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Liberated from the burdens of reality, films and TV shows can journey to worlds beyond what is currently feasible. If a creator craves to explore the furthest reaches of space or dive into the deepest darkest ocean, their imagination is the only limiter. Animation takes this freedom a step further and anime continues to treat fans to some of the craziest experiences of the medium.
Action anime are fist-pumping thrill rides packed with enough explosions to make Michael Bay cry. While nothing beats an exhilarating car chase, the best of the best incorporate an engaging storyline that injects emotional heft to the action. Here are our current top 10 action anime!
10. Katekyo Hitman Reborn! (Reborn!)
- Episodes: 203
- Aired: October 2006 – September 2010
An oldie but a goodie! Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is the ultimate power fantasy. Dubbed as a "loser" by his peers, Tsunayoshi Sawada's reputation as a clumsy and talentless weakling precedes him. Stuck in a boring life with little room to grow, Tsuna's life takes a turn for the weird when a baby hitman arrives on his doorstep.
Recognized as one of the most valuable Mafiosos in the world, Reborn belongs to a powerful Italian family and was sent to train Tsuna as the next heir to the throne. Initially, Tsuna waves away Reborn's attempts, but the baby awakens a hidden power in the once dull teenager. Even if Tsuna is no longer a pushover, his newfound worth makes him a target for a lot of dangerous people.
With the exception of the first 20 comedy-heavy episodes, Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is an entertaining over-the-top shounen series that follows Tsuna as he builds his own Mafia family and takes on some truly nasty foes!
9. Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2006 – June 2006
In terms of pure Hollywoodesque action, Black Lagoon is the creme of the crop. Set in the city of Roanapur in Thailand, Madhouse's anime is named after a mercenary group that operates from within this criminal haven. Willing to take on pretty much any job, Black Lagoon is a thrilling heart-pumping rollercoaster ride that occasionally tackles themes of morality and existentialism; however, the anime is mostly about gun-wielding nuns, sociopathic maids, and Revy's awesomeness!
Employed as a businessman, Rokurou Okajima is the living embodiment of average. Leading a trite life while working for an emotionless organization, Rokurou ends up held for ransom by Black Lagoon but decides to join their team due to his bosses opting to let him die. In contrast with his new comrades, the soft-spoken Rokurou is driven by a moral compass that, sooner-or-later, will get him killed in Roanapur. Black Lagoon chronicles this former businessman's transformation from a faceless drone into a proficient mercenary.
Unsurprisingly, Madhouse's animation is smooth-as-silk and a joy to behold. Well-choreographed and always compelling, Black Lagoon is a must watch for any anime fan who appreciates a bit of mayhem!
8. Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: January 2015 – June 2015
Out of nowhere, a mysterious alien-like creature destroys part of the moon and threatens to do the same to Earth unless someone puts a stop to his evil plan. While that is already strange enough, the monster decides to start teaching a Middle School class of delinquents who are tasked by the government to assassinate their teacher. In this case, the anime's title fits the premise like a velvet glove!
Based on Yuusei Matsui's hit manga, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is a thoroughly engrossing action comedy that features the near-legendary protagonist of Koro-sensei. At first, the teacher is seen as nothing more than a deadly monster by his pupils, who attempt to bring him down with a swift hit. As their efforts prove futile and time marches on, Koro-sensei develops a positive relationship with his class and starts to teach them how to be better people.
With a solid blend of humor and imaginative action, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is the full package. While the story gets progressively darker and the fight scenes intensify, Lerche's anime regularly finds ways to pull at the audience's heartstrings with a couple of touching moments.
7. Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2017 – December 2017
When it comes to anime, CGI tends to be rather hit and miss. To this day, Land of the Lustrous remains the prime example of how the animation style can be used to complement the setting and bring the best out of the storyline. Based on Haruko Ichikawa's manga, Houseki no Kuni was originally adapted into a puzzling one minute short; thankfully, in due time, studio Orange stepped in to bring this beautiful story to the small screen.
Set in a world destroyed by six meteors, crystalline organisms labeled as Gems are tasked with defeating the Lunarians, a species who enjoy destroying the former to use as decorations. At first, these two factions seem to be the only players, but the Admirabilis are eventually introduced to another dimension.
