30 Best Anime of All Time (2021)

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There are numerous animations produced and released all over the world every year. Here, anime, which is the Japanese term originating in Japan and especially means the animations made in Japan.

It is said that the first Japanese animation was made and released in 1917. Speaking of the earliest famous anime in Japan, Astro Boy (a.k.a. Mighty Atom) was released in 1963 as the first anime series aired on TV. Around hundreds of new anime are aired on TV and distributed to the movie streaming platforms and come to the screens every year, and the number of must-watch anime is going on increasing year by year.

The industry of anime has prospered substantially in Japan partly because the country has other Japanese pop cultures such as manga, video games and light novels. Some popular anime are adaptations of manga, video games, light novels and other media. And, anime has flourished worldwide so rapidly since anyone can access the Japanese animations with English dubs and subtitles.

Here are 30 best anime series including both the classic anime franchises and the brand new series. This greatest anime list will help beginners to find which anime to start watching with in the world or anime fans to decide the next one to try. Otherwise, check the best anime by anime freak’s standards.

This anime list focuses on TV anime series which Japanese call “anime”, so anime movies such as Studio Ghibli films or Makoto Shinkai’s animations are excluded.

It is not easy to narrow down to only 30 anime and rank them, and there are other attractive anime that are worth watching outside the best anime list, of course.

Let’s start a countdown!


30. Fate

Fate/stay night, based on the game for Windows, was released as the first season of the Fate Series in 2006, followed by the past story Fate/Zero in 2011-2012. The main character Shiro Emiya survives the Holy Grail War with his servant Saber. The new series Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Battlefront: Babylonia was aired on TV from 2019.

Air Dates: from 2006
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Recommended for Anime Fans


29. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (この素晴らしい世界に祝福を!) is a popular comedy Isekai anime, based on the light novel written by Natsume Akatsuki. The first season of KonoSuba was released in 2016 and the second one in 2017. The story starts after a teenager Kazuma died in an accident and was sent to another world with the goddess Aqua. The new episode was made into a movie as KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson (この素晴らしい世界に祝福を!紅伝説).

Air Dates: from 2016
Genre: Isekai, Comedy
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


28. Inuyasha

Inuyasha (犬夜叉) is a popular Manga published by Weekly Shonen Sunday with 56 volumes totally, and adapted into an anime. The anime series mainly consists two parts: the first part based on the manga vol.1-36 and the second one (Inuyasha: The Final Act) based on the rest of the original manga story. A 15 years old girl Kagome transported to another world in the past meets the half dog-demon named Inuyasha. Kagome and Inuyasya with their party travel to complete the Shikon Jewel, which enables someone’s wish to be realized.

Air Dates: from 2000
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Action
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


27. Cowboy Bebop

Between 1998 and 1999, Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ), which is now one of the most popular Japanese anime among foreign people, was aired in Japan with 26 episodes. The setting of Cowboy Bebop is the space in 2071 where the bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his partner Jet Black chase criminals. The anime film Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉) was released in 2001.

Air Dates: 1998-1999
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


26. Yu-Gi-Oh!

The popular anime series Yu-Gi-Oh! (遊☆戯☆王) started in 1998, based on the Weekly Shonen Jump manga. The symbol of the anime is the trading card game Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, which has been played worldwide since then. The second season of the anime series Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters (遊☆戯☆王デュエルモンスターズ) released in 2000 popularized the card game and the anime itself, and the new series is still ongoing.

Air Dates: from 1998
Genre: Fantasy
Recommended for Anime Fans


25. Code Geass

The Code Geass Series, which is popular among anime fans all over the world, started with the first season Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ) in 2006-2007. The protagonist of the anime series Lelouch vi Britannia stands out in opposition to the gigantic the the Holy Britannian Empire after granted the supernatural power named Geass. The new story Code Geass Lelouchi of the Re;surrection (コードギアス 復活のルルーシュ) hit the big screen as an anime movie in 2019.

Air Dates: from 2006
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Mecha
Recommended for Anime Fans


24. My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia (僕のヒーローアカデミア) is one of the most popular ongoing anime while the original manga has been published on the Weekly Shonen Jump since 2014. A young boy Izuku Midoriya and other Heros fights the Villains using their superpowers Quirks. My Hero Academia is also popular among international anime fans since the touch and atmosphere in the anime look like an American Superhero comic rather than Japanese anime.

Air Dates: from 2016
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Recommended for Beginners

23. Steins;Gate

Quite a few anime lovers look on Steins;Gate (シュタインズ・ゲート) as the best anime in recent years. The sci-fi anime’s 24 episodes were aired on TV in 2011, followed by Steins;Gate 0 (シュタインズ・ゲート ゼロ), the continuation of the story (but the timeline is past), in 2018. The main character Rintaro Okabe and other Future Gadget Laboratory members try to invent a kind of time machine, and the anime is known for its time loop plot. Many fans of Steins;Gate visit the town of the setting: Akihabara, Tokyo.

