(Last Updated On: May 19, 2021)
Yakuza are members of organized crime syndicates operating mainly from Japan. Yakuza has been present in Japanese society for centuries. Although not much active now, they have influenced Japanese society on a very deeper level, so much so that their presence has inspired many great animes. If you love gangster movies and you are interested in the life of mafias then these animes will provide you the perfect story and satisfaction, that you seek from a gangster movie/show.
Animes based on Yakuza somewhat introduce you to the more real and gritty facet of Japan. They delve into the politics, the gangster life, the philosophy of the Yakuza, and their workings. So, we have brought to you a list of the best yakuza and gangster anime, if you are fascinated by gangster movies, then you must definitely add these to your watchlist.
13. Backstreet Girls Gokudolls
It’s a really weird yet fun anime to watch. After failing many times in completing their missions, Kentarou, Ryou and Kazuhiko are given two choices: either commit suicide like a real yakuza, after bringing so much disgrace to the clan, or go through surgery and become girls and the best pop idols out there. Weird, isn’t it? But it is as much fun as it sounds absurd.
The three then choose to become girls rather than committing suicide and become the best pop idols. Although they are doing pop but they are still yakuza in their heart, which hampers them to become the top pop idol. This is their journey of becoming the best pop idols so that their boss can accept them and they take it as their last mission, failing it will lead to them committing suicide.
The story is all kinds of messed up but it somewhat brings out the fun element, it has its moments of dullness also. The animation is not that great but that is compensated by the character development. If you are looking for a new guilty pleasure and something less serious then this is it for you.
12. Tight Rope
Tight rope is a story about Ryunosuke Oohara whose father the fourth boss of a yakuza clan, but he doesn’t have any interest in that, rather he wants to lead a simple life with his childhood bestfriend- Naoki Satoya whom he also loves. It is a cute story about two men who love each other but can’t be together because of their circumstances.
It puts forth a dilemma for Ryunosuke, whether he will choose Naoki or his position as the head of the clan. The story is not very deep or serious, rather it’s cute and feels good. It navigates how love is difficult in the crime world especially between two men. The animation is done very well, each frame is beautiful and the sound design is also very good. It is based on a manga of the same name. It is mostly the same as the manga but here and there changes stuff.
There is not much importance given to side characters, except for a very few. The story only revolves around Naoki and Ryunosuke. If you love yaoi and want to watch something feels good then you can give this a watch.
11. K Project
There are ‘Kings’ who have been bestowed with special superpowers and can recruit members for their clan. Each king is responsible for their clan and its survival. They have some skirmishes with each other here and there, there is a constant power play among clans to maintain superiority over other clans. But one day a clansman of the Red clan dies and a seemingly innocent boy, Kurou Yatogami, is convicted of his murder.
Yatogami unaware of all this gets trapped in this seemingly unknown world of clan wars, kings, and some supernatural powers. As Yatogami tries to prove his innocence in various ways he starts to unravel his own secrets which he never knew. But what this anime can boast of are the action-packed sequences and supernatural powerplay.
This story has undertones of friendships, betrayal, dark and tragic storyline but all that is overpowered by the way in which it is presented, which doesn’t suit the tone. It could have been much better if presented in a way that complements the story not overpowers it. If you are looking for supernatural elements in a gangster anime, then you can give it a watch.
Gokusen is the story of young Kumiko Yamaguchi who is the heir apparent to one of the most powerful Yakuza clans, Ooedo Clan. But as fate has it, she wants to be a teacher more than anything, so she joins an all-boys school where she teaches mathematics to a bunch of troublesome students. She now has two problems to deal with- living a dual life as a teacher and as the head of a yakuza clan and also being a good teacher and helping her lawless students become better human beings.
This anime has a nice conflict brewing in its story which makes for an interesting watch. It is not all serious but also funny, especially when she tries to hide her ‘secret life’ as a yakuza member from her students at school. This anime beautifully shows how things are not always according to your plan but you have to face them and overcome your problems so that you can be happy with what you do with your life. Yamaguchi’s passion for teaching is contrasted by her not-so-passionate students.
The characters are very well portrayed and whether it is the main character or a side character we root for them all, characters are very likable. This anime has everything from action to emotions, from very intense and serious moments to hilarious ones.