Land of the Lustrous follows the weakest of the gems, Phosphophyllite, as he attempts to learn more about himself and the purpose he serves. As a Gem, sacrifices must be made to improve upon oneself, so Phosphophyllite is constantly at the risk of losing himself. From the stiff movements of the Gems to the glamorize Adrmirabilis, the animation reflects the nature of the characters and adds personality to the action.
6. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2014 – March 2015
In comparison with the other entries in this list, Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu is slightly more subdued and atmospheric. Developed by Madhouse and adapted from Hitoshi Iwaaki's manga with the same name, Parasyte's premise pivots on a parasitic alien race that invades Earth by attacking vulnerable people and taking over their brain. Once in control, their plan is to slowly spread to people in power and dominate the planet without needing to trigger a full-scale war.
Picked as a suitable target, sixteen-year-old Shinichi Izumi fights off an alien's attempted incursion and quarantines the parasite to his right hand. Renamed as Migi and forced to co-exist, these two gradually bond while fighting off hostile parasites who plan to turn Earth into their playground.
Violent and bloody, Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu is not for the faint of heart. At times, Madhouse's series ventures into horror territory, but there should be more than enough action to satisfy the majority of viewers. By nature, parasites are efficient, so the fights tend to be short but explosive. The core relationship between Shinichi and his unwanted guest progresses at a fantastic pace, with both characters experiencing a fair amount of development.
5. Megalo Box
- Episodes: 10+
- Aired: April 2018 – Ongoing
Sports anime might not be the first thing to pop into someone's mind when thinking of action, but boxing toes the line between entertainment and violence. Presented as somewhat of an alternate reality to the legendary Ashita no Joe series, Megalo Box questions the amount of pain one is willing to endure in order to achieve their dream.
Boxing with robotic arms; in this universe, Megalo Box is everything! The richest companies either specialize in the technology or host the events that use the equipment. Outside of the glitz and glamour of the big leagues, Junk Dog earns a living as an underground fighter who throws matches to keep a crime syndicate off his back. Partnered up with a former professional manager, Junk Dog dreams of challenging the champ at a huge tournament called Megalonia.
Megalo Box encapsulates the best elements of sports and action anime. The sci-fi gimmick adds a degree of unpredictability to the actual matches, while Dog's background means that every fight could lead to his death. Due to a lack of money, the protagonist is forced to compete without the assistance of any robotic arms, which only serves to further heighten the stakes.
4. Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2016 – June 2016
By this point, Boku no Hero Academia probably can make due without an introduction. Similarly to One Punch Man and Tiger & Bunny, two other anime worth watching, Bones' series is set in a world where superheroes are common. Quirks refer to unique abilities inherited by the vast majority of the population; depending on their usefulness, the ability's owner can opt to attend a school for heroes.
Unfortunately, Deku lacks any powers whatsoever. A huge admirer of the greatest hero, All Might, Deku's dream of following in his idol's footsteps seems to be fading fast. One day, the teenager gets involved in a perilous situation that requires the intervention of All Might, who then decides that Deku would serve as his ideal successor.
Currently on its third season, Boku no Hero Academia deserves to be watched by pretty much everyone. From the school setting to the compulsory tournament arc, Bones' anime sticks close to shounen tropes but does them better than nearly all of its contemporaries. Packed with lovable characters and unbelievable fights, Boku no Hero Academia is popular for a reason!
3. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: April 2016 – December 2016
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure lives up to its name and requires a bit of getting used to. Split into a variety of parts, the story follows the misadventures across different generations of the JoJo family. Starting with Jonathan Joestar's encounter with the vampiric Dio, the anime has only gone from strength to strength. Set in the late '90s, JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai finds the series at the height of its power.
Building on its predecessor, Diamond is Unbreakable continues to develop the concept of "Stands," which are the living embodiment of someone's fighting spirit. Varying in appearance and combat style, no two encounters are ever the same in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
This time around, Jousuke Higashikata takes center stage and finds himself embroiled in a string of mysterious disappearances that point towards a serial killer. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable plays around with convention by establishing a villain who wants nothing to do with Jousuke. Imaginative and highly enjoyable, the action scenes are probably the best and most intense of the series.
2. Mob Psycho 100
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2016 – September 2016
With ONE's One Punch Man manga receiving a highly-regarded anime adaptation, Mob Psycho 100 was the next in line. Developed by Bones, this anime boasts a truly unique and exaggerated animation style that seems better suited for comedy rather than action, but the latter ends up being the show's selling point.
