TOP 13 MIND-BENDING ANIME WORKS BY MASAAKI YUASA

mind-bending anime works by masaaki yuasa cover photo

Masaaki Yuasa is a Japanese animator that seems to subscribe to a different eccentric and mind-bending catalog than most artists of his trade. Yuasa exaggerates - even on an anime scale- he does not try to make his creation realistic, pushing instead for the edge of peculiarity in the ambiance he casts and the tones he projects. Sceneries rupture into explosions of colors, and characters seemingly melt into each other as realism suddenly erupts into displays of abstract silhouettes. The unexpected happens every step of the way. The only constant is perhaps the fluidity often characterized by his work: while everything continually changes, the change itself is almost laminar in its artistic flow. When I first ventured into the anime world, I did not anticipate liking his work, nor did I gravitate towards it: it is simply not as 'pretty' as a typical animation. Some might even find it aesthetically unpleasing: Yuasa is not for everyone; he does not adhere to artistic foundations, constantly reinventing genres, and pushing animation and storytelling limits. There are immense beauty and introspection to be found in his work, as well as a good dose of entertainment - if one is willing to look.

1.Mind Game

マインド・ゲーム - Maindo Gēmu

Mind Game is probably Masaaki Yuasa's most fast-paced story, amassing scenes of trippy, disorienting, and kaleidoscopic renderings. The story is basically about the power of love and living in the moment, but the execution of this straightforward message is nowhere near as simple. A jealous Nishi reconnects with his now engaged childhood crush Myon, only to be murdered by a yakuza looking for Myon's father. Nishi wakes up in the afterlife and meets God, then comes back to life and murders the yakuza that murdered him and takes off in a yakuza's car with Myon and her sister [are you still following?]. While constituting of a rather strange plot written by mangaka Robin Nishi, Mind Game has arguably the most perplexing visuals of Yuasa's career. In it, he constantly and effortlessly swings the pendulum of his artistry. Explosions of gouache rainbows splash out of a couple making love, and God can't decide on a shape, constantly eroding into new silhouettes. For anyone who can keep up with such an eccentric story that uses every color of the spectrum in its rendering, Mind Game is unquestionably a pleasure to watch.

Studio+ Other Works: Studio 4°C

Trailer Link: Here.

Release date: February 24, 2018

Movie length: 1h 43m

+Of relevance: Top 10 Weirdest Japanese Animated Movies

2.The Tatami Galaxy 

四畳半神話大系 - Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei

there is nothing rose-coloured in the world. Everything is all a bunch of colours mixed up.

The Tatami Galaxy is one of Yuasa's most enticing and mesmerizing projects made up of an array of vibrant saturations and filled with details and impressive rapid-fire movements that give the story life and seem to defy the fundamental laws of physics. It's a pleasure to watch even if you don't feel like delving into the storyline: the visuals are enough to entertain. The narrative is that of an unnamed college student who wasted two years of his life in a club that hasn't offered him much personal satisfaction and wonders what his life would be like if he'd chosen a different club when he first entered college. Tatami Galaxy gets you hooked by actually showing you how things could've gone for the protagonist had he made other choices. It's so fast-paced that you feel like you're experiencing an entire alternate life in around 20 minutes. This anime isn't really about the excess of information or experiencing parallel realities; it's about learning to value the things you have and the people you know instead of wondering about what other possibilities you've missed out on.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Madhouse

Trailer: link.

Average episode length: 24 mins

Number of episodes: 11

Number of seasons: 1

3.Japan sinks: 2020

日本沈没 - Nippon Chinbotsu

The flow of time doesn’t stop and things continue to change. Beautiful scenery and people will disappear someday and transform into new scenery and people.

Japan Sinks: 2020 is the most recent project by Yuasa and Studio SARU. This work is a continuous depiction of a devastating earthquake that begins to sink the country and the reverberating effects it has on facets of humanity in a crumbling society. The story follows siblings Ayumu and Gou and their devoted parents paving their way to freedom and safety. This anime is an adaptation of Sakyo Komatsu’s bestselling science fiction novel and will be released as a manga from Mangamo as well, all having the same name. It is probably one of the most depressing, stressful, yet enjoyable anime of the year 2020. Yuasa’s adaptation of this tragic story is quite gruesome, cruel and unexpectedly gory, and macabre, but it lacks the artistic qualities that usually define his work: his fluid and visually mind-bending animation is restricted to tiny bursts of originality scattered throughout some episodes. Nonetheless, this anime is worth a watch.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Studio Saru

Trailer: link.

Average episode length: 27 mins

Number of episodes: 10

Number of seasons: 1

4.Ping Pong: The Animation

ピンポン THE ANIMATION - Pin Pon the animation 

And you give up at the drop of a hat. Accepting defeat so easily makes you naive! You cannot fly across the ocean on wings so thin.

