Vash the Stampede in 'Trigun'

These Are the Best Western Anime

Saddle up, senpai.

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So you’re looking for the rootin’-est, tootin-est, gun shooting’-est anime Westerns out there? I’m sorry senpadre, but there are slim pickens to choose from. A tried and true Western is hard to come by, even outside of the anime world. People have to get creative with the term “Western” in order to fit their favorite shows into the box of the arguably coolest genre there is. Is The Last of Us a Western? It’s got gun fights, big stretches of open country, and a main character from Texas! Some would say that’s all you need, but true aficionados of the genre would say that it takes more than that for something to truly be a Western. So while some of these titles might not exactly convince the cast of Red Dead Redemption, they come just close enough.

Cowboy Bebop

Spike aiming a gun at the camera with an intense look in 'Cowboy Bebop'

Cowboy Bebop is what you’d call a Space Western. What do I mean by that? It’s basically the same set-up for a Western: a morally ambiguous bounty hunter has to venture into a lawless land in order to scrape together a living hunting down outlaws, all the while running from his own criminal past. Sounds pretty Western to me! Cowboy Bebop trades the red deserts of Nevada for the red deserts of Mars, but if you squint they basically look the same! Plus with the amount that these characters are smoking and drinking bourbon, how could you not call it a Western? Spike Spiegel may just smoke more cigarettes than Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name trilogy. That’s gotta count for something!


Vash the Stampede in 'Trigun'

While Trigun is technically also a Space Western, it is perhaps the most Western of all the titles on this list. Set on the lawless desert planet of Gunsmoke, a wandering young gunslinger named Vash the Stampede evades bounty hunters who are eager to claim his bounty of 60 billion double dollars. Two insurance agents are sent to curb Vash’s destruction so their employer doesn’t go bankrupt, and after meeting up with the “Humanoid Typhoon” himself, they find that Vash is not exactly “outlaw material.” Vash the Stampede wants one thing and one thing only: love and peace. Well, that’s two things. And the attention of hot ladies. Three things. And Wild Turkey bourbon. Four things. And a hot meal. Five things. You get the idea.

Black Lagoon

The four members of the Lagoon company smiling into the camera in "Black Lagoon"

Black Lagoon requires us to get creative with our definition of Western. It eschews the traditional Western trappings of sand, saddlebags, and saloons, and trades them for lawless open waters and shady port towns in Southeast Asia. The series centers around The Lagoon Company: a group of four expats from across the world who provide transportation services for the various criminal organizations that inhabit the high seas. And when I say “transportation services” I mean “smuggle contraband and shoot anything that moves in the process”. While this show might not take place in 1840s Oklahoma, I’m sure the denizens of the OK Corral appreciate the Lagoon Company’s commitment to shooting first and asking questions later.


Two beat up men stand back to back in "Gungrave"

Gungrave is about two young outlaws Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell (how could it not be a Western with names like that?) who end up joining the Mellenion crime syndicate. Which, as crime syndicates go, turns out to be a pretty mixed bag. While their criminal efforts are initially successful, Harry ends up betraying and killing Brandon. But does death stop Brandon? Hardly. He resurrects from the dead and goes on a revenge quest. It’s one of them spooky Westerns!

Gun Frontier

Two me sit around a fire eating while an emaciated woman huddles up a few feet away in "Gun Frontier"
(Vega Entertainment)

Finally! A Western anime set in the Western United States! No one can argue with Gun Frontier’s Western status! Captain Harlock, a character from the creator’s series sci-fi series Space Pirate Captain Harlock appears as the sidekick of wandering samurai Tochiro Oyama. The pair go traipsing across the West in order to find the remains of Oyama’s former village and end up encountering killers and thieves of all types along the way.

Outlaw Star

The cast of "Outlaw Star" smiling and pointing guns

One would be tempted to think that Outlaw Star is basically just a kid-friendly version of Cowboy Bebop, but one would be wrong! The setting is basically the same: a universe full of interstellar traffic and bounties to be collected. But bounty hunters Gene Starwind and James “Jim” Hawking aren’t interested in chasing down two-bit thieves. No, they’re on a mission to protect their captain Hilda on a quest to find the Galactic Leyline, a massive data repository of all the knowledge in the universe!

Desert Punk

A man in a gas mask stands in the desert carrying a shotgun in "Desert Punk"

Desert Punk is the Mad Max of anime. Set in a post-apocalyptic desert created by global nuclear war, the surviving members of humanity struggle to survive. Among them is Kento Mizuno aka “Desert Punk” a shotgun slingin’, wide brim hat wearin’, money grubbin’ mercenary. Thankfully for Kento, living in a bullet-riddled hellscape means you never run out of merc work.

Gun x Sword

A man in black gets ready to pull a pistol while a mecha stands behind him in "Gun x Sword"

If you think Gun X Sword sounds like a sexy slash fic between two deadly inanimate objects, I’m sorry to disappoint. The plot centers around a sword-swinging man named Van, who is on a quest to hunt down his fiance’s murderer: The Claw Man. He’s got a claw for a hand. You can’t miss him. As Van wanders the waste, he finds other people who have a claw to pick with the Claw Man himself.

Kino’s Journey

Kino sits on their motorcycle Hermes on a road in the wilderness in "Kino's Journey"

While Kino’s Journey doesn’t look like much of a Western on the surface, I’d argue that thematically it’s one of the strongest examples of the genre on this list. The plot revolves around a gender non-conforming person named Kino, and their talking motorcycle Hermes. Kino and Hermes ride across the vast world, abiding by one rule: never stay anywhere longer than three days. In Kino’s travels, they come across vicious cannibals, religious cults, and average people just trying to get by. While the quiet Kino may not look it, they are packing some serious iron, and often let their six shooters do all the talking for them. A truer gunslinger there never was.

(featured image: Crunchyroll)

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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.