Originating in Japan, anime has become a popular form of entertainment all around the world. In the US and other Western cultures, the term “anime” can relate to any form of animation produced in Japan. More importantly, the word anime is used to distinctly separate the genre from common Western animation styles.
Anime is different from Western animations, more often known as cartoons or animated series. Anime takes on adult themes and wrestles with important moral issues, so it’s certainly aimed towards a more mature audience. Generally speaking, the term anime can encompass both TV series and films. However, it does not include Japanese comics, which are often mistakenly referred to as anime when in reality they are called manga.
With more and more Anime series being released with each passing year, we’re going to talk about the best series of the bunch. In case you’re curious about expanding your cultural horizons, any option on this list makes for an excellent starting point. Here’s our top 12 Best Anime Series of all time, listed in no specific order.
Pokémon has become a worldwide phenomenon, so there’s no wonder it earns a spot on our list. The series also played a crucial role in boosting the popularity of anime in general, with more and more fans looking for similar content once they finish their Pokémon binge.
As for the story, it revolves around Ash Ketchum, who is just beginning his Pokémon training as he reaches his 10th birthday. But instead of getting a standard first Pokémon, he gets a Pikachu. The rest, as they say, is history. Perfect if you’re looking for a fun and light series to keep you company after a stressful day.
11. Tokyo Ghoul
On a darker note, Tokyo Ghoul is set in an alternate reality where ghouls live amongst the humans in secrecy. They are creatures that look just like normal people, but can only survive if they consume human flesh. The story follows Ken Kaneki, who becomes a half-ghoul and has to figure out how to adapt in society and keep his nature a secret even from his closest friends.
The series is fairly gory, so you should stay away if you’re not into that sort of thing. Otherwise, Tokyo Ghoul is a wild ride, with excellent world-building, slick animation, and fun characters.
10. Dragon Ball Z
One of the most famous anime series to hit the West, Dragon Ball Z is now a household name. In fact, many of today’s hardcore anime fans began their forays into anime by watching this exciting series. Critics often look down on it, due to its extended combat and fight scenes, spanning several episodes, and lack of intense story and dialogue.
However, no one can deny the impact Dragon Ball Z has had on pop culture all around the world, which makes it a classic of the genre.
Naruto is a captivating anime series with a thrilling storyline and original concept. It revolves around Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja who aspires to accumulate knowledge and become the Hokage, the ninja who is seen as leader and the toughest of them all.
Naruto has everything one could possibly want, including tons of action, plenty of martial arts sequences, suspense, and a dash of romance for good measure. Naruto is seen by many critics as being more realistic, at least compared to some of the other anime series currently available. If you like your anime on a more relatable level, this one is a great pick.
8. One Piece
One Piece follows the fascinating journeys of Monkey D. Luffy, a young male who unexpectedly eats a devil fruit and gains a super power. He then goes on to search the seas for the “One Piece”, a treasure that will turn him into the new Pirate King.
This classic anime series offers both a unique take on the traditional pirate treasure hunt trope and plenty of intense fight scenes meant to keep viewers glued to the screen. Certainly worth a watch if you are looking to get lost in a whimsical adventure.
7. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is a highly acclaimed anime series thanks to its stunning visual style, engaging story, and powerful action sequences. This dark fantasy show is set in the future, when humans are forced to live within communes protected by huge walls meant to guard them against the Titans, giant humanoids who like to feed on humans for sport.
This anime series is certainly a thrilling ride, full of suspense and mind-bending twists. But besides the excellent story, what really makes Attack on Titan stand out from the crowd are its insights on human emotions and willingness to deliver moral lesson in a highly enjoyable fashion. To put it simply, it serves as a reminder of what being human is all about.
6. Fullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist is tremendously popular series for a reason. Influenced by the European industrial revolution, the story takes place in an alternate reality where alchemy is one of the major scientific techniques. The show revolves around two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who embark on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone. This magical stone is meant to restore their bodies, after an attempt to bring their mother back to life with alchemy went terribly wrong.
This anime delivers a touching story, offering a blend of emotional turmoil, action, and adventure. Not only that, but the character development in this relatively short series is highly praised, with Fullmetal Alchemist earning bonus points for its observations about the human condition.
Bleach follows the tales of wild teenager Ichigo Kurosaki after he gains the abilities of a Soul Reaper, an embodiment of death similar to the famous Grim Reaper. These new abilities come with responsibilities, so Ichigo begins to defend humans from dark entities and guide souls to the afterlife. Exciting stuff.
Bleach earned a spot on our list thanks to its complex plot, penchant to create suspense, and intense battle sequences. We guarantee the story will grab you from the very first scene.
4. Sword Art Online
Like the name suggests, Sword Art Online is a series set in the near-future, which takes place within multiple virtual reality MMORPG worlds. More specifically, the action kicks off in the year 2022, when thousands of humans get trapped in a virtual world and main character Kirito attempts to escape.
Needless to say, this is a very unique take on the future, offering a refreshing story with well-developed characters and lots of action. Plus, the series offers a fascinating exploration of the psychological aspects of virtual reality – great for those who like their shows more though-provoking.
3. Code Geass
Code Geass is a classic anime series that stands the test of time thanks to its beautiful aesthetic and fantastic premise. The series takes place in an alternate timeline and tells the story of how former prince Lelouch VI Britannia receives a power known as Geass. He then uses it to take on the Holy Britannian Empire, an imperial monarchy that has been expanding by conquering various countries.
This is a clever and addictive series for sure; offering thrilling action, complex characters, mesmerizing visuals, and just enough melodrama to keep viewers wanting more.
2. Fairy Tail
Fairy Tale follows Lucy, a wannabe wizard who befriends the very powerful Natsu, Grey, and Erza, who belong to the legendary wizard guild. The story is set up in a world called Earth-land, home to both humans as well as many other celestial creatures, including giants and dragons.
This show has something for everyone – it’s emotional, dramatic, serious, funny, and adventurous, all in one neat package. If you’re looking for versatility, you’re in the right place.
1. Death Note
Death Note follows the story of Light Yagami, a high school student who gets his hands on a supernatural notebook belonging to a shinigami (god of death) named Ryuk. This notebook gives its user the power to kill anybody whose name and face they are familiar with. As a result, Light concocts a plan to create and rule a world where all evil is cleansed from existence, by acting as a God. At the same time, viewers watch the continuous efforts of a detective called L, who is set on preventing Light from seeing his goals come true.
This anime is an unforgettable adventure, filled with memorable characters and a solid story that will make you question everything. Besides delivering a cat and mouse game between detective and killer, it also poses some profound question about justice and life. You can’t go wrong with binging this one.