Shigeo "Mob" Kageyama is an eighth-grader possessing psychic prowess beyond his control. As long as he is calm, Mob can keep a lid on his powers, but all hell breaks loose when that is not the case. Worried that he might accidentally hurt someone, Mob turns to Arataka Reigen for guidance. While the latter pretends to be a psychic, he is really just a con artist who tricks people out of their hard-earned cash; however, Mob believes in his sensei.
Throughout the episodes, Mob Psycho 100 depicts a gradually increasing counter that explodes once it hits hundred. At that point, Mob goes completely insane and the action jumps from great to mind-blowing!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2011 – December 2011
Here we are; the pinnacle of action anime! Dark and uncomfortable, Ufotable's Fate/Zero has a fantastic story, fascinating characters, and some of the most fluid animation in the business. As high-octane combat is the name of the game, expect to be on the edge of your seat for the entirety of the anime's run!
Every couple of decades, a Holy Grail War takes place that brings together the strongest Magus families in the world. In order to qualify for this battle royale, the combatant has to be able to summon a servant to represent them in the contest. Armed with their own personal hero, the winner will be granted any wish they desire.
Fate/Zero does not pretend that such a contest could be fun or enjoyable. The Holy Grail War is a battle for survival and the fights echo this mentality. Be it the servants or their masters, everyone involved aims to put down their opponent for good. Place your bets, because the battle royale is about to begin!
Precious little compares to the thrill of the fight and the excitement of a high-speed chase. Anime is free to explore scenarios beyond the realms of sensibility, and the best teleport viewers into their own crazy universes. Whether set in Thailand or in the middle of a fantastical battle royale, action anime offer an ideal break from everyday life!
What is your favorite action anime? Please let us know in the comment section below.
We’re back with our latest installment of our update series, where we take a look at previous lists and update them to reflect new shows that have had a notable impact on the genre in question since the publishing of our original article. Our previous list of Top 10 Action Anime had some whoppers in the genre, no question about it, but in the time that has past, some other shows have arrived on the scene that need to be given their due. With that in mind, let’s get into the Updated Top 10 Action Anime!
10. Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry (Chivalry of a Failed Knight)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry tells the story of Ikki Kurogane, a young academy student in an alternate version of our world where the merit of students is measured in terms of their innate magical abilities. Because of his apparent lack of any magical abilities whatsoever, he is shunned by his classmates and the faculty, who don’t realize that what he lacks in inherent magical powers, he more than makes up for with rigorous combat training and a strong moral fiber. When he is forced to become roommates with the voluptuous, magically-endowed Stella Vermillion, it sets him on a path to prove that a person should be measured by the effort they put into their deeds.
This show is perfect for fans of the action genre, as it has a ton of edge of your seat action in the form of duels between students, as well as dangerous encounters outside of campus grounds. Although the storytelling can be rather light-hearted, due in part to heaping doses of ecchi moments, when the weapons come out the slick animation makes sure the action is the star of the show.
9. Bungo Stray Dogs
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2016 – Present
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Perhaps one of the most stylish new anime to come out this past season, Bungo Stray Dogs tells the story of Nakajima Atsushi, a young orphan cast out of his home because of his connection to a serious of mysterious murders. He finds himself on the bank of a river, starved nearly to death, when he encounters Dazai Osamu, an eccentric man trying, unsuccessfully, to drown himself. This fateful encounter leads him to join the ranks of the Armed Detective Agency, which pits itself against the city’s criminal underbelly.
The word bungo loosely translates from Japanese as “literary master,” which is what almost the entirety of the cast is comprised of. Members of both the Armed Detective Agency, as well as their adversary, are inspired by real-life Japanese authors who were highly influential to the crime and mystery genres, and their abilities are in-turn inspired by their literary creations. The storytelling is as hard-boiled as it comes, and when these famous literary figures start slinging their powers, it’s sure to delight any fan of the action genre.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
When it comes to action, it’s hard to find a world as filled with it as that of criminals. With that in mind, we come to Gangsta. It takes place in the gritty, down and dirty town of Ergastulum, where crime is the name of the game, and the “wrong side” is whichever side puts you in front of the barrel of a gun.
