The young leader Lelouch confidently looks over his shoulder and smirks at the camera while a robot leaps out into the sunset behind him in "Code Geass"

Nine Cerebral Anime Like ‘Deathnote’

Trying get your cerebellum tickled? Don’t be shy! It’s okay to like smart people things! We can’t all enjoy mindless reality TV shows and horror books on tape because reading makes the brain go ouchies. Ignorance is bliss, yes. But if you’re a smart, sad, and socially misanthropic person that’s okay, too! This list of anime like Death Note should pique your interest.

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I get it. You, as a smart person, probably don’t feel like you get enough representation when it comes to anime. After all, most anime protagonists rush half-cocked into death simply because they have nothing else going for them! You DO have things going for you! I bet you’re really good at sudoku! And no one handles a Rubik’s cube quite like you! As a thinking person, you deserve a thinking person’s anime, too.

Lucky for you, Death Note‘s Light Yagami and L aren’t the only smart people in anime! There are plenty more (most of them wearing glasses for easy smart-person identification), and because you have better things to do with your smart-person brain than surf the internet for new anime, I’ve come up with a list for you! So you can go cure cancer! Or do the Wordle! Or whatever you smarties do!

1. Psychopass

Young police officer Akane gives bombastic side eye in "Psycho Pass"
(Production I.G.)

Psychopass is about a bunch of smart people in the distant future, who come up with the idea to monitor people’s mental health via a complex surveillance system. Should your mental hygiene rating (or “psychopass”) drop below a certain number, you’ll be labeled a “latent criminal” and arrested (or, in some cases, executed) on the spot!

The story revolves around a young police cadet who has to deal with “latent criminals” in her day to day. But what happens when a dangerous serial killer shows up with a totally normal psychopass that allows him to elude authorities? That’s for the smart people like you to figure out!

2. Future Diary

Yukiteru blushing while Gasai watches murderously in the background in "Future Diary"
(Asread)

What is the smartest being in existence? (Besides you). God! What happens when God gets bored and makes people play a murder game for his amusement? Future Diary! God bestows a group of random civilians future-telling diaries so that they can murder each other in order to become the new God. Last one standing wins! I’m sure that you’d be great at this game!

3. Code Geass

The young leader Lelouch confidently looks over his shoulder and smirks at the camera while a robot leaps out into the sunset behind him in "Code Geass"
(Sunrise)

Code Geass begins after Japan has been conquered by the Britannian Empire, and is now under cruel colonial subjugation. All that changes when a bored and handsome student named Lelouch discovers a top secret Britannian weapon that bestows upon him the power of geas. What is geas? Basically, it allows Lelouch to command someone to do ANYTHING, but only once. He could ask the president to make him a sandwich, and the president would do it! Lucky for the enemies of Britannia, he uses it to take down their empire for good.

4. Steins;Gate

The scientist Kurisu blushing in 'Steins;Gate'

Steins;Gate tells the story of the smartest people of all: scientists! But not just any scientist—a scientist named Rintaro Okabe who creates the holy grail of scientific inventions: the time machine! What does he do with it? Ride dinosaurs? Show up to Mozart’s album release party? No! He has to use it to go back in time to prevent the murder of one of his colleagues!

Related: Best Anime Soundtracks, Ranked on We Got This Covered

5. Monster

Dr. Tenma leveling a gun at the camera while crouching in the rain from the anime "Monster"
(Madhouse)

Like Death Note, Monster pits two smart people against each other in a death match! The story begins in Germany, where a celebrated young neurosurgeon named Dr. Tenma works at a prestigious hospital. Everything is going well until the mayor of the city and a young boy arrive at the hospital in critical condition at the same time. Tenma chooses to save the boy, and the mayor dies. Good choice, right? Wrong. The boy that Tenma saves grows up to be the deadliest serial killer Germany has ever seen, and it’s up to the disgraced Dr. Tenma to stop him!

6. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

The soldier Motoko Kusanagi aims a rifle at an offscreen target in "Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex"
(Production IG)

Philosophy! Theology! Sociology! Smart people love “ologies”! Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has them all! On the surface, Ghost in the Shell SAC is a sci-fi action romp about an elite government task force responsible for combating cyberterrorism in the distant future. Dig deeper, and a smart person like you will be able to see that the series is about what it means to retain your humanity in a world that increasingly relies on technology. The only thing that smart people love more than “ologies” are “themes.”

7. The Promised Neverland (season 1 only)

The young boy Norman glaring seriously in 'The Promised Neverland'
(CloverWorks)

The Promised Neverland has a cast of only smart people, in case you can’t stand to watch a regular person fumble their way through life. The series centers around a group of genius-level children who are tutored at an orphanage for smart kids. Or so it APPEARS. In reality, the orphanage is a FARM where smart children are raised in order to be killed off, and their brains sold to demons as a gourmet food. Luckily, the kids get wise to the scheme and plot a hair-raising escape! After season 1, read the manga. The writers of the show must have had their brains sold off after the first season ended … because it got really bad.

8. Boogiepop Phantom

An eyeless girl prepares to strike another girl in "Boogiepop Phantom"
(Madhouse)

Boogiepop Phantom is the Memento of anime! It’s all told out of order! And you have to be a smart person to make sense of the series’ chronology. After a mysterious bright light appears outside of a Japanese city, students begin to fall victim to a string of serial killings. Teenagers blame an urban legend ghost called Boogiepop as the culprit. However, there’s a possibility that Boogiepop might actually be trying to protect the teens from something far more sinister.

9. Paranoia Agent

Title art for "Paranoia Agent" featuring a boy in roller skates holding a baseball bat and standing in front of a crowd.
(Madhouse)

Paranoia Agent tells the story of a strange series of murders that plague Japan. The killer? Imagine Light Yagami at 10 years old wearing roller blades, but instead of sneakily using a death note to kill you, he just skates right up to you and beats you to death with a baseball bat. Citizens are terrified of the deadly Shonen Bat, and law enforcement are baffled by the murders. Who can solve the mystery? If only you were there to help.

(featured image: Sunrise)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.