Although not extremely uncommon, anime with a primarily adult cast are not the norm. As most series target children or teenagers, the characters tend to naturally be around the same age, with the shows tackling themes suitable for their main audience.
That said, anime is extremely diverse. There is genuinely something for everyone, which includes work-related series starring older characters like the currently ongoing Wave, Listen to Me! Here are the 10 best anime about work life and adulthood.
10 Servant x Service
The life of a civil servant might not sound particularly exciting, a fact illustrated quite splendidly by Servant x Service. Following three characters embarking on careers as the public’s punching bags, the anime’s charming humor, likable core cast, and endearing recurring characters make the most out of its often mundane situations.
While Servant x Service has its fair share of fan service – which is not for everyone – and the characters do not grow much throughout the anime’s 13 episode run, it is worth watching just for the comedy.
Animated by Madhouse and based on Ai Yazawa’s fantastic manga, Nana is the quintessential series about adulthood. Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki are similarly aged women in their early ’20s who are heading to Tokyo to chase after their respective dreams, but their destinies are forever changed when they meet each other on that fateful train ride.
Nana blends romance, drama, humor, and slice of life to create an incredible journey pivoting around two wildly different characters on the brink of adulthood. The anime takes quite a holistic look at adulthood, which naturally includes the pair’s work lives.
8 New Game!
A prominent “cute girls doing cute things” anime, New Game! has just enough depth and realism to avoid coming across as fluff. The young and bright-eyed Aoba Suzukaze joins the Eagle Jump video game studio as it is in the process of developing a high-profile sequel to a beloved franchise. Working under a charismatic lead and as part of a welcoming department, Aoba takes her first steps towards becoming a character designer.
For the most part, New Game! paints a rather glowing picture of video game development, opting to hint at some of the job’s challenges without directly criticizing them. While not the most realistic portrayal, New Game! is still a fun show that provides some insight into its central profession.
7 Space Brothers
After witnessing what they believe to be a UFO, Space Brothers‘ titular siblings make a pact to both become astronauts. While Hibito grew up to be just that and is preparing for a trip to the Moon, Mutta is only just beginning to follow his dream after floundering in a dead-end job for years.
An astronaut is, admittedly, quite an out-there profession, but Space Brothers‘ themes of self-doubt and chasing dreams at the cost of security are relatable. Space Brothers is a mature anime with a strong core relationship.
6 Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
For all of its exaggerated facial expressions and laugh-out-loud moments, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku stands as one of the more nuanced anime when it comes to relationships, hobbies, and work life. Narumi Momose is starting a new job at a company that employs a childhood friend of hers, Hirotaka Nifuji. Long story short, they begin to date, although their romance is slow-moving and only has occasional bursts of passion.
With two main couples and one fledgling romance, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku‘s characters mostly qualify as otaku in some way or another, as they try to maintain a healthy work and life balance.
5 Tiger & Bunny
Strange as it may seem to include a superhero anime on this list, Tiger & Bunny is just as much about the cast’s day-to-day struggles to impress sponsors as it is about the big battles to save the city. A veteran hero with his best days firmly behind him, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is partnered up with the up-and-coming Barnaby Brooks Jr., as the two heroes form an unlikely odd couple.
While there is quite a bit of action, Tiger & Bunny tackles subjects like discrimination, body deterioration, and personal identity in ways that are clever and sobering.
Set in 2075, Planetes injects the extraordinary and futuristic with a dose of mundanity. In this reality, space travel has become a regular thing, leading to wide-spread commercialization. The endless possibilities offered by space have been replaced by familiarity, with trash collectors being just as much of a reality as explorers.
The Technora Corporation is in charge of picking up debris in a specific section of space, a delicate and important job that is undervalued by the public. Although Planetes is a sci-fi series, the focus is squarely on the characters, resulting in a surprisingly grounded experience.
For a series featuring adorable anthropomorphic animals, Aggretsuko cuts right to the heart of office life. Retsuko is a hard worker who also has the misfortune of being softspoken and nice, two traits that make her an easy target for various workplace bullies. As she needs her job and feels generally powerless, Retsuko relies on flights of fantasy to escape her often crushing reality.
Aggretsuko‘s cute exterior hides a mature tale about the unsavory and too readily accepted elements that permeate so many workforces.
The definitive anime about the creation of anime, Shirobako serves as a love-letter to the medium without ever coming across as propaganda. Centering around five girls who try to land their dream jobs in the anime industry, they experience different levels of success as they try to make a dent in an industry that can be unforgiving and not necessarily welcoming.
Shirobako keeps it relatively light for the most part, with the principally dramatic storylines being intercut by flashes of effective comedy.
1 Aria the Animation
Even though Aria the Animation‘s 15-year-old protagonist makes it an oddity on this list, the anime does an immaculate job of capturing that period when passionate teenagers are breaking into adulthood while pursuing the job of their dreams. With multiple seasons, each better than the last, Aria chronicles the efforts of three girls to become professional gondoliers in a Venice-inspired city on Mars.
The focus is very much on the everyday lives of the girls, as they ferry customers around the gorgeous Neo-Venezia. While the city is beautiful, life is seldom easy, but that does not discourage the characters from working even harder.
While somewhat rare, there are some great anime about work life and adulthood. These are the best series.