Ping Pong the Animation is an exceptional adaptation of Taiyō Matsumoto's manga - one of our generation's greatest living manga artists. Less of a sports anime and more of a powerful emotional series. Ping Pong the Animation showcases the genius of Yuasa's animation skills that transforms table tennis into a spectacle of watercolored pulsating lines, edges, and textures, more exciting than any superhero movie. Yuasa's work has never looked so smooth and poignant, while Matsumoto's delicate character development in the manga fits perfectly with his frantic pace. The story follows Smile and Peco, two boys who bond over their love of Ping Pong. Peco is very enthusiastic and dreams of being the best player in Japan, while Smile is calm and unambitious and just tags along with his friend. These characters change, mold, and transmute as the story progresses, and they decide to enter an inter-high table tennis competition. The anime is so wonderfully crafted that you will get attached to these two friends, feel their joys and pains, and find yourself rooting for them - even if you don’t like pingpong.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Tatsunoko Production

Trailer: Link (Turn on subtitles)

Average episode length: 25m

Number of episodes: 11

Number of seasons: 1

+Of relevance: Top 17 Sports Anime that Will Turn you Into Fans

5.Devilman Crybaby 

Why do I run? When I run forward, maybe something behind me will change. Even if it’s trivial, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

Devilman Crybaby is based on the manga bearing the same name by Go Nagai. Ryo Asuka, the primary protagonist, is an elusive genius keen to hunt down and expose various kinds of monsters. As the story first progresses, he enlists his best friend Akira Fudou, to assist him. In the process, the weak and naive Akira is possessed and merges with the great devil Amon. Yuasa swells the gothic nuances and gruesome violence of the manga to ridiculous levels, making use of unpredictable mixes of colors and animation styles. A nightclub becomes immersed in demonic energy as the devil pry on sex and violence, a human gets devoured by a demon as blood splashes on the walls, yet two friends hold each other crying in another scene. While considered a gothic masterpiece, Devilman Crybaby is certainly not for everyone. It's got enough sex and violence to unsettle both fans of the original Devilman series and anyone hoping for a more conventional anime.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Studio Saru

Trailer: link.

Average episode length: 25m

Number of episodes: 10

Number of seasons: 1

6.Ride Your Wave 

きみと、波にのれたら - Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara

When you ride the wave, the thrill is so exhilarating that you forget everything else. You live in the moment where nothing else matters, so intent on riding the wave perfectly that you and the wave become one. Pain and worry disappear, replaced by euphoria, akin to flow. Similarly, when giving empathy, you want to strive for this kind of total presence for the person you are listening to.

Ride your wave is a stunning, lively, and unique anime with a heartbreaking plot showcasing the feelings that overtake us when losing a loved one. It is very heart-warming to see how the story builds up, and the characters change. The plot portrays a relationship that develops between a surfer girl named Hinako and a firefighter named Minato after he saves her life when her apartment catches fire. They instantly develop a connection until Minato drowns and appears in the waves whenever a desperate Hinako sings a song they shared, allowing them to experience their connection once again. The spectacular and effortless style of Yuasa is very imminent and perfectly conveys all the feelings and emotions that envelop you as you watch. He is also more restricted in his usual bursts of randomness: perfect for audiences wishing to dip their eyes rather than submerge them in his work.

Studio + Other Works: Science Saru

Trailer: Link.

Release date: June 10, 2019

Movie Lenght:

+Of relevance: Top 9 Japanese Animated Movies of 2019

7.Lu over the Wall

夜明け告げるルーのうた - Yoaketsugeru Rū no Uta

Lu over the Wall centers around a mermaid with vampiric traits who just wants to sing in a band and make people happy - yes, you've read this correctly. This anime is also about a pessimistic middle-schooler learning to appreciate life by starting a band and becoming friends with our young mermaid. Albeit random, the plot is predictable, even for children's animation. Reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, Yuasa himself acknowledges this source of inspiration. While this is definitely not his most unique project, the animation style is still breathtaking, and unlike a lot of his work, which tends to be gruesome, this one is breathtaking in a heartwarming way and is totally kid-friendly.

Studio+ Other Works: Science Saru

Trailer: Link.

Release date: May 19, 2017

Movie length: 1h 52m

8.Night Is Short, Walk On Girl

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 - Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome

Don’t search for warmth in someone else due to your loneliness. It’s outrageous.

Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the spiritual sequel to The Tatami Galaxy. The character development, background visuals, and even the setting and tone are all reminiscent of Tatami Galaxy. Still, Night Is Short manages to take everything great about the series and make it even better. The animations are ingenious, bold, creative, refreshing, ambitious, and more than anything: hallucinating. The storyline is very chaotic and includes a pub crawl, a 10-minute musical number, a natural disaster sequence, an army of cowboys fighting a crowd of politicians, and even a Slav squad. It demands every ounce of attention to keep up, but it’s still very captivating. The movie depicts an anonymous girl who goes on a drinking binge through Kyoto and meets a succession of bizarre characters while an unnamed boy tries to work up the courage to ask her out on a date. The success of Night is Short is due to the fact that it taps into a feeling everyone has had or even yearn for: the feeling that something exciting is right around the corner if you just look for it.

Studio+ Other Works: Science Saru

Trailer: Link.

Release date: April 7, 2017

Movie length: 1h 23m


9.adventure time episode: food chain

Come on, man. We’re sweet, sweet birds, and we get to eat worms. This is a unique experience.

