By Tom Speelman
Fantasy is a cornerstone of anime and has been since the medium’s inception—it’s easier and cheaper to have people draw the fantastical and bring it to life than spend billions trying to make the unreal real.
And from Sally the Witch in the ’60s to shows like Restaurant to Another World, Overlord and GOBLIN SLAYER, anime has brought everything from adaptations of classic European fairy tales to the latest light novel smash to anime-original ideas about fantasy—to viewers all over the world.
Obviously, it would take forever to write or read about (never mind watching) every fantasy anime that’s ever been made, so here we present a guide to three distinct recent entries in fantasy anime that are great gateways into the genre as a whole and where it’s at right now.
So let’s don our armor, mount our mighty steeds and sally forth!
While it might seem somewhat bizarre to call an anime that’s aired over 150 episodes at this point and is based on a Weekly Shonen Jump manga underrated, I’m here to remind you that we should be talking about Black Clover.
There is something so darn captivating about the adventures of the world’s shouty-est knight, Asta, and his quest to become Wizard King, as the series opts to showcase traditional fantasy tropes, rather than reinvent them.
Raised in an orphanage in the small village of Hage alongside his best friend and rival Yuno, Asta has only one ambition in life: to become the aforementioned Wizard King, who has the mightiest magic in all the Kingdom and protects its citizens. The problem? Unlike Yuno, who has strong wind magic, Asta can’t use magic at all!
But, either out of sheer stubbornness or a drive to show the world what he’s made of, Asta has compensated by getting as yolked and as fit as possible. But come the annual Grimoire Acceptance Ceremony, where magic-filled books fly toward their new 15-year-old users to chart their path forward, Yuno receives a four-leaf clover grimoire, indicating immense power, while Asta receives…nothing?
Dejected, Asta seizes on a chance for redemption when Yuno is ambushed by an ex-Magic Knight trying to steal his grimoire. Suddenly, a strange black grimoire with a five-leaf clover flies toward Asta, giving him a giant sword and the power to defeat the thief.
The grimoire turns out to be full of Anti-Magic, which eventually helps secure Asta’s membership in the Black Bulls—the lowest-ranked Magic Knight squad. But with the haughty noble Noelle, gruff captain Yami and his other teammates by his side, Asta just might fulfill his dream of being Wizard King after all!
If you’ve watched a shounen anime before, you know what you’re getting with this show. But, drawing from original manga creator Yuki Tabata’s work, Studio Pierrot, directors Tatsuya Yoshihara and Ayataka Tanemura, writers Kazuyuki Fudeyasu and Kanichi Katou, and the rest of the Black Clover team hit the familiar beats with such precision as well as variation enough to keep you riveted and make Black Clover a truly unique series to inhabit.
The show’s world is intriguing, the characters are fun, and the series is incredibly action-packed. What more can you ask for?
Watch Black Clover on Funimation!
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
While it might seem like every other anime out there these days is based on some brand-new light novel series, the two mediums have been collaborating for decades. Case in point: the long, long life of Sorcerous Stabber Orphen.
The light novel series from writer Yoshinobu Akita and illustrator Yuuya Kusaka has been running more or less continuously since 1994 (with the latest installment coming out in Japan in just a few weeks at the time of this writing) and has spawned several manga, a video game, a crossover novel between Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and The Slayers, and a two-season anime from J.C.STAFF that you might remember if you watched a lot of Adult Swim anime back in the day.
Last year’s new Orphen anime for the series’ 25th anniversary, however, comes to us from Studio DEEN, director Takayuki Hamana and writer Reiko Yoshida (who also worked together on Arte). Oh, and it is an absolute blast, offering a nice, glossy update on some seminal ’90s fantasy anime action!
The show follows Orphen (with both the English and Japanese actors reprising their roles from the original series), a gruff, taciturn loner who possesses powerful magical skills thanks to his Sorcerer training at the Tower of Fangs, but prefers to keep to himself as a back-alley money lender in the city of Totokanta.
One day, a scheme by his dwarven clients, brothers Volkan and Dortin, sees Orphen set up to run a marriage scam on the wealthy Everlasting family. But that all gets waylaid when a dragon attacks.
But this is no ordinary dragon; it’s the mutated form of Orphen’s big foster sister Azalie, who mistakenly turned herself into a monster five years ago after a magical experiment went wrong. She fled to wreak havoc, but Orphen (real name Krylancelo) has been hunting for her ever since…in part to help save her from his fellow Sorcerers!
With Volkan, Dortin, his apprentice Majic, and the plucky, resourceful Claiomh Everlasting by his side, Orphen will stop at nothing to save Azalie. Although, eventually, his journey becomes greater than he could ever imagine…
If you miss the heyday of fun, action series full of sleek animation and great characters, this show is the perfect weekend binge of hours of cool anime action. Plus, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen: Battle of Kimluck (Season 2) is streaming exclusively on Funimation this season.
Watch Sorcerous Stabber Orphen on Funimation!
Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town?
From the talented crew at LIDENFILMS (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, The Heroic Legend of Arslan), this new anime (which premiered January 4 and can be seen exclusively on Funimation!) is an example of the time-honored tradition of comedy fantasy with a hero who really, really doesn’t know his own strength.
Directed by migmi, with series composition by Deko Akao and adapted from a light novel series by author Toshio Sato and illustrator Nao Watanuki, the show follows the sweet, unassuming Lloyd, who leaves his isolated rural village of Kunlun after a lifetime of being mocked for being its weakest resident, to the national capital of Azami to join its military academy and become a soldier for the kingdom!
At the bequest of his village’s leader Alka, Lloyd winds up staying with local teenage witch Marie, who used to be Alka’s student and is still terrified of the superpowerful “loli grandma” (in classic anime fashion, Alka is hundreds of years old but looks 12). It’s Marie who discovers that, for all Lloyd’s low self-esteem, he’s actually the strongest person she’s ever met.
This is because Kunlun and all of its inhabitants are actually the descendants of legendary, world-saving magic users who are all incredibly skilled in both magical rune use and physical combat. But will that be enough to get Lloyd into the military academy alongside other recruits like the “Cursed Belt Princess” Selen and the one-armed bandit Riho?
While the show has just premiered at the time of this writing, this is a compelling enough watch for this winter season. Lloyd may look like a Breath of the Wild Link cosplayer, but he’s got the charm and sweetness that defined The Wind Waker Link. The central gag of Lloyd thinking he’s so weak, but him actually being freakishly strong, is a fun one, and the world-building promises to lead to a fun time.
If you’ve never watched fantasy before, Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town? is a great place to start. So tune in and, between waiting for new episodes on Wednesdays, check out Black Clover, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, The Slayers or any of the other great fantasy anime streaming right here on Funimation!
Watch Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town? on Funimation!