Software & Apps Apps The 24 Best Anime List of 2020 by Jeremy Laukkonen Writer Jeremy Laukkonen is tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He also ghostwrites articles for numerous major trade publications. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Jeremy Laukkonen Updated on February 12, 2020 reviewed by Michelle Adeola Adelufosi Lifewire Tech Review Board Member Michelle Adeola Adelufosi is a marketing consultant with 9 years' experience working for a variety of clients. Her expertise includes social media, web development, and graphic design. our review board Article reviewed on Feb 19, 2020 Michelle Adeola Adelufosi Apps Best Apps Payment Services Tweet Share Email Narrowing down the best 10, or 20, or even 100 anime series or movies is an almost impossible task. There are so many great anime out there, in literally dozens of genres, subgenres, and metagenres, that comparing one against the other is almost meaningless. There are standouts in every genre though, titles that rise above the rest, in various ways. We've compiled some of the very best anime series and movies, across 24 different 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, inspired radical changes in its genre, or otherwise stands out due to a particularly fantastic story or characters, great animation, voice work, and other factors. Links to stream the series or movie are included, where available, along with age ratings. It's important to note that most of the TV-MA series in this list are rated that way due to violence and blood, although some also include nudity. 01 of 24 Best Action Anime: Attack on Titan Hulu Where you can watch it: Hulu, CrunchyrollRated: TV-MAHonorable mentions: Trigun, Black Lagoon, Berserk Why it's the bestAttack 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'll 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 of 24 Best Fighting Anime: Dragon Ball (Z, GT, Super) YouTube Where you can watch it: Hulu, FunimationRated: TV-14 (Dragon Ball), TV-PG (Dragon Ball Z, GT and Super)Honorable mentions: One Punch Man, Bleach, Naruto Why it's the bestThe various Dragon Ball series, which follow the adventures of Son Goku and his friends, have been the subject of a lot of parodies, jokes and anime memes. But without Dragon Ball, the fighting anime genre, as we know it today, probably wouldn't exist. Dragon Ball started out as a mostly lighthearted take on the ancient Journey to the West, but by the time Dragon Ball Z came out it had fully transformed into the archetype of the genre that influenced so much of what would come after. It's fine to joke about Goku and his foes spending entire episodes charging up their ultimate attacks, and 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 of 24 Best Adventure Anime: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Hulu Where you can watch it: Hulu, CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Hunter X Hunter, Claymore Why it's the best There are a ton of great adventure animes, but most adventure anime crosses over pretty firmly into another genre. Shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball, and One Piece are all full of adventure, but we pretty safely pigeonholed them all into other, more specific categories. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure defies categorization. It absolutely belongs on a list like this, as one of the longest-running, most-beloved manga of all time that has 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 which has a name that can be conveniently reduced to the eponymous Jojo moniker. This show is weird, but it's also fantastic, and it's something that you really have to see to believe. The first season starts off slow, and the source material is almost old enough to run for president if it wasn't Japanese, but stick with it and you'll find yourself on one of the wildest, weirdest adventures anime has to offer. 04 of 24 Best Superhero Anime: My Hero Academia Where you can watch it: Crunchyroll, Hulu Rated: TV-14 Honorable mentions: One Punch Man, Tiger and Bunny Why it's the best The high concept of My Hero Academia isn't really that high. It's basically Harry Potter for the superhero set, with 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 superheros, known as "pro heroes" in the parlance of the show, aren't just real, they're everywhere. Every hero has a quirk, or power, that may be familiar, like super strength, or completely out of left field 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 of 24 Best Fantasy Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Hulu Where you can watch it: Hulu, CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Slayers, Fairy Tale, Log Horizon, Magi Why it's the bestThe reason that Fullmetal Alchemist is the best fantasy anime of all time is that it paints a fully realized, unique fantasy world with internally consistent rules that have very real consequences. Building on that foundation, Fullmetal Alchemist delivers a story about two brothers that is 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 that the former was produced while the manga itself was still 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, while the original has a more even pace and more drama. 06 of 24 Best Isekai Anime: The Rising of the Shield Hero Where you can watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Rated: TV-PG Honorable mentions: The Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime, Konosuba, Escaflowne, Re:Zero, NGNL, The Devil is a Part Timer Why it's the best 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 some kind of fantasy or science fiction setting. Some of the most popular science fiction and fantasy anime, including the likes of Sword Art Online and Spirited Away, are isekai. Our top pick for the best Isekai anime is Rising of the Shield Hero, which follows the titular "shield hero" as he is drawn into a strange world, treated pretty terribly, and forced to learn some harsh lessons. We like this one because it's so good at eliciting 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 of 24 Best Samurai Anime: Samurai Champloo YouTube Where you can watch it: Funimation, HuluRated: TV-MAHonorable mentions: Rurouni Kenshin, Basilisk Why it's the bestSamurai 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 anime for Samurai Champloo to hook you with its undeniable 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 really isn't a prerequisite to enjoying Samurai Champloo. 08 of 24 Best Supernatural Anime: Shin Sekai Yori YouTube Where you can watch it: CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Bleach, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Mushishi Why it's the bestA lot of fantasy and supernatural anime incorporate fantastic elements into real world settings, like shinigami descending on Karakura Town in Bleach. And that can make for a fun and engaging show, but the best supernatural anime take it a step further. Shin Sekai Yori, or From the New World, takes it to a whole new level. The series starts with a slow burn, but that's mainly because the first several episodes are focused 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 Shin Sekai Yori the best supernatural anime around and a legitimately great work of speculative fiction. 09 of 24 Best Magical Girl Anime: Madoka Magica Netflix Where you can watch it: Netflix, Hulu, CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Yuuki Yuuna, Little Witch Academia, Mai Hime, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Why it's the bestThe magical girl genre has been around for a long time, and it has a lot of 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 some type of adversary. In the west, Sailor Moon is one of the most well-known examples of the magical girl genre. While a lot of series in this genre are aimed exclusively at kids, and specifically at girls, the best ones have broader appeal and feature a wider range of themes. Magoka Magica is the best magical girl anime because kids, or at least young teens, can still enjoy it, but it's dark enough, and mature enough, to appeal to a much wider audience. Madoka Magica is 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 of 24 Best Horror Anime: When They Cry (Higurashi) Hulu Where you can watch it: HuluRated: TV-MAHonorable mentions: Another, Boogiepop Phantom, Elfin Lied, High School of the Dead Why it's the bestMost anime horror series are referred to as horror only because they have monsters in them, like High School of the Dead. They tend to be somewhat light on what western audiences think of as horror, but When They Cry effectively straddles the line. When They Cry has a tremendously creepy atmosphere, which should satisfy fans of Japanese horror, but it also has more than a little touch of mystery, psychological horror, and the type of gore that most western horror fans expect. 11 of 24 Best Science Fiction Anime: Steins;Gate YouTube Where you can watch it: Hulu, FunimationRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Psycho Pass, Sword Art Online, Noein Why it's the bestNo 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, just to name a few. Steins;Gate revolves around time travel, but it doesn't just use time travel as a plot device. It explores the concept in a fascinating way, 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've ever thought about dipping your toe into the world of visual novels, you can check out Steins;Gate's source material, which is arguably better than the anime, on PC through the Steam platform. 12 of 24 Best Mecha/Giant Robot Anime: Gurren Lagann Netflix Where you can watch it: Hulu, Netflix, CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Gundam, Eureka Seven, Evangelion Why it's the bestIn a genre known for excess, Gurren Lagann takes things to a whole different level with a wink, a nod, and a shouted admonishment to believe in yourself. Viewers who aren't really into the giant robot anime genre might be turned off by a mecha wearing giant sunglasses, but what seems like it should be an embarrassing mess works so much better than it has any right to. Gurren Lagann is fun, but it also packs an emotional punch strong enough to pierce the heavens. 13 of 24 Best Slice of Life Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: FunimationRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Azumanga Daioh, Beck, Hanasaku Iroha, K-On! Why it's the bestSlice of life is a genre devoted to the mundane, and if you want a quintessential anime that's about nothing in particular, then Azumanga Daioh is probably going to be your jam. Anime is well known for mixing genres though, 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, which is what makes it the best slice of life anime. 14 of 24 Best Romance Anime: Toradora! Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, VRVRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Spice and Wolf, Clannad, Ai Yori Aoshi Why it's the bestThere are a lot of great romance anime series out there, but Toradora! takes the top spot primarily because of the characters. Good romance stories are inherently character driven, and all of the characters 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 pretty early on, and then the story really becomes about the characters growing and learning what love is. 15 of 24 Best Drama Anime: Your Lie in April Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Hulu, Netflix, CrunchyrollRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Clannad, Nana, Angel Beats!, Grave of the Fireflies Why it's the bestThe 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 that 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 just petering out, or leaving things hanging, the end wraps things up in an emotionally impactful way. 16 of 24 Best Harem Anime: High School DxD Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimaton Rated: TV-MAHonorable mentions: Date a Live, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Trinity Seven, Love Hina, Tenchi Muyo! Why it's the bestHigh School DxD is a harem anime with heavy fantasy elements, some romantic beats, and a tremendous amount of fan service. This show earned its TV-MA rating with an endless stream of both violence and nudity, so it absolutely isn't for children. That said, High School DxD takes the title of best harem anime because it doesn't shy away from what fans of the genre want. It doesn't really get too deep into the harem aspect until after the first season, but it does carry you through with a legitimately interesting plot and story. Because of the rating on this series, if you choose to access it through Crunchyroll, you are required to register for the site and verify your age. 17 of 24 Best Comedy Anime: Gintama Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Crunchyroll, FunimationRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: The Devil is a Part Timer, Space Brothers, Ghost Stories (Dub), Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Hinamatsuri, Excel Saga Why it's the bestComedy can be a hard nut to crack when it comes to anime. A lot of the funniest anime out there rely heavily on Japanese puns that just 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 its material straight, while the dub is one of the most hilarious anime series of all time. Gintama straddles a fine line where some jokes are probably lost on western audiences, but the show still 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, but the show also has a lot of absurdist humor and sight gags that work regardless of your frame of reference. 18 of 24 Best Sports Anime: Major YouTube Where you can watch it: Crunchyroll (Major 2nd only)Rated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Prince of Tennis, Hungry Heart Wild Striker, Slam Dunk, Eyeshield 21 Why it's the bestSports anime is a huge genre that often focuses on an outsider, or group of outsiders, doing their best to win against all odds. Some sports anime play a lot like fighting anime, just with the fights replaced by games. Major is somewhat unique in that the series spans a number of seasons and iterations, which allows the story to have a much larger impact than a typical sports anime. It starts off 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, and the most recent iteration follows his son's own debut on the baseball diamond. 19 of 24 Best Dubbed Anime: Cowboy Bebop Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Hulu, FunimationRated: TV-MAHonorable mentions: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Berserk, Baccano! Why it's the bestSome purists will 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 a lot of really awful dubs out there, but other shows feature truly fantastic English voice work. The best anime dub of all time is Cowboy Bebop. Although the Japanese voice acting is also top notch, the English cast really knocked it out of the park. This was one of the first really great anime dubs, coming in a time where most dubs were pretty mediocre. While all of the main voice actors did great work, Steve Blum's Spike, in particularly, really fit the character perfectly. See you, space cowboy. 20 of 24 Best Anime Series: Death Note Hulu Where you can watch it: VizRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass Why it's the bestSelecting 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 so many radically different shows that are all excellent in their own right. Death Note tops the list for so 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 a lot of viewers. 21 of 24 Best Anime Movie: Akira Hulu Where you can watch it: Hulu, FunimationRated: RHonorable mentions: Ghost in the Shell, Paprika, Jin-Roh Why it's the bestAkira isn't just a great anime movie, and it isn't just great animation, even though it's both of those. It's just a great movie, full stop, end of sentence. There are a ton of great anime movies, and more come out every year, but Akira still stands as a high water mark. It's a beautiful film to watch, with tremendous attention to detail, a cool story, and some truly fantastic, action-packed animation sequences. 22 of 24 Best Anime Kids Movie: My Neighbor Totoro YouTube Where you can watch it: HBO MaxRated: GHonorable mentions: Ponyo, Spirited Away, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Pokemon: The First Movie Why it's the bestAnime has a reputation for being kid stuff, mostly because of the connection between animation and kids cartoons in the west. The truth is that most anime really 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 though, the best place to start is Studio Ghibli. Ponyo, Spirited Away, and several others are all fantastic, beautiful, entertaining movies that tweens, teens and adults can all enjoy together. My Neighbor Totoro, which is also a Studio Ghibli film, is the best kids anime because literally anyone can watch it. It gets the nod for best anime kids movie because it's a legitimately good movie, but it's also rated G, so it's a great introduction to anime for kids of all ages. 23 of 24 Best Anime World: One Piece Crunchyroll Where you can watch it: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, VizRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Shin Sekai Yori, Fullmetal Alchemist, the Fate franchise Why it's the bestAnime is a fantastic medium for world building, and some of the most interesting fictional worlds have come from anime and manga. One Piece is a shounen anime, which is a genre aimed squarely at kids, so it might seem like a strange choice to get the nod for best world building. Especially since so many anime series do such a great job at constructing fictional worlds. The fact is that One Piece has been on the air for almost 20 years, and creator Eiichiro Oda hasn't ever taken his foot off the gas. Every single island in the world of One Piece has its own history, culture, and other little tidbits to help make the world more fully realized. 24 of 24 Coolest Anime: FLCL Funimation Where you can watch it: Funimation, HuluRated: TV-14Honorable mentions: Cowboy Bebop, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Space Dandy Why it's the bestThere are a lot of really slick anime series and movies, so pinning down the coolest anime is tough. FLCL gets the nod because it's short, sweet, visually beautiful, and somehow still extremely relatable. FLCL only got six episodes, but that actually plays to its benefit. Each episode is jam packed with no sagging in the middle, and 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 the whole thing 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.