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.

1,898 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. full metal alchemist, dbz, fairy tail, naruto, one piece, bleach, yu yu hakasho, attack on Titan, sword art online

      • Code Geass , Another , Claymore, Helsing Ultimate should be too! It’s world wide know and respected works! I hadn’t heard most of this ones. I agree that some people may like it – it’s they opinion. But looking by polls and worlds ratings – best Anime are Naruto ,Bleach , One Piece, Shingeki No Kyojin , Code Geass, Another , Claymore, Hellsing Ultimate , Deadman Wonderland , Level E – very nice comedy! So Paranoria Agent , Shiki, Death Note! Mirai Nikki , Vampire Knight , Soul Eater ,Hell Girl , mines first – Vampire princess Miyu , High school of the dead , Beelzebub , Freezing , Blood Load , Pandora Hearts , Skip Beat , Yondemasuyo Azazel-San – nice black comedy , Karas , Fairy Tail , OcultIc Academy , Trinity Blood, tokyo Ghoul , Ghost hunt , 12 Kingdoms , Fullmetal alchemist , Kuroshitsuji , Berserk , Elfen Lied , Queens Blade , hataraku maou-sama , Rosario vampire and less others…here is my list not by rating actually but at least some really good ones! Real Anime fan should watch at least half of this list

        • Actually, no. You need to reconsider the semantics of the word “hipster” There happens to be a lot of mainstream anime out there. Some of it’s good, and some of it’s bad. As for the initial comment, well, it listed off quite a few series that I would also consider mediocre.

          Also, it’s nice to come across a list that wouldn’t feature your favorite series, but rather, introduce a few series you may have never even heard of, right? I mean what’s the point of anime if you’re not even going to bother exploring it, and finding cool new series to watch? Hence why comments regarding anime that everyone’s heard of might be considered at least annoying to some people.

          As for elitism. You may be correct there, but it also takes a significant amount of egotism, and abrasiveness to really be considered elitist. After all, he said only a few series were worth watching. He didn’t straight up trash the series as I’ve seen done by others many times before.

    • One of the best football coaches to ever coach once said he asks his potential draft selections one easy question. What are the 3 most important things in your life? Typical answers would be God and Family but the question was to see if the the third item was football. He basically had redflag if football wasn’t in there somewhere in the answer. Same logic but I use it in a sense that if FMA Brotherhood is not somewhere on your list in the top 5 even, then i question your anime judgement.

      • Stupid. When you’ve seen as much anime as myself,(And I haven’t even seen that much.) you should come to an imminent conclusion that no series could be a defining factor of one’s loyalty or status as an anime fan, nor is anime defined by five series.

        I think it’s actually on the contrary. If you can easily narrow down your list of favorites to five, you obviously need to watch more anime.

  2. Where is one piece?man,,if u didn’t watch one piece yet,u should start watching it from now on…maybe u should put one piece #1, naruto #2

    • yes one piece 1 naruto 2 fairy tail 3 GTO 4 koruko no basuke 5 and katekyo hitman reborn 6
      you must watch all of them dont forget dragon ball series

      • Death Note needs to be on here. That is the most unpredictable and satisfying show that dances on the line of moral obligation and human nature since HBO’s the wire. I feel like its a Shakespearen, if i spelled that right, drama. MUST BE ON ANY TOP ANIME LIST. Also for the naruto fanboys, which I am, Naruto is soo cliche, he never gives up and always finds a way to win, just like DBZ, BLEACH, ONE PIECE, and AoT. But they are still classics, just not well written, and full of fillers.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this list. Thank you, sincerely, for this list. Your language is concise, descriptive, and your critical analysis is balanced and fair.

    In reading your recommendations, I felt that I sincerely wanted to watch any of these.

    I didn’t think I wanted to watch Guren Lagann, until you communicated your opinion effectively.

    I hope to read more of your articles in the future.

    Thank you for making this! 😀

  4. A great list all really good but even if they’re joking it’s still painful to see people suggesting you put Naruto and Sword art online. Naruto isn’t bad otherwise it wouldn’t be as popular but the problem with those sorts of shows is that they become coated in filler and it makes them unwatchable frankly and some of the elements of the story and characters is really unbearable too. Sword Art online was only really enjoyable for me personally in the gun gale arc as most of the annoying shallow characters were gone and Sinon the new female protagonist was put in and I found her to be really intriguing until the writer made her lose her cool distant personality and turned her into a kirito worshiping hoe like the rest of them. All the rest was bad creepy incest as well/

    • I’m currently really hot on Gatchaman Crowds personally as it is such an intriguing story and the themes in it are great, of course the second season, which I fear may not be as good as the first, is one now so that’s keeping me amused

  5. Great thx :) I didn’t see Chuunibyou before thx to this list I watched it and definitly not regreting. Few more to check from list i didn’t had chance to watch.!

  6. The reason I don’t watch one piece is…well, opportunity cost. I could watch all 700ish episodes of it, or, in the same amount of time, I could watch…basically all of this top 30 list. And I think it’s safe to say that I’ll probably enjoy 30 shows more than one.

    Of course, enjoyment is highly subjective, so I can see why people watch one piece.

