So, I’m a furry. Some of you may know this already, and some may not. The furry fandom, despite what rumors you might hear, is nothing more or less than a fandom by and for people who love anthropomorphic animals. Some wear fursuits, some do art, some write novels, and some simply enjoy the various anthropomorphic shows, books, and movies out there.
Yeah, funnily enough, there’s a ton of anthro stuff out there, even though we live in a world that regularly mocks the furry fandom. Go figure. Anyway, whether you’re a furry or whether you simply love to touch on your wild side every now and then, here are my top 10 bits of media that prominently feature anthropomorphic animals. Now, by anthropomorphic, I mean that the animals have to act human in some way and speak, so you won’t see works like The Black Stallion here. Also, I won’t be including any Disney movies, as I assume that those are already well-known to you.
#10: Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky
I’m going to say this right now: The movie sucks. It doesn’t exist. Stay away.
Moving on. I read this series as a kid, and I remember loving it. Looking back, it’s easy to see why. This is a perfect story of a heroic journey made by a group of beloved characters who wish to create a better life and defeat the evil forces that oppose them.
The main character is Soren, a barn owl who is kidnapped by a cult-like orphanage that indoctrinates the chicks to be mindless slaves. (Gotta love them kids’ books!) His adventure goes from there to his journey to a legendary place called the Ga’Hoole Tree. He has several friends, including Gylfie the pygmy owl, Digger the burrowing owl, and Twilight the great grey owl. They eventually enter a war with the Pure Ones, a group of barn owls who belief that they are superior to all other species.
I adore the worldbuilding in this series, and the Ga’Hoole Tree is definitely a place I would love to live in. From the emphasis on learning, to the seasons that are named for the color the tree’s berries turn, to the barbecued bat wings, it just sounds like an amazing place.
Now, I do think the series quality dropped a bit after the eleventh book, which is the end of a trilogy explaining the founding of the Ga’Hoole Tree. Still, that’s eleven pretty amazing books to check out.
#9: Jungle Emperor Leo by Osamu Tezuka
You may know this series better as Kimba the White Lion. You’re also probably aware of the scandal surrounding it and the likelihood that The Lion King was largely based on it. I won’t get into that argument here. I’ll just say that the series is good, whether you’re looking at the 1965 show, the movies, or the 1989 reboot.
It’s about a white lion cub named Leo, whose father was killed by hunters and whose mother was killed on the ship taking her to a zoo. He’s forced to return to the jungle alone and become the new king. We see several adventures where he goes up against hunters, tries to create a better society for his subjects, and fights a rival lion named Bubu (or Claw in the English dub).
My one gripe with the series is that it can get incredibly preachy at times. For example, Leo in the 1965 series believes that hunting and killing other animals is wrong and essentially forces all carnivores in his kingdom to become vegetarians. Whenever he meets a carnivore from outside his kingdom, he becomes enraged at the idea of them killing for food.
Still, it’s a good series with a memorable cast of characters. The movies in particular have great storylines and some beautiful animation. The animation of the 1965 show takes some getting used to, along with some sub-par voice acting if you’re watching the dub, but even that has its own charm to it.
#8: The Cat Returns by Reiko Yoshida
This is just such a nice, charming movie (Minus that one scene where Muta almost drowns in the catnip jelly. Seriously, what’s up with that?) Coming from Studio Ghibli, you can of course expect a quirky storyline and beautiful animation. The protagonist is a girl named Haru, who rescues a cat who turns out to be the prince of a secret kingdom of sentient cats. She is kidnapped by the cats, who want her to marry their prince, and is helped by a living cat figurine named Baron, a crow statue named Toto, and a fat cat named Muta.
…Man, these plotlines sound weird when you’re trying to summarize them. Anyway, the world is very enjoyable. The Cat Kingdom is beautiful, as is the Cat Bureau, where Haru finds Baron and his friends. I wish that more time had been devoted to showing the cats and their culture.
Probably my favorite scene in the movie is when a procession from the Cat Kingdom comes down Haru’s street at night. Watching the cats walk on their hind legs, holding lanterns, and shooing away the common neighborhood cats is weirdly eerie.
On the subject of Ghibli movies, I decided against putting Princess Mononoke on this list, largely because the animals depicted in this movie are gods rather than human-like animals. I think calling them anthros would likely insult them.
#7: Basically anything by Kyell Gold
Allow me to introduce you to probably the most popular furry author, known largely for his gay romances. He is incredible at showing the various struggles faced by his characters. Waterways depicts a teen’s journey through discovering his sexuality and facing opposition both from his family and his own insecurities. Black Angel is one of the best depictions of the struggles commonly faced by asexual people that I’ve ever seen. Coincidentally, both feature otters as the main characters.
