, “Lupin Dies Twice” is a great example. It’s James Bond’s “You Only Live Twice,” but with more humor and references – and a more technical scheme, from both sides. Aside from how Lupin and his gang – Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko – work to thwart the hitman “The Puma,” it is also a cute episode detailing Lupin and Zenigata’s love-hate relationship. Also, in anime film adaptation circles, the title “The Castle of Cagliostro” has become somewhat of a legend – made by the guys who’d later create Studio Ghibli.
11. Heaven’s Memo Pad (Kamisama no Memochou)
MAL Score: 7.55
I remember Kamisama no Memochou appearing like a season after GoSick, and that it also featured a loli-detective paired with a seemingly blank male character designed to be the series’ yardstick in terms of the character development. However, as GoSick runs off with the historic background, Memo Pad stays in the present, and caters to the tech-savvy generation.
In Kamisama no Memochou, we follow Narumi Fujishima – a 16-year-old loner – who transfers to a new school and has to join the Gardening Committee, as well as the NEET agency. It is not a group of actual NEETs, but more of a freelance group of Sherlocks taking cases that interest them. At the center of it is Alice – a childish shut-in in a room of computer screens and stuffed toys. She can, however, solve crimes and hack into systems – you get the idea.
Against my preconceptions of the series, Heaven’s Memo Pad actually works, partly because it’s only a 12-episode work. It just comes as fast as it goes, leaving you with a weird satisfaction since, in retrospect, appears like a mixture of cliche tropes. Lastly, it presents a fitting argument for not judging a book by its cover – with the members of the NEET club each bringing something to the table.
MAL Score: 7.41
If you’re a fan of Bungou Stray Dogs and you’ve read it as Ango, you’re onto something. It is largely influenced by the works of Sakaguchi Ango, down to the central theme – which is the question of living in the comfort of a lie or learning the unpleasant truth. While the question is clear, it’s delivery is… a little challenging.
The “defeated detective” Shinjuurou Yuuki works as a freelancer, solving cases that are mostly murder. With him is Inga, an akuma who has a contract with him – since he was saved, he has to feed souls to his “boss”. The story is set in a near-future, at a Tokyo recovering from war and terrorist attacks. Also, the government has complete control over the Internet, and the flow of information to the public.
As an 11-episode series, you’d have to watch it in its entirety for it to make sense. Its overarching story, such as the past of Yuuki and Inga and the world they live in, are provided in small parts. As a detective anime, it spares the viewers from the answers being pulled out of thin air through Inga’s unique ability. She can ask anyone one question – and compels them to only answer the truth. Watch and learn how a single question can solve any cases.
Although, quite curious, is I don’t remember Inga directly asking the question “Are you the culprit?” – even with her powers. Tell us if you do.
13. Paranoia Agent (Mousou Dairinin)
MAL Score: 7.69
The first thing you need to know is that Satoshi Kon directed this detective anime series. Yep, the Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, and Perfect Blue guy. If you’re familiar with these classics and haven’t seen Paranoia Agent, we both know what you need to do. Otherwise, feel free to read on.
Paranoia Agent follows a serial attacker known as Lil’ Slugger, and the two detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsurhiro Maniwa. What starts out as a string of assaults from the mysterious attacker – known only as having golden skates, a baseball cap, and a broken baseball bat – turns deadly.
As a detective anime, it effectively blurs the line between reality and fantasy, keeping the nature of Lil’ Slugger a mystery until late in the series. For fans of the SAW franchise, it feels eerily similar, with Lil’ Slugger apparently attacking people in distress and while he beats them up, they soon recover and even find their lives improving.
Also, as a Satoshi Kon work, it feels trippy to watch and hard to digest all at once. It starts like a procedural drama. Then, once it feels like the detectives are close to uncovering Lil’ Slugger’s identity, it accelerates and spirals into a surreal sequence of events.
