There is a lot of anime out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to anime with a prison theme. From psychological mind games to comical immature mischief, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll add them!
Rainbow: Criminal Seven of Compound Two Cell Six
Do you love anime that examines the brotherly bond between a group of males? Then you’ll find yourself loving Rainbow: Criminal Seven of Compound Two Cell Six’s (Rainbow) cast. This anime contains powerful takes on brotherhood and has our characters endure situations leaving them depressed. Despite that, they’ll carry an ounce of hope in their hearts thanks to their notable leader.
This tale is about six teenagers who are sent to a reform school because of their criminal behavior. At school, they meet a former boxer named Rokurouta. They form a close companionship with him that grows into something admirable. With Rokurouta’s help, the boys plan to escape their newfound imprisonment and live a peaceful life.
This anime contains brutal visuals that’ll make your heart melt. The boys will endure severe punishment in this school. The characters in this anime receive incredible backstories that’ll make you root for them. With a touch of motivational dialogue and upbeat comedy, Rainbow is a must-watch prison-themed show.
Deadman Wonderland is another anime told from a young boy’s perspective. Our protagonist, Ganta, gets framed for a brutal massacre that occurred in school one day. He’s sentenced to attend a prison-like amusement park called Deadman Wonderland. In this horrific playground, inmates fight each other using their blood-bending abilities.
With the help of his childhood friend, Shiro, Ganta must locate the person responsible for murdering his friends to clear his name. This anime’s extremely violent and features characters with psychotic personalities. These characters come from dark backgrounds but have a justifiable reason for ending up in this prison.
This anime’s action scenes will keep you engaged. If you’re not a fan of bloody fights, you won’t enjoy this show. Deadman Wonderland also doesn’t follow the source material fully. Unfortunately, it concludes on an abrupt note, enticing people to read the manga.
Prison School is the opposite of Deadman Wonderland and Rainbow. While it focuses on a male-dominant cast, it’s extremely comical and over-the-top. It contains excessive sensual themes with its comedy, visuals, and storytelling. It’s a show that’s not for everyone as it requires a specific taste to enjoy this work. That said, its comedy will surely get a reaction from you.
In it, we follow a group of male students who enroll in an all-female boarding school due to policy changes. Due to their crude actions, the boys get imprisoned in the school’s jail. Therefore, we follow our male group as they must obey the various commands given to them by their school’s female-dominant Underground Student Council group.
It’s an obscene, adult-humor-ridden show with a lot of sexual tension. The hurdles these boys must leap through are unbelievably ridiculous and humorous that it’s hard not to laugh at their misery. If you’re looking for a show that’ll make you laugh, check out Prison School.
Nanbaka is a nonsensical anime you should go into with surrealism in mind. Replace iconic Looney Tunes characters with dashing men and throw them in a secure prison facility. That’s what you can expect from a show like this one. It doesn’t feature the best plot but has enough amusing humor to give you a satisfying time.
Nanbaka takes place in a formidable prison called Nanba. Currently, it houses four criminals known for breaking out of every prison they’ve been incarcerated in. These four characters have clashing backgrounds and personalities. However, they all adore getting on the building supervisor’s nerves.
This anime’s off-the-wall crazy and will make you question what you’ve watched multiple times. Alongside the goofy characters, this anime has remarkable visuals and a catchy soundtrack. If you’re looking for a bizarre anime that examines the prison life of a couple of goofballs in prison, check this one out.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
For something more grounded, check out JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean. This is the sixth part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure storyline and follows Jotaro Kujo’s daughter Jolyne Kujo. After a misunderstanding with her boyfriend, Jolyne gets sent to Green Dolphin State Prison. Little does Jolyne know that this is all a conspiracy to full one of Dio Brando’s minion’s life-long goals.
Like previous parts, this anime contains a “villain of the week” plot structure. Jolyne will engage in multiple fights that will put her at death’s door. She’ll be equipped with her mighty Stand, Stone Ocean though. With the help of a few Stand user comrades, Jolyne will uncover the mysteries that lie within this prison’s quarters.
