best adult animated shows
From The Boys Presents: Diabolical To Harley Quinn, BoJack Horseman & More – These Animated Shows Redefining The Animation Genre For Adults (Photo Credit – IMDb)


This article explores 10 adult animated shows, providing an overview of their storylines and assessing their suitability for viewers.


In our early years, we were enthralled by the captivating world of cartoons. However, it’s worth noting that the previous generation, including our parents, held the belief that animated shows were exclusively for children. This notion even resonates within our friends’ circle, who maintain the perspective that animated content primarily caters to kids. It’s hard to blame them, as the majority of animated shows do, indeed, target a younger audience.

Yet, there exists a hidden realm of adult-oriented animated shows, and today, we aim to introduce you to a selection of them. We encourage you to give them a chance, for you might find them more intriguing than you initially thought. At the very least, continue reading this article to gain a glimpse of the diversity that these shows offer. Some are uproariously funny, while others delve into intense themes, but all are undoubtedly entertaining.

The belief that animated content is solely for children is not without contention. As we explore the history of adult animation, you’ll begin to understand why. In the 1920s and 1930s, Disney’s early cartoons dared to incorporate mildly risque elements. These included subtle references to alcohol, the era of prohibition, and even hints of s*xuality. Some Disney shorts, as highlighted in ‘Forbidden Animation’ by Karl Cohen, playfully featured gags involving female animals’ undergarments.

The emergence of Betty Boop in the early 1930s as a cartoon s*x symbol through her debut in Talkartoons was another intriguing development, even though she didn’t make her way to television until approximately 1955.

However, a turning point came in 1930 with the introduction of the Hays Code, which mandated a reduction in adult themes in films and cartoons. This code imposed strict censorship on film content, challenging the freedom of expression in animated media.

Breaking free from these restrictions, ‘Fritz the Cat’, released in 1972, shattered conventions as the first ‘X-rated’ American animated movie due to its explicit adult themes. This groundbreaking film marked a significant departure from the traditional narrative associated with animation.

Despite not being explicitly designed for adult audiences, ‘The Flintstones‘ made history as the first animated series to premiere in primetime (8-11 PM on weeknights) when it debuted in 1960. The show, set in a prehistoric world mirroring 1960s society, managed to captivate both children and adults. It achieved this by effortlessly blending humor and storytelling that appealed to a broad demographic.

It’s understandable that some may still harbor doubts about adult animated shows. However, by the end of this article, we are confident that your perspective on such shows will undergo a significant transformation. The world of adult animation is rich, diverse, and certainly worthy of exploration. So, let’s embark on this journey together and discover the hidden treasures that await in the realm of adult-oriented animation.

The Boys Presents: Diabolical (2022)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
The Boys Presents: Diabolical

‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’ is an animated spin-off of the live-action series ‘The Boys,’ adapted from a comic book with the same name. This spin-off comprises eight short stories delving into ‘The Boys’ world, where fame and power corrupt superheroes and vigilantes seek to expose their crimes. Each episode features unique animation styles and tones, spanning comedy to horror, with various voice actors, including some reprising their live-action roles. Creators Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg, also executive producers of ‘The Boys,’ brought this series to Amazon Prime Video on March 4, 2022.

With brief run times, it’s perfect for an entertaining binge, even if it’s not required viewing for the main series. ‘Diabolical’ retains the darkly comic, fast-paced, and bloodstained essence of ‘The Boys,’ showcasing unhinged, artist-driven creativity. The animated format allows the series to transcend budgetary constraints and explore bold, boundary-pushing storytelling in the ‘The Boys’ universe.

Harley Quinn ( 2019– )

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn is a celebrated animated series centered on the DC Comics character of the same name. Developed by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey, the show spans four seasons on HBO Max, with a special holiday episode that debuted in February 2023.

The series traces Harley Quinn’s journey post-breakup with the Joker as she aspires to become Gotham City’s preeminent villain. Along the way, she forms an unlikely crew comprising Poison Ivy, Clayface, Doctor Psycho, King Shark, and Sy Borgman. Harley’s story is one of self-discovery and empowerment, involving the confrontation of her tumultuous past, the acquisition of self-assuredness, and the forging of her unique identity.