14. Yuu Yuu Hakusho (Ghost Files/ Poltergeist Report)
MAL Score: 8.44
Ok, I admit to extending the line thin on this one. While it remains one of the modern classics in terms of shonen anime, it does not really cater to the storytelling rigors you usually find in detective anime. However, I rest my case on the fact that Yusuke Urameshi is a *wink wink* “SPIRIT DETECTIVE” and that he does “INVESTIGATE.” Fight me. Its first major story arc is even called the Spirit Detcetive Saga.
An iconic part of its series is when 14-year-old delinquent Yusuke dies unexpectedly, as in the afterlife itself did not expect his arrival, when he saved a young boy from a fast-approaching car (no, sorry Truck-kun). With the Spirit Realm not ready for him, those in charge gave him opportunity to return to life and subsequently work as a “Spirit Detective,” yeah. In his adventures, Yusuke goes with fellow delinquent Kuwabara and ex-criminal demons Hiei and Kurama – forming a quartet that soon saves both the Human and the Yokai worlds.
There’s no question about it – there’s no serious detective work done compared to the amazing fight scenes. However, it’s just hard to pass on this series, being a well-rounded work that has its fair share of comedy, suspense, and even romance. As a kid back then, Yusuke and Keiko were #RelationshipGoals. Rewatching it as an adult, the heart hurts a bit watching Shizuru Kuwabara’s short unspoken romance with Sakyo. For our younger readers, it’s a good old-school adventure (slightly detective) anime. For those from the same age bracket, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for: go rewatch.
15. City Hunter
MAL Score: 7.94
Going straight to the heart of K-Drama fans, yes, we will be talking about the anime that drama is very, very loosely based on. In terms of live-action adaptation, the 1993 Jackie Chan “City Hunter” film is closer in spirit.
City Hunter follows Ryo Saeba, a “sweeper” or mercenary and private detective who works to help Tokyo get rid of its evil elements. However, he has one glaring flaw: he is a pervert who tries to hit on almost any woman he meets. This is true except for his business partner, Kaori Makimura, who was entrusted to him shortly after his former partner – and Kaori’s adoptive older brother – was assassinated.
The series – despite its pandering and humor – actually follow Ryo and the different “jobs” he takes on. Its format actually reminds me of Golgo 13, and the fact that Ryo is actually good at his job among the best parts of the series. Its episodes usually include scenes of the bright and classy streets of Tokyo, often with thrilling car chases somewhere in between. His jobs also vary from case to case – he works as an investigator, a bodyguard, and in one episode, a hitman.
As someone from the latter decade, this masterpiece from the late 80s/ early 90s introduced me to something else: city pop music. Before Mariko Takahashi’s Plastic Love, or Rainbow Note, it was “Ai Yo Kienaide” by Kahoru Kohiruimaki. The second OP, Yoshiyuki Ohsawa’s “Go Go Heaven” was closer to the hyped 80s TV shows in the west like MacGyver.
16. The Millionaire Detective – Balance: Unlimited (Fugou Keiji: Balance: UNLIMITED)
MAL Score: 7.60
One of the most recent entries on this list, The Millionaire Detective – Balance: Unlimited has been a surprise hit, especially to the female fans. Using unbelievable intelligence and deductions on the verge of supernatural for solving crimes has been the bottom line of every detective anime so far. Some might introduce supernatural elements to spice things up a bit, but none has done what Fugou Keiji did – create a character that uses money to solve ALL problems.
The temperamental yet idealistic Haru Katou is paired with Daisuke Kambe, the titular Millionaire Detective. Using his virtually limitless resources, Kambe uses money and the latest everything to solve crimes. He’d go as far as to directly bribe people to get him leads in the case he’s working on. With their contrasting personalities, you’d be hooked to find out how they work the different cases thrown their way.
To put it simply, the success and interest in the series has been mostly credited to Kambe himself. He has all the negative traits we usually see among rich people, and he makes it look SO cool! Unapologetic, arrogant, and openly dishonest (with bribery), his “filthy rich” behavior is matched only by his unwavering cool, even in dire situations. You’d have to ask, in the real world, is it okay? Realistically speaking, money seems to actually solve most of our problems. And Kambe is an accurate representation of most people’s dreams.
