Top 30 Greatest Anime Series Ever Made

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Anime could be a complicated medium, one riddled with landmines if you don’t educate yourself.

There are anime series out there carelessly crafted with one-dimensional characters and bogged down by shallow writing.

It doesn’t help convert any naysayers and it’s no fun for the experienced viewer to watch.

So, if you’re new to the anime world and you want to start off on the right foot, these 30 greatest anime series are the ones that you can’t miss.

30. Psycho-Pass

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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.

29. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

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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.

28. Suisei no Gargantia

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Gargantia is both the most complex exploration of Urobuchi’s ideas he’s yet attemptedand 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.

27. Haibane Renmei

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There are few shows that create such an engaging, consistent sense of place as Haibane Renmei. The town of this show is vivid and inviting, and there is a sense of warmth and peace permeating much of this show. The atmosphere is the greatest strength here, but the rest of the show is no slouch – the writing is understated but effective, and the show’s mysteries offer ample reason to explore the strange corners of this world. Haibane Renmei is sitting back on a lazy Sunday and watching the sunlight play through the trees. Creating such a sense of peace is a rare and excellent thing.

26. Gatchaman Crowds

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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.

25. Steins;Gate

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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.

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24. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai

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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.

23. Spice and Wolf

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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.




10 COMMENTS

  1. I was just about to put up an angry comment saying something like “how can you make a greatest anime of all time list without putting evangelion in it” when I was nearly reaching the end of the list

  2. Yes love psycho pass but also nature, inuyasha, free, parasite, tokyo ghoul, hakuouki , High School of the dead, Hiro no kakera, wolf girl and black Prince, say I love you, kamisama Hajimimashita, kamigami no asobi, inu x bokuss, amnesia, brothers conflict, vampire Knight, Uta no prince sama, kaichou wa maid sama, devil is a part timer, noragami, my little monster, blue exorcist, attack on Titan, black bullet, black Butler, Working XXX, and more,…

  3. What the f, I thought these are all originally anime (not based on LN & Manga). Considering no Gintama, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, SAO, OPM, AOT, DanMachi, Mahouka, DanMachi, MS Gundam, High School DxD (haha), etc., this list is based on personal selection rather that what actually should be.

  4. some great here but most of them are not good enough for top 30 not even top 100, and no FMA Brotherhood, Code Geass, Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Clannad, not even one Gundam series, Kaleido Star, Bersesk, Haikyuu, Kuroko, Angel Beats, ERASED, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso… so yeah not a good list.

  5. No Gintama????Really????..one of the animes which made me watch it when I woke up and when I went to sleep,I am not even exaggerating yes it is not everyone’s cup of tea and that any”top” list is subjective Gintama would definitely be top 3 on my list.For those who have not watched it and are scared of the 300+ EP count do give it a try atleast first few episodes since it takes a little time to get going but one it does it churns out some great episodes and the comedy is on point most of the time also all the OPs and Ends are awesome…yes I am a fangay of Gintama and the Yoruzuya trio…scrape that I am a fangay of all the cast.

  6. This list is made by a NEWB. There’s so many other animes that way above these. How do you not have Clannad, Angel beats, Erased, Elfen Lied, Hellsing, Full metal alchemist, Eureka Seven, etc, etc, etc. there’s maybe like 10 at most that i’d say totally deserve to be on here.

  7. Great article ! It mostly featured anime I haven’t seen, but based on your wonderful and insighful descriptions I want to discover all of them now 🙂
    I don’t care that it didn’t include mainstream anime popularly recognised as “awesome”; your choices were well argued, and each person has their own taste after all.

    If you enjoy stories about people and human dramas, then I recommend you check out Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. It’s an amazing anime, and I’m sure it would make you revise this top 30 list in its favour.

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