While anime as an animated and storytelling medium is fun and entertaining, we gotta admit that not all anime are created equal.
Some are definitely better than others and have left quite an impressive mark in the industry and in the hearts of anime fans worldwide.
Following that thought, we’ve compiled what we think are 30 of the best anime of all time.
We’ve got classics, such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, as well as new contenders like A Silent Voice and Ping Pong the Animation.
Ready to know what we’ve picked?
- Best Anime Of All Time
- Astro Boy
- Attack No. 1
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Ping Pong the Animation
- Detective Conan/Case Closed
- Mobile Suit Gundam
- A Silent Voice
- Sailor Moon
- Dragon Ball Series
- Kill la Kill
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
- Death Note
- One Piece
- Vinland Saga
- Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Cowboy Bebop
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Attack on Titan
- Ghost in the Shell
- Spirited Away
Best Anime Of All Time
If we’re gonna talk about the best of the best in anime, we have to start with the anime that started it all.
Astro Boy is the first Japanese animated show that exploded in popularity and became the template for the style we now know as anime.
It’s a science fiction story about a boy robot named Astro (originally called Atom), who was built by a scientist to memorialize his dead son. Astro later uses his powerful and almost indestructible robot capabilities to fight evil forces.
Not only does it tackle topics about technology and the future and has won awards due to its legacy, but it’s also a very important historical piece for anime fans.
Attack No. 1
Speaking of anime that has left a legacy in the industry, Attack No. 1 is our next choice to be included in our “best of anime” list.
If you’re a sports or shoujo anime fan and you’ve never heard of it, you’ll be happy to know that Attack No. 1 was a monumental step for female sports anime and shoujo anime in general.
In a time when shounen and sci-fi stories dominated the industry, this series made waves for older shoujo fans. It also continued the train of celebration for Japan’s women’s volleyball team when they won gold in the 1964 Olympics.
Eventually, Attack No. 1 became so popular that it pushed the boom for more shoujo anime series like it.
The show with a kid who wanted to be the very best deserves a spot in our very best anime list!
Back in the late 1990s, the Pokemon animated show took the world by storm. It had adventure, cute and cool creatures, talked about friendship, and even had a character that taught kids to work hard towards their dream.
Even years later, a lot of anime fans who grew up watching Pokemon have continued to cheer for Ash to become a Pokemon champion.
And as a testament to how great this anime is, it’s still continuing now, more than 20 years later.
Grave of the Fireflies
The reality of war is always a heartbreaking topic to talk about. But with Studio Ghibli’s masterful hand at animation and their beautiful way of delivering stories, a masterpiece about it was born.
Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 animated movie about two young orphans facing a tragic life brought on by World War II.
It’s a sobering experience about the tragedies war can bring. Grave of the Fireflies is one of those great movies that you can only watch once.
Different characters, different time periods, and different stories all converge into one interesting tale about train mysteries and the supernatural.
Among many anime shows, Baccano stands out for its unique way of showing different perspectives from different characters.
You won’t know how all of it will connect until much later, which just makes the mystery better!
Ping Pong the Animation
Among the heaps of great sports anime, like Ippo, Slam Dunk, and Haikyuu, we picked a series that is unique, daring, and compelling! It’s a sports anime that we think deserves to be called one of the best.
Ping Pong the Animation is about two boys working towards their ping pong dreams. They’re polar opposites, with one more loud about his dreams yet skips practice, while the other is quiet but talented.
The show definitely stands out for its style. It took a creative risk that definitely paid off.
Detective Conan/Case Closed
An icon when it comes to anime detective mysteries, Detective Conan or Case Closed is a classic go-to for fans looking to scratch their detective mystery genre itch.
It’s one of the longest-running anime shows to date and has 25 movies and a few OVAs and TV specials under its belt.
The story is about a brilliant high school student, Shinichi Kudo, known for his impressive detective skills. One day, he got attacked and force-fed an experimental drug that made him shrink back into a young kid.
Turning into a kid didn’t stop him from solving mysteries! He just has one more important case to solve involving himself.
Mobile Suit Gundam
In a list of best anime, we simply can’t skip the very first Gundam series.
While it’s a highly popular series and franchise now, the first Gundam anime was actually almost canceled. But after the release of Gundam models and toys, the popularity of the series soared, and it hasn’t stopped since.
At that time, the impressive thing about Gundam was the story. The people behind it wanted to write a story about war, with humans as the villains instead of creatures or monsters.
It revolutionized the mecha genre, and to this day, Gundam is referred to as the “real robot” genre.
Admittedly, there is a lot of great shounen anime about fighting and adventure. It’s hard to pick which ones to include in our list, but we ultimately went with Naruto for its impact and popularity during its time.
Naruto is about a mischievous orphan boy who dreams of becoming a Hokage in his village. A lot of people think he’s a nuisance and doubt that he would amount to anything, but this little ninja kid is ready to prove them wrong!
A lot of things from this show have left a mark in anime communities worldwide. From internet memes to real-life Naruto running, Naruto is one of the best shounen anime to exist.
