Visual novels comprise a literary medium all their own. To make matters even more confusing, this genre is seen as a combination of video games, light novels, and anime. VN are typically literature heavy and include image, movement, and sound within their framework. A popular VN that demonstrates different routes is Doki Doki Literature Club.
Is it even a surprise that anime adaptations come from VN sources? With complex plotlines, character development, various viewpoints, and genres, VN offers a unique perspective in the entertainment industry. Let’s look into which VN turned anime takes the top, ranked according to IMDb.[external_link_head]
10 Ef: A Tale Of Memories: 7.4
Love is an emotion that’s not the easiest to understand, which is even more apparent when it comes to this youthful cast. With love triangles aplenty and loosely connected timelines, the main characters come to know and understand each other’s heart-wrenching circumstances while striving towards their dreams.
Chihiro suffers from memory loss and thus writes down the highlights of her day in her journal. Renji believes he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities or talents in life, but its Chihiro that helps him with this mindset. With three overarching plotlines and six cast members, this anime captures a down-to-earth vibe coupled with complex themes that surround the intricacies of love and life.
9 Hakuouki: 7.4
Hakuouki is an anime that comes with a multitude of OVAs—original video animation—and three separate series. Set in Japan in the 1860s, the plot is rife with supernatural elements as female protagonist Chizuru dresses up as a man only to run into the Shinsengumi, an organized police force.
When they learn that she’s looking for her lost father, a doctor famous for his elixirs, they decide to protect Chizuru. However, she quickly finds out there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to her father’s connection to the Shinsengumi, and she eventually finds herself involved with their inner conflicts.
8 Kanon: 7.6
A tragic love story with a harem subplot surrounds this VN-turned-anime as protagonist Yuuichi struggles to regain his memories of the past several years. Each of his female friends has their own arc with Yuuichi, which involve darker story elements and emotional turmoil.[external_link offset=1]
In between these tragic moments come comic relief that appeals to the slice-of-life themes embroiled within Yuuichi’s everyday life. With moe childhood friends helping to unlocking his memories, Yuuichi’s journey presents a multitude of obstacles coupled with the ultimate plot twist.
7 Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom: 7.7
Betrayal and deceit. Mafia and Yakuza. Phantoms are infamous assassins that dabble in this dark world amidst the streets of New York. Reiji becomes an unfortunate bystander that witnesses a Phantom in action, which becomes the catalyst to his fight for survival.
Deemed worthy of training, Reiji discards his name and becomes Zwei, an assassin who’s part of the Inferno organization. Dragged into this jarring world of violence, Zwei and Ein work together, while Zwei struggles to regain his lost memories.
6 Meiji Tokyo Renka: 7.8
Mei is transported to the Meiji era of Tokyo, where she encounters historical figures and learns that people believe in the supernatural. She’s been identifying ghosts since a young age and was ostracized for this throughout her life.
As she learns about her strange ability, Mei comes to understand herself a little more and comes into her own as a person. Catching the eye of several men, Mei brings together an assortment of personalities who eventually become friends through the endearing provocations of this modern-era girl.
5 Clannad: 7.9
Restoring the high school’s drama club is Nagisa’s dream as she finishes out her last year of school. Okazaki is a delinquent that is bored with life until Nagisa comes into the picture. Knowing about her dream, Okazaki helps her, along with other members, as they work to restore the club.
As Okazaki interacts with the girls and aims to help them overcome their troubles, he realizes that life is more interesting than he once thought. Each character has their own arc, which makes for an enjoying viewing experience as the characters dive into their emotions and hardships in life.
4 Higurashi: When They Cry: 8.0
This horror/mystery set in a rural town sounds like a typical psychological thriller. However, those happy faces hide more than that. When Keiichi transfers to this small town and learns of the recent murders, he takes his worries to his new friends. This group of girls falls silent when Keiichi brings up the murders, but could their silence mean something more?
The question and answer arcs within this anime culminate into a chillingly fresh series that pushes past the boundaries of sanity, paranoia, and the unifying limits of friendship.
3 Fate/Stay Night: 8.0
The Fate/Stay Night series revolves around the Holy Grail War, which has resulted in multiple variations and renditions of this anime. Also adapted from the light novels is Fate/Zero which occurs 10 years prior.
This battle royale involves several maji, all of which have the capability of summoning heroic spirits, or Servants, who act as their proxy in battle. Rin, with her Servant, hopes to win the war and claim the Holy Grail, a magical item capable of granting wishes to the one who claims it. As enemies gather, Rin forms a temporary truce with her classmate in order to beat back her foes in the hopes of gaining a leg up in the competition.[external_link offset=2]
2 Uta No Prince Sama: Revolutions: 8.1
Nanami chases after her dream of becoming a composer by enrolling in the highly acclaimed Saotome Academy. Surrounded by fellow peers across the fields of performing arts, Nanami interacts with idols and actors as she strives to compose pieces that induce happiness and pull at the heart-strings.
With six idols at her side, Nanami gains the confidence to continue to impress audiences with her incredible melodies. Without Nanami, those six rising stars wouldn’t stand a chance against the competition. The VNs resulted in three seasons of this musical anime.
1 Steins; Gate: 8.8
When messages from the present find their way into the past, self-proclaimed mad scientist Okabe, along with his two fellow friends, must shoulder the responsibility that comes with the power of altering the future.
Okabe and his fellow lab members spend their time fidgeting with gadgets in the hopes of creating a futuristic contraption. So far, their best invention is the Phone Microwave. After a few twists and turns, the trio finds themselves sending messages to the past, resulting in unforeseen consequences as they mess with the flow of time.
NEXT: The 10 Best Anime Based On Visual Novels Of The Decade, Ranked According To IMDb
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Vanessa Rose (91 Articles Published)
Vanessa Rose is an otaku, weeb, straight-up nerd. She spends her time binging the latest simulcasts, unearthing lesser known anime titles, and reading manga. When not writing for CBR, she teaches creative writing courses, practices yoga, and advocates for diversity within publishing.
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