Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

Yep, I’ve finally put together a top shows list. As I hopefully made clear in part one and part two of my critical biases post, this is obviously my list – it represents the things I think are most valuable in stories in the way I think they’ve best been articulated. It’s also just a list of shows I enjoy – there’s no hard criteria here, so I wouldn’t stress the numbers too much. Also, it’s a bit front-loaded – I only started watching anime seasonally about two years ago, so the last couple years are disproportionately represented. Incidentally, I’m not including movies here either – I think direct comparisons between shows and films are a bit of a stretch, but if they were included, this list would certainly be somewhat different. And finally, I’m absolutely (and thankfully) certain this list will change over time – there are still piles of widely beloved shows I’ve never seen, so I’m sure the current rankings will be filled out in the years to come. So with that all said, let’s get to the list – Bobduh’s Top 30 Anime of All Time.

-edit- I have now created a Top Shows Addendum for shows that have either fallen off or just barely missed this list. Please enjoy these additional almost-top shows!

30. Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass

This show’s pretty textbook Urobuchi – one part compelling fantasy setting (a thoughtcrime-obsessed dystopian cyber-future), one part fun tweak on a classic genre (crime procedural by way of Bladerunner), and one part cynical yet optimistic attack on the inhumanity of utilitarianism, as well as the poignance of human nature. It’s fun as a straight crime drama, it works as a sharp-edged exploration of how society always creates friction with the individual, and its aesthetic is all kinds of stylish. Not Urobuchi’s best work, but standard Urobuchi is much better than most anime out there.

Psycho-Pass is available at Amazon.

29. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann is absolutely Not My Kind of Show, but it’s just so good at what it does that I have to love it anyway. The energy, the enthusiasm, the soundtrack, the fantastic visuals – it’s an exuberant love letter to mechs, hyperbole, and hot-blooded enthusiasm, and you’ll either absolutely hate it or end up swept away. It’s also pretty funny (though this is mixed with plenty of stuff that’s pretty not funny), has a broad and endearing cast, and even has one point of actual intelligence – Rossiu, whose arc and conflict possess a depth bizarrely out of whack with everything else the show is doing. Rossiu’s existence is probably the tipping point that knocks this show onto this list, but if you’re in the mood for pure, silly entertainment, Gurren Lagann is happy to entertain.

Gurren Lagann is available at Amazon.

28. Suisei no Gargantia

Gargantia

Gargantia is both the most complex exploration of Urobuchi’s ideas he’s yet attempted and likely the most deliberately personal story of any of his works. By tying his usual ideas about utilitarianism and human nature to the story of one young man finding purpose in a new, unfamiliar society, he turns Gargantia into both a positive story about the rewards of embracing adulthood and an exploration of the purpose of society in the first place. Gargantia’s also just an enjoyable show to spend time with – the world of Gargantia is rich and beautiful, and the way the show shifts between full genres throughout its run does a great service to both Ledo’s journey and the impact of Gargantia as a setting. It’s fun, pretty, and possibly the most unassumingly thoughtful of all of Urobuchi’s shows.

Here’s my review of Gargantia.

Gargantia is available at Amazon.

27. Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei

There are few shows that create such an engaging, consistent sense of place as Haibane Renmei. The town of this show is vivid and inviting, and there is a sense of warmth and peace permeating much of this show. The atmosphere is the greatest strength here, but the rest of the show is no slouch – the writing is understated but effective, and the show’s mysteries offer ample reason to explore the strange corners of this world. Haibane Renmei is sitting back on a lazy Sunday and watching the sunlight play through the trees. Creating such a sense of peace is a rare and excellent thing.

Haibane Renmei is available at Amazon.

26. Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman’s a goddamn busy show – in the course of a 12-episode run, it covers everything from internet culture to crowdsourcing to the necessity of leadership to social responsibility to human nature to… well, you get the idea. And it explores all these ideas while also staying remarkably light and breezy – you could enjoy the show purely as a fun, visually interesting, musically brilliant adventure without even thinking about how identity is constructed in the digital age, or whatnot. And when you combine these two strengths, you get a show that proves you don’t have to be dry to be smart – you can make awesome points about how the internet will change the world without ever giving up a sense of fun and moment-to-moment excitement. Brain food and comfort food at the same time.

