The 24 Best Anime List of 2020

Be sure to check out these must-see series and movies

We compiled some of the best anime series and movies across 24 categories and included a handful of honorable mentions for each. The best anime in each category rises above its genre in one way or another. Each anime series inspires radical changes within its genre or stands out due to a fantastic story or characters, great animation, voice work, and other factors.

01
of 24

Best Action Anime: Attack on Titan

attack on titan high flying action

Hulu

What We Like
  • Horrifying visuals.

  • Heavy on plot and character development.

  • Real stakes for the characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Protagonist Eren Yager is arguably the least interesting character.

  • Not everyone will enjoy its overly bleak tone.

Rated: TV-MA
Honorable mentionsTrigun, Black Lagoon, Berserk

Attack on Titan is horrifying, but it isn't really a horror anime. If you can stomach the grotesque, inside-out appearance of the titular titans, and the brutal finality of the way they devour their victims, you find an action anime that's also heavy on plot, character development, and atmosphere.

While there are probably more great action anime than any other genre, Attack on Titan is the best because the virtual lack of plot armor means nobody is ever truly safe, and the stakes are always very real.

02
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Best Fighting Anime: Dragon Ball (Z, GT, Super)

Dragon Ball Z epic fight anime

YouTube

What We Like
  • A mix of charm and action.

  • The wonderful Akira Toriyama art.

What We Don't Like
  • Plenty of filler episodes.

Rated: TV-14 (Dragon Ball), TV-PG (Dragon Ball Z, GT, and Super)
Honorable mentionsOne Punch Man, Bleach, Naruto

The various Dragon Ball series, which follow the adventures of Son Goku and his friends, has been the subject of parodies, jokes, and anime memes. Without Dragon Ball, the fighting anime genre as we know it today probably wouldn't exist.

Dragon Ball started as a mostly lighthearted take on the ancient Journey to the West. Still, by the time Dragon Ball Z came out, the franchise fully transformed into the archetype of the genre that's influenced much of what came after.

It's fine to joke about Goku and his foes spending entire episodes charging up their ultimate attacks. Maybe that isn't for everyone, but that's what the official abridged version Dragon Ball Kai is for.

Also, the moon gets blown up. More than once.

03
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Best Adventure Anime: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Hulu

What We Like
  • A genre-defying story.

  • Each season is something new.

  • The high fashion of the characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Some people might be turned off by the tonal whiplash.

  • The first season is slow to start.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentions: Hunter X Hunter, Claymore

There are a ton of great adventure animes, but most cross over into another genre. Shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball, and One Piece are full of adventure but are pigeonholed into specific categories.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure defies categorization. It absolutely belongs on a list like this. It's one of the longest-running, most-beloved manga of all time and it finally received an anime adaptation that does justice to the source material. But where to put it?

Each season of Jojo constantly reinvents itself, as it follows the lineage of the Joestar family. Each scion of the family has a name that can be conveniently reduced to the eponymous Jojo moniker. This show is weird, but it's also fantastic. It's something you really have to see to believe.

The first season starts slow, and the source material is almost old enough to run for president if it wasn't Japanese. Stick with it and you'll find yourself on one of the wildest, weirdest adventures anime has to offer.

04
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Best Superhero Anime: My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia
What We Like
  • It's tropey but fun.

  • Visually interesting character designs and powers.

  • Intriguing plots.

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a bit of time for the really good plots to get going.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentions: One Punch Man, Tiger and Bunny

The high concept of My Hero Academia isn't really that high. It's basically Harry Potter for the superhero set. You'll find an unlikely hero studying at an elite school for the differently-gifted alongside a tremendously colorful cast of characters.

The show is set in a world where superheroes, known as "pro heroes" in the parlance of the show, aren't only real, they're everywhere. Every hero has a quirk or power that may be familiar, like super strength, or completely bonkers, like tape-dispensing elbows.

The thing that makes My Hero Academia such a great show is that everything about it is fun. The character designs are visually interesting, the powers are bizarre and inventive, and both the characterization and plot keep you coming back for more.

