While KyoAni is known for its beautiful animation, other studios have managed to produce anime with great visuals, too. I wanted to focus on some of the other studios so that this didn’t become a list of only KyoAni titles. Additionally, this list is only based on graphics, so the quality of plot, characters, etc. are not accounted for.
Before we get into the list, let’s consider what makes something visually appealing. On the most basic level, there has to be some degree of accuracy in terms of proportions and perspective. However, anime like Mob Psycho 100 manages to have a simplistic and rough art style, but more than makes up for it with expression and dynamism. On the other hand, several 3D animated series can have gorgeous stills but have exceedingly awkward movements.
This list is based on the overall effect of the graphics. I took into account the use of color and the level of detail in the backgrounds, but also the quality of the movement. This is anime, after all.
Here are a few honorable mentions before we get to the main list. And this list is by no means comprehensive.
Katanagatari has a unique style. When I watched it, I took a couple episodes to get used to it, but once I did, I loved it. The colors are highly saturated and highly contrasted. The composition of each scene looks like it’s carefully thought out, and any still from Katanagatari could be a standalone work of art.
Kiznaiver has a style that allows for a great range of facial expressions. The eyes on all of the characters are on beautiful and emotive. The flipside of this is that expressions are sometimes overdone and appear somewhat distorted. The backgrounds tend to be fairly standard, as well.
Kyoukai no Kanata
For the sake of other studios, I limited myself to one KyoAni title, and it was a challenge to choose just one. This list only includes anime from past seasons, otherwise, I would have put Violet Evergarden.
Anyhow, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Border) is a supernatural, slice of life anime with a touch of romance as well. It combines comedy and tragedy as it follows the lives of a group of students and the new girl in town. While the plot is a bit creaky at times, the characters are lovable and there are many redeeming moments. Since it’s KyoAni (and on this list) it’s visually beautiful. There are a number of fight scenes and plenty of displays of flashy powers.
Tales of Zestiria the X
Also done by Ufotable, and also based on a game like the Fate series, Tales of Zestiria dives into a fictional world. The characters are a little flat, personality-wise, but there’s a wide range of colors and silhouettes that make them visually appealing.
The thing that really sets this anime apart is the setting. The world is a fantasy world, and the characters travel all over it, so there’s a bit of everything. The setting ranges from ancient temples to bustling cities to mountain ranges. The lighting and the depth and just the details make the world come alive.
Houseki no Kuni
As I’ve talked about before, Houseki no Kuni is the anime that restored our faith in CG. The characters are gems, and the details in the refracted light are incredible. The detail to lighting is consistent for all 12 episodes. The colors are vibrant throughout, but not in a way the becomes overwhelming. The fight scenes also have a certain elegance to them that I think comes from it being CG.
Koutetsujou no Kabeneri
The style of the art in Koutetsujou no Kabeneri, or Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress, is reminiscent of Shingeki no Kyojin since Wit Studio worked on both.
However, I think the gritty, steampunk-ish setting of Koutetsujou no Kabeneri suits the art style better, and I like the aesthetic of the world more, too. There are numerous scenes that take place at night with fire as the main light source. This allows for dramatic lighting that really makes scenes “pop”. Similar to Shingeki no Kyojin, the main characters are fending off flesh-eating monsters, so there are plenty of dramatic fight scenes.
Since the animation in all parts of the series is basically of the same quality, it’s impossible to pick just one installment. The Monogatari series has a strong yokai, or supernatural, element. The style that the colors are done in is distinct. There is both a lot of pure white and dark black that gives the images a lot of contrast. The colors are highly saturated and not always realistic, which adds dimension to the feeling of the scenes. While the art is simplistic at first glance, the changes in angle and framing are quite complex. There’s also a strong abstract element in the geometric shapes and repetition of figures. Altogether, the deep shadows and odd colors give the anime an almost dream-like feel that never lacks impact.