Extended into action anime, the definition still mostly fit. These are mostly anime where a significant portion of its entertainment, excitement, and thrill would come from the fights, stunts, chases, etc. Due to this definition, a vast majority of most shounen series fall under the category of action anime.
If you happen to be new to the genre and are looking for a good starting ground to watch, don’t fret. We’ve got you covered. But first, a few additional rules to better filter our selections:
- All titles under one franchise will only have one entry (including spin-offs and reboots)
- Action elements should be the most prominent part of the series (no Code Geass sorry)
- The entry rating will be mostly via the overall influence of the series/franchise to potential viewers.
Alright, that’s it. Now time to hit that list!
- Best Action Anime
- 30. Tiger and Bunny
- 29. Terraformars
- 28. Darker than Black
- 27. D. Gray-Man
- 26. Fairy Tail
- 25. Bleach
- 24. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (series)
- 23. The Seven Deadly Sins
- 22. Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? – DanMachi
- 21. Berserk
- 20. Samurai Champloo
- 19. To Aru (A Certain) series
- 18. One Piece
- 17. Naruto (series)
- 16. Fate/??? (series)
- 15. Black Lagoon
- 14. Katekyo Hitman Reborn
- 13. Dragon Ball (series)
- 12. Durarara!
- 11. Attack on Titan
- 10. Kill la Kill
- 9. My Hero Academia
- 8. One Punch Man
- 7. Rurouni Kenshin
- 6. Lupin the 3rd (series)
- 5. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
- 4. Cowboy Bebop
- 3. Fullmetal Alchemist
- 2. Gintama
- 1. Hunter X Hunter
- Final Thoughts
Best Action Anime
30. Tiger and Bunny
Riding on the color combinations of Western superhero themes and Japanese modern entertainment references, Tiger and Bunny flaunt itself as an action anime with flair.
You just cannot hate the dynamic of the idealistic veteran and the no-guts-no-glory rookie, in a landscape where their very identities become the subject of strong intrigue. The action itself is pretty spectacular, too, is a visual experience kind of way.
As a bonus, its deeper themes give it the spice that it needs to be a highly recommended series for just about any action anime aficionado.
If you love the absolute raw gore of a fight between genetically enhanced humans versus mutated roaches, then Terraformars is the action series to watch.
You just know that you’re in for some real tasty entertainment when its prologue already grabs your attention and drives your curiosity mad. It’s like the perfect appetizer for the more epic fight moments later on that the series has specially prepared for its ravenous audience.
Oh, and by the way, it’s also a nice series for consistently turning up the uncanny valley factor dial way beyond eleven.
28. Darker than Black
Are you interested in a Batman-like protagonist in some modern-day, semi-fantasy Gotham-setting? How about convincing story lore where people run around with unique “star-guided” abilities just waiting to be clashed with one another? Or maybe mystery elements that keep your mind busy imagining what things could be?
If your answer is all of the above, then let me introduce Darker than Black. Trust me, its action-packed rollercoaster ride is far more impressive than just looking at it from the ground.
27. D. Gray-Man
Anime featuring altered and/or corrupted entities in alarming numbers and threatening (not OP) power levels will always have its place somewhere within the sphere of action genre titles. D.Gray-Man is one of the most classic and best-remembered ones with this theme.
Not just for the awesome fights that captured the original feel of the manga adequately. But also the nice mix of origin lore and story elements that perfectly complement the presentation/explanation of combat properties for allies and foes.
26. Fairy Tail
Curious about how an adventuring guild would look like in a shounen setting? Fairy Tail delivers on the premise of this wide, expansive fantasy world, very reminiscent of what you would expect in an MMO, but is package-sealed within the characters’ identity that live in it.
It is by no means similar to Hunter x Hunter this way, but it helps in building upon the setting of the story. The fights are spectacular enough, although power progression feels quite linear. In fact, it might be a little bit too linear at times.
Having elements of the main antagonist while still being a goody-too-shoe may be an old trope now, but for Bleach, it defines the series for its first few main arcs.
No, no, I’m not talking about the son of some OP vampire or some other masked rebel leader out there. I’m talking about Ichigo, his comrades’ ragtag team, the so-called club of shinigami, and their sworn ethereal enemies.
The series eventually lost its way with the defeat of its most calculating and devious antagonist. But for a time, it held its own against the most popular shounen series of its contemporary era.
24. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (series)
Action elements in the magical girl series have always been there. In fact, it is an essential factor in the genre’s identity.
For the Nanoha series, it’s explosions, explosions, and more explosions! Making friends by blowing everyone up with a huge ass laser has never been this fantastic. But seriously though, its magical + fantasy sci-fi elements helped to really distinguish it from other magical girl series during its original heyday.
The recent full-length movies have especially solidified its formula and are a good recommendation to anyone interested in fast-paced magical girl action.
23. The Seven Deadly Sins
One OP protagonist isn’t enough for you? How about seven OP protagonists? Anyone who is even remotely familiar with The Seven Deadly Sins only needs to close their eyes to instantly recognize the action brand that the series carries.
You know for certain that Meliodas and gang will prevail, but oftentimes they are pitted against antagonists that you really, really want to get wrecked. You anticipate the pure, unadulterated satisfaction brought by their utter defeat.
Additionally, the spice of alignment ambiguity also keeps its otherwise shounen-typical turn of events still satisfying to keep track of.
22. Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? – DanMachi
If several OP protagonists aren’t your thing, then maybe Belle’s underdog appeal will pique your action interest.
A combination of colorful cast, satisfying character progression, and intriguing game-like location setting is what makes DanMachi such a pleasure to watch. You know for certain that Belle will get wrecked, as oftentimes, they are pitted against obstacles that he is unable to directly fight (yet).
But because victories are never shown in a deus ex machina way, you still anticipate the pure, unadulterated satisfaction of the eventual defeat of an intimidating foe.
The setting is rather bleak for such an action-oriented series that centers on an OP-ish protagonist, but that’s Berserk’s charm. Guts may just be an ordinary human, but he is an extraordinary warrior, able to achieve near-impossible feats of combat.
The fictional world of the series is also very dynamic. Even though Guts is somewhat OP, he is just but one tiny element of the entire Kingdom of Midland, where most of the anime and manga events take place.
20. Samurai Champloo
It’s basically a period samurai drama meets modern action flick and in a very good way. Its soundtrack and groovy “camerawork” during chase and fight scenes are an absolute ear and eye candy to sakuga aficionados out there, even before the advent of memorable modern-day counterparts such as Attack on Titan.
This is doubly better, considering that the movements of characters during fights are still largely realistic, or in this sense, well-choreographed. As such, the viewing experience for such scenes adds further to the series’s overall artistic value.
19. To Aru (A Certain) series
“Whenever magic and science collide, a story unfolds.” Now that’s a catchline that would stir up your action curiosity regardless of whether the idea really appeals to you or not.
The entire franchise has a number of series and spin-offs that share a common universe, the primary ones being A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun.
While varied, its themes still centers on one big climax: high-octane brawls against/between magically-oriented entities and scientifically-developed beings. And at the center of it all is our poor, always-unfortunate hero, Touma Kamijou.
18. One Piece
Did I just say longest running 2000’s-era shounen series? While many may believe that it is just due to overextension, we’d say it simply kept the chops to evoke that sense of adventure. Action is pretty much on point, too, with good ol’ power scaling represented quite well (if not consistently).
Some of the later battle mechanics introduced in the series made it a little bit too stereotypical, though. But, at least you can forget those minor issues with most of its characters always striking a good impression on viewers.
17. Naruto (series)
Like One Piece, Naruto is a lot more memorable in its original manga format. But, we do have to admit that the anime series, and we mean every series out there, provided a good mix of action entertainment that surprisingly wasn’t just about fights, or chakra, or even Sasuke. Goofy chases? Weird investigations?Slice-of-life challenges?