Harley Quinn has garnered acclaim for its animation, dark humor, voice acting, and portrayal of its titular character. It offers a refreshing and subversive perspective within the DC Comics universe, serving as a tribute to female empowerment and self-acceptance.

The show’s enduring ability to captivate audiences amid its carnage and irreverence underscores its unique appeal. ‘Harley Quinn’ transcends the norms of animated superhero series, embodying a fearless and distinctive personality akin to its eponymous heroine. It navigates the blurred lines between heroism and villainy in Harley Quinn’s chaotic Gotham, with a core love story anchoring the narrative. Episode after episode, the series embarks on unpredictable twists and turns, all within the framework of its vibrant aesthetic. While it may resemble a classic Saturday morning cartoon, the show promptly parodies superhero narratives, romantic comedies, and various societal themes.

The ensemble cast, led by Kaley Cuoco‘s voice acting, plays a pivotal role in the series’ success. Despite Harley’s frequent outbursts, it remains integral to her character development. ‘Harley Quinn’ excels in weaving together the complex threads of DC’s supervillains, offering a unified theory of their identities. The show maintains a compelling desire to push the boundaries, aspiring to become the wildest incarnation of a traditional Batman story. In the heart of Harley Quinn’s anarchic Gotham, the series skillfully explores the concepts of heroism and villainy, achieving a whole new level of storytelling.

Hit-Monkey (2021)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre

‘Hit-Monkey’ springs from Marvel Comics, a character birthed by Daniel Way and Dalibor Talajić in April 2010. The TV series, created by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, debuted on Hulu in November 2021.

The show unfurls the tale of a Japanese macaque trained by the ghost of American assassin Bryce Fowler, morphing into the vigilante known as Hit-Monkey. His mission: vengeance against the Tokyo underworld for their brutal eradication of his tribe and mentor. On his journey, he crosses paths with Haruka, a justice-driven police officer, and Akiko, a politician harboring hidden motives. This series seamlessly blends action, comedy, and fantasy, interwoven with nods to Japanese culture and mythology.

‘Hit-Monkey’ surprises with a delightful mix of traditional assassin genre tropes and a playful, occasionally heartfelt approach. The show benefits from strong voice acting, featuring George Takei, effective character design, and well-executed fight animations. Despite expectations, it surpasses what one might anticipate, making a second season an enticing prospect.

One of the series’ distinguishing features is its unique use of animation, melded with the exploration of the man versus nature dichotomy. By eschewing conventional “western animation” molds, the animators craft a visual narrative that speaks volumes beyond words, akin to a truly exceptional “anime.” It’s not a mere imitation but a distinct and captivating visual novel. ‘Hit-Monkey’ is highly binge-worthy, providing both a continuous narrative and gratifying standalone episodes.

Season 1 of ‘Hit-Monkey’ revels in graphic shoot ’em up action, embracing a profusion of blood and violence. Notably, it humorously maintains a deadpan approach to its premise, which lends to its charm. The show’s strength lies in its earnest presentation and resistance to undermining itself, a testament to Marvel’s knack for breathing life into lesser-known characters. After ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ ‘Hit-Monkey’ surprises as the origin story audiences didn’t know they craved.

American Dad (2005 – )

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
American Dad

American Dad follows the escapades of Stan Smith, a conservative CIA agent striving to balance his career with family life. The series features his wife Francine, a liberal housewife; son Steve, a nerdy teen; daughter Hayley, a rebellious activist; alien friend Roger, dwelling in the attic; and talkative goldfish Klaus with the brain of a German athlete. The show humorously parodies American culture, politics, and society, often employing absurd and fantastical elements.

Often overshadowed by ‘Family Guy’ and considered its lesser sibling, ‘American Dad’ delves into topics like patriotism, generational differences, political activism, and traditional gender roles, blending fantasy with a touch of reality. The show shines when it presents strong, captivating, and humorous narratives. Although it shares a universe with ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad’ manages to establish its own distinct identity.

