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. Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei Best Anime List

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.

29. Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope Best Anime List

After nearly a decade’s absence, Shinichiro Watanabe returned to direction with a serious change of pace – an understated period drama/coming-of-age story. Surprising as that was, perhaps even more surprising was how good Kids on the Slope turned out to be. Its postwar setting is compelling, its characters act like people, and it, perhaps more than any other Watanabe show, beautifully demonstrates his love affair with music. Every element of this production exudes polish, and when its characters come together for a performance, the results are always transcendent. Though it’s not among my absolute favorites, I’d consider Kids on the Slope one of the most “perfect” shows I know – every element is used well, every character leaves a mark, and its understanding of the tension, release, and even unfulfilled longing of youth is remarkable. And those songs!

Kids on the Slope is available at Amazon.

28. Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds Best Anime List

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.

27. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate Best Anime List

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.

26. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai

Chuunibyou Best Anime List

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.

25. Giant Robo

Giant Robo Best Anime List

Giant Robo is Bombast Incarnate. Featuring an epic clash between the Experts of Justice and Big Fire, there’s no room for subtlety in this production – it’s all massive robots and deadly superspies and fights for the fate of the world. It’s also a beautiful thing – a series of seven OVAs released over most of a decade, the show is a gorgeous ode to classic super robot storytelling, brought to life with strong animation and rich colors and epic orchestral scores. And yet for all its larger-than-life size, the show also tells a gripping story, full of fully-articulated characters and reflections on family and human ambition. Giant Robo essentially feels like the final act of the Greatest Robot Story Ever Told – it has absolute confidence, and earns the viewer’s trust through constant dramatic hooks and total polish in execution. Even if you generally like smaller stories, I’d give Giant Robo a chance.

Here’s my essay on Giant Robo.

Giant Robo is vaguely available on Amazon.

24. Sound! Euphonium

Sound! Euphonium Best Anime List

Kyoto Animation excel at making quietly excellent little dramas, and Sound! Euphonium counts as one more feather in their distressingly pincushioned cap. The show is as gorgeous as you’d expect, the drama is understated but well-articulated, and the episodes are full of those alternately funny or poignant little moments that KyoAni’s mastery of animated storytelling always provokes. And Kumiko is one of the most fun people you could possibly follow around a story like this, with her snark and clumsy bluntness making her a refreshing and relatable protagonist. You can enjoy this show for its close viewing of the classic band experience, for its funny mess of jokes and characters, or for its well-articulated personal drama and reflections on goals and identity. It succeeds on all levels, making it one of the most impressive and fully realized high school dramas around.

Sound! Euphonium is licensed but not yet available in the west.

23. Spice and Wolf

Spice and Wolf Best Anime List

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 Best Anime List

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 Best Anime List

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.

2,624 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. Naoki Urasawa’s Monster is an amazing anime never to be found in an top list. Long enough to develop a story, but short enough not to be repetitive.

    • This blogger actually loves Monster! Just, he read the manga and therefore can’t put it in his top anime list.

  2. Very nice list, it has all that I need from such a ranking to make it add some titles to my to watch list
    1) It arbitrary private list – I value them so much more than those made by accumulating votes
    2) It has some titles I’ve never heard about – whenever I see some obscure title it makes me believe that author really just listed the things that impressed her/him
    3) It has titles I’ve seen and enjoy myself – so I can see that we hava somewhat similar taste

    I totally agree about Utena, Tatami Galaxy, Uchoten Kazoku, Kino no Tabi, Ping Pong, Cowboy Bebop, Mushishi and Haibane Renmei. I didn’t care that much about Spice and Wolf, Katanagatari or Hyoka but I admit they had something.

    • Spice and wolf is awesome I really liked that anime but I’m not sure about the other as I haven’t watched it

  3. What about Tokyo goul FMA brotherhood and code grass even guilty crown and undefeated weakest bahamut chronicles

    • Because like he implied in his HxH entry, he’s not a huge fan of that genre in anime. He is reading the One Piece manga though, and posting his thoughts on this blog. He likes it!

      And if it makes you feel any better, he thinks Chimera Ant on its own could be worthy of the top 10, it’s just that it’s not the only arc in the series.

    • one piece seriously. the most fucking idiotic and childish anime ever. In my view a fan of one piece/dbz is not an anime fan but infact he is a bullshit fan

      • A lot of us cut our teeth on Dragon Ball Z, so I have to stick up for it. As for One Piece, I actually agree that it’s childish, but it seems like the new generations DBZ. It’s getting people into anime and that’s what counts. I’m pleasantly surprised at how unique this list is.

    • I mean even as far as long runners go it’s not super acclaimed. Bobduh’s not much of a binge watcher.

    • Inuyuyasha is pretty much like Bleach. It amassed a huge following, but never became known as ‘one of the best anime’ or ever got critical acclaim really and has kind of died out a significant amount, though people will always know of it.

      I do think , to be fair, Inu was bigger than Bleach though.

