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.



1,217 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

    • Really i think these animes looked pretty good but not one of my favs was on the list i have not lost any respect for this guy like black butler or death note was not on there or my all time fav my little monster i think i can rember it being called plus you can not really compair anime styles from there story line because they are all diffrent kinds like si fi, horror and so on so for you to lose respect for this dude is not fair and just bearing in mind rember that is his opinion he might not of watched dragonball was it or whatever just saying.
      p.s. sorry about spelling :3

  1. I don’t think you could leave out Blood+, Code Geass and Death Note in your top 30. Atleast one of them would easily make it in there.

  2. Hi! I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your list a lot! I started to watch anime a little more than a year ago and since none of my friends, or family or ANYONE around me knew anything about anime, I felt lost and just watched whatever shows I thought were good, until I came across your list and you introduced me to all these masterpieces! (Madoka literally changed my life :’))
    So, I just wanted to say that. Thanks a lot!
    Hugs from Chile! (please forgive my English)

  3. Yeah, I think you need to re-watch Toradora. If you still think it belongs on this list, you need your head checked. Unfortunately for me, I absolutely must finish a story once I start it. But Toradora is literally the most boring show that I have ever seen in my entire life, and I kind of hope you fall on a spike for recommending it to me. Have a nice day.

  4. I think that attack on titan should have been on the list. It is my favorite anime ever created and it deserves it. I don’t know if this is best anime’s or worst anime’s and even if it is best these are opinions not facts so who even knows. There will never be a way to tell if one anime is better than another, because what if someone watched that anime more than another person. What if somebody hated an anime that someone loved.These are all opinions and opinions aren’t factual. There isn’t and never will be a way to tell.

    I rest my case.

    • Well, I think this is pretty obvious, but these lists can’t be “objective” or “factual” for the simple reason that different people like different stuff in anime, as in everything.

      Every media review is based almost only on opinions, so don be bothered if someone doesn like your favourite anime.

  5. Great list so-far! But I can only see down to #21. I don’t see any way to navigate to the rest of the list and the ‘next’, ‘previous’ buttons at the top go to different articles. Hep!

    • There should be a “Pages: 1 2 3″ right beneath “Like This” at the bottom of the page, before the comments. You can click on 2 or 3 to see the other pages.

  6. hallo,
    I am looking for a new anime to start.
    gurren lagan is one of my favorite animes… so I am looking for a anime similar to it that will make my hair go up becouse its so fackin awsome! So any suggestions? I have watched atack on titan, FLCL, naruto and a couple more…

    • One piece for sure! And don’t give up until episode 30 and don’t let the number of episodes get to you.. It’s more fun when you have a lot of episodes to watch.. Just do it – nike style..

      • xD nike style.. I started it in the past, reached 100 ep and stoped becouse I was watching it in english and some episodes where left out in english so I got mad and stopped it.. never watch anime in english kids.. definately gonna start it again in the feature… thx

        • You’re welcome but dude watch it English subbed not dubbed. The dubbed is good compared to others but it ruins the experience. It’s so much better with the Japanese plus English subs, and they don’t make subs anymore as far as I know.

    • Oh and do not search a single thing about one piece because I got many spoilers and had it ruined for me. Do not watch any one piece movies until any time after episode 500. Do not search episode 500. Do not say h any tv specials until after that too. So just after you finish the arc that is around 500s, you may watch the other stuff, which are also pretty damn good.

  7. Wow. Dude. Where’s Inuyasha?
    Sailor Moon? Kuroshitsuji? Naruto? Bleach? Ouran High School Host Club? (I mean, c’mon, if your a slop for romance you’re really missin’ out here) Durarara? Gakuen Alice (The manga is better I guess) Kaichou wa maid sama?
    Fullmetal Alchemist? Clannad (Ya, know, the saddest bestest anime ever? T^T) I won’t mention Death Note and Code Geass ’cause I see others bein’ already given you shit about them..Sword art online though? Fairy Tail? Soul Eater? Wolfs Rain? Honestly, I cold go on forever. And seriously, if anyone new to anime (By new I mean only started watching in the last 2 years) hasn’t seen these, seriously, stop reading and get your butt seated in front of your computer and watch these amazing animes. They all have heart wrenching story lines, beautiful art styles and episodes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

    • what do you suggest for a real anime newbee? like seriously new (as in the last year) so far I’ve only watched (please don’t laugh), Pokemon, Digimon fusion, yugioh, and Avatar Last Airbender plus a few , movies like Piplo. serious newbe! please help! :3

      • Depends on your likes and dislikes, for me I do not care much for mech stuff. Ones that I usually recommend are Maid Sama, Soul Eater, Full Metal Alchemist, and Zero’s Familiar. (Also check out anime news network’s website, they have info on just about every anime ever to come out.)

  8. Looking through your list of watched shows, now that I am just as into anime as you are (although with no interest in making lists for anyone other than close friends) I see that our tastes differ greatly, given that you dropped some of my top 5 after a few episodes. That said, I would recommend Btooom!, Medaka Box, Mirai Nikki, and Strike the Blood. Most to your taste will probably Medaka and Btooom!, but give the others a try as well. Also, No Game No Life picks up around the middle of the show as far as concept, and it truly pains me to see Akame ga Kill dropped after one episode.

    • It may also be noteworthy to you, among the very first few I watched, NGE and Puella Magi were the ones that sucked me into a new world, and both of them were watched because you have such vivid descriptions of them.

