Best anime TV shows of all time

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022


Best anime TV shows of all time

Japanese animation—known simply as anime—is packed with countless stories of hope, heart, betrayal, pain, survival, and unbelievable journeys that push far past our realities. From space sagas with bounty-hunting misfits to vengeance stories featuring a protagonist who wants to settle a score, anime offers something for nearly every viewer. Sometimes, they are long, brutal journeys with enough episodes to keep someone locked in for years. Other times, they are short yet pack a mighty cultural punch that resonates years after the finale.

Anime encompasses diverse art styles, innovative camera angles, and even scenes featuring something epic, like the “Akira slide” that become an oft-replicated part of wider pop culture. And while there are many anime series spanning decades of the genre’s existence, a few of them truly stand above the rest in the eyes of fans.

To discover the best anime TV series, Stacker looked at all animated TV shows on IMDb with at least 10,000 votes and narrowed the list down to the top 25 anime series, with ties broken by the number of votes. And the results offer a wide variety of anime offerings from slice-of-life stories to epic fantasy adventures. Here are the best anime TV shows.

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A still frame from Rurouni Kenshin


#25. Rurouni Kenshin

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Years on the air: 1996-1999

This manga series settles viewers into the Meiji period in Japan in 1878, a time of rapid modernization and changes in social structure. Protagonist Kenshin—formerly known as Hitokiri Battōsai—travels to Tokyo. Through a series of circumstances, he teams with a woman named Kamiya Kaoru to defeat someone using his former title in a detrimental way. Kenshin carries an inverted sakabato, a symbol of the atonement he seeks for his past as an assassin. Themes of responsible choices, redemption, and defining power anchor this beloved anime.

A still frame from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Bandai Visual Company

#24. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Years on the air: 2002-2005

Based on the ever-popular “Ghost in the Shell” manga, this series centers on a future where the line between reality and cyberspace is unclear. Viewers follow a special-ops task force called Public Security Section 9 in the fictional city of Niihama-shi in 2030. The details about a roster of agents with various backgrounds unfolds as they work cases, specifically a major one with a frightening figure called “The Laughing Man.” Atsuko Tanaka voices Major Motoko Kusanagi, the protagonist of the anime and manga series.

Kotono Mitsuishi, Yûko Miyamura, and Megumi Ogata in Neon Genesis Evangelion


#23. Neon Genesis Evangelion

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Years on the air: 1995-1996

This incredibly short series tells the epic and often bloody story of Shinji Ikari, a student who deftly pilots a giant biomechanical robot. The bot’s purpose is for fighting Angels, the alien creatures attacking Tokyo-3. Shinji, along with other Evangelion pilots, have to anticipate events and why humans do the things they do.

“Neon Genesis Evangelion” led to a resurgence in Japanese animation with its unique mecha design and a merchandising boom of over $400 million at the time of its release. It continues to be a staple at anime conventions today.

A still frame from Fullmetal Alchemist


#22. Fullmetal Alchemist

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Years on the air: 2003-2004

Edward and Alphonse Elric are a dynamic brother duo who often make poor decisions. They try their hands at alchemy in hopes of resurrecting their deceased mom. Needless to say, it has major consequences where they lose parts of themselves—literally and figuratively—and begin a violent albeit spellbinding journey into a land of magic to locate the philosopher’s stone. The series is quite the tear-jerker at times too. Vic Mignogna and Aaron Dismuke take on the English voices of Ed and Al while Romi Park and Rie Kugimiya are the Japanese voices of the same characters, respectively.

Natsuki Hanae and Risa Taneda in Your Lie in April

A-1 Pictures

#21. Your Lie in April

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2014-2015

Kousei, a talented piano player, hasn’t played since the last time he performed for his mom who died. He can no longer hear the sound of his own piano due to his breakdown. He finds new light and more through a friendship with a fellow teen musician, a violinist named Kaori. It’s a heartbreaking story of love, friendship, and healing with an ending that sticks with the viewer for a long time. It is notably a Shōnen manga, which is typically targeted towards male teen audiences.

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Setsuo Ito in Mob Psycho 100


#20. Mob Psycho 100

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2016-present

Shigeo Kageyama looks like a regular preteen kid who hangs out in the background, hence the nickname Mob which translates to a background person/character. But he’s much more, a powerful psychic who tries to keep his powers under wraps via controlling his emotions. Of course, that’s not easy to do when life comes at you fast in big and small ways. “Mob Psycho” shares a similar style to “One Punch Man” because they are both from the mind of One, a Japanese manga artist and writer.

