Anime has captured the hearts and imaginations of viewers around the world. But with thousands of anime series out there, which ones stand out from the rest? For longtime anime fans, there are some absolute classics that stand the test of time as the greatest stories ever animated. Even for newcomers to anime, there are certain series that are must-watch hallmarks of the medium. These are the anime that elicit every emotion while showcasing the very best that anime has to offer.
Join us on a journey through the best anime series of all time. Relive your favourite anime worlds and meet characters who feel like family. Discover a new series that will stay with you for a lifetime. The masterpieces of anime explored here showcase every genre, theme, and style, exemplifying why anime is one of the most diverse and creative storytelling forms today. Read on for the definitive list of the best anime series of all time.
Haikyuu!! is a sports anime revolving around volleyball. It follows Shouyou Hinata, a short high school student who lacks conventional volleyball skills but makes up for it with his incredible jumping ability. After his team gets crushed by star player Tobio Kageyama, Hinata vows to surpass Kageyama and leads his hapless middle school team to victory in a tournament. Though their relationship is antagonistic at first, Hinata and Kageyama slowly learn to work together after joining the same high school team, forging a legendary combo. Haikyuu!! excels at exciting match choreography and investing you in its characters’ growth.
In a wild west-inspired sci-fi world, Vash the Stampede is an eccentric gunfighter with a $$60 billion bounty on his head. Though he has a reputation as a dangerous outlaw who leaves destruction in his wake, Vash is actually a pacifist who goes to great lengths to avoid hurting others. His real identity is as a humanoid plant created for destruction but desiring peace. With his overly dramatic personality, Vash lightens the mood with humor even as he faces threats on all sides. Contrasting dark themes like genocide with lighthearted comedy, Trigun mixes philosophy and great action sequences to create a thrilling and thoughtful anime.
3. Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z continues the adventures of Son Goku, an alien originally sent to destroy Earth but who became its greatest defender. Constantly striving to become stronger, Goku and his allies protect the universe from more powerful villains. As threats escalate, Goku and his friends push their fighting skills and techniques to their limits. With its memorable characters, epic transformations, and drawn-out flashy attacks, Dragon Ball Z redefined the battle shounen genre. The anime’s sequels and universe have made Dragon Ball one of the most influential anime franchises in the world.
4. My Hero Academia
In a world where most people have superpowers called quirks, Izuku Midoriya is one of the few born without a quirk. Yet he refuses to give up on his dream of becoming a hero. After impressing his idol All Might, the world’s greatest hero, Izuku inherits All Might’s quirk and is able to enroll at the prestigious U.A. High School. There, Izuku experiences rigorous hero training alongside talented classmates like the fiery Bakugo, creating his own rivalries. While Izuku struggles to master his new abilities, sinister villain forces prepare to challenge the heroes. With lovable characters, intense action, and a cool superhero premise, My Hero Academia has earned its popularity.
5. Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss takes place in a rich fantasy world focused around a giant pit called the Abyss. Strange relics and creatures are found within the Abyss, which has complex ecosystems on its multiple levels. Riko, whose mother Lyza went missing in the Abyss, studies the Abyss with her robot Reg. They decide to venture into the dangerous, restricted depths of the Abyss to find Lyza. As Riko and Reg descend, they encounter the brutal side of the Abyss. The anime’s adorable art style hides the Abyss’ dark secrets – though beautiful, it grows more nightmarish and lethal the deeper you go. Made in Abyss hooks you with its worldbuilding, stellar soundtrack, and the engrossing journey into the darkness.
6. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Entire Series)
The popular long-running series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure tells the multi-generational tale of the heroic Joestar family. Each part of the anime has unique characters, wild plots, creative battles influenced by supernatural Stands, and absurdity. From the flamboyant poses to the memorable reaction shots and memes, Jojo embraces camp and machismo with its own distinct style. Whether it’s 19th century England, an Aztec temple in Mexico, or a Japanese town in 1999, Jojo takes viewers on a riveting and bizarre adventure every season.
7. Naruto Shippuden
Initially a mischievous outcast orphan in his ninja village, Naruto Uzumaki grows into a respected ninja leader and protector of the Hidden Leaf Village. After training under Jiraiya, Naruto hones his skills while searching for his rival and friend Sasuke, who left the village seeking revenge. Naruto faces antagonists like the Akatsuki while determining how to deal with the dangerous Nine-Tailed Fox sealed within him. With great world-building, exciting ninja battles, ninja training, and likable characters, Naruto has captivated viewers across generations.
