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Literary References In Anime

In the form of direct reference to the book title/author, quotes from the book, literary allusions and adaptations.
1 Amanchu! Advance

Amanchu! Advance

Episodes 7-9, the “Peter arc” in which the main characters are peter-panned into a dream world, got its idea from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. 

2 Aoi Bungaku Series

Aoi Bungaku Series

Adaptation of 6 Japanese literature:

  • “No longer human” and “Run Melos”  by Dazai Osamu
  • “In the woods beneath cherry blossoms in full bloom” by Sakaguchi Ango
  • “Kokoro” by Natsume Souseki
  • “The spider’s thread” and “Hell screen” by Akutagawa Ryunosuke

3 Aria the Natural

Aria the Natural

Episode 21, the idea of Akari getting invited to a trip on the galactic railroad is taken from Miyazawa Kenji’s children’s literature “Night on the Galactic Railroad”.

4 Banana Fish

Banana Fish

The episode titles are all taken from the following books:

  • A Perfect Day for Bananafish (J.D. Salinger)
  • In Another Country (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Across the River and Into the Trees (Ernest Hemingway)
  • This Side of Paradise (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • From Death to Morning (Thomas Wolfe)
  • My Lost City (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Rich Boy (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • Banal Story (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Save Me The Waltz (Zelda Fitzgerald)
  • Babylon Revisted (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Beautiful and Damned (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • To Have and Have Not (Ernest Hemingway)
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Garden of Eden (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Lo, The Poor Peacock  (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Killers (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Islands in the Stream (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Ice Palace (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Unvanquished (William Faulkner)
  • The Undefeated (Ernest Hemingway)
  • As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

I’m not so sure if these have much to do with the show’s story though.

5 Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation

The concept of the story is taken from the opening line of 'Under the Cherry Trees' (written by Motojirou Kajii), which goes like this:

'Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees!'. 

6 Berserk


All of The God Hand antagonists' names, have literary references:

7 Black Butler 2 Specials

Black Butler 2 Specials

An OVA dedicated to parodying Alice In Wonderland.

A-P has a tag for this btw.

8 Black Butler: Book of Murder

Black Butler: Book of Murder

  • Reference to Sherlock Holmes’ “A Study In Scarlet” and 'The Speckled Band'.
  • Reference to Oscar Wilde’s “Duchess of Padua”
  • Reference to Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” 
  • Reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  • The plot is influenced by Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” 

The show replicates the gothic setting, but the mood is comedy.

9 Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

In the final episode, Rock quotes a line by Jean-Paul Sartre. He likens the tragedy of the Washimine heir not to a result of fate or coincidence, but a consequence of limited choice. “People are like dice. We throw ourselves in the direction of our own choosing.”

10 Blast of Tempest

Blast of Tempest

  • The show's revenge tale (both the plot and characters) is taken from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and 'The Tempest'. Direct reference to the play is made in the form of quotes: “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!”.

  • The title of episode 18 “Maihime” is likely a reference to Japanese writer Mori Ougai’s “Maihime”, which depicts the protagonist’s relationship with his friend and lover - this happens to be a central theme in the anime as well.

11 Bungo and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement

Bungo and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement

Like the Bungou Stray Dogs, the characters are named after historical writers.

12 Bungo Stray Dogs

Bungo Stray Dogs

The characters are named after 19th-20th century Japanese authors. Their supernatural powers are based on the works written by these authors:

  • Nakajima Atsushi - Author of 'Sangetsuki', which is about a scholar who transforms into a tiger. The story is a rewrite of ancient Chinese literature “Jinkoden”.
  • Dazai Osamu - Author of 'No Longer Human'. He is known for his attempted suicides. 
  • Yosano Akiko - Author of 'Thou Shalt Not Die'. Known for being a feminist and pacifist.
  • Edogawa Ranpo - Author of a myriad of detective novels which feature glorified detectives solving macabre and gross cases.
  • Miyazawa Kenji - Known for writing children's literature, his most famous work being 'Night on the Galactic Road' which has its own anime adaptation. Miyazawa's supernatural power 'Undefeated by Rain' is a quote taken from the author's handbook which was written in his deathbed.