Here’s my review of Gatchaman Crowds.

Gatchaman Crowds is available at Amazon.

25. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate

Half witty, endearing slice of life, half thrilling time-travel drama, Steins;Gate is a strange mixture of elements, but the end result has a lot going for it. The story is really compelling, for one thing – the tension it slowly builds is released in a thrilling second half, full of twists, turns, and all the quirks a good time-travel story should have. The humor is surprisingly sharp, too – this was a show I actually picked up in the first few episodes, and the pitch that sold me on it was “it’s like an anime comedy, but good!” And underlying both of these strengths is the great cast – in the midst of all the scifi shenanigans and episodic tangents, Steins;Gate finds the time to also tell one of the better love stories in anime, featuring a couple that are compelling independently but completely adorable together.

Steins;Gate is available at Amazon.

24. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai

Chuunibyou

Considering how much I’m disliking the second season, I’m probably gonna have to revisit my feelings on this show at some point, but for now, all I’ve got are incredibly positive memories. The first season of Chuunibyou has focus – though it’s comedy-heavy, almost every episode of its first half is indispensable in setting up its cast’s personalities and dynamics. And once the die is cast, it tears out of the gate, covering more romantic drama in six episodes than most shows manage in a season. It’s also a great example of all the things KyoAni really does well – it’s full of small character moments and beautiful colors, and its sense of comedic timing is best in class. Tie it all together with a legitimately thoughtful thematic center, and you’ve got a pretty impressive romantic comedy.

Chuunibyou is available on Amazon.

23. Spice and Wolf

Spice and Wolf

It may not be apparent from this list, but it turns out I’m an incredible sucker for romance. Chemistry, banter, moments of sacrifice for the one you love – all it really takes is one great couple to get me through a show. Unfortunately, most anime is really bad at portraying romance – it flounders in cliches, it creates artificial drama, and it doesn’t understand actual rapport. Standing as one of the premier counterexamples to this sad trend, Spice and Wolf is about as endearing and well-drawn of a romance as you could hope for. Its characters are distinctive and bounce off each other well, its dialogue displays great personality and chemistry, and it’s apparent again and again how much its protagonists care for each other. Though I also am a great fan of its aesthetic and economic focus, the thing that makes Spice and Wolf a top show for me is the fantastic romance at its center.

Spice and Wolf is available at Amazon.

22. Hunter x Hunter 2011

Hunter x Hunter 2011

As the only long-running shounen on my list, HxH’s a bit of an outlier. But HxH is not your typical shounen – directed by Madhouse (likely my pick for the best studio of all time) and adapted from a source by the writer of Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter is basically a master class in what makes adventure entertaining. Though it starts off “only” demonstrating it knows how to make challenge-based television entertaining (in lieu of actual fights, it generally sets up compelling puzzles of all shapes and sizes for its heroes), it ends up jumping from genre to genre, dabbling in crime thriller, tournament shounen, and even war drama. And through it all, the show’s fantastic aesthetics elevate it above almost everything out there – in direction, in sound design, in pacing, in animation, in basically every relevant aesthetic metric, Hunter x Hunter triumphs. That it’s been maintaining this level of quality for well over a hundred episodes is nothing short of astonishing – in fact, I’d say Hunter x Hunter has only gotten better over time.

Here’s a critical breakdown of HxH episode 116, and here’s an essay on the recently concluded (and breathtaking) Chimera Ant arc.

Hunter x Hunter 2011 has not received a western release.

21. Mushishi

Mushishi

Mushishi is one of those strange, special shows that seem to just emerge confident and fully constructed, exude excellence for all of their running time, and then go quietly on their way. Its vignettes are dreamy and ambiguous, full of resonance and compelling ideas but never didactic. Its world is mysterious and enchanting, evoking both a more resigned and possibly more dangerous version of Miyazaki’s mystical forests. Its production is fantastic, with beautiful backgrounds matching a wonderfully understated musical score and a great sense of pacing to conjure its powerful, singular atmosphere. And all this works in service of a show that’s fundamentally just incredibly calming and sedate – a series of long, lazy afternoons spent enjoying the company of a master storyteller.

