Books for Fans of Urban Fantasy Anime

Urban fantasy is set in magically injected alternate universes where limousines carry lycanthropes around or suburbs conceal super-powered mages. Think Harry Potter, not The Lord of the Rings. These titles range from action adventure, to comedy, slice of life and romance. Today we will travel to alternate universes populated by warring magic users, corporate ladder climbing demons, and undersea middle school students.

Urban Fantasy Anime poster


Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Urban Fantasy Anime Fate stay night

The Holy Grail War is a deadly competition. The winning mage has the chance to make a wish and change the world. Some masters will do anything to win this prize. Shirō Emiya has stumbled into this terrifying tournament, and he doesn’t know how to use his powers. Will he be able to survive the coming battles? Who do you trust when at the end of the tournament, you may be may be facing your closest ally?

Each master calls on a Legendary Hero to help them fight in the tournament. Most of the action takes place at night, and the darker color palate of the series leads to some jaw dropping animation of magical duels.

Note:  “Unlimited Blade Works” is based off a single storyline from the visual novel Fate Stay/Night the same name (a kind of interactive animated game, like an animated “choose your own adventure” book). There have been numerous video game, manga and light novel adaptations and spinoffs of this series, but the anime “Fate/Zero” is a prequel.  

Love this series? You will also love…

Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Tana has to decide how far she is willing to go for her recently infected ex-boyfriend and  the mysterious boy she rescued, because once you enter a Coldtown, you can never come back out. Even though this book is about vampires, not mages, it still has the same high level of urgency and characters who have been thrown together and have to navigate a hidden hierarchy in order to survive.

Half Bad by Sally Green

Nathan’s young life has been a nightmare full of human monsters, painful isolation and abuse. Like Shirō Emiya this teenage magic user will have to suffer through some dark and stormy times in order to figure out who he can trust and what his future holds.

The Devil is a Part-Timer

Urban Fantasy Anime the devil is a part timer

The demonic king of a fantasy realm escapes to modern day Japan. After Satan realizes that his magic runs dry in our world he gets a part time job at a fast food joint. Hey, even demons have to eat. He decides to try to conquer this new world by climbing the “McGronalds” corporate ladder. Then the Hero follows him to Japan… and has to get a job as a telemarketer.

The line between good and evil sure gets blurry when you are trying to make ends meet. This series is hysterically funny but the series has surprising depth. The over-the-top battles are accompanied by a solid series story arc and a wonderful group of nuanced secondary characters.

Note: The dub of this series is very well done, but I found that I needed to turn the subtitles on when the magical characters were speaking in their native tongue.

Love this series? You will also love…

Croak by Gina Damico  

Lex thought she was getting sent to her Uncle’s house for the summer because her parents were sick of dealing with her violent mood swings. After she arrives, Uncle Mort reveals that Croak is a company town, and while she stays there she is expected to work as a Reaper. Before she knows what is happening she is issued a scythe and sent off to gather the souls of the recently deceased. The first novel in this series has a great supporting cast and is easily as fast paced and funny as “The Devil is a Part Timer.”

Generation V by M.L. Brennan

Scott is a vampire. Well, almost a vampire. I mean, he will be a vampire, he just hasn’t gotten around to transitioning yet. Then people start to go missing and he is the only person willing to look into it. Slacker Scott is very different from the uber achiever Satan, but both characters have to balance supernatural shenanigans with showing up for their “day job” shifts on time. More humor than horror, this book pushes into new adult territory and would be a great series for older teens.

A Lull in the Sea

Urban Fantasy Anime a lull in the sea

Long ago, everyone lived in the village beneath the ocean, but everything changed after a group of humans decided to give up the ability to breathe underwater in order to move up above the shore. Many years later the population of the undersea world has shrunk so much that there aren’t enough students to keep their Junior High open.  As if middle school isn’t tough enough, the last four students from the ocean floor village will have to attend a surface school. This group will have to deal with the growing tensions between the sea and land dwellers, in addition to trying to sort out their rapidly evolving romantic feelings.

Warning: there be love triangles ahead! Yes, this show has romantic tension galore, but there are plenty of light moments mixed in with the drama. The art is beautiful and the animation for the underwater sequences is particularly stunning.

Love this series? You will also love…

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Nikki regrets her decision to become the immortal Queen of the Underworld. She was released to Surface for six months, and she needs to figure out how to avoid her fate fast. The characters in this reworked Persephone and Hades myth are older than the students of A Lull in the Sea, but both works feature main characters with complicated love lives stuck between two worlds .

Winterling by Sarah Prineas

Fer lives with her grandmother at the edge of a forest. After she discovers “The Way,” a hidden portal to another realm, Fer must try to unravel the mysteries of the new world without losing herself to the magic. This is a book full of subtle romantic tension, lushly described landscapes, and a brave and curious protagonist torn between the safety of her grandmother’s home and a captivating world full of magical beings.

— Jennifer Billingsley,  currently listening to The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, and currently reading Saga: Vol. 5 written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples