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.



1,569 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. This is an amazing list. Thank you so much for putting it together! I swear… Every list has the same group of amines but this one is different. Even though my favorite anime is and always will be bleach (it was my first show.. I started watching it from day one), I understand why it isn’t on here, along with Naruto, death note, and the many others that people complain about.

  2. Honestly, I only knew 2 anime on this list and I have watched a ton of anime my friend. I don’t know what you were on when making this list but either were into like entirely different anime or you were drunk when making this.

    • It’s sad when you say that you’ve watched a ton of anime, but doesn’t know about 28 other anime’s in the list.

      • Well, some people have a knack on trying to look intelligent by completely distancing themselves from what is popular or with anything of entertainment value. This blogger is indeed one of them. To disregard Full Metal Alchemist, One Piece, Code Geass, and Death Note simply because they are commercial successes doesn’t give justice to their makers. Not to mention industry game changers: Dragonball and Doraemon.

    • Admittedly, some of these are unknown to me. However, if you only know 2 then you are certainly missing out on some absolute gems!

    • You basically just listed the top 6 popular shounen and only two of the said 6 are somewhat comparable to the anime on this list.

      • The naruto anime is bullcrap. But the manga is good. The one piece anime is amazing. Death note too. Fma too. Fairy tale is meh; same goes for bleach: they’re not the best but they’re good – just not as good as OP.. Although I don’t agree with this list of ba. Romance anime.. I can say I agree with one or two. I’ve watched like at least 40 percent of this list and I completely disagree with the top 2… Evangelion is a pile of shit tbh. The characters are just pathetically disgusting. Other than that.. I can say i agree with mushishi and gurren lagann and some others I think.

        • I mean, the point of Eva is that the characters are SUPPOSED to be disgusting, cuz they basically represent the ‘poles’ of human behavior, with Shinji being to the far left and caring only what others think and Asuka being on the far right and caring only what she thinks, with all of the other characters lying on that spectrum somewhere with Rei (barely a human) in the middle. I’ve heard it described as the Rorschach test of anime lol, and makes absoluuuutttelllyyyy no sense, in that wonderful most Japanese-y of ways lol, until you watch it all and get the abstract mind-fukkery (lol, Japan).

          Oh yea, you gotta watch the movie, not the final 2 episodes, which make no sense and are…odd and bad. The episodes are like, a constant DMT trip of dialogue in a closed room. The movie is like, a DMT trip involving the death and rebirth of humanity, with all sorts of FUBAR between lol.

          While some popular animes need to be on his list (seriously, Full Metal is basically (at least thematically to some degree) a remake of Eva with characters you actually LIKE) a lot of the Shounen can be excluded purely cuz everyone has already seen it if they’re googling what anime to watch. But seriously, One Piece is a show purely about the trip, and watching how a (mentally challenged) boy can make an effect on the…what am I saying lol, the plot to One Piece is FORWARD, but the level of colorful silliness is higher than any other shounen, but when it’s time to get serious OP can make you cry lol. It’s got a level of creativity and hysterically Flat-Static Arch-typical characters that everybody loves (and hates). The level of fluff/episode is getting pretty high in the 700s lol, but whats to be expected? Bleach can be pretty annoying, and even Naruto is only interesting when it wants to be, but OP makes you upset when an Usopp episode is over (lol, well anyone BUT Usopp)

          • Tl;Dr
            Eva may take an additional watching, and watch the movie The End of Evangelion, not the last 2 episodes of the series

            Where’s the love for the classics? There wouldn’t be Slipknot with out The Rolling Stones?

          • Totally agree and understand your comment bro. Its just that these types of characters never appeal to me. However, I respect your opinion. Yes, one piece is about the journey, not the destination, and that’s what makes it interesting imo.

    • never saw naruto, but a lot of people say it’s good, fma, i prefer the manga, death note was really good, but i didnt really like the ending. one piece i saw like 3 episodes, so far its a bit boring for me(no offense) but i can understand why people like it, fairy tail i love to death, but i hate the fanservice overload, but i know some people hate it, and bleach, ive only seen one episode, so i cant say anything yet, but im planning to continue watching

      • WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT DID YOU JUST SAY NARUTO IS ONE OF THE BEST ANIME?!!!! WTF DUDE GO WATCH SOME MORE ANIME NARUTO SUCKS ASS. THE MANGA IS GOOD BUT THE ANIME SUCKS ASS. Agreed with death note, one piece, and fma.. But bleach and fairy tale aren’t THAT amazing. Naruto sucks ass.

        • I hav watch naruto’s whole series..and i find it entertaining and motivational..and stop saying its bad and stop giving false advise about naruto..