The story follows a pair of deadly handymen, Worick, a gigolo with a scarring family history, and Nicolas, a deaf mercenary with superhuman abilities from prolonged use of a super drug. The plot revs into fourth gear after they save Alex, a former prostitute. The show is as hard-hitting as the setting, painting a grim landscape of moral ambiguity and hard choices whose consequences are measured in the bodies that hit the ground, and will engage any action fan with an interest in the genre.
7. God Eater
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – March 2016
Based off of the hit videogame series of the same name, God Eater is set in the near future, in Japan, where some of the last vestiges of humanity struggle against giant monsters known as Aragami, and the brave soldiers that battle them are known as “God Eaters.” Young military trainee Lenka joins the Fenrir Far East branch when it is discovered that he can utilize his “God Arc,” a weapon created from the DNA of Aragami to battle them, can switch between blade and gun form.
Like any war story worth watching, God Eater has a relatable cast of heroes to root for, forced to battle through situations where the stakes are literally life and death. In a world where success is measured by survival, lessons are often learned hard, and at the expense of your squad mates’ lives, the action of the show comes at the viewer's hard and fast, making it essential viewing for fans of the game, and action anime in general.
6. Rokka no Yuusha (Braves of the Six Flowers)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
There’s a legend that states that when an evil god awakens, the god of fate will appoint six warriors, called “Braves,” and grant them the power to combat darkness and save the world. The self-proclaimed “strongest man alive,” Adlet Meyer believes he deserves to be welcomed into the order and given the chance to prove his valor and get revenge for the destruction of his village. However, when he gathers at the appointed location, there are seven Braves total, not six, and it’s up to Adlet and co. to get to the bottom of it.
Although Adlet might not be the strongest man alive, he is a savvy warrior, as are all the Braves. The fight scenes in are truly a sight to behold, with dynamically animated scenes that are almost cinema-like, accompanied by an appropriately epic score. While the main narrative hook of the show is a bit more like a “whodunit,” there’s plenty for action fans to sink their teeth into.
5. Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
The kingdom of Pars is an economic and cultural crossroads in the fictional, Middle Eastern-inspired world The Heroic Legend of Arslan. When Andragoras the 3rd falls victim to a sinister plot carried out by some of his most trusted advisors, it forces his son Arslan to flee his rightful home and sets him on a harrowing adventure for survival. Although Arslan is young, he has a good heart and inspires the loyalty of a small band of brave, intelligent warriors who work effortlessly to reclaim his throne.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan will scratch any fantasy or action fan’s itch for an epic adventure. With its ensemble cast of memorable characters, its historical scope, and sweeping scale, and its brutal action scenes, it’s a show that has captured the essence of a series that has endured multiple iterations in Japan. With another season right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to catch up.
4. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Although it placed on the previous list, we would feel remiss if we didn’t include the brutal, now-iconic show Attack on Titan, which helped raise the bar for the action genre in the west. If you’ve somehow missed it, the show takes place in a dark fantasy world where humans have managed to survive a near-extinction event due to the sudden appearance of titans, monstrous, mindless giants that rampage and feast on humanity. Behind three massive walls, they’ve lived a relatively peaceful life, until a colossal titan breaches the outermost wall, allowing smaller titans to enter and wreak havoc. The story follows an ensemble cast surrounding three main characters, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, as they struggle to gain ground against the advancing titans and understand the nature of the monsters themselves.
To say the action scenes in the show are brutal is perhaps an understatement. The titans are literally larger-than-life, and wreak havoc wherever they go. Although the self-defense corps fights valiantly against them, their pyrrhic victories are often at the expense of countless lives, as young soldiers are devoured by the thoughtless monsters. Although it drags a bit in the middle due to filler, the final twist more than makes up for it, and the constant action ensures that the show never wears out its welcome.
3. One Punch Man
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
In the fictional, Tokyo-inspired metropolis, City Z, day to day drudgery is the least of anyone’s problems. The city is prone to attacks from super-villains and monsters and is defended by the do-gooders in the Hero Association, always willing to come to the aid of citizens in their time of need. Amongst their ranks is Saitama, an unremarkable, milquetoast-looking man of unparalleled physical prowess, thus earning him the nickname, “one-punch man.” Years of training have pushed him to his peak, and he has grown bored with his ability to conquer even the greatest threats without breaking a sweat, so he constantly seeks more powerful opponents.
