The Best Historical Anime You Should Watch If You Love The Apothecary Diaries

The Best Historical Anime Like Apothecary Diaries Maomao
Credit: TOHO Animation, OLM

The Best Historical Anime Like Apothecary Diaries Maomao
Credit: TOHO Animation, OLM

Anime is the ultimate form of escapism, allowing us to discover new worlds. That doesn’t always need to be a faraway land, however. The best historical anime allow us to discover various places and cultures in a whole new way.

The Apothecary Diaries is one such anime. Although it unfolds in a fictional world, its resemblance to Imperial China is impressive, and many of the issues women faced at the time are addressed.

The impressive feminist anime is a great excuse to celebrate more historical shows!

Whether you’re a fan of action anime, coming-of-age adventures, or pure romance, this list has something for every anime fan to enjoy!

  1. Requiem of the Rose King

    Requiem of the Rose King is a shoujo anime that takes place in an alternate version of British history. This series is a retelling of the War of the Roses, a civil war in England during the 15th century.

    Requiem follows Richard III, the son of the Duke of York and the potential future King of England on one side of the battle between York and Lancaster.

    Born intersex, he is reviled by his mother and considered a demon, while also being haunted by images of Joan of Arc, who says they’ll bring misfortune to everyone.

    The story follows his battles with himself and his destiny, against the backdrop of a bloody fight for the throne.

    DISCOVER: Anime Based on Classic Literature

  2. Arte

    Unlike many of the series on this list, Arte is a slower-paced slice-of-life drama, perfect for some light and fun viewing.

    This seinen anime takes place in beautiful 16th-century Florence, at a time when the city was a global hub of art and culture.

    The story follows Atre Spalletti, a young noblewoman with a talent for painting.

    When her father dies, she’s expected to marry into another family, but she instead seeks to continue her passion for art.

  3. Moriarty the Patriot

    Moriarty the Patriot takes place in 19th century Great Britain, at a time when the British Empire was a global power.

    Based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, the anime follows a young Moriarty who seeks to rebel against the Empire’s corrupt class system by playing the role of a ‘crime consultant’, helping to wreak havoc until Sherlock himself piques his interest.

  4. Drifters

    Drifters is not a historically accurate anime due to its fantasy setting. However, if you’re a fan of war anime, this is something to enjoy as it features a ton of real, historical characters.

    The story starts in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600s Japan. Shimazu Toyohisa, mortally wounded, suddenly finds himself transported into a fantasy world besieged by war.

    He also discovers that he’s not the only person to have been transported, encountering various legendary warriors from history who are collectively referred to as Drifters.

    Drifters is like Avengers for historical war heroes, as famous fighters, including names familiar to Western audiences such as Hannibal Barca and Jean d’Arc, come together to fight a fantasy enemy!

    READ MORE: The Best Isekai Anime With an OP Main Character

  5. 91 Days

    This suspense anime takes place in the aptly named Lawless, Illinois, during the 1930s American Prohibition, with the Mafia controlling the black market for liquor.

    The story starts with the main character’s family being killed by the mafia, causing him to leave the city and start a new life under the name Avilio Bruno.

    However, Avilio still harbors dreams of exacting revenge for his family.

    A mysterious letter convinces Avilio to return to the town, where he infiltrates the mafia family and befriends the don’s son, Nero.

    91 Days, named after the length of the story, is a bloodstained crime drama that was well-received by fans of the genre.

  6. Kingdom

    The story of Kingdom takes place in China during the Warring States period, where many different rulers fought wars for control over the country.

    The show primarily revolves around Xin, a war orphan from the Qin kingdom who dreams of being a great general and eventually becomes involved in the kingdom’s wars to try to unite China.

    Kingdom is a hugely popular anime based on a manga of the same name. There have been four seasons, the latest of which aired in 2022.

  7. Emma: A Victorian Romance

    If you’re looking for a classical English romance, look no further!

    Emma takes place in 19th-century Victorian England and follows the titular character, a housemaid who falls for a wealthy family’s son.

    The two fall in love, but their relationship is opposed by society due to the mixing of the lower and upper classes.