8. Death Note
Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student who finds a supernatural notebook, the Death Note, that grants its user the ability to kill anyone simply by writing their name while picturing their face. After testing the Death Note’s power, Light sets out to rid the world of criminals as the anonymous “Kira.” His vigilantism attracts the attention of enigmatic genius detective L, who is determined to stop Light. What ensues is an intense battle of wits, each trying to expose the other’s identity. Death Note offers thriller-worthy twists and thought-provoking dilemmas about morality and justice.
9. Attack on Titan
Towering mindless humanoid Titans have nearly driven humanity to extinction. After the Titans destroy his hometown and kill his mother, Eren Yeager dedicates his life to their eradication by enlisting in the Survey Corps. As Eren goes beyond the walls with Mikasa, Armin, and the rest of the Corps, they fight back against the Titans and learn disturbing secrets about where the Titans come from. Attack on Titan is apocalyptic thriller and political commentary filled with mystery. The anime grabs your attention with intense action scenes as the humans take on the Titans.
10. Ouran High School Host Club
Ouran Academy is a prestigious school attended by Japan’s wealthy elite. Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student who doesn’t fit in. After accidentally breaking an expensive vase, Haruhi is forced to join the eccentric Ouran Host Club comprised of the handsomest boys at school. This reverse harem romantic comedy anime affectionately satirizes shoujo tropes. As Haruhi pretends to be a boy to work in the club, she gets unwittingly romanced by the male hosts in comedic misunderstandings. Ouran is stylistic eye candy with lovable characters that poke fun at cliches.
11. Devilman Crybaby
Devilman Crybaby adaptates and modernizes the classic Devilman manga and anime. Demons once roamed the Earth until an alliance with humans sealed them away. When demons begin to re-emerge, AKira Fudo’s best friend Ryou tricks him into bonding with the powerful demon Amon. Possessing both Amon’s demonic powers and his own human heart, Akira becomes Devilman to battle demons who possess humans. However, Akira struggles to harness his powers and retain his humanity. Violent, sexual, and stylish with an incredible soundtrack, this visually striking and provocative modern anime reboot is impactful and uncompromising.
12. Demon Slayer
When Tanjiro Kamado’s family is attacked by demons, his world is shattered. His younger sister Nezuko is the lone survivor, but she has transformed into a demon. Demon Slayers exist to destroy demons, so Tanjiro sets out on a journey with Nezuko to find a way to turn her human again. They join forces with the quirky, talented Demon Slayer Corps to battle powerful demons and uncover the secrets behind demon transformations. With its lovable characters, cool demon slayer lore, beautiful ufotable animation, and exciting demon battle action sequences, Demon Slayer became a massive hit.
13. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Exiled prince Lelouch vi Britannia obtains the mysterious power of Geass, which allows him to compel others to obey his commands. With his newfound power, Lelouch leads a resistance movement against the totalitarian Holy Britannian Empire that invaded Japan. Donning a mask to become Zero, he inspires the Japanese people to rise up. But Lelouch must keep his identity secret from his friends at Ashford Academy. Code Geass weaves action, military strategy, mecha battles, and complex moral dilemmas into an exhilarating anime about resistance, the corrupting nature of power, and political ambition.
14. Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo takes place in Japan’s Edo period, but with a blend of anachronistic stylistic elements like hip-hop. Mugen is a rough-mannered rogue swordsman who helps Fuu find the elusive samurai who smells like sunflowers. They’re accompanied by stoic ronin Jin. Mugen and Jin have an intense rivalry that leads to some of the anime’s incredible fight sequences. With stylish swordfighting action, offbeat comedy, and a mix of historical and musical influences, Samurai Champloo is an original homage to samurai dramas and hip-hop culture.
During Prohibition in 1930s America, immortal alchemists, Mafia gangs, thieves, and other strange characters come together in events surrounding the search for the immortality elixir. With an ensemble cast, Baccano! tells an interconnectednonlinear narrative from the perspectives of different factions to gradually reveal the full mystery. Effortlessly blending genres like gangster noir, comedy, and the supernatural, Baccano! is a thrill ride boosted by excellent English dubbing and Tarantino-esque storytelling.
Funny, surreal, and only 6 episodes long, FLCL follows Naota, an ordinary 12-year-old boy living in the city of Mabase. But his life gets turned upside down when the bizarre Haruko hits him with her scooter and bashes him with her guitar. This provokes a horn to grow from his head that summons giant battling robots. As Naota tries to make sense of Haruko and the experiences unfolding around him, FLCL reveals itself to be a coming-of-age story depicted through symbols and metaphors. This wacky yet thoughtful anime is bursting with style to the tune of an incredible soundtrack.
17. Yu Yu Hakusho
Yu Yu Hakusho follows teenage delinquent Yusuke Urameshi, who suddenly dies while trying to save a child’s life. Given a second chance by the Spirit World, he completes tasks as a spirit detective fighting demons. With the help of his allies like the reserved swordsman Hiei and the fox demon Kurama, Yusuke faces down monsters, criminals, and kings of the demon plane. Between the martial arts action tournaments, demon battles, and supernatural powers, Yu Yu Hakusho is an influential classic battle shounen. It blends comedy, drama, and adventure into an addictive supernatural action thriller.
18. Neon Genesis Evangelion
In 2015, after a cataclysmic event called the Second Impact, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari gets recruited to pilot Evangelion Unit-01, a giant bio-machine mecha developed to fight monstrous beings called Angels. The future of the world rests on the Eva pilots’ shoulders as they must learn to synchronize with their tempermental Evas to defeat each invading Angel. While it has mecha battles, Neon Genesis Evangelion is known for its cerebral storytelling. The show delves deep into each character’s psychology and insecurities while examining philosophical questions about existence, free will, and human instrumentality.
19. Hunter x Hunter
12-year-old Gon Freecss becomes a Hunter to follow in his absent father’s footsteps. Hunters are licensed elite members of humanity granted special privileges. Gon befriends ex-assassin Killua, healer Kurapika, and doctor Leorio as they journey into a fantastical world filled with beasts, monsters, and evils. But Gon seeks not just adventure, but also to uncover the secrets of his father. Along the way, the group has enthralling adventures while battling monsters and evil organizations. With clever power systems, worldbuilding, and character writing, Hunter x Hunter subverts combat shounen tropes for deeper storytelling.
20. Mob Psycho 100
Powerful young psychic Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama can obliterate entire cities if he loses control. But Mob wants to live a normal life and repress his powers. As he navigates school and work, Mob realizes bottling up his emotions is psychologically unhealthy. With its distinct, vibrant art style and fluid animation, Mob Psycho 100 packs poignant themes about purpose, emotional health, and growth into a creative coming-of-age story with psychic flair. Despite the impressive action sequences, the heart is Mob’s endearing character development.
21. Hajime no Ippo
Ippo Makunouchi is a shy high school student bullied for his passive nature. After being saved by boxer Takamura Mamoru, Ippo is inspired to take up boxing to gain confidence. Under Takamura’s tutelage, Ippo transforms through rigorous training into a strong fighter, working his way up the ranks in the competitive pro boxing world. Hajime no Ippo beautifully balances sports drama, comedy, character growth, and adrenaline-pumping boxing matches. The realistic visuals make every punch feel visceral. As Ippo fights his rivals, he learns what it truly means to be strong.
Kenzo Tenma is a renowned Japanese surgeon in Germany whose life enters turmoil after he saves the life of a young sociopathic boy over the town mayor. As this boy, Johan Liebert, grows up to become a gruesome murderer, Dr. Tenma devotes his life to stopping the monster he saved. He tries to track down Johan across Europe while uncovering the mystery of this sinister villain’s past. Monster is an eerie psychological thriller anime that examines concepts like human morality and depravity through its intricate plot and complex characters.
23. One Piece
Monkey D. Luffy’s mission is to find the legendary One Piece treasure left by the late Pirate King Gol D. Roger, which will make him the next King of the Pirates. Traveling with his zany Straw Hat Pirate crew, Luffy has high seas adventures in the vibrant world of One Piece that’s filled with quirky characters. Luffy battles rival pirates and government officials with his rubber body powers. One Piece excels at worldbuilding and long-term storytelling, with imaginative new islands and lore added with each arc. With over 1000 episodes, the long-running One Piece has built an expansive, rich universe full of mysteries.
