Ah, Tokyo, Japan. The vibrant city that never sleeps, where the old meets the new, and where dreams come to life in a kaleidoscope of neon lights. But beyond the sushi, sumo, and sakura, Tokyo is also the beating heart of anime, that captivating world of colorful characters and complex narratives that have captured the imaginations of millions worldwide. From its bustling streets to its serene parks, Tokyo serves as the backdrop for countless anime series, making it a familiar sight even to those who have never set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Ready your chopsticks, don your best cosplay outfit, and let's embark on a journey through the animated streets of Tokyo with these 10 must-watch anime series. Whether you're a seasoned otaku or a curious newcomer, prepare to be transported into worlds of fantasy, drama, and action, all within the confines of this iconic city. So sit back, relax, and let the city lights guide us on this animated adventure.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Set in 2071
Cowboy Bebop is considered by many to be one of the greatest anime series of all time. Set in the year 2071, it follows a ragtag crew of bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop as they hunt down dangerous criminals across the solar system. Though the series takes place predominantly in space, the Bebop crew frequently visits Earth, specifically the futuristic city of Tokyo.
In Cowboy Bebop, Tokyo has become a sprawling high-tech metropolis, with towering skyscrapers and a constant flow of traffic overhead. However, there are still traces of traditional Japanese culture to be found amongst the neon lights. When the characters visit Tokyo, they often spend time in older neighborhoods, eat in tiny ramen shops, and visit ornate temples and shrines. The mix of old and new is part of what makes Cowboy Bebop's Tokyo so fascinating to explore.
Some of the most memorable Tokyo scenes in Cowboy Bebop include Spike facing off against a crime syndicate in a crowded nightclub, Faye gambling for cash in an illegal Tokyo casino, and Jet tracking down bounties in the winding back alleys of the city. Though much of the landscape is futuristic fantasy, there are enough recognizable landmarks like Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower to make it feel connected to the real Tokyo.
With its smooth jazz soundtrack and stunning hand-drawn animation, Cowboy Bebop captures the energy and style of Tokyo better than almost any other anime out there. For anime fans who have always wanted to experience the neo-noir side of Tokyo, this series is a must-watch.
2. The Promised Neverland
Set in the future Tokyo
The Promised Neverland takes place in a dystopian future version of Tokyo and follows a group of orphaned children who discover a horrifying secret about their orphanage. They live in a self-contained complex surrounded by walls and a gate, cut off from the outside world. It's not until the children try to escape that they realize the orphanage is located in the middle of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo in ruins.
As the children traverse the decrepit, overgrown streets of future Tokyo, they encounter terrifying mutant creatures and the remnants of a decadent civilization. Landmarks like the Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Government Building are still partially standing but covered in vines and vegetation. The city streets are cracked and full of weeds pushing their way through the concrete. It's a sad, lonely version of the usually bustling metropolis.
The Promised Neverland uses its eerie, deserted vision of future Tokyo to heighten the stakes for the children trying to survive and outwit their enemies. It also serves as a warning about what could happen if society collapses. The empty city streets devoid of people emphasize how alone the main characters are in their struggle. For anime fans looking for a thriller with a creepy sci-fi twist, The Promised Neverland's unsettling take on Tokyo is highly recommended.
3. My Hero Academia
Set in modern-day Tokyo
My Hero Academia takes place in a version of modern-day Tokyo where 80% of the population has developed superpowers or "quirks". Despite the emergence of superheroes, the city of Tokyo itself remains very true to real life.
Fans of the anime delight in spotting iconic Tokyo landmarks like Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing, and Ueno Park in the background of episodes. The characters attend high school in the fictional Musutafu City, which is modeled after Tokyo's suburban neighborhoods. The urban cityscapes in My Hero Academia are incredibly detailed and bring Tokyo to life.
A major element of the series is the contrast between regular city life and the fantastical heroes and villains. We see the characters going through normal high school routines, only to then cut to epic battles between good and evil taking place atop skyscrapers and in the streets. This juxtaposition makes My Hero Academia feel grounded in the real world while still delivering superhero action.
Overall, My Hero Academia's faithful depiction of present-day Tokyo is part of what gives the anime its heart. The city feels alive and lived-in, making it the perfect backdrop for this coming-of-age superhero story. Both Japanese viewers and international fans love getting to explore this stylized version of Tokyo.
4. One Punch Man
Set in the fictional city of Z-City
One Punch Man takes place in the fictional metropolis of Z-City, which is heavily inspired by Tokyo. Z-City's urban sprawl, towering skyscrapers, and massive population all bring to mind images of Tokyo. Many iconic Tokyo locations and landmarks have direct analogs in Z-City as well.