05
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Best Fantasy Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist fantasy adventure anime

Hulu

What We Like
  • A grounded story in a fantastic setting.

  • A faithful adaptation of the manga.

  • Fantastic dubs.

What We Don't Like
  • It's dark, and that may turn off some viewers.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsSlayers, Fairy Tale, Log Horizon, Magi

The reason Fullmetal Alchemist is the best fantasy anime of all time is that it paints a fully realized, unique world with internally consistent rules that have real consequences. Building on that foundation, it delivers a story about two brothers that's as grounded as the setting is fantastic.

There's no question about whether the story of the Elric brothers belongs on any list of the best anime of all time. The more contentious issue is whether to choose Fullmetal Alchemist or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

For the uninitiated, Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are based on the same manga. The difference is the former was produced while the manga was in production, so the end of the show has nothing to do with the manga. Brotherhood came later, and it faithfully adapts the entire manga. Both have great animation, engaging stories, and fantastic dubs.

Brotherhood is a good choice if you prefer a faster pace, more action, and more humor. The original has an even pace and more drama.

06
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Best Isekai Anime: The Rising of the Shield Hero

The Rising of the Shield Hero.
What We Like
  • It's good at eliciting emotions from the viewer.

  • Wastes no time getting into the meat of the plot.

What We Don't Like
  • Some potential filler.

Rated: TV-PG
Honorable mentions: The Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime, Konosuba, Escaflowne, Re:Zero, NGNL, The Devil is a Part-Timer

Isekai, which means "another world" in Japanese, is a massively popular genre that typically plucks an unassuming person out of their daily life and inserts them into a fantasy or science-fiction setting. Some of the most popular examples include Sword Art Online and Spirited Away.

Our top pick for the best Isekai anime is Rising of the Shield Hero, which follows the titular shield hero as he's drawn into a strange world, treated terribly, and forced to learn harsh lessons. It elicits real emotions, specifically anger, in the viewer.

If getting mad at anime isn't your cup of tea, check out some of our honorable mentions for somewhat lighter fare.

07
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Best Samurai Anime: Samurai Champloo

Samurai Champloo action scene

YouTube

What We Like
  • Slick visuals.

  • Fantastic dub.

  • Anachronistic hip-hop aesthetic.

What We Don't Like
  • The plot isn't terribly exciting.

  • The profanity, sex, and violence isn't for younger viewers.

Rated: TV-MA
Honorable mentionsRurouni Kenshin, Basilisk

Samurai Champloo isn't your typical samurai anime, which is what makes it the best, most stand-out title in the genre. You don't have to like samurai for Samurai Champloo to hook you with its sense of style, slick visuals, fantastic dub, and hip hop aesthetic.

Fans of the genre are more likely to get the anachronistic gags and appreciate the alternate history version of the Edo period portrayed in the show. But a deep knowledge of the genre isn't a prerequisite to enjoying it.

08
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Best Supernatural Anime: Shin Sekai Yori

shin sekai yori fantastic supernatural world

YouTube

What We Like
  • Great attention to detail.

  • Complex themes.

What We Don't Like
  • It's a slow burn.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsBleach, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Mushishi

A lot of fantasy and supernatural anime incorporates fantastic elements into real-world settings, like shinigami descending on Karakura Town in Bleach. And that can make for a fun and engaging show. Shin Sekai Yori, or From the New World, takes it to a new level.

The series starts with a slow burn. That's mainly because the first several episodes focus on establishing the characters and the fascinating supernatural world they live in. That attention to detail, and the complex themes explored throughout the series, make it the best supernatural anime around and a legitimately great work of speculative fiction.

09
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Best Magical Girl Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Magica magical girl anime

Netflix

What We Like
  • Can appeal to adults and teens.

  • It subverts many genre tropes.

  • Surprisingly emotional at times.

What We Don't Like
  • Some of its darker themes might not be suitable for younger teens and kids.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsYuuki Yuuna, Little Witch Academia, Mai Hime, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

The magical girl genre has been around for a long time and has many well-established tropes. The basic idea is that a young girl, or a group of girls, discover the ability to transform and use magic to fight an adversary. In the west, Sailor Moon is one well-known example.

While a lot of series in this genre are aimed exclusively at kids, and specifically at girls, the best ones have broad appeal and feature a range of themes. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the best magical girl anime because kids, or at least young teens, can enjoy it, but it's dark enough, and mature enough, to appeal to a wider audience. It's solidly rooted in the magical girl genre, but with a darker approach, and subversion of many genre tropes. It delivers an emotional payload that elevates it to a new level.

10
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Best Horror Anime: When They Cry (Higurashi)

higarushi when they cry anime

Hulu

What We Like
  • Tremendously creepy atmosphere.

  • A touch of mystery.

What We Don't Like
  • Its gore isn't for the faint of heart or young of mind.

Rated: TV-MA
Honorable mentionsAnother, Boogiepop Phantom, Elfin Lied, High School of the Dead

Most anime horror series are referred to as horror because of the monsters, like High School of the Dead. These series tend to be light on what western audiences think of as horror. Still, When They Cry straddles the line. It has a tremendously creepy atmosphere, which should satisfy fans of Japanese horror. It also has more than a little touch of mystery, psychological horror, and the type of gore that most Western horror fans expect.

11
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Best Science Fiction Anime: Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate time travel sci-fi anime

YouTube

What We Like
  • A fascinating exploration of time travel.

  • Good plot.

  • Interesting characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Slow to start.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Psycho-Pass, Sword Art Online, Noein

No medium does sci-fi technobabble quite like anime, but there are also a ton of real gems that explore interesting themes and concepts. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a worthy companion to the movie, Psycho-Pass is a disturbing crime thriller inspired by Blade Runner, and Noein is a fascinating look at quantum physics.

Steins;Gate revolves around time travel, but it doesn't use it as a plot device. It explores the concept in a fascinating way. It establishes internally consistent rules as to how time travel works and features a tight time loop plot that's a cut above the rest.

If you want to dip into the world of visual novels, check out the Steins;Gate source material on the Steam platform.

12
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Best Mecha/Giant Robot Anime: Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann

Netflix

What We Like
  • Imaginative and energetic.

  • Goofy and lovable characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Its absurdity isn't for everyone.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsGundam, Eureka Seven, Evangelion

In a genre known for excess, Gurren Lagann takes things to a different level with a wink, a nod, and a shouted admonishment to believe in yourself.

Viewers who aren't into the giant robot anime genre might be turned off by a mecha wearing sunglasses. Still, what seems like an embarrassing mess works much better than it has any right to.

Gurren Lagann is fun, plus it packs an emotional punch that's strong enough to pierce the heavens.

13
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Best Slice of Life Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

the melancholy of haruhi suzumiya

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Combines a slice of life story with mystery and sci-fi.

  • It's funny, if a bit bizarre.

What We Don't Like
  • It's only available on one platform.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsAzumanga Daioh, Beck, Hanasaku Iroha, K-On!

Slice of life is a genre devoted to the mundane. If you want a quintessential anime that's about nothing in particular, Azumanga Daioh may be your jam.

Anime is known for mixing genres, which is how you get shows like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. While Haruhi is a slice of life anime on a superficial level, there's a lot more weirdness going on there. The show elevates itself beyond genre limitations, with elements of mystery and science fiction.

14
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Best Romance Anime: Toradora!

toradora romance anime

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Character-driven.

  • Filled with over-the-top slapstick and witty dialogue.

What We Don't Like
  • Some plot twists can feel cheap.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsSpice and Wolf, Clannad, Ai Yori Aoshi

Of the many great romance anime series out there, Toradora! takes the top spot primarily because of the characters. Good romance stories are inherently character-driven, and the people in Toradora! have their own motivations and reasons for behaving the way they do.

Unlike a harem anime, the mystery in Toradora! isn't who the main character is going to end up with. An observant viewer will figure that out early on. The story is about the characters growing and learning what love is.

