Top Anime Series

by meowpappa | created - 10 Oct 2014 | updated - 10 Oct 2014 | Public

An interesting list from this origin:

Management: I’ve started adding new shows to the list, meaning that “Top 30″ title will be becoming less and less accurate over time. I hope you can forgive me for highlighting more good shows.

Yep, I’ve finally put together a top shows list. As I hopefully made clear in part one and part two of my critical biases post, this is obviously my list – it represents the things I think are most valuable in stories in the way I think they’ve best been articulated. It’s also just a list of shows I enjoy – there’s no hard criteria here, so I wouldn’t stress the numbers too much. Also, it’s a bit front-loaded – I only started watching anime seasonally about two years ago, so the last couple years are disproportionately represented. Incidentally, I’m not including movies here either – I think direct comparisons between shows and films are a bit of a stretch, but if they were included, this list would certainly be somewhat different. And finally, I’m absolutely (and thankfully) certain this list will change over time – there are still piles of widely beloved shows I’ve never seen, so I’m sure the current rankings will be filled out in the years to come. So with that all said, let’s get to the list – Bobduh’s Top 30 Anime of All Time.

-edit- I have now created a Top Shows Addendum for shows that have either fallen off or just barely missed this list. Please enjoy these additional almost-top shows!

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1. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996)

TV-14 | 624 min | Animation, Action, Drama

A teenage boy finds himself recruited as a member of an elite team of pilots by his father.

Stars: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Kotono Mitsuishi, Spike Spencer

Votes: 41,362

It might seem odd to place Eva over Madoka, considering I just stated I consider Madoka the “most perfect” show. But it’s true – Evangelion is not perfect. It has tonal issues throughout the first half, it meanders through a slowly building central arc, and little cracks and flaws indicative of its troubled creation are apparent throughout. But for all that, I strongly believe Eva is the best anime of all time. Why? Because it understands people. Because it respects and cares about people. Because it is people. There is just so much truth and empathy in Evangelion’s depiction of its characters that I find it hard even beginning to compare it to other anime.

And that character truth doesn’t just stand alone – the entire show is carefully constructed around it, with Anno’s wonderful, claustrophobic direction and all the show’s grand, apocalyptic aspirations working in service of the fundamental honesty of characters like Shinji, Asuka, and Misato. Because it is so very, very true, and because it is so deeply, honestly afraid, Evangelion’s statement in favor of human connection isn’t just a truism – it’s the bravest, most optimistic choice imaginable. In the context of how true and how overpowering the emotional struggles of its characters are, nothing short of apocalypse seems worthy of depicting them – in the mind of a scared, lonely boy, the decision to accept the pain of living might as well be the rebirth of the universe. Evangelion uses all the tools at anime’s disposal to tell the smallest and most important story in the most resonant, insightful, authentic terms imaginable, and in doing so it easily establishes itself as the most successfully ambitious anime there is. Flawed, convoluted, and deeply personal, Evangelion is anime’s masterwork.

2. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

Not Rated | 87 min | Animation, Action, Drama

Concurrent theatrical ending of the TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995).

Directors: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki | Stars: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Yûko Miyamura, Kotono Mitsuishi

Votes: 31,450

3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

A creature named Kyubey offers Madoka and Sayaka a wish if they agree to become 'magical girls' and fight abstract beings called 'witches'. However, a magical girl named Homura is, for uncertain reasons, determined to stop this agreement.

Stars: Aoi Yûki, Chiwa Saitô, Emiri Kato, Christine Marie Cabanos

Votes: 6,096

Considering it sits at #2 on my all-time list, I think it’s fair to employ a little hyperbole here: of everything I’ve seen, I believe Madoka is probably the “most perfect” anime there is. Its visual aesthetic is creative and stunning, its soundtrack is powerful and evocative, and it tells a gripping, smartly composed story of friendship, sacrifice, the tragic cycles of living, and the greater spirit of humanity. Its narrative and thematic elements lock into place like a perfectly crafted music box, and yet it still leaves room for rich interpretation. Though I like all of Urobuchi’s works, Madoka stands on a tier far above the others – its aesthetics are by far the most impressive, and beyond that, it’s also the most pure, iconic expression of the anger and hope at the heart of all his stories – an understanding of the callous nature of the universe forever challenged by the indomitable, irrational spirit of charity and love that makes us human. Madoka is a triumph.

4. Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

A tomboyish schoolgirl finds herself forced into repeated duels for another girl who has a role in a world revolution.

Stars: Tomoko Kawakami, Leah Applebaum, Roxanne Beck, Sharon Becker

Votes: 1,146

Though it’s not at the top of my list, I think it’d be difficult to argue any anime tries to do more than Utena. It’s a story about adolescence and sex and identity and gender and performance, and maybe those are all actually parts of the same thing. It weaves in ten thousand visual motifs and then muddles them just for the hell of it. It catalogues the emotional hills and valleys of over a dozen characters, and yet even at the end you could still call half of them mysteries. It features an episode where a girl is repeatedly chased by elephants, and another where that same girl lays an egg. It also features the most thoughtful and piercing exploration of gender politics I’ve seen in the medium. It’s strange and circuitous and funny and profound, and if nothing else, it’s almost certainly one of the best anime of all time.

5. Katanagatari (2010– )

TV-PG | 50 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

Kyotoryuu, is the legendary fencing school. However, instead of a sword, it uses one's hands and legs as weapons. Shichika and his sister Nanami are the sole remaining descendants of the ... See full summary »

Stars: Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yukari Tamura, Masako Ikeda, Haruka Tomatsu

Votes: 1,000

Though I love Monogatari for its sprawling, convoluted ideas, Katanagatari proves Isin is equally capable of telling a focused story as well. It works as a witty, poignant love story. It works as an engaging collection of vignettes, a travel diary in an evocative, beautifully depicted time of adventure. It even works as a meditation on the meaning of humanity, and on the ways we are all prisoners of history. Like Seven Samurai, it perfectly captures the strange beauty inherent in the end of an era – as the age of swords and heroes draws to a close, Katanagatari’s characters cling to relevance, power, or just each other. It made me laugh and made me cry, and it’s easily one of my favorite shows.

6. The Tatami Galaxy (2010)

TV-14 | Animation, Comedy, Drama

When a nameless student at Kyoto University encounters a demigod one night, he asks to relive the past three years in order to win the heart of Ms. Akashi, the object of his affection.

Stars: Shintarô Asanuma, Keiji Fujiwara, Yuki Kaida, Rin Mizuhara

Votes: 2,283

Considering this is the only Masaaki Yuasa show I’ve actually seen, you can expect The Tatami Galaxy to gain some company over the coming year (edit: Ping Pong has arrived!). In spite of that, I strongly doubt the rest of his work will top it – though The Tatami Galaxy does feature Yuasa’s signature direction and a completely unparalleled visual aesthetic, it is equally buffeted by the sharp, lunatic writing of the source material, written by the author of The Eccentric Family. Either way, as I said in my review, The Tatami Galaxy is a ride. From a stint in the bike thief mafia to a daring blimp rescue, from colorful, impressionistic visuals to vivid, mile-a-minute monologues, it never lets up and it never calms down. As its protagonist desperately seeks the richness of life he never seems to find, the audience is treated to a rich spectacle as relatable as it is insane. There’s nothing quite like The Tatami Galaxy.

7. FLCL (2000–2018)

TV-14 | 151 min | Animation, Action, Comedy

A 12-year old boy named Naota one day meets a strange woman, riding a Vespa and wielding a big guitar. As soon as she appears, mysterious things start happening.

Stars: Jun Mizuki, Mayumi Shintani, Izumi Kasagi, Suzuki Matsuo

Votes: 13,915

Created right in the middle of Gainax’s golden age, FLCL’s about as good of a coming of age story as you could possibly imagine. Puberty sucks, and learning who you are is tough, and becoming an adult doesn’t really come with instructions – FLCL knows all of this, and instead of expressing it through an understated character drama, it chooses to go for the gusto. Robots popping from foreheads, guitars wielded as battle axes, wild visual slapstick crossed with awkward personal moments. It’s a show that comes off as crazy while actually featuring some of the sharpest, most grounded character work in anime, and all of this is backed by a delirious visual palette, a stacked animation budget, and one of the most iconic soundtracks in anime history. Growing up is hard to do, but FLCL still makes it look fun.

