Japanese anime attracts more and more new fans every single day. Watching anime was once a rather uncommon niche pastime, but now, it's nearly impossible to find someone who hasn't at least watched one title from the medium. It's easy to see why more people love anime as a mainstream hobby nowadays, with the best anime of all time telling incredible, compelling stories with gorgeous visuals and fascinating characters.
Many of the top naime of all time are instantly recognizable classics that defined the medium for years, while a few newer-generation hits also have pretty high ratings and command a great deal of respect. Best of all, all of these top anime series cover an impressive variety of cinematic genres and storytelling themes, meaning there's something for everyone in the industry's uppermost echelon.
Update on August 14th, 2023 by Louis Kemner:we're well into the Summer 2023 season, and fans of Japanese anime fans have more high-quality anime to love than ever before. While fans will always debate what the world's #1 anime is and why, the fandom can generally agree that these outstanding, wonderful series deserve to rank among the best anime of all time, including five brand-new titles any fan can check out. These are all must watch anime that define the entire industry and show everyone what this medium can really do.
30 Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen has earned its place as part of the famed "dark trio," or three brutal shonen action/horror anime series with roughly similar narrative styles. At a glance, Jujutsu Kaisen looks like typical shonen action, but it also has a strong emotional impact and some strong social commentary as well.
Jujutsu Kaisen's resonant messages, gripping characters, slick combat system, and expert blend of action, horror, drama, and comedy make it one of the best anime series of not just the modern era, but any decade of anime. It's not for everyone, but any anime fan who can stomach its graphic action sequences is in for a great time.
29 Grand Blue
The Grand Blue seinen anime can be counted among best anime ever not because it has deep, worldly themes, but because it's such a great comedy. Grand Blue is simply one of the best at what it does, depicting the wild antics of carefree college students as they swim, drink, and party their way through college.
The humor in Grand Blue hits hard and is totally unpredictable, but that doesn't make this anime shallow. This anime, and especially the source manga, also have sympathetic and oddly inspiring messages about friendship, love, and wanting to belong.
28 Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War
The original Bleach anime was once highly popular, but it eventually fell behind its Naruto and One Piece competitors and actually got canceled in 2012. Fortunately for dedicated Bleach fans, this legendary shonen series returned in 2022 with the Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War anime. Now Bleach has reclaimed its position as one of the best anime of all time, mainly for shonen anime fans. This anime condenses everything that made the original so popular, with much better pacing, slick modern visuals, great voice acting, and a brutal and exciting war arc that will decide the Soul Society's fate once and for all.
27 Cyberpunk Edgerunners
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a bloody and compelling anime based on the Cyberpunk 2077 game world. For the most part, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is what fans might expect, as a violent, dark sci-fi series featuring antiheroes living in a grim future world. Still, there's room for a strong human heart in all this high-tech chaos. Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a must watch anime not just because of its visual flair and cool action shots, but also its surprisingly strong emotional core. The antihero David might seem like a punk at first, but he has a good heart and will push himself to the brink to defend the only people who ever accepted him.
26 Spy x Family
It didn't take long for the hit shonen title Spy x Family to become one of the best anime of all time. The series is a stylish blend of several genres and concepts in one compelling package, from slice-of-life antics to the power of found family to spy thrillers set in a Cold War-style world.
Spy x Family stars the mysterious, handsome foster father Loid Forger, who is secretly a superspy called Agent Twilight. He created a found family to get closer to his target, but soon, Loid might think that his wife and daughter are the real reason he does all this, not just to follow orders. Meanwhile, Yor is delighted to ber a foster mom and will try her best, even if she's a lousy cook, and little Anya Forger is delighted to have two cool parents who inspire her wild imagination.
25 Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War
Many romantic comedy anime series focus on sheer cuteness and lack the thematic and intellectual depth to rank among the best anime series of all time. However, the seinen rom-com Kaguya-Sama: Love is War is different. The series is much deeper and more emotionally complex than other rom-coms tend to be. Kaguya-Sama is a winning blend of humor, romance, drama, and clever dialogue and plotlines that make the anime more than the sum of its parts. The story mainly focuses on Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane trying to trick each other into making a love confession first. Then, their friends start falling in love, too, making things that much more complicated.
24 Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is a historical action/adventure seinen anime that is about more than swords and war. Vinland Saga deconstructs Medieval war epics, portraying war as a pointless and foolish endeavor that only makes the world worse while perpetuating the cycle of hatred and violence.
Vinland Saga's antihero, Thorfinn Karlsefni, learns that lesson when he loses his father, Thors, then loses his chance at revenge. Instead, Thorfinn will reinvent himself at his lowest point and decide that his life's goal is to oppose war and create a colony where violence and slavery have no place.
23 The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya
Premiering in 2014, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a 14-episode anime that follows the misadventures of the SOS Brigade, a group of students and their charismatic, eccentric leader Haruhi Suzumiya. The Haruhi anime is an energetic romp that balances fun comedy with magnetic and compelling characters.
It's gone on to become a staple in anime culture, with a lot of new anime referencing the series' most iconic songs and dances. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is sure to charm even the most calloused of viewers and show them what one of the best anime series out there can really do.
22 Serial Experiments Lain
Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, Serial Experiments Lain is a psychological horror anime that first premiered in 1998. The 13-episode season chronicles the strange occurrences happening to an introverted girl named Lain, who becomes obsessed with a virtual realm called "The Wired." Horror is somewhat niche in the anime world, making it noteworthy when something as acclaimed as Serial Experiments Lain comes around. Horror anime often falls flat because of iffy animation or the characters looking too colorful and artificial to create a horror atmosphere, but Serial Experiments Lain largely succeeds all the same.