A still frame from Samurai Champloo

Barnum Studio

#19. Samurai Champloo

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2004-2005

Wild outlaw Mugen and ronin Jin are saved from the clutches of an execution by Fuu, a waitress, before she makes them accompany her on a quest. She’s out to find a samurai who smells like sunflowers. But, there’s a plot twist and new revelations that come with finding this person. The adventure and friendship that develops from people who don’t particularly like each other and are consistently broke is reminiscent of “Cowboy Bebop.” This isn’t surprising considering that Shinichiro Watanabe is the director of both series.

Jujutsu Kaisen


#18. Jujutsu Kaisen

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2020-present

This Shōnen manga follows Yuji Itadori, a really strong teen who ends up eating a cursed finger after curses attack his fellow students. The finger belongs to Ryomen Sukuna, the “King of Curses” who is absolutely evil and becomes a part of Itadori. This leads him to a school where he learns how to fight curses under the instruction of Gojo, forming new friendships and trying to keep the evil within him at bay. The story features heartfelt moments, tension, levity, and hope. Its source material of the same name was Japan’s bestselling manga of 2021, according to Weekly Shōnen Jump’s print magazine.

A still frame from Dragon Ball

The Bird Studio

#17. Dragon Ball

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 1986-1989

“Dragon Ball” follows an intrepid orphan, Goku, who searches for seven balls that unlock specific desires and powers. This epic adventure spans him through several sagas where he finds new friends, unlocks new revelations, and makes his journey towards being a competitive fighter. “Dragon Ball” has expanded its beloved franchise with a litany of additional series and films to expand the story, making characters like the famed Piccolo household names as well as consistent internet memes.

Tomokazu Sugita in Gintama

Bandai Namco Pictures

#16. Gintama

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2005-2018

“Gintama” tells the story of Gintoki, a samurai and freelancer who insists on eschewing rules set by invaders of where he resides. He comes together with his gang, a collective who still hold fast to the code of swordsmen. But when they do go out to push back against societal norms, they leave a path of destruction in their wake. The anime often pokes fun at shōnen tropes in its dialogue and has spawned three movies to continue its story.

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A still frame from Monster


#15. Monster

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2004-2010

Neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma works in a hospital in Germany and lives an enviable life as a top performer in his profession set to marry a rich, beautiful woman. His life shifts dramatically when he saves the life of a boy shot in the head over political strife, going against established boundaries at the hospital. He loses everything and things begin to go into a spiral as people die and he works to clear his name from a string of murders. Hidenobu Kiuchi—also known as Young King Bradley from “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”—voices Tenma.

Still frame from Berserk

OLM-Animation Studio

#14. Berserk

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 1997-1998

This series follows Guts, a mercenary who wanders around essentially seeking battles to test his will to fight and survive before finding defeat from a member of the Band of the Hawk, a mercenary group that he joins. Viewers follow his trajectory within this collective as he brutally loses people and works towards a new level of understanding himself. “Berserk” is known for its extreme violence—even by anime standards—and for touching on serious issues like mental health and abuse.

A still frame Code Geass

Bandai Namco Games

#13. Code Geass

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2006-2012

The Holy Empire of Britannia attacks and conquers Japan, reducing the nation significantly. Interestingly, Lelouch vi Britannia is an exiled prince seeking vengeance against his father who wants to help Japan gain freedom. He gets the “power of absolute obedience” known as Geass from C.C., a mysterious woman. Lelouch wields it to rebel against his former empire in battles involving mechas. Gorō Taniguchi directs the show.

Hiro Shimono, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Natsuki Hanae, and Reina Ueda in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba


#12. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2019-present

Tanjiro’s family is attacked by a host of demons, killing everyone except him and his sister Nezuko. The latter, however, is turning into a demon. Tanjiro goes on a vengeance quest to become a demon slayer and find a cure for Nezuko. This show caught fire during the global coronavirus pandemic, becoming a fan and social media favorite.

Junko Takeuchi, Chie Nakamura, and Satoshi Hino in Naruto: Shippûden


#11. Naruto: Shippûden

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2007-2017

This show is set two and a half years after the original “Naruto” series. The story brings its superhuman teenage ninja hero back home after training with Jiraiya. Tsunade sends Naruto and Sakura on a mission, but they must first defeat a foe to show off their progress. Naruto is no longer that quirky, annoying kid but a bit older and facing a world packed with war, death, and profound loss.

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Makoto Furukawa in One Punch Man


#10. One Punch Man

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2015-2019

Being a superhero seems like a lot of fun. That is, unless you are a hero who can kill anyone with one punch. Then it’s just sad and boring because there’s no challenge. That’s the story of Saitama who ends up in a variety of situations while grappling with his depression. “One Punch Man” will get its own live-action adaptation after the English version of the manga, specifically the first two volumes, became a New York Times bestseller in 2015.

