Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

10. Shirobako

Shirobako Best Anime List

Shirobako Gets It. There are too few anime out there that really handle the trials of adulthood, and too few shows that manage to portray constant hardship and pressure while still maintaining a light tone, but Shirobako is hardship-lightness-adulthood all around. Its stories of career scrabbling and anime production woes are both universal and poignantly specific, with its rich cast of characters coming almost immediately to life through the gracefulness of the storytelling. Across two seasons of fraught management at MusAni Productions, nearly every side of young professional anxiety is illustrated and explored, from the terror of being left on the fringes of your desired industry to the pressure of feeling so swamped by your daily life that you can’t even consider your long-term goals anymore. And that seems like it’d be a downer of a ride, but Shirobako is also just endlessly fun, and infused with a relentless optimism that makes it impossible not to root for its fraying heroes.

Here’s my essay on Shirobako.

Shirobako is not yet available.

9. The Eccentric Family

Eccentric Family Best Anime List

The Eccentric Family takes the Ghibli sense of whimsy and magical realism and applies it to a grounded, thoughtful family drama. Written by the same writer responsible for The Tatami Galaxy, its story bounces through a handful of gorgeous little vignettes before pulling together into a exuberant exploration of duty, family, and the meaning of life itself. That might sound heavy, but Eccentric Family is anything but – it’s filled with moments of ecstatic beauty that revel in the little joys life has to offer, and its characters bounce off each other with the buoyant geniality of a truly loving family. It’s beautiful and deftly written and basically about as warm as a show can be.

Here’s my review of The Eccentric Family.

Eccentric Family is available at Amazon.

8. OreGairu

OreGairu Best Anime List

I said in my 2013 year-end post that OreGairu is basically anime’s Catcher in the Rye, and I stand by that. OreGairu knows exactly what it feels like to be young, smart, and isolated, and it expresses that with both cynical wit and overwhelming empathy for its very flawed protagonists. Hachiman and Yukino build fortresses of superiority and psychoanalysis around themselves, but they can’t hide their desire for connection, or their underlying empathy. The show sticks pretty close to romcom formatting, and its aesthetics are only serviceable, but OreGairu soars where it counts – human characters, vivid dialogue, and a frank exploration of youth politics and identity. It’s pretty much the high school romcom I’ve always wished existed.

Here’s my review of Oregairu.

OreGairu is available at Amazon.

7. Monogatari

Monogatari Best Anime List

If you’ve read this far, you probably know I like stories about people. Flawed people, broken people – people whose sharp edges make them hurt each other even as they strive for connection. Monogatari really knows people, and it understands that it is often our weaknesses that defines us. And to illustrate this, Monogatari makes those weaknesses real. Its spirit-hunting stories are compelling in their own right, but each of them also dig at the souls of their central characters – it matches mystery with human truth point for point every season. And beyond its central metaphor, outstanding character writing, and very distinctive dialogue, Monogatari does so much else, too – the ways it plays with visual storytelling vary from season to season, but pretty much always come off as more driven and intelligent than virtually anything else out there. Whether it’s exploring power dynamics through shot framing, investigating the dark hearts of its various protagonists, or simply reveling in its own visual language and wit, Monogatari is always expressing something worthwhile, clever, and true.

Here are my essays on Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari, and Monogatari overall.

Most of Monogatari is available at Amazon.

6. FLCL

FLCL Best Anime List

Created right in the middle of Gainax’s golden age, FLCL’s about as good of a coming of age story as you could possibly imagine. Puberty sucks, and learning who you are is tough, and becoming an adult doesn’t really come with instructions – FLCL knows all of this, and instead of expressing it through an understated character drama, it chooses to go for the gusto. Robots popping from foreheads, guitars wielded as battle axes, wild visual slapstick crossed with awkward personal moments. It’s a show that comes off as crazy while actually featuring some of the sharpest, most grounded character work in anime, and all of this is backed by a delirious visual palette, a stacked animation budget, and one of the most iconic soundtracks in anime history. Growing up is hard to do, but FLCL still makes it look fun.

FLCL is available at Amazon.

5. The Tatami Galaxy

The Tatami Galaxy Best Anime List

Considering this is the only Masaaki Yuasa show I’ve actually seen, you can expect The Tatami Galaxy to gain some company over the coming year (edit: Ping Pong has arrived!). In spite of that, I strongly doubt the rest of his work will top it – though The Tatami Galaxy does feature Yuasa’s signature direction and a completely unparalleled visual aesthetic, it is equally buffeted by the sharp, lunatic writing of the source material, written by the author of The Eccentric Family. Either way, as I said in my review, The Tatami Galaxy is a ride. From a stint in the bike thief mafia to a daring blimp rescue, from colorful, impressionistic visuals to vivid, mile-a-minute monologues, it never lets up and it never calms down. As its protagonist desperately seeks the richness of life he never seems to find, the audience is treated to a rich spectacle as relatable as it is insane. There’s nothing quite like The Tatami Galaxy.