Naruto have got it all. And oh yeah, you do understand that the entire sequel is also officially under this entry as per the rules above, right?
16. Fate/??? (series)
Remember, it’s either you are all for them or none for them. Okay, just kidding, actually just stay in the 4th and 5th Holy Grail wars, okay? There’s a lot of strategic and political flair in every Fate series. But, those things are usually only secondary.
The first things that always come to mind are the Servant fights, which extends to their identities, skills, and summoned class, among other character-related stuff. Well, there are also other great spin-offs, but you still need a minimum exposure to Fate to fully savor their alternative taste.
15. Black Lagoon
Woah, a series that reflects our first description of action titles word per word! Black Lagoon’s crazy hostile encounters make Hollywood titles look like they’re just working through their Tuesday schedule.
There is a good variety of action here, as suggested, but it is usually the chase sequences that mostly stand out and/or remembered, which is understandable actually, due to the mode of transportation and the nature of their organization’s primary business. I would have wanted the standoffs to be a bit more prominent at least.
14. Katekyo Hitman Reborn
A classic shounen gem that is surprisingly no longer mentioned much today. Shame, because the premise is quite refreshing actually, as it rewrites the typical interpretation of character progression by uhh… literally rebuilding them anew.
It has a slow start for sure, but the anime adaptation wouldn’t really have more then 200+ episodes if it did not iron out its pacing problems quite early on. Plus, Tsunayoshi’s later ‘forms’ are just absolutely a blast to see after everything that he has gone through.
13. Dragon Ball (series)
Ah yes, the grandfather of most shounen anime of the late 20th century. This may be an unpopular opinion, but the first series before Dragon Ball Z was actually the most entertaining one from a parody martial arts perspective.
The stakes may have gotten higher, and power levels may have risen after Z, but no more of the clever maneuvering and inadvertent solutions that always provided that signature comedic value of any typical Akira Toriyama work. Nevertheless, the series as a whole is still quite good to watch, assuming that you still haven’t somehow.
It has an unassuming premise, a somewhat predictable atmosphere, and only a hint of some sort of excitement. Yet, for those tried to follow the headless rider trail, they are rewarded with an action entertainment cruise ship of epic proportions.
From the character interactions to the rather local, but still gripping obstacles and challenges, it’s always a field day for some separate group of characters in its universe. Heck, the confrontations themselves are still a sight to behold even if it is not a real fight per se.
11. Attack on Titan
Cliffhanger, the anime, ‘Nuff said. There a reason why this series is so popular that it bleeds over mainstream media beyond the reaches of us regular otaku. Nope, not even remotely due to titans.
Because just how cool is it to watch fights of people using Vertical Maneuvering Equipment?! It’s already breath-taking enough to watch standard elite Survey Corps units take on more advanced titans during the series’s very beginning. Imagine two or more users going toe-to-toe directly with each other?
Ah oops. Was that supposed to be a spoiler?
10. Kill la Kill
Gurren Lagann may not be on this list, but replacing it is an arguably even more epic series when it comes to its fight themes.
First would be the clean and crisp visuals. If Attack on Titan is already dazzling for you, then the transformation sequences and combat techniques of Kill la Kill is set to blow you away. Expect the same level of high-octane, visual experience whenever this series shows major primary characters’ encounters.
Wait, no, no, don’t dismiss the setting just yet, because its “weaved” themes and the overall plot is just as exciting to see and learn each passing episode.
9. My Hero Academia
Just as with Tiger and Bunny, the action is pretty much the staple theme of this superhero-centric series. The premise of this series kind of sounds plain and boring at a glance. But trust me, it is anything but plain and boring.
And nope, don’t even bother looking for specific explanations of individual ‘quirks’ here. You need to be creative within the physical limits of this universe! Just as its main protagonist Deku. By the way, why is everyone talking about ships in a hero anime?
8. One Punch Man
One way to make a series with an OP protagonist consistently interesting is to build the world around him or her. And that is exactly what Saitama is subjected to every single chapter and/or episode.
He may be winning the day with a single punch, but can you turn a blind eye to the more awesome fight that’s happening over the side?
When the series does let him have his turn once in a while, the visuals get way more spectacular, which strangely includes a sudden, but epic face makeover for the entire fight’s duration.
7. Rurouni Kenshin
Ah, a samurai-themed series. The term along already evokes action as a word itself. For KenshinHimura, it’s about brutally letting his opponents see how OP he is while still being ‘peaceful.’
Oddly though, as predictable as his bouts with regular hostile folk seems, it actually ends up being the more wholesome portion of the show action-wise. Yes, even if every one of us got our blood pumped up during the most intense moments of at least two very important arcs of the entire series.
6. Lupin the 3rd (series)
Hey, it’s the second entry that represents the first statement of this article perfectly! True, Lupin the 3rd may have a lot of strategic elements that center on subterfuge and deception. But the first thing that always comes to mind for anyone familiar to it is the heist’s thrill.
The consequences of executing their plan and the ensuing action afterward. Well… it also probably helps that the master thief also has the master marksman, and master swordsman at his side.
5. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
More than any other mainstream title, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is probably the only series where its action transcends cultures.
Maybe the characters are all just so memorable (if not very likable) that we always get a kick out of every ability showcase, fight, chase, and ‘problem’ solving that ensues with their interactions across time and space.
That is on top of the free and absolutely untethered visual themes. It’s weird, it’s flashy, it’s cool, and it’s so damn fabulous. Oh, just don’t watch anything from 2007 and below, though.
4. Cowboy Bebop
This is the third and last entry in this list that accurately encapsulates our first statement’s meaning. Funnily enough, a lot of most iconic non-climax action sequences in Cowboy Bebop aren’t even about fights.
They are often a rough mishmash of scenes that depict Spike and gang trying to patch crazy situations with impromptu gimmicks, a bit opposite of Lupin’s secretly calculating moves. Though, when it’s finally time to earn that frickin’ Woolong, they can clearly prove that they’re the best in the West.
3. Fullmetal Alchemist
Action scenes that have long-story consequences and almost no plot armor?! Why sign me up!
Fullmetal Alchemist is the best of many worlds when it comes to visualizing its setting, teaching its lore, and unraveling its secrets, all towards the slow and steady path to that very satisfying and ultimate climax. In HagaRen, you don’t just think about the fight scenes.
First, you think about the fights, and the consequences it has for the characters, and even the geopolitical effects of such incidents. That’s how hugely encompassing the action is for this series.
Don’t you just find it really unfair when a series can still pull off such badass fights despite being largely a comedy title? This series can literally spin the action dial in any direction, from the slapstick and stupid, to downright being movie-climax worthy.
While the rest of the main cast are such lovable and memorable dorks, it is Gin that carries most of the sass of this series. How can you even start to hate this parfait-loving, lazy, scheming, super laid-back, but still very heroic and absolutely OP protagonist?
1. Hunter X Hunter
It is hands down the best anime to ever grace the action genre, period. Remember what we said earlier about fight mechanics potentially making things stereotypical?
Well, it’s the exact opposite here. The fight mechanics complement the characters, the characters build the world, and the world gives life to the entire series as a whole. As a combat-oriented action title, power scaling is also always on point.
It never feels like the stakes suddenly become too high, or that protagonists simply prevail without any issues. As a very clever and comprehensive adventure series, the sense of wonder is always kept, and astonishment is maintained; there always will eventually be some plot twist or connected development that is always just around the corner.
And that’s a wrap for our current top action anime recommendations. As we mentioned earlier, the genre is quite broad, so it can include many titles that had significant portions of confrontations with its characters.
For example, all mecha anime can be technically classified as action, even though we don’t associate them with the genre. Psycho Pass is often treated as an action series due to its fast-paced confrontation scenes.
But the core concept of the series is still within its societal and psychological themes, and as such, cannot be classified under action as per the rules that we have set up. The rest, though, is bona fide action goodies. In fact, a lot of these might already be familiar to potential visitors of this article.
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