8. Nisemonogatari (2012– )

TV-MA | 25 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

Set after the events of Bakemonogatari, one of the men who deceived Hitagi, Kaiki Deishu, returns to town to spread the incantation which cursed Nadeko before. Koyomi's sisters Karen and Tsujiki try to stop him but.

Stars: Hiroshi Kamiya, Yuka Iguchi, Eri Kitamura, Maaya Sakamoto

Votes: 1,580

If you’ve read this far, you probably know I like stories about people. Flawed people, broken people – people whose sharp edges make them hurt each other even as they strive for connection. Monogatari really knows people, and it understands that it is often our weaknesses that defines us. And to illustrate this, Monogatari makes those weaknesses real. Its spirit-hunting stories are compelling in their own right, but each of them also dig at the souls of their central characters – it matches mystery with human truth point for point every season. And beyond its central metaphor, outstanding character writing, and very distinctive dialogue, Monogatari does so much else, too – the ways it plays with visual storytelling vary from season to season, but pretty much always come off as more driven and intelligent than virtually anything else out there. Whether it’s exploring power dynamics through shot framing, investigating the dark hearts of its various protagonists, or simply reveling in its own visual language and wit, Monogatari is always expressing something worthwhile, clever, and true.

9. Nekomonogatari (Kuro) (2012– )

24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

A kind of prequel to the final 'Bakemonogatari' arc, that revolves around the oddity that possesses Araragi's class rep Hanekawa Tsubasa...

Stars: Yui Horie, Yuka Iguchi, Hiroshi Kamiya, Eri Kitamura

Votes: 1,254

If you’ve read this far, you probably know I like stories about people. Flawed people, broken people – people whose sharp edges make them hurt each other even as they strive for connection. Monogatari really knows people, and it understands that it is often our weaknesses that defines us. And to illustrate this, Monogatari makes those weaknesses real. Its spirit-hunting stories are compelling in their own right, but each of them also dig at the souls of their central characters – it matches mystery with human truth point for point every season. And beyond its central metaphor, outstanding character writing, and very distinctive dialogue, Monogatari does so much else, too – the ways it plays with visual storytelling vary from season to season, but pretty much always come off as more driven and intelligent than virtually anything else out there. Whether it’s exploring power dynamics through shot framing, investigating the dark hearts of its various protagonists, or simply reveling in its own visual language and wit, Monogatari is always expressing something worthwhile, clever, and true.

10. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (2013– )

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

About an antisocial high school student named Hikigaya Hachiman with a distorted view on life and no friends or girlfriend. His life change when he was forced to enter the "Volunteer Service Club" by his teacher.

Stars: Takuya Eguchi, Saori Hayami, Nao Tôyama, Takashi Kondô

Votes: 2,269

OreGairu is basically anime’s Catcher in the Rye, and I stand by that. OreGairu knows exactly what it feels like to be young, smart, and isolated, and it expresses that with both cynical wit and overwhelming empathy for its very flawed protagonists. Hachiman and Yukino build fortresses of superiority and psychoanalysis around themselves, but they can’t hide their desire for connection, or their underlying empathy. The show sticks pretty close to romcom formatting, and its aesthetics are only serviceable, but OreGairu soars where it counts – human characters, vivid dialogue, and a frank exploration of youth politics and identity. It’s pretty much the high school romcom I’ve always wished existed.

11. The Eccentric Family (2013– )

24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

In Kyoto there are three kinds of residents: humans, tanuki and tengu. Shimogamo Yasaburou is the third son of the Shimogamo tanuki family. His father was eaten by members of the "Friday ... See full summary »

Stars: Jun'ichi Suwabe, Mai Nakahara, Takahiro Sakurai, Hiroyuki Yoshino

Votes: 279

The Eccentric Family takes the Ghibli sense of whimsy and magical realism and applies it to a grounded, thoughtful family drama. Written by the same writer responsible for The Tatami Galaxy, its story bounces through a handful of gorgeous little vignettes before pulling together into a exuberant exploration of duty, family, and the meaning of life itself. That might sound heavy, but Eccentric Family is anything but – it’s filled with moments of ecstatic beauty that revel in the little joys life has to offer, and its characters bounce off each other with the buoyant geniality of a truly loving family. It’s beautiful and deftly written and basically about as warm as a show can be.

