With little to no dispute, the action genre is one of anime’s hottest attractions. To many fans, the creativity portrayed in the fighting in Dragon Ball Z is considered the barometer of what makes a great action series. While DBZ defies the imagination in over 9,000 ways, that doesn’t mean that other action titles can’t be just as exciting in their own creative manner.
Dragon Ball Z takes fighting all over the place where the aftershocks of fists and shins colliding can cave-in mountains and cause tsunamis. On the other hand, Yuu Yuu Hakusho popularized the use of strategy in its fights showing that action in anime doesn’t have to be destructive in order to be exciting. Since then, a majority of action anime has contributed to the genre in their own way, which either lives up to these two classics or showcases something unique. For this article, we’d like to share our Top 10 Best Action Anime of the 2010s.
10. High School DxD
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 6, 2012 – March 23, 2012
If you thought high school was hard, what if your classmates were demons and angels? You can find such a concept in High School DxD. Not only is it high school drama on ethereal steroids, but it offers action sequences that put regular high school fights to shame as various beings duke it out. As the cast demonstrates their abilities, DxD mixes brutal brawling with strategic planning that will keep audiences guessing what will happen next. Not only are the fights intense and dramatic, but they can be comedic as well. So if you want a mix of mech, magic, pure hand-to-hand, and gag humor, then High School DxD is the anime to check out!
9. Kill la Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Like many anime properties throughout the decades, Kill la Kill mixes school uniforms with some insane action. As to how the uniforms are applied, it takes that concept to new levels of creativity with how they can be used as armor (though rather skimpy). With the insane abilities, weapons, and outfits the cast all utilize, it masterfully combines elements of intensity and comedy when appropriate. Through the high-resolution that this series is presented in (along with its excellent use of angles and frame rates), it’s easy for viewers to follow and enjoy.
8. Akame Ga Kill!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 7, 2014 – December 15, 2014
In a world of assassins and espionage, Akame Ga Kill! more than guarantees top-notch action. In old school Kung Fu flicks, a lot of wise masters say that in order to win the fight, the warrior must be free of thought, go with the flow and not let emotions cloud their judgment. For most of the series, Akame embodies that philosophy and when viewers see her in action, she’s pretty much on auto-pilot showing she’s well trained and experienced. Even when some of her opponents try to emotionally manipulate her to make her lose concentration, she rarely falls for it. However, what the fights ultimately teach the audience is what fighting is all about, without something to fight for, it’s meaningless.
7. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 9, 2014 – March 26, 2015
After 20 years, the anime adaptation of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Kiseijuu finally made its premiere! Kiseijuu is about how a community in Tokyo is being invaded by alien parasites that take over humans and wreak havoc! Before a parasite can possess the mind of high school student Shinichi Izumi, the parasite possesses Shinichi’s right hand and takes the name Migi, meaning “right” in Japanese. As a duo, they fight humans fully possessed by parasites and seek to stop their plans for galactic domination!
Compared to a majority of the entries on this list, Parastye focuses more on the blood and guts aspect of the action. Considering the nature of what Migi can do with Shinichi’s arm by turning it into various blade-like weapons, it creates some intense and shocking sequences. As Shinichi’s abilities with Migi develop, he becomes a natural himself and audiences can get a feel of how systematic Shinichi becomes as he fights his foes from when he started with a more feral-like style by letting Migi take care of the fighting.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 6, 2018 – June 29, 2018
Megalobox is a homage to Ashita no Joe, the OG boxing series. Like the original Ashita no Joe, Megalobox not only delivers exciting boxing matches but also portrays the real fight of inequality. Having money is one thing but put two people in the ring, they can be truly equal and this is what Megalobox truly proves. However, boxing in this anime is taken to a whole new level as rounds are unlimited and there are no age limits, weight classes, or drug testing as anyone can fight. To make things crazier, participants wear augmented gear to boost their performance!
Joe in Megalobox is the representation of the working class. He comes from nothing and his background gives him not only his raw talent in boxing but his hunger to be the very best (like no one ever was)! Not only does he compete against high-class competition, he does it without the use of augmented gear! Thanks to this quality, it proves that boxing isn’t about who has superior speed, punching power, or money, but who has the bigger heart! As Joe succeeds throughout the tournament, he gives hope and inspiration to his peers. While Joe’s success financially benefits people who have an investment in him, he doesn’t care about fame or money. He’s in it to prove his self-worth and this is more than enough motivation to provide action that isn’t just physical, but emotional as well.
5. Kengan Ashura
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 31, 2019 – October 31, 2019
For those that love old school underground fighting movies such as Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport, Kengan Ashura is the anime for you! However, Kengan Ashura takes it further as the tournament is meant to benefit the 1%. For example, try to imagine Disney’s acquisition of Fox was through an underground MMA fight as opposed to going through the courts and lawyers and that’s what you get with Kengan Ashura. As for Tokio Ohma representing Kazuo Yamashita, a lowly salaryman, he’s in the tournament to fight an opponent to avenge his master!
There’s a saying in combat sports that styles make fights and Kengan Ashura does an excellent job of exploiting that saying in order to provide high-octane action! Like the original UFC events, many of the combatants fight relying on one style. One fighter utilizes boxing, another fighter comes from a sumo background, and one fighter comes from the Burmese art of Lethwei, which is now gaining popularity thanks to Joe Rogan interviewing David Leduc, a Lethwei champion, on his podcast. With billions of dollars at stake within every fight, every punch and kick thrown is with bad intentions for viewers to enjoy. If you want to see the purity of unarmed combat with no ki attacks, then Kengan Ashura is the action anime to watch!
