Posted July 31, 2013 by Corey John Richards in Reviews

Top 10 Anime Series of All-Time

Ever since I first watched Spirited Away in 2001, I have loved Japanese animation. With an outstanding array of films and TV shows, it is a genre that has been flourishing since the 1980’s and is still going strong with a huge plethora of fans the world over. While there are a whole host of utterly  cringe-worthy and terrible anime TV shows out there, there is also many more outstanding series that stand up against many of the live action shows out there. Full of drama,action and flawless animation, these are the top ten anime TV shows of all-time.

Ten: Naruto (2002 – )

Many young American anime fans will probably expect this to be higher on the list and even the younger me would want to see it higher. But despite its western popularity, compared to some of the other series’ out there, it doesn’t match them.

That said, Masashi Kishimoto’s series that follows the plucky young ninja, Naruto Uzamaki through his training. The show features a brilliantly crafted storyline that follows the same adventures of Naruto in the Manga.

Often rife with drama, what makes Naruto particularly enjoyable to many of its viewers is the humour and action that accompanies the series. It’s a very Americanized anime that tried very hard to replicate what made Dragon Ball Z such a loved show in the western world and even though it doesn’t replicate it fully, it is a unique show that is enjoyable and dramatic.

The show, currently in its 13th season, is still going strong with no intentions of stopping soon and where many might have expected the quality to drop, it hasn’t and the more you watch the better it gets with a range of lovable and loathable characters.

Nine: Bleach (2004 – 2013)

Another example of a series with extraordinary popularity in the west, Bleach has become one of the best Viz anime’s being greatly received by both critics and fans.

Created by TiteKubo, Bleach follows high school student Ichigo Kurosaki, who receives the powers of a soul reaper so that he can save his family. He swiftly learns that it is now his job to protect humans and souls alike from hollows, but when the very same soul reaper who gave him is powers is up for execution, a story unravels that follows the series till its end in 2013.

At its heart, Bleach is a tale of loyalty and friendship that uses action and comedy to create a really engrossing series. I personally found it a bit more mature than Naruto with a darker theme, but it follows a very similar path combining brilliant animation with an interesting cast of characters and story.

While initially the plot was disrupted by fillers, now that the series has finished viewers should find themselves having a brilliant time watching this soul reapingly good series.

Eight: FLCL (August 2003)

FLCL was a cult hit among anime lovers and has been held in high regard since its brief debut in 2003. Despite being composed of a total six episodes, FLCL or Fooly Cooly remains a favourite among fans.

Written by  Yoji Enokido, the plot revolves around Naota Nandaba, a 12-year-old student living with his father and grandfather. One day he meets an obscure women riding a vespa, wielding a guitar whose arrival later causes mysterious things to start happening. It’s an utterly original and bizarre story.

It’s a brilliantly insane, brimming with faced paced and hysterical action. However, despite being full of superb sci-fi, giant robots and such, these are not the best parts of the short series. I personally think one of its most admirable aspects is its soundtrack by J-Pop band The Pillows timed perfectly to coincide with the great action sequences. It’s just an epic, exciting extravaganza.

The best thing about FLCL is you have no excuse not to watch it as it’s only six episodes, so what’re you waiting for?!

Seven: Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996)

Now let’s backtrack a bit, to 1995. While I personally was not old enough to witness this show in the early days, I have had more than enough time to watch it since. Intense, dramatic action describes Neon Genesis in short.

Set in the year 2015 when the Angels begin attacking earth, it is left up to a handful of 14-year-old EVA pilots to stop them. Our protagonist Shinji Ikari is forced to pilot a  giant organic mecha, the only thing that can stop the Angels.

This may all sound confusing to someone who hasn’t seen the series, when I first started looking it up it confused the hell out of me. But there are few problems one can find with anything that is set in an apocalyptic earth with mechs piloted by kids. It does great drawing in a teen audience, I really believed I could have been any one of the characters in the show.

Six: Fullmetal Alchemist (2003 – 2004)

Another short (by short I mean 51 episodes) sci-fi series for you. Fullmetal Alchemist first aired way back in 2003 and  by blending comedy and drama they created the recipe for an awesome sci-fi series.

Following the Elric brothers who after their mothers dies and their father abandoned them, decide to perform a forbidden human transmutation to bring their mother back. This backfires and they end up losing their bodies and thus Edward Elric must join the military, gain access to certain alchemy privileges and bring his brother back to his original state.

I think what’s great about Fullmetal Alchemist is that, despite working on one level through comedy, there’s a complete second level of depth. This is a story that follows to brothers who love each other and it’s because of their familial love that they’re in the situation they are.

While it might seem crass to compare it to a Shakespeare play, on some levels it is. It superbly combines bother comedy and tragedy, which I believe is a very hard skill to master, especially in the form of an anime. Writer Shō Aikawa has done a great job and while I could have moved it higher on the list, It just doesn’t compare to the rest…

Note: This is not to be confused with the later series, this only applies to the original.

Five: Code Geass (2006 – 2007) 

Before I started University to become a Journalist, I initially wanted to become a Historian for one reason, because I absolutely love history. And this is one of the many reasons why I become particularly interested in Code Geass back in 2006.