Here’s my essay on Mushishi.

Mushishi’s first season is available at Amazon.

1,797 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. Great list! I really recommend finishing the Yuasa catalog. While Kaiba and Kemonozume are a lot messier than Ping Pong or Tatami, I actually found that they resonated a lot more with me. Both are original works by Yuasa and so his vision feels very clear. I’m sure these are already in your catalog, but I think they, especially Kemonozume, would resonate with you.

    • I’m definitely going to get to them when I can! I’ve actually had Kaiba slotted in as one of the next shows I watch for a while now.

  2. Great list !! I have checked some of them on your review and decided to try it out, many of them are really good (Especially Oregairu, I never tried it until I saw your review and it is one of my favorite now.)
    Anyway, can you do a review of Chuunibyou the second season?
    I know that it is not as good as season one which I really love and glad to see it on your list but I think it still has a potential though.

  3. You have an amazing list!! There’s so many anime i have to watch now. I have a recommendation (sorry if they’re already on your list and i just missed them). Legend of the Legendary Heroes. It’s not the most well known anime and is kind of doofy in the beginning if that’s the right word for it, but it gets deeper as it goes. And its only about 25 episodes so nothing too long.

    • i agree the dragon ball series was a classic these anime’s and i couldn’t help but notice but it seems this list hasn’t not got any anime which people would put under the category mainstream why is that?

  4. Really great list, I couldn’t do a better job at a top anime series list. In fact, my own top 30 series list would be mostly identical to yours but changing the ordering.

    I recently watched Katanagatari just after seeing it here. Great show as well. Now I will watch Eccentric Family and OreGairu, the ones I haven’t watched from your top 10.

  5. Wow I feel like such a noob. I haven’t even heard of 95% of these animes. I got a lot of catching up to do.

    This might be un-hipster and “too mainstream” for me to suggest, but the ORIGINAL Dragon Ball series is a classic. Great adventure, humor, characters, fight scenes, and emotional content.
    Maybe it’s #31 on your list?

  6. why do i feel dat dis list is a bit…..sluggish….no FMAB,no DBZ,no Parasyt the maxim or whatsoever…..nope!!!…….sorry,but i think its a very awkward list…..and who puts steins gate and psycho pass so below in a list!!! TOTALLY ABSURD!

    • This person just doesn’t enjoy DBZ, FMAB, and Parasyte.

      Having seen both Steins;Gate and Psycho Pass (the former being one of my favorites), I’d say maybe one reason they’re on the first page is because they’re a bit sterile (in my opinion at least)?

    • We are talking best of all time here, not crowd favorites. I love naruto as much as anyone but you have to admit the writing is pretty juvenile, honestly a lot of the most popular anime are rife with poor writing mechanisms.

    • if you read it you’d understand a majority of these are coming of age/slice of life/ romcom this person obviously likes that kind of show more than action/suspense/drama, even evangelion is slow in my opinion. But shonen do not ever deserve a high spot on a top under 50, imdb has them all above the 60 range and i agree, they are great fun to watch, and can be hilarious but despite my liking of them i do not believe they contend for the throne

  7. I haven’t watched it in years, but the second I saw Shinsekai Yori on here, I got goosebumps down my spine. Seriously guys, you need to watch this. I’ve watched more anime series than I can remember, and lots of them have faded from memory, but Shinsekai Yori will never leave my mind. Its just too good, characters too strong (In my opinion, most seem to oppose that viewpoint) and the story will tear your heart to pieces

  8. No Fullmetal Alchemis of any flavor?
    No Samurai Champloo?
    None of the “classics” like Astro Boy, Space Battleship Yamato, and Macross?

    • Don’t forget the original colored anime film: Hakujaden (1958). Based off a Chinese folk tale.
      If we’re talking about classics, this is worth looking at.

