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. Baccano!

Baccano!

People have described Baccano as the anime version of a Tarantino movie, which to me seems like kind of an insult to Tarantino. Not because Baccano is bad, but because the things the two share – a penchant for non-linear structure and a love of ultraviolence – are basically the least interesting things about Tarantino movies. And Baccano itself is impressive in all sorts of other ways – ridiculous and fun and breathless and breezy, it juggles time periods, endless characters, and rampant subplots with an ease resembling controlled madness, coming off as a slight, entertaining crime caper in spite of all its ridiculous convolution. The end result is closer to Guy Ritchie than Tarantino, but Baccano is ultimately its own thing – an entertaining ride well worth the ticket.

Baccano is available at Right Stuf and Amazon.

29. Mawaru Penguindrum

Mawaru Penguindrum

Though I don’t find it as compelling as Utena, Penguindrum is still stuffed with all the brilliant Ikuhara-ness that makes that show shine. Vibrant characters, plentiful visual inventiveness, a rich mix of ideas (this time concerning family, childhood, the nature of society, fate, and all sorts of other stuff I’d rather not spoil)… Ikuhara shows are busy, but Penguindrum manages to tie all this substance to a fast-paced, compelling central drama. What would you do to save the people you love? What composes your identity, and what is your identity really worth? The show is wild and absurd, but it stays grounded by virtue of the resonant issues it grapples with, along with the passionate, flawed, endlessly endearing family at the center of its spin.

Penguindrum is available at Right Stuf and Amazon.

28. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

27. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

26. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

25. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

24. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

23. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

22. 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 Right Stuf and Amazon.

21. 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.



1,649 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. First, I want to thank you for posting this, a lot of these sound really interesting and I can’t wait to start watching them (my list animes to watch just keeps growing). Second, if you haven’t already, I would really reccomend watching Death Note. It’s a really good anime and, although I may be biased because it’s one of my favorites, it’s probably one of the best I’ve seen and I think you may like it. I feel it deals with human nature and even though the situation the characters are all put in is extreme they’re reactions to that situation, especially the side characters, are all pretty realistic. It also deals with the nature/meaning of justice and how different people have drasticallly different views and opinions on the subject.

    • I remember him saying he’s already read the manga (and liked it) so didn’t really feel like watching the show.

    • This list has basically become my to watch list after completely agreeing with everyone on here that I have watched previously especially after seeing Kyousougiga on it which surpised me quite a bit considering it is one of my favorites. Also Tokyo Ghoul is a good anime but at the time this list was published I don’t think it was released yet. Another notable example of something I care highly for is Fate/Zero which isn’t here and people have different opinions. Considering how good all these anime are comparatively speaking I am not sure even I would rank Tokyo Ghoul that high even though it was pretty enjoyable definitely a top 50 anime.

    • I’ll tell you how, open episode 2 at the moment the bad guy is yelling “im dying, dying, dying!!!(x10)” and if you are a normal human, you cant continue to see that anime.

    • Tokyo Ghoul??? TG had the potential to be good, but it sucked. The storytelling is really bad, animation sucks, no climax. Watch FMAB or HxH and you will see how a war atmosphere should be build.

  2. This list has most of my favorites (which is rare), so I took it pretty seriously and researched a few of the ones I hadn’t watched, with some great results:

    Shinsekai Yori was totally new to me, and while it started off kind of flat, I got sucked in about halfway through. It has some incredibly powerful moments, and I’m really glad I discovered this.

    Kino’s Journey was also something I’d never heard of, so I watched that and thought it, too, was phenomenal, if a bit heavy-handed at times.

    Then I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica and wasn’t particularly amused, haha. I can see why you would consider its form without major defect, since it doesn’t take any huge risks except with the occasional collage-style animation and stumbles very little in its execution, but I wouldn’t put it anywhere near my top 30, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t call it perfect.

    But, you know, you can’t win ’em all, so I tried Katanagatari next. I’m about 8 episodes in, and I’m struggling to push through, because I find it exhausting and predictable. Oh, well, like I said, you can’t win ’em all. I’m a 30 year-old American dude without an exceptional interest in anime as a concept or Japanese culture in general, so I try to watch what’s considered good and remain realistic about the fact that most of it doesn’t appeal to me. The top of the list struck me as more feminine than my tastes tend to run, but I’m still grateful I discovered it.