Code Geass is a story that follows an alternate history, whereby the world is divided in three super powers, Britannia, the Chinese Federation, and the European Union. The main plot follows Holy Britannian Empire’s conquest on Japan in August 10, 2010 using the  Knightmare Frame and stripping Japan completely of all of their rights, renaming it to Area 11. In amongst this action, it revolves around the exiled prince Lelouch Lamperouge and his sister Nunnally Lamperouge and after Lelouch comes across the power to order anyone to do anything, he begins to wage war against the empire, using his new found power.

There’s a lot more I could have said in regards to the story, it’s literally action packed. I hate sounding cliché, but it is cool. It’s just a cool anime that is great at holding my attention. In simple terms, it is a must watch and little I say can really do it justice. It may not be the best on the list, for few reasons, but it is one of the most interesting.

Four: Cowboy Bebop (1998 – 1999)

Created in 1998 by HajimeYatate, Cowboy Bebop is one of the most highly regarded animes and animated TV series out there. Many fans of the show regard it as the best anime of all-time and while I am inclined to disagree, it is most definitely the fourth best.

The show follows the adventures of Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter from the far future. With his partners, Jet Black, and later Faye Valentine they spend the series travelling across the galaxy moving from job to job looking for the biggest bounty.

Through 26 episodes, this series will make almost everyone other series bow to its originality and unconventional disregard of the boundaries laid by the animes before it. See, what makes Cowboy Bebop so unique is that it willingly mixes all sorts of genres and blurs the boundaries that defined anime. It’s full of themes and elements that are so perfectly illustrated and a story that’s so easy-going that is removes all of the, sometimes, retraining drama that comes with most animes.

My words cannot do it justice.

Three: Pokemon (1997 – ) 

I had to include it. I just had to.

While many may not think of Pokemon as the usual anime, it has been very americanised in the years it’s been around but at the end of the day, it is my earliest example (as a child) that I saw of Japanese animation on my television screen. I will admit that the series has dipped in recent years, but when we all look back at the original, I am engulfed by a huge sense of nostalgia.

As many of you will know, Pokemon follows the adventures of Ash Ketchum and his entourage of buddies (who’ve changed over the years) trying to become the very best Pokemon trainers. With the help of his #1 Pokemon Pikachu, Ash goes on battling trainers, earning badges and defeating evil.

I spent a lot of time debating whether to add Pokemon to the list, let alone put it this high but at the end of the day this show introduced me to anime and I believe that it introduced many others. The early series was unbelievably fun, emotional and had perfect stories of morality. What also surprised me is how timeless the show is, I can come back to it, 16 years later and still find myself weeping through all of the heart warming episodes.

It’s simply amazing and you all know it.

Two: Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 2003)

Here’s another series that, just like Pokemon, probably introduced many of you to anime.

It follows Goku, the defender of earth who learns he is from another planet. Goku, and his string of friends and allies must now defend earth from new alien enemies results in huge, epic battles. Pretty much Superman.

Like many of the shows on this list, I feel that much of what I say cannot do it justice. This similarly applies to Dragon Ball Z, it’s simply a childhood favourites of mine and many alike. It has spanned two generations and is possibly the most popular anime to hit America and has become one of the most influential cartoons in the US.

The Dragon Ball Z series contain some of the most charismatic characters, great fighting sequences, and strong plots that covered thousands of years.

If you haven’t watched it, you haven’t lived.

One: Death Note (2006 – 2007) 

Many of the series that I have mentioned have been difficult to place on this list, many of them could still be moved around and I would still view them in a similar light. However, there was not movement on the number one spot, Death Note is unequivocally  the best anime TV series I have ever watched.

Following the insanely intelligent Light Yagmi after he discovers a mysterious note-book that fell from the sky (called the Death Note). Light discovers that writing a name in this book and putting a face to the name will cause that person to die and after attempting to use this book for ‘good’, he becomes involved in a case that seeks to end the string of murders he has caused. This results in a story of cat and mouse, a catch me if you can tale.

Death Note goes above and beyond the call of the usual anime. It doesn’t rely on fast paced action, sci-fi or the future and aliens. Instead it’s a crime caper that could be applied to any animated or live action form and while it may use fantasy/spiritual elements, at its core it is a murder mystery that follows the point of view of the murderer and the investigator.

It’s genius in so many sense of the word and most importantly it’s addictive. Every episode is a cliff hanger that leaves you wanting to know what happens next with the defining hook being whether or not Light will get caught. Without the action it could have quickly become boring, but the writers manage to make a superb and unique anime that in my opinion, is the best anime TV show out there.

It’s Catch Me if You Can with murder.

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Addressing community feedback:

Hello everyone, I’ve tried to respond individually to the comments but it has proved time consuming since this posts resurgence in views. As you all should know, this piece is highly subjective and written entirely from my point of view. I am not the biggest anime fan, it’s a genre I like but I understand that many of you may enjoy anime more than myself.

I never actually intended on this post getting as many views as it has, so I am very grateful for your feedback but please do bare in mind that no one opinion on a website is ever a substitute for your own and everyone’s views are different for different reasons.


Written by Corey John Richards

Corey John Richards

19-year-old Journalism student at Falmouth University and anime contributor for Geeks Unleashed. I’m a gosh darn go getter.