Apocalyptic events have the power to change a world completely, not only affecting the values that people have, but also the path they choose to take.
The best post-apocalyptic anime are also some of the medium’s most intriguing ones, as they take place in captivating worlds completely different from reality. As a consequence of cataclysmic events that nearly destroy and redefine the world, societies end up either regressing, or developing in new and unique ways, adapting to their new conditions and needs.
These types of shows tend to have a few common strengths that make them as popular as they are. One would be their world-building, in the form of interesting broken down cities and relics of the past, and another would be the characters and their journeys. When faced with desperate situations wherein survival is hardly guaranteed, the worst of humanity may be put on display, as instincts take over reasoning.
10 Heavenly Delusion
The events of Heavenly Delusion are set in a world that virtually collapsed in the year of 2024, when an unexpected disaster struck humankind, leading to grotesque man-eating monsters lurking in the ruins of civilization, threatening the peace of the remaining survivors. It is in this world that Maru and Kiruko end up searching for an enigmatic place known as Heaven together, each trying to unravel the mysteries of their own tragic lives as well as the fate of the world. Simultaneously, children are shelters and nurtured in an isolated facility kept away from the dangers of the outside world, but their curious nature won’t let them stand idle.
9 Girls’ Last Tour
Girls’ Last Tour is set in a war-torn world, where civilization is virtually dead, save for two girls, Chito and Yuuri, who are wandering around the desolate wasteland on their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and doing their best to survive. It is never made clear exactly how the world reached its current status, but it is evident that a lot of the damage was caused by unforgiving wars, possibly involving highly advanced technology. However, such details are irrelevant to the protagonists, who are instead more concerned with finding their next meal, curiously exploring their environment, and speculating about what the world used to be like.
8 WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?
The events of WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? are set in a world where humankind was all but wiped out, with Willem Kmetsch being the sole survivor. As humans went extinct while he was frozen in ice for 500 years, he wakes up to a world much unlike the one he remembers, where the surviving races have to coexist on floating islands in the sky, away from the Beasts threatening to eliminate all life born on Earth. Willem ends up being tasked with taking care of the Leprechauns, a group of human-like young girls able to wield ancient weapons.
As a fresh take on the classic zombie anime formula, the world of School-Live! is defined by a sudden infection outbreak, speculated to be caused by a biological weapon, which turned humans across the globe into man-eating zombies. The story follows the School Living Club, consisting of a group of high school girls struggling to make sense of their new situation and survive against all odds. Meanwhile, one of the girls, Yuki Takeya, has seemingly lost her sanity as a result of the shocking events she witnessed, refusing to see reality for what it is and unable to acknowledge the traumatic deaths that happened around her.
6 Guilty Crown
In the world of Guilty Crown, a day known as the “Lost Christmas” marks the time that Japan was nearly brought to ruins by the lethal Apocalypse Virus, which plunged the entire country into chaos and anarchy. This virus was caused by the fall of a meteorite, which eventually resulted in a widespread pandemic. The stability of the country was only maintained thanks to the efforts of the United Nations, which successfully contained the outbreak, while also removing all political autonomy, a situation that has remained unchanged for over a decade. Unsatisfied with Japan’s current situation, a resistance group known as the Funeral Parlor set out to reclaim their freedom.
5 Dr. Stone
The world of Dr. Stone is defined by a unique cataclysmic event known as the Petrification. This global-scale event petrified civilization for thousands of years, virtually resetting all the progress humankind had made in the process. Everything manmade has disappeared, and nature has taken over the world once again, turning former thriving cities into unrecognizable jungles. However, even in such conditions, there are people, such as Senkuu Ishigami, who would not back away from the challenge of reviving the civilization. Even as most others remain petrified, Senkuu sets out to use his knowledge of science to save the world and restore it to its former glory.
4 Sabikui Bisco
In the world of Sabikui Bisco, Japan was ravaged by a mysterious apocalyptic event, which completely changed its landscape, while still threatening the survival of the remaining civilization. The rust has not only turned most of the country into sandy wastelands full of dust, but it is also affecting people, afflicting them with what is known as the rusting disease. The only one who can save this world is the titular Bisco Akaboshi, a Mushroom Keeper searching for the legendary Rust Eater mushroom, but he is also often unfairly blamed for the state of the world, which only further complicates his mission.
3 Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-
While not post-apocalyptic in the traditional sense of the world, the events of Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song– only unfold after the beginning of an apocalyptic event during which highly evolved AIs seek to eradicate humankind, burning down everything in their path. In a desperate attempt to save the world by changing the past, a scientist pins down all of his hopes on the titular Vivy, the first autonomous humanoid AI, sending another AI to ask her to rewrite history. Without even being given time to process the information and realize what she’s signing up for, Vivy finds herself amidst a perilous and long-lasting journey that transcends her original purpose.
2 Gurren Lagann
Though the specific origins of Gurren Lagann‘s post-apocalyptic world are unclear, it is easy to see why jt falls under this category. In the distant future presented therein, most of humanity lives in underground villages, largely unaware of what the surface entails, yet frightened by its possibilities nonetheless. After a series of events, Kamina and Simon end up seeing the large blue sky for the first time, and joining Yoko in an adventure to fight against the Beastmen terrorizing humans. The wastelands of the surface are even more dangerous than they could have imagined though, making their mission impossible without appropriate levels of determination and willpower.
1 Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign
In Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign, humanity was nearly eliminated by a deadly virus that killed most of the humans above the age of thirteen, reducing the world’s population by over 90%. As if one apocalyptic event wasn’t enough, the Four Horsemen of John then showed up, seeking to take out the few remaining survivors, ensuring the doom of humankind. However, fearing for their diminishing food supply, vampires came out from the shadows, saving and subjugating humans to use as livestock. Even under such dire circumstances, not all hope is lost, with some people forming the Moon Demon Company, fighting back with sentient weapons and seeking to reclaim their freedom.
As shown by the entries on this list, post-apocalyptic titles can differentiate themselves through a number of different factors. Firstly, the apocalyptic event itself may play an important role in setting up expectations for how the future may be shaped, as people need to consider a solution to the problem and a method to prevent it from reoccurring. Additionally, the way societies develop thereafter can also vary significantly, with some choosing to live underground, while others may take to the skies. Either way, fans of this genre have plenty of great post-apocalyptic anime to choose from.