Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

20. Gunbuster! + Diebuster!

Gunbuster vs Diebuster Best Anime List

Grouped together because they really do feel like two sides of the same coin, both of Gainax’s Buster shows would also make this list independently. Flippant and heartbreaking, cynical and triumphant, personal and universal, each of these OVAs tells a story of humanity’s struggle against all the forces of the universe with style and heart. And each can stand alone, as well – Gunbuster is helmed by a pre-Eva Anno already exhibiting his unnerving style of direction, and Diebuster offers a very appropriate conclusion to the FLCL era of Gainax production. Only six episodes each, too – it’s pretty remarkable how much story each of these manage to tell.

Here are my essays on Gunbuster and Diebuster.

Both Gunbuster and Diebuster are available at Amazon.

19. Shinsekai Yori

Shinsekai Yori Best Anime List

Shinsekai Yori is basically tailor-made for fans of fantasy and scifi novels. Heavy on worldbuilding and questions of human nature, its story unfolds on a scale far greater than most anime, exploring a compelling dystopian society by following one generation from childhood through adolescence and well into adulthood. Though I often feel its characters fade into the background of its storytelling pretensions, it all works in service of an incredibly compelling central narrative, and its devastating conclusion justifies everything that came before. It’s a rare and valuable thing – few shows work on the scale of Shinsekai Yori.

Here’s my review of Shinsekai Yori.

Shinsekai Yori is available at Amazon.

18. The Idolm@ster

The Idolmaster Best Anime List

An idol show?!? I could actually go on for a while about what makes various idol shows great (and I have), but as far as Idolm@ster specifically goes, this show is just a solid episodic drama that succeeds in almost everything it attempts. It’s got a rich and well-developed cast of characters, lots of great little character stories, and a bunch of fun adventures like “the team runs a Sunday game show” or “one idol ends up as a runaway bride while another fights yakuza goons.” On top of that, Idolm@ster features one of the best creative teams in recent memory – a bunch of former Gainax staff and other great creators combine to make this one of the most beautifully directed and animated shows I’ve seen. Even if you don’t have any interest in idols, Idolm@ster’s combination of fun stories and gorgeous execution makes it a rare and impressive show.

Here’s my review of The Idolm@ster.

The Idolm@ster is sadly not available in the west.

17. Hyouka

Hyouka Best Anime List

Unless KyoAni performs some tremendous about-face in priorities, it seems like Hyouka will stand as their masterpiece for a long time to come. Not that that’s a mark against it – Hyouka is a fantastic show, and easily makes best use of KyoAni’s mastery of small character moments and subtle, human animation. It’s a mark to how impressive I find this show’s character work that I enjoyed it in spite of not really caring about any of the mysteries – of course, the fact that the show’s ridiculously gorgeous and filled with lush animation doesn’t hurt, either. If you’re in the mood for a more meditative character story, Hyouka’s as good as it gets.

Hyouka has sadly never received a western release.

16. Toradora!

Toradora! Best Anime List

Considering I haven’t seen Toradora since it actually aired, its position on this list may be something of an open question. But if memory serves, Toradora certainly deserves it – it’s basically the high school romcom/drama all other such shows wish they were, populated by multifaceted characters, driven by relatable, human drama, and crescendoing in a long line of iconic moments. Its conflicts emerge naturally from the base nature of its well-drawn protagonists, and perhaps most importantly, its writing actually understands the fundamentals of banter and chemistry. Anime could use a lot more shows like Toradora.

Toradora is available at Amazon.

15. Shiki

Shiki Best Anime List

Anime doesn’t really have the best track record with horror – there’s just something inherently difficult about portraying visceral dread in animation, and few shows manage to pull it off. Fortunately, Shiki neatly avoids falling into any “this isn’t scary” traps by being more about creating an oppressive atmosphere, and focusing less on visceral horror than on the horror of human nature. Its slow-burning story depicts the breakdown of an entire community from basically every possible position within that community, making for a remarkably well-realized cast of dozens of characters. And its runtime is peppered with stark moral questions, thrilling twists, and moments of pure adrenal shock. Its themes of community and the meaning of a monster are classic ones, but Shiki infuses them with vitality and modern relevance, along with a sense of campy fun that almost tricks you into embarking on one of the darkest rides the medium has to offer. Shiki is a vivid, tense, and deeply angry show.

Here’s my essay on Shiki.

Shiki is available at Amazon.