Now, many of his books do have detailed sex scenes. However, they fit in with the stories and characters in question and honestly aren’t much different from what you’d find in any other adult romance. These include the Argaea books, taking place in a Renaissance-esque world and featuring a sex-loving fox named Volle, who is a spy posing as a noble in an enemy kingdom. This was my introduction to Gold’s works. There’s also the Dev and Lee series, starting with with Out of Position, which depicts the journey of a tiger football player and his fox boyfriend as they navigate their relationship, family lives, and the world of professional sports. While these books are well-written, I have a bit of a problem with the relationship as the series goes on, as it seems incredibly toxic from my perspective.
If you want to go PG, I’d recommend my favorite series of Gold’s: Dangerous Spirits. This trilogy depicts three different characters having supernatural encounters that cause them to rethink their own lives and how to face their problems. Black Angel is the conclusion of that series. I’d also recommend Love Match, which is about a jackal in tennis school, and The Time He Desires, a novella about a Muslim cheetah who is forced to come to terms with the changes in his neighborhood and the sexuality of his son.
Honestly, Gold is a master at using these furry-based worlds to tackle some very real topics. Also, the writing is amazing. Check out any of them!
#6: Ginga Nagareboshi Gin by Yoshihiro Takahashi
I discovered this during a time when I was actively looking for anthro anime. There isn’t a lot, let me tell you, but there is this gem. Ginga is about an Akita Inu dog named Gin, who is born to be a bear-hunter and is given the destiny of eventually killing a bear that has been terrorizing his home, named Akakabuto.
What I really like about this story is that it isn’t from the perspective of the dogs at first. Initially, we see things from the humans’ point of view. In these episodes, we see the birth of Gin, his training as a hunting dog, and the bond he builds with a boy named Daisuke. It’s not until episode 7 that we hear the dogs talking. It’s then that Gin finds a pack of wild dogs that are also fighting against Akakabuto.
It’s a shame that this first series is often overlooked in favor of the sequel series, Ginga Densetsu Weed, because I honestly think the storytelling and characters are far superior.
This is a great adventure story with noble, memorable characters you’d expect from any heroic tale. My one complaint is that in this series, and in the series following it, there are only a handful of notable female characters, and they either end up as house dogs or pregnant, and they frequently are the ones that have to be saved from danger. (Don’t even get me started on Reika from Ginga Densetsu Weed.)
This is an old and largely unknown anime, so it’s a bit harder to find English subs, but it’s well worth the effort!
#5: Wings of Fire by Tui Sutherland
I mean, you had to expect this on the list. It’s basically become the dragon equivalent of Warriors by Erin Hunter, though Wings of Fire is definitely better-written in my opinion.
This series takes place in a world called Pyrrhia, where seven dragon tribes are at war. There’s a prophecy that five dragonets will decide the outcome and bring peace to all the tribes. Each of the first five books is from the perspective of one of these dragonets.
My favorite thing about this series is how different the dragon tribes are from each other, from the cold and strict IceWings, to the good-natured and sleepy RainWings. The further you get into the series, the more you learn about the lifestyles, customs, and abilities of the different dragon species. There’s also an overlying theme concerning the need to put aside differences and come together for a more peaceful world.
I also like that Sutherland doesn’t shy away from the fact that she’s writing about a war. Characters hold prejudices, hate each other, remember the deaths they’ve caused, and are forced to come to terms with many harsh realities. Also, each character has a very distinct and unique voice, making each book very different. Seriously, my list of favorite characters shifted with each book.
If you love dragons, definitely check this one out!
#4: Redwall by Brian Jacques
I would recommend any book from this series, as well as the entire animated television show. This is a wonderful series if you want various character perspectives, good vs. evil battles, and absolutely gorgeous descriptions. In this world, sentient woodland creatures live and try to get by, but are often forced to fight against corsairs, slavers, and other bands of evil vermin beasts.
Basically any of the books can be read on their own in any order, since each one is an individual, self-contained story with different characters. They may overlap, but reading previous books isn’t usually required. And Jacques wastes no time in getting us attached to a new cast of characters every single time.
The books all depict a hero’s journey, sometimes made by many heroes, several conniving, evil villains, and an overall good feeling that lasts after the book is finished. Also, the food descriptions will have your mouth watering. Seriously, vegan food never sounded so good!
I would recommend that you start with Redwall, Mattimeo, Martin the Warrior, and Mossflower. The first, obviously, is the first book in the series and sets a lot of the standards for later books. Mattimeo is the only direct sequel to any book in the series, and has an incredible coming of age story. Martin the Warrior and Mossflower both tell the legend of Martin, the warrior who often visits the dreams of the creatures of Redwall and whose sword is an unbreakable weapon against evil.
