If you are an anime fan looking for steampunk series and movies to watch, or you are a steampunk enthusiast curious about animated shows that features all the glory of steampunk, then we got just the list for you.
What counts as a steampunk anime?
Now that we made a distinction of what anime is, you may be wondering how we categorized steampunk anime when it sports multiple genres. Basically, to be called a steampunk, any form of media should only meet the following requirements:
Is it set in a retrofuturistic setting, preferably a romanticized version of the Industrial Revolution or Victorian Era?
Do they employ the use of steam engines, like trains, airships, or weapons?
Do they use contraptions, i.e., anachronistic inventions or weaponry?
Are the iconic materials present? Copper, brass, leather, wood, and coal? That reminds you of steampunk, does it?
Are there class warfare or struggle present? Like many works of literature during this era, steampunk fiction usually presents topics such as the lower class competing against the upper class for resources and freedom. Class struggle isn’t the only theme that steampunks anime shows discuss here. Among others are people exploring beyond the boundaries of known human civilization.
Are there motifs that involve exploration, adventure, invention, experimentation, and the unknown? Borrowing from the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, many steampunk fiction showcases any of the above and the like.
Now, those aren’t set rules when classifying a steampunk anime. Some have all of those, while others only present one or two steampunk elements.
Fortunately for us steampunk fans, steampunk has some of the most recognizable icons, like anachronistic engines and robots, so we will definitely know it when we see it.
The list below are some of the best animes that have carried the steampunk genre in the world.
Best Steampunk Anime Series
Up for an anime marathon? Well, look no further. Here is our list of binge-worthy anime series you should check out:
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
From the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water, is inspired by a Jules Verne classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Those titles alone should tell you that this anime is a must-watch for any steampunk fan – or just about any anime fan in general. The series is directed by Hideaki Anno, with Hayao Miyazaki having a hand in the initial conceptualization.
The story follows Nadia, a former circus acrobat, and Jean, a young inventor, as they travel through the world and later on uncover Nadia’s origins. The series is quite influential, as it paved the way for Castle in the Sky by Hayao Miyazaki (which we will talk about later) and compared to Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which is said to have plagiarized the series.
Based on a light novel of the same name, Baccano! has an interesting premise: a group of alchemists summoned a demon to gain immortality. However, as these things usually go, it didn’t go well for them, and soon enough, they start to turn against each other to obtain the elixir. Two centuries or so later, the hunt still continues, and now it involves thieves and thugs in a deadly cat-and-mouse game of who gets to attain eternal life.
Although set in the Prohibition Period, many steampunk elements are noticeable in the anime, including the setting and fashion.
Samurai 7’s origins can be traced to the Akira Kurosawa classic, Seven Samurai. After all, it’s heavily based on the original 1954 film: except, of course, with mecha elements. If you aren’t familiar with the movie it is based on, Samurai 7 is about seven samurais recruited by village people in order to protect their hometown from the Nobuseri. The Nobuseri are former samurai whose bodies were converted into fighting machines during the previous war, which caused many calamities.
As you would have expected, Samurai 7 is full of epic action scenes and sci-fi elements. While steampunk fiction is usually set in European countries, Samurai 7 is set in alternate feudal Japan, with giant airships, fighter robots, and modern weaponry. One character even wore steampunk goggles. Great story plus steampunk = count me in.
Code: Realize − Guardian of Rebirth (Code: Realize Sousei no Himegimi)
Code: Realize is an anime adaptation of a visual novel video game centered around the main heroine Cardia. Throughout her life, Cardia lived in isolation due to a poison in her body that caused her to melt anything she touched. After almost getting arrested by the army, she is rescued by a gentleman thief named Arsene Lupin. They then travel together to London in order to find her father and cure her of the poison.
The anime is filled with steampunk elements, from the elaborate and beautiful Victorian-era-inspired fashion to the historical names of the characters and its overall aesthetic.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri)
If darker stories are your cup of tea, then you should check out Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Frequently compared to Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is a story of survival in a world overrun by zombies.
In an alternate universe where majority of the humans become infected with a virus that turns them into zombies, humans congregate into walled cities and travel through fortified steam locomotives. A town is suddenly ravaged by the kabane (zombies) after a hijacked steam train crashes into the city. It’s now up to a young engineer and a zombie-human (Kabaneri) hybrid to save everyone. Everything about this anime just yells steampunk.