14. Kyousogiga

Kyousogiga Best Anime List

There’s a whole lot to love in Kyousogiga. It’s a family story, populated by a diverse set of characters and full of personal reflections on sibling and parental relations. It’s a world unto itself, a beautiful fairy tale city filled with evocative details. It’s an exercise in aesthetics, with top-notch direction, visual design, and music. And it is all of these things at once – its central conflict of a family that has fallen apart and must come back together makes brilliant use of all its aesthetic strengths, and the world they inhabit fills every frame with personality and color. It also has the best brother-sister relationship I’ve seen in any show, and as the brother of two sisters, I can really appreciate how well this show understands people.

Here’s my review of Kyousogiga.

Kyousogiga has been licensed but is not yet available in the west.

13. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop Best Anime List

Shinichiro Watanabe’s first and arguably best original production, Cowboy Bebop has a venerable and well-deserved reputation as a classic. Its stylistic mix of noir, western, scifi, and jazz feels so natural that it’s hard to believe it was basically invented by this show. Its direction is fluid and assured, its stories are incredibly varied and regularly poignant, and its characters are as iconic as they are relatable. It’s cool and funny and confident, diverse enough to have an episode for everyone, and ambitious enough to aptly demonstrate anime’s strengths as a medium. It’s as remarkable today as it was fifteen years ago.

Cowboy Bebop is available at Amazon.

12. Ping Pong The Animation

Ping Pong the Animation Best Anime List

If you’ve gotten this far in my list, you probably won’t find it surprising to learn that Ping Pong is not exactly a sports show. It contains sports – and has a variety of thrilling and aesthetically stunning matches, in fact – but in truth it is a story about people, and about what brings them to ping pong and to each other. Its characters bounce off each other and grow continuously, their sharp edges and loves and ambitions all reflecting in how they change those they compete with. Its scale stretches beyond the court, with ping pong serving as either gateway to or guardian from engagement with the real world. And all of its poignant turns are framed by Masaaki Yuasa’s tremendous direction, full of beautiful interpretive flourishes and scored by a careful soundtrack that constantly elevates the proceedings. Ping Pong demonstrates that any conflict can be made gigantic through empathy for the characters involved, and goes above and beyond with its tremendous aesthetic merits. Even if you don’t consider yourself a sports show fan, Ping Pong is something special.

Here’s my essay on Ping Pong.

Ping Pong is available on Amazon.

11. Kino’s Journey

Kino's Journey Best Anime List

Kino’s Journey is, unsurprisingly, about the journey. Not just the overt journey, though it is a travel show – every episode, Kino and her bike Hermes visit a new nation, staying just three days before moving on. Through Kino’s adventures in these strange, mystical lands, Kino’s Journey eventually reveals itself to be about the journey towards greater understanding – of how people work, of why we do the things we do, of what purpose we can possibly seek in this world. And it doesn’t offer easy answers – Kino’s Journey is rife with ambiguity, its various fables and conflicts only muddying the waters of human nature further and further. But that is, like I said, not what it’s about – there are no easy answers, but as this thoughtful, pretty, and inventive show continuously demonstrates, the journey is its own reward.

Kino’s Journey is available at Amazon.

2,750 thoughts on “Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

  1. I was just browsing the list checking for updates due to slow day at work when I remembered that I left a comment here quite a while ago. So I decided I’ll just quickly fly through the comments and find it to see if anyone replied to it or something.

    That was a mistake.

    I didn’t get to my comment… just couldn’t handle it anymore. I honestly felt that reading through one more “this list is shit, your opinion is shit” post would make me pass out. How dares he disagree with other people on which shows he enjoys!

    This makes me want to donate just because of all the flak one takes for saying I prefered A to B.

    My utmost respect for the comment moderator on this page.

    My head hurts now.

    I think I’ll just go back to working instead.

    Ughh…

    • This list is shit though. Cowboy Bebop at #13 with Evangelion at #1, katanagatari in the top 10? What a joke. Katanagatari has flat characters, predictable plot, long segments of nothing but bland writing/dialogue. Evangelion’s only claim is to make its characters so psychotic it impresses those too naive to see how contrived it all is, a pretentious anime for older adolescents that merely tickles an itch they haven’t had scratched before. It’s not an opinion; these anime are simply inferior quality from any academic angle. It’s like saying an undergrad’s fiction story is as good as Tolkien’s — by just about every standard it won’t be — because it’s your personal opinion. That’s cop out reasoning, an unsubstantiated argument to moderation to keep conflict at bay so everyone can feel good about themselves.