The series combines witty social commentary with great voice acting, preserving Seth MacFarlane’s signature humor. While some episodes stand out as gems, others veer into more vulgar territory, particularly with recurring dead animal jokes. Viewer enjoyment largely hinges on episode premises; when they resonate, the show entertains, but when they miss the mark, it can fall flat. The series seems to maintain a balance of hits and misses in its overall delivery.

Love, Death, & Robots (2019 – )

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
Love, Death, & Robots

‘Love, Death & Robots’ is a Netflix original series that delivers a diverse array of animated short films in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comedy genres. Each episode is adapted from a unique short story by different authors, boasting distinct animation styles and themes, including love, death, and the realm of robots. These tales also touch on war, identity, sexuality, and the future of humanity. The show is a brainchild of Tim Miller and David Fincher, who serve as executive producers alongside Jennifer Miller and Joshua Donen.

Structured into three volumes, the series first graced screens in 2019, followed by the second in 2021, and the third in 2022. It has garnered acclaim for its inventive storytelling, animation quality, and inclusivity. ‘Love, Death & Robots’ has been a recipient of numerous awards, including three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program.

Within this anthology, some episodes stand out remarkably and could even warrant their standalone series. The animation quality, in particular, shines in several segments. However, in the anthology tradition, there are hits, misses, and a spectrum in between.

The series, ultimately, thrives in its uniqueness and serves as a captivating and not overly serious anthology. The episodes often lack a clear purpose but succeed in immersing viewers in their distinct narratives. While some might leave you craving more, others could be skipped. Yet, ‘Love, Death & Robots’ possesses a distinctive charm and effectively fulfills its creative objectives.

The Boondocks (2005–2014)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
The Boondocks

‘The Boondocks’ is created by Aaron McGruder, running from 2005 to 2014 on Adult Swim. It originated from McGruder’s 1996 online comic strip. The series chronicles the lives of two African American brothers, Huey and Riley Freeman, as they relocate to a predominantly white suburban area under the care of their grandfather, Robert Freeman. Known for its fearless social commentary, the show satirizes various aspects of American society, addressing issues like racism, politics, and media, often infused with humor and pop culture references.

‘The Boondocks’ stands out for its bold approach to racial themes and timely social commentary. The series boasts exceptional animation, a talented cast, and compelling writing, making it an edgy and thought-provoking animated experience.

The Venture Bros. (2003–2018)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
The Venture Bros

‘The Venture Bros’ is an action comedy series that satirizes the boy adventurer and space age fiction genre. It follows the misadventures of the Venture family, which includes Dr. Rusty Venture, a failed super-scientist and former child prodigy; his naive twin sons, Hank and Dean; and their tough bodyguard, Brock Samson, who protects them from various threats. The show also features a diverse cast, including the Monarch, a butterfly-themed supervillain obsessed with antagonizing Dr. Venture; Dr. Girlfriend, the Monarch’s competent partner; and Dr. Orpheus, the Venture family’s necromancer neighbor. Known for its dark humor, intricate plotlines, and references to pop culture and comic books, the series explores themes like failure, identity, family, and morality.

‘The Venture Bros’ spans seven seasons and four specials with a total of 81 episodes, concluding in 2023 with a direct-to-video movie, ‘The Venture Bros.: Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart.’ The show’s humor and references may not appeal to everyone, but it evolves into a rich, mythology-driven narrative, making it a rewarding experience. The series masterfully balances zaniness with deeper character exploration and familial themes. The writers continually introduce fresh and exciting storylines, unveiling nuances of each character and taking creative risks. At its core, ‘The Venture Bros’ delves into the complexities of a family coming to terms with their shortcomings, especially when it comes to living up to paternal expectations.