For example, Z-City has its own version of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building called the Z-City Hall. It also contains a park modeled after Ueno Park and a shopping district similar to Shibuya. The crowded streets, bright signs, and fast-paced energy of Z-City are signature Tokyo.
However, Z-City is also home to monsters, villains, and constant destruction that give it a sense of fantasy. Much of the comedy and action in One Punch Man derives from the main character Saitama trying to live a normal life in this chaotic city. His humble apartment contrasts with the skyscrapers being demolished around him.
The anime uses Z-City's semi-familiar setting to ground the absurdity of Saitama's superhero antics. The city almost becomes a character itself, with so much focus given to capturing the details of urban life. Fans of Tokyo will have fun spotting the references and easter eggs hidden throughout Z-City.
5. Your Lie in April
A touching drama series set in Tokyo
Your Lie in April is a musical drama anime that takes place in modern-day Tokyo. The anime depicts many accurate urban scenes of Tokyo as we follow middle school students Kousei and Kaori navigating friendship, loss, and young love.
Notable Tokyo landmarks like the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and Yoyogi Park make appearances, grounding the story in reality. The gorgeous renderings of cherry blossom trees in full bloom capture the beauty of springtime in Tokyo.
We also see the characters riding the subway, shopping in Harajuku, and eating at cozy cafes, showing Tokyo's lively energy. The meticulous details immerse us in the atmosphere of the city.
But beyond the scenery, Tokyo represents possibility and hope for the characters. After experiencing tragedy in his childhood, Kousei shuts himself off emotionally. As he meets Kaori and starts opening his heart again, they explore Tokyo making new memories together. Their journey shows how Tokyo connects to key themes of the anime.
Your Lie in April's stirring story combined with its true-to-life Tokyo setting makes it a favorite among anime fans seeking emotional depth. The backdrop of this complex, beautiful city adds layers of meaning to the characters' personal growth.
An action-filled supernatural series set in Ikebukuro
Durarara!! is set in the Tokyo neighborhood of Ikebukuro, where supernatural events and gang warfare mix with the lives of ordinary high school students. Ikebukuro is brought to life in vivid detail, from the crowded streets to popular hangouts like Russian Sushi and the Sunshine City complex.
The anime makes great use of real Ikebukuro locations like the train station, the underground malls, and the iconic "scramble crossing" intersection. The incredible sense of place enhances the surreal atmosphere as urban legends and gangs take over the neighborhood.
Major events happen in well-known spots, like fights breaking out by the Lotteria burger joint or characters looking out from the rooftop observatory of Sunshine City. It creates an exciting contrast between the everyday nature of urban life and the mysterious events unfolding.
Durarara!! also focuses on the diverse subcultures that exist within Ikebukuro, from otaku to fashion tribes to a Russian immigrant community. This helps portray Ikebukuro as a melting pot with complex social dynamics that all come together to shape the neighborhood's unique culture.
For those looking for an unpredictable supernatural story or an anime that revels in Tokyo street life, Durarara!!'s stylish take on Ikebukuro hits the perfect balance.
7. Neon Genesis Evangelion
A science fiction mecha series set in 2015 Tokyo-3
The iconic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion is set in a futuristic version of Tokyo called Tokyo-3. In the world of Evangelion, Tokyo-3 serves as a fortress city designed to defend against attacks by giant monsters called Angels. The city itself is ultra-modern and high-tech.
Tokyo-3 contains many visually striking futuristic buildings and mechanical structures, including retractable armor plates that activate during Angel battles. There are also multiple high-speed transit systems allowing civilians to evacuate quickly. This imaginative take on Tokyo highlights the advanced technology needed to support the Evangelion mecha combat at the heart of the story.
At the same time, there are still nostalgic shots of older Tokyo landmarks like Shinobazu Pond and Fujimi High School that remind viewers this is Neo Tokyo. The mix of cutting-edge science fiction and classic anime style that Evangelion is known for comes through in its setting.
The characters' complex inner worlds are also reflected through their lonely lives in this empty, isolated city. Tokyo-3 represents both the hopes and fears surrounding technological progress. For anime fans craving both high-concept sci-fi and introspective character drama, Evangelion's vision of Tokyo is thought-provoking and unforgettable.
8. Death Note
A thrilling dark fantasy series set in modern-day Tokyo
The cat-and-mouse game between genius high school student Light Yagami and enigmatic detective L takes place against the backdrop of Tokyo in the popular dark fantasy anime Death Note. The vividly depicted city adds to the tense, psychological atmosphere.