          • Shiki was so good!! I wasn’t sure how to feel at first, but I couldn’t deny the emotional impact it left on me for weeks to come.

      • ” It’s not an opinion; these anime are simply inferior quality from any academic angle. It’s like saying an undergrad’s fiction story is as good as Tolkien’s — by just about every standard it won’t be — because it’s your personal opinion. That’s cop out reasoning, an unsubstantiated argument to moderation to keep conflict at bay so everyone can feel good about themselves.”

        You are an idiot. A smug, pretencious, idiot, and you are flat out wrong.

        First of all, these is no objective opinion when it comes to ranking how good something is. There just isn’t. I’m sorry if you spent you’re whole life believing otherwise, but you’re flat out wrong. There is no “academic angle”, there is no “standard”, there is no measurable set of criteria for what is a “better” anime. Yes, if you take a writing class, they will tell you “these things work”, but you won’t find a single academic professor that will tell you there is even a single piece of criteria in a story that you MUST follow or else your story won’t be as good as stories that DO have that criteria. Flat characters? 2001: A Space Odyssey had flat characters. Predictable plot? Back to the Future is extremely predictable. Bland writing? By what measure?

        And secondly, even if you can’t concede that there is no objective criteria, SURELY you can concede that this is a list based on only one piece of criteria: How much the author PERSONALLY enjoyed it.

        You say it’s like saying an undergrad’s paper is as good as Tolkien, but it’s more like saying I ENJOYED an undergrad’s paper more than Tolkien. What’s wrong with that? Am I suddenly not allowed to enjoy it as much, or is it somehow logically IMPOSSIBLE that I enjoyed it as much? I like Tolkien, but I could absolutely see someone writing something I enjoy more than his stuff.

        Do you even know what a “cop out” is? It’s when someone is trying to convince you of a point of view, and is using poor logic to do so. This list, in NO WAY WHATSOEVER is trying to convince anyone of anything. Literally, the thing you are arguing is “You didn’t enjoy these animes as much as you say you did!”. You understand how stupid that is?

    • Yeah it’s a great story while it lasted…Al though Lelouch didn’t had to die for real…He could have lived like zero forerever & faked his death…That was the only dissappointment for me…

  2. this is literally the worst representation of anime, there are so many better than most of these.

  3. You have interesting taste in anime/manga. I like your choices, although I find Eve to be one of the absolute worst anime. It has just too many cliche, tropey, fan servicey elements and it gets horribly preachy in a bad way.

  4. Where the hell is Dragonball Z,Naruto or Bleach???Why is this list makers hate long running anime???hell even Dragonball Super should be added…

    ?????Evangelion????-Good for barbie lovers…

    • You dislike Evangelion not because it’s “for barbie lovers” but because your mind is so fucking simple, that you wouldn’t be able to comprehend and call the whole meaning of the series. But sure, as long as an anime has a lot of colorful flashes, 30-episode-long “battles”, simple jokes and fillings, you can consider them “masterpieces” :V

  5. Nice to see Shirobako in the Top 10 sad to see Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water was not included as flawed parts of that series are I think works as a story. Have to say my ardor for Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica has waned I still respect it but I don’t think it is as inventive as some people make it out to be as far as the story goes or it’s treatment fo the Magical Girl genre.

  6. Whats this an attempt to name 2-3 superb animes together with 17-18 complete no-name animes that nobody has ever heard of, EVER?

  7. Where is Honey and Clover? Superb anime, realistic, expres very well human emotions! Dragon ball series??? Even Dragon Ball super is stil incredible. Fullmetal alchemist?? Genious anime as story, music, characters! Boku dake ga Inai Machi? It is new series, but what a great animation!

  8. Two points I wanted to mention.

    I’ve been checking in on and using your list as a source of anime for the past 2-3 years now and I’d like to 1) commend you on your taste in anime. Though I don’t necessarily completely agree with your rankings-Bebop, Kino, S;G, S&W, and Toradora inparticular (obviously largely due to our subjective tastes in genre) it is my opiion that you fully appreciate the beauty of this media. Your incredibly succinct, accurate, and inclusive synopses (psychological, sociological, literary aspects, etc).are ever accessible and informative. For that I want to thank you.

