• The anime "The God of High School" breaks free from the cultural comfort zone by embracing Korean culture and mythology, set in Seoul.
  • "Carole & Tuesday" takes place on Mars, showcasing a diverse interplanetary melting pot with a Western aesthetic and catchy music.
  • "Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom" effectively crafts a fictional American underworld, with characters behaving like western mobsters and assassins.

The anime world can feel a bit...insular at times. So much of the medium focuses on stories set in Japan, starring Japanese characters, centered around Japanese culture. Not that there's anything wrong with that – some of the best anime ever made have been thoroughly Japanese affairs.

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But every now and then, other imaginative anime shows prove their potential to blossom anywhere, at any time, in any world the human imagination can conceive. They transport viewers to mystical kingdoms, post-apocalyptic deserts, and ancient ruins scattered around an alternate-reality globe. So, here are some of the best shows that break free from the cultural comfort zone!

10 The God Of High School

The God of High School all main characters in combat poses

Unlike other popular anime, The God of High School is not set in Japan but embraces Korean culture, mythology, and locations. The setting of Seoul is beautifully depicted, with accurate recreations of landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace and Namsan Tower.

The plot revolves around a high school martial arts competition called “The God of High School" tournament, where participants from all over South Korea fight to become the best and win the grand prize. If you want to watch an anime without the familiar trappings, this one’s for you!

9 Carole & Tuesday

Carole & Tuesday in fancy outfits

Carole & Tuesday doesn’t just take place outside of Japan, but also outside Earth! This musical anime is set on Mars, which has been colonized and terraformed. And in this diverse interplanetary melting pot, two teenage girls named Carole and Tuesday dream of making music together and eventually competing on the hit TV show Mars' Brightest.

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The city has a very western aesthetic, filled with a mix of architectural styles from Greco-Roman buildings to Art Deco skyscrapers. Even its catchy music has a very Western pop and electronic style. Every episode is named after a song, and the show has produced full-length vocal tracks that are available to stream.

8 Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom characters Zwei, Claudia, and Ein in a cool red background

Though set in the U.S., Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom loses none of the soul-searching and poignancy found in the best animes. The story follows a Japanese man named Reiji Azuma who is kidnapped and trained as an assassin by a criminal organization called Inferno.

The bulk of the series follows him as he struggles with his role as a cold-hearted killer and questions his orders. What makes Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom effective is its attention to detail in crafting this fictional American underworld. The characters also behave in believable ways, acting more like western mobsters and assassins than typical anime characters.

7 Kingdom

Kingdom anime featuring Shin in a battlefield with swords and horses

Historical anime doesn’t always have to revolve around shoguns and samurai. For fans looking to go beyond Japan, Kingdom's sprawling story of love and conquest is a perfect place to start. Every frame is like glimpsing into an epic masterpiece of Chinese military history. The anime doesn't whitewash the violence and hardship of the era but gives it a romantic sheen.

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At the center of it all is Xin, a hot-headed young man who dreams of becoming the Greatest General under Heaven. Starting from humble beginnings, Xin joins the Qin military and rises up the ranks. He helps turn the tide of key battles and plays an instrumental role in the Qin state's eventual unification of China.

6 Great Pretender

Great Pretender featuring Makoto, Laurent, and Abigail over a food table facing the red sunset sea

The 2020 anime follows a group of con artists as they swindle corrupt and wealthy individuals around the globe. Set in a variety of locations around the globe, Great Pretender is a slick heist anime that brings a fun “Ocean’s 11” vibe to the medium.

The first major heist takes place in Los Angeles, where the team works to outwit a corrupt Hollywood film producer. Subsequent arcs take the pretenders to Singapore, France’s Casino de Monte-Carlo, and beyond.

5 The Ancient Magus' Bride

The Ancient Magus' Bride Elias and Chise looking at each other

The Ancient Magus' Bride is a magic anime that’s set in rural Britain and follows Chise Hatori, a 15-year-old girl with the power to see supernatural beings that others cannot. She is eventually purchased at an auction by the Magus Elias Ainsworth, a mysterious sorcerer, who takes her on as his apprentice.

Under the guidance of Elias, Chise begins to learn magic and harness special powers. She discovers a world of fae, magical creatures, and sorcerers hidden within the British countryside. Mysterious forests, old churches, and stone henges also provide a backdrop for many fantastical events in the show.

4 Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon featuring Revy, Benny, Dutch, and Rokurou in a night background

In the dingy Thai city of Roanapur, morality is optional and violence is guaranteed. This is the setting for the crime action series Black Lagoon, another vicious thrill ride into the criminal underworld. Roanapur is a tropical paradise for the lawless, filled with mob bosses, drug cartels, assassins, and gangs vying for power. On these gritty streets, bullets speak louder than words.

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Our unlikely hero is Rokuro, a Japanese salaryman whose boring life is turned upside down when joins a mercenary crew. The crew is as eclectic and offbeat as the city's criminal inhabitants. Dutch, an African-American, is a laid-back leader, Benny, a Jewish-American, is a technophile, and Revy, a Chinese-American, is a manic gunslinger who does the dirty work. Together, the international ensemble cast takes on death-defying escapades.

3 Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden with a letter

The anime Violet Evergarden is a visual poetry. Its fantasy European world sprawls across the screen in vivid colors, steam-lined trains carving through verdant hills and cobalt seas capped with battleship gray. Yet for all its lavish details, the series’ true power lies not in where its story unfolds, but in the heart of its young protagonist.

Violet is an orphaned ex-soldier who carries the scars of war beneath her gloves, her hands now metal prosthetics. Her world has always been a harsh battlefield—until she takes a job ghostwriting letters to help others share their hearts. Slowly, letter by letter, she stitches together an understanding of the human heart that was denied to her.

2 A Place Further Than The Universe

A Place Further Than The Universe - Mari, Yuzuki, Shirase and Hinata

A Place Further than the Universe transports viewers to the ends of the Earth. And what an adventure it is. This coming-of-age story follows a group of high school girls who join an expedition to Antarctica. They each have their own reasons for making the trip, from proving oneself to fulfilling a dream to escaping problems back home.

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There are no random fanservice shots here – just complex, relatable characters who grow in a setting as unforgiving as it is wondrous. The icy, barren landscape has a beauty that only a few have seen. Massive whales breach through cold waters, penguins waddle under the midnight sun, and the sky comes alive with shimmering auroras.

1 JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

JOjO's Bizarre Adventure Part 9 release date confirmed

After 30 years, this supremely creative adventure anthology has rightfully earned its place in the anime pantheon. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure begins in 1880s Britain with Jonathan Joestar fated to face off against his adopted brother Dio, a dastardly villain drunk on ambition and envy. Though their feud starts small, it will go on to span over a century, drawing in each new generation of Joestars.

Each story arc takes place in a different time period and location around the world, from Victorian Britain to 1930s New York to 1980s Cairo and beyond. Araki's ever-inventive artstyle shifts with each stop to match the spirit of the era, its culture, and fashion sense. And with no plans of slowing down, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure continues its manic marathon across all space and time.

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