Unbreakable Machine-Doll (Machine Doll wa Kizutsukanai)
Sorcery and sci-fi are combined in this action anime, where a creator of automatons must enroll in a prestigious school to get his revenge against the person who murdered his entire family.
Based on a light novel series of the same name, the world of Unbreakable Machine Doll creates automatons as military weapons. These Machinarts, as they were called, are controlled by puppeteers. Raishin, a puppeteer, and Yaya, his automaton, enter a competition to achieve the former’s goal of vengeance.
Even though Levius is more of a sport-slash-action anime than a steampunk one, its mecha elements and the era it was set in can still make it qualify for the genre. Set in the 19th century, it follows a young boxer named Levius Cromwell as he rises through the ranks of metal-boxing. Fighters with mechanically infused body parts fight in the arena, all to achieve the highest rank.
For gladiator-style combat arena, mecha, and steampunk sci-fi rolled into one, Levius is an anime you should watch.
Violet Evergarden is a beautiful story of a war veteran who, upon returning from war, must integrate back into society and learn the meaning behind the words “I love you.”
Though it’s not as hardcore a steampunk as other anime on this list, the fact that Violet Evergarden is set during a time period reminiscent of the Victorian era and has war themes makes it quite a fit for the genre. Moreover, Violet, having lost both of her arms in the war, had to use mechanical arms in order to fulfill her new job as an auto-memory doll–or someone who writes letters for others.
Turn a Gundam
The Gundam franchise has churned out many beloved series, and Turn a Gundam, was one of them. Although this is the series, you might not have probably heard of, mainly because it’s the last series in the franchise and takes place in a different era than the previous Gundam.
The story follows Loran Cehack, who is tasked to visit Earth to see if it’s fit for the return of the Moonrace. He soon forms friendships with the people on Earth, so when he learns the Moonrace is planning to return via an offensive attack, he gets caught in the middle of the ensuing war. The technology on Earth at this time is based on steam power, which is why the anime makes the cut on this list. Truly, it’s an underrated anime series that you should definitely watch.
Steam Detectives (Kaiketsu Shoki Tanteidan)
Even from the name itself, you would have probably guessed that this anime is as steampunk as it gets. Steampowered types of machinery dominate the world of Steam Detectives, and as such, even malicious individuals use them for criminal activities.
Young detective Narutaki, his nurse assistant, Ling Ling, a large steam-powered robot Goriki, and his butler Kawabuko, work together to solve crimes and protect their city from the villains. Oh, and also, their city’s name is Steam City.
Trigun follows the story of a young gunfighter with a $$60 billion bounty on his head, Vash the Stampede. Because of his notoriety, bounty hunters are always on his trail; however the audience will be surprised to learn that Vash doesn’t look like the villain the authorities make him out to be. In truth, he is a pacifist with retrograde amnesia.
The anime is set in a deserted world, reminiscent of Western movies with a hint of steampunk. If interesting characters with a fascinating background, intriguing landscape, and comedy is your preference, Trigun is a must-see anime.
The struggle between social classes is prevalent in many works of the 18th century, so it’s not surprising that this theme extended to steampunk fiction. Princess Principal is set in a kingdom split in half by opposing classes and ideologies. It follows the story of a young spy, sent by the nation of the Commonwealth to the Kingdom to replace the princess. However, the princess instead offered them a deal: she would work for the Commonwealth if they helped her become the queen.
A story of espionage and femme fatale action, Princess Principal is one of the first titles we recommend if you are looking for steampunk anime.
Letter Bee (Tegami Bachi)
From its setting alone, Tegami Bachi has the makings of a must-see anime. Set in a land where darkness literally reigns supreme, Tegami Bachi follows the story of a young delivery boy, a.k.a., “Letter Bee”, named Lag Seeing. Delivering letters is dangerous in this world, mainly because of the giant armored insects that would attack anyone to retrieve the “heart” from the letters and packages.
Letter Bee has incorporated many steampunk elements into its world: from steam trains, and airships, to guns. As such, the story’s atmosphere certainly stands out from other anime of its kind.
Like a good number of steampunk fiction, Desert Punk is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have to make the most out of the resources in order to survive. It follows the adventures of the titular mercenary.
Desert Punk has some elements associated with steampunk, including gas masks and vintage weapons. It’s not exactly labeled as steampunk as it’s more of a post-apocalyptic adventure series, but the setting certainly has that vibe.