    And,

    2) I would like to recommend a handful anime series that I have not seen on your list. I believe them to be, for the most part, underrated (regardless of cult following . Perhaps you have seen them and do not fit your whimsy ;),and thus do not appear on your list, but if you have not as someone who believes they have very similar tastes, I strongly recommend them:
    xxxHolic-Ontology, occult, SoL with fantastic character relationships.
    Samurai Champloo-anachronistic Shinichiro Watanabe fare: a great story about companions on a journey.
    Serial Experiments Lain-Ontology)
    Terror in Resonance-Should have been a Watanabe standard 24 eps IMO, but one of the most powerful conclusions I’ve ever seen, a District 9 bleak hopefulness to it.
    Space Dandy-Incredibly underrated, likely, I believe, due to it’s humor and lack of overarching plot, yet incredibly innovative and groundbreaking in it’s own right.
    Welcome to the NHK-psychology and again Ontology-(my greatest gripe with your list)

    Thank you for the effort and emotion you put forth into creating this list, WEV, I truly appreciate it and have enjoyed watching your list evolve. Here’s hoping for many new future additions!

    • Scratch SEL and Terror, and Paranoia Agent while we’re at it (since I was thinking about including it but forgot). Shame on me for not reading the addendum/remembering inclusions on previous lists.

    • Some more updates for you!

      Welcome to the NHK! – He read the manga a while ago and liked it a lot. He hasn’t gotten around to the anime.

      Samurai Champloo – He’s seen a lot of it. If he finished it, he’s not sure it would quite make it onto the list, but he likes it.

      Space Dandy – He tried it, had mixed feelings on it, and wants to finish some time.

  9. Naruto will be the best anime ever! The ones who don.t understand it are idiots who don.t know what is life! Naruto teach us a lot if damn emotional things.

  10. #1-Dbz
    #2-Dbs
    #3-Naruto shippuden
    #4-Pokemon (if you can call that anime and p.s. I meant indigo not that other trash)
    #5-(y’all bout to hate me) Beyblade (lol jk) Digimon
    #6-Beyblade

  11. I can’t disagree with your list because I haven’t watched a lot of them, but the ones I have watched have all been really good. However i feel that one piece is deserving of at least making it to the top 30 anime list lol. Its got an amazing soundtrack, unique characters and some crazy antagonists. Eichiro Oda is very intricate with his story and foreshadows and connects all of the key moments and plot. The story is also full of tons of life lessons that let u take in more that just another anime. Idk, for me its a great anime, although the manga is a lot better and if Japan thinks its worthy of being the top selling manga for decades than I think it deserves to be on the 10 let alone top 30 list of anime. K type away critics. Pce out

  12. This list is perfect other than the fact that I’d personally include S.A.C. just to have Ghost in the Shell on the list in some capacity.

    Eva is the only logical pick for #1 too. People that run it down these days don’t understand how close the anime industry was to collapsing altogether in the early 90s until Eva saved it. Not to mention the endless archives of analysis that it spawned is a load of fun to dig into.

  13. Mirai Nicki is definately up there for me! Bit dark though. Like Elfen Lied, not to be watched lightly.

  14. I’ve been following you for a while now and it’s interesting how much you’ve influenced my media/story preferences. I used to be All About the overt narrative – I wanted a well thought out plot that wrapped up nicely, some good twists and turns were always a plus. Gurren Lagann and Madoka were two of my favorites because of their well thought out narrative arcs, while stuff like Eva and Utena left me really dissatisfied. Now I care very little about the plot and much more about themes, execution, and especially character work. In fact it bothers me how most anime fans only operate with anime on a plot level, when there’s so much more to talk about! So thank you for opening up my mind to new, more interesting ways to engage with stories.

  15. I’m the first to admit that I’m kind of new to the anime scene, but talking about perfect anime, I wouldn’t say perfect but…. (also I don’t know when this list was made) RWBY? No jk lol but… Attack on Titan? Beautiful animation, soundtrack, story, just the idea is dope…

  16. I’ve watched three episodes of Gatchaman Crowds, and I’m already in love with it! It’s just as you described. I’m hooked.

    Gatchamaaaaaaaan! Ga-tcha-man!

  17. if Naruto, dragon ball, one piece or full metal alchemist not on here this list is irrelevant.

  18. Three years ago, I’d just started watching anime when I stumbled on your list, I’ve now finally watched all the shows in your top 30 and most of them are now in my own favourite list. So, I want to say thank you and hope you keep writing about it for many years to come.