Also a fun feature of the series: the costs incurred per episode. Just goes to rub Kambe’s “Balance: Unlimited” in our faces.
17. Moriarty the Patriot (Yuukoku no Moriarty)
MAL Score: 7.88
In talking about the detective genre, mentioning Sherlock Holmes seems like an inevitable part of it. However, for those who followed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, you’d know that Professor Moriarty – mathematical genius and the “Napoleon of crime” – appeared very rarely in Holmes stories. This origin story take on a literary legend makes for a fun watch.
With Moriarty the Patriot, we are treated to the young William James Moriarty – the same math prodigy and criminal mastermind. He works together with his two other Moriarty brothers: Albert James and William James. Together, they offer vengeance on behalf of poor people who suffered injustices from the country’s nobles.
The best part, I think, is in its attempt to justify Moriarty’s actions as we know it. I just hope it keeps it up until the iconic Reichenbach Falls scene hopefully, in writing and in film). Moriarty the Patriot tells the timeless story of class struggle: the corrupt and self-serving nobility abusing the discontented and oppressed common folk. It makes you root for Moriarty. Sherlock, his nemesis, is attacked in the same as in an iconic scene from the Enola Holmes film. Edith, a friend of their mother, gives Sherlock a privilege check in the following quote:
“Because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well.”
-Edith to sherlock, ENOLA HOLMES (2019)
Its spine-chilling opening (Dying Wish by Tasuku Hatanaka) has serious Death Note (“THE WORLD”) or Attack on Titan (“Shinzou wo Sasageyo”) vibes. Additionally, I think Yuukoku no Moriarty is eye candy for the female fans out there, with husbando reimagining of the characters. Also, fans of the original Holmes work should keep an eye on the names. From Fred Porlock to Colonel Moran, all are from Doyle’s works.
18. Sherlock of Kabukicho (Kabukichou Sherlock)
MAL Score: 6.92
If I’d describe Kabukichou Sherlock in one word, it has to be “weird”. For legitimate fans of the Sherlock canon, it is disappointing. For members of the transgender community, it has some insensitive and ill-timed jokes. And for the uninitiated. it’s outright messy and difficult to follow overall. Read on to see why we still included it in this list.
You’d be safe to walk into Kabukichou Sherlock without any assumptions, despite the glaring Holmes reference. It is a loose adaptation of the Holmes universe, set in an exaggerated Kabuki district in Shinjuku, Japan. Same-same: distraught people come in and plead their case to detectives, with Sherlock taking cases that interest him. Now, here is where it gets weird (and fun, maybe). Aside from Sherlock, there are other detectives who can accept missions and usually they compete with each other. Cases usually arrive in Mrs. Hudson’ s, in this case a muscular trans woman, night club.
While we could argue and list the hits and misses of this Production IG work (the visuals are impressive, watch it in HD!), Kabukichou Sherlock brings a rather distant adaptation of the classic detective. The weirdest part of this series is its Rakugo: a traditional Japanese verbal performance. In this case, Sherlock explains the crime, with adult/dark humor and sarcasm, and corners the culprit. This is parallel to the exposition monologue done by Detective Conan as Mori sleeps. It’s like the internal dialogues in Death Note, but with more non-PC references and jokes.
I can never stress this enough, but the jokes and references make or break the series, depending on the audience – that I leave to your judgment!
19. Holmes of Kyoto (Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes)
MAL Score: 6.76
Let us put this out plain and into the sunlight: it is not among the best-entries out there. It comes at a time when the detective genre has been established with an array of powerful entries for the decade. It was when new entries are few and far in between. However, it caters to a particular audience and if you’re curious about adding Holmes of Kyoto to your next watch list, read on.
