As the latest season of HBO’s mega fantasy rolls on to its inevitable conclusion, here’s the inevitable list of anime series to check out if you enjoy Game of Thrones. So, anime series based in fantasy worlds are a dime a dozen, but let’s delve a little deeper than your standard sword-and-sorcery epic. For this list, each series was chosen based on the main character’s similarity to a fan-favorite character on Game of Thrones. So if you’ve ever wanted to see your favorite character in the spotlight rather than a part of a rich narrative tapestry, here’s your chance.
If you love Arya Stark, check out Claymore.
Arya’s steady progression from the mischievous daughter of the Stark clan to cold-hearted assassin/spirit of vengeance is mirrored in the story of Claymore‘s protagonist, Clare. Clare’s world is besieged by yoma, monstrous creatures that crave human flesh. Losing her parents at an early age to the yoma, Clare’s quest for revenge leads her to become a Claymore. Claymores are young female warriors imbued with a yoma’s strength and speed, specially trained to destroy the monsters. Clare roams the countryside slaying yoma and uncovers a conspiracy connected to the mysterious organization that creates and controls the Claymores. What Clare discovers sends her on a path of vengeance not just for her lost parents but for all her Claymore sisters as well.
Clare doesn’t keep a list of all the people who’ve wronged her, as Arya does, but they both share a fervent desire to survive despite their circumstances and a willingness to lose pieces of their humanity in order to achieve their goals. After Arya’s stint with the Faceless Men, she accepts that she is no one. As a Claymore, Clare is shackled with a short, brutal life as a half-monster. Neither Arya nor Clare can claim to be completely human anymore, and they might not be able to reintegrate themselves into human society once they fulfill their objectives. But that scarcely matters to them, as long as they can bring retribution to those who have wronged them.
If Brienne of Tarth is bae, try out Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.
Brienne is an honorable soldier who still doggedly adheres to the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark — you know, back when Catelyn was still alive — and she shares her sense of loyalty with the main character of Moribito, a spear-wielding warrior woman named Balsa. Balsa harbors a great heaviness in her heart. Eight lives were sacrificed to protect her when she was a child, and she vows to atone that by saving the equivalent number of lives. She’s a bodyguard for hire and comes into the service of the prince of the kingdom, Chagum. Chagum’s father, the king, has ordered his son’s assassination, and Chagum hires Balsa to protect him from the murderers who are after the bounty on his head.
Because they are women who are skilled at fighting, both Balsa and Brienne are considered unusual in their respective worlds, where it’s mostly the men who swing weapons around. Both women also share character traits. They’re both pragmatic and smart, and despite their practical ways, both women still care very deeply about those they’ve sworn their loyalty to. Balsa continues to stay by Chagum’s side, even when it’s revealed that Chagum’s connection to a mysterious supernatural being might bring about the destruction of the kingdom. Brienne still invests her time in supporting the Stark clan, even if most of them are either dead or scattered to the winds.
If your fave is Jon Snow, then watch Attack on Titan.
A young man joins a ragtag group of soldiers who are tasked with defending humanity against a nearly unstoppable supernatural force that exists beyond a wall. He then discovers that he might be the key to defeating the supernatural force and saving the future of humanity once and for all. Yep, this is basically Jon Snow’s current storyline in Game of Thrones, but it’s also the storyline for the main character of Attack on Titan, Eren Jaeger. Even if ice zombies aren’t exactly the same as the anime’s titular Titans, the White Walkers also have giants in their ranks, right?
Both Jon and Eren want to destroy the supernatural threats out of a sense of protective devotion to humanity. Both have sacrificed much of themselves in order to fulfill their goals, and both have lost most of their family, so their duty is all they have left to give their lives meaning. Eren is definitely a lot more hot-headed than Jon is, but both are extremely passionate about wanting to kill off those White Walkers/Titans.
If you favor Daenerys Targaryen to take the Iron Throne, check out Yona of the Dawn.
Everyone’s favorite Khaleesi has her anime counterpart in the protagonist of Yona of the Dawn. Yona is the crown princess of the Kingdom of Kouka. Her father, the peace-loving King Il, spoils her as much as possible and shelters her from the harsh realities of the world. On Yona’s 16th birthday, she witnesses one of her best friends, Soo-Won, murder the king in cold blood and take over the kingdom. Betrayed by those she trusts most, Yona flees into exile and discovers her destiny. She is the reincarnation of the first king of Kouka, and she must gather the same allies that he did long ago in order to bring peace to the kingdom once again.