      • You can’t say anything about one piece for 3 episodes.. Watch 20 and I’ll understand. Right now at 688 the episodes are better than before so at least get to 20 before judging.

        • Yea, you can’t abort one piece before they get to the Grand Line. The only Shounen main character more amusing than Luffy is potentially Goku, but where DBZ is not much but BWRAAAAAAHHH (while dragon ball is awesome, a lot closer to OP) OP has a weird level of balance between the odd and interesting (says something, cuz the show is odd as hell lol). Basically think a version of Naruto that you actually LIKE the whole show, and a cast of wierdos that you’ll probably grow to like. If you like Naruto or Bleach or whatever, watch OP; its very similar but a little bit less 1 dimensional.
          (or maybe its very 1 dimensional, and they just go that direction forever lol)

  3. was scrolling threw and was wondering when Evangelion would pop up XD that show is very very good but i guess of sort of have to truly understand it’s message in order to really appreciate it my favorite is either Evangelion or Blue Exorcist, not really to sure what i love about it so much but i really loved it

  4. I would have liked to see some along the lines of AoT, or lelounch, more darker anime, but decent list, a few i havent heard of and downloading now.
    Cheers.

  5. I’ve recently been exploring, on a search for more anime. I kept looking at “best anime” lists and everything had the same thing. This is an entirely different and unique compilation. I have yet to see any of these little beauties make it onto anyone else’s top anime list, which is a shame. Many people call themselves anime enthusiasts and yet they refuse to watch everything that the anime world has to offer. This is a great collection of the more underestimated shows out there. There were two that I had never even heard of, which is a plus for me because that gives me more stuff to watch. Anyways, my objective is to A, commend you for such a well thought out and tasteful list; and B, thank you for putting the effort in to making said list.

  6. Where are the animes like Dragon ball z or Naruto? To be honest the fact that they aren’t even on the list shows that this isn’t a proper good list at all. I agree with Hunter x Hunter but I want it to be more near the top 5 or 10.

    • Dragonball Z and Naruto do well enough as baseline shounen, but they hardly manage to reach the storytelling apex of anime. Oftentimes, shounen ignore proper and realistic character development in favor of unrealistic “hard work” power ups that do little to really cement the characters as people. This is why I can’t imagine DBZ or Naruto(despite my intense love for DBZ) appearing on a top anime list that has any real consideration for anime as a storytelling medium.

      • I agree with Thalion. DBZ and Naruto are by far some of the most popular animes in North America, however like Thalion said they lack in any real anime character development and focus more on just fighting. Also, if your going to just say that it is a bad list just because those two aren’t there, try to follow up on it. I doubt that you have watched many of the animes listed here.

        • hey dude i might not ‘ve seen a lot of aime shows i won’t agree with you about Naruto if you say that it focuses on fight more than emotion you ‘ve probably not seen it properly…….

  7. I wonder if you’ve seen an anime by the name of berserk? Within it’s genre atleast it is a perfect representation of Anime’s action capabilities.

  8. when it comes to comedy anime, most people would disagree, but the most hilarious anime was Bobobo, I am not putting the whole thing because that would be a lot to spell. To me, its like an anime version of spongebob squarepants

  9. Recently found someone mention in the comments about “downloading some of these shows” based on these recommendations.
    It’s good to see this list inspiring people to watch otherwise-not-so-popular shows. But keep in mind that (at least in North America and especially USA), you can stream most of these series legally (and often for free).
    Therefore, please see the list below.
    Note: some of the Funimation shows are members-only, and Hulu is only available in USA

    30.. Baccano Funimation
    29. Mawaru Penguindrum Hulu
    28.. Psycho-pass Funimation
    27.. Gurren Lagann Crunchyroll, Hulu
    26. Gargantia Crunchyroll
    25. Gatchaman crowds Crunchyroll
    24.. Steins;Gate Funimation
    23. Chuunibyou Crunchyroll
    22.. Spice and Wolf Funimation
    21. HunterXHunter Crunchyroll
    20.. Mushishi Season 1: Funimation; Season 2: Crunchyroll
    19. Gunbuster and Diebuster Unable to find
    18.. Shinsekai Yori Crunchyroll
    17. Hyouka Unable to find
    16. Toradora Crunchyroll.
    15.. Kids on the slope Crunchyroll
    14. Shiki Funimation.
    13.. Kyousougiga Crunchyroll
    12.. Cowboy Bebop Funimation
    11.. Ping Pong the animation Funimation
    10.. Kino’s Journey Hulu
    09.. The Eccentric Family Crunchyroll
    08. OreGairu Crunchyroll
    07.. The Monogatari series Various seasons found on Crunchyroll, Daisuki, also Wakanim.tv if you can read French
    06.. FLCL Funimation
    05. the Tatami Galaxy Funimation
    04. Katanagatari Unable to find
    03.. Revolutionary Girl Utena Nozomi Entertainment
    02.. Madoka Magica Crunchyroll
    01.. Neon Genesis Evangelion Unable to find
    TBA: Shirobako Crunchyroll

  10. I just watched Kids on the Slope. I loved the holy bananas out of it. It’s now one of my top favorite anime that I’ve ever watched.