The Case Study of Vanitas (Vanitasu no Karute)
Fantasy anime series The Case Study of Vanitas are about vampires and a duo finding a cure to a malady that makes them go insane; however, it makes the list of steampunk anime because of the many elements it incorporated from the subgenre. From airships to Victorian costumes, there’s no shortage of steampunk elements in the anime.
What also separates The Case Study of Vanitas from other steampunk fiction is that it’s mainly fantasy but with a steampunk setting. The series combines a lot of mystery, philosophical themes, and great storytelling, so it’s a must-see for anyone looking for a refreshing take on steampunk fiction.
Kino’s Journey — the Beautiful World (Kino no Tabi)
Kino’s Journey has a unique concept than most animes. Although it follows the adventures of Kino through a mystical world, visiting unique towns and locations, some viewers noted that the story is actually about the people she met during her travels. With her trusty talking motorcycle, Kino continues to travel, never staying in one place for more than three days.
The series is primarily cited as one of the best steampunk anime out there. During her travels, Kino carries guns and knives to protect herself. Combining science fiction, adventure, and philosophy, Kino’s Journey is an interesting anime to watch.
In the world of Prester, two teenagers–one an airship pilot and the other a navigator–must fulfill a dangerous mission given to them by a dying courier. The mission? To escort a young girl to a mysterious battleship. Along with the girl, the duo go on a risky adventure and must face unknown enemies against the backdrop of warring countries and a scheming, powerful faction known only as the Guild.
Last Exile is one of the best steampunk anime out there. From the setting to the thematics of the plot, it meets everything on the checklist we described above.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Now, for the last entry on our list of the best steampunk anime, it would be impossible not to include Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. There are many reasons why FMAB has enduring popularity years after it was released. Everything from its setting down to the plot and characterization makes it arguably one of the best anime of all time.
The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are on a quest to return their bodies to normal after a disastrous attempt to resurrect their dead mother. To do so, they must face dangerous enemies who are also capable of alchemy and obtain the Philosopher’s Stone for themselves. Combining science fiction, adventure, and fantasy, the story is set in a steampunk world where alchemy reigns supreme.
Best Steampunk Anime Movies
If you’re more of the type that wants to watch everything in one sitting, then these steampunk anime movies are for you.
Set in an alternate timeline Europe in 1800s where steam is the primary source of power, Steamboy follows the adventure of a young genius inventor named Ray Steam. The movie is as steampunk as it gets, and any fan of the genre should check it out.
Sakura Wars: The Movie
Another anime on this list that is set in traditional Japan with a steampunk twist, Sakura Wars: The Movie, is about a theater troupe who fights evil demons during the night by controlling robot fighters. Against the backdrop of steam-powered engines and robots, Sakura Wars: The Movie could indeed pass the test as a steampunk anime.
The Empire of Corpses (Shisha no Teikoku)
If you are looking for a steampunk anime adventure movie with a dose of thriller, The Empire of Corpses is one that you should definitely not miss. In an alternate world where reanimated corpses are part of civilization and humanity’s day-to-day routine, the movie is inspired in part by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Even though Metropolis is classified as a diesel punk, many steampunk anime fans still love the movie for its sci-fi elements and setting. The film is adapted from the manga of the same name, created by the “Father of Manga”, Osamu Tezuka.
The last three we have on the list come from one animation studio. If you are familiar with anime, no doubt you have also heard about Studio Ghibli’s director, Hayao Miyazaki. He created the following films, all of which are popular and critically acclaimed. Each movie is a stunning piece of art with beautiful animation that has captivated even non-anime fans.
For many, the movies below are their favorite steampunk anime:
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind follows the story of a young princess in a post-apocalyptic world as she tries to stop humans from destroying everything even further. While it’s not classified as steampunk, some fans still refer to it as such because of the aesthetics reminiscent of the genre.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Of all the three movies, Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a pure fantasy realm, based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones of the same name. Following the adventures of Sophie who became an old woman due to a curse and a wizard named Howl, the movie features many elements that would remind you of steampunk, most notably, the castle itself.
Castle in the Sky
Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky is perhaps the most “steampunk” of all his movies. It has everything you could look for in a steampunk anime, and with a great story to boot, Castle in the Sky should be on the list of anyone who wants to watch anything steampunk-related at all.