Everyone needs a bit of inspiration now and then, and anime gladly supplies us with it.
No matter the genre, every character has something they want to achieve. Seeing them work hard and finally realizing their dreams is highly cathartic. While many argue that it’s a cliche, at least it’s one we can never tire of. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing the protagonist rise from the ashes?
Especially during these times, when everyone is burnt out and exhausted, it isn’t easy to feel excited about anything. However, following fictional characters in an anime as they find their motivation and go on to achieve greater things can be very helpful. The feeling of success is extended through the screen and, more often than not, inspires us.
So with that said, let’s take a look at ten anime where the characters strive hard to make sure their dreams turn into reality.
10. Made in Abyss
As the title suggests, the series centers on The Abyss — a gaping chasm stretching down into the depths of the earth. Filled with mysterious creatures and relics from the past, it is the perfect spot for brave adventurers called Divers. However, many mysteries still surround the Abyss. No one knows how it came to be or even what lies at the bottom.
Enter Riko, the daughter of a missing legendary White Whistle member, who aspires to explore the furthest reaches of the Abyss. Despite being only a novice Red Whistle, her chance encounter with a mysterious robot allows her to venture forth beyond the upper layer and deep into the chasm. However, that single step pushes her into a cruel world filled with monsters and scarier realities.
Despite its cutesy art style in the beginning, Made in Abyss is anything but that. Instead, it is a story of adventure and survival, the simplest motivators of humankind. Following Riko, as she fulfills her dream of exploring the Abyss and finding her mother despite the constant life-threatening hurdles, is highly motivating.
For all intents and purposes, Made in Abyss is a masterpiece that everyone can enjoy and feel inspired by.
9. Hikaru no Go
Hikaru no Go is an anime about a board game invented 3000+ years old — go. While it makes one wonder what could possibly be interesting about it, this series opens up an entirely new world of competitive sports for the viewer.
The story centers around Hikaru Shindou, a 12-year-old boy who stumbles upon an old go board in his grandfather’s attic. As it turns out, the board is inhabited by the spirit of Fujiwara No Sai, an ancient go genius from the Heian Era.
Sai’s ultimate goal is to master a divine go technique that no player has achieved so far. He seeks to accomplish this by playing the board game through Hikaru, who reluctantly agrees. While he has no interest in the game initially, after encountering Akira Touya, a young go prodigy, passion for the game slowly ignites within Shindou. With this, his extraordinary journey into the competitive and exciting world of go begins!
Hikaru no Go beautifully captures the passion one can have for a game and how it can even extend even after death. Sai’s conviction towards achieving his dream that slowly extends to Hikaru is absolutely inspiring to watch.
8. A Place Further Than the Universe
- Number of Seasons: 1
- Year: 2008
- Watch it here: Netflix
A Place Further Than the Universe is a beautiful anime that follows the captivating journey of four girls in search of something great. With grand dreams and ambitions of their own, Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki are spurred on by Shirase’s desire to search for her mother in a place further than the universe itself 一 Antarctica.
The sense of adventure in the show is something that is rarely experienced in anime. From the beginning to the end, seeing the girls face problems and overcome them while also learning from their hardships is absolutely beautiful. The characters constantly experience something new and memorable that will profoundly affect them in the future.
Watching these four girls taking their youth in their hands and deciding to work towards their dreams is awe-inspiring.
7. Run with the Wind
While the will to follow and achieve your dreams is ever-present in most anime, it is brilliantly presented in the sports genre.
Run with the Wind is an anime based on running. The story revolves around Kakeru, a former track runner whose shoddy life takes a turn when he runs into Haiji Kiyose, a student from his university. Impressed by Kakeru’s running form and agility, Haiji tricks him into joining the Kansei University Track Club.
Haiji’s dream is to participate in the Hakone Ekiden, one of Japan’s most prominent university marathon relay races. With the first hiccup in his plan now solved due to Kakeru’s participation, what can go wrong? Well, as it turns out, other than being uninterested in running, the eight other students of the track club are complete novices. With only months before the deadline, realizing this elusive dream is no simple task.
Run with the Wind has one of the most brilliant narratives in sports anime. Every single character is focused upon equally, and confrontations are built up and solved naturally. Due to this, the audience can empathize with Kakeru and other character’s deep-seated motivations and insecurities. Furthermore, all the characters are genuine, with real-life problems, which is why it is especially satisfying and inspiring to see them achieve their dreams.
Haikyuu!! starts with Hinata watching the “Little Giant” in action and wanting to follow in his footsteps. Despite his small stature, he gives volleyball his all and revives the club at his middle school. The newly-formed team even makes it to a tournament; however, they are brutally squashed by Tobio Kageyama. Vowing to surpass Kageyama, Hinata joins Karasuno High School’s volleyball team — only to find that his sworn rival is now his teammate.
What makes Haikyuu!! so exhilarating to watch is that besides Hinata, every single character is beautifully developed. They have their own dreams and methods of making them come true. Despite being a sports anime, the characters’ goals are not limited to achievement in that sphere.