    While this kind of story is fairly common in Western culture, the Emma anime and manga have developed a cult following in Japan due to the meticulous retelling of life in Victorian England.

    This anime is a true must-watch for any anglophile!

  8. Golden Kamuy

    This action-adventure series takes place in northern Japan in the early 1900s, after the Russo-Japanese War.

    The story follows a war veteran, Saichi Sugimoto, who suddenly discovers the first piece of a map to a legendary Ainu stash of gold and sets off on a journey to find the rest alongside an Ainu girl who wants revenge for her father, a miner.

    Golden Kamuy has been particularly praised for its realistic depiction of life at the time and its focus on the Ainu people.

    The Ainu are indigenous people primarily located in Hokkaido, a large island in the north of Japan. Kamuy, meanwhile, is a spiritual being in Ainu beliefs.

  9. Mushishi

    Mushishi is not a true historical anime as its setting is derived from a few different periods. However, it’s still an amazing series to escape into and features many references to historical Japanese culture.

    The story takes place in a version of 19th-century Japan, where a primitive lifeform known as Mushi exists beyond the realms of human understanding.

    Ginko, one of the few people that can see the Mushi, travels from place to place researching them and helping people who may have been affected by their presence.

    Mushishi is an acclaimed series, praised for its art style and unique tempo, with no real overarching story or plot.

    For many fans, it’s one of the best anime ever made, and it’s well worth watching!

  10. Mononoke

    There are many great anime series derived from Japanese mythology and folklore in one way or another. However, few have the style and mystery of Mononoke.

    The story, spun off from another series (the horror anthology Ayakashi), takes place just after the Edo period in Japan and follows a nameless medicine seller as he takes down Ayakashi, evil spirits that wreak havoc on people's lives.

    You could say this is a horrifying and thrilling version of Mushishi!

  11. Rurouni Kenshin

    One of the most popular anime series of the 1990s, Rurouni Kenshin is great for those who want to experience a slice of classic Japanese culture.

    The story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The story follows Hitokiri Battousai, a much-feared assassin during the Boshin War who, after the conflict, seemingly vanishes.

    Changing his name to Kenshin Himura, he decides to live a life away from conflict and protect the weak by repenting for his sins on the battlefield.

    Despite his pledge to never kill again, when people discover his past, the world tries to drag him back into the bloodstained life he once lived.

    Rurouni Kenshin is a hugely popular series, spawning multiple live-action films.

  12. Baccano

    This action-mystery anime primarily takes place in 1930s Chicago, during the Prohibition Era in the United States.

    The story follows mafia members who get pulled into a conspiracy involving an immortality elixir, along with a long-distance train journey filled with wrongdoers.

    Baccano is based on the light novels by Ryohgo Narita, who also came up with the popular supernatural series Durarara!!

    Similar to that hit anime series, Baccano is a show full of eccentric characters and plots that continue to grow bigger and bigger, with a splash of fantasy added to the historical setting for good measure.

  13. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

    The setting for this anime isn’t purely historic - it moves between modern and classical Japan. However, given its subject matter, the show captures a strong historical feel.

    This anime centers around the art of rakugo, a classic form of Japanese theater performance dating back to the 17th century.

    The story follows Yotarou, an ex-yakuza who was inspired by a rakugo performance by Yakumo while in prison and now seeks to learn under his tutelage.

    While working together, Yotarou learns about Yakumo's time as a young apprentice.

    This josei anime has a wonderful feel and flow, depicting passion for an age-old craft and the relationships it creates between the main characters.

  14. Vinland Saga

    Vinland Saga is possibly one of the most accurate historical anime available, with the series playing out alongside real events and characters.

    This story takes place in 11th-century England when Danish King Sweyn had almost entirely conquered the region.

    Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn, a mercenary fighting in the conflict under Askeladd, the man who killed his father, in the hope that one day, he can get revenge.

    This action-adventure eventually spirals into a competition for the throne of England involving King Sweyn’s two sons, with Askeladd fighting to support Prince Canute.

    Vinland Saga was considered one of the best anime in 2019 when Season 1 was released. Vinland Saga Season 2 aired this year.

    LEARN MORE: How Historically Accurate Is Vinland Saga?