Besides well-animated fights, fans can expect the same humor from slapstick to one-liners to appear here. Unfortunately, most of the action takes place behind closed doors. Those hoping for an epic quest away from Green Dolphin won’t receive that vibe until the series’s later half. However, if you adore this series for its fights, comedy, and characters, Stone Ocean won’t disappoint.
You can read our thoughts on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean in our full-season review here!
Jing: King of Bandits — Seventh Heaven
This anime will provide viewers with an enjoyable time. In it, we follow Jing and Kir who are imprisoned inside a notorious prison complex called Seventh Heaven. They vow to swipe away the Dream Orb from a convict named Campari and escape the dreamlike prison Campari placed them in.
Although this has a thirteen-episode series attached to it, fans can watch this three-episode OVA without seeing the show. It asks viewers what they would do if they could enter someone else’s dream world. Would you tamper with it or leave it be? This anime offers an excellent English Dub that brings its characters to life. If you’re looking for a fun prison-theme anime with interesting lore, check this one out. You’re sure to walk away mildly impressed.
Anime fans who adore battle-royale video games like Fortnite will get a kick out of Btooom. Its cast is determined to do whatever it takes to survive. It features great tension, animation, and visuals. Our story revolves around Ryouta. He wakes up on an abandoned island with no memory of what happened before he arrived.
He realizes he’s been chosen to fight in a battle format similar to his favorite video game, Btooom. He must defeat seven players and steal their crystals if he hopes to return home. Ryouta’s not a violent person and he luckily meets someone with a similar personality to his own. With her help, he plans to flee the island and seek vengeance upon the person who placed him here
Expect our characters to endure severe situations in this anime. They’ll see a darker side of humanity as they traverse through the ranks in this deadly game. If you have the stomach to sit through intensity, give Btooom a shot.
Usavich is a rare prison-themed anime and one you’ll be able to complete in a heartbeat. It spans multiple seasons and episodes. They only last about 1 minute each and follow the misadventures of two animals named Kirenenko and Putin. They’re two rabbits stuck inside a Russian prison who like to get into all types of mischief.
This show requires a specific taste. It’s entirely absurd and will make viewers question its authenticity. Suspending your disbelief is the best way to go into this one. You’ll find its amusing gags and jokes more to your liking in that sense. The show can overuse tracks that will get on your nerves and its animation isn’t the best at times.
However, if you’re looking for a show where characters get into random and weird shenanigans, check out Usavich.
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor is an incredible anime about gambling and survival. It has excellent physical and mental battles that will keep you interested in its content. In it, we examine Kaiji, a man whose down on his luck. He finds himself in immense debt thanks to a terrible co-worker. To remove the debt, he attends a cruise ship event, but things don’t bode well for him.
He finds himself in a game where losers will become people’s indebted servants for life. Kaiji must pull all the stops if he hopes to reclaim his freedom. This anime delivers a riveting storyline that will surprise and delight fans of psychological stories. There are sprinkles of lighthearted situations and comedic moments to hook the viewer in more too.
If you adore gambling shows like Kakegurui or thrillers like Death Note, you’ll love what this anime delivers.
The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland offers a riveting plot full of twists, mind games, and intelligent characters. This show features some nightmarish visuals and builds great tension. In it, we follow a group of orphan children who live inside the Grace Field House. They take part in multiple activities like playing tag to completing computerized tests.
They’re all looked after by the house’s caretaker Isabella. She’s considerate to the children and they view her as their mother figure. One day, two kids named Emma and Norman leave the house to return something to their friend Connie before she gets adopted. They visit the front gate to give it to her but witness something horrifying.
Upon returning to their home, Emma and Norman devise a scheme that’ll involve them helping the others to escape Grace Field. Otherwise, it’ll be game over for them and their family. This anime will keep you guessing after every episode and gives our protagonists enough screen time to make them stand out. With a spooky atmosphere and well-rounded cast, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with The Promised Neverland.
You can read our thoughts on The Promised Neverland in our full-season review here!
So, there we have it, our picks for the best anime through the years with a prison theme!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!