Furthermore, there is no shortcut to realizing their dreams. The protagonists are relatively inexperienced and are far from being the best volleyball players out there. There are no inexplicable victories here, and instead, we receive a well-crafted story with everyone working towards their goal gradually.
In a list like this, Bakuman has to be included; there’s no way around it.
The story follows Moritaka Mashiro, a 14-year-old student who dreamt of becoming a mangaka like his uncle, Tarou Kawaguchi when he was a kid. But when tragedy struck, he gave up on his dream and aimed to become a salaryman instead. Then, one day, a chance encounter with his classmate Akito Takagi, the school’s top student and aspiring writer, changed his life forever.
Now aspiring to create manga together, Moritaka and Takagi start their journey with the hopes of getting an anime debut within four years. Both have their own goals, Moritaka’s being to get an anime adaptation so that the girl he has a crush on, Miho Azuki, can voice-act in it. On the other hand, Takagi has the ambition of becoming rich and famous despite giving up on the “mainstream” path.
The characters, both main and side, move on their own and according to their desires. This makes the characters extraordinarily human and shows the lengths a person will go to fulfill their goals. Seeing them work hard and achieve their dreams, in the end, will definitely leave the audience crying happy tears.
- Number of Seasons: 6
- Year: 2004
- Buy it here: Amazon
Major follows Goro Honda, a little boy whose admiration of his father and the sport itself leads to his desire to become a professional baseball player.
We follow Goro from a very young age as he goes through Little League, High School, Minor League, etc. Each season is a different phase of Honda’s life, complete with ups and downs. Despite being a sports anime, Major significantly focuses on character development and training rather than actual games. As the series progresses, it is very satisfying to witness the characters, each unique in their own right, grow physically and mentally.
While many tropes in Major can be considered stereotypical, it’s the meat of the story that the viewer enjoys. The realistic characters, relationships, and conflicts make Major heavily underrated and one of the best sports anime of all time. The satisfying ending only serves to elevate the anime as we see Goro grow up from a kid to an adult who has fulfilled all his dreams.
Shirobako has often been compared to Bakuman, at least based on the setting. However, there are quite a few differences. Unlike Bakuman, Shirobako is less sugary and focuses more on the hardships in the anime industry.
The anime follows five best friends — Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Midori Imai, Shizuka Sakaki, and Misa Toudou — who discovered their collective love of anime and formed the animation club. After making their first amateur anime together, the group vow to collectively pursue careers in the industry, aiming to work together and create their show one day.
Shirobako gives us a first-hand view of the lives of these girls and the job industry in Japan. Despite wanting to work in the anime industry, only Aoi and Ema manage to land jobs at the illustrious Musashino Animation production company. Feeling the weight of not being recognized as a capable voice actor, Misa has an unsatisfying career designing 3D models for a car company. At the same time, Midori is a university student pursuing her dream as a story writer.
Shirobako shows us how there are many paths to success through these characters and that dreams can still be achieved through perseverance. There’s really something about grounded shows about ordinary people achieving extraordinary things that inspires the audience.
- Number of Seasons: 1
- Year: 2003
- Watch it here: VVVVID
Planetes is literally the incarnate of the premise, “achieving one’s dreams.”
The story takes place in 2075, a time when space travel is no longer just a dream. Colonization of the Moon, commercialization of outer space, and the formation of large space corporations have all become a reality.
Enter Ai Tanabe, an upbeat woman whose interests lie in the cosmos. After joining Technora Corporation as a member of their Debris Section, she soon discovers how unappreciated her job is. Despite being laughed at and being forced to use a dilapidated spaceship for debris retrieval. Undeterred, Ai perseveres and gradually becomes acquainted with Hachirouta Hoshino, a man who dreams for a spaceship to call his own.
Planetes is the perfect addition to this list as it involves someone deciding to turn their life around. It shows the other side of that inspiration while still being inspirational. The series continues to emphasize that even though the dream might seem impossible, anything can be achieved through hard work and the power of relationships.
1. Space Brothers
Space Brothers starts with two brothers, Mutta and Hibito Nanba, witnessing what they believe to be a UFO flying towards the Moon. This leads to both siblings vowing to become astronauts, with the younger aiming for the Moon and the older for Mars.
While Space Brothers seems to be just an anime about space at first glance, it is so much more than that. It is a realistic journey of finding your purpose in life, getting lost, and rediscovering the passion you once had. The anime beautifully delves into the lives of the Nanba brothers as they find a way to fulfill their dream no matter how many detours they have to take along the way.
What makes Space Brothers more fascinating is the immense detail put into making it as realistic as possible. The mangaka’s research is evident in every scene and setting, leaving the viewers in awe. While the anime remains a comedy at its core, serious themes related to the occupation and its effects on families are thoroughly explored.
Space Brothers is a criminally underrated anime that will inspire you to follow your dreams, no matter how much time has passed. After all, the best time to start working towards your goals is now.