Once again, IGN’s readers voted in a poll to pick what the next Top 25 list we would tackle is, and this time around the best anime series won!
Picking just 25 titles was really difficult, but our team of anime experts eventually came up with this list. We took several things into consideration when choosing our 25: Did the anime leave its mark on the culture in a meaningful way? Did they influence the industry and genre? And, of course, did we just like them?
Read on (or swipe through the slideshow) for IGN’s picks for the 25 Best Anime Series, or watch our video on the top 10 above, and be sure to let us know in the comments what your favorites are!
Top 25 Best Anime Series of All Time
There are not many sports anime that can knock it out of the park in almost every way but Haikyuu!! manages to do that. The series revolves around a fairly large ensemble consisting of a high school volleyball team. Even though that may seem like a hurdle, the character development is well balanced and you’ll find yourself rooting for each member whether their role is big or small. The animation from Production IG is top-notch as well, elevating the tension of each match and play to the point that you’ll be glued to the front of your screen all episode. Haikyuu!! succeeds in creating an amazing sports team formula that other similar series should strive for.
Trigun is a classic late 90s sci-fi space Western taking place on a desert planet literally called, No Man’s Land. The Protagonist, Vash the Stampede isn’t your typical strong and stoic gunslinger. Rather he’s a quirky goofy guy in an awesome red duster coat with a hyperactive pacifist streak. The story explores Vash’s journey to uncover his amnesiac past, battle the mysterious group hunting him, and discover why he has a 60 Billion Double Dollar bounty on his head. What makes Trigun truly stand out are the unique stylistic character and weapon designs, as well as the twisting plot that you understand more and more on every rewatch. The series returns in Trigun Stampede in 2023.
23. Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z was a gateway drug for many a young anime fan, and for good reason. The series isn’t particularly deep, as it basically revolves around superhuman martial artist Goku and his friends testing their mettle against an increasingly powerful and outlandish series of foes. But what the series lacks in terms of plot, it more than makes up for in humor, kooky characters and incredible action. How can you not have fun with a martial arts fantasy where most of the characters are strong enough to shatter planets with their bare hands?
22. My Hero Academia
Superhero stories are a dime a dozen, but My Hero Academia offers a unique twist on the familiar genre by focusing on Izuku Midoriya, a hero who was born without powers (but is determined to save people regardless) in a world full of folks with abilities. Even after he earns the “quirk” he’s always dreamed of, MHA constantly finds ways to challenge Midoriya’s traditional hero’s journey by offering new twists on well-worn tropes, exploring what it means to be a hero with consistent humor and heart — not to mention some spectacular action sequences. Between its stunning animation, loveable roster of well-developed supporting characters, and talent for coming up with some of the most ridiculous and unique superpowers ever committed to the screen, My Hero Academia is a breath of fresh air — frequently silly, often sweet, and consistently surprising.
21. Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss is rare in that it’s a story that could barely be told in any medium besides manga or anime, and takes full advantage of it to weave a fascinating, gut-wrenching story fueled by both despair and hope in equal measure. Riko and Reg live in a fascinating world with a deep, mysterious “abyss” at the center of it all. Few return from the deeper levels alive, as ascending can cause effects much worse than a diver’s decompression sickness. Riko’s mother is assumed to be lost, but Riko and Reg set off to find her and uncover the mysteries of the abyss. The longer the story goes on, the more fantastical and depraved it gets, much like the titular abyss itself. Everything from the impressive creature design, the mystery of it, and the hopeful characters keeps you on the edge of your seat. Though it looks cute and sweet on the outset, Made in Abyss deserves all the content warnings it gets, and is not for the faint of heart.
20. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Entire Series)
Oh my god! This is a normal response from watching this weirdly amazing shounen anime that follows the different generations of the Joestar family. The influential manga series has been around since 1987 and has only been airing the anime since 2012. It was tough to decide on which part of the long-running series was deserving of this spot so we’re taking all of this bizarre series into account. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is full of amazing action, wild characters, and iconic moments that will live on through the anime community (and memes)
19. Naruto Shippuden
The long-running Naruto series has been referred to as one of the “big three” anime because of its wild popularity around the world, and for good reason. It’s full of action-packed fight sequences, hilariously fun moments, and dramatic scenes that pull at your heartstrings. In Naruto Shippuden, the story takes a darker and more serious tone as the characters are now older and face even more daunting challenges from the shadows as well as themselves. The Naruto anime series is known for its memorable characters and relationships, and it continues to be one of the biggest shounen anime ever, even long after it has ended.
18. Death Note
Death Note is a now classic anime that follows Light Yagami, a teen who gains supernatural abilities via the Death Note. A book that grants the user the ability to kill anyone they want, just by writing that person’s name in the book. With the power of the Death Note and a genius intellect, Light goes on a genocidal “moral” crusade that impacts the world. What ensues beyond is cat and mouse between World Class investigators who rival Light in cunning and intellect. This show has gone on to inspire many other dark protagonist shonen anime as well as many live-action adaptations. Which rightfully earns its place as one of the best and most influential anime of all time.
