The natural world that surrounds humanity plays a huge part in the stories that are told; this is also true in a lot of Japanese anime and manga series leading to some truly beautiful depictions of nature in anime. There are numerous shows and films that have themes focused on nature, have characters spending a lot of time outdoors, or convey the beauty of their worlds through abundant use of scenic imagery.

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Though nature is important to some extent in every culture, man’s relationship to the natural world is especially important due to the presence of Shintoism in Japan. Regardless of their cultural background though, viewers who have always been a fan of the outdoors, who are looking to take in the sights, or get a breath of fresh air might find more than a few anime depictions of nature downright breathtaking.

10 Princess Mononoke

princess mononoke

One of the central themes of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke is its focus on the preservation of the natural world. The biggest conflict of the film involves the encroaching of humanity on the natural resources of the vibrant Cedar Forest, which is teaming with organic and spiritual life. Viewers bear witness to the beauty of this forest through Ashitaka’s journey. The result is a gorgeous sight to behold, as the central forest is home a wide variety of life, including the many spirits which serve as devoted guardians.

9 The Deer King

Van-and-a-piuika-from-The-Deer-King-standing-together-and-watching-lights-in-the-sky

The Deer King is a stunning fantasy film directed by former Studio Ghibli alumnus Masashi Ando that follows main character and former warrior Van. After he saves a young girl named Yuna, Van takes her into his care and begins to look after her like a daughter while the two of them are on the run as the only known survivors of a deadly disease. Due to their encounter with the supposed carriers of this disease—what are referred to as Ossam dogs— both Yuna and Van come to possess unique abilities and are sought out as possibly possessing the only means of a cure to the Black Wolf Fever. On Van and Yuna’s travels, the audience is treated to spectacular scenes highlighting the natural beauty of the lands they roam.

8 Natsume Yujincho

Natsume Yuujinchou-San anime series.

Natsume Yujincho is set in a rural town that is modeled after where the creator Yuki Midorikawa is from. Like the city of Hitoyoshi in the Kumamoto Prefecture, the town where protagonist Takashi Natsume lives is abundant in gorgeous natural life. Viewers are shown throughout the series—amongst Natsume’s day-to-day life communicating with spirits and attending school—the natural beauty living alongside the town’s inhabitants, surrounding shrines with grassy hills and teeming forests. These glimpses into the nature that encompasses this series’ setting really lend themselves to the show’s gentler, more easy-going pace.

7 Barakamon

Barakamon-promo-art-featuring-Handa-and-Naru-standing-side-by-side

Barakamon is a slice-of-life comedy series that tells the story of young calligrapher Seishu Handa, who is sent by his father to live on Goto Island after an altercation following the insult of Handa’s calligraphy. There, he meets many of the locals, including an energetic young girl called Naru Kotoishi, and slowly begins to develop his own unique style of calligraphy. The island serves as a lovely backdrop to the heartfelt story of Handa making new acquaintances and adapting to life outside of the city while finding inspiration around him.

6 Mushi-shi

Mushishi

Mushi-shi is a supernatural adventure anime centering on protagonist Ginko, a wanderer who travels about investigating instances involving the supernatural Mushi. Mushi are otherworldly beings who seem to exist in largely rural areas and cannot be perceived by the average human. One of the big things that drive Ginko is the desire to help humans and Mushi live in peace; Mushi tend to have effects on humanity but are not all inherently malicious. As his travels are often in rural locations, Ginko is frequently surrounded by absolutely stunning depictions of natural landscapes that really contribute to the beauty of the series.

5 Your Name

your name poster

Much of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name takes place in the fictional town of Itomori, Japan, which is abundant with natural splendor. Your Name chronicles the tale of Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high schooler from rural Itomori who wishes much was different about her life. Her life and that of Taki Tachibana, a high schooler from Tokyo, are inexplicably interwoven when they find that they begin to switch bodies from time to time. Like all of the best anime depictions of nature, the film is beautiful on its own and the gorgeous illustrations of the natural life surrounding Itomori are a stunning and contrasting backdrop with the horrible fate that Mitsuha and Taki are trying to prevent.

4 The Legend of Hei

Xiao-Hei-from-The-Legend-of-Hei-walking-along-a-stream-in-cat-form

The Legend of Hei is a Chinese animated prequel film by MTJJ that serves as a precursor to the series The Legend of Luo Xiaohei. With central themes surrounding coexistence, the imbalance of ingenuity, and the preservation of nature, the film follows cat-spirit Luo Xiao-Hei, who wanders the world in search of a home after the forest where he lived was destroyed. Xiao-Hei quickly finds himself at the center of a conflict between spirits and humanity that may ultimately result in a huge shift in the world as they know it. During Xiao-Hei’s travels with Wuxian, the audience has the opportunity to see different parts of the world, including the enchanting natural landscapes that spirits like Xiao-Hei call their home.

3 My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

Like many Studio Ghibli films, My Neighbor Totoro is a film that’s set against the backdrop of a more nature-abundant setting, resulting in beautiful illustrations serving as the scenery to this whimsical tale. The film itself centers on the adventures of Satsuki and Mei after they move into an older home and befriend nearby spirits, including Totoro, who is thought to be the Master of the Forest. Satsuki and Mei have numerous miraculous encounters with Totoro and other beings like the Catbus, showing him kindness and receiving that kindness in return. Their connection with Totoro, especially as a guardian spirit of nature, seems to be evocative of having respect, understanding, and kindness in an existence concurrent with nature.

2 Laid Back Camp

Rin and Nadeshiko of Laid Back Camp sitting by a campfire, bundled up in blankets and smiling

Laid Back Camp is an anime that takes place in the setting of the Yamanashi Prefecture and details the adventures of outdoor enthusiasts Rin Shima, Nadeshiko Kagamihara, and their friends while they travel around and camp together. This series is all about enjoying the great outdoors and various related activities, which can help participants recognize the beauty of the world around them. Laid Back Camp is an easy-going slice of life that has even encouraged a number of viewers to try camping themselves.

1 Ponyo

Ponyo and Sosuke after the flood in Ponyo

The story of Ponyo is set in a seaside village that was inspired by the scenery of the charming port town Tomonoura in the Hiroshima Prefecture. The beautiful location alone boasts views of the glittering Seto Inland Sea, much like the waters where Ponyo first came from. Although the story focuses on Ponyo meeting Sōsuke and her subsequent wishes to live on land, Ponyo, her family, and their magic are inherently connected to nature and the ocean around them, and Sōsuke’s success in the test presented to him results in the stability of nature being restored.

The natural world in all of its beauty and forms can serve as a huge source of inspiration for creators everywhere, as shown in these series and their gorgeous depictions of nature. Whether themes surrounding nature are at the core of a narrative or nature serves are another element of influence and immersion in the fictional worlds of anime, there’s no denying the impact that the world around us has on what we create. For many reasons, the most beautiful anime depictions of nature are sure to resonate with those who can’t get enough of the outdoors.

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