    To be honest, if you cut out your top 2-9 entirely and rearranged a few things, the list would closely resemble my top 20. Ping Pong, Bebop, Monster and Mushishi are probably my top 4, and I’d sneak Champloo in somewhere around 10.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  3. I am confused how you don’t have one piece, death note or naruto on here. 0.0 Those were the first 3 I expected to see especially since there 3 of the most reconized animes ever to be released. Also sao and attack on titans as new but 2 of the most popular animes.

    • Those Anime is already well know to be called good and I agree with his decision to not put them in this list. How in the world someone doesn’t know those three?

      Did

      • SAO is way too bad to be on any list, the enemy turns out to be a pussy and walks off the plot like some kind of wise hero :S, nevertheless the next enemy turns out to be a mere human a FUCKING LAWYER blackmailing the “hero”, thats just way too stupid.

        • The enemy wasn’t a pussy, and didn’t walk out FOREVER, and the next enemy…. okay, yeah, that was fucking creepy.

  4. Alright so far I agree with your List but why Monster doesn’t make it to the list?

    If it was me the First one on the list is Monster

    While the last is Bacaano just like you

      • Eh, there really isn’t much need to watch the anime if you read the manga. It’s pretty much a panel by panel adaptation. Loved the score though.

        Anyway, interesting list! I think I’ve only seen like half of these but I’m definitely interested in checking some more out. Don’t think I ever heard of Gargantia or Shiki, will definitely plan on seeing those some day though stuff like Utena & Evangelion should probably come first.

        Of what I’ve seen on this list, my favorites would be Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant is my favorite story, period), Cowboy Bebop, Mushishi & Ping Pong the Animation. All within my personal top ten.

  5. i think u cant rank the anime like this. u need to classify them. like action ,thriller, story etc. else most of the animes will be missed out

  6. Where’s Gintama? Gintama is the only one comedy anime with epic action. Gintama also can combine all of genre in anime. There aren’t any animes out there like Gintama. I think Gintama should had a place there if that shitty OreGairu is there. Sorry for grammar error.

  7. Ano Hana, Haruhi Suzumiya, Shirobako are some anime that deserve to be on this list!!! (but thats ok)
    although Ano H can be a bit cry babyish it will still make you cry, these shows are definitely worth checking out, especially Haruhi.

    Been watching Armoured Trooper VOTOMS, its turning out to be really entertaining along with Area 88 (the OVAs). 88 had well directed action sequences and both shows have well thought out episodes.
    Im only on episode 6 of VOTOMS but its turning out to have good pacing with interesting set ups each time. A badass MC and a very warhammer 40k post apocalyptic cowboy bebop style setting (which i love personally). The show is a real robot style show like gundam wing.
    the Area 88 OVAs had amazingly well directed action sequences with moments that will leave you going “No way i cant believe that just happened!”. The MC was tricked into being a fighter pilot for a foreign legion, with themes that are based on the nature of war and what it takes to survive. A bonus: the show has real life jets.
    Although both shows are aged (it especially shows for VOTOMS) they both proved to be hugely entertaining shows that are backed up by some cool 80s tracks. (If you really dont care for aerial combat then maybe skip 88)

    my runner up prize: Daily Lives of Highscool Boys – a comedy with highschool boy style humor, people overthink situations with hilarious results.

    Thank you for making this list, i will check some of these out!

    • ah excuse my ignorance (shirobako), this is the first article I’ve read and i have actually havent been watching anime for all that long. 6 months maybe :s as a side note, i did actually watch FLCL, Cowboy Bebop and OreGairu.

  8. Your list is kind of interesting, not bad but dude, leaving samuari champloo out samurai x trust and betrayal, angel beats, death note, full metal alchemist brotherhood, just too name a few.
    Hunter x hunter 2011 and cowboy beboop are so misplaced they are definitely top 10 in any list they are mastrepiece.
    But hey i cant judje somebodys opinion is just the ones you think are the best for you.

  9. I tried to edit the above comment to remove my “tasteless” comments, alas, I am unable to do so. So I will re-write it here, without the needless comments.

    You just named all the most popular, mainstreamed anime for NA. This is a top 30 personal list, meaning the guy might like these titles, however, there ARE better anime out there.

    A good example would be “Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon”. This anime, is so much better than Naruto is. Also has a lot of potential.

    Naruto – Watched all (Btw, most people dislike this anime, because of Sasuke)
    SAO – Watched all
    Deathnote – Read the manga (Dont need to see the anime)
    Attack on Titan (Watched all available)
    One Piece – Not a fan of pirates, likely not to look at this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>