First American-made Spawn, then a Japanese series Junni Kokki (Twelve Kingdoms).
Spawn, The Animated Series - When I originally saw this on HBO, I had thought it the best "cartoon" ever made. It had nudity, cursing, as much violence as an R-rated movie, as well as being all dark and moody. At the time (about seven years ago), the animation style was cutting edge. However, watching it today, it was sort of blah. The story was interesting, but the animation was old (sort of a step before Batman Beyond's style), and the "edginess" of it really wasn't anymore.
This first season of Spawn (about 2.5 hours of animation) was worth watching once, but I won't be saving a copy of it. However I am currently downloading the second season, and will grab the third once it becomes available. The series is very worth watching once, but in my opinion isn't really up to snuff for saving or multiple viewings.
A few screenshots:
This might be the reason kids are afraid of clowns...
Tons of memories and flashbacks in this show.
Nudity, good and bad.
Moody? Check. Violent? Check!
12 Kokki or Junni Kokki (Twelve Kingdoms in English, with a subtitle or alternate title of Shadow of the Moon, Sea of Shadow) was everything I could ever want in an animated series. The music was beautiful and of cinematic quality. I loved the voice acting, and the subtitles (done by Anime Coalition) could not have been better. Different fonts for humans, gods, god-beasts, and other things, different colors depending on if the speaker was on-screen or off, thinking, etc.
But the best thing in Twelve Kingdoms was the story. While on the surface it uses something other series have (a group of kids end up in a different world and have to survive), that's where the similarity ends. In the fourteen eps I saw (which made the first story arc and can stand alone on their own), this world came to life in such detail! How babies are "born", how new rulers of the kingdoms are picked, all the different types of humans, part-humans, non-humans, and other things. Cultures, different types of peoples and jobs... so many details, I felt like this really was another real world somewhere.
I took way too many screenshots. :)
"God-beasts" isn't a totally accurate name, but it's really hard to describe their roles without writing up a whole essay. But they sure do look cool, huh?
Well, okay, maybe a little ugly when they're mad.
Sometimes they look more human than beast.
Sometimes they totally human.
Of course there are demons in this world, too. Sometimes they look like animals, too.
Spirits come in many shapes and forms.
I loved the half-beast idea, and how they are born. (Which I won't mention, so as not to spoil.)
But look! Half-beast, Man!
Men serve the emperors, and the emperors serve the gods. When they do not...
The opening of the eps starts with the credits over a tapestry. Different parts of it show about the world and and people and wars. It's really pretty and the music is just beautiful.
If you get a chance to see or grab a copy of Junni Kokki/Twelve Kingdoms, don't hesitate! You won't be sorry.