9. Golden Kamuy
Golden Kamuy is the story of a man named Saichi Sugimoto, a.k.a Sugimoto The Immortal, because of his death-defying acts during the Russo-Japanese war. After the war, Sugimoto has only one motive- to fulfill his best friend’s last wish, to take care of his family. Now in search of fortune, he goes on a journey to find gold which was hidden by a man who murdered a group of Ainu and hid it somewhere in northern Japan. The only clue he has is a skin map and the only partner he has is an Ainu girl.
It is their journey of getting what they want, one wants to fulfill the wish of their dying friend and the other wants to take what is rightfully hers. On their journey, they encounter various problems, like fighting other gangsters and yakuza members who are behind the gold too. This provides for an intriguing and exciting adventure. The art and animation are great and it is a visual treat.
The character development and their arc is also done tastefully. Although set in the 20th century, history is downplayed and doesn’t come up much. So, if you like violence and gritty animes with compelling stories then this is it for you.
8. City Hunter
This anime is more about honorable assassins who will assassinate anyone to keep the city “clean”, rather than yakuza. This anime digs deep into the underground world of Japan, specifically Tokyo. The anime follows the story of Ryou Saeba a flawless contract killer and a key member of ‘City Hunter’, whose job is to kill the scum.
Saeba is so good at his job that yakuza takes notice of him and hires him to kill members of other gangs, they both even cooperate with each other to achieve their own personal goals. Saeba takes on anyone, from pickpockets to crime syndicates, whosoever comes in his way is killed. The anime is gritty and interesting, it is not always serious there are moments where it is witty and funny, and others where it is hilarious. In all the combination of action and comedy is perfect in this anime and does not feel forced.
It only gets better with each episode and also ups the ante for our main character. The story is not something out of the world but the likable and incredible characters make up for it. The character development is done beautifully. High-quality action, loads of comedy and compelling characters make this anime worthwhile.
7. Black Lagoon
Ever felt so betrayed and let down that you become the person you were once afraid of, well it happened to Rokurou Okajima. Rokurou is a normal Japanese businessman leading a dull life. On a rather odd day, he gets kidnapped by a mercenary group known as Black Lagoon, while on his business trip to Thailand.
They wanted to use him as a key for negotiations, but he didn’t benefit them at all. After being left alone by the Black Lagoon starts his real journey of him discovering how much neglected he really is. He is fired from his job, his friends betrayed him and left him on his own. He decides to join Black Lagoon, who once kidnapped him, as their member. It is his story of how people can push you to the limits and force you to bring out the worst in you. He now has to accommodate to the new life he has chosen, adapt quickly to the new way of life, kill people.
This anime constantly questions your ethics and values, how far one can go after being betrayed and left on his own. The antagonists are not the strong point in this anime and lack depth. There are lots of moments of humor but it doesn’t take away the seriousness of the moment. This is a deep and engaging anime that must be watched if you are into this genre.
6. Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha
Out of nowhere, a ‘Heaven’s Gate’ in South America and a ‘Hell’s Gate’ in Japan have appeared where all the laws of physics are defied. With the gates also emerged contractors, who gain superhuman abilities in exchange for their humanity. It has been 10 years now since the gates have appeared and contractors are becoming more and more powerful, threatening the existence of normal human beings.
A city near the Hell’s Gate has chief Misaki Kirihara and as fate has it, she faces a contractor named Hei, also known as ‘Black Reaper’ in the underworld. Together they now unravel the mystery of the gates, motivated by their own personal gains. They find some mysterious things which can make the whole idea of contractors obsolete. There are several yakuza members having some or the other relation with the gates, who are scheming to profit from the presence of gates.
This anime neatly presents us with the political drama that ensues, the overarching theme of an unavoidable war, and people like yakuza members doing stuff for their own personal benefits. This is a sci-fi anime and it is highly recommended to watch, it will grab your attention right from the start and keep you engaged.
This anime follows the story of Yoshifumi Nitta, a yakuza member. One day suddenly a capsule-bound girl named Hina drops on him, literally. Hina has telekinesis powers which can be very useful for Nitta and the yakuza. Nitta uses Hina’s power for his own benefit before she could use them on him. Hinamatsuri is not a serious anime by any chance, Hinamatsuri just makes the situations crazier and crazier and it makes for a very fun and comic anime to watch.