Here’s my review of The Tatami Galaxy.

The Tatami Galaxy is not available outside of Japan. Life is cruel.

4. Katanagatari

Katanagatari Best Anime List

Though I love Monogatari for its sprawling, convoluted ideas, Katanagatari proves Isin is equally capable of telling a focused story as well. It works as a witty, poignant love story. It works as an engaging collection of vignettes, a travel diary in an evocative, beautifully depicted time of adventure. It even works as a meditation on the meaning of humanity, and on the ways we are all prisoners of history. Like Seven Samurai, it perfectly captures the strange beauty inherent in the end of an era – as the age of swords and heroes draws to a close, Katanagatari’s characters cling to relevance, power, or just each other. It made me laugh and made me cry, and it’s easily one of my favorite shows.

Here’s my review of Katanagatari.

Katanagatari seems to currently be out of print, though a few copies of its special edition are still available.

3. Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena Best Anime List

Though it’s not at the top of my list, I think it’d be difficult to argue any anime tries to do more than Utena. It’s a story about adolescence and sex and identity and gender and performance, and maybe those are all actually parts of the same thing. It weaves in ten thousand visual motifs and then muddles them just for the hell of it. It catalogues the emotional hills and valleys of over a dozen characters, and yet even at the end you could still call half of them mysteries. It features an episode where a girl is repeatedly chased by elephants, and another where that same girl lays an egg. It also features the most thoughtful and piercing exploration of gender politics I’ve seen in the medium. It’s strange and circuitous and funny and profound, and if nothing else, it’s almost certainly one of the best anime of all time.

Here’s my essay on Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is available at Amazon in an incredibly stylish box set.

2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Magica Best Anime List

Considering it sits at #2 on my all-time list, I think it’s fair to employ a little hyperbole here: of everything I’ve seen, I believe Madoka is probably the “most perfect” anime there is. Its visual aesthetic is creative and stunning, its soundtrack is powerful and evocative, and it tells a gripping, smartly composed story of friendship, sacrifice, the tragic cycles of living, and the greater spirit of humanity. Its narrative and thematic elements lock into place like a perfectly crafted music box, and yet it still leaves room for rich interpretation. Though I like all of Urobuchi’s works, Madoka stands on a tier far above the others – its aesthetics are by far the most impressive, and beyond that, it’s also the most pure, iconic expression of the anger and hope at the heart of all his stories – an understanding of the callous nature of the universe forever challenged by the indomitable, irrational spirit of charity and love that makes us human. Madoka is a triumph.

Here’s my essay on Urobuchi’s philosophy.

Madoka Magica is available at Right Stuff for the price of your firstborn child.

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion + End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion Best Anime List

It might seem odd to place Eva over Madoka, considering I just stated I consider Madoka the “most perfect” show. But it’s true – Evangelion is not perfect. It has tonal issues throughout the first half, it meanders through a slowly building central arc, and little cracks and flaws indicative of its troubled creation are apparent throughout. But for all that, I strongly believe Eva is the best anime of all time. Why? Because it understands people. Because it respects and cares about people. Because it is people. There is just so much truth and empathy in Evangelion’s depiction of its characters that I find it hard even beginning to compare it to other anime.

And that character truth doesn’t just stand alone – the entire show is carefully constructed around it, with Anno’s wonderful, claustrophobic direction and all the show’s grand, apocalyptic aspirations working in service of the fundamental honesty of characters like Shinji, Asuka, and Misato. Because it is so very, very true, and because it is so deeply, honestly afraid, Evangelion’s statement in favor of human connection isn’t just a truism – it’s the bravest, most optimistic choice imaginable. In the context of how true and how overpowering the emotional struggles of its characters are, nothing short of apocalypse seems worthy of depicting them – in the mind of a scared, lonely boy, the decision to accept the pain of living might as well be the rebirth of the universe. Evangelion uses all the tools at anime’s disposal to tell the smallest and most important story in the most resonant, insightful, authentic terms imaginable, and in doing so it easily establishes itself as the most successfully ambitious anime there is. Flawed, convoluted, and deeply personal, Evangelion is anime’s masterwork.

I don’t have a NGE post, but here’s my analysis of the Rebuilds.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is available at Amazon, but End of Evangelion has been out of print for years.

And that’s the list! Did I miss your favorite? Probably – I can only watch and only like so much. Is there something you think I’d like based on this list that I haven’t seen already? Let me know! I’m always on the lookout for more shows, and though I’ve got a plan-to-watch list of more than a hundred titles, I can always let a new show cut in line. Either way, I hope you found something interesting in my list, and feel free to leave any stray thoughts in the comments!

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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