Created by Yuki Urushibara, the Mushishi manga was adapted into a 26-episode season in late 2005. Following the stoic traveler, Ginko, Mushishi is a slow and atmospheric story about strange beings known as "Mushi." Mushi exist without purpose, or so it seems. Mushi are beyond good and evil and can exist in countless forms, such as plants, diseases, or rainbows. Ginko's journey to research and understand Mushi has captivated audiences and enthralled them with rich examples of Asian legends and folklore.
20 Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica stood out among the magical girl genre for its cruel, unpredictable, dark, and deeply disturbing material. While the character designs may seem cute and childlike, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is not an anime for children. This is one of the best anime series, but it's also rather dark and heavy, as its creators intended. Puella Magi Madoka Magica bluntly shows how violent, tragic, and challenging the magical girl life can be. It resonated with anime fans, with many fans and critics calling it one of the best anime of the 2010s.
19 Revolutionary Girl Utena
Created by the artist collective Be-Papas, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a short shojo manga that was adapted into a 39-episode anime in 1997. The series follows Utena Tenjou, a young, orphaned girl who wants nothing more than to be a prince. Drawn to the world of sword duels and combat, Utena's tomboyish personality made her an icon for many young women around the world. Revolutionary Girl Utena confidently stands as one of the best anime series out there, and it continues to be revisited today, presenting powerful themes that aren't often told in anime.
Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, FLCL is well known to fans born in the '90s. Premiering in 2000, the six-episode series was a staple of late-night anime watch parties. Following a young boy named Naota, FLCL is an adventurous romp of strange activities and strange people. The character Haruko Haruhara has become beloved in anime fandom for her iconic design and her treasured Vespa and guitar. While FLCL received a continuation in recent years, fans often agree that nothing can touch that original series.
17 One-Punch Man
One-Punch Man combines comedy with the action-packed battles that define shonen anime. The series follows Saitama, an average guy who wants to become a hero. It's a pretty standard premise, but Saitama turned himself into one of the most overpowered characters of all time after three years of training that also resulted in total hair loss.
Saitama became so powerful that he could defeat all of his enemies with a single punch, earning him the titular nickname "One-Punch Man." Unfortunately, Saitama becomes bored since it's so easy for him to defeat anyone in a battle, meaning the real battles must be fought within his own mind as he seeks to make something of himself.
16 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is an energetic, bombastic feast with visuals that can compete with even the most well-animated shows of the modern era. Premiering in April 2007, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann quickly rose to prominence for its spectacular directing and thrilling action sequences. The anime explodes with creativity and artistic vision, making it feel way more current than many of its peers that year. Following Simon and Kamina, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is an action mecha series sure to satisfy diehard mecha fans.
15 Naruto Shippuden
Naruto Shippuden is a continuation of the main Naruto series. It takes place after a two-year time skip and follows the titular protagonist's journey after leaving the Hidden Leaf Village to further hone his abilities as a ninja. Across 500 episodes, Naruto Shippuden introduced some of Naruto's best villains, and it also makes the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke a focal point. All the characters are older, and this continuation satisfied fans with the character growth they needed from characters like Hinata and Sakura.
Steins;Gate stars Rintaro Okabe, a scientist who is always excited for experimentation and exploration. He founded the Future Gadget Laboratory with Shiina and Itaru to create never-before-seen technology. Unfortunately, the best that the trio could come up with was a microwave that turned bananas into mere slime.
However, Rintaro discovers that there's more to this seemingly useless microwave than what meets the eye. Users can send messages to the past with it. Rintaro soon discovers that it's somewhat of a time travel device, but he also quickly realizes how much damage he's caused to the universal timeline.
13 Dragon Ball Z
Few anime characters have become as iconic as Dragon Ball Z's protagonist, Goku. He's a Saiyan warrior and the planet's strongest fighter, and he leads the Z-fighters on their quest to obtain the Dragon Balls and defend the planet against various enemies. The series is a continuation of Dragon Ball, and it expands upon the series' universe in innovative ways.
After winning the Martial Arts tournament, Goku settled down, married, and had a son. Goku's true origins are revealed after his brother, Raditz, comes to Earth. It turns out that Goku's true mission was to destroy the planet. Since he fell off a huge cliff and landed on his head, he ended up with a case of amnesia.
12 One Piece
With over 1,000 episodes and counting, One Piece is one of the longest anime series of all time. However, its length didn't stop fans from becoming immersed in the story of Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates.
Luffy is less like a typical pirate and more similar to other shonen protagonists. Instead of a ruthless schemer, Luffy is a zany 17-year-old who believes that nobody's dreams are impossible to achieve. One day, he wants to become the Pirate King. Luffy leads the Straw Hats, a tough squad of pirates from all walks of life who teamed up to find the titular One Piece.
11 Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is a 26-episode classic that every anime fan needs to watch at least once. Starring Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, the series is set in a dystopian future in which humanity has conquered the galaxy. Unfortunately, this means that the rest of the universe is now plagued with the crimes that polluted the Earth.
Spike and Jet hunt down these evildoers to make a living for themselves. Spike is one of anime's best gunslingers, despite his lazy attitude, who struggles to cope with his past trauma. Jet looks after him and their spaceship. The two go on adventures across time and space, catching as many criminals as possible.