There are serious moments that make you care for the characters even more but overall, the comedy in this show stands out. The animation, sound design is commendable and appropriate for an anime like this. The worldbuilding is done beautifully and we care for the relationships that our characters develop. The side characters play an important role in making this anime impressionable and likable in our hearts.
The story is very innovative and quite original, there are surprises and secrets which we get to know as we move forward in the anime. It grabs your attention right from the first episode. If you want a funny and interesting anime on yakuza then you must watch this.
This anime is a fusion of many things like mythology, sci-fi, gang-wars, betrayal, friendship, identity crisis of characters, and everything in between. It takes up a lot of subject matters and deals with them neatly and doesn’t make a hodgepodge of random ideas. There is a lot to explore in this anime and it keeps us hooked on to it, there are twists and turns at every point. Seemingly simple and dull characters have surprising and dark secrets.
The story is told from the point of view of Mikado Ryuugamine, a simple boy from a small town, who has recently moved to Tokyo, his dream has come true but now is stuck in circumstances that he could have never imagined. Not only many ideas are explored in this anime but also it has many characters, these characters just don’t come and go, they have their own purpose in the story and significance.
We spend time with every character, learn about their strengths and flaws, as their relationship builds with Mikado. This anime has a lot to say and will not bore you for a minute. You are in for a roller-coaster ride while watching this anime.
Kaiji Itou is an apathetic and aimless guy who does nothing but drink beers and steal hubcaps. But his life changes when his friend tricks him into taking a huge loan which he will be unable to pay for the rest of his life and then he falls deep into the illegal world of underground gambling, which then makes his life like hell. He is trapped into a life of constant betrayal, mind-games, dealing with gangsters and yakuza members and a huge debt.
He gets to know the worst sides of people whom he once considered his friends and not just them, he sees a different side of himself when he is pushed into this lifestyle. We see how he falls deep into the rabbit hole of gambling, not being able to come out of it despite constant efforts. This show makes for a compelling watch as we see how our main character, although aimless but simple initially is now being pushed to his limits and is dealing with people and situations which are way out of his comfort zone.
This anime is not based on the members of the yakuza rather the people who are their victims, it provides an interesting point of view to the whole genre of gangster/yakuza anime. It definitely must be on your watchlist if you are looking for something gritty and serious.
Baccano! Is the perfect anime to watch if you are looking for an anime based on mafia and gangsters. It has everything from gang-wars to relationships and everything in between. The show does not follow the story of a single character or a place, not even at the same time. Rather we follow four different stories which at first don’t seem related to each other but by the end they all merge with each other and feel like a single story.
The only relation these stories have is their relation with Isaac and Miria, kind-hearted, would-be thieves who have their own hidden agendas. The stories when merge feels very much natural and realistic not ever feeling rushed or unwanted. Although we follow different stories it never feels overwhelming or confusing. The anime takes its time to set up the stories and serve them to the viewer. The character development in each story is up to the mark, it doesn’t feel like a single story has been given more effort than the others. The soundtrack and animation are a delight and leaves a long-lasting impression.
Although not based on yakuza but this beautiful and intricately created gangster anime deserves to be mentioned in this list.
1. Great teacher Onizuka
Great teacher Onizuka is a short 12-episode anime yet it leaves a deep impression on the viewer. Onizuka a member of a biker gang decides to become a teacher, not because he has a passion for it but because he wants a wife to take care of him when he is old. The initial reason for becoming a teacher is not that savory but as he starts teaching and with time, he has a new passion for teaching and wants to become the best teacher there is.
His class is full of unruly students, who drove their previous teacher out but Onizuka is no less, he knows how to handle them as he himself was once like that. Great Teacher Onizuka discusses many problems students face like harassment, bullying, suicidal thoughts and deals with them maturely. Onizuka has his own beautiful character arc as do the students. Onizuka isn’t the best teacher out there but he tries his best and it’s the journey that he makes from being ahead of a biker gang to being the best teacher.
This is a wholesome anime that makes you emotional, makes you laugh and you feel good at the end of it. This is a must-watch.
That’s all folks, these were the must-watch yakuza/gangster anime according to us. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. Tell us which of these anime have you seen and which according to you is the best? Also Check Out: