Since the last time I put together a list of all my favourite anime was back in 2011 (and a lot of amazing shows have come out since then), below is an updated list of my top 30 favourite anime. Should you ever need a new show to watch and don’t know where to start, I’d urge you to give any of the following a go. There’s a lot of variation in this here list – you’ve got penguins, vampires, time travellers, sentient motorbikes, and mechas bigger than the sun – so there’s bound to be something that takes your fancy! See any of your favourites on here? Want to make a recommendation of your own? Give me a shout out in the comments section at the bottom of the page!
30. High Score Girl
While I maintain that it is much too soon to start getting all nostalgic over the 90s (no, really! All of this 90s nostalgia is making me feel ancient!), I still had tons of fun watching this tribute to 90s arcade games. Admittedly, I did enjoy looking back at the games that were popular when I was a kid, but, nostalgia aside, what I really loved was how unexpectedly sweet Haruo was. He never played gate-keeper, but revelled in introducing other people to the wonderful world of arcade games. I also loved the romance/rivalry between Oono and Haruo. Though they did a lot of growing up throughout the course of the show (which has multiple time skips), their bond, forged through a mutual love for games, remains steadfast throughout.
29. Welcome to the NHK
Of all the anime I’ve seen, Welcome to the NHK has, hands down, the best depiction of mental illness. Its characters are neither noble sufferers nor crazed lunatics. Satou, Misaki, and Kashiwa-Senpai, who, between them, wrestle with psychosis, depression, social anxiety, and suicidality, fall somewhere between these two on the spectrum. Were they deserving of our sympathy? Yes. But were they also apathetic, selfish, and manipulative as a side effect of their illnesses? Also yes. I thoroughly enjoyed this depiction, which neither glorified nor vilified mental illness. It felt very grounded and real, which is kind of amazing given that one of the characters is a talking toaster!
28. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable
It took me a minute to come ‘round to the JoJo franchise. Like many, I was originally put off by its unique art style (these guys have necks the size of my thighs!), but I was soon won over by its bombasticity, its anything-goes approach to storytelling, and, yes, its sheer bizarreness! The amazing meme-machines that make up the JoJo fanbase are just one more reason to love this franchise. The reason why I favour part 4 over any other part is because 1) it has, hands down, the best stands, 2) contains the highest concentration of JoJos, and 3) has my favourite JoJo character of all-time: Rohan Kishibe. Not to mention that I love a good caper story!
27. Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass poses the following question: if you can measure a person’s propensity to turn to crime, should you take precautions accordingly? As somebody with a degree in forensic psychology, it was only natural that such a premise should intrigue me! It may be tempting to think that the cruel, dystopian world depicted in this show is far removed from our own, yet you need only switch on the news to hear more reports of people being stereotyped and subsequently mistreated (sometimes even killed) by authority figures, in much the same way that the characters in this show were. In light of this, it’s probably for the best that Psycho Pass, which acts as a kind of grim warning to those watching it, makes for uncomfortable viewing.
26. Mawaru Penguindrum
Mawaru Penguindrum tackles some big questions. These include: is it possible to fight your destiny? And: should you accept the misfortune that comes your way if it is part of your destiny? This anime also dabbles in loss, abandonment, and messy sibling relationships. All good, meaty stuff. But what really sets this show apart is just how weird it is. Yanderes, mischievous penguins, musical numbers, parasitic hats, and magical girl transformation sequences are just some of the weird things that Mawaru Penguindrum has to offer. These two, seemingly disparate elements – the serious and the silly – combine to create a unique and entertaining anime, quite unlike any other.
25. Haibane Renmei
The appeal of Haibane Renmei comes from knowing just as little about the mysterious world that our heroine, Rakka, finds herself in as she does. I loved learning about its rules, customs, and belief systems alongside her. But as much as I learned about Rakka’s world, it was never enough, the show always held just enough back to keep you hungry for more. Throw into the mix one of the most striking (but also kind of stomach-churning) first episodes of an anime that I’ve ever seen, and you have one truly amazing show!
24. Honey and Clover
Every so often an anime will come along at just the right time in your life. These shows will speak to you in ways you didn’t think possible. Honey and Clover is one such show for me. I first watched it at age 17. I’d just experienced my first love (and rejection) and was about to set off for college. It was a painful and uncertain time. In the midst of heartbreak, I was trying to figure out who I was as well as who I wanted to be going forward. Honey and Clover, which explores all of these things, was such a comfort to me at this time. It didn’t provide me with all of the answers, but it was so soothing watching its characters go through the same sort of struggles as me and come out the other side.
