When most people think of fantasy, swords & sorcery, otherwise known as heroic fantasy, is typically what they think of. Unlike high fantasy stories that tell the tales of world-engaging conflicts, the swords and sorcery stories will typically feature a more heavy emphasis of the personal battles of the sword-and-magic-wielding heroes. If you’re in the mood for the singing of steel-on-steel complimented by the symphony of magical energy, then these fantasy anime recommendations are for you.
Magi is swords and sorcery with a Middle Eastern theme to it. While it is often less swords and more magic as the name would suggest, it presents a compelling story with some 1,001 Arabian Nights themes to it. It follows the magi Aladdin that sets out into the world and meets a wanna-be merchant Alibaba. Together they set out to conquer dungeons that, while dangerous, possess immense treasure inside.
The Fate Series
Fate/Stay and Fate/Zero are perhaps the most famous of all things swords and sorcery. This series tells the tale of the modern day war for the holy grail that is fought between several families that have the ability to call on the spirits of historical and mythological figures to help them fight their battles. With an equal balance of swords clanging and magic flying, this series is proof that you don’t need a medieval setting to craft an excellent heroic fantasy.
Claymore has plenty of swords, but the magic of the series comes primarily from the supernatural demons that the women warriors in the series fight. This series follows Claire, who is a yoma slayer in an order known as Claymore. With her claymore sword and special abilities granted by imbibing yoma blood, it allows her and others to combat the demons that feast on human flesh alough their very way of life ostracize them from the very people they save.
The sorcery in Berserk is well-hidden earlier in the series, but as you move into the second season, it is in full swing. The series follows Gutts, a lone mercenary on a journey to nowhere. After joining up with the charismatic Griffith and his Band of the Hawk mercenary group, he seemed to have finally found a place in life. However, due to events, the world is plunged into darkness and overwhelmed with demons. This finely crafted series takes darkness to the extreme and features one of the biggest swords in the sword and sorcery genre.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Like Magi, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is another series inspired by the Middle East, primarily during the dark ages. It follows Arslan, a young prince that was pushed from his kingdom after his father falls to a sinister plot. Now his is a quest for survival and to return home to his rightful kingdom. This is honestly a pretty overlooked show in swords and sorcery, but due to its strong characters (both heroes and villains) it is quite the interesting watch and not as cookie-cutter fantasy as you might expect.
Yona of the Dawn
Like the above Arslan, Yona of the Dawn is cut from almost the exact same cloth. Yona is a princess of her kingdom, but when her father is murdered by her friend and crush, she is forced to flee. Now she must hunt down the powers of the reincarnated dragons of legend to help her return back to the throne. Unfortunately, the anime, for lack of more seasons, does not fully realize the potential of Yona, but it is an excellent watch if you like to see how royals adapt after they are thrust out into the normal, shitty world that everyone else lives in.
Rage of Bahamut
In the world of Rage of Bahamut, gods and demons live amongst mankind. However, in order to stop the ancient god of Bahamut that threatened them all, they combined their powers in an alliance to seal him away. The seal was then split among gods and demons so that Bahamut will never be reawakened. Yet, years later, a bounty hunter meets a strange woman with half the seal who threatens the peace of the world.
While the world of this anime is certainly an interesting one, what really carries the show (other than the awesome animation) is that sassy and fleshed out characters. It is one of those stories where unlikely heroes end up saving the world, and those are the best stories.
Legend of Legendary Heroes
Stupid name? Sure. Great anime? Surprisingly, yes. Legend of Legendary Heroes takes the most worn out premise and makes it flashy and interesting again. Essentially it is the story of a mage and a swordswoman that travel together in order to recover relics that can bring peace to a nation. Secrets are shared, drama is had, and so many well-thought out battles are fought.
Moribito keeps itself very low-key in the beginning and some might even accuse it of being boring. However, its battles are fast and beautifully animated. The only real major failing is that there is not a huge amount of magic in play. In fact, the magic is more of a spiritual nature than of a flying fireball sort. Yet, it is another one of those stories about a young royal child being spirited away by a mercenary bodyguard due to a threat on their life. They then learn more about the common people so that when they return, they will ultimately be a better leader.
Seven Deadly Sins
If Moribito isn’t flashy or fast-paced enough, then the Seven Deadly Sins might be a better alternative. It follows a young princess that seeks out a group of knights once accused of betraying the kingdom in order to fight the knights that really did betray the kingdom. She finds them, but they were not quite as expected. Though overly strong, they are more silly than chivalrous. Together they set off to fight the threats of the kingdom in a very shounen-esque, but still entertaining plot line. Of course, just because they are knights doesn’t mean there isn’t a hefty dose of magic involved in the story, though.
You might not have realized it, but Fairy Tail actually has really strong swords and sorcery themes to it. Although it primarily follows the mages of the Guild, we all know there is a lot of swordwork in play throughout the series, especially when Erza gets involved.
Record of Lodoss War
Record of Lodoss War border really strongly on being classified as High Fantasy rather than heroic fantasy, but is really does tell one of the most engaging fantasy stories of all anime. The story is about a young hero embarking on a quest to restore his family honor and sounds like something right out of a D&D game. This is not by chance since it was based on a game that strongly resembled D&D. Although the older animation might put some off, it is the pinnacle of the fantasy genre in terms of story.
I debated putting this series on here. The first part of it is a good old swords and sorcery story about an amnesiac mercenary that is taken in by a village. He then uses the combat skills he had in the past to defend said village from attack. Unfortunately, later in the series it takes an inexplicable turn to the sci-fi simply to explain all the things that have happened. Yet, by the time you get there, usually you are already too invested in the story to stop.
Though well-aged now, Slayer is iconic in the fantasy genre. Although it is a comedy, it follows mage Lina Inverse and her group that travels around the country in constant search for gold. While there are many different incarnations of Slayers, they all follow the aforementioned basic plot. While Slayers has a big emphasis on lowbrow comedy, that can be refreshing from the other serious fantasy stories. Of course, it dares to foray into more serious plots from time to time as well.
This series has one of those titles that is just begging to be overlooked, but for those that do, they are missing out on a fantastic story. This story follows Pacifica, the so-called scrapped princess. At birth it was prophesized that she will be a poison that destroys the world. However, it is later that she realizes she might not be a poison, but its sole salvation. So thus she sets off with her adoptive brother and sister, one skilled in magic while the other is a master of the sword, to unravel the mystery. While all that sounds like the recipe for something disappointing, it was created by the same production team as Cowboy Bebop and thus supports some surprisingly dark themes to it and pretty good animation for its age. Of course, it also does get a little sci-fi by the end, but never forgoes the fantasy roots of the story completely.
Do you have any more anime recommendations for sword and sorcery anime? Let us know in the comments section below.