...among others.

13 Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland

Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland

An OVA dedicated to parodying Alice In Wonderland.

14 Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

In the final episode, Jet retells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, which ends with the protagonist, before his death, looking at a white snow-capped mountain and thinking about how close he came to dying.

15 Death Parade

Death Parade

Reference to Akutagawa Ryunosuke‘s Spider‘s Thread in episode 5. In this story too, the selfish soul could not be saved from hell.

16 Detective Conan

Detective Conan

This series has tons:

1. Names of characters are based on mystery writers and the characters that appear in their novels.

  • Edogawa Conan's name is a mix of Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo and British mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Mouri Ran's name is taken from Maurice Leblanc, who is the author of the Arsene Lupine series.
  • Mouri Kogorou's name is taken from Akechi Kogorou, a detective featured in Edogawa Ranpo's novels. 
  • Kisaki Eri's name is taken from mystery writer Ellery Queen (Kisaki means queen in Japanese, Eri is Ellery shortened).
  • Professor Agasa's name is taken fron mystery writer Agatha Christie.
  • 'The Boy Detective's Club' comprised of Ayumi, Genta, and Mitsuhiko is based on Edogawa Ranpo's novel 'The Boy Detectives Club'.

2. Names of towns and buildings are based on places that appear in novels written by the mystery writers mentioned above. 

  • 'Cafe Poirot' located beneath Kogoro's office is named after Hercule Poirot, who is the main character of Agatha Christie's mystery novels.
  • 'Beika Town', the town where the Kogoro family reside, is named after 'Baker Street' from Sherlock Holmes.
  • 'Raiha Pass', where Akai Shuichi is confronted by the Black Organization, is named after the 'Reichenbach Fall', which is the final location where Sherlock and Moriarty confront each other.
  • The setting of the mystery train arc is influenced by Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express'.
  • The movie 'The Phantom of Baker Street' is set within the world of the Sherlock Holmes series.

3. Canon episodes and movie plots are massively influenced by the plot of the mystery novels mentioned above.

  • Episode 219 'The Gathering of the Detectives' is an ingenious take on Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None'.
  • The movie 'The Fourteenth Target' is based on Agatha Christie's 'The ABC Murders'.
17 Eden of the East

Eden of the East

The title 'Higashi no Eden' (Eden of the East) is a reversal of ' East of Eden”, a novel by John Steinbeck. 

18 Eden of The East Movie II: Paradise Lost

Eden of The East Movie II: Paradise Lost

The title “Paradise Lost” is a reference to John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.



A direct reference is made to 'The Spider's Thread' (written by Akutagawa Ryunosuke) in explaining the culprit's motivation for killing people. 

20 Galaxy Express 999

Galaxy Express 999

Inspired by Miyazawa Kenji’s children’s literature “Night on the Galactic Railroad”.

21 Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

An adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” with a twist in the world setting.

22 Genji Monogatari Sennenki

Genji Monogatari Sennenki

Based on Japanese classical literature “Tale of Genji” written by Murasaki Shikibu.

23 Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Inspired by numerous sci-fi literature:

  •  “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and “A Scanner Darkly” (Philip K Dick)
  • Neuromancer (William Gibson)
  • Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) - The book is seen being read in one of the episodes.

Quotes from:

  • Catcher In The Rye (J.D Salinger) - The laughing man logo quotes a line from the book. “I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes”.
24 Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Think Pol is a reference to the Thought Police in George Orwell’s “1984”.

25 Gosick


Episode 2 inspired by Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”.

26 Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei

The setting in this show bears an uncanny resemblence to the town surrounded by walls in Murakami Haruki's novel 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World'. The gatekeeper, the forest in the West, the well, and above all, the melancholy atmosphere all shout out Murakami Haruki.