Holmes of Kyoto goes about the cases brought to Kiyotaka Yagashira, nicknamed “Holmes” because of you know why. He is an apprentice at the family antique shop, where he meets Aoi – high school student with a good intuition when it comes to antiques.
Less than Hyouka, and much like the “Isekai Shokudou” of Detective Animes
That’s it. I’d call it the Isekai Shokudou of the detective genre – mostly because its “mysteries” are not that risky or engaging. It’s safe to say that the cases in this series are of the lighter kind, and mostly concerns themselves in the world of arts and antiquities. Much like the “Master” in Shokudou comes up with amazing dishes, Kiyotaka seems to draw conclusions from thin air. It smells fishy for a “detective anime,” but real-world appraisers of jewels and arts actually have that weird sense about their craft, which makes the story plausible (at least in my opinion).
If that field is in your alley, the cases take a new color and life, especially since the supposedly exclusive world of appraising gets rare representation in anime culture. In its seemingly tedious premise, it even managed to draw out interesting characters. I’m mostly talking about Enshou. He is a scammer who turned into a priest, only to return to scamming sometime later.
Also, it teases a romance between Holmes and Aoi. While their ship never really sailed, the hints and small scenes are frustrating at first and refreshing after a while – like certain cases of real-world relationships *sobs*. Lastly, it offers a realistic, tourism-centered-like presentation of Kyoto, which is fascinating for someone who has never been there.
Whether you’d watch it or not, based on the few details we dropped, is again, up to you. You can also enjoy these out-of-the-mold Holmes of Kyoto in novel format.
20. Rampo Kitan
MAL Score: 6.62
If UN-GO caters to fans of Sakaguchi Ango’s works and philosophy, Rampo Kitan specifically came into being to commemorate Edogawa Ranpo’s 50th death anniversary. Whether he would’ve liked the offering, we may never know. What we do know is that fans are also divided on this one, and with good reason.
Surprisingly, the story follows Kobayashi Yoshio (from the original works, also a trap), blamed for the murder and dismemberment of their teacher. Also weird (and unnerving) is his supposed calmness, striking me as sociopathic. He meets Kogoro Akechi, the namesake of the famous Holmes of the East by Ranpo. Here, however, he is a teenage detective with a special government authorization for his intelligence. He soon follows Akechi as his assistant and solves cases together.
The first thing you’d mention is its weird stylization – irrelevant characters only appear (at first) as only monochromatic silhouettes. They only become animated and colored once they appear in the foreground. Another, and I should’ve started with this, is its excessively graphic display of the crimes. If you’ve seen the gory “artworks” in Psycho-Pass, shown in glances or parts only, Rampo Kitan shows it front and center – consider yourself warned.
Rampo Kitan requires an intense suspension of disbelief. With the nature of the crimes they face in the series, it is surprising that the characters are mostly underaged.
21. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
MAL Score: 8.45
Where I’m from, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (herein called GitS: SAC) is either one of the three possibilities. First is that it is their entry to the anime world, thanks to the old AXN channel or any other cable that catered it. Second, it is “not just a series but an art form” that your fellow anime fans will use as a measure of your character. The third is you chanced upon the 1995 anime first and you have expectations on the series moving forward.
In Stand Alone Complex, the series focuses more on the Public Security Section 9 unit, a special task-force of former military personnel and police detectives. Aside from Motoko Kusanagi, the cyborgnetic major and leader of the team, we are also introduced to a variety of interesting characters – starting with Batou. The first season of the 2002 anime focuses on the Laughing Man incident, where the hacker they were tracking leads them to a larger conspiracy involving the Japanese government. Their attempts to uncover the truth, and the popularity of the original hacker, has lead to the titular Stand Alone Complex – the rise of imitators, each even more dangerous than the original.