One Punch Man has exploded in popularity since it came onto the scene, and it’s easy to see why. With an endearing protagonist and a fun, sometimes infuriating cast of supporting heroes and villains, there’s a lot for the audience to get attached to. Which isn’t to mention the fight scenes, of which there are plenty, and often resolve themselves hilariously. Perhaps a bit light-hearted compared to other entries on the list, but One Punch Man is essential viewing for action fans.
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – April 1999
Another entry from the previous list that is just so good that it’s worth repeating, the critically and fan-acclaimed series rounds out the list. If you’ve somehow missed this show despite its meteoric rise to popularity over a decade ago, it centers on Spike Spiegel. A former hitman turned “cowboy” in a future in which mankind has colonized most of space and established a contract-based bounty hunting force to supplement the Inter Solar Space Police. Partnered with his former officer friend, Jet Black, the pair scours the galaxy for big scores and pick up a few more members of their ragtag bounty hunting outfit, including bombshell Faye Valentine, and a Mensa-level Corgi.
This show is a genre-bending masterpiece, with iconic characters, a fantastic musical score, non-linear storytelling, and a jaw-dropping denouement. While most episodes take place in a sort of case of the week format, they’re all suitably action-packed, with space battles, gunfights, and melee skirmishes. If you haven’t yet, please, watch this show. You won’t be disappointed.
1. Dragon Ball Super
- Episodes: Unknown
- Aired: July 2015 – Present
The latest, and arguably greatest entry in the immensely popular, iconic Dragon Ball series, Super is a landmark in that it’s the first original content created in the series in over eighteen years, finally moving the story forward for beloved characters. While Dragon Ball needs no introduction, it tells the story of Goku, a kind-hearted man with immense strength, who defends the inhabitants of Earth with his friends and family.
The series is known for constantly upping the ante throughout its story arcs, introducing iconic, increasingly-powerful villains that threaten Goku and co., and the fate of the galaxy. Dragon Ball Super is no different. With the introduction of a literal god of destruction, the return of one of the series’ most nefarious villains, and the exploration of alternate realities, the show is pushing its own boundaries while staying true to the aspects of it that made it so popular in the first place. For old fans or those interested in the series, Dragon Ball Super meets every expectation.
And with that, our revised list of action anime comes to a close. Between the updated list and the classic, there’s more than enough action for even the most die-hard fan. The great thing about the genre is that while there are common threads throughout all the shows, the thematic and tonal differences make it appropriate viewing regardless of what kind of mood sets in. Are there any shows new shows that we should keep our eye on the next time we want to dust off this list? Sound off in the comments below and let us know!
Action anime is the genre that made anime famous. More than 50 years ago, the adventures and exploits of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy enamored the world with visuals that were engaging and a story that is unlike anything shown in the animated screen then. Soon, the world fell in love with Japanese animation, embracing its style and its heart.
Action anime is one of the most prominent genres in the animated world, with titles that are rooted in man’s innate dream of pursuing something greater and of being much stronger. With the fate of the world, the nation, the city, or just the protagonist in the balance, action anime continues to push the limits of animation to its farthest.
This list includes ten of the best examples of action anime that have been produced over the years. Some of the titles are now considered as the pillars of anime, while some of the titles are sleeper classics that were courageous enough to try something new in a genre that was already mastered by anime. Take note that the big three of modern mainstream anime (One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto) are not included in this list, for I believe there are titles that deserve a lot more recognition for what they have received.
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: March 2005 – August 2007
Rarely discussed in anime forums, Karas is one title that actually pushed the limits of anime when it was released. Set in an alternate Japan where traditional demons walk side by side humans, the story is centered on Otoha, a human who was imbibed with the power of the Karas, powerful, shape-shifting, supernatural beings that are tasked to keep the balance between the human and the demon world. When Eko, a rogue Karas, gets disillusioned by the human race’s disbelief in the supernatural, decides to reclaim the fear that humans once had for demons, Otoha must step up in order to protect Japan.
Karas actually broke a lot of conventions when it was released, opting to start the story en medias res, thus creating a plot that was somewhat challenging to follow at first. Despite this, however, fans of the series all agree on one thing: the anime is so good, one will not mind watching the series over and over again until such time that the plot becomes crystal clear.
Why is this so, you may ask?