12. Kino's Journey (2003– )

TV-PG | Animation, Adventure, Drama

Young world-weary sharpshooter girl Kino and her talking inquisitive motorcycle Hermes travel around her unusual world, visiting various city-states for three days each to learn about their culture, history and ruling philosophy.

Stars: Ai Maeda, Ryuji Aigase, Kelli Cousins, Cynthia Martinez

Votes: 2,269

Kino’s Journey is, unsurprisingly, about the journey. Not just the overt journey, though it is a travel show – every episode, Kino and her bike Hermes visit a new nation, staying just three days before moving on. Through Kino’s adventures in these strange, mystical lands, Kino’s Journey eventually reveals itself to be about the journey towards greater understanding – of how people work, of why we do the things we do, of what purpose we can possibly seek in this world. And it doesn’t offer easy answers – Kino’s Journey is rife with ambiguity, its various fables and conflicts only muddying the waters of human nature further and further. But that is, like I said, not what it’s about – there are no easy answers, but as this thoughtful, pretty, and inventive show continuously demonstrates, the journey is its own reward.

13. Ping Pong the Animation (2014– )

TV-14 | Animation, Drama, Sport

Five ping pong prodigies learn to navigate the harsh climate of competitive sport and the even more frightening realm of self realization.

Stars: Koki Uchiyama, Alan Chow, Aaron Dismuke, Tyson Rinehart

Votes: 1,985

If you’ve gotten this far in my list, you probably won’t find it surprising to learn that Ping Pong is not exactly a sports show. It contains sports – and has a variety of thrilling and aesthetically stunning matches, in fact – but in truth it is a story about people, and about what brings them to ping pong and to each other. Its characters bounce off each other and grow continuously, their sharp edges and loves and ambitions all reflecting in how they change those they compete with. Its scale stretches beyond the court, with ping pong serving as either gateway to or guardian from engagement with the real world. And all of its poignant turns are framed by Masaaki Yuasa’s tremendous direction, full of beautiful interpretive flourishes and scored by a careful soundtrack that constantly elevates the proceedings. Ping Pong demonstrates that any conflict can be made gigantic through empathy for the characters involved, and goes above and beyond with its tremendous aesthetic merits. Even if you don’t consider yourself a sports show fan, Ping Pong is something special.

14. Cowboy Bebop (1998–1999)

TV-MA | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

The futuristic misadventures and tragedies of an easygoing bounty hunter and his partners.

Stars: Kôichi Yamadera, Unshô Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara, Steve Blum

Votes: 78,783

Shinichiro Watanabe’s first and arguably best original production, Cowboy Bebop has a venerable and well-deserved reputation as a classic. Its stylistic mix of noir, western, scifi, and jazz feels so natural that it’s hard to believe it was basically invented by this show. Its direction is fluid and assured, its stories are incredibly varied and regularly poignant, and its characters are as iconic as they are relatable. It’s cool and funny and confident, diverse enough to have an episode for everyone, and ambitious enough to aptly demonstrate anime’s strengths as a medium. It’s as remarkable today as it was fifteen years ago.

15. Kyôsôgiga (2013– )

Animation, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Everything was peaceful until Myoue and Koto suddenly vanished. Their three children are left to take care of the city, and Yakushimaru inherits Myoue's name and duties. Stranded in this ... See full summary »

Star: Rie Kugimiya

Votes: 150

There’s a whole lot to love in Kyousogiga. It’s a family story, populated by a diverse set of characters and full of personal reflections on sibling and parental relations. It’s a world unto itself, a beautiful fairy tale city filled with evocative details. It’s an exercise in aesthetics, with top-notch direction, visual design, and music. And it is all of these things at once – its central conflict of a family that has fallen apart and must come back together makes brilliant use of all its aesthetic strengths, and the world they inhabit fills every frame with personality and color. It also has the best brother-sister relationship I’ve seen in any show, and as the brother of two sisters, I can really appreciate how well this show understands people.

16. Shiki (2010– )

TV-MA | 24 min | Animation, Drama, Horror

When many deaths occur in the quiet village of Sotoba, Doctor Toshio Ozaki initially suspects an epidemic but soon becomes convinced that something else is causing them.