17. Attack on Titan
On that day, humanity was reminded of the fear they held for the titans. Attack on Titan became an instant classic when it was first released in 2013. Following three friends, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, they fight alongside humanity’s greatest soldiers against gargantuan Titans and the threats that lie beyond their city walls. What started as a typical shonen anime evolved into an amazing piece of art tackling themes of war, classism/racism, among other heavy topics. It’s hard to find anyone who has not felt the impact of this show, with director Alex Garland even calling out the series as a source of inspiration. A mixture of high-intensity action, slow character-driven scenes, and Game of Thrones-esque deaths that come out of nowhere culminate into one of the greatest anime to emerge from the modern age.
16. Ouran High School Host Club
It’s hard to explain all the ways in which Ouran High School Host Club rules. If you’re a fan of manga and anime, you’ll love the ways the story takes the conventions of the medium and turns them on its head at every turn. And if you love a great story, you’ll immediately be grabbed by Bisco Hatori’s hilarious take on the shojo subgenre. When Haruhi Fujioka happens to stumble upon her school’s popular host club, where male students entertain female ones for money, she accidentally breaks an expensive vase and suddenly finds herself mistaken for a boy and forced to become a host. Her awkward nature and shyness mean that it’s an uncomfortable setup, but as she finds her place in the Host Club she also begins to find herself, her courage, and a whole new group of friends. Ouran High School Host Club is a sweet and silly satire on the idea of otaku culture, and it’s also one of the trailblazers in fujoshi comedy.
15. Devilman Crybaby
Unlike most of Netflix’s original programming, Devilman Crybaby offers a succinct and moving story in the span of 10 episodes. But be warned, Devilman Crybaby is sure to make younger viewers with parents in the room extremely uncomfortable with its explicit depictions of sex, violence, and profanity. But in its exploration of what some may deem filth, Devilman Crybaby finds humanity. This loose interpretation of the biblical apocalypse — Devilman Crybaby is a profoundly modern take on the Book of Revelation — is a study of love, sacrifice, and God’s love (or disdain) for humanity. The modern lens helps the biblical punches find their way into contemporary guts. And thanks to the gorgeous style, bangin’ Japanese hip hop, and a cast of memorable characters, you don’t really mind the pain.
14. Demon Slayer
The record-breaking Demon Slayer has blown up tremendously in the last few years and it’s not too surprising to those that have followed the series up until now. Every single episode of Demon Slayer is consistently impressive with smooth animation that never compromises its gorgeous art, incredible visual effects that bring the spectacular battles to life, and an amazing soundtrack that punctuates its many emotional high points. Not only that, Demon Slayer will make you laugh out loud thanks to the over-the-top absurdity of characters like Zentisu and Inosuke, and it’ll just as easily make you tear up with its heavy themes of loss and family.
13. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
This show, originally released in 2006, has stood the test of time thanks to its two most alluring elements: a captivating setting comprised of meticulous worldbuilding, and a narrative that builds through strategy and shattering twists, like that of a thriller. The story takes place in an alternate timeline, very much reminiscent of Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the world consists of three superpowers: the Holy Britannian Empire, the Chinese Federation, and the European Union. Before the commencement of the story proper, the Holy Britannian Empire has conquered Japan, stripping the country of its name and freedom, with the use of enormous mechs. So, yes, this is a heavily political mecha thriller of an anime with some thrilling action scenes that carry the excitement ever forward. Our protagonist, Lelouch, is an exiled Britannian prince now living in Japan who swears to bring down his father’s empire. The show, with political subterfuge, enticing mythology, and fascinating characters, has gone down as one of the great mecha anime of all time.
Buy Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion on Blu-ray.
12. Samurai Champloo
After Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe’s stock was at an all-time high, and his follow up, a simple Samurai story with a touch of hip hop, served only to cement his legacy as one of the greats in anime directing. Samurai Champloo, like Cowboy Bebop before it, was mostly episodic, and while its overarching story isn’t anything to write home about, the individual arcs of each of its three main characters were engrossing to follow, with equal amounts of emotionally resonant story beats and literal off the wall action.
In just 16 episodes, Baccano packs more story and intrigue than most anime are able to in twice or even three times that amount. It’s a fast-paced thrill ride, not unlike the unforgettable train ride that serves as the centerpiece of its twisty story, and it features some of the most memorable psychopaths you’ll find in anime. Baccano unfolds like a puzzle, with almost every episode providing you with a new revelation that totally flips the way you’ve viewed things thus far. And even beyond all of that, it also has one of the best dubs you’ll ever hear.
FLCL (pronounced Fooly Cooly) is short even by normal anime standards, but there’s a lot to be said for a good sci-fi comedy that knows how to call it a day before wearing out its welcome. FLCL is about as bizarre and hilarious as anime gets, with the original series revolving around an ordinary suburban boy named Naota Nandaba and his new “friend,” a quirky alien woman named Haruko Haruhara. The very first episode features Naota growing giant robots from his head, and the series only gets wackier from there. The surreal tone, the incredible soundtrack and the experimental animation style all serve to make FLCL a wholly unique and unforgettable anime experience.