4. One Punch Man
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 5, 2015 – July 3, 2019
With little to no dispute, One Punch Man is certainly a unique action title where the point of the anime is that Saitama, the main character, is overpowered. While Saitama can easily dispose of opponents as the title suggests, the anime is still full of heroes and villains that can provide viewers with intense action sequences. As emphasized through season 2, Garo, an anti-villain, is challenging other S-class heroes to prove his strength until he challenges Saitama. Garo, who is a martial arts expert, gives many heroes a run for their money and some give him a challenge. Thanks to its large supporting cast, the story can provide action that isn’t about Saitama squashing his opponents in a matter of seconds.
With all the action provided in season 2, whenever Saitama gets to fight, it gives his fights more value. When he spars with Genos in season 1, the viewers get an idea of how powerful Saitama is despite restraining himself. Even so, their friendly spar still provides something exciting as Genos, an S-class hero, struggles to land a single throw on Saitama despite putting in 100% and Saitama is fighting at 0.001%! Not only does Saitama’s show restraint in many of his fights extend the intensity, but brings a level of comedy to them.
3. Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
- Episodes: 74+
- Aired: April 3, 2016 - Ongoing
For the past 30+ years, Shounen Jump has had their share of big hits. In the eighties, they had Saint Seiya and Hokuto no Ken. In the nineties, they had Dragon Ball and Yuu Yuu Hakusho. For the 2000s, they had One Piece and Naruto. For the 2010s, along with the ongoing One Piece and Boruto, that distinction has to go to My Hero Academia. Like One Punch Man, My Hero Academia takes influence from the superhero genre but gives it the appropriate Shounen Jump spin as it focuses on a group of teenagers who go to a high school in order to learn that with great power, there must also come great responsibility. A lot of the cast has traditional superpowers (or known as quirks in the series) such as super strength, speed, laser beams, etc, and there are characters that have some rather creative ones such as creating things from their body.
With all these super-powered beings, it's only natural that this anime is full of action. In the first two seasons of this series, a good portion of the action focuses on how Izuku has to manage his quirk, One For All. Every time he uses it in battle, it takes a major toll on his body to the point it repeatedly shatters his bones and causes permanent damage. This quality shows the series has a hero that is going to have development as the series progresses and when it gets there, it’s definitely going to pay off. Through the guidance of his instructors and peers, Izuku eventually learns to use his quirk more effectively and make it his own. When he does (by season 3), it shows that fighting is more mental than physical as a person must learn to fight in their own way and not copy others.
2. Dragon Ball Super
- Episodes: 131
- Aired: July 5, 2015 – March 25, 2018
At a close second, we have Dragon Ball Super, which many fans consider to be the true continuation of Dragon Ball Z since Akira Toriyama contributed to this series. Super continues a few years after the battle of Majin Buu and some of its arcs include TV adaptations of the Battle of the Gods and Resurrection of F movies. As we shared in our intro, many fans around the world love Dragon Ball Z because of its creative approach to action. As Dragon Ball Super progresses to its final arc, a lot of Toriyama’s genius is showcased as Goku and his friends battle new threats such as Zamasu.
In the end, the series is about how Goku is still not your traditional superhero. He’s not about saving the world and protecting the innocent. While Goku’s fights in Super tend to have the fate of the universe at stake, he cares more about fighting a great opponent which is in his Saiyan blood. With a new series, not only does he get new foes but new transformations! And along with those, it delivers action that breaks new boundaries.
1. Jojo no Kimyou Na Bouken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
- Episodes: 152+
- Aired: October 6, 2012 - Ongoing
At number one, we have to give it to JoJo. While the JoJo anime series debuted in 2012, the original manga debuted back in 1986 and is still in publication to this day! Upon the drafting of this article, the anime has adapted five of the manga’s story arcs (with the 8th, Jojolion, presently in serialization). Each arc takes place in a different setting with a different cast of characters. Due to this novelty, this series has the creative freedom to not only tell its own story but also choose how it presents its action. The first two story arcs, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, are more of a spoof of Hokuto no Ken, which was another popular action title when the original manga debuted.
However, those two story arcs still managed to find a distinction through the heroes’ use of hamon, an international martial art that allows the user to manipulate their breathing into the equivalent of sunlight as they battle vampires and other creatures of the night. Through Joseph, the hero of the second story arc, it introduces the strategic element of the series as he could play mind games with his opponents (ie, he would tell his opponent what they would say next and they would actually say it!).
As the JoJo saga transitions to its third story arc, or Stardust Crusaders, that’s when the action throws everything including the kitchen sink as it does away with hamon and replaces it with stands—astral projection warriors that only a few people can naturally develop. Through stands and its outrageous cast of heroes and villains, the action of JoJo is like no other as it's one of those things you have to see first-hand in order to enjoy it. Not only does it deliver great action, but one of the most unique soundtracks (considering that the series is full of music and pop culture references)!
Last, we would like to make some honorable mentions to Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Vinland Saga, the Netflix Baki series, Shingeki no Kyojin, and Kimetsu no Yaiba. We must admit that choosing anime for this list was by no means easy and if you disagree with our list, we’re cool with that! If you think we overlooked certain titles that should be on this list, just give us a comment. However, if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that if you want the best action in any form of media, then anime is best at delivering that!