11 Great Anime Series Based on Non-Japanese Stories

It may come as a surprise, but not all anime are based on Japanese source material. Sometimes, producers look overseas for inspiration and it can lead to some great anime!

 

1Romeo x Juliet

Romeo x Juliet is a loose retelling of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. While it features similar characters and story beats, Romeo x Juliet takes liberties with the cast’s personalities (Juliet is stronger and more inspiring in the anime) and injects fantasy into the world.

Studio: Gonzo

Genre: Drama / Fantasy / Romance / Tragedy

Episodes: 24

Quick Pitch: On the floating island of Neo Verona, the Montague family leads a deadly coup against the Capulet family. 14 years later, Juliet is the sole surviving member of the Capulet family, and fights against the Montague as a masked vigilante named “Red Whirlwind.” Her life changes after meeting Romeo, a kind prince of the Montague family. However, seeds of retribution and violence are in motion.

 

2Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is a loose adaptation of Alexandre Duma’s classic adventure novel. The anime includes the novel’s theme of revenge and includes many of the novel’s events, but Gankutusuou takes place in a sci-fi world and changes some of the cast’s fates.

Studio: Gonzo

Genre: Drama / Science Fiction

Episodes: 24

Quick Pitch: Albert de Morcerf and Franz d’Épinay visit Luna for a festival. While there, they meet the self-made nobleman The Count of Monte Cristo. Taken by The Count’s charm, Albert invites him to Paris. Little did Albert know that this would kick off a series of events.

 

3The Dog of Flanders

Based on a Flemish novel, The Dog Flanders is a rare example of an anime being more popular than it’s original source material. The tragic story (seriously, you will cry) is seen as a classic children’s book in Japan! The Dog Flanders has two adaptations – a 1975 TV anime series and a 1997 anime movie.

Studio: Nippon Animation

Genre: Drama / Historical / Tragedy

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Nello is a poor orphan who is taken in by his grandfather. One day, he finds a half-beaten dog and names him Patrasche. The two work together and deliver milk to Nello’s grandfather’s clients in hopes of raising money so he can spend time with Aloise.

 

4Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is said to be Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite movie and it’s certainly one of his best! Based on an award-winning British novel, Howl’s Moving Castle makes major changes to the book. The largest is the change of theme: Miyazaki’s swapped the challenges to social and gender norms for an anti-war message.

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Genre: Fantasy

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Based on a British novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle is considered one of Studio Ghibli’s best movies. The enchanting tale centers around Sophie, Howl, and his moving castle. Sophie becomes physically 90-year-old due to a witch’s curse and sets out to break it with the help of Howl

 

5Heidi, Girl of the Alps

Heidi, Girl of the Alps is an adaptation of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi’s Years of Wandering and Learning series of children’s books. The anime is extremely popular throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America – it may have been your parent’s first (and only) anime!

Studio: Zuiyo Eizo (now known as Nippon Animation)

Genre: Drama / Slice of Life

Episodes: 52

Quick Pitch: Heidi is a 5-year-old orphan who is forced to live with her bitter grandpa in the Swiss Alps. However, Heidi’s kindness not only warms her grandpa’s heart but also leads to friendships with the shepherd Peter and invalid Klara.

 

6Magic Tree House

Magic Tree House is a beloved series of children’s fantasy books that are equally as popular in America and Japan – in fact, the Japanese editions have new illustrations. The stories aren’t deep but are entertaining for anyone interested in the fantasy genre.

Studio: Ajia-do

Genre: Adventure / Fantasy

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Jack is a shy bookworm and his sister Ann is a social butterfly. One day, the siblings find a treehouse while playing in a forest. They learn that the treehouse is a magical portal that allows people to travel across space and time.

 

7Deltora Quest

Deltora Quest is an adaptation of a series of Australian children’s fantasy books written by Emily Rodda. The series can be seen as an introduction to fantasy stories to new readers!

Studio: OLM, Inc

Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

Episodes: 65

Quick Pitch: After centuries of peace, The Shadow Lord reigns over Deltora and scatters the seven gems that repelled him. Lief is a young boy who was trained to find the scattered gems and to return peace to Deltora.

 

8Supernatural the Animation

Supernatural the Animation adapted the first two seasons of the hit Supernatural live-action series. A pure adaptation would be severely truncated, so the anime adds some original storylines to tell its own complete story.

Studio: Madhouse

Episodes: 22

Genre: Action / Horror / Supernatural

Quick Pitch: The Winchester brothers hunt supernatural creatures while living life on the road. During their travels, the brothers gather clues to find their father and to hunt down the demon Azazel.

 

9Inaka Isha

Inaka Isha is a short-film based on Franz Kafka’s short story A Country Doctor. The award-winning anime is a mind trip that may require multiple viewings, provided you aren’t creeped out!

Studio: Studio Deen

Genre: Drama / Historical / Psychological

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: A country doctor is summoned to a late-night emergency to attend to a young patient. The doctor is too preoccupied with personal distractions to give proper care and is humiliated by the villagers for missing a fatal wound.

 

10Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette

Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel and serves as a revival of the World Masterpiece Theater label.

Studio: Nippon Animation

Genre: Drama / Historical

Episodes: 52

Quick Pitch: Fantine is a single mother and she leaves her three-year-old daughter Cosette in the care of the Thernadiers. Unfortunately, Cosette’s caretakers force her into servitude. One night, Cosette meets a mysterious stranger named Jean Valjean who rescues Cosette and takes her to a new town to enjoy freedom.

 

11The Secret World of Arrietty

Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s award-winning The Borrowers fantasy novel. Studio Ghibli’s founders were contemplating the adaptation for 40 years before producing Arrietty!

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Genre: Fantasy

Episodes: 1 Movie

Quick Pitch: Arrietty and her family are tiny beings that live in a human garden. They are called “borrowers” and take small items from the human world so that they may eke out a living. A 12-year-old human boy named Shou starts to notice things going missing and he discovers Arrietty. The two strike up a friendship in spite of the differences that make it hard for them to spend time together.

 

What are your favorite anime that are based on non-Japanese works?

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