Stars: Tôru Ohkawa, Koki Uchiyama, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Wataru Takagi

Votes: 2,338

Anime doesn’t really have the best track record with horror – there’s just something inherently difficult about portraying visceral dread in animation, and few shows manage to pull it off. Fortunately, Shiki neatly avoids falling into any “this isn’t scary” traps by being more about creating an oppressive atmosphere, and focusing less on visceral horror than on the horror of human nature. Its slow-burning story depicts the breakdown of an entire community from basically every possible position within that community, making for a remarkably well-realized cast of dozens of characters. And its runtime is peppered with stark moral questions, thrilling twists, and moments of pure adrenal shock. Its themes of community and the meaning of a monster are classic ones, but Shiki infuses them with vitality and modern relevance, along with a sense of campy fun that almost tricks you into embarking on one of the darkest rides the medium has to offer. Shiki is a vivid, tense, and deeply angry show.

17. Kids on the Slope (2012– )

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Drama, Music

Two different students - a successful but aloof academic and a rebellious but kindhearted delinquent - form a friendship through their love for music.

Stars: Leraldo Anzaldua, Shelley Calene-Black, Luci Christian, Maggie Flecknoe

Votes: 1,969

After nearly a decade’s absence, Shinichiro Watanabe returned to direction with a serious change of pace – an understated period drama/coming-of-age story. Surprising as that was, perhaps even more surprising was how good Kids on the Slope turned out to be. Its postwar setting is compelling, its characters act like people, and it, perhaps more than any other Watanabe show, beautifully demonstrates his love affair with music. Every element of this production exudes polish, and when its characters come together for a performance, the results are always transcendent. Though it’s not among my absolute favorites, I’d consider Kids on the Slope one of the most “perfect” shows I know – every element is used well, every character leaves a mark, and its understanding of the tension, release, and even unfulfilled longing of youth is remarkable. And those songs!

18. Toradora! (2008–2011)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

Ryuji Takasu lives in a falling down house with his mother, and although being a nice guy is cursed with the evil look of his father causing people to avoid him. Taiga Aisaka is a tiny,self... See full summary »

Stars: Rie Kugimiya, Junji Majima, Yui Horie, Hirofumi Nojima

Votes: 7,305

Considering I haven’t seen Toradora since it actually aired, its position on this list may be something of an open question. But if memory serves, Toradora certainly deserves it – it’s basically the high school romcom/drama all other such shows wish they were, populated by multifaceted characters, driven by relatable, human drama, and crescendoing in a long line of iconic moments. Its conflicts emerge naturally from the base nature of its well-drawn protagonists, and perhaps most importantly, its writing actually understands the fundamentals of banter and chemistry. Anime could use a lot more shows like Toradora.

19. Hyouka (2012– )

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

Houtarou is usually quite apathetic, however when his sister forces him to join the classic literature club at Kamiyama High School, his worldview begins to change. Once there, he discovers... See full summary »

Stars: Yûichi Nakamura, Satomi Sato, Felecia Angelle, Tia Lynn Ballard

Votes: 2,222

Unless KyoAni performs some tremendous about-face in priorities, it seems like Hyouka will stand as their masterpiece for a long time to come. Not that that’s a mark against it – Hyouka is a fantastic show, and easily makes best use of KyoAni’s mastery of small character moments and subtle, human animation. It’s a mark to how impressive I find this show’s character work that I enjoyed it in spite of not really caring about any of the mysteries – of course, the fact that the show’s ridiculously gorgeous and filled with lush animation doesn’t hurt, either. If you’re in the mood for a more meditative character story, Hyouka’s as good as it gets.

20. From the New World (2012– )

TV-14 | 25 min | Animation, Adventure, Drama

In a post-apocalyptic world set a thousand years after our era, the remaining humans, now with telekinesis, live in a seemingly peaceful society, but dark secrets of the past will soon be discovered by a small group of friends.

Stars: John Kaiser, David Wald, Leraldo Anzaldua, Chris Ayres

Votes: 2,134

Shinsekai Yori is basically tailor-made for fans of fantasy and scifi novels. Heavy on worldbuilding and questions of human nature, its story unfolds on a scale far greater than most anime, exploring a compelling dystopian society by following one generation from childhood through adolescence and well into adulthood. Though I often feel its characters fade into the background of its storytelling pretensions, it all works in service of an incredibly compelling central narrative, and its devastating conclusion justifies everything that came before. It’s a rare and valuable thing – few shows work on the scale of Shinsekai Yori.