  7. I know it’s a horribly imperfect show and wouldn’t be on anyone’s all time favorites but I’ve really been enjoying K. I can’t wait for the second season and K: Missing Kings was good also if a bit uneven at times. Like I said it’s not a perfect show and it likes to beat you over the head with the obvious at times and really plays up the fan service at others but still there’s just something about this show that has me hooked.

  8. I love this list! I’ve been watching a lot from here, and I’ve to say they have all been great. By the way how about silver spoon? I think it deserves to be here.

  9. Dumbest list ever all the animes in her aren’t even in the top 30 .. Naruto .. One piece .. Death note .. Hunterxhunter .. Dbz .. These animes are in the top 10

  10. You list looks fine but only because on your “watched” list you dont include a huge number of epic shows, e.g. death note, ergo proxy, e. slain, …

  11. Reading all these comments calling this list bullshit just because their favorite anime (Death Note, FMA, Naruto, One Piece, AoT, SAO, etc.) isn’t here is making me laugh my ass off.
    Why is this world so full of stupid people?! Why?!

    • Their not stupid just stubborn and self-centred. They think because it’s their favourite anime it has to be on the list. One day they will realise that everyone has different opinions than they do.

      • I don’t think I’m being stubborn or self centred at all. The list states top 20 anime series of ALL time. The mainstream anime which everyone is asking about, such as One piece, Naruto etc are some of the best anime. They have the highest ratings and have been going on long periods of time, with viewers still interested and hyped for the next release. They may be mainstream, but they are high quality and are great shows that deserved to be recognised.

  12. Wow, this is a great list. I love that it’s personal and I really appreciate the depth and brevity of the descriptions. An instant bookmark.

    You’ve convinced me to try a slew of shows I’d rejected without watching (or just forgotten about). What more could one want from a rec list?

  13. Bobduh’s availability stats look to be based on DVD releases. So here’s some non-DVD, legal sources (mostly Crunchyroll) for shows on this list without DVDs.

    Hunter x Hunter (2011) is available in its entirety on Crunchyroll.

    Mushishi’s second season (both halves) is also on Crunchyroll.

    Kyosogiga’s ’13 episodes are on Crunchyroll.

    As is Shirobako.

    The Tatami Galaxy is on FUNimation’s YouTube channel.

    And if you value your firstborn, Madoka is also on Crunchyroll. It’s good.

  14. might check out a few of these but theres a few I would recommend. I don’t have a specific genre of anime/manga I like I like what I like depending on the plot, characters and the animations quality. Tokyo Ghoul, Kyoukai no Kanata, Nanatsu no Taizai, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Skip beat, Akatsuki no Yona, Junjou Romantica (yaoi), Attack on the Titans – if you want to be sad and depressed for the rest of the day. These are only my opinion on what Ive watched. as others a have suggestions that I always take into account. I use AMVs on youtube as a source of new animes! best place for them although the animes are usually spoiled at least you know what your getting yourself into! I need a happy ending at the end of my animes. enjoy hope I helped x

  15. Thank you for the list, this list was really good for finding new anime because people usually mention same names. i watched some of them after i saw your list, they were really great, it is really hard to find a good show that has a personality. Thank you again

  16. so many comments about not beeing a anime fan… its sad really. if you took the time to read what he/she said about the anime you would understand that the keyword is drama and slice of life and how people interact with 1 another he/she really took the tikme to figure out why he/she loves those anime and wanted to share the reason. why should he/she not? anyway i found a few new anime i havent heard of or watched, i thought i had watched it al Tbh, but now i got a few new ones! thanks 😀 i myself is prolly a mainstream fan! everything with action comedy fantazy horror sports is awsome! i think its sad u dont have some old cool stuff like Slam Dunk or Gundam (SEED and Destiny) or even Code Geass. but even so Bleach Naruto and Once piece are my favorites, but only cause ive grown up with them and whatched from the beginning, there so much good quality anime with less episodes that if i was to start watching anime now i dont think i would have bothered with those. both naruto (with shippuden) and one piece are more then 700 episodes! thats alot to try and watch but i recommend them none the less! they are abit slow at the start but the characters build on you. even tho theres alot of fillers wich is BOOOOORING! but hey im a fan! i wanna see it to the end! 😀 again! thanks for the list i wrote down i few i wanna try!

  17. Really love this. I love how you appreciate each of these shows, it shows so in your compelling descriptions. I can safely say I would love to watch each of these. I for one appreciate this list because it introduces so much other anime that I haven’t considered watching. I’m a huge anime fan. And by definition for many people that terminology varies. But what I distinctly mean by that is I enjoy the art of it. I’m not concerned with the banter on Sub vs Dub (I can do with both) or the acceptable amount watched that makes you worthy of the title. I’m purely just in love with the thought provoking stories anime has to tell. And the emotions they convey. I love anime because it makes me think. It’s not always mainstream and meaningless. There are bad animes don’t get me wrong. But it’s the good ones which remind me why I watch it. I’m purely there for ultimate entertainment