  19. I first must say that I really like your list, it’s obvious that you have a real passion for anime and put a lot of thought into this. I can appreciate that.
    Now to every idiot in the comments section screaming about how his list sucks while also parading your shit taste (naruto, dbz, bleach, attack on titan etc. Btw this is also my opinion, I’m not necessarily correct) around as if it’s the gold standard, it’s his own fucking opinion. That is the point of this list, christ some of you spewing vitriol and practically foaming at the mouth because “mainstream shite No. 1” didn’t make it must be children. This guy clearly put effort and passion into writing this for the enjoyment of his readers and a lot of people here are just raging about it, it’s really fucking pathetic.
    For the record i didn’t necessarily agree entirely with his choices but I enjoyed reading it, and I respect that it is his personal opinion.

  20. I don’t know man, I’m halfway through Legend of the Galactic Heroes and it might be the best anime I’ve ever seen. Kudos for having Puella Magi Madoka Magica so high!

    • LOGH is great. Sitting around my #16 right now. If it’s not on someone’s list, and it’s a list with at least 30 entries, there’s a 99.9% chance they just hadn’t seen it.

  21. I haven’t seen every show on your list and probably never will get to them all. Let me suggest a few I have found to be superb.

    Fairy Tail
    Tenchi Muyo!
    Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
    Fate/Stay Night
    Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works
    Kara no Kyoukai (actually a series of movies)
    Ghost Stories – English dub only. It is hilarious.
    Rurouni Kenshin

    I was a big fan of Beautiful Bones but it was never given a second season so one feels really incomplete.

  22. Not sure why, but I find Evangelion overrated. I much prefer Death Note, Saint Seiya or Attack on Titan. Maybe it is because I watched it long after it was released, but I found it too slow and predictable. In case you are interested in checking a similar discussion on the best anime series from 2016, you can check it here https://netivist.org/debate/best-anime-series-2016

    • Well, you certainly can’t win ’em all. Evangelion can only do so much.

      I don’t think liking those three shows more really says anything. They’re really different. Eva’s not an adventure show like Saint Seiya or Attack on Titan, nor a strategy-based show like Death Note.

      I don’t know much about predictability, since I knew basically every spoiler before I ever watched the show, but I found the show surprisingly breezy on a second watch. Each episode makes me wish it were longer.

  23. Have you even WATCHED a GOOD anime like Fullmetal Alchemist Brootherhood/Bungo Stray Dogs /Blue Exorcist/Tokyo Ravens /
    SAO/Guilty Crown or so on………
    I doubt that you have.

  24. Excellent list. A lot of my favorites that are all listed here. We have similar taste, so let me add these to your list to watch:

    Nagi no Asukara – drama/romance where the emotions of the characters feel very real with excellent visuals. This is nothing like Spice and Wolf, but I think fans of that show would love this.

    Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – Check out this psychological action.

    Perhaps you have seen these, but if you have not, check them out. I’ll be sure to watch the ones on your list that I have not.

    Shouwa Genroku Rakugo – Story about flawed storytellers.

    Ergo Proxy – Psychological action plot. Messes with you mind a lot.

    Aoi Bungaku – The story told in the first four episodes make it very unclear whether society or the character are out of touch. Excellent story telling.

    Jinrui wa Shimashita – I’m not really what to say about this one, but I love it, and it is one of the weirdest I have ever watched.

    Natsume Yuuinchou – You watched mushishi and kino’s journey, but not this? Please watch this!

    • Nagi no Asukara – He had mixed feelings on it.

      Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – He liked the first half and disliked the second half.

      Shouwa Genroku Rakugo – One of his favorite 2016 shows. He says it’s probably gonna get added to the addendum. The addendum’s a pretty cool post, I recommend checking it out.

      Ergo Proxy – He oughta get to this one. He should finish Casshern and Texhnolyze first though.

      Aoi Bungaku – The story told in the first four episodes make it very unclear whether society or the character are out of touch. Excellent story telling.

      Jinrui wa Shimashita – He likes it!

      Natsume Yuuinchou – He’s currently watching it.

  25. I did find some new series from this list. Thank you. However; I think the list misses alot of great anime series which you may have not watched yet.
    Do you have an update of this list?

    • It’s constantly updating! There’s also an addendum for things that used to be on the list.

      The list hasn’t updated in around a year though. He’s said that Bokurano, Planetes, and Nichijou are likely to join it when it does.

  26. I am shocked to find that we share more in the way of top shows that maybe anyone else I’ve met. It’s hard to find someone with Monogatari FLCL, SKU, Shirobako and Tatami in their top ten as well, and there are no other entries (of the ones I’ve seen) that I don’t like. I’ve been meaning to read more of your essays as it is, but I suppose this only makes me more invested.

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