Just watch the first few minutes of the first episode and you will find out. With a story rooted in Japanese mythology and a style pays homage to traditional Japanese anti-heroes, only one thing can be said about Karas’ visuals, music and action sequences – seamless.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2001 – September 2001
Noir is an anime that was regarded as masterpiece of its time when it was released. The story focuses on two deadly female assassins, Corsican Mireille Bouquet and Japanese amnesiac Yuumura Kirika, as well s their search for answers about the mysteries of their past and the source of their killer instincts. Pairing up, the perform assassinations under the code name “Noir,” until such time that they are lured into a deadly game of cat and mouse by the mysterious organization known as Les Soldats.
In the years that followed its release, Noir became regarded as one of the finest examples of anime that primarily feature women in the action genre. Noir was created as an anime under the “Girls with Guns” subgenre, and in the years that followed, it has proven itself to be just that. Theron Martin, writing for Anime News Network, states that Noir “was at least to some degree an influential title" and "is still recognized as one of the preeminent titles of its type because it redefined what a 'girls with guns' title could be." With a pronounced homage to classic film noir and a story and execution that is sleek and elegant, this anime is not to be missed.
8. Fate/Stay Night
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2006 – June 2006
Fate/Stay Night is an anime that was originally released as a visual novel that featured adult content. Just like other great anime with the same roots like Kanon though, Fate/Stay Night proved itself as an anime that was able to stand well beyond what its original intentions were. The plot revolves around protagonist Shiro Emiya, a young man inadvertently drawn into a massive battle for the acquisition of the Holy Grail. Though inexperienced, he accidentally summons Saber, one of the most powerful Heroes that can be summoned to battle; and thus, he is drawn into a life and death conflict that can tip the balance of power in the world.
One of the things that make Fate/Stay Night so special is the fact that it is one of the most prominent action anime that came from a game, whose popularity and value as an anime far exceeded that of its original visual novel counterpart. With characters that are unique and a story that is rooted in world mythology, Fate/Stay Night is one memorable ride from one episode to the next. Oh, the battles between the heroes, which came from the greats of literature, are something that cannot be found anywhere too.
7. Samurai Champloo
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 2004 – March 2005
From the director that brought the beautiful coming of age tale Kids on the Slope comes yet another anime that mixes genres and bridges concepts previously thought of before. Shinichiro Watanabe’s action anime is widely regarded as one of the most unconventional, most thrilling anime about the Samurai subgenre. In an alternate version of Edo-era Japan, the story follows Mugen, an unconventional samurai who lives as a vagrant, Jin, a quiet ronin whose skills as a swordsman is regarded as one of the best, and Fuu, a former waitress whose quest for the “Samurai Who Smells of Sunflowers” triggers the plot’s main quest.
With references to historical events and littered with references to modern culture, Samurai Champloo is one anime without compare. The series is regarded as a prime example of the chanbara genre (a popular technique employed in television and film that uses dramatic fights while moving around a subversive plot), and cultures such as western crime families and hip-hop culture. Critically acclaimed and considered by both critics and fans as an anime that is one of a kind, it is quickly developing into a title that offers much more than what conventional anime can offer.
6. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- Episodes: 27
- Aired: April 2007 – September 2007
Focusing on the story of two young men who belong to a humanity that is forced to live underground but are nonetheless dreaming of drilling their way to the surface of the planet, Gurren Lagann is an anime like no other. The story of the humble Simon and the fearless Kamina as they reach for their dreams on the surface and on the skies is something that will surely stand the test of time, making this title into an instant classic.
This popular series not only broke the barriers of logic and scale when it came out. It also pushed action anime farther than it has ever done before. In fact, its popularity is so great that it actually reached the hallowed halls of European politics. In 2007, a daily telegraph survey on the update of the British Union Flag was dominated by a design that is inspired by this anime, winning by a landslide victory. Lively, courageous and unrestrained, Gurren Lagann is one anime that will surely stand without equal.
5. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Attack on Titan features a grim story about a post-apocalyptic time when humanity is forced to live within the confines of three massive walls due to the unexplainable presence of humans’ natural predator, the Titans. A hundred years since humanity was able to seek shelter within the walls, a massive titan appears and shatters the gate of the outermost wall, triggering an invasion of the feral Titans and forcing humanity to retreat even more. Within these events lie Eren Jaeger, a young boy whose family was torn to shreds by the horrific invasion. Watching as things he held dear was literally consumed before his eyes, he swears vengeance against the Titans.