  9. HxH should be higher but I understand this is your opinion my top five all tied for first
    Hunter x hunter which is probably my fav
    Full metal alchemist brotherhood
    Magi
    Attac on titan which had the potential to be the greatest anime of all time
    Fairy tail cause it makes me laugh and desent battles
    These are my top some because how good they are and some because of the wsy I feel when I watch them like magi makes me feel uplifted and fairy tail makes me laugh
    Worry mentions some could be switched with ones on my list
    Sao, akame ga kill. pysco pass, chiaka the coffin prince, Jo Jo, k,

  10. Excellent list, gives me a lot to look into! I share your enthusiasm for character driven stories, and I feel that anime is probably the best medium for such a style.

  11. I must say: Your list is wonderful. Thanks to your list, I finally watched Utena, finally finished Bebop, watched Crowds, Toradora, FLCL and Gargantia. I will keep exploring you list. I already watched Lain, Zankyou no Terror, Aku no Hana, Code Geass, Penguindrum, Psycho-Pass, Haibane Renmei, Shin Sekai Yori, Shirobako, Madoka and Evangelion prior to checking this list. All great works, but by now, Utena and Bebop (and Nadesico, which isn’t on this list) are tied with Madoka and Eva as favorites.

    If you’re interested in suggestions here’s a list of anime I personally loved:
    -Aoi Hana
    -Azumanga Daioh
    -Blue Drop
    -Bokurano
    -Boogiepop Phantom
    -Bubblegum Crisis (for those who love 80’s anime. I started anime this way)
    -Cardcaptor Sakura (The CLAMP Classic)
    -Durarara!! (same author as Baccano!)
    -Ergo Proxy
    -Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
    -Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (the definite GitS, in my opinion)
    -Martian Successor Nadesico (God damn it, I loved Nadesico)
    -Now and Then, Here and There
    -Paranoia Agent (Satoshi Kon’s only TV Series)
    -R.O.D. the TV (Deeper than the OVA, if you ask me)
    -Texhnolyze
    -The Vision of Escaflowne
    -Un-Go

    There are also a bunch of Anime I heard are great, but still haven’t checked. Those are:
    -Crest of the Stars
    -Hourou Musuko (from Aoi Hana’s author; deals with transgender kids)
    -Legend of Galactic Heroes (apparently, the anime no one dares to troll)
    -NANA
    -Real Drive
    -Sasameki Koto (compared to Aoi Hana as a down-to-Earth Yuri)
    -Simoun

    I have the impression I’m the only one on Earth who’d enjoy Seraphim Call. I love it, but haven’t seen anyone else who does. You may try it if you want. Can’t promise it will be of your liking.

  12. This List is great. I haven’t seen a majority of them on here. I’ve finished Shinsekai Yori – which was AMAZINGLY good. I started on Haibane Renmei today and I had trouble really focusing and following it; I’m on Ep. 8 right now and I feel lost. So maybe I just wasn’t giving it my full attention. I want to watch a lot of these.

    I always find myself searching googling ‘Best Animes to Watch’ and this is by far the best list I’ve seen. Thank you. This helps me with my lazy/boring weekends since I’m home from college. (:

  13. Is “Ping Pong the Animation” actually anime?
    It seems more like a detailed style of cartoon made in Japan than an anime.

      • Visual and audio presentation is great. YMMV with the story depending on whether you resonate with its themes and characters.
        Check out this blog’s author’s posts on it.

  14. Well…great list but I couldn’t see my favourite anime; Death Note. It was a great one, I have watched it several times. So, try watching it.

  15. Really like your descriptions and will definitely check these out. I feel if you like these, you’d probably like Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a gripping story with deeply flawed characters and fascinating animation – my personal favourite by far.

    • I think your list will be more effective if you explain what you look for out of a show and then show how your top shows fit those criteria.

  16. Just thought I would share some of my favorites, and see if you’ve seen them 😀 I really had a great time watching Mononoke, as well as Shigurui. Both are quite deep, and quite dark I would say, but worth seeing at least once. I’d also really recommend Monster. That show made me think a lot about humanity, and just how powerful one person’s words can be.

