Japanese anime attracts more and more new fans every single day. Watching anime was once a niche pastime that was rather uncommon, but now, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who hasn’t at least watched one title from the medium.
According to IMDb, some anime are better than others. These titles managed to get a stronghold on IMDb’s anime chart, whether it’s because of their outstanding characters, entertaining fights, or thought-provoking premises. Some of them are instantly recognizable classics that defined the medium for years, but a few newer-generation hits also have pretty high ratings.
18. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Is Pure Brilliance
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.
17. Serial Experiments Lain Is An Acclaimed Horror Anime
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. Often, horror anime 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.
16. Mushishi Is A Meditation On Existence
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.
15. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Is The Newest Anime On The List
The story of Mahou Shoujo 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 child-like, make no mistake, Mahou Shoujo 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. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica bluntly shows how violent, tragic, and challenging the magical girl life can be, and it resonated with anime fans, with many fans and critics calling it one of the best anime of the 2010s.
14. Revolutionary Girl Utena Is A 90s Icon
Created by the artist collective Be-Papas, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a short, shoujo 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.
13. FLCL Is An Energetic Romp
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.
12. 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.
11. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Looks Better Than Current Anime
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.
10. 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 the series’ 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 also quickly realizes how much damage he’s caused to the universal timeline.
8. 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 has 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.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. Death Note
Many anime fans’ first exposure to the medium is none other than the psychological classic Death Note. The anime follows Light Yagami after picking up the titular notebook that allows him to kill people after writing their names inside. He appoints himself as the God of the New World and the arbiter of justice, killing off every criminal possible.
Light quickly lands himself in a tight cat-and-mouse game with L, the world’s best detective. Light assumes the alias “Kira” to cover his tracks, but as the series progresses, he grows more and more evil. It’s a psychological war between two brilliant minds – one using his wits for good, the other for evil.
4. Hunter X Hunter
Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter X Hunter is a classic. The series is about Gon Freecs, a young boy who runs away from home to take the Hunter Exams. He hopes that by passing the exams and becoming a Hunter, he’ll finally find his long-lost father, Ging.
Along the way, he meets Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio. The quartet becomes friends as soon as they meet, and they go on many adventures together. From battling it out in Heaven’s Arena to fighting the Phantom Trope in Yorknew City, these four see it all.
3. Attack On Titan
Attack On Titan is a cultural phenomenon that stands out from other shonen anime. It challenged its audience, garnering equal amounts of admiration and controversy over the years.
Attack on Titan follows Eren Jaeger, a boy who swore to eradicate every single one of the man-eating Titans, and underwent extensive training to achieve this bloody goal. From there, the world continually becomes murkier as more truth about the origin of Titans emerges. At its core, Attack On Titan is a criticism of war and has strong anti-fascist undertones.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion Has Always Been A Classic
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha anime directed by Hideaki Anno, and following Shinji Ikari as he becomes the newest member of an elite team of pilots set to defend Earth against mysterious monsters known as Angels.
Neon Genesis Evangelion has become a classic in the anime fandom, with its slow and methodical style of storytelling that often feels unique in the mecha genre. While its pacing may be offputting to some, it isn’t hard to see how for many, Neon Genesis Evangelion is the best anime of all time.
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a classic anime that almost everyone has undoubtedly heard about, anime fan or otherwise. The anime follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who use alchemy to revive their mother.
Unfortunately, the experiment went horribly wrong, and Edward lost a limb, while Alphonse almost died, but his soul remained on Earth after being bound to a suit of armor. After that, the brothers go on their journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone, and soon find themselves in a deadly world of schemes, homunculi, and political intrigue.