      • Inu was an amazing show I agree with u but plz some anime just dont get reconized until like 10 years like bleach or one piece or InuYasha

  4. I also think Inuyasha deserves to be on any top Anime list. Anyone who takes the time to watch the entire series and movies and really get a feel for the characters and environment can appreciate it. It is unlike many others in several ways and I think it has a very inviting world to dive into. Sometimes some of the best things are overlooked by the masses. Inuyasha is certainly one of them. Loved the story and characters, thought it ended very nicely as well.

    • If he saw the anime for Monster, Cross Game, NHK, etc. and thought they were really good, they would be on here. But until then, he can’t actually recommend those anime. Things change when something gets adapted, and someone who hasn’t seen the anime can’t speak to how those changes affect that experience.

      For example, Bobduh likes Death Note but dislikes director Tetsuro Araki. So just because he likes something doesn’t mean that he can blindly recommend its adaptation (though he likes the things on this anime list a good deal more than Death Note).

      Despite the title, this post is meant to talk about the shows he personally has been impressed with.

  5. oh shit 😐
    first i did not realize that this is just top anim !
    i was confused what does it mean !
    i thought a lot and there was no answer until it became clear for me that this the anim without manga series or i should say original anim series yeah ?

  6. Ok so I was in to the likes action anime and funny romcom like living with monster girls.
    But I gave, Your lie in April a watch.
    Seriously that had me choking up. Totally had me.
    If none of you lot have seen give it ago.
    Giving the ones on this list I’ve not seen a watch now.
    Cheers for the list and run down.

  7. Why is there no Future diary that was a beast anime, Most people didn’t like the ending but the show is super dark so the ending should be dark, its in my top 10 forsure.

  8. I was wondering, do you have a Top Anime Films list? If yes, can someone link me to it? I can’t find it. If not, are you planning to make one? I’d love to see it!

  9. Idk
    One. i barely know and heard of half of those

    two. 1/3 of those are bad like really -.-

    three. At least add one of the really good ones like dragon ball z or one piece,naruto

    so yeah i think it is a bad one but i don’t really know yet

  10. I just finished Madoka and you’r so right but I’m surprised that some of these anime’s r not on your list (cause most listed I read have at least one of these few)
    1.) InuYasha
    3.)One Piece
    4.) DBZ
    5.)Fairy Tail
    7.)Blue Exorcist
    9.) Pokemon (I’m Sorry I really had to who doesn’t love one ting about this cute little show)

  11. I just finished Madoka and you’r so right but I’m surprised that some of these anime’s r not on your list (cause most listed I read have at least one of these few)
    1.) InuYasha
    3.)One Piece
    4.) DBZ
    5.)Fairy Tail
    7.)Blue Exorcist
    9.) Pokemon (I’m Sorry I really had to who doesn’t love one thing about this cute little show)

  12. Why have I been putting off Evangelion for so long? This is amazing. It is the show I have been looking for, I think. It’s honest, it loves its characters, it understands them. It’s so human.

  13. Admin your taste is as bad as fuck. I mean seriously no Hajime no ippo wait wait now let me give you my list ass hole
    1)Death note
    2)Hajime no ippo
    4)welcome too .N.H.K.
    5)Attack on titan
    6)One punch man
    7)steins gate
    8)parasyte the maxim
    9)code geass(just made in the best list)
    (these are the top of the top ones)
    now top ordinary ones
    1)FMA & FMA BH
    2)samurai champloo
    (these were the top among ordinary)
    (now ordinary)
    3)Eden of the east
    4)darker then black
    5)one outs
    (from here the list becomes more and more crappy)
    7)black butler
    10)Monster(just better then shiity ones)
    (and now the most shitty animes ever made in the history Warning:the lost one is worse then shit)
    1)mirrai nikki/future diary
    2)one piece(thanks for 720 episode bull shit assholes)
    3)TOkyo GHoul(no words to explain this crap)

  14. No fist of the North Star? At least FLCL was in the Top 10. One day, hopefully the One Punch Man will make this list. A very simple story with amazing animation and a huge variety of characters.

    • He didn’t like One Punch Man (Hunter x Hunter is more his style of action), he hasn’t seen Fairy Tail, and he’s reading One Piece instead of watching it.

  15. Pretty incredible list; as someone who’s watched a vast amount (1200?) anime myself, I’m pretty impressed with the turnout of this. There’s four our five I’d replace, and maybe chance the order of some, but other than that it’s extremely solid.

    -one piece
    -blue exorcist
    -fairy tail
    -Tokyo ghoul
    -akame ga kill

    All of them are stereotypical garbage meant to cater to a young audience, with the longer shows having a select few decent arcs mixed in with hundreds of fillers and completely unimportant episode. Tokyo ghoul, akame, and blue exorcist are terrible adaptations of good manga, and it’s a shame they even aired in the first place.

  16. What about Samurai Champloo and Trigun? Or Kill La Kill?
    I don’t really think Madoka should be so high up. I love it, but I think Cowboy Bebop should be higher.

    Also, I just want to put it out there… I really don’t like Evangelion. I almost watched it all. I’ve seen the dozens of remakes and movies… I STILL DON’T LIKE IT. ><;

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