Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

Yep, I’ve finally put together a top shows list. As I hopefully made clear in part one and part two of my critical biases post, this is obviously my list – it represents the things I think are most valuable in stories in the way I think they’ve best been articulated. It’s also just a list of shows I enjoy – there’s no hard criteria here, so I wouldn’t stress the numbers too much. Also, it’s a bit front-loaded – I only started watching anime seasonally about two years ago, so the last couple years are disproportionately represented. Incidentally, I’m not including movies here either – I think direct comparisons between shows and films are a bit of a stretch, but if they were included, this list would certainly be somewhat different. And finally, I’m absolutely (and thankfully) certain this list will change over time – there are still piles of widely beloved shows I’ve never seen, so I’m sure the current rankings will be filled out in the years to come. So with that all said, let’s get to the list – Bobduh’s Top 30 Anime of All Time.

-edit- I have now created a Top Shows Addendum for shows that have either fallen off or just barely missed this list. Please enjoy these additional almost-top shows!

30. Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei Best Anime List

There are few shows that create such an engaging, consistent sense of place as Haibane Renmei. The town of this show is vivid and inviting, and there is a sense of warmth and peace permeating much of this show. The atmosphere is the greatest strength here, but the rest of the show is no slouch – the writing is understated but effective, and the show’s mysteries offer ample reason to explore the strange corners of this world. Haibane Renmei is sitting back on a lazy Sunday and watching the sunlight play through the trees. Creating such a sense of peace is a rare and excellent thing.

Haibane Renmei is available at Amazon.

29. Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope Best Anime List

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

Kids on the Slope is available at Amazon.

28. Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds Best Anime List

Gatchaman’s a goddamn busy show – in the course of a 12-episode run, it covers everything from internet culture to crowdsourcing to the necessity of leadership to social responsibility to human nature to… well, you get the idea. And it explores all these ideas while also staying remarkably light and breezy – you could enjoy the show purely as a fun, visually interesting, musically brilliant adventure without even thinking about how identity is constructed in the digital age, or whatnot. And when you combine these two strengths, you get a show that proves you don’t have to be dry to be smart – you can make awesome points about how the internet will change the world without ever giving up a sense of fun and moment-to-moment excitement. Brain food and comfort food at the same time.

Here’s my review of Gatchaman Crowds.

Gatchaman Crowds is available at Amazon.

27. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate Best Anime List

Half witty, endearing slice of life, half thrilling time-travel drama, Steins;Gate is a strange mixture of elements, but the end result has a lot going for it. The story is really compelling, for one thing – the tension it slowly builds is released in a thrilling second half, full of twists, turns, and all the quirks a good time-travel story should have. The humor is surprisingly sharp, too – this was a show I actually picked up in the first few episodes, and the pitch that sold me on it was “it’s like an anime comedy, but good!” And underlying both of these strengths is the great cast – in the midst of all the scifi shenanigans and episodic tangents, Steins;Gate finds the time to also tell one of the better love stories in anime, featuring a couple that are compelling independently but completely adorable together.

Steins;Gate is available at Amazon.

26. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai

Chuunibyou Best Anime List

Considering how much I’m disliking the second season, I’m probably gonna have to revisit my feelings on this show at some point, but for now, all I’ve got are incredibly positive memories. The first season of Chuunibyou has focus – though it’s comedy-heavy, almost every episode of its first half is indispensable in setting up its cast’s personalities and dynamics. And once the die is cast, it tears out of the gate, covering more romantic drama in six episodes than most shows manage in a season. It’s also a great example of all the things KyoAni really does well – it’s full of small character moments and beautiful colors, and its sense of comedic timing is best in class. Tie it all together with a legitimately thoughtful thematic center, and you’ve got a pretty impressive romantic comedy.

Chuunibyou is available on Amazon.

25. Giant Robo

Giant Robo Best Anime List

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

Here’s my essay on Giant Robo.

Giant Robo is vaguely available on Amazon.

24. Sound! Euphonium

Sound! Euphonium Best Anime List

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

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

23. Spice and Wolf

Spice and Wolf Best Anime List

It may not be apparent from this list, but it turns out I’m an incredible sucker for romance. Chemistry, banter, moments of sacrifice for the one you love – all it really takes is one great couple to get me through a show. Unfortunately, most anime is really bad at portraying romance – it flounders in cliches, it creates artificial drama, and it doesn’t understand actual rapport. Standing as one of the premier counterexamples to this sad trend, Spice and Wolf is about as endearing and well-drawn of a romance as you could hope for. Its characters are distinctive and bounce off each other well, its dialogue displays great personality and chemistry, and it’s apparent again and again how much its protagonists care for each other. Though I also am a great fan of its aesthetic and economic focus, the thing that makes Spice and Wolf a top show for me is the fantastic romance at its center.

Spice and Wolf is available at Amazon.

22. Hunter x Hunter 2011

Hunter x Hunter 2011 Best Anime List

As the only long-running shounen on my list, HxH’s a bit of an outlier. But HxH is not your typical shounen – directed by Madhouse (likely my pick for the best studio of all time) and adapted from a source by the writer of Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter is basically a master class in what makes adventure entertaining. Though it starts off “only” demonstrating it knows how to make challenge-based television entertaining (in lieu of actual fights, it generally sets up compelling puzzles of all shapes and sizes for its heroes), it ends up jumping from genre to genre, dabbling in crime thriller, tournament shounen, and even war drama. And through it all, the show’s fantastic aesthetics elevate it above almost everything out there – in direction, in sound design, in pacing, in animation, in basically every relevant aesthetic metric, Hunter x Hunter triumphs. That it’s been maintaining this level of quality for well over a hundred episodes is nothing short of astonishing – in fact, I’d say Hunter x Hunter has only gotten better over time.

Here’s a critical breakdown of HxH episode 116, and here’s an essay on the recently concluded (and breathtaking) Chimera Ant arc.

Hunter x Hunter 2011 has not received a western release.

21. Mushishi

Mushishi Best Anime List

Mushishi is one of those strange, special shows that seem to just emerge confident and fully constructed, exude excellence for all of their running time, and then go quietly on their way. Its vignettes are dreamy and ambiguous, full of resonance and compelling ideas but never didactic. Its world is mysterious and enchanting, evoking both a more resigned and possibly more dangerous version of Miyazaki’s mystical forests. Its production is fantastic, with beautiful backgrounds matching a wonderfully understated musical score and a great sense of pacing to conjure its powerful, singular atmosphere. And all this works in service of a show that’s fundamentally just incredibly calming and sedate – a series of long, lazy afternoons spent enjoying the company of a master storyteller.

Here’s my essay on Mushishi.

Mushishi’s first season is available at Amazon.

2,750 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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