27 Houkago no Tinker Bell

Houkago no Tinker Bell

Reference to Peter Pan.

28 How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom

The MC is summoned to another world while in the middle of reading Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. He makes use of this knowledge in rebuilding the isekai kingdom.

29 Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Based on Dianna Wynne Jones' literature for children, 'Howl's Moving Castle'. The director Hayao Miyazaki does not believe in absolute evil, so he removed this concept from the movie adaptation, making the antagonists loveable.

30 Hyouka


Episode 9:

The characters mention Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie and discuss about mysteries.

31 Kaguya-sama: Love is War - Ultra Romantic

Kaguya-sama: Love is War - Ultra Romantic

Episode 11:

Ishigami climbing the thin thread is a reference to Akutagawa Ryunosuke‘s Spider‘s Thread. 

32 Kaiju No. 8

Kaiju No. 8

MC’s name Kafka is in reference to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. In both stories, the main character is unwillingly transformed into some ugly creature and is robbed of their ordinary lives.

33 Kyousougiga


The Mirror City aka “The Looking Glass City” is taken from Alice in Wonderland’s sequel, “Through the Looking Glass”. Certain depictions of the city resemble the world in “Through the looking glass”, such as the chequed chess board design.

34 Les Miserables: Shoujo Cosette

Les Miserables: Shoujo Cosette

#World Masterpiece Theater series - An adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”.

Unlike the book which contains a monstrous amount of description for each character (it’s as thick as the bible), this show focuses specifically on the story of Cosette.

35 Lupin III: Part VI

Lupin III: Part VI

  • Episodes 1-3: Lupin the Third meets Sherlock Holmes.
  • Episode 4: Reference to Ernest Hemmingway’s Men Without Women.
  • Episode 5: Akechi Kogorou, a detective in Ranpo Edogawa's mystery novel, appears in this episode.
  • Episode 8: Reference to Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.

36 Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss

The Abyss is reminiscent of Dante‘s description of Hell in the “Inferno”. According to Dante, Hell stretches downward towards the center of the earth. The deeper down one goes, the graver the sin and punishment, much like the description of the Abyss.

37 Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

The character concept is based on the '1001 Nights', which is a collection of Middle Eastern folklore. It’s a fun read btw.

38 Moriarty the Patriot

Moriarty the Patriot

Set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and focusing on the character James Moriarty.

39 Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

The tale told by the elderly lady in episode 13 is reminiscent of Chinese literature “Jinkoden”, which is about a scholar who transforms into a tiger.

40 Night on the Galactic Railroad

Night on the Galactic Railroad

An adaptation of Miyazawa Kenji’s children’s literature “Night on the Galactic Railroad”.

41 Nisemonogatari


A reference to Japanese literature “No Longer Human” by Dazai Osamu is made in episode 9, where a few frames of Koyomi are changed to a depressed looking Dazai Osamu.

42 Oshie to Tabi Suru Otoko

Oshie to Tabi Suru Otoko

Based on works by Ranpo Edogawa

43 Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club

Episode 13 is a parody of Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland'.

44 Pandora Hearts

Pandora Hearts

The show’s characters and concept are taken from Alice in Wonderland, only that the atmosphere in this show is a lot more dark and twisted.

45 Parasyte -the maxim-

Parasyte -the maxim-

The names of the first 21 episodes of the show are references to literary works:

  • 1.01 The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
  • 1.02 The Devil in the Flesh, Raymond Radiguet
  • 1.03 Symposium, Plato
  • 1.04 Tangled Hair, Akiko Yosano
  • 1.05 The Stranger, Albert Camus
  • 1.06 The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  • 1.07 A Dark Night's Passing, Shiga Naoya
  • 1.08 Freezing Point, Ayako Miura
  • 1.09 Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche
  • 1.10 What Mad Universe, Fredric Brown
  • 1.11 The Blue Bird, Maurice Maeterlinck
  • 1.12 Heart, Natsume Souseki
  • 1.13 Hello Sadness, Françoise Sagan
  • 1.14 The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
  • 1.15 Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  • 1.16 Happy Family, Lu Xun
  • 1.17 The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Arthur Conan Doyle
  • 1.18 More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  • 1.19 In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  • 1.20 Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • 1.21 Sex and Spirit, Clifford Bishop.
46 Penguindrum