If you’re looking to binge-watch a dark fantasy anime show in a medieval setting, you definitely can’t go wrong with Berserk.
Fantasy? Berserk’s world is full of magic, mages, and elves. Dark fantasy? With its curses and sacrificial ceremonies, it gets pretty dark, alright!
And even though it has heaps of dark fantasy elements, it still has segments grounded in medieval reality. The story is full of adventure, knights, mercenaries, kings, and princesses.
But fair warning – although the story is really compelling, things can get really dark and disturbing!
A Silent Voice
By now, a lot of us know that anime can easily break our hearts and cause a flood of tears. Clannad, AnoHana, Violet Evergarden – you’ll need a lot of water to hydrate after crying so much!
But our pick for one of the best heartbreaking anime ever is A Silent Voice. Not only does it pull your heartstrings, but the message it delivers is also clear and important.
Bullying is a serious issue in a lot of schools, and it gets worse for people with disabilities. In this movie, we see characters go through it and experience the repercussions of their actions.
A little compassion definitely goes a long way.
Comedy anime? Why, you can’t go wrong with Gintama!
Set during the Edo period, the story follows the samurai Gintoki as he takes up freelancing gigs to pass the time. He gets into different hijinks with his friends, too.
Not only can this series dish out wacky humor with aliens, anime references, and ridiculous gags, the show actually knows how to make a tearjerker of a story too.
So get yourself an anime that can get you in tears through laughing and crying!
Tired of the multitude of fast-paced and action-filled anime shows? You can definitely take it easy with Mushishi, a supernatural anime about mysterious creatures called Mushi.
Mushi are tiny supernatural beings that exist in the environment, whose actions are neither good nor evil but can directly affect humans.
Ginko, a Mushishi – a.k.a. a Mushi researcher – wanders around studying these creatures and helping people affected by them.
This anime has a Japanese folktale feel mixed with supernatural elements. It’s one of a kind and one of the best in its genre.
The anime that helped make the mahou shoujo genre (and anime in general) quite popular in the West has to be included in our “best of” list!
Usagi Tsukino might be a bit of a goofy high school student, but she has the heart and eagerness to help others. Together with her friends, they team up as Sailor Guardians to defend the Earth.
The Sailor Moon series continues to be one of the most popular anime of all time. It was broadcasted in different countries and was a part of a lot of anime fans’ childhood.
More importantly, it taught the importance of friendship, working together as a team, and being who you are. The Guardians, with their different personalities and looks, were role models for a lot of young anime fans.
Dragon Ball Series
On the shounen and action anime side of things, the Dragon Ball series is *the* anime to pick for our list.
It’s influential, unique, and iconic, to say the least. Overall, it’s a fun series about power-ups!
It starts with a baby Saiyan sent to Earth. Saiyans are usually aggressive human-like aliens who fight and conquer planets. However, this little one turned out differently.
Powering up, fighting evil aliens, saving the planet, and eating a ton of food – that’s Goku!
Kill la Kill
This was the anime that put Studio Trigger on the map for a lot of anime fans. Kill la Kill is unapologetic with its style and fanservice, but a lot of fans are very much thankful for its existence.
The story talks about clothing as parasitic alien creatures, although some of them are sentient, helpful, and quite powerful.
The main character, Ryuuko Matoi, is out to get her father’s murderer, but her investigations lead her to an odd school with powerful clothes.
Overall, it is a whirlwind of an anime, full of hype, adventure, and fanservice with a purpose. Ryuuko shows absolute confidence with or without clothes!
If you want an anime movie that shows the amazing capabilities of the animated medium, Paprika is a great movie for that.
Surreal animation meets a compelling and serious plot in Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. A team of scientists managed to invent a “dream machine” that can help fix psychological problems through dreams.
Unfortunately, this tech got stolen, and in the wrong hands, it could be a danger to the general public.
The characters dive into the dream world to catch the culprit while also discovering something about themselves.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
You’ve probably seen countless memes and parodies of this series. But make no mistake, the JJBA series isn’t just for laughs!
Aside from its unique art style of muscled characters, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has a compelling plot matched with its unique world-building. Vampires, Stands, and cool poses? Whew!
The stories span generations, so you’ll see sons and even grandchildren of the characters. Ultimately, at its heart, JJBA is about the fight between good and evil.
Whenever people new to anime ask for recommendations, Death Note is usually one of the suggestions – and for a good reason!
It has an interesting plot about a high school student with a god complex finding a notebook that can kill people.
The main character is an anti-hero or a villain protagonist, which make things quite engrossing. It also has some supernatural elements, like the existence of death gods or Shinigami.
In addition, the series as a whole doesn’t have a lot of anime tropes that might put off viewers new to anime.
This show gets a two thumbs-up from us, too. Don’t forget the potato chips when binge-watching this show!
Speaking of anime shows that don’t involve a lot of tropey elements, Monster is also high up on our list for that category. It’s a drama and mystery anime that knows how to dish out suspenseful elements.
The story follows Dr. Kenzou Tenma as he slowly loses his former life after doing what he thought was right.