Stand Alone Complex, All Worthy
It has a second season, 2nd GIG, which tackles an all-new problem, at a different scale, but still pits them with agents of the government. Its movie, GitS: SAC – Solid State Society sees them face a complex Skynet-like entity. It’s not a stretch to say that all these parts, plus the original Ghost in the Shell film from 1995, are all must-watch works. This, I’d like to point out to my friends, is the meta Stand Alone Complex, each standing on its own and each interesting enough to watch.
In all these parts of the Stand Alone Complex series, the cyberpunk background is woven intricately and impressively with the traditional themes of man vs government, lawfulness vs morality, and the ultimate question of good vs evil, whatever that may be.
For younger viewers, it is basically a step above Psycho-Pass. The tech is not as far into the future as the Sibyl System, but manages to ground it well, resulting in a rich and believable story. Plus good music, the eerie yet riveting kind, thanks to Yoko Kanno.
22. The File of Young Kindaichi/ The Kindachi Case Files (Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo)
MAL Score: 7.99
Technically, The Kindachi Case Files is one of the first works in the mystery/ detective anime and manga genre. Since it began its run in 1992, it has seen reinventions but basically, the series is still ongoing until now. It is older than most members of the Chasing Anime team, yikes.
It originally followed the adventures of Hajime Kindaichi, high schooler and grandson of Japan’s literary fiction detective Kosuke Kindaichi. Despite looking happy-go-lucky, and even unorganized at times, he has impressive attention to detail and deductive abilities. Together with his friend Miyuki Nanase and the equally weird police inspector Isamu Kenmochi, Kindaichi-kun is summoned to different locations to use his remarkable detective skills.
If you’re looking for underrated detective anime at this point in time, you can’t go wrong with Kindaichi Case Files. It’s like the Fist of the North Star for the mystery genre, it sits right at the top. Running for a total of 148 episodes, it will leave you wondering how the heck did it stay interesting and relevant. Also, this anime does not play around. It has some freakishly scary depictions of victims and crimes. Combine it with the early 90s animation styles, it feels like snatched from a Junji Ito work.
It is Detective Conan with no punches pulled, with a more thorough treatment of its cases. Each arc, or case, usually lasts anywhere from three to five episodes. Despite knowing it, each episode smoothly transitions to the next. Whether building suspense or throwing off your guesses, Kindaichi has become a gem for the entire detective anime genre. Also, a worthy point to make is Kindaichi’s nature himself – I find him a bit similar to Ryu Saeba, the City Hunter. Good-natured inside, slightly lecherous, but undoubtedly skilled – an MC that won’t bore you.
23. Psychic Detective Yakumo (Shinrei Tantei Yakumo)
MAL Score: 7.35
For another supernatural detective anime, Manabu Kaminaga’s mystery novel series gets a deserving anime adaptation, courtesy of Bee Train. It immediately gives off a creepy, emo-ish vibe, thanks to its opening theme. Survive past it and you are on the way to enjoying a 13-episode rollercoaster ride.
The titular detective is a socially withdrawn college student with an unusual gift. While his one eye is normal (green in the anime), the other one is red. This perpetually red eye allows him to see ghosts, spirits, and the like. Despite his seemingly cold and reserved nature, he aims to help trapped spirits move on to the next life by solving whatever issues they have left in this world. Opposite Yakumo is Haruka, who was shown in the series as his first “client,” asking him to help a friend possessed by an evil spirit. Their fates begin to intertwine after the first request.
Sarcastic, condescending, ruthless, paired with an eternally disheveled or haggard look – Yakumo is a main character that’s easy to find cool, like a less awkward L, or a more positive Shinya Kogami. Also, Yakumo is not the helpless damsel in this story, she’s also sharp (having noticed how Yakumo cheats in the pilot episode) and is a warm light over the course of the story.
As a detective anime, it has its twists. It’s not as straightforward as ghosts asking them to find or retrieve something. And even if they do, Yakumo finds a way to often mislead the audience and find its way to an “ah, so that’s how it is” conclusion. While it progresses as a series of cases for the two to solve, it eventually unfolds to a larger and overarching story, which is something to look out for.