15
of 24

Best Drama Anime: Your Lie in April

your lie in april dramatic anime

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Emotionally manipulative (in a good way).

  • It sticks the landing.

What We Don't Like
  • You might run out of tissues.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsClannad, Nana, Angel Beats!, Grave of the Fireflies

The best dramas are emotionally manipulative, and Your Lie in April fits the bill. If you have any feelings left to feel, there's a good chance this show will tease them out, along with plenty of tears that can't be easily explained away by the chopping of onions or a nasty case of hay fever.

What really drives it home, and makes Your Lie in April the best drama anime, is the ending. Instead of petering out, or leaving things hanging, it wraps things up in an emotionally impactful way.

16
of 24

Best Harem Anime: High School DxD

high school dxd supernatural harem anime

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Tremendous amounts of fan service.

  • Legitimately interesting plot.

What We Don't Like
  • Not appropriate for younger viewers.

Rated: TV-MA
Honorable mentionsDate a Live, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Trinity Seven, Love Hina, Tenchi Muyo!

High School DxD is a harem anime with heavy fantasy elements, some romantic beats, and a tremendous amount of fan service. This show earns its TV-MA rating with an endless stream of violence and nudity, so it absolutely isn't for children.

It takes the title of best harem anime because it doesn't shy away from what fans of the genre want. It doesn't get too deep into the harem aspect until after the first season. However, it carries you through with a legitimately interesting plot and story.

Because of the rating on this series, if you access it through Crunchyroll, you must register for the site and verify your age.

17
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Best Comedy Anime: Gintama

gintama hilarious parody anime

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • The dub is legitimately funny.

  • Absurdist humor and sight gags.

What We Don't Like
  • Some jokes may be lost on Western audiences.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsThe Devil is a Part Timer, Space Brothers, Ghost Stories (Dub), Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Hinamatsuri, Excel Saga

Comedy is a hard nut to crack when it comes to anime. The funniest series out there rely on Japanese puns that don't translate. A prime example is Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, which Western audiences know for its surrealist, nonsensical humor. In the original Japanese, the humor was primarily based around puns and double-talk. Ghost Story is another example where the humor was introduced almost entirely in the dub. The original played the material straight, while the dub is one of the most hilarious anime series of all time.

Gintama straddles a fine line where some jokes may be lost on Western audiences. Still, the show manages to be legitimately funny, which is why it takes the title of best comedy anime. Some of that comes from jokes that land despite the language barrier. The show also has absurdist humor and sight gags that work regardless of your frame of reference.

18
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Best Sports Anime: Major

Major epic baseball sports anime

YouTube

What We Like
  • Spans several seasons, which is atypical for the genre.

  • Good pacing.

What We Don't Like
  • Only Major 2nd is available for streaming.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsPrince of Tennis, Hungry Heart Wild Striker, Slam Dunk, Eyeshield 21

Sports anime is a huge genre that often focuses on an outsider, or group of outsiders, doing their best to win against all odds. The genre sometimes resembles fighting anime, with the fights replaced by games.

Major is somewhat unique because the series spans several seasons and iterations, which allows the story to have a larger impact than a typical sports anime.

It starts as the story of a young boy who, having just lost his father, resolves to follow in his footsteps as a baseball player. He grows up over subsequent seasons. The most recent iteration follows his son's debut on the baseball diamond.

19
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Best Dubbed Anime: Cowboy Bebop

cowboy bebop best dubbed anime ever

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Fantastic English voice work.

  • It's one of the classics.

  • Likable characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Dated visuals.

Rated: TV-MA
Honorable mentionsFullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Berserk, Baccano!

Some purists only watch anime in Japanese based on the logic that Japanese voice acting is superior to the English voice acting featured in anime dubs. There is some truth to that, as there are many awful dubs out there. Still, other shows feature fantastic English voice work.

The best anime dub of all time is Cowboy Bebop. Although the Japanese voice acting is top-notch, the English cast knocks it out of the park. This is one of the first great anime dubs, coming in a time where most were mediocre.

