You love the simple things in life. Guns and schoolgirl uniforms? Hell no. Those aren’t for you. You like swords, chivalry, and peasants toiling out a miserable life and living in fear of everything from plague to warfare. You love yourself a medieval setting, and there is nothing wrong with that. Medieval settings provide the perfect deployment for not only misery, but intrigue as well. They also walk hand-in-hand with fantasy elements like they are old friends.
Do note that while the list below may include some settings inspired by not just medieval Europe, but China and other Asian cultures, there will be no Feudal Japanese settings here. Those would just muddy up the list. If that is more your historical shtick, you might want to check out our samurai anime recommendations or even our list of historical anime series.
20 – Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan was a conflicting addition to this list. On one hand, they have their maneuver gear that allows them to jet around and is definitely not medieval. On the other hand, everyone lives a simple life and otherwise, there is very little technology to be seen. It stands to reason that when you corral a bunch of people to live behind a wall with limited resources, you would learn to live without the technology of your past. So in a way, Attack on Titan ends up being an interesting look at how people would have to revert to our past cultures in the way distance future.
19 – Gate: Thus the SDF Fought
Gate is the ultimate melding of modern culture and a more basic medieval world. While the world through the gate features everything from dragons and magic to feudal royalty governments and living deities, you get to see how that all interacts when introduced to modern people, culture, technology, and weaponry. There is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a fully-armored and cocky medieval army get shredded by gun fire.
18 – Bastard!!
Bastard starts off like your typical world domination story where a group of people set off with good intentions, then their motives turn dark, and then it is the black sheep of the once righteous group that has to set them right again. Unfortunately, Bastard is also an OVA that never quite got finished, so unless you read the manga, you never really know what happens. However, everything from its story, setting, and even its characters are a real blast from the past if you are into older anime.
17 – Romeo x Juliet
Like Attack on Titan, Romeo x Juliet is another conflicting entry. While it is technically more Elizabethan than medieval as well as technically just a bit futuristic, you get that same old school style with a futuristic twist to it. It is certainly a more entertaining version of the Shakespeare play that it is based on, though.
16 – Kemono no Souja Erin
This is one of those excellent anime series where you get to watch the world evolve as the character grows up, like From the New World (which narrowly missed out at being on this list, too). It starts off following a little girl grow up in a rural village that is known for raising war lizards and expands into war between the two nations surrounding them. It is all about politics and the ravages of war as seen by a pure soul.
15 – Seven Deadly Sins
You like more shounen-style action in your medieval settings? Then Seven Deadly Sins is probably the anime for you. It has main characters that are way over-the-top in terms of power fighting powerful foes. Throughout the series, you get to see a world that maintains a rather simple setting despite the magic that many people very clearly possess, but no one really acknowledges it.
14 – The Sacred Blacksmith
The Scared Blacksmith is actually a lot like the above Seven Deadly Sins if their ridiculous power was outlawed after years of war. While not quite as addicting, but it does provide a unique romp through a interesting fantasy/medieval world with some decent sword action.
13 – The World is Still Beautiful
In medieval times, the slightest thing could mean the end of a lot of people. If it doesn’t rain, people starve. Just that is essentially the premise of The World is Still Beautiful. A woman that can call the rain is sent to the Sun kingdom where it never rains. She sent there to marry the king, who is not what she expected, and of course, you watch romance bloom. However, in between all that, you get to see the unique political niggles of a kingdom where the ability to grow crops is not always guaranteed.
12 – Lord Marksman and Vanadis
This is easily one of the most overlooked medieval-set anime series of all time, and it is definitely worth a look. In this anime series, war is brewing between two countries in fantasy Europe, which is a story as old as time. However, while there are familiar-sounding locations, this is a Europe with dragon-carved weapons, War Maidens, and other powerful weapons. However, while the action scenes are over-the-top, the political intrigue is spot on, and, well, intriguing. If you love dark secrets, corruption, and conspiracy, then this is a lovely series to unravel.
11 – Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Grimgar is one of those series that seems like it was adapted from its light novels purely for the purpose of trying to cash in on the popularity of series like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon. While the anime thus far (I’ve never read the light novels) only subtly hints at this being some sort of simulation, it takes a different route. It follows a bunch of poorly skilled people as they try to survive in a world that is suspiciously like an RPG world. They unlock skills, they adventure to pay the rent, and they even deal with death. No overpowered main characters here, which is what made it so refreshing.