The one thing I don’t like about the series is that the goodness or badness of characters is automatically determined by species. Mice, hares, badgers, and squirrels are good. Foxes, rats, weasels, and ferrets are bad. There are very few exceptions. I mean, there’s one book where an otter raised by a vermin band is somehow inherently good, and another where a ferret raised in Redwall Abbey somehow is inherently evil.
That aside, however, the writing is fantastic and the stories are all worth a read.
#3: Felidae by Akif Pirinçci
Don’t be fooled by the cute kitty cats. This is very much an adult book and movie.
The story centers around Francis, a cat who moves to a new neighborhood, only to find another cat dead in his yard. From there begins a murder investigation that delves into issues concerning the relationship between humans and animals, the brutality of animal testing, genetic purity, and what price is too high for the creation of a new world.
And yes, there is an infamous cat sex scene that people often point out in the animated movie. To be fair, the book explains it a lot better, and it definitely has a purpose. Let’s move past that and continue, please.
The main character, Francis, is every bit the noir detective with his cunning mind, ability to piece things together, and his sophisticated personality. The movie largely features a foul-mouthed cat named Bluebeard, who is employed as a way to allow Francis to voice his thoughts on the case, since it’s mostly inner dialogue in the book. He’s in the book too, just not as much.
What’s really interesting is how using cats instead of people changes how the murder mystery plays out. There’s no forensic evidence, no policemen, and no protocol. Dreams had by Francis are considered to be evidence just as much as the journal entries he finds at one point. It makes a world that is both familiar and alien, taking place away from the eyes of humans.
Definitely give the book and the movie a watch.
#2: Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann
Admittedly, I only have the first book in this series. However, I have watched the animated show in its entirety, and it is absolutely one of the best animated shows I’ve seen. The story is about a group of animals forced to flee their home in Farthing Wood and seek a new home at a far-away nature reserve. The first book and season depict their journey, and the oath they take to not eat each other on the way. Later books and seasons show their lives in White Deer Park, which includes having cubs and entering a feud with rival animals.
I love the characters in this series, especially Fox, the leader of the animals. They all have stand-out personalities and different ways in which they interact with each other. There’s also a great sense of continuity. Small conversations and moments that would normally be brushed over in a regular kids’ show are given attention here, and it really makes a difference.
There’s a high body count in this series, and this includes main characters. Some deaths are random and shocking, while others come after much expectation. It makes the series feel more real, and reminds the viewer that this is indeed a world of wild animals.
If you like journeys, stories crossing multiple generations, and detailed character arcs, you will love this series!
#1: Watership Down by Richard Adams
And here we are at the great granddaddy of all anthropomorphic animal books, the one that really brought the sub-genre into mainstream media. On the surface, Watership Down is a story about a group of rabbits who travel to a new home and face several dangers along the way. However, it goes much deeper than that. The struggles of the characters vary from dangerous predators, to a lack of mates, to a cult-like group of rabbits that have forgotten the old ways, to a militant warren that keeps all of its rabbits under strict watch.
The lore in this book is simply magnificent. Every now and then, an entire chapter will be devoted to a story about El-ahrairah, who is considered to be the father of all rabbits in their folklore. They also have a unique language, to the point where almost all of the names have a Lapine translation. For example, the rabbits can’t count past four. Anything more than that is a hrair, or a thousand. Fiver, the fifth in his litter, is called Hrairoo in Lapine, which means Little Thousand. But this is never done in a way that confuses the reader!
This book also has two screen adaptations: the movie and the television series. I would recommend both. The movie, while lacking some scenes from the book, carries on the overall tone and is animated very well. The animated series deviates a great deal from the book, creating its own world and allowing for different character arcs. I normally hate it when screen adaptations deviate from the book, but I actually enjoyed how different this series was. It almost felt like a very good fanfiction of Watership Down.
There’s going to be a miniseries premiering on Netflix this year, and hopefully it’s just as good as the source material, or at least close to it. We shall see.
I’d like to take a moment to remember Richard Adams, who died on Christmas Eve last year. “My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”
So, those are my current top 10 anthro series. Are they the top 10 best in the world? No. They’re just the ones I enjoyed the most and think the most fondly of right now. For those of you who are wondering, Warriors didn’t make this list due to the fact that I haven’t read the books in years because of a rapid decline in writing quality midway through the second series. I would recommend the first six books, however. And the roleplaying community in that fandom is pretty active, which is always a plus.
I hope I gave you some new titles to look at. Read, watch, and enjoy. That’s what we fandoms do, after all.