  15. Grave of the Fireflies

    Studio Ghibli films are renowned for their bright and fun fantasy worlds, but one of their greatest masterpieces revolves around the harsh realities of war.

    Grave of the Fireflies takes place at the end of World War II in 1945 when American bombers were routinely dropping incendiary bombs onto Japanese towns and cities.

    The story follows two children whose parents and home are burned to ruins in the bombing.

    This heartbreaking anime is a painful but accurate tale of the cost for ordinary people during any conflict.

    The movie is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the time and does a great job of capturing the national mood, as Japan slowly succumbs to defeat.

  16. The Heike Story

    The Heike Story is an adaptation of a Japanese war epic that dates back to the 13th century. Told from the perspective of a biwa performer named after her instrument, the story gains an incredible sensitivity.

    The story takes place during the Genpei War, a civil war that rocked Japan during the 12th century.

    Biwa's father is killed by the Taira clan, but when she prophecizes their destruction with her future-seeing eye, she is taken in by the clan's heir who possesses a similar ability to see the ghosts of the dead.

    A dramatic period story of family, love, and loss in the face of war, The Heike Story is one of the greatest anime based on Japanese history.

  17. Romeo's Blue Skies

    Romeo's Blue Skies is a 1995 anime also known as Romeo and the Black Brothers.

    It is a moving historical anime that addresses the horrors of child labor, while also celebrating the indomitable spirit of children who persevere no matter what.

    The story follows Romeo, a young boy growing up in a small village in Switzerland.

    When Romeo's father is injured and the family loses their income, Romeo sells himself into servitude as a chimney sweeper.

    This was a horrifying and dangerous job many children had to endure during the 19th century.

    The anime realistically portrays the employers' abusive behavior and the health and safety hazards, while managing to remain heartwarming, as Romeo and his fellow servants form a brotherhood and try to survive.

  18. The Wind Rises

    Another Studio Ghibli film, The Wind Rises plays out against the backdrop of World War II but is a much more serene watch than the aforementioned Grave of the Fireflies.

    The film is a biographical retelling of the life of Jiro Horikoshi. With dashed dreams of being a pilot, he turns his attention to designing planes.

    His life plays out against the background of the national war effort and other historical events, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

    The Wind Rises was nominated for an Academy Award when it was released in 2013.

    The film has been widely praised for how it depicts the nuances of Japan at the time, celebrating human achievement while also questioning the price of war.

  19. Raven of the Inner Palace

    If you love the court drama and the female-driven story that is The Apothecary Diaries, do give Raven of the Inner Palace a try.

    The show follows Ryuu Jusetsu, the enigmatic Raven Consort whose isolated existence breeds a wealth of rumors. Is she a witch, an immortal sage, or something else?

    When the young emperor asks for her help to solve a mystery, the Raven Consort is torn, as assisting him would require her to leave the inner palace for the first time.

    Will she follow her predecessor's advice to remain secluded and content in her solitude? Or will she step out into the world and dare wish for something more?

  20. The Rose of Versailles

    If you're looking for an old-school, shoujo-style alternative history anime, don't miss out on The Rose of Versailles just because it's an older show.

    Those who enjoyed the historical fiction of Requiem of the Rose King will also find something to like here.

    The Rose of Versailles follows Oscar Fançois de Jarjayes, the Commander of the Royal Guard.

    Unbeknownst to most, Oscar is a woman raised as a man with the expectation to receive her father's title.

    Oscar reluctantly serves Marie Antoinette, France's spoiled queen, increasingly realizing that the young royal's frivolity is leading them toward a point of no return.

  21. Ooku: The Inner Chambers

    Ooku: The Inner Chambers is another female-driven anime that takes place in an imperial court, like The Apothecary Diaries.

    While the latter is inspired by Imperial China, Ooku: The Inner Chambers unfolds during Japan's Edo period.

    A mysterious disease known as Redface Pox has eradicated much of the country's male population, leading women, who are immune, to take on all roles typically assigned to men.

    Due to this gender reversal, Ooku might not showcase the subtle ways in which women would resist when no other way of life was available to them, but it's nonetheless interesting.

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