King of the Hill (1997 – 2010)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
King of the Hill

‘King of the Hill’ is an animated sitcom created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels for Fox, centering on Hank Hill, a propane salesman, and his life in Arlen, Texas. Known for its realistic and humorous take on American culture and politics, the series ran for 13 seasons from 1997 to 2010, comprising 259 episodes. With a nuanced portrayal of a middle-class Texan family, the show is both hilariously funny and intelligent. It received critical acclaim, including two Primetime Emmys, and has a dedicated fan base.

Judge’s deadpan delivery as Hank adds a distinctive touch to the show, and while some found parts of the series subversively funny and others strange, it’s the unique, quirky nature of ‘King of the Hill’ that draws viewers in. Over the seasons, characters become more solidified, finding their voices and growing on the audience, leading to beautifully crafted episodes that showcase the evolving dynamics within Hank’s family, particularly with his son, Bobby.

BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
BoJack Horseman

‘BoJack Horseman,’ a Netflix original animated series, delves into the life of BoJack, a humanoid horse and former sitcom star. It navigates dark comedy, addressing themes like depression, addiction, trauma, celebrity culture, and the human condition. Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the show features notable voice talents, including Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, and Aaron Paul.

BoJack, once the star of ’90s sitcom ‘Horsin’ Around,’ now grapples with alcoholism and disillusionment in his Hollywood mansion. Supported by characters like his agent and ex-girlfriend Princess Carolyn, his ghostwriter and friend Diane Nguyen, his neighbor and rival Mr. Peanutbutter, and his laid-back roommate Todd Chavez, he seeks career revival and happiness.

The series is a dark refuge amidst neatly wrapped story arcs and light-hearted epiphanies of other shows. It embarks on a heart-wrenching journey of self-forgiveness and failure, adding depth to its satire and humorous cat jokes. Will Arnett’s portrayal of BoJack adds a layer of existential woes, contrasting with his previous roles.

‘BoJack Horseman’ is known for its realistic depiction of mental health issues, coupled with satirical and surreal humor. It thrives in a world where anthropomorphic animals coexist with humans. The show has earned acclaim for its writing, animation, voice acting, and music, garnering award nominations, including three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program.

Behind the animal characters and celebrity satire, ‘BoJack’ offers a profoundly poignant exploration of depression, humorously tempered to prevent it from sinking to the depths its titular character often plumbs.

Gravity Falls (TV Series 2012–2016)

10 Adult Animated Shows Redefining the Animation Genre
Gravity Falls

‘Gravity Falls,’ created by Alex Hirsch for Disney Channel and Disney XD, though not strictly an adult animated show, boasts a remarkable blend of adventure, mystery, and surreal comedy genres. The series unfolds the summer adventures of Dipper Pines and his twin sister, Mabel, under the care of their great-uncle Stan in the paranormal-laden Gravity Falls, Oregon. While helping run Stan’s tourist trap, the Mystery Shack, the kids explore local mysteries.

Debuting on June 15, 2012, and concluding on February 15, 2016, the show spanned two seasons and earned a multitude of awards, including two Emmy Awards, three Annie Awards, and a BAFTA Children’s Award.

What sets ‘Gravity Falls’ apart is its ability to cater to a broad audience. With its humor and maturity that strikes the perfect balance, the series resonates with viewers of all ages. The voice cast, featuring talents like Jason Ritter, Linda Cardellini, and Kristen Schaal, adds depth to the show’s excellence.

It masterfully weaves old-fashioned storytelling reminiscent of classic investigative tales like ‘Scooby-Doo‘ with a modern sense of humor. ‘Gravity Falls’ is smart, humorous, and occasionally spine-tingling, consistently improving as it unfolds. It’s a gem that offers something for everyone without ever condescending to its audience.


When we revisit the shows we loved as kids, we often find that our grown-up tastes have evolved. It’s like looking through nostalgic glasses that sometimes reveal a different picture. However, there are some series mentioned above that offer a unique opportunity. They allow us to savor the past without the need to re-watch the original content. These shows have that timeless quality that can still delight our modern sensibilities. Well, except for The Boondocks, which might be an exception.

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