Air Dates: 2011-2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Time loop
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks

The popular dark fantasy manga Tokyo Ghoul (東京喰種トーキョーグール), published on the Weekly Young Jump in 2011-2014, was adapted into an anime from 2014. And, the sequel title Tokyo Ghoul:re (東京喰種トーキョーグール:re) was aired as the second half of the anime in 2018. The anime focuses on the theme of Ghouls, which live in the human society looking like a normal human. However, the ghouls subsist on human flesh as food.

Air Dates: 2014-2018
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


21. OreGairu: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている。) , which is also known as just OreGairu or My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, is a popular modern anime series with the genre of slice of life (the setting is based on dailly life). The slice-of-life anime is made into from the light novel that completed with the 17th volume in 2019. The cynical and pessimistic character Hachiman Hikigaya starts offering help and advice to other students in the school service club with two heroines: Yukino Yukinoshita and Yui Yuigahama.

The anime series was completed with the final season My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Fin (やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている。完) in 2020.

Air Dates: 2013-2020
Genre: Slice of life, Romance, Comedy
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


20. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The slice-of-life anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱) is one of the best anime after 2000s. It is initially published as a light novel in 2003, which was adapted into anime in 2006. Before releasing the anime, there had been already a large number of fans of the light novel. The first season of the anime never bored them by broadcasting the stories out of order, which were not chronological.

The anime represent the daily life of SOS Brigade which is the school club established by the main heroine Haruhi Suzumiya. But, she is not just a human…

Air Dates: 2006-2009
Genre: Sekaikei, Slice of life, Comedy, Science Fiction, Time loop
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


19. Detective Conan

Detective Conan (名探偵コナン), which is also known as Case Closed, is a popular ongoing detective anime while the original manga has been published on the Weekly Shonen Sunday since 1994. The high school detective Shinichi Kudo is transformed into a kid by a poison named APTX-4869, and he identifies himself as Conan Edogawa to hide his true identity from the opposite Black Organization.

New anime movies are regularly hit the big screen. Detective Conan is the mystery anime that both adults and children can enjoy watching.

Air Dates: from 1996
Genre: Mystery
Recommended for Beginners

18. Laid-Back Camp

Laid-Back Capm (ゆるきゃん△), which is known as Yurukyan in Japanese, was aired on TV in 2018, which is now one of the most popular modern anime in these several years. The anime and manga are ongoing, and the spin-off Room Camp (へやキャン△) with the short stories are aired on TV in 2020. In 2021, the second season of the anime series followed them.

The five high school girls including Rin and Nadeshiko, who have each unique personality, purely enjoy camping around Mt.Fuji. The characters visit the camping sites that are inspired by the real places in Japan where many fans go camping after broadcasting the first season.

Air Dates: from 2018
Genre: Slice of life, Comedy
Recommended for Anime Fans


17. Violet Evergarden

The famous Japanese animation studio Kyoto Animation released the quality anime Violet Evergarden (ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン) in 2018, which is based on the light novel with 3 volumes. The anime movie Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll (ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン 外伝 – 永遠と自動手記人形 -) was released in 2019 after the TV anime series, and the brand new story Violet Evergarden the Movie (劇場版 ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン) followed the stories as a film in April, 2020.

The life of the girl Violet who works writing for others as Auto Memory Dolls is depicted with the beautifully-drawn pictures in this anime.

Air Dates: from 2018
Genre: Drama
Recommended for Anime Fans

16. Attack on Titan

As one of the best action anime in recent years, Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人) should be listed. It was originally released as a manga in 2009, and the first season of the anime adaption was aired in 2013. In the story, humanity stands on the edge of extinction for being attacked by the titans. The main characters Eren Yeager and Mikasa Ackerman with the other Survey Corps members battle against the titans.

The story of the manga series came to the end in April, 2021, and the season 4 (the final season) of the anime series started from winter in 2020.

Air Dates: 2013-2022
Genre: Action, Dark Fantasy
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


15. Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師), which is abbreviated to Hagaren in Japanese, is a well-known Japanese sci-fi anime worldwide. This anime is divided into two different anime: Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. The former Fullmetal Alchemist was broadcasted before the manga series did not finish the story, which means its story is different from the original one. On the other hand, the manga’s story is truly depicted in the latter Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

The brother Edward and Alphonse loses a part or the whole of their body by violating a taboo, and they start traveling to find the way to retrieve their bodies.

Air Dates: 2003-2010
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans

14. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。), which is also called just Anohana, is one of the most heartwarming anime in Japan. Its story begins with this plot: Jinta Yadomi, whose nickname is Jintan, plays video games instead of attending high school.