9. Yu Yu Hakusho
We follow Yusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old teenage delinquent who is hit by a car and dies saving a child. Yusuke finds out that he has no place in heaven or hell, but he’s offered a second chance at life when he’s charged with investigating supernatural activity in the Human World and given the title of Spirit World Detective. With the help of his friends and a unique technique called Spirit, Gun that allows him to shoot a Kamehameha from his finger, Yusuke strives to protect the balance between the Human and Demon Worlds. This series stands shoulder to shoulder with Dragon Ball Z as one of the most influential action anime of the ’90s.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion
There’s a reason we all still need an ending explained for Neon Genesis Evangelion more than 20 years after its release. The mythology behind the production of Hideaki Anno’s groundbreaking anime has become as much a part of Evangelion’s story as the anime itself, with its final two episodes still being divisive and up for debate. There’s no debate over Evangelion’s continued excellence, though, both as an elevated take on the mech anime genre and as a harrowing and incredibly personal exploration of depression. Even with countless movie and series sequels and reimaginings, nothing touches the masterwork of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s first run, which remains a fan-favorite and showcases how a singular auteur approach to storytelling can create art that continues to resonate for generations.
7. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter (pronounced Hunter Hunter) starts out with a familiar trope: A hero, in this case a young boy named Gon, leaves his small town for the first time on an adventure. He leaves the island on a quest to find his long-forgotten father who had left him behind. His only clue? He’s a world-famous licensed Hunter — so Gon sets off to take the notoriously deadly exam and become a Hunter himself. It sounds mundane and almost cheery, but Hunter x Hunter is anything but. The emotional highs and lows and the arcs of both the protagonists and antagonists are some of the best. As with most shonen, the dramatic action is fantastic, too.
6. Mob Psycho 100
Don’t let the title fool you. Mob Psycho 100 is another fun romp from original One-Punch Man creator One. The series works as both a parody of shonen-style anime and a great example of it, revolving around an eighth-grader named Mob, a quiet, reserved boy who specializes in exorcising evil spirits. The catch is that his own supernatural powers are tied to his emotions. If he gets pushed over the edge, the entire world is in peril. This series thrives on the strength of its humor, its small but memorable cast of characters and its dynamic visual style.
5. Hajime no Ippo
Also known in the US as Fighting Spirit, Hajime no Ippo is a thrilling adaptation of an incredibly long-running manga series. Picture a mashup of Rocky and The Karate Kid and you’ll have some idea of what to expect from this coming-of-age drama about a bullied teen named Ippo Makunouchi who discovers he has a knack for boxing. The series follows Ippo’s training and gradual rise through the boxing ranks. What really makes this series shine is the way it strives to flesh out both sides of any given match-up. Ippo doesn’t just train to be the best, but to understand and connect with his opponents. That alone is enough to set this series apart.
Monster is quite simply one of the best stories ever told in anime/manga form, but more than that, it’s a special anime because of how different it is from everything else. In a medium dominated by giant robots, superpowered heroes that shoot beams out of their hands, and virtual fantasy worlds, Monster is refreshingly grounded in reality. It’s a dark, mature, gritty thriller about a good man who loses everything after doing what he believed to be the right thing, and the dark descent that he must endure in order to correct his mistake.
3. One Piece
After almost 20 years, One Piece continues to entertain audiences worldwide with more than 1000 episodes. Going as long as the series has been with its pirate journey, it can be tough for any anime to keep up with fans both new and old. One Piece manages to do that with the amazing mind of Eiichiro Oda. The world building, the deep characters, the hilarious adventure, and the amazing adaptation that sometimes beats out the manga catapults this series to the top of shonen anime history. It’s through Oda’s vision that the series has had such a lasting impact on viewers throughout the years and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
2. Cowboy Bebop
It’s hard to believe Cowboy Bebop is over 20 years old because of how well it still holds up, both in its conception and its execution. The space western that introduced the world to Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed and of course Ein still looks gorgeous, with a resonant story, strong characters and one heck of a soundtrack that ensures it remains one of the best anime ever made. Cowboy Bebop has had an indelible impact that reaches far beyond anime; everyone from Orson Scott Card to Rian Johnson to Robin Williams have praised the series and cited its influence on their work. Cowboy Bebop still works so well because of the continually relatable story at the heart of its genre-bending 26-episode run. Its exploration of adult themes like loss anchors the crew’s journey throughout the stars, making it a series we’re happy to revisit even after all this time. Three, two, one, let’s jam!
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The struggle of most anime is laying out intricate world-building while balancing a cast of memorable characters, iconic moments, and thrilling fights. And that’s what makes Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood so special. The framing device for our entry into this sprawling world is one of sympathy. We understand why the Elric brothers would practice forbidden alchemy in an attempt to resurrect their dead mother at the cost of their physical bodies. And yet despite divine intervention slapping them in the face, telling them no, they continue on their quest. And that quest to resurrect their mother paves the way for motivation that guides them through a world of monsters, government conspiracy, and divinity. And despite all this elegance, FMA: Brotherhood also knows when to lay it all bare in unforgettable moments that will leave you standing in front of your TV cheering for the Elric brothers.