23. My Hero Academia
I’ve always been a big fan of battle shounen – albeit a fairly closeted one! But My Hero Academia (or Heroaca), which became this huge, cultural phenomenon, almost overnight, made me feel like it was OK, cool, even, to be out and proud of my love for the stuff! Its exciting, beautifully animated fights, its varied, lovable cast of characters (including many badass women), and the way in which it pays homage to the tried and true tropes of the genre are just a few of the reasons why I love this anime. Though my favourite thing about this show is its protagonist: Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. He’s humble, down-to-earth, and achieves everything through hard work and perseverance. He’s not just my favourite Heroaca character, or even just my favourite Shounen Jump hero, but one of my favourite characters of all time!
22. Kino’s Journey
Kino’s Journey quite literally takes you on a journey – not just through wide open fields and arctic wastelands, quaint seaside towns and concrete jungles – but through the best and the worst that mankind has to offer. During her travels, Kino meets all kinds of people, some bad (and it doesn’t get much worse than cannibalism), some good, each one of them with a story to tell and a lesson to be learned, many of which, including that of Sakura from episode 13 (A Kind Land), stayed with me long after the final credits rolled…
21. Made in Abyss
There’s no way to explain why I love Made in Abyss without sounding like a complete headcase, so I’ll just come right out and say it. Body horror, fear of the unknown, and Eldritch Abominations become all the more potent, and all the more terrifying, when kids are involved. I think that’s the secret behind this show’s success – you kind of don’t want to watch Regu and Riku, two bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kids, get seriously f-ed up, but you also sort of can’t look away as the abyss, somewhat predictably, chews them up and spits them back out again. Or is that just me…?
Chihayafuru is the best example of why the sports genre has fast become my favourite genre of anime. It takes a subject matter that I know and care very little about (the Japanese sport called karuta) and makes me care, through its characters’ grit, determination, and passion for their sport. Of all Chihayafuru’s many characters, Chihaya is by far the most passionate (the clue is in her name). Her enthusiasm for karuta hits you (and the show’s other characters) like an almighty wave, knocking you right off your feet, and sweeping you up in her world, a world full of dreams, sworn rivals, and cherished friends.
19. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
For me, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Higurashi) isn’t so much an anime as it is an experience. I first watched the show while I was still new to anime. Up until that point, I’d never seen anything quite so ready to put children in absolutely horrific situations nor felt the sting of betrayal at the hands of an unreliable narrator. The way in which it messed with its narrative was also novel to me, at the time. Higurashi was something that, despite making me want to vom, I just couldn’t look away from (which is why I ended up marathoning it over the two most dread-filled nights of my life). Now that I’ve watched hundreds of shows since then I know that the show doesn’t offer up anything especially unique, but, after rewatching it, I can confirm that it’s one hell of a ride, nonetheless!
18. Assassination Classroom 2nd Season
For an anime about a class of F-grade misfits given the task of assassinating their tentacled homeroom teacher, Assassination Classroom is surprisingly wholesome! Koro-Sensei didn’t just teach his pupils, who grew, not just in knowledge, but in self-respect, confidence, and resilience under his tutelage, but me too… I learned just how life-changing a good mentor can be. He made me want to be the kind of person other people could turn to for guidance, support, and encouragement. OK, but why have I chosen the franchise’s second season and not its first? Because its finale just destroyed me!
Bakemonogatari is, at its core, a harem anime. Male wish fulfilment, gratuitous fanservice, and the objectification of women… These things, unsurprisingly, do not appeal to me. As such, the harem genre isn’t one that I usually enjoy dabbling in. That being said, this show has such clever writing and such pretty packaging (it looks like it stepped straight out of an art gallery), I often forgot what kind of show it was that I was watching. This helped me to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was! My favourite thing about this show was Senjougahara. Unlike most hapless harem heroines, she owns her sexuality. She knows the effect that she has on Araragi and positively revels in it!
Watching the Light Music Club idle away their afternoons sipping tea, enthusing over sweets, and occasionally breaking into soft rock was like chicken soup for the soul – healing and wholesome! K-On! was the first anime to introduce me to the slice-of-life genre and its unique ability to provide respite from a stressful, chaotic life. To this day, it’s still my favourite slice-of-life show, thanks to its catchy soundtrack, high production values, and adorable characters, my favourite being, of course, WWB’s mascot, Azusa.