One day in summer, his childhood friend Meiko Homma (Menma) shows up before Jintan as a ghost though she died in an accident years before. The moving anime is brought to an end with just 11 episodes.

Air Dates: 2011
Genre: Drama
Recommended for Anime Fans


13. Love Live!

An idol, which means Japanese pop singer groups in Japanese, is now a very popular theme of anime, and Love Live! (ラブライブ!) is the most famous and first anime that assured the establishment of the theme. The two seasons of Love Live! was aired in 2013-2014, and the second title of the anime series was released as Love Live! Sunshine!! (ラブライブ!サンシャイン!!) in 2016-2017. Love Live! focuses on the process of how the high school idol group named μ’s (pronounced “muse”) grows, and Aqours is featured in Love Live! Sunshine!!.

More new titles are being made following the current popular series. Fans of Love Live! visit the Tokyo’s town Akihabara, which is the mecca of Japanese anime and inspired the production of the anime.

Air Dates: from 2013
Genre: Slice of life, Comedy
Recommended for Beginners


12. Ghost in the Shell

The legendary cyberpunk anime series Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊) was originally released in 1995 as an anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii, which was followed by the first season of the TV anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX) under the direction of Kenji Kamiyama.

The setting of the anime is Japan in the parallel world after 2030 where the science technology is highly developed. In this anime, Public Security Section 9 including the main member Major Motoko Kusanagi works to prevent crimes. The new title of the series Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045 (攻殻機動隊 SAC_2045) with full 3DCG was released with 12 episodes exclusively on Netflix all over the world in 2020.

Air Dates: from 2002
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk
Recommended for Anime Freaks


11. Dragon Ball

Many anime fans associate the most famous action anime with Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール), which started to be aired in 1984. Dragon Ball is originally made as the Weekly Shonen Jump manga by Akira Toriyama. There are several main parts in the Dragon Ball series, and it is ongoing as the new title Dragon Ball Super (ドラゴンボール超) from 2015. The well-known part is Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ) where the story proceeds after the main character Goku is grown up.

Any battle scenes are worth watching, however, it is especially recommended to watch Goku vs Freeza and Goku’s son Gohan vs Cell.

Air Dates: Action, Adventure
Genre: from 1984
Recommended for Beginners


10. Death Note

The mystery and horror anime Dearth Note (デスノート), based on the manga published on the Weekly Shonen Jump from 2003 to 2006, is highly rated by both domestic and international anime fans. It is so popular worldwide partly because the anime is completed with the relatively short story (37 episodes) in addition to the well-elaborated storyline.

The protagonist Light Yagami finds a Death Note which makes people die if their names are written on the note. You can enjoy watching of the high-level game of wits.

Air Dates: 2006-2007
Genre: Mystery
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


9. Pokémon

Pokémon (ポケモン) is one of the most popular Japanese anime and games around the globe now, and it was first aired in Japan as the Japanese title Pocket Monsters (ポケットモンスター) in 1997.  New titles have been broadcasted every time a new game is released, and the latest series is being broadcasted from 2019 following the previous Sun & Moon (ポケットモンスター サン&ムーン).

The young boy Satoshi travels all over the world with various Pokemon like Pikachu to become a Pokemon master.

Air Dates: from 1997
Genre: Kids, Family, Adventure
Recommended for Beginners

8. Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- (Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活), which is also called just Re:Zero, is looked on as one of the best Japanese anime and light novels released in 2010s. The season 1 started with 25 episodes in 2016, and the newly-edited version is aired from the beginning of 2020.

The season 2 of Re:Zero was broadcasted with 25 episodes in 2020 and 2021. The main character Subaru is sent to Isekai (another world) with no superpower except a certain ability. The story proceeds with the encounter with the heroine Emilia.

Air Dates: from 2016
Genre: Isekai, Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Time loop
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks

7. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

The popular manga and anime franchise JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険) started to be published from 1987, and the series consists of 8 parts from Phantom Blood (ファントムブラッド) to Jojolion (ジョジョリオン) so far (as of 2020). The newest anime adaption is the 5th part Golden Wind (黄金の風) which was aired in 2018-2019.

The stories focus on the mysterious adventures of the Joestar family. A main character varies by the part, but they all are the Joestar family. Unique characters and intense battle scenes are highlights of the anime.

Air Dates: from 2012
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy
Recommended for Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


6. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis EVANGELION (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン), directed by Hideaki Anno, is worldly known as one of the symbols of Japanese anime in 1990s. The famous mecha anime mainly depicts the story of the 4 teenagers: Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, Asuka Langley Soryu and Kaworu Nagisa. They fight with the enemies called Angels by piloting the giant humanoid robot Evangelions.