The Adventure Time episode entitled Food Chain is Masaaki Yuasa's brainchild and showcased his original yet constantly morphing animation styles. Even though it is an American kid show, the episode has gory and disturbing implications, trippy visuals, and witty comedic timing. The story behind Masaaki Yuasa's Adventure Time guest appearance is even better than the episode itself: It is said that the producers did not understand what Yuasa was doing throughout the process of creation up until he was done. "Food Chain" feels like a crazy dream, as Finn the Human and Jake the Dog experience the food chain, jumping from body to body as they eat and are eaten in turn. It is interesting to see Yuasa's take on an American cartoon without changing his style at all, even though the 11-minute episode is a bit limiting.

Trailer: link.

Episode length: 11m

Episode number: Season 6, episode 7

10.Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

映像研には手を出すな! - Eizōken ni wa Te o Dasu na!

I have a big problem with people who start a conversation by praising someone

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken is about a girl named Asakusa whose life changes forever as she gets introduced to anime - sounds familiar to your situation?. She directly has a realization: she wants to become a manga artist. Taking her future into her hands, she proceeds to create an animation club in High School with two of her friends, Kanamori and Mizusaki. Each girl harbors a distinctive set of talents as they delve into their first anime creation. Depicting the incredible imagination and ambition that childhood is often interlaced with, anime enthusiasts will enjoy this lighthearted story of love and passion. In some parts of the show, the animation transcends all conventional boundaries and becomes the stuff of dreams: the modern art style shifts into an amalgamation of whimsical frames fished from the depth of Yuasa’s brain. It’s one of the perks of this show as it makes art experimental and breaks out of the usual structure of similar storylines.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Science Saru

Trailer: link.

Average episode length: 28m

Number of episodes: 12

Number of seasons: 1

11.Genius Party: Happy Machine

ジーニアス・パーティ - Jīniasu Pāti

The 15-minute segment entitled "Happy Machine" is part of the Genius Party film, an amalgamation of 12 short movies by different directors. This odd short feature follows a baby that realizes his mother and home are actually an alien machine imitating an ordinary baby's room. As this awareness settles in, the illusions start to disintegrate, and he is thrust into a deserted world populated by humanoid flame creatures, feces-loving plant dogs, and an entire compilation of intricate ecosystems of weird animals and landscapes. This piece is probably the clearest summary of all Yuasa's interests: from the stunningly eccentric storyline depicted without a single word to the implication that everything repeats in a cycle that may never be broken but can perhaps be adjusted or skewed by acts of selfless kindness. "Happy Machine" is cute and grotesque, charming and disturbing, heartwarming and extremely sad - clearly a Masaaki Yuasa project.

Studio+ Other Works: Studio 4°C

Trailer Link: Here.

Release date: July 7, 2007

Movie length: 15mins


12.Kemonozume

ケモノヅメ - Beast Claw

We might have been comparing ourselves to an ideal that does not exist.

Kemonozume feels like the unrefined, raw, and wilder version of the kind of storytelling that Masaaki Yuasa would later perfect in Devilman Crybaby. Initially quite violent, the story becomes more nuanced as it progresses. The first episode is not very nice, but the rest is cool, so do not ditch it immediately. Kemonozume depicts the Kifūken clan story, a group of swordsmen tasked with hunting and killing man-eating beasts called Shokujinki. One member of the clan, Toshihiko, falls in love with a female shokujinki named Yuka. This monster-hunter Romeo and demonic Juliet romance is the driving force in the series. The animations feel more sketchy than his most recent work, but it is still free and unrestrained, and the storyline, albeit not immensely original, is worth a watch.

Studio + Other Works by Studio: Madhouse

Trailer: link.

Average episode length: 24m

Number of episodes: 13

Number of seasons: 1

13.Cat Soup

ねこぢる草 - Nekojiru-sō

Cat Soup is a surreal black comedy that follows Nyatta, an anthropomorphic kitten, on his travel to the land of the dead and back in an effort to save his sister's soul. Inspired by the work of manga artist Chiyomi Hashiguchi, known by her pen name Nekojiru (neko=cat, shiru=soup), this is a fascinating film verging on the precipice of incoherence, full of abstractions and striking landscapes that seem to arbitrarily appear from all directions, creating an unconventional optic experience. Full of details and metaphors, this short experimental work necessitates a certain focus level from beginning to end, perfect if you're looking for a mix of psychedelic morbid humor.

Studio+ Other Works: J.C.Staff

Trailer: Link.

Release date: February 21, 2001

Movie length: 34 min


these are the rest of his creations that I won’t be recommending:

+14. VAMPIYAN KIDS Kids +15. KAIBA +16. KICK-HEART +17. SPACE DANDY +18. SUPER SHIRO

Some are good [like space dandy] but the animation style is too typical, or the storyline is a bit too much or too bland for most - in my humble opinion. Check them out if you want to. I’ve linked their trailers except for Kaiba (linking an Exposé of some sort instead), as the trailer doesn’t do a good job of depicting how ..erhm, mature the content is.


OTHERNour Salhabanime