24. Cowboy Bebop
In space, a crew of mismatched bounty hunters travels in their ship the Bebop. Down-on-their-luck Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, the genius hacker Edward, and their data dog Ein take on dangerous missions throughout the solar system while running from their mysterious pasts. Blending the futuristic setting with a noir atmosphere and irresistible characters , Cowboy Bebop delivers space western action with style. Its episodic stories led by an incredible jazz soundtrack make it an artistic masterpiece.
25. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
After brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt forbidden alchemy to revive their dead mother, it backfires horribly. Edward loses his leg while Alphonse’s soul gets trapped in armor. In their quest to restore their bodies, they search for the Philosopher’s Stone. As they uncover deeper secrets and plots, they confront the dark side of alchemy. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood skillfully balances drama, humor, and action for an emotional story about loss, redemption, family, and morality.
Self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe accidentally discovers a way to send messages into the past with his microwave time machine. Together with his hacker friend Daru and childhood friend Mayuri, they wrestle with the consequences of altering the past through time leaps. Okabe experiences different timelines based on his choices in an attempt to prevent Mayuri’s death and outsmart the mysterious organization SERN. With an intricate storyline that demands your attention, Steins;Gate is a thrilling anime that explores the impact of choices and regret through time travel.
Tomoya Okazaki is a depressed high schooler who can’t decide on a direction for his life. He meets Nagisa Furukawa, a sweet yet sickly girl who wants to revive the school drama club. As Tomoya helps Nagisa and gets to know other girls facing struggles, he begins to find purpose. After graduating, Tomoya and Nagisa start a family together, but encounter tragedy. Clannad is emotional drama exploring themes of family, loss, grief, perseverance, and the importance of community. With endearing characters and animation by Kyoto Animation, Clannad tugs at your heartstrings.
28. Cowboy Bebop
In space, a crew of bounty hunters travels in their ship the Bebop. Led by the laidback Spike Spiegel, the group takes dangerous missions throughout the solar system while running from their mysterious criminal pasts. With Spike’s wingman Jet, the genius hacker Ed, the gambling femme fatale Faye, and their super intelligent data dog Ein, Cowboy Bebop delivers stylish space western action with cool characters. Its episodic stories led by an incredible jazz soundtrack make Cowboy Bebop an artistic masterpiece.
Ichigo Kurosaki can see spirits, but his life changes forever when he meets Rukia, a Soul Reaper responsible for guiding souls to the afterlife. When Rukia is injured, she transfers her powers to Ichigo so he can take over her duties. As Ichigo guides restless souls, he also has to contend with dangerous corrupted spirits known as Hollows. Alongside allies like his high-speed friend Yoruichi, Ichigo trains to strengthen his Soul Reaper powers and defend both worlds from evil spirits. Bleach blends an engaging mythos and world with memorable swordplay and battles.
30. Jujutsu Kaisen
Yuji Itadori joins a school of elite sorcerers after ingesting the finger of the powerful curse Ryomen Sukuna to prevent its resurrection. At Tokyo Jujutsu High, Yuji and his mentors Satoru Gojo and Suguru Geto master cursed energy to fight evil curses while working to contain the threat of Sukuna. Packed with creative techniques, engaging characters like the refined Megumi, clever battles, and Sakuga animation, Jujutsu Kaisen is a new action shounen hit.
31. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya starts the SOS Brigade club at school to find aliens, time travelers, and espers. Unbeknownst to Haruhi, she surrounds herself with those very things: her friend Mikuru is a time traveler, and the silent Yuki is an alien. Kyon, the only “normal” club member, gets dragged into the antics of the “brigade” in this quintessential slice of life anime. With Haruhi as an unpredictable god-like figure, the show balances her zany adventures with the ordinary world.
That concludes our list of the absolute best anime series of all time. From sports underdogs to fantastical quests to slice of life classics, these anime represent the pinnacle of storytelling, animation, and sheer entertainment. Their ability to make us laugh, cry, and connect with stories so powerfully is what makes the medium of anime so special.
If you’re new to anime, this list is the perfect starting point to dive into the most lauded series out there and see everything that anime has to offer. For longtime anime fans, reminiscing on these incredible shows reminds us why we fell in love with anime in the first place. These classic and groundbreaking series represent just how much creative potential there is in animation.
So what will be the next anime to earn its place among the best anime series of all time? The great thing about anime is that there are always exciting new shows and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. But the classics here have already proven their timelessness and sheer quality. These are the anime series that every anime fan should watch in their lifetime. Whether you want to revisit old favorites or find your new obsession, these are the definitive best anime series of all time.