21. Gunbuster (1988– )

PG | 30 min | Animation, Action, Drama

A young pilot, daughter of a deceased space captain, is selected to pilot a colossal robot as the key point of Earth's defence in a space war.

Stars: Noriko Hidaka, Rei Sakuma, Norio Wakamoto, Maria Kawamura

Votes: 1,216

Grouped together because they really do feel like two sides of the same coin, both of Gainax’s Buster shows would also make this list independently. Flippant and heartbreaking, cynical and triumphant, personal and universal, each of these OVAs tells a story of humanity’s struggle against all the forces of the universe with style and heart. And each can stand alone, as well – Gunbuster is helmed by a pre-Eva Anno already exhibiting his unnerving style of direction, and Diebuster offers a very appropriate conclusion to the FLCL era of Gainax production. Only six episodes each, too – it’s pretty remarkable how much story each of these manage to tell.

Grouped together because they really do feel like two sides of the same coin, both of Gainax’s Buster shows would also make this list independently. Flippant and heartbreaking, cynical and triumphant, personal and universal, each of these OVAs tells a story of humanity’s struggle against all the forces of the universe with style and heart. And each can stand alone, as well – Gunbuster is helmed by a pre-Eva Anno already exhibiting his unnerving style of direction, and Diebuster offers a very appropriate conclusion to the FLCL era of Gainax production. Only six episodes each, too – it’s pretty remarkable how much story each of these manage to tell.

23. Mushi-Shi (2005–2006)

TV-14 | 25 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

They are neither plants nor animals. They differ from other forms of life such as the micro-organisms and the fungi. Instead they resemble the primeval body of life and are generally known ... See full summary »

Stars: Yûto Nakano, Travis Willingham, Kôjun Itô, Jennifer Seman

Votes: 10,652

Mushishi is one of those strange, special shows that seem to just emerge confident and fully constructed, exude excellence for all of their running time, and then go quietly on their way. Its vignettes are dreamy and ambiguous, full of resonance and compelling ideas but never didactic. Its world is mysterious and enchanting, evoking both a more resigned and possibly more dangerous version of Miyazaki’s mystical forests. Its production is fantastic, with beautiful backgrounds matching a wonderfully understated musical score and a great sense of pacing to conjure its powerful, singular atmosphere. And all this works in service of a show that’s fundamentally just incredibly calming and sedate – a series of long, lazy afternoons spent enjoying the company of a master storyteller.

24. Hunter x Hunter (2011–2014)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

Gon Freecss aspires to become a Hunter, an exceptional being capable of greatness. With his friends and his potential, he seeks for his father who left him when he was younger.

Stars: Megumi Han, Mariya Ise, Issei Futamata, Cristina Valenzuela

Votes: 39,149

As the only long-running shounen on my list, HxH’s a bit of an outlier. But HxH is not your typical shounen – directed by Madhouse (likely my pick for the best studio of all time) and adapted from a source by the writer of Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter is basically a master class in what makes adventure entertaining. Though it starts off “only” demonstrating it knows how to make challenge-based television entertaining (in lieu of actual fights, it generally sets up compelling puzzles of all shapes and sizes for its heroes), it ends up jumping from genre to genre, dabbling in crime thriller, tournament shounen, and even war drama. And through it all, the show’s fantastic aesthetics elevate it above almost everything out there – in direction, in sound design, in pacing, in animation, in basically every relevant aesthetic metric, Hunter x Hunter triumphs. That it’s been maintaining this level of quality for well over a hundred episodes is nothing short of astonishing – in fact, I’d say Hunter x Hunter has only gotten better over time.

25. Spice and Wolf (2008–2009)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

Kraft Lawrence goes from town to town to make profits as a travelling merchant, with the help of a wolf deity by the name of Holo.