The three anime movies were released: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:序) in 2007, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:破) in 2009 and Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q) in 2012. Additionally, the final title Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 (シン・エヴァンゲリオン劇場版:||) came to the big screen in movies in 2021.

Air Dates: 1995-1996
Genre: Mecha, Action, Fantasy
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


5. One Piece

What is the most famous and top-selling ongoing manga and anime is One Piece (ワンピース) without a doubt. The first volume of the manga was published in 1997, and there are now over 90 volumes sold around the world. The anime adaption began two years later after the first manga was released, and over 900 episodes have been aired since then. The whole story of One Piece can be divided into about 10 parts, and beginners can enjoy it even if they start anywhere.

It proceeds with the adventures of the main character Monkey D. Luffy and his crews in the pirates world. He sets sail on the sea in search of the ultimate treasure called “One Piece”. There are Devil Fruits in the world of One Piece, which grant a superpower to those who eat one while the fruits unable them to swim. Powerful fight scenes between the Devil Fruits eaters including Luffy are stunning.

Air Dates: from 1999
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Drama
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans


4. Monogatari Series

Monogatari Series (物語シリーズ), produced by the animation studio Shaft under the direction of Akiyuki Shinbo, is the popular anime series released in 2009. It is adapted into an anime from the novels written by Nisioisin (Nishio Ishin). The first season of Monogatari Series started as Bakemonogatari (化物語)Nisemonogatari (偽物語) and Nisemonogatari Black (偽物語 黒) in 2009-2012. Monogatari means story or tale in English, and various bizarre stories are depicted focusing on unique charachers such as the high school boy Koyomi Araragi and several heroines.

Koyomi Araragi handles with lots of problems arising from apparitions called Kaii in Japanese. The apparitions (like supernatural ghost) have influence on the characters, and he saves them. There are mainly 5 seasons of the novel and 3 of them have been adapted into an anime. In an interview, the director Akiyuki Shinbo said that he would like to continue producing the rest of the seasons as long as the original novel is being published.

Air Dates: from 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Slice of life, Comedy
Recommended for Anime Freaks


3. Clannad

The third position of the best anime list may satisfy many Japanese anime fans, however, some foreign people may be surprised at it since Clannad (クラナド) is less known worldwide. Clannad is one of the Kyoto Animation’s masterpieces, which is recommended for any kind of anime fan. There is no action scene or supernatural event in this anime, but human drama is represented sensitively.

There are two parts in the anime: Clannad in 2007-2008 and Clannad After Story in 2008-2009. The story follows the daily life of the main character Tomoya and the heroine Nagisa in the high school. It reaches the climax in the second half of the anime, and touching episodes move you. It is totally worth spending the amount of time for 44 main episodes.

Air Dates: 2007-2009
Genre: Drama, Slice of life
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans/Anime Freaks


2. Naruto

Naruto (ナルト), the greatest anime with the theme of Ninja, was initially released as the Weekly Shonen Jump manga by Masashi Kishimoto in 1999 and run until 2014. The anime Naruto series was completed in 2017 after no less than 15 years, consisting of two titles: Naruto (NARUTO -ナルト-) aired in 2002-2007 and Naruto: Shippuden (NARUTO -ナルト- 疾風伝) aired in 2007-2017.

The setting of Naruto is the fictional world of Shinobi (Ninja), and the ineffective boy Naruto is growing by the help of many friends and masters there. Naruto and other Ninja characters battle with various Ninja techniques using the chakra energy.

Lots of anime’s essentials such as strong bonds with friends and family, betrayal and parting are represented in this anime. Many anime fans may pick out Naruto as the top of anime especially for foreign people, and it deserves it. Nevertheless, Naruto yields the top position to a certain new anime being released.

Air Dates: 2002-2017
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy
Recommended for Beginners/Anime Fans

1. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

The advent of a shockingly quality anime surprised anime fans all over the world in 2019. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃) is adapted into an anime from the manga by Koyoharu Gotoge, which was serialized on the Weekly Shonen Jump from 2016. The first season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba with 26 episodes was welcomed by both fans of the manga and people who had not read it.

The anime is set in the Taisho period (1912-1926) in Japan where demons exist with human beings. The main character Tanjiro Kamado finds his family is killed by the attack of demons and only his sister Nezuko is changed into a demon. He decides to become a demon slayer to restore her to a human.

This anime includes every important part for an excellent anime from the main character’s purity and growing to friends with the spirit of brotherhood and respect for any characters. The battle scenes between demon slayers with swords and unique demon characters are intense, which is beautifully drawn. Each character’s past and background including even demons is respectfully depicted in this anime.

It is followed by the sequel story Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (劇場版 鬼滅の刃 無限列車編) released in October, 2020. This anime has not completed yet, but it is safe to say that Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba will grow to represent the best anime in Japan and around the world.

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