Yu Hayashi, Satoshi Hino, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Ayumu Murase, and Kaito Ishikawa in Haikyuu!!

Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS)

#9. Haikyuu!!

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2014-2020

Shouyou Hinata falls in love with volleyball after seeing a match on TV. The middle school boy aims to be the championship’s big star and knock another player out of that spot, so he joins his school’s team. But, he’s the only player. His journey from recruiting friends and students into the fold to encountering some major rivalries is a fun story about an unexpected subject for an anime.

Asami Imai and Mamoru Miyano in Steins;Gate

Frontier Works

#8. Steins;Gate

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2011-2015

Rintaro Okabe—a self-proclaimed “mad scientist”—runs the Future Gadget Laboratory in his apartment along with Mayuri and Daru, his friends. Things get weird when he goes to a time travel conference and finds the body of a researcher—or so he thinks. It leads to some mind-blowing truths as Okabe travels in time in hopes of righting some wrongs and preventing another world war. Crunchyroll named “Steins;Gate” as one of the top anime series of the 2010s.

Mayumi Tanaka in One Piece

Toei Animation

#7. One Piece

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1999-present

Many animes are known for their either extremely short or extremely long run times. “One Piece” falls into the latter with over 1,000 episodes under its belt. It is the enduring story of Monkey “Straw Hat” Luffy, who has rubbery limbs after accidentally eating a Devil Fruit. He is on a quest with his band of pirates to locate “One Piece,” a treasure that will make him the Pirate King.

Christopher Sabat in Dragon Ball Z

Ocean Group

#6. Dragon Ball Z

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1989-2003

And this…is to go…even further beyond! This is an infamous quote by Goku, Dragon Ball Z’s protagonist, before a big battle. It encapsulates the overall vibe of this show, which follows him and his comrades as they battle foes like Vegeta and Frieza to protect Earth. The fights are epic and the dub is much better than many of its anime counterparts.

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Megumi Hayashibara, Unshô Ishizuka, Aoi Tada, and Kôichi Yamadera in Cowboy Bebop

Bandai Visual Company

#5. Cowboy Bebop

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Years on the air: 1998-1999

See you, Space Cowboy. This Space Western anime is beloved by many fans, an easily accessible saga with only 26 episodes in total. “Cowboy Bebop” follows Spike Spiegel, a former hitman, and his comrade Jet Black, a former solar system police officer. They are now “cowboys” aka bounty hunters traveling in 2071 in their rickety spaceship Bebop. They eventually bring Faye Valentine, a con artist, and a quirky kid named Ed into the fold, along with Ein—a very special corgi. “Cowboy Bebop” is known for themes like existentialism, environmentalism, and the pressures of navigating a capitalistic universe. “Cowboy Bebop” was made into a short-lived Netflix series canceled after its first season in 2021.

Mariya Ise and Megumi Han in Hunter x Hunter


#4. Hunter x Hunter

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Years on the air: 2011-2014

Gon Freecss is a naive boy who finds out that his father is in fact alive and a Hunter—a highly valuable and skilled person. Gon pursues this profession and looks for his father on a journey that brings him across other Hunters as well as seemingly inexplicable things. Unfortunately, Gon’s exploits put him on the radar of Hisoka, a murderous and rather sadistic magician. 

Shidô Nakamura and Mamoru Miyano in Death Note

D.N. Dream Partners

#3. Death Note

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Years on the air: 2006-2007

Light Yagami is a college student living a normal life until he discovers a notebook with magical powers. But those powers are rather sinister. If a person’s name is written on it while the writer thinks of their face, that person will die. He becomes enamored with this bleak power with only L, a detective aware of his exploits, who can stop him. The Duffer Brothers of “Stranger Things” fame will make another live-action “Death Note” for Netflix.

Yûki Kaji in Attack on Titan

Wit Studio

#2. Attack on Titan

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Years on the air: 2013-present

Eren Jaeger lives in a post-apocalyptic world where humans only have a few walls to protect them from the titular Titans. They are large, humanlike creatures that eat humans. Eren’s familial loss leads him on a quest for vengeance as he joins the Survey Corps, soldiers who fight against Titans. In 2014, it was the number one show streaming on Funimation.

Romi Park in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood


#1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

– IMDb user rating: 9.1
– Years on the air: 2009-2012

If you want to feel the feels, then look no further. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” will hurt you like no other anime. Brothers Edward and Alphonse learn that using alchemy to revive their dead mother is not a good thing and lose limbs in the process. They set out to become State Alchemists to uncover an item that will restore them. But instead they become more broken in many ways with death, tragedy, all sorts of mental and emotional pain. The series continues to be lauded for sticking closely to its manga origins—unlike “Fullmetal Alchemist”—as well as delivering action and timeless themes.

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