  18. Seems like a good list… Can’t wait to try these out! I’ve been surprised to find Hunter x Hunter there. It really was extremely enjoyable and varied, although it does not get people that well as other animes on this list do. I definitely think Death Note should be on the list too – you would like it. My mind was simply blown by Death Note. Mainstream but excellent manga quality – such a brillant plot, so much tension and a fast, effective pace. Attack on Titan is also pretty good. I stopped watching Sword Art Online after a few episodes, it was infuriating to see how women were sexualized – why on Earth make a camera frame showing a close-up of a woman’s ass in the middle of a serious and casual conversation? Most effective way to turn every female character to ridicule…

  19. OreGairu number 8?? that anime is so pathetic it should be on the worst anime ever created list,its a whiny series all he does is to dramatize everything,garbage

  20. I just realized you think Samurai Flamenco is better than anything in the Nasuverse.

    I haven’t seen either, I’m just making an observation there. Says something about your loving relationship with Nasu.

    Which begs the question, why aren’t there any Nasu scholars on this post like the ones on your ask.fm?

    • I mean, Samurai Flamenco is really good. There’s no shame in being worse than Samurai Flamenco – I chose it as my barrier line for a reason, and there are many shows I enjoy a great deal that fall below that one. As far as Nasu scholars go, I think it’s a matter of convenience – Nasu people generally get mad because of ANN reviews, and from there it’s a much more natural process to rant on my Ask page than to rant on my top shows list.

  21. U guys are crazy naruto is number one and always be number one he is so awesome an what he has been through is really sad and bad I can’t imagine parents dying soon as I’m born an with no one to talk to when I growing he is super strong DONT underestimate him neverrrr do that his dream came true he is amazing outstanding and nice he never goes back on his word his name is naruto uzumaki remember that 😍😍😍😍😍 and it’s more too but not about him yay goooooi team naruto skip one piece can suk my as* mhm not to be mean ya knoww hahah love those Ramon noodles u guys should be more like naruto mhm oh yeah his bday coming up oct 10 remember that u should wish him happy bday mhm I love you naruto don’t worry bout these one piece nerds I would say they are second place and always will be mhm mwhahhah

  22. This list is as close to perfection as it’s going to get (when I say perfection I mean someones ideals matching my own) especially the explanations for their place in line. I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t all just “mainstream” (I was at a loss for a better word) anime being glorified and that someone actually put up a list that has some thought to it. Iv’e pulled a few from the list that i now want to watch because i haven’t seen them yet. I just wanted to thank you for having good taste!

    • I’m not attacking you so don’t take this wrong, but most of the titles you mentioned are just commercial pretty-pretties with no actual value. He didn’t prioritze “easygoing-entertainment”. I like the titles you mentioned too but they just don’t deserve to be called master pieces.

  23. Total props for putting Evangelion at the top. It’s also my all-time favorite. You definitely enjoy the human struggles when it comes to animes, and there’s no better demonstration of the life of the mind than Evangelion. Good inclusion of the really introspective shows like Kino’s Journey, Haibane Renmei, and especially Mushishi.

    Overall, this is a great and unconventional list. (Putting Cowboy Bebop at 13 is fine, but excluding Samurai Champloo is inexcusable.) I’m gonna check out some of these ‘cuz I think you and I have similar tastes (I’m gonna try The Eccentric Family). I was surprised not to find Paranoia Agent on here, though it’s a bit mind-fucky for this list (same for Serial Experiments Lain).

    Overall, good job.

    • He hasn’t finished Champloo, and he’s in the process of watching Paranoia Agent.

      While Lain doesn’t make Bobduh’s top 30, it is in his top 41, which is filed as the “Top Shows Addendum”.

  24. Thank you for this list!

    I have been trying to find a list like that- similar tastes except for a few things( I am not a fan of ‘artistic’ drawings, like in bakemo no gatari, too empty, too much focus on people, they forget the envirnoment or maybe they don’t but i just don’t like the way they use the envirnoment to help the situation the cahracter is in.)

    Gotta say, I had most of those titles on my hummingbird watchlist but because of the “pretty girl covers” and all the childish covers I threw them out… suppose I’ll have to reconsider. Great list! Big thank you!

  25. I know it’s on your watchlist already, but I’d like to give a recommendation to Planetes.
    It’s a workplace drama in the vein of Shirobako, with compelling characters and grounded workplace conflicts.
    Plus, it even made it on to the top list of Flawfinder, which is by no means an easy task.

  26. Hi, I love your site and everything you write is so well said and thoughtful and I am very very grateful for this list. Where do you watch all these anime? Do you buy them on DVD?

    Thank you!

  27. Psycho-pass 1
    Psycho-pass 2
    Code breker
    Death note
    Shiki
    High school of dead
    Tokyo majin
    Tokyo ghoul
    Another
    Deadman wonderland
    Level E
    Hell girl
    Blood +
    Blood C
    Blood lab
    Key spirit
    Is this a zombie !
    Btooom
    Darker than black
    K project
    Kill la kill
    07-ghost
    The lrregular at magic school
    Aldnoah zero
    Terror in pesonance
    Durarara!!
    La storia della arcana famigila
    The betrayal knows my name
    Engage planet kiss dum

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