Miyazawa Kenji's 'Night on the Galactic Railroad' is referred to in the intro of the 1st episode. Shouma and Kamba appear to resemble the anime adaptation of Giovanni and Campanella, the two main characters of the novel. The show's main plot, though, is based more on the 1995 Sarin attack in Japan than the novel.

47 Pretty Boy Detective Club

Pretty Boy Detective Club

  • The title is a pun of the shounen tanteidan, which is a group of detective boys featured in Edogawa Ranpo's 'Akechi Kogorou series' (a mystery novel).
  • A brief reference to Akechi Kogorou is made in episode 2. Akechi is a lead detective in Edogawa Ranpo’s mystery novels.
  • Fukuzawa Yukichi’s line in “An encouragement of learning” is quoted in the introduction of episode 4. The quote “It is said that heaven does not create one man above or below another man” is a translation of the introductory lines of the US Declaration of Independence.
  • The title of episode 10 “The Bishounen-tanteidan of D-slope” is taken from Egogawa Ranpo’s Akechi Kogorou mystery series “The murder at D-slope”.  

48 Princess Tutu

Princess Tutu

Apart from the ballet scores and opera:

  • The Neverending Story (Michael Ende) - the book Fakir is reading, which is a story about a boy who is drawn into the book he is reading, or the other way around: his reading experiences influence the story in the book.
  • The Sandman (E. T. A. Hoffman)
  • The Happy Prince (Oscar Wilde) - Mentioned in one of the intro narratives. It’s a story about a statue that gives, and gives, and gives, until he’s stripped bare and dumped.

Others are based on folktales, compiled into readable format by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen:

  • The Ugly Duckling - Ahiru’s character concept.
  • The Old Street Lamp
  • The Red Shoes
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Strange Musician - The title of a book Fakir was reading.
  • The Old Woman In the Woods


Makishima Shougo makes tons of references to books that deal with science fiction, political theories and other ethical themes. It’s good to know that these books actually have a lot to do with the themes addressed in the show:

  • Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
  • Economy and Society (Max Weber)
  • Pensées (Blaise Pascal)
  • An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (Jeremy Bentham)
  • Principles of Philosophy (René Descartes)
  • The Sickness Unto Death (Kierkegaard)
  • Beyond Good and Evil (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • The Republic (Plato)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick)
  • Violence: A New Approach (Michel Wieviork)
  • The Conquest of Happiness (Bertrand Russell)
  • Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  • Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)
  • Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, and Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
  • Carmilla and In a Glass Darkly (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu)
  • The Red and the Black (Stendhal)
  • Faust (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
  • Johnny Mnemonic and the The Sprawl Trilogy (William Gibson)
  • The Most Dangerous Game (Richard Connell)
  • Swann's Way (Marcel Proust) - Kougami is seen reading this in the final episode.

My recs are Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick) since I found these two to be pretty accessible.

50 Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

The german text on the wall in episode 2 is a quote from Faust by Goethe. QB = Mephistopheles, Madoka = Gretchen, Homura and other magical girls = Faust.


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InvalidCookie Nov 26, 2022

Madoka magica is heavily insipired by Faust. 

ImiPups Jun 3, 2022

Hyouka has a lot of references too

sannika Mar 10, 2021

List is fantastic! 

I would add Woodpecker Detective's Office from the recent anime, as its characters are all based on real life writers and poets, and each episode features actual haiku.

Halex Aug 14, 2020

Hi, in Berserk, except for Femto, all of The God Hand antagonists' names, have literary references:

Halex Aug 7, 2020

Thanks for adding them, I love this list!