    • Also Elfen Lied O_O I don’t know if I was just young when I watched it, but that show was so emotional for me. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

    • I also wondered why it isn’t listed there. I mean all my favorite NHK surrogates are in this list (like Tatami Galaxy for example) just not the masterwork itself

      • He has read the manga for it, and he generally doesn’t watch the shows if he has already read the story. However, the anime differs from the manga in several ways and it is worth partaking of both imho.

  17. You should totally watch Vampire Knight, it tells the story of an academy that has two classes one for humans and the others for vampires. The two guardians Zero and Yuki have to protect the humans from finding out that the other students are vampires and it also shows the romantic side between two people very important to Yuki. I thought it was an amazing show and I wish that they would make more seasons since I have so many unanswered questions about the show. It had officially ended however I really wish they carried it on I’m having a Hazel Grace moment right now where she wanted to know more about “The Imperial Affliction” ( p.s sorry about the long comment i just love the show that much! :) )

    • Actually it reeks of someone who values good character writing, strong thematic storytelling and shit like that.

      How dare he have such opinions?! Next he’ll say FSN has bad writing. What a tosser

      • You eat your mother with that mouth? No reason to be “that guy”, I was just stating my opinion as well. I just wouldn’t call most of these anime mainstream, that’s all.

  18. It’s pretty sad that when you seach “best anime of all time” on google this page comes up as first or second choice. It would be understandable if this was a pure list and wasn’t ranked in order, but as it stands now it’s ranked atrociously based on little more than personal tastes, I seriously doubt the author of this list has even watched enough anime to have the credentials to put it together.

  19. This list is great and it gives me some wonderful anime choices, considering I’ve never read, nor watched any of these (sad, I know).
    But, out of interest, you didn’t mention any of the “Big Five”? Personally, I despise, Bleach and One Piece (mainly Bleavh), but – Where’s Naruto? :( I absolutely adore Naruto and, yes, some people do say it’s childish, but I don’t find it so. So! Would you mind elaborating?

  20. So what no Fate/ Stay Night?

    I would have placed Shinsekai Yori at the first place, but its just my point of view 😉

  21. I was looking for a good anime so I stumbled upon this list. There’s never been an Anime to ever surpass NGE – in my own opinion. And when I saw NGE as #1 I was rejoicing. Kudos to the one who made this list. (not only for giving credit to NGE but for the interesting recommendations)

  22. Holy avocados, WHAT THE HELL…?

    I checked your animeList…
    YOUR DROPPED LIST…? KILLED ME…
    MOST OF YOUR RATINGS…? KILLED ME…
    YOUR TOP 30…? KILLED ME…

    You dropped some anime or underrated lots of stuff that can easily match one of your tops… (perhaps you got your days where you get impatient and drop stuff quickly…?) then again, that’s a personal taste.

    You gave me such a strong mental breakdown, that I am going to watch all of your top 30 list you mentioned. (about 20 that I did not watch.)

    You seem the contrary of me, which in turn,
    a very interesting subject to study.

    Here is some that I believe you did not watch that is worth checking:
    -Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. (7/10)
    -Aoi Hana. (7/10)
    -Aoi Bungaku Series.(8/10)
    -Kaichou wa Maid-sama! (7/10) (I’m not sure if you would like this based on the data I’ve seen,.)
    -Higashi no Eden. (6.5/10) (I’m suggesting shows I liked + you still did not watch, however this anime while interesting it was rushed.)

    /*********************************
    -Arakawa Under the Bridge. (10/10) (UPDATE: Potato! you watched it and rated it 3…? You did not catch the “deep” meaning behind it. this is one of the few shows that an average kid and an average grown up can watch the anime together, then get two completely different answers if you asked them both what did they just saw.) the 2nd season is as enjoyable my fellow negative…
    *********************************/

    Well, there is not much anime into my life anymore but I will be using your list as a pointer to what should I watch when I feel abandoning my studies for a bit.

    Good luck! and I hope night-raid will get you for what you dropped. c:

  23. Um, no DZB!!! That’s what got me into anime, still remember running home in grade school to watch it on TV! It’s still to this day the only anime show I have watched dubbed! It will always hold a spot on my top 10 list <3 great list though!! have only seen about half, I don’t have time to watch as much anime as I used too. =/

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