Making waves in the anime world immediately after the first trailer was released; this action anime came with extremely high expectations. Once it started however, it never let up, proving itself into an instant classic. With visuals that are obviously high-budget, a soundtrack that is arguably one of the finest in anime, and a story that is visceral and edgy, Attack on Titan is widely considered as one of the best anime made during the recent years, perfectly capturing realism that portrays fear, despair, and hope in an almost naturalistic manner.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 – July 2010
Produced as a reboot to the already successful Fullmetal Alchemist series that came out in 2003, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is yet another anime that came with very high expectations. Just like Attack on Titan however, it has proved itself to be even better than what its fans and critics expected. Taking place in a world where alchemy is practice, the story follows the adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric, brothers who ended up losing a lot of who they are after a tragic incident involving their attempt at resurrecting their mother. While the 2003 series took off on its own after a certain point in the plot, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood stayed very close to the manga.
As a result, the story features a faster pace than the previous series. It is also grittier, touching on themes that are both courageous and unconventional. Featuring visuals and intricate, intelligent fight scenes that leave the senses stimulated, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one anime that cannot be neglected by any fan of the action genre.
3. Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X)
- Episodes: 95
- Aired: January 1996 – September 1998
Samurai X is one of those anime that was able to breach the fanbase of the world itself. Set in the Meiji Era, the story follows Kenshin Himura, a former assassin who decides to become a wanderer in order to atone for his crimes in the past. After years of wandering, he meets Kamiya Kaoru, an adjutant master of a kenjutsu dojo, who looks at him not as the hitokiri he once was, but as the man that he is. Together with other colorful characters such as Myojin Yahiko, a son of a former samurai, and Sagara Sanosuke, a member of the defunct Sekihoutai Army, Kenshin attempts to live a life of peace while facing demons from his past.
With a storyline that is nothing short of epic, fight scenes that will leave the reader breathless, and characters that are widely regarded as some of the best in anime, Samurai X ranks very highly in the list of the best action anime ever made. Featuring historical events as well as fictional renditions of real people that have made Japan, it is an anime that has endeared itself to the world, proven by the lines of countless professionals taking their children to the theater when the live action rendition of the series came out. Truly an anime classic, this is one action anime that any anime fan must never miss.
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – April 1999
Yet another acclaimed series from the famous Shinichiro Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop is usually considered as one of the finest examples of anime in the world. Set in a world where bounty hunters chase criminals across the vast expanse of space, the story centers on the crew of the spaceship Bebop, led by the charismatic and deadly Spike Spiegel, a former hitman exiled from the Red Dragon Syndicate. Together with his crew, they complete challenging missions, eventually coming face to face with ghosts from Spike’s past.
With a direction that made Shinichiro Watanabe into a household name, Cowboy Bebop stands as one of the most unique and original anime in the action genre. With a soundtrack that is highly memorable, battles that are intricate and absolutely exciting, as well as a style influenced by classic Hollywood Noir films, Cowboy Bebop is an anime without compare. When it was released, the director of the series called the anime “a new genre unto itself.” With elements of cyberpunk, science fiction, pulp fiction, and a menagerie of other notable film techniques and genres, Cowboy Bebop is one masterpiece that may never be equaled.
1. Dragon Ball Z
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: April 1989 – January 1996
Dragon Ball Z has not only become synonymous with the action genre, it has become synonymous with anime itself. Though the series itself is ripe with conventions in anime that were otherwise abandoned as time went by, its appeal has never faded, partly due to the fact that the lighthearted story of Son Goku, and his developing bond with family, friends, and enemies turned into friends, is something that will probably be unequalled.
Though frequently imitated, no anime has come close to the balance of Dragon Ball Z. In fact, it has become the very definition of what an action anime is supposed to be – exciting, pulse-pounding, and gratifying. What makes this anime so unequalled is the fact that despite the fact that the series is not without its flaws, it is the fact that it is imperfect that makes it the best example of what an action anime is. Timeless and true to itself, Dragon Ball Z is set to be an anime classic with fame and reverence comparable to the biggest, most prominent pillars of anime such as Astro Boy.
And so there we have it. Ten action anime that have influenced the action genre, and anime itself throughout the years. What makes action anime so great is the fact that titles under this genre revel in their imperfections. Viewers usually expect the same amount of exhilaration and adrenaline pumping action from action anime as they would receive from Hollywood blockbusters like the Die Hard series. However, action anime has that one, wonderful tendency to pleasantly surprise the viewer with both its heart, and at some points, even its soul.