Steampunk is a huge genre that has spawned countless books, series and cosplay inspirations. However, when looking for the next great steampunk anime, it can be hard to know what to choose. Join me as we go through 20 of the best steampunk anime, by discussing the themes, characters, basic story outline and why you should try watching it. So let’s don our waistcoats, break out our steampowered microwaves and get to it!
Like most of the entries on this list, Unbreakable Machine-Doll takes place in an alternate universe where a mixture of technology and sorcery known as Machinart dominates.
The sorcery takes the place of the traditional transistors and circuit boards that power modern technology, breathing life into inanimate objects and giving them a sort of intelligence.
Focusing on the trevails of Raishin Akabane, he is seeking revenge against an unknown perpetrator who killed his family. Akabane arrives in the United Kingdom to study at a prestigious Machinart academy in the hopes of finding his family’s killer.
Probably the most beloved steampunk anime of all times, Fullmetal Alchemist is set in a universe where magic in the form of alchemy is combined with Victorian-era technology.
The series follows the Elric brothers, who in a misguided attempt to resurrect their mother instead end up sacrificing one of the brothers, and the other losing an arm and a leg to get his soul back.
Being one of the best selling series of all times, it has various spin offs including movies and games as well as enjoying international popularity.
In a city run entirely on coal and steam engines, Steam City has unfortunately become a hotspot for crime due to the amazing abilities of Megamatons, large steam-powered robots.
The protagonist Narutaki is a detective following in the footsteps of his parents, a child genius who takes it upon himself to protect the city he loves.
With a wide variety of gadgets and tools, he solves mysteries with some help from Hsu Ling Ling and Goriki, with a little help from Kawakubo, the family butler and mechanic.
Castle in the Sky
Sometimes titled Laputa: Castle in the Sky, this comes from the master of Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli fame. Following a boy, Pazu, and girl, Sheeta, who are trying to keep a powerful crystal from many groups who want it, they are also looking for the legendary floating city Laputa.
Often praised for its rich storytelling and brilliant animation, it is held up as one of the best examples of the Studio Ghibli style, making many top 100 lists of anime.
Once holding the title for most expensive Japanese anime film with its $26 million budget and 10 year production cycle, Steamboy follows nineteenth century European inventors Lloyd Steam and his son Edward and grandson Ray.
Having succeeded in discovering a pure mineral water that will serve as an unlimited power source for steam engines, a horrible accident occurs that badly injures Edward. Lloyd then attempts to hide his inventions, as the O’Hara Foundation are trying to steal it.
Ray is entrusted with the invention, a spherical device, that turns out to be a source of great power and is wanted by the O’Hara Foundation to power a massive Steam Castle. The corruption of the arms industry features heavily in this series.
Based on the fictional world of Prester, there is an ongoing battle between the nations of Anatoray and Disith.
Based on Germany’s interwar period, the technology and designs present during that time form the basis for the many aerial vehicles known as vanships in the Last Exile universe.
This usage of late Industrial Revolution era technology combined with some magic in the form of antigravity systems gives it a steampunk feel.
The story focuses on Claus Valca, a pilot and courier, and their struggles to avoid destruction from hostile forces while trying to defeat the shadowy Guild.
While the name evokes Akira Kurosawa’s iconic film Seven Samurai, this series is based in a futuristic world in which the Emperor controls an army of robot samurai who are more machine than man.
Constant attacks on Kanna village have forced its inhabitants to search for protectors, and they turn to the only group who can match the bandits: other samurai.
It is revealed that the bandits are being organized from afar, and so the next target of the group is to fight the despot himself.
With the trope of automatons firmly in place, Violet Evergarden follows the eponymous character, who is referred to as part of the Auto Memory Dolls although technically she is not, but her origins are unclear.
The Auto Memory Dolls have two main roles, either helping people write if they are physically unable, or offering writing services for struggling authors.
Evergarden was previously a soldier in a massive war but since peace has come, she begins looking for another career path.
Kino and her talking motorcycle named Hermes explore the mystical world around them, with a rule that she’ll only stay three days in each place.
With strong themes of brutality, loneliness, nonsense, oppression and tragedy featuring heavily in the series, these heavy emotions are often contrasted with compassion and fantasy setting.
With a mixture of magic and technology that varies from place to place, Kino’s Journey is certainly more of a fairytale than anything else, but the steampunk motifs and themes are undeniable.
Set in the fictional No Man’s Land on planet Gunsmoke, Trigun follows Vash the Stampede, a wanted man who is constantly having to fight off bounty hunters looking to collect.
Confusingly, while Vash’s supernatural powers lead to the imposition of the bounty on his head due to him accidentally destroying a city, he is actually a pacifist and tries to avoid killing people.