Stars: Jun Fukuyama, Ami Koshimizu, Brina Palencia, J. Michael Tatum

Votes: 3,364

It may not be apparent from this list, but it turns out I’m an incredible sucker for romance. Chemistry, banter, moments of sacrifice for the one you love – all it really takes is one great couple to get me through a show. Unfortunately, most anime is really bad at portraying romance – it flounders in cliches, it creates artificial drama, and it doesn’t understand actual rapport. Standing as one of the premier counterexamples to this sad trend, Spice and Wolf is about as endearing and well-drawn of a romance as you could hope for. Its characters are distinctive and bounce off each other well, its dialogue displays great personality and chemistry, and it’s apparent again and again how much its protagonists care for each other. Though I also am a great fan of its aesthetic and economic focus, the thing that makes Spice and Wolf a top show for me is the fantastic romance at its center.

26. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions (2012– )

TV-PG | 25 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

Yuuta suffered from "chuunibyou" while he was in middle school. When he graduated, he try to forgot about it but he accidentally got into a contract with Rikka and disrupts his desperately ordinary life.

Stars: Jun Fukuyama, Maaya Uchida, Chinatsu Akasaki, Leraldo Anzaldua

Votes: 1,892

Considering how much I’m disliking the second season, I’m probably gonna have to revisit my feelings on this show at some point, but for now, all I’ve got are incredibly positive memories. The first season of Chuunibyou has focus – though it’s comedy-heavy, almost every episode of its first half is indispensable in setting up its cast’s personalities and dynamics. And once the die is cast, it tears out of the gate, covering more romantic drama in six episodes than most shows manage in a season. It’s also a great example of all the things KyoAni really does well – it’s full of small character moments and beautiful colors, and its sense of comedic timing is best in class. Tie it all together with a legitimately thoughtful thematic center, and you’ve got a pretty impressive romantic comedy.

27. Steins;Gate (2011–2015)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

After discovering time travel, a university student and his colleagues must use their knowledge of it to stop an evil organization and their diabolical plans.

Stars: Mamoru Miyano, Asami Imai, Kana Hanazawa, Ashly Burch

Votes: 35,366

Half witty, endearing slice of life, half thrilling time-travel drama, Steins;Gate is a strange mixture of elements, but the end result has a lot going for it. The story is really compelling, for one thing – the tension it slowly builds is released in a thrilling second half, full of twists, turns, and all the quirks a good time-travel story should have. The humor is surprisingly sharp, too – this was a show I actually picked up in the first few episodes, and the pitch that sold me on it was “it’s like an anime comedy, but good!” And underlying both of these strengths is the great cast – in the midst of all the scifi shenanigans and episodic tangents, Steins;Gate finds the time to also tell one of the better love stories in anime, featuring a couple that are compelling independently but completely adorable together.

28. Gatchaman (1972–1974)

TV-PG | 25 min | Animation, Action, Drama

A team of bird-themed superhero ninjas battle the menace of Galactor, a technologically advanced international terrorist organization determined to conquer the world.

Stars: Katsuji Mori, Isao Sasaki, Kazuko Sugiyama, Yoku Shioya

Votes: 569

Gatchaman’s a goddamn busy show – in the course of a 12-episode run, it covers everything from internet culture to crowdsourcing to the necessity of leadership to social responsibility to human nature to… well, you get the idea. And it explores all these ideas while also staying remarkably light and breezy – you could enjoy the show purely as a fun, visually interesting, musically brilliant adventure without even thinking about how identity is constructed in the digital age, or whatnot. And when you combine these two strengths, you get a show that proves you don’t have to be dry to be smart – you can make awesome points about how the internet will change the world without ever giving up a sense of fun and moment-to-moment excitement. Brain food and comfort food at the same time.

29. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (2013– )

TV-14 | Animation, Adventure, Drama

While fighting an intense inter-galactic war, a mecha pilot was accidentally warped into a space-time neither he nor the computer of his mecha could recognize. After waking up from a ... See full summary »

Stars: Fabien Albanese, Alan Lee, Michelle Ruff, Matthew Mercer

Votes: 1,298

Gargantia is both the most complex exploration of Urobuchi’s ideas he’s yet attempted and likely the most deliberately personal story of any of his works. By tying his usual ideas about utilitarianism and human nature to the story of one young man finding purpose in a new, unfamiliar society, he turns Gargantia into both a positive story about the rewards of embracing adulthood and an exploration of the purpose of society in the first place. Gargantia’s also just an enjoyable show to spend time with – the world of Gargantia is rich and beautiful, and the way the show shifts between full genres throughout its run does a great service to both Ledo’s journey and the impact of Gargantia as a setting. It’s fun, pretty, and possibly the most unassumingly thoughtful of all of Urobuchi’s shows.

