Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

Management: I’ve started adding new shows to the list, meaning that “Top 30″ title will be becoming less and less accurate over time. I hope you can forgive me for highlighting more good shows.

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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 not yet available outside of Japan.

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 on 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 on 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 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 on 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.

Hunter x Hunter 2011 has not received a western release.

498 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. your list sucked!!!! Code Geass should be #1. Clannad After Story should be #2. and Death Notes, Ouran High School Host Club, Mirai Nikki, Lovely Complex, and Attack on Titan also deserves to be on this list!!!!!

  2. There will always be difference of opinion the world , not everybody can be pleased ! Awesome list and i admire your sense of appreciation for life ! I compliment your heart sir !
    Thank you :)

  3. So far I have only seen two of the animes from your list (Spice and Wolf and Psycho-Pass) . But I am sure that as I continue watching, I will fall in love with more of them.
    Thanks!

  4. This is a really great list. I cannot thank you enough for introducing me to Madoka! I look forward to watching a number of others on the list. Be sure to check out (if you haven’t) Death Note, Clannad After Story, Another and Ghosthound.

  5. I know favorite anime is subjective, but this is missing so many classics, so many mutually agreed upon great anime that it almost isn’t even a matter of opinion… it should really just be called “Anime I like”. No FMA/FMA: Brotherhood, no Death Note, no Code Geass, no DBZ, no GTO, no Trigun, no Berserk, no Wolf’s Rain, no Attack on Titan, no Welcome to the NHK, no Gundam Wing, no Rurouni Kenshin. Probably missing a few… so many classics are missing.

    • edit: I don’t get the joke.. it’s supposed to be wrong? The reviews don’t elude to any kind of joke or sarcasm and neither does the list. If Sailor Moon was number 1 and some other over rated anime, It might be mildly funny, if that is the intention.

        1. ” 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.”

        2. The name of the website is part of a quote from a certain anime series which is high up on this list: “If someone tells me it’s wrong to hope, I’ll tell them they’re wrong every time.”

      • drcakey had the best answer to your statement, but let me clarifty. It wasn’t supposed to be a joke as point A stated… it was his list based on what he found was the most valuable characteristics each anime portrayed. You have a difference of opinion in regards to what describes a truly good anime. I have a similar opinion to the writer of this article, which is why I enjoy his list. And many of the anime you listed aren’t anywhere close to worthy of a top spot in my opinion. The only one’s I’d consider are Death Note, Attack on Titan, and Wolf’s Rain, with FMA: Brotherhood being a very iffy one at best. However, if you actually looked at the list and read each of his descriptions of why he chose that anime you’d understand his values. And none of the anime you listed would trump any on his list in regards to his values.

    • Elfen Lied gave me at least two depressed boners when I watched it. I didn’t even know what that was before that show (don’t think about it too hard, see what I did there :P). But anyways I guess DBZ is hiding somewhere in it or else this list needs to be thrown in the trash.

  6. I don’t understand why some people are so angry that their favorite anime is not in this list.This is his list and therefore his favorite animes, not yours. If you don’t like this list then create your own. To be honest I have watched both Death Note and Attack on Titans and I didn’t them.

  7. thx best list ever i realy liked tatami galexy being number 4 but think monster and berserk were good too.but psycho pass wasnt all that good and also baccano should be placed higher

  8. You missed, just to say some name of different genres: One Outs, Death Note, Code Geass, MM!, Bimbougami-ga!, No game no life, Slam Dunk, Slayers Next, Fate-Stay Night, Macross Frontier…

  9. Geezus freaking christ, what the hell’s wrong with people these days? Why are you all so worked up on this list? “Where is anime this?” “Where is anime that?” “This should be higher than this and that”. Make your own damned list for chrissakes.

  10. Why do a lot of people always recommend (what I call) generic anime? Now, I call it generic because EVERYONE knows about them (DBZ, Death Note, Attack on Titan, etc.). Of course, I know people love those shows because they are really good (I love some too), but when you critisize someone else’s favorites because you’re too single-minded to understand why this person liked these 30 animes is just rude.

    To be honest, I haven’t watched even a fourth if the ones he put on this list and I am very happy that he even put some that are my favorites (Hyouka, Ore Gairu, ToraDora!, and Chunnibyou). But that doesn’t mean I’m going to bash him because (insert generic anime here) wasn’t in the list. Instead, since we at least have some one the same tastes, this entire list just became a plethora of anime that I should try out! (Thanks btw)

    Now for the other side. Let’s assume an anime you enjoyed did not appear on this list. That just goes to show that you two have probably very little if not nothing in common when it comes to taste in anime. From here you should leave and find another list fanboy over or create your own list to share to the internet.

    All in all, please stop hating people for their opinions, thanks! :D

  11. Full metal alchemist brotherhood number one I do agree that madoka magica should be number but evangelion isn’t even entertaining to watch I don’t see what people are talking when they say is true I don’t believe it shows humanity for its true manner.

  12. I have watched Psycho Pass, Kill La Kill, FLCL, Cowboy Bepop, and after reading the list, Madoka, because Urobuchi is brilliant. I’m looking forward to watching Gargantia and Shinsekai Y

  13. So after reading all the comments and with a tremendous amount of respect for this list i will say this… It ignores most of the shonen genre and i think that’s a bit unfair. In many ways shonen anime capitalizes on animes potential as a story telling medium more so then other genres favored heavily on this list. For example Naruto (excluding all filler) creates a universe that hugs the line perfectly between imaginative/all encompassing and easily digestible. Combine with solid action and plots twist Naruto creates an experience that is fun memorable and somewhat meaningful despite being a little immature. Attack on titian deserves similar praise. Compared to lets say gurren laggen, which seem overly silly with a plot that was only decent, Id say the shonen genre is not getting enough credit.

  14. First, dragonball z should have made this list for sure because that show got a lot of people watching anime in the first place.
    Second, where the hell is death note?
    Third, why are all the top anime ancient as hell. No one even remembers those shows or watched them. This list needs a serious update my friend

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s