10 – The Twelve Kingdoms
In the Twelve Kingdoms, it takes a bunch of modern Japanese kids and hurls them into another world that just happens to be a medieval fantasy one. In this world, they are attacked by demons and forced to learn how to survive and try to get back. It is interesting to see the world unravel in front of people completely foreign to it, unfortunately, the anime, while reasonable long, ends prematurely and has not since wrapped up the story.
9 – Guin Saga
Guin Saga is perhaps the best series that captures the medieval setting as we know and love. It features a prince and princess that go through a traumatic event and are forced to live without the silver spoon in their mouths, but are also guarded by a slightly more world-wise, yet amnesiac warrior with a leopard head (which is not normal even for this world). You watch them travel, you watch them struggle, and you watch them learn how the rest of the people in their kingdom live. It is a lovely coming-of-age story for the royalty, and mystery story as Guin tries to figure out who he is.
8 – Scrapped Princess
In this anime, the so-called “Scrapped Princess” is a girl that will supposedly be responsible for a great calamity on her 16th birthday. In order to not be killed by zealots, she is forced to leave her village with her adoptive siblings, one skilled in magic, one skilled in swordsmenship. Following these three, you explore a dismal world and unravel the mystery behind this girl that attracts devastation.
7 – The Heroic Legend of Arslan
You know the old tale: two kingdoms at war, a prince who is different from his royal father goes out to prove himself only to find his family betrayed. Now on the run, the Prince Arslan must find a way to get back his throne and overcome obstacles other than just his enemies to do so. Of course, the journey and the people he meets throughout will also one day help him become a true king of the people.
6 – Tears to Tiara
This series starts out pretty typical. A girl is set to be sacrificed to please a demon lord, her brother tries ardently to save her, but in a twist, the demon lord actually ends up saving her. It gets a little romance-y from there on, but you still get to know the unique politics in the world as the party goes on a good old-fashioned adventure.
5 – Claymore
Up until Claymore, the other entries on this list haven’t been exactly what you would call “dark,” but Claymore can fix that. In this series, women infused with demon blood travel to kill demons for their organization. Unfortunately, they are hated as monsters. Suffering from loneliness and pitifully short, violent lives, there isn’t much cheer to be found here. While you don’t see much of the world, it is a good ol’ series about fighting, struggling, and everyone you even remotely like dying in one way or another.
4 – Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
Moribito is another story of royalty being whisked away under the threat of death. In this series, a water spirit that must be slain to prevent a drought manifests itself in the Emperor’s son. Willing to kill his son for the empire, he gives the order, but the boy’s mother smuggles him away with a spear-wielding female mercenary. Together, they spend life living low-key in the country where the royal boy learns how his would-be subjects live. In this series, not only do you get a taste for politics, but a look at how the average people of a feudal society live.
3 – Yona of the Dawn
Yona of the Dawn is a story suspiciously similar to the aforementioned Heroic Legend of Arslan. Except instead of a prince, you follow a princess, so you know, that means more romance and empathy. However, as Yona goes on the run, she not only discovers the plight of her people and begins to understand that her father may not have been as awesome as she thought, but she gathers her dragons, warriors of legend and literal dragon people, to help her.
2 – Spice and Wolf
You know how the Star Wars sequels inform you on the finer points of intergalactic trade, more so than you ever wanted to know? Spice and Wolf is a bit like that with medieval economics. However, instead of being horribly tedious, Spice and Wolf weaves a story that is an addicting meld of fantasy, medieval life, and romance into one story that you can’t get enough of. Colorful, whimsical, and fun, Spice and Wolf is one of the smartest anime series in the medieval setting.
1 – Berserk
Finally, while Spice and Wolf came really close to taking the first spot, the best anime in a medieval setting has to go to Berserk. In the 1997 series, you spend the majority of the series following the finer points of battlefield tactics and political intrigue. Corruption, betrayal, assassination – it is all there. Griffith will do anything to achieve his goals and his enemies will do anything to stop him.
However, even in the 2016 series when the world goes to shit, it still has its charms. You get to see the darker side of medieval life including torture, witchcraft, witch hunts, and zealotry. Of course, at that point, it all comes with a big supernatural fantasy twist, but it still has some base in real things that humanity really did to each other in the past.
Did we miss any of your favorite anime series set in a medieval-inspired world? Tell us in the comments section below!