  9. No CODE GEASS,??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? it was better than cowboy bebop for crying out loud

        • Code Geass is the funner show. Bebop is the greater show. Geass is a fun ride, to be sure, but it is lacking in the technical mastery of story and animation put on display in Bebop. Code Geass is an amazing piece of entertainment. Cowboy Bebop is a great work of art. Well, that is how I feel about it anyway.

          As far as your objection to it not being on this list, Geass is actually number 31 on his list, so it JUST BARELY didn’t make the cut. It’s still on his top 50 though. You can check that out on the extension of this list he made if you click on list at the top there and scroll down.

  10. Hello, Mr.Bobduh. I sent my comments to ask.fm.
    I learned the article of Top Anime lists 30 on a japanese web site. It is objective and useful for me too. Then on the column of comments, always there are many severe or cruel comments, however your selection is high evaluation. Some wrote “this is not selected by pictures but by tasting its story” or “it’s good taste”. Even there is a comment ” this can be more trustworthy than japanese one”. Like these, it is popularity.
    Incidentally, this is my question, have you ever watched the Animes original made in “Key”?(Key is one of the japanese game brand) And If you have watched it, please I would like you to give me your opinion. For example, “CLANNAD” or “AIR”. CLANNAD is one of the masterpieces in japanese anime. These works have attracted japanese people and have not stoped it even today.
    I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Hello! I’m surprised to hear my list has shown up on Japanese sites, but thanks for stopping by. The one Key work I’ve seen was Clannad (along with Clannad After Story), which I had mixed feelings on. I wasn’t a fan of the show’s early material, but thought the section after high school (the second half of After Story) was very good. I think Kyoto Animation are at their best when they’re creating small, relatable character moments, and I think that stretch of episodes had some of their best.

  11. I totally respect your top 30 but in my opinion These anime belong to the top ten:
    Full metal alchemist
    Hajime no Ippo
    Death note
    Hikaru no go
    Kenshin Love and betrayal ovas

  12. Pretty good list it included a lot of good anime but there were quite a lot of anime that deserve to be on the list but none that don’t deserve to be on the list. The oly mistake I see with the list is it would of done better as maybe a top 50 or 60 list, and You explained why you like all of them witch was pretty cool. This isn’t how my list would be arranged but we all have different preferences.

  13. Nice list! Very refreshing to see some of the newer deserving titles on there. I noticed you didn’t check out Monster yet, and definitely recommend it. Berserk and Technolyze are fantastic too, but Monster is very much worth a watch.

  14. Where’s Full Metal Alchemist/Brotherhood? Trigun? Rurouni Kenshin?Berserk?Attack on Titan?… so many good anime series left out…

  15. I second that you should watch Ouran High Host Club. And I also thank you for your well written and well presented article. My girlfriend and I will now be working our way through your list that we haven’t seen.

    =)

  16. Here is my Top 10:
    10.The Law of Ueki
    9.Tokyo Ghouls
    8.Bleach
    7.Hunter x Hunter (2011)
    6.Attack On Titan
    5.One Piece
    4.Akame Ga Kill
    3.Death Note
    2.Air Gear
    1.Naruto

  17. I have watched quite a lot of anime from so many different categories. I like your list even if I don’t personally agree with all the choices on it. I have never sat down and made a top list or rationalized them out. Here are ones that I do find myself recommending to others though:
    Air
    Soul Eater
    Zero’s Familiar
    Wolf’s Rain
    Wall Flower
    Princess Princess
    anything Studio Ghibli
    Ranma 1/2 (it might be “old” but it was one of my first animes and holds a special place)
    Slayers (same here.. one of the first series I watched all the way through. An oldie but a goody)

    I am glad to see a list that does NOT include Bleach, Dragon Ball or Pokemon! There are a lot of popular but highly over rated animes out there.

  18. So i’ve checked your list and, as someone who has seen more anime series and manga than he remembers, there are a few I consider to be a must see and which I fully recomend (in no particular order and only series that have ended):

    Trigun
    Gungrave (please don’t judge the series by the “beyond zagreb” parts the main story is awesome!!)
    Wolfs Rain
    Mirai Nikki
    Zankyou no Terror (which i realize is in the addendum)
    Ouran HighSchool Host Club (a bit off from the rest of the list but I can be a centimetre (obscure reference) faggot as well)
    Helsing Ultimate OVA
    Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (mainly the first season)
    Black Lagoon
    Tokyo Ghoul (yeah the main character is an idiot for most of the series but that ending though)
    Rurunin Kenshin (damn, old but gold)
    Full metal Alchemist (watch both for different feels)
    Another (I quite enjoyed this on despite being gory and all, i really enjoyed the plot twists and the character development, oh and great OST)
    Darker than Black (great first series and the second isnt bad as well)
    Mushishi (very of the list but a nice show as well)

    and my def. #1 of all time and the only one on this list that is still ongoing
    #1. One piece – Before you start watching take this into consideration – dont let the first 40/50 Episodes demotivate you, this series grows on you like a mofo, don’t watch any movie until you are beyond the Mariejoa Ark (i think around episode 500). If after a fight against a strong character a little children appears to be in trouble, it’s a filler, please fast forward until the little children or mini person is waving goodbye all happily.

    • the centimetre reference is to samurai champloo which isn’t so obscure and you should also definately watch. as well as Afro samurai, for some reason having Sam. L. Jackson as the voice of the main character makes it even more badass.

    • ONE PIECE IS NUMBER ONE 4SURE! Glad to see someone think the same. Oh and the fillers are pretty good I’d recommend watching all of them.

  19. Hmmh… How about triggers Kill la Kill? In my opinion, despite its light nudity, it has the best mixup with puns and the plot. Shoud defenitely be in this list. Anyone with me?

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=""> <strike> <strong>