Japan tends to have an interesting take on classic themes that originated in the West. For instance, their take on Catholicism tends to have a lot of sexy teenage nuns fighting demons with holy guns and whatnot. But while Japan was having its Warring States period with samurai and ninjas, Europe had knights and kingdoms and princesses. And dragons, except not really dragons. Dragons are way less real than ninjas are.
The Western style of medieval fantasy hasn’t escaped the view of anime by any means. And while their view of knights in anime might only be a shade or two off of the portrayal of samurai (or just “cool sword characters” in general), there’s no doubt they can still be cool.
Anime "Best of" Genre List
Here are 10 of the best anime depicting (roughly) knightly endeavors.
Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
GATE probably has one of the most honest portrayals of knights and medieval combat tactics in any anime. Because the whole point of the series is to see how medieval battle tactics – and equipment – get completely blown up in every way against the ways of modern warfare.
GATE asks – and subsequently answers – the question of what would happen if a modern, first-world country (Japan, in this case) were faced with attack from a massive medieval country. It turns out charging armies with swords, spears and horses do very, very poorly against tactical artillery strikes and armor-piercing rounds.
Even modern hand-to-hand tactics have advanced to the point where one physical combat specialist, a girl who appears to stand about 4′ 8″, mows down an entire 20-man squad of soldiers without taking a scratch.
Ultimately, the real intrigue of GATE comes from the way it handles the politics and international relationships inherent in such an odd situation. But if you ever get bored of that, there are plenty of intermissions in which packs of bandits get shredded by attack helicopters. And other action scenes of that ilk.
Tears to Tiara
This is one of those examples of Japan taking the knight thing and sort of making it their own. Like, clearly knights are here, but they’re hardly armored at all, and some of them are little girls with giant hammers.
Anyway, Tears to Tiara is a solid, but fairly standard fantasy romp about a band of adventurers led by a resurrected demon lord who has apparently suddenly found his softer side.
And one of the characters is named Arthur. So the medieval theme is fully in place.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Everyone is knights in this series. The actual “Seven Deadly Sins” themselves are just a name for the legendary knights of the kingdom, who were, themselves, overthrown by other knights.
Granted, the main character here is a princess. But she’s a princess looking to find the old legendary knights, so she can defeat the Holy Knights who rule with an iron fist.
No pun intended.
Record of Lodoss War
The second-oldest series here, Record of Lodoss War is a perfect example of how anime tends to throw a bunch of stuff in with knights.
When you get knights, you’re not just getting knights. You’re getting magic, goddesses, demons, and the whole nine yards. It’s part of Japan’s take on the genre.
Record of Lodoss War feels a lot like the epic fantasy RPGs of the 1980s and 90s. Six heroes with varied and complimenting powers journey across the land to defeat an ancient evil power that threatens to destroy and/or take over the world. It isn’t super unique, but it’s competently done.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
You know that story where the good prince of a kingdom is exiled after a coup d’etat overthrows the kingdom and kills the seated king because of treachery from within?
And then the prince has to go rally a rebel force around him to go reclaim the throne?
Yeah, exactly. It’s every Fire Emblem story, basically. This is totally just that. Add in conflict from neighboring kingdoms and questions about rightful succession to the throne, and you have The Heroic Legend of Arslan. It might be a bit trite, but it’s done the right way.
Akatsuki no Yona
This is almost the same exact story as The Heroic Legend of Arslan. The big difference is that Arslan is a warrior prince.
Yona, our protagonist here, is a sheltered princess who learns of the corruption of her kingdom the hard way, by experiencing it firsthand after her family is forced out of power.
It’s worth noting that the style here is decidedly Korean, not European. So it’s not “knights” in the truest sense, but what would you call guys fighting in service of a princess to reclaim her kingdom?
These demons, called “Yoma,” disguise themselves as humans and wait to feed on delicious human entrails.
The Claymores lure them out and destroy them with giant swords. And their armor actually kind of looks knight-like.
Berserk is a classic series for those who like dark plots, brutal stories, and depressing outcomes. The characters are technically mercenaries, but knights are certainly involved – and Guts does what he can to be knightly on occasion, though “chivalry” isn’t really a word you can use with this.
It feels bad to watch Berserk. Which is weird, because it’s a phenomenal series. But it’s a series in which the protagonist is born from his mother’s corpse, and his pregnant wife is raped by a demon until the baby is a horribly deformed, barely-alive mess. In front of him.
Don’t expect happy feelings from this. Strong feelings, but not happy ones.
This is definitely one of those series where knights are thrown in with magic and the supernatural, because that’s generally just how Japan does knights.
But they’re definitely knights. In this one, they’re even fighting for the Holy Grail. Like, the actual Holy Grail of King Arthur (and Monty Python) lore.
Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
Redundantly titled The Legend of the Legendary Heroes, this has more magic than it has knighthood, but as we’ve seen, the two go hand-in-hand.
The story follows Ryner Lute, the king’s knight who is tasked with travelling the countryside in search of the relics of ancient (legendary?) heroes.
It starts slow, and it isn’t exactly unique in its premise, but give it time and it can be very enjoyable, if this is your kind of setting.