  11. i think those are just the top of your own, not everyone.
    some anime like welcome to N.H.K and other good series werent there.

  12. I think Utena beats Madoka in terms of artistic quality, but I guess not so much in entertainment value.
    The fact that Utena is even on the list means the author knows what’s up better than the vast majority of anime (re)viewers.

    Serial Experiments Lain, GitS, and Kara No Kyokai feel like they should be on the list, even if it means making the list longer.

  13. I am just baffled how One Piece is not on here! one piece has AMAZING character development, a great story that progresses very well, and just overall very lovable and unforgettable characters.

  14. No Urasawa’s “Monster”? I am rather surprised; Though it might not be in your particular wheelhouse (not meant in a condescending way, we all have preferences after all), as it is a very slow paced, convoluted and rather un-anime-ish crime drama (or you might just not have seen it).

    • I really like it, and probably one of the very few anime that deals with life and is so natural and realistic. Unlike most other anime where improbable things happen around

  15. wow we have very similar taste/opinions! Tatami Galaxy recently usurped my favorite spot (was FLCL), but I agree that Evangelion, while being flawed, is simply the best show the medium has to offer. Would love to get your opinion on Welcome to the NHK if you’ve seen that one. I’m currently watching it (suuuuper late on this one) and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

  16. This list is amazing, admitted. but i just have a general question about anime lists.

    I hardly ever see Space dandy on these lists, is that because I’m missing that it’s awful, or does it just not get the love it deserves?

    It is my favorite anime of all time (though i can’t really explain why) but I never see it in any top anime lists, even though it has genius art and a few really interesting stories

  17. Thanks for the list. I have seen 75% of the list and agree with your reasoning behind every rank. I’ll try to lool up the others as soon as I have some free time.
    However, to leave Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood entirely off the list is just a tad too much, I think. I can understand not listing Naruto, One Piece etc., but how do you justify FMA:B’s exemption?
    The difference (for me atleast) between all the titles listed and Fullmetal is that the latter made me feel angst for the characters. I’m not saying the others didn’t make me feel that, but that Fullmetal made me feel it more intensely.
    I think that the danger the characters were facing actually felt real. I was suddenly reminded of a horror/mystery novel I was reading where the main character couldn’t trust anyone, because trusting someone couldn’t ultimately mean your death.
    Manga had the seem feel to it. And the Anime successfully translates that from the pages to the screen.

    But still, a great list. Thanks.

  18. Thanks a lot for this list !

    I was looking for new anime to watch, and it’s a relief to find your blog after having browsed through bunches of all-the-same top lists that only gather the most-viewed popular shonen.
    I watched a good half of the animes you list here, and I would recommend all of them, so I know that the remaining half is what I will have to watch in the next months ! :)
    Sure, some of my personal favorite are missing (Samurai Shamploo, Afro Samurai, Elfen Lied…), but the fact that you put Puella Magi Madoka Magica as your second best makes it even ! :D
    So, thanks again: I will keep an eye on your awesome blog, and do not bother too much about all the “Hey, where is Naruto / One piece / Bleach” ;)

  19. I was thinking that this was a great list until I saw NGE as #1… But seriously, you managed to sum up the value of the show pretty well, even though I still think it’s overrated. Other than that, this was a fantastic list. Glad to see that Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, etc. weren’t included. They’re fun to watch, but they’re far from being the best shows out there. And I’m so glad that Shinsekai Yori was on here. It’s a pretty damn underrated show.

    • Dear ayy,

      Apparently since you said One Piece is far from the best, you don’t understand anime.

      Sincerely,
      Anime Expert

  20. How come cowboy bebop is never on any lists. Cowboy bebop is by far one of the best animes ever ( not THE best, just one of the best). if any one hasnt seen it and is going to watch it in english, its one of the few animes that are better after they’re dubbed.

  21. Is Sword Art Online to short of series to be on here, or does everyone hate it for some reason? Personally, my favorite of all time.

  22. I finished Gurren Lagann and it is the best anime ever. Even comparable to one piece, and its on Netflix. Gurren Lagann should have been on the top of this list.

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>