It’s been over a week since the end of HBO’s Game of Thrones. No matter what you think of the finale – whether you are still mad over Davos not becoming Prime Minister of Westeros, or thought it was a perfect conclusion – there’s no denying the impact the live-action adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series had on people’s lives and pop culture.
It will be some time before we get another medieval fantasy TV show of this magnitude, if we ever get it, but in the meantime, fans are craving for the next big binge. Instead of looking at other similar shows that you will inevitably compare to Game of Thrones, why not look towards something different and watch some excellent anime shows? Here are some of the best shows to watch that will scratch different Game of Thrones itches.
If You Want More Political Intrigue and a Plethora of Characters…
One of the most talked about aspects of early seasons of Game of Thrones was that it was hard to keep track of all the characters and that the political maneuvering was enthralling. If you want more of that, well good news, you have a long binge ahead of you. Legend of the Galactic Heroes, based on Yoshiki Tanaka’s novels of the same name, is a legendary anime show known as much for the amount of time required to experience the story and for how rewarding the effort is.
Comprising a whopping 110 episodes and three films, Legend of the Galactic Heroes tells the vast, complex, and compelling story of a far future in which humanity moved away from Earth and into the stars where two mighty space powers fight for rule of the entire Milky Way. The two sides: the totalitarian and eugenics-based Galactic Empire, based on mid-19th century Prussia, and the democratic Free Planets Alliance ruled by those who managed to escape the empire. Though we mostly focus on the story of two high-ranking military officers, the autocratic revolutionary Reinhard in the empire, and the charismatic and idealist Yang from the alliance, the series follows a huge ensemble that includes people from all walks of life, including noblemen and commanders, but also mechanics, common citizens and pilots.
The show goes into such excruciating detail for each character (there are over 300 voice actors!) that there are plenty of guides explaining the best way to watch the series and cheat sheets for character and starship names.
Like Game of Thrones, Legend of the Galactic Heroes uses war and action to tell the story of the rise and fall of dynasties, as we see Reinhard and Yang rise through the ranks and forever impact their respective governments. Likewise, both series play with morality and make you double guess who is in the right, though with different approaches. Where Game of Thrones seems to have clear ideas of which houses are in the wrong, but instead shows you characters who are sympathetic despite their circumstances, Legend of the Galactic Heroes goes deeper into the different ideologies of the two superpowers.
Sure, at first glance it should be obvious that the empire is basically made of space Nazis and the alliance is the rebel alliance fighting for freedom. But as the show progresses, we realize that both sides are made up of many good guys, plenty of bad guys and a majority of regular civilians with no say in the matter. Indeed, the anime looks at the positives with both sides, asking if democracy is truly good if everyone is super corrupt and in it for the money, and if a dictatorship truly is evil when it is lead by a fair and efficient leader that brings reform and progress faster than a committee.
Of course, politics and morally ambiguous ideologies aren’t the only reason Legend of the Galactic Heroes is similar to the HBO show. If you thought the battle scenes in Westeros weren’t big enough, wait until you see hundreds of thousands of ships blowing up in space. Even though the animation during the battle scenes aren’t the best, they still do a great job portraying the horrible cost of war, and the impact fighting has on the common soldier who has to fight a room to rest for five minutes before the killing starts again.
If you still think the final season of Game of Thrones felt like it betrayed the books and what came before, fear not. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is already regarded as one of the best anime endings, largely in fact to the series being released just before the last book was finished. Everything is planned out well in advanced, so when you reach the ending it feels justified and earned.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is available for streaming on HIDIVE, and the first season of the remake of the series is available on Crunchyroll with a second season comprising of three films being released in Japanese theaters later this year.
If You Wanted to See Daenerys Burn/Liberate the World…
Before you start screaming “Dracarys” at me, yes, I consider Netflix’s Castlevania an anime. After all, it is heavily influenced by that animation style and it is based on a Japanese videogame.
Anyway, are you a Daenerys apologist? Did you stand by in support as King’s Landing burned for the sins of its people? Did you want to see the Mother of Dragons continue her “liberation” of Westeros through fire and blood? Well, this show is certainly for you.
Mostly adapting the third game in the series, Dracula’s Curse, but taking its cues from every corner of the Castlevania universe, we begin with a woman being accused of witchcraft and then burned at the stake. The woman’s husband gets understandably pissed, and because he happens to be Count Dracula, he declares that the entire people of the region of Wallachia will pay with their lives. Grief-stricken and nearly invulnerable, Dracula summons an army of demons to obliterate the country, leaving the survivors to live out in fear. The show then follows the outcast monster hunter Trevor Belmont and his quest to kill Dracula.