Japan’s answer to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Berserk is a cautionary tale about ambition and its power to warp and corrupt you beyond all recognition. This golden oldie does everything it can to invest you in its characters. You watch, almost with a sense of pride, as Guts, Griffith, and The Band of the Hawk go from rags to riches, and look on nervously as, time and again, they escape death by the skin of their teeth, only to get hit, like a sucker-punch to the groin, with one of the most shocking and painful betrayals in all of anime. Berserk’s not easy, palatable viewing, and it definitely looks dated, by today’s standards, but it’s still worth watching for its epic story, fantastic characters, and shocking, brutal finale.
14. Samurai Champloo
I knew that I was onto something special within Samurai Champloo’s first five minutes… I’ve watched a lot of anime, but none as cool or as stylish as this one. Samurai Champloo’s fight scenes are like expertly choreographed dances and its soundtrack, which blends traditional Japanese instruments with hip hop (of all things), is just so freakin’ cool! Its experimental approach to storytelling, its breadth (this show takes you on a journey from one side of Japan to the other), and the dynamic between its three main characters (who, at one moment cannot stand each other, the next, are fighting tooth and limb to protect one another) are more of what makes this show so special. There’s no question, Samurai Champloo definitely deserves its place on this list…
Nichijou is the most ridiculous anime that I’ve ever seen. While that may sound like an insult, it is actually the opposite! This show’s absurdist humour never fails to have me in stitches. I know that whenever I’m down I can always throw on Nichijou, watch Yuko’s trainwreck of a life, Mio German suplex a goat, or Hakase deriving joy from the bizarre modifications that she has made to an unwitting Nano, and feel aaalright! The skill (and money) that went into animating many of the show’s best scenes is also pretty funny when you stop to consider that there are mainstream battle shounen that look worse than this does.
Mushishi may fly beneath a lot of people’s radars, but everybody who has seen it positively adores it and it’s not hard to see why! It derives its strengths from its tone, which could easily be described as dreamy or ephemeral, offering up exposition (particularly in regards to the strange creatures called mushi) sparingly, and allowing its viewers to explore a beautiful, unspoiled world alongside its wandering protagonist, Ginko. Mushishi really is a very special and unique anime.
11. Death Note
My inner elitist is cringing at Death Note’s inclusion on my list (it’s just so mainstream), but it was the anime that started me on my decade-long anime journey. Not to mention that it’s oh-so worthy of the love and recognition that it receives (to this day). In a world overpopulated by battle shounen there aren’t too many shows like Death Note, where, instead of fighting with fists, characters do battle with their wits. But, even though Death Note’s extremely clever, it’s not above hamming it up. I still get a laugh out of its characters’ tendency to overthink things and the anime’s over-the-top animation. Death Note’s just a thoroughly entertaining show, through and through.
10. Run with the Wind
Run with the Wind is but one of many sports anime that I’ve now seen (have I mentioned that it’s my favourite genre, y’all?). There are many awesome sports shows out there, but this show really takes the crown. What sets it apart from the others are the relationships between its characters. They may have all come from different walks of life and have different interests, abilities, and personalities, but their bond (forged through a common friend) slowly, but surely, becomes unbreakable. I choked back tears a number of times while watching them support, encourage, and be vulnerable with each other (in a way that’s not all that common for a, practically, all-male cast) as they spurred one another on towards the Hakone Ekiden relay race.
Now that I’m a seasoned anime fan vet (where have these last 10 years gone?), it’s pretty rare that an anime comes along and completely blows me away! I’ve kind of seen it all at this point! Erased, which I watched for the very first time back in 2017, and have since rewatched twice, is one of these rare shows. It neither shies away from nor glorifies sensitive subject matter, like child abuse, keeps you fixed to the edge of your seat with its story’s many twists and turns, and keeps you invested by making you care about the wellbeing of its extremely likeable characters. These are just a few of the reasons why Erased shot straight up into my top 10 anime of all time.
8. Angel Beats!
Angel Beats! messed me up. No other anime is quite as funny, or quite as sad… One minute I’m in hysterics as Yuri’s SSS shrugs off the latest in a long line of gruesome deaths, the next I’m bawling like a baby as one of their group comes to terms with their death and is able to move on from the purgatory-like world that they’ve found themselves in. In other words, Angel Beats! gave me some serious emotional whiplash! It was worth it though. Years after my last viewing I can still remember some of this show’s best gags and some of its most touching scenes. Not to mention that Angel Beats! pushed me towards several good deeds, like giving blood and signing up to become an organ donor once I die. It’s awesome to think that an anime can make such a positive real-world difference!
I’ve always been a big fan of horror (ever since my irresponsible parents allowed me to binge-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kid). It won’t surprise you, then, to learn that Shiki, with its just as bloodthirsty vampires, was right up my street! Shiki isn’t so much scary as it is shocking, with each episode offering up more gore than the last. Even more shocking than the sheer volume of blood and guts is the brutality of, not the vampires (as you might expect), but the persecuted villagers. This anime explores man’s capacity for evil and causes you to question: who are the true monsters, the vampires or the villagers? Sure, the way in which it goes about this is far from subtle, but it’s fun, nevertheless!
I’ll never forgive CLAMP for Blood-C, but XXXHOLiC does dilute my disdain for them somewhat… There’s a lot to love about this anime: its hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, how each episode was like a twisted Aesop’s fable, and the scarcity of exposition (meaning that certain characters always had a veil of mystery surrounding them). But, who am I kidding? The star of the show is, and has always been Yuuko. Yuuko’s witty, beautiful (those legs had me seriously questioning my sexuality), and operates firmly outside of society’s norms and moral code, making her both fascinating and a little frightening. She’s my no.1 favourite anime character of all time, helping to propel XXXHOLiC right to the tippy top of this list.
5. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (or Gurren Lagann for short) is the entry that’s moved the most over the years. But after its rollercoaster of a journey up and down, up and down My Top 30 it’s finally settled on a place within my top 5. Why? Because it’s one of the few anime that I’ve ever seen that keeps me coming back for more. I must have rewatched this show at least a dozen times now, and what’s more is that each time is just as exciting as the last! It’s colourful, over-the-top, and has more punchy, memorable quotes than stars in the sky. But, even more than that, Gurren Lagann’s a heartwarming story about one shaky, uncertain young man’s quest to carve out his own place in the show’s gigantic, sprawling universe. Plus, it has a mecha bigger than the sun. So eat it, Neon Genesis Evangelion!
4. Princess Jellyfish
Princess Jellyfish is one of the very few anime I’ve ever given a 10/10. Why? Because this show made me fall in love. It’s been almost 10 years, but I’m still head over heels for its hero, Kuranosuke. Kuranosuke’s fierce, beautiful, and confident, everything I wish I could be. But, at the same time, and in spite of his privileged upbringing, he’s still such a sweetheart! Kuranosuke, with his god-like make-up skills and never-ending wardrobe, spent the entire duration of Princess Jellyfish doing his best to instil some confidence into Tsukimi and the other Amars, enough so that they’d feel able to fight for their home. He’s what makes this anime the hilarious, uplifting, and heartwarming drama that I just can’t get enough of!
It still makes me feel irrationally, ridiculously angry to think about how underrated Blood+ is! Why is this the case when it has everything that you could possibly want? Like romance, sword fights, vampires, kick-ass women, the guts to kill off important characters, an awesome soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmerman – look him up), an ambitious story that takes place during multiple times and places throughout history, and blood, lots and lots of blood… Blood+ may have been one of the first anime that I ever watched, but (as I’m sure you can probably tell) my love for it hasn’t faded in the slightest over the years!
2. Naruto Shippuuden
Naruto Shippuuden may not be my favourite anime, but it is the show that has had the biggest impact on me as a person. Naruto (2001) was my gateway anime, the show that first introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese animation. It took me quite some time to get into it, but, once I did, I was obsessed, with its world, with its story, but, most of all, with its characters. I on/off watched Naruto and Shippuuden for over 10 years and, during that time, I really felt like its characters and I grew up together. As such, they’re as dear to me as any real, flesh and blood friends! The reason why I’m not picking Naruto, but, instead, Shippuuden is that it was during the latter that the characters, as a result of grief, loss, and hardship, really grew the most, making it the obvious choice of the two.
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has it all: a gripping story chock-full of twists and turns, a ton of endearing and lovable characters, and more believable, heartwarming relationships than you can shake a stick at, including that of brothers, Ed and Al, husband and wife, Sig and Izumi, and colleagues/partners in crime, Roy and Riza. This anime’s representation of women is easily the best and most flattering of any mainstream shounen show in existence. And, not to mention that it is one of the most moving anime that I’ve ever seen. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood made me laugh, made me cry, and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It’s no exaggeration to call this show a masterpiece. It is without fault. It is little wonder, then, that I’d consider Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood my favourite anime of all-time.