Those allies? A group of strong-willed dragons.
Yona embarks on a journey to track down the dragons so that she can take back her birthright. The dragons aren’t portrayed as gigantic fire-breathing creatures with razor-sharp teeth, at least not all the time. Each dragon Yona meets (there are four in total, so Yona’s already got Dany beat on that) takes the form of an attractive young man, because what anime series is complete without a group of attractive young men who swear to offer their strength and support to the main female character? Honestly, if Daenerys’ dragons looked more like Gendry or Grey Worm, I’d be more inclined to support her bid for the throne.
If you’re a fan of Sandor “the Hound” Clegane then Rurouni Kenshin could be the anime series for you.
Since the Hound left King’s Landing, he looks to be on the long, slow path to redemption. No longer bound to House Lannister, Sandor’s been roaming around the countryside, meeting some of the common folk and generally doing more and more decent things. Such actions correspond to the actions of Kenshin Himura, the protagonist of Rurouni Kenshin. Once he was among the most feared warriors of Japan, known as “Battousai the Manslayer.” But a lifetime of murder and mayhem took a toll on Kenshin, and he has decided to turn his back on destruction. He’s now a ronin, a masterless samurai who wields a sword with a backward blade that cannot kill.
While Kenshin does his best to put his past behind him, former acquaintances always pop up to remind him of what he once was and try to drag him back into his former life. Similarly, the common folk the Hound encounters on his travels through Westeros only seem to serve to remind him of what he had done in the past and give him no hope that he can change in the future. Here’s hoping that the Hound, like Kenshin, is strong enough to break off from his past for good.
Hey! What about the Lannisters?
An anime show with a pair of incestuous twins? Good luck finding that!
Seriously, though, don’t make me write about it. You can probably find that kind of stuff on your own, but those titles don’t rank among the anime shows I want to write about.
But what if I’m a fan of Game of Thrones‘ rich narrative tapestry and want another story featuring a large cast of interesting characters?
Have a gander at these two titles:
Sorcerers and warriors have long battled over control of the titular Holy Grail, like the denizens of Westeros warring over the Iron Throne. Fate/Zero‘s protagonists are scattered across a handful of clans who have participated in the Grail War for generations. Alliances are formed and broken, rivalries are forged, and every single person in the Grail War has their own perfectly understandable motives for taking part in it. This time, however, some of the participants don’t just want the Grail; they yearn for the Grail’s destruction and an end to the Grail War. Similar to Game of Thrones, there are no purely good or purely evil characters in Fate/Zero, just characters with varying levels of ambition.
Durarara is more magical realism than high fantasy, but perhaps that’s why its large group of eccentric characters strikes a chord. They all live and work in Ikebukuro, a district of Tokyo known for its restaurants, arcades, and specialty stores. It’s a place for thrill-seeking people to gather, and while this doesn’t sound quite as exciting as battling White Walkers or dragons, the characters themselves range from serial killers to supernatural creatures to members of the Russian mafia. Ikebukuro is a place where you can get anything and anything can happen, an all-you-can-eat buffet of bizarre situations, all overseen by a character who is just as manipulative as Littlefinger or Varys. Durarara transcends the slice-of-life anime genre and becomes a fascinating exploration of the human need for love and acceptance, even when some of those who seek love most are literally the least human.
Honorable Mention: GATE
If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if a world like Westeros were suddenly invaded by a modern-day military force, then check out GATE. A mysterious portal to a pastoral planet suddenly appears in Tokyo, and the Japanese self-defense force has to figure out how to deal with the bizarre army that saunters through the rift. The Japanese military sends a well-armed envoy through the portal to explore the new dimension. Are orcs, dragons, and staff-wielding mages any match for missiles, machine guns, and radar technology? Short answer? No. The series spends two whole episodes on a group of helicopters and their quest to take down a menacing dragon that’s been destroying villages all across the countryside. It’s not realistic in the least, but dang, after watching GATE it’s fun to imagine what a fully armed naval destroyer might do to Euron Greyjoy’s fleet of ships or a horde of White Walkers.