The first four-episode season serves more as a prequel of sorts to the actual show, establishing Dracula’s grudge and increasing hatred for mankind as well as the hero’s journey Belmont is on. The second season then kicks things up a notch, expanding on Dracula’s part of the story and the way he deals with the grief of losing a loved one. Did you want to see more of Daenery’s losing her grip after having both a dragon and Missandei killed? Castlevania is just for you. Graham McTavish portrays the detached yet menacing vampire and the inner rage he’s holding back perfectly and using only his voice. And the second season of the series shows how grief and anger can emotionally compromise a person, leading to madness (I told you it wasn’t far off from the Targaryen girl). There’s also the exploration of the political turmoil caused by Dracula’s insatiable thirst for revenge, as his generals start doubting him and in-fighting breaks out amongst the ranks.
If you want to see a show about a tyrant losing his grip on reality and embarking on a mission for revenge, as well as disturbing and gory imagery that tops anything in Westeroes, you’ll love how Castlevania takes all of that a step further – from the consequences of deciding you’ll obliterate the human race, to a scene where a demon literally walks around with a dead baby in its mouth. This one goes to the fans of the Dragon Queen.
If You Want to See More of the Night’s Watch Defending Humanity…
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There are these huge walls that protect humanity from total annihilation. The walls are so old and big that their true origins are as mythical as they are mysterious, and on the other side of the walls are monsters that will stop at nothing to kill every single person living within the walls. Oh, and those walls are protected by a ragtag group of nobodies, volunteer soldiers that simply couldn’t get a better life and are doomed to give up their lives without knowing whether their deaths accomplished anything. And did I forget that the rest of the people inside the walls generally dislike and mock the people protecting the walls and call them unnecessary and a waste of resources? How about the fact that one day the monsters attack and break through the wall, forever changing everything?
There’s more to the hugely popular anime series Attack on Titan than its many similarities to Game of Thrones, even if its creator, Hajime Isayama is a fan of George R.R. Martin’s work and was also disappointed by the finale. First of all, while the world of Westeros is a ruthless and unforgiving place, we mostly follow highborn nobles that only experiences the highest of privileges growing up. The world of Attack on Titan, on the other hand, is one where every single character lives in fear of being devoured by giant titans that don’t even have a digestive system or any reason to hunt down humans. From the first episode, the show presents a grim reality where the act of living isn’t a guarantee. The very first words spoken on the show are “On that day, humanity remembered. The fear of being in control by them. The humiliation of being imprisoned.” Characters constantly struggle with knowing that they are not meant to continue living since they have no hope of defeating the titans, so why bother?
Attack on Titan follows the soldiers of the Survey Corp branch of the military, which is in charge of defending the walls and go outside into titan territory to try and gain some knowledge that can aid humanity in its never-ending fight for survival. Like the Night’s Watch of old, the soldiers manning the walls are constantly under attack, and every time they come back from an expedition outside the walls, only a portion of the soldiers are alive. If you miss watching a show where characters die left and right, this is the show for you. While Attack on Titan doesn’t really kill many main characters, it does build up an impressive ensemble of secondary characters. You get to know and care for every soldier in the Survey Corp ranks. We know their backstories, their hopes and dreams, and their regrets. Where Game of Thrones builds up a character with the intend of making the audience feel bad when they get killed, Attack on Titan kills many secondary characters we already know and care about, and it does it instantly and unceremoniously. There are no repercussions to their deaths, and their comrades can’t do anything but quickly move on.
Besides the many, many character deaths, Attack on Titan excels at world building and developing the mythology of its world. Because the characters live in ignorance of pretty much everything, it is considered to be a tremendous victory if they gain even the slightest piece of information about the titans, the walls, or the outside world. In the 54 episodes that have aired as of the writing of this piece, the world of the show has grown exponentially, and with each answer come ten more questions.
If you’re still mad that the Night King, the White Walkers, Bran’s warging abilities and most of the mythology of Game of Thrones went unexplored by the end, fear not, because this anime show cares deeply about its lore, and so do the characters. It might take a while to get to a place where we get the answers we want (we’re still waiting for the main character to simply return to his house and check out his basement), the journey is full of other revelations that expand the mythology and open the world to many more possibilities for suffering horrible character deaths.
Lastly, like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Attack on Titan is also worth repeated vieweings, as episodes are constantly calling back to dialogue or actions from previous episodes or seasons, and even a small passing joke can become a huge revelation that sets everything you’ve seen or heard in a new perspective in a way that feels earned.
We may never get another Game of Thrones, and that’s okay. Nothing will replace the memories, good and bad, we had while watching the show. In the meantime, there are plenty of shows that can provide new memories while still scratching part of the itch left behind by Westeros.
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