Many notable Tokyo locations appear, like the busy Shibuya 109 department store where Light first encounters the death god Ryuk. There are numerous scenes set in Tokyo subway stations, highlighting the crowded anonymity of urban life that Light exploits as he becomes a vigilante serial killer.
Aerial shots of Tokyo at night, with its glowing web of streets and towers, emphasize Light's growing god complex as he attempts to pass judgment on criminals from on high. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters where L works also feels grand and imposing.
Yet despite the larger-than-life cathedral-like structures, much of the action takes place in nondescript apartments, schools, and alleys. This grounded setting contrasts with the supernatural intrigue. By reflecting both the ordinary and the dramatic sides of Tokyo, Death Note uses the city to mirror its complex themes related to justice, power, and morality.
9. Paranoia Agent
Paranoia Agent is a psychological thriller anime set in modern-day Tokyo that follows an investigation into a mysterious assailant known as Lil' Slugger. The anime depicts the streets of Tokyo in a distorted, off-kilter way that contributes to the surreal, paranoid atmosphere.
There are many scenes set in recognizable Tokyo locations like Shibuya Crossing, but they are shot from odd angles or incorporate unsettling visual effects that make the city feel alienating and claustrophobic.
The urban crowds and nighttime neon lights that usually represent Tokyo's energy are instead rendered as ominous and threatening. As Lil' Slugger attacks random victims across the city, panic spreads among the populace, causing the city itself to seem to turn on them. The increasingly unstable mental states of the characters are reflected through the growing instability of Tokyo as a setting. By the final episodes, Tokyo appears as a full-on nightmare, with familiar landmarks distorted beyond recognition and logic breaking down.
The cityscape mirrors the shattering psyches of the cast. Paranoia Agent uses Tokyo to build an atmosphere of uncertainty and dread where the line between imagination and reality blurs.
For viewers who enjoy psychological anime or unconventional depictions of Tokyo, Paranoia Agent delivers a thrillingly bizarre take on the city.
10. Azumanga Daioh
A slice-of-life comedy series set in Tokyo
Azumanga Daioh is a beloved comedy anime following the daily lives of a group of high school girls in Tokyo. Despite the lack of any major plot, the anime brings the realities of life in Tokyo to the forefront through relatable, hilarious moments.
The girls take field trips to famous sites like the Tokyo Tower and Odaiba amusement Park that many viewers will recognize. But more memorable are the mundane city scenes like riding packed trains, grabbing fast food in Shibuya, and browsing loud arcade centers.
Azumanga Daioh's Tokyo feels lived in thanks to details like street musicians in Yoyogi Park and loudspeaker announcements at the train crossings. The anime celebrates the quirks of the city, like strange street fashion trends and students commuting alone at young ages.
While the anime avoids tourist stereotypes, the essence of Tokyo still shines through in the energetic atmosphere and fast pace of daily life. The charming slice-of-life vignettes highlight various corners of the massive metropolis.
For those who enjoy anime comedy grounded in the real world, Azumanga Daioh's affectionate look at the absurdity of Tokyo life delivers plenty of laughs.
(BONUS) Your Name
Fantasy and romance anime set in Tokyo
Your Name beautifully depicts both the traditional and modern sides of Tokyo through a body-swap story between a boy from Tokyo and a girl from rural Japan. Detailed shots of Tokyo establish the huge scale and neon energy of the capital compared to the girl's sleepy hometown.
The boy's walks to school take him past major landmarks like Shinjuku Station as well as nostalgic gems like the steps lined with cherry trees. Overhead views of the endless urban sprawl highlight how vast and maze-like Tokyo can feel.
At the same time, quiet scenes in the boy's traditional family home and at the local Shinto shrine represent the enduring history and customs of Japan that still influence life in busy Tokyo. The gorgeous scenery during the comet over Tokyo also contrasts modernity with cosmic timescales.
Your Name uses these different sides of Tokyo to reflect connections between rural and urban Japan, tradition and progress, and our small lives within the grand universe. For anime fans seeking a thoughtful story along with a detailed tour of Tokyo, Your Name captures the capital's one-of-a-kind charms.
So there you have it, a grand tour of Tokyo without ever leaving your couch! These ten anime series offer not just a taste of Tokyo's vibrant cityscape but also its spirit, history, and culture. From the high-tech future to the nostalgic past, from dystopian ruins to bustling streets, they each paint a unique portrait of the metropolis. So why not take a trip to Tokyo via these animated masterpieces? After all, in the world of anime, even the city's notorious rush hour seems charming. Happy viewing!