30. Tengen toppa gurren lagann (2007–2008)

TV-14 | 24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

Two friends, Simon and Kamina, become the symbols of rebellion against the powerful Spiral King, who forced mankind into subterranean villages.

Stars: Yuri Lowenthal, Kana Asumi, Steve Blum, Johnny Yong Bosch

Votes: 12,761

Gurren Lagann is absolutely Not My Kind of Show, but it’s just so good at what it does that I have to love it anyway. The energy, the enthusiasm, the soundtrack, the fantastic visuals – it’s an exuberant love letter to mechs, hyperbole, and hot-blooded enthusiasm, and you’ll either absolutely hate it or end up swept away. It’s also pretty funny (though this is mixed with plenty of stuff that’s pretty not funny), has a broad and endearing cast, and even has one point of actual intelligence – Rossiu, whose arc and conflict possess a depth bizarrely out of whack with everything else the show is doing. Rossiu’s existence is probably the tipping point that knocks this show onto this list, but if you’re in the mood for pure, silly entertainment, Gurren Lagann is happy to entertain.

31. Psycho-Pass (2012– )

TV-MA | 25 min | Animation, Action, Crime

Believing in humanity and order, policewoman Akane Tsunemori obeys the ruling, computerized, precognitive Sibyl System. But when she faces a criminal mastermind who can elude this "perfect" system, she questions both Sibyl and herself.

Stars: Kana Hanazawa, Robert McCollum, Kate Oxley, Tomokazu Seki

Votes: 13,266

This show’s pretty textbook Urobuchi – one part compelling fantasy setting (a thoughtcrime-obsessed dystopian cyber-future), one part fun tweak on a classic genre (crime procedural by way of Bladerunner), and one part cynical yet optimistic attack on the inhumanity of utilitarianism, as well as the poignance of human nature. It’s fun as a straight crime drama, it works as a sharp-edged exploration of how society always creates friction with the individual, and its aesthetic is all kinds of stylish. Not Urobuchi’s best work, but standard Urobuchi is much better than most anime out there.

32. Mawaru-Penguindrum (2011– )

TV-14 | Animation, Comedy, Drama

A terminally ill girl is revived by a magical penguin spirit. In return, her brothers are sent on a quest for the mysterious 'Penguindrum'.

Stars: Shelley Calene-Black, Maggie Flecknoe, Adam Gibbs, Illich Guardiola

Votes: 632

Though I don’t find it as compelling as Utena, Penguindrum is still stuffed with all the brilliant Ikuhara-ness that makes that show shine. Vibrant characters, plentiful visual inventiveness, a rich mix of ideas (this time concerning family, childhood, the nature of society, fate, and all sorts of other stuff I’d rather not spoil)… Ikuhara shows are busy, but Penguindrum manages to tie all this substance to a fast-paced, compelling central drama. What would you do to save the people you love? What composes your identity, and what is your identity really worth? The show is wild and absurd, but it stays grounded by virtue of the resonant issues it grapples with, along with the passionate, flawed, endlessly endearing family at the center of its spin.

33. Baccano! (2007–2008)

TV-MA | 384 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

A crazy fantasy caper involving alchemists, immortals, gangsters, outlaws and an elixir of immortality, spread over several decades.

Stars: Michael C. Pizzuto, J. Michael Tatum, Caitlin Glass, Akemi Kanda

Votes: 9,481

People have described Baccano as the anime version of a Tarantino movie, which to me seems like kind of an insult to Tarantino. Not because Baccano is bad, but because the things the two share – a penchant for non-linear structure and a love of ultraviolence – are basically the least interesting things about Tarantino movies. And Baccano itself is impressive in all sorts of other ways – ridiculous and fun and breathless and breezy, it juggles time periods, endless characters, and rampant subplots with an ease resembling controlled madness, coming off as a slight, entertaining crime caper in spite of all its ridiculous convolution. The end result is closer to Guy Ritchie than Tarantino, but Baccano is ultimately its own thing – an entertaining ride well worth the ticket.

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