A family mystery leads to huge conflicts when Vash’s twin Knives is revealed to be a psychopathic killer, causing Knives’ followers to also start pursuing Vash.
A unique production that often involves a story being told from multiple perspectives, Baccano! is set in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.
References to Prohibition and the Mafia are alongside alchemists and magic, with the creation of a potion of immortality being developed causing massive controversy and battles over who will gain eternal life.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
A world populated with reanimated corpses called kabane is left fighting for survival against the aggressive, undead creatures.
Final death of these creatures requires their glowing golden heart to be pierced, or an important body part to be completely severed, generally the head. This is made all the harder by the presence of a layer of iron protecting the heart.
Unfortunately, the technology revolving around steam-pressure guns is not very effective against this virus-induced menace.
This has led to people instead constructing massive shelters to physically keep such beings out, but ultimately a hijacked armored train opens these shelters up and allows the protagonist, Ikoma, to use his own weapons to defeat the menace.
The Empire of Corpses
A twist on the Dr Frankenstein story, corpses are reanimated using a Necroware in place of the soul, which leaves them unable to talk, feel or think. This leads to a massive labor force that a lot of society is run on.
However, John Watson, desperate to resurrect his friend, wants to improve on the Necroware so that he can truly return him to life. This draws the attention of the British government, who instead extort him into finding Dr Frankenstein’s research.
This series takes on the mammoth task of intertwining real life events and people into its storylines, giving it a sense of realism that is often missing from many steampunk-themed shows.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, the 1984 animated film follows Nausicaa who is a young princess of the Valley of the Wind.
A nearby jungle full of giant mutant insects is under her care but is threatened by Tolmekia, a nearby kingdom that is using ancient technology to eradicate all living things.
The struggle between the two is a classic tale of good and evil, Nausicaa is attempting to stop the destruction and war, whereas Tolmekia will stop at nothing to unleash these weapons on the world, which already caused a near-extinction event.
Code: Realize − Guardian of Rebirth
Cardia carries a deadly poison that destroys anything it touches, meaning she leads a life of solitude to avoid inflicting damage on people.
After some run-ins with the law, Cardia then finds herself on a journey with Arsene Lupinto not only to find her father who has suddenly disappeared, but also find a way to remove the poison from her body.
Based in a place called Albion that is based on Britain during the early 20th century, a substance called cavorite is used to construct a fleet of heavily armed airships.
This despotic government ignored those not in power, leading to a blood revolution that split the middle of London into two nations: the Commonwealth and the Kingdom.
However the Commonwealth intends to subvert the Kingdom’s by replacing her with a doppleganger so as to have a loyal agent in the top levels of the Kingdom.
Instead, the doppelganger proposes that they install her as the Queen so she can rule the Kingdom.
Praised for its sharp writing and amazing soundtrack, the amount of double-dealing and subterfuge makes for intriguing viewing.
An epic fantasy, Letter Bee focuses around the movement of letters and packages that are carried around from place to place on AmberGround, a land of darkness only illuminated by an artificial sun.
There are gaichuu, massive insects, that attempt to feed off the contents of these packages that must be avoided.
Eventually the resistance movement, Reverse, reveals itself as trying to destroy the artificial sun and allowing a massive flying gaichuu to destroy the center of their civilization, the Bee Hive.
Known for its thrilling action and the creation of a magical world and many likable characters, Letter Bee is a great steampunk-based series.
More in the dieselpunk genre and based on the 1949 manga of the same name, Metropolis traces a society in which humans and robots coexist, but robots occupy the lowest classes of society and are discriminated against.
Anti-robot paramilitary feature heavily, and the discord in the city is leading to fears of a revolution, made worse when the wealthiest citizen begins to engage in a coup by having his agents kill the elected leaders.
The exploration of what makes a robot and what makes a human are represented in one of the main characters, Tima, who is a robot but made to look like a human.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
The series centers around a young inventor named Jean and her friend Nadia. Based on a turn of the 20th century alternate universe, very closed aligned with the classic Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Nadia has a blue pendant that is wanted by many.
After being pursued, Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus, offer the two safe passage due to their common struggle against the main antagonist, the Neo-Atlantean forces.
Lauded for its enduring charm and emotional validity, the dark themes that lie beneath are seen through the metaphor for the ocean, always present but hiding.
A post-apocalyptic adventure set in Japan after a global nuclear war, a wandering mercenary named Kanta Mizuno performs tasks and his services are in high demand.
Water is a precious commodity, with a civil war waging over it that sees betrayals and killings on a large scale.
Known for its hilarious moments and detailed action scenes, Desert Punk is a great twist on the post-apocalyptic, dystopian future that uses comedy to cover some truly dark moments.