As a doctor, saving lives takes priority, but what he didn’t know was that he saved a monster during that one fateful night.
A fair warning – this series can get pretty dark and serious. It’s not like your usual anime!
Spanning more than a thousand episodes to date, with multiple movies and anime games under its belt, this pirate adventure anime is one of the best in its genre.
It’s full of lovable characters, some with very unique designs, and a plot that continues to unravel.
Luffy, the protagonist, aims to become the Pirate King and find the former Pirate King’s prized treasure – One Piece. But what that is or where it’s at, nobody knows yet.
Fans of both the anime and manga don’t know how this tale will end. If you’re just planning on starting the show, there’s still time to catch up!
Speaking of anime adventures, take a trip back to the past and enjoy the Viking life with Vinland Saga!
But this story is not all rainbows and sunshine. As history tells us, Vikings are usually at the heart of fighting and raiding.
In this story, we see young Thorfinn brave the harsh realities of his Viking life. Aside from the cold climate of his northern home, his village is asked to participate in a war as well.
This award-winning anime mixes history with gripping action-filled fiction.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
The mahou shoujo (magical girl) genre has been a staple in anime for a very long time. It’s cute, pretty, magical, and sometimes in pink!
But Shaft Studio decided to make something new with the genre. Some fans describe it as a deconstruction of the mahou shoujo genre, as it adds a lot of seriousness and darkness in its story.
Madoka was a regular middle school student when she encountered a magical creature named Kyuubey. This adorable magical-girl-sidekick-looking character offered Madoka to be a magical girl!
But a brooding transfer student shows up and tries everything in her power to stop Madoka from turning into one. Quite odd and suspicious, don’t you think?
Don’t fall into despair when watching this series!
Legend of Galactic Heroes
Best anime of all time list? You bet we’ll include Legend of Galactic Heroes!
Sci-fi, action, and drama blend in this riveting space opera anime. Set in a futuristic, spacefaring world, two factions of interstellar humans wage war against each other to fight for their own ideologies.
Although this anime might look dated to some, don’t let its late 90s anime style deter you from enjoying one of the best anime ever.
Jazz and all that pizzazz! Like the other recommended entries here, there’s a reason Cowboy Bebop is always part of people’s anime recommendations.
In this futuristic anime, Spike and Jet are space bounty hunters who are later joined by an alluring con artist, an oddball of a kid, and a curious little corgi.
They all have their baggage from their history, but they eventually come together as a found family to help each other face their own pasts.
Surprisingly, Cowboy Bebop had a rocky start when it initially aired in Japan. Through reruns, it slowly earned and rated well. But it wasn’t until it hit America that it became a worldwide anime hit.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, two brothers go on a journey to recover what they’ve lost. You see, they turned to alchemy to bring back their mom, but it only gave them dire consequences.
In this world, alchemy isn’t something to be easily trifled with!
This is another classic anime that is always high up in a lot of recommendations. It’s got an interesting plot with alchemy as its backdrop, and it has a full and rewarding ending. Not a lot of anime can say that!
Neon Genesis Evangelion
A group of teenagers are trained and sent to pilot massive mechas to combat otherworldly aliens.
But even when the world is on the brink of destruction, handling one’s past and emotions can be a bit difficult, especially when you’re a teenager. It doesn’t help that the adults around them seem to know more than they let on.
Genre deconstruction, religious imagery, and psychoanalysis are aplenty in this masterful piece of anime from Hideaki Anno.
Attack on Titan
What once was a safe home for young Eren became a life of sudden chaos.
He and the others thought the huge walls surrounding their town would keep them safe, but a punch from a Titan obliterated that reality.
Titans are humongous human-like beings that seem to live only to kill and eat humans. Nobody knows where they’re from or why they’re attacking people, but a slice behind their napes seems to do the trick of stopping them.
With its gripping storyline, unique world, interesting characters, and a wild ride of twists and turns, Attack on Titan is understandably one of the best anime out there.
And if you don’t like anime tropes? Don’t worry, AoT isn’t as tropey as other anime. The final season will air soon, so you have time to marathon this gem of an anime.
Ghost in the Shell
Here’s another sci-fi entry and a popular recommended title for our list!
In this futuristic and cyberpunk world, cybernetics and global connectivity are the norm. However, in this, heavily advanced and tech-filled world, crimes and threats still exist.
It is up to Public Security to combat the danger, digital or otherwise. The protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, investigates a case of a “puppet master” wiping people’s memories.
But the case gets complicated, which makes Motoko ponder about life, existence, and purpose.
Ghost in the Shell not only became one of the best anime of all time, it even inspired and influenced people like the Wachowskis and James Cameron.
And our pick for the best anime of all time is Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away!
It’s a great example of what anime can do as a storytelling medium. It meshes amazing art style and animation, thanks to Hayao Miyazaki’s artistic sensibilities, with a fairytale-like story perfect for all ages.
If that’s not impressive enough, Spirited Away got nominated for and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature during the 2003 Oscars.
To date, it is the only hand-drawn and non-English animated movie to bag such an award. Now that’s a win for anime!