While the main voice actors do great work, Steve Blum's Spike, in particular, fits the character perfectly. See you, space cowboy.

20
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Best Anime Series: Death Note

death note best anime of all time

Hulu

What We Like
  • Interesting premise.

  • A complicated protagonist.

What We Don't Like
  • A controversial plot twist might spoil the story for some.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsFullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass

Selecting the best anime series of all time is inherently subjective, even more so than selecting the best series in a particular genre, because there are radically different shows that are excellent in their own right.

Death Note tops the list for many people because of its dark themes, interesting premise, and a complicated protagonist that's more of a villain than a hero, depending on your point of view. It's a complicated story that asks tough questions, which resonates with many viewers.

21
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Best Anime Movie: Akira

Akira best anime movie

Hulu

What We Like
  • Beautiful visuals.

  • A cool story.

  • Fantastic action-packed sequences.

What We Don't Like
  • A convoluted plot.

  • It earns its R rating.

Rated: R
Honorable mentionsGhost in the Shell, Paprika, Jin-Roh

Akira isn't only a great anime movie, and it isn't only great animation, even though it's both of those. It's a great movie, full stop.

There are a ton of great anime movies, and more come out every year. Akira still stands as a high watermark. It's a beautiful film to watch, with tremendous attention to detail, a cool story, and fantastic, action-packed animation sequences.

22
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Best Anime Kids Movie: My Neighbor Totoro

my neighbor totoro best kids anime anyone can watch

YouTube

What We Like
  • It's the most kid-friendly entry on this list.

  • Studio Ghibli is a master of the genre.

  • Emotional without being overly saccharine.

What We Don't Like
  • It's not available on most streaming services.

Rated: G
Honorable mentionsPonyo, Spirited Away, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Pokemon: The First Movie

Anime has a reputation for being kid stuff, because of the connection between animation and kids cartoons in the West. The truth is that most anime isn't for kids, as evidenced by all the TV-14, TV-MA, and R ratings on this list.

If you're looking for a great anime kids movie, the best place to start is Studio Ghibli. Ponyo, Spirited Away, and others are fantastic, beautiful, and entertaining movies that tweens, teens, and adults can enjoy together.

My Neighbor Totoro, which is also a Studio Ghibli film, is the best kids anime because anyone can watch it. It gets the nod because it's a legitimately good movie. It's also rated G, so it's a great introduction to anime for kids of all ages.

My Neighbor Totoro is currently available on HBO Max.

23
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Best Anime World: One Piece

one piece amazingly detailed anime world

Crunchyroll

What We Like
  • Excellent world-building.

  • Epic fight scenes.

  • Well-developed characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Some may find the nonstop mayhem exhausting.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsShin Sekai Yori, Fullmetal Alchemist, the Fate franchise

Anime is a fantastic medium for world-building. Some interesting fictional worlds have come from anime and manga.

One Piece is a shounen anime, which is a genre aimed at kids, so it might seem like a strange choice for this category. Especially since many anime series do a great job at constructing fictional worlds. One Piece has been on the air for almost 20 years, and creator Eiichiro Oda hasn't taken his foot off the gas. Every island in the world of One Piece has a history, culture, and other tidbits to make it feel fully realized.

24
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Coolest Anime: FLCL

flcl coolest anime

Funimation

What We Like
  • Visually beautiful.

  • Extremely relatable.

  • Fewer episodes mean less filler.

What We Don't Like
  • It's short.

Rated: TV-14
Honorable mentionsCowboy Bebop, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Space Dandy

There are many slick anime series and movies, and pinning down the coolest anime is tough. FLCL gets the nod because it's short, sweet, visually beautiful, and somehow extremely relatable.

The series only got six episodes, but that plays to its benefit. Each episode is jam-packed with no sagging in the middle. The whole thing blasts forward to the tune of a fantastic soundtrack from The Pillows.

One of the best things about FLCL is you can shotgun it in a day without feeling too guilty. It's a concentrated shot of cool that's easy to come back to over and over again.