Gang anime have been popular for a long time. They make up a sizeable amount of anime: both old and new, and the genre continues to expand each year. Gang anime are versatile since the descriptor “gang” can take a lot of different forms. These anime may be about the street and colour gangs you probably first think of, as well as mafia and yakuza anime. Gang anime also includes more fantasy-inspired stories about clans and groups of people that are like a gang.
What all gang anime have in common is they are exciting and full of action. Many are violent and intense, with a lot of brawls and gunfights. Gang anime is made for anime fans looking for some great fight scenes and compelling characters, and often complicated storylines. Of course there are a few gang anime that are more light-hearted, but generally, these anime are intense! So with some anime about gangs and some with gangs setting the background and tone for the rest of the show, here is our list of the Top 10 Gang Anime.
10. Kamisama no Memochou (Heaven’s Memo Pad)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2011 – Sep. 2011
Kamisama no Memochou follows high school student Narumi Fujishima, who has never been a very typical young man. And when he meets Alice, a young NEET woman who lives above a ramen shop, his life becomes even more ridiculous. Being a NEET doesn’t mean you're doing nothing all day; quite the contrary. Alice is a hacker and a private detective, and she hired Narumi as part of her “elite force” to do her investigating. And they don’t just take on low profile assignments. Narumi finds himself facing down drug lords, murderers, and ruthless gangs working for Alice!
Kamisama no Memochou brings the lead characters across the paths of many gangs in their investigations. And with an interesting cast of characters, it’s fun to watch. Alice may seem like just a cute girl with an army of stuffed animals, but Kamisama no Memochou is actually full of excitement and violence. It’s a different side of the usual NEET anime, with a lot of real action. The gangs in the anime help bring excitement and mystery to the story and keep the anime gripping for audiences to enjoy. Gangs may not be at the centre of Kamisama no Memochou (unless you count Alice’s “gang” of investigators!) but they definitely keep the story exciting.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2012 – Jun. 2012
Jormungand is the story of Jonah Mar, a former child soldier who hates weapons. But when he is hired by an arms dealer named Koko Hekmatyar as a bodyguard, he is forced to be a soldier once more. Koko has a dream of creating world peace through her illegal arms dealing and travels the globe pursuing her dream. But the CIA is always following her, along with countless enemies that want to stop her weapon trading and mission. Jonah has his work cut out for him serving as a guard to her against enemies around the world.
Jormungand isn’t your typical gang anime; rather than a mafia group or street gang, it follows an illegal weapons dealing group. They still operate outside of and under the law, playing by their own rules and trying to change the world in the way they want to shape it. And they’re always in the run from government authorities, assassins, competitors, and more. Thus this group of people has become very close to one another as they fight to pursue their goals that outsiders may not understand. Jormungand is a different take on the idea of a gang anime and something refreshing to watch if you want a bit of change!
8. Dogs: Bullets and Carnage
- Episodes: 4
- Aired: May 2009 – Jul. 2009
Dogs: Bullets and Carnage is set in a dystopian city in Europe that has extended underground into a sprawling subterranean metropolis. Crime, genetic manipulation, and more have become commonplace in the world. But there are secrets in the lowest levels, secrets to the past and a world that has been otherwise forgotten. Four people brought together by coincidence, or perhaps fate, all travel downwards to try to find answers about their own past. The road will be anything but easy though in a city as brutal and unforgiving as this.
Dogs: Bullets and Carnage is set in a lawless, crime-ridden future full of gang violence and scientific experimentation. In a world run by criminals, gangs have a lot of power. And they’re important to set up the atmosphere and tone that make Dogs: Bullets and Carnage interesting. It’s not a long anime with only four 15 minute episodes, but they’re packed full of violence and action (if you couldn’t already guess from the title). For anyone who is looking for a gang anime but doesn’t necessarily want the commitment of a long show, Dogs: Bullets and Carnage can definitely make for an exciting evening.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul. 2007 – Nov. 2007
Baccano! is a story about a lot of different events happening simultaneously across 1930s America. At first, these events seem unrelated to one another, but as the bigger story comes together they are all connected. The main characters are would-be thieves Isaac and Miria, who are the connecting points between these stories of alchemy, mafia wars, and a quest for immortality. Everyone’s relationships will be forged and tested, and lives will be put on the line before everything is said and done.
Baccano! creates the perfect setting for gangs and gang warfare. There are many different mafia groups at war with one another fighting for money and influence, and that war sets the backdrop for the anime. Baccano! is full of non-stop action and violence, and is overwhelming and in-your-face from episode one. It’s a wild ride for fans of violent mafia in anime, and a fun story about how so many seemingly unconnected events are all part of the same big story. Baccano! can keep the attention of anyone with its fast pace and constantly changing the story.
6. Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2006 – Jun. 2006
Rokurou Okajima begins Black Lagoon as a businessman who is tired of the monotony of his job. He quickly snatches up the chance to take a business trip to Thailand when the opportunity comes up and travels to the lawless and corrupt city of Roanapur. His entire life gets turned upside down when he’s kidnapped by a local gang called Black Lagoon, who tries to hold him as a hostage for negotiations. When the negotiations fail, Rokurou is abandoned by his company. And without anywhere else to go, he joins Black Lagoon! Going from a businessman to a criminal isn’t exactly easy, though.
Black Lagoon is a gang anime on a large scale; Roanapur is controlled by crime and gangs, after all, and while the anime travels across the world Roanapur is the main setting. It’s an interesting look into the morality shift that Rokurou faces as he descends into Black Lagoon and changes from a businessman to a gang member. Black Lagoon poses a lot of moral questions and spends quite a bit of time in the morally grey area, exploring what it means to be a criminal in a city run by crime. It’s full of action and excitement, car chases, and plenty of gunfights and brawls. Black Lagoon will definitely get your blood pumping!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2015 - Sep. 2015
Gangsta. is set in the fictional city of Ergastulum, which is a haven for criminals and mobs. It’s also been a safe place for people called Twilights, who are born with supernatural powers due to a special drug. Nicolas and Worick are known in the city simply as the Handymen; they clean up what needs cleaning up, and are available for hire by whoever will pay them. That includes both the police and the local gangs. Things start to get more complicated when a prostitute named Alex joins their ranks as they fight to protect her. And then when a new group comes to try to wipe out the Twilights, the city is thrown into an all-out war.
Ergastulum is the perfect setting for a gang anime; it’s a criminal’s paradise, and decrepit, dirty, and corrupt. There are plenty of gangs around fighting for power and using Twilights as muscle, and the main characters regularly do jobs either for the gangs - or in direct opposition to them. That means there is plenty of storyline revolving around these gangs. Gangsta. has surprisingly deep and complex characters and relationships despite not being very long, and still has plenty of time for great action and witty humour. It will test all of your emotions with its twists and turns on a ride through this dark underworld of a city.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2018 – Jun. 2018
Hinamatsuri begins with Nitta, a member of the yakuza. His life is turned upside down when he’s suddenly hit on the head by a strange box. When he opens it, he finds a mysterious girl inside! This girl, named Hina, has amazing supernatural powers. The downside is that if she doesn’t use them regularly, she will go crazy and destroy everything. Nitta knows he has to find an outlet for her abilities so she doesn’t use them on him, and has a great idea. Why not use her powers to help him with what he has to do for the yakuza? What could possibly go wrong?
Hinamatsuri is a gang anime about the yakuza. It’s more light-hearted than most of the other anime on our list of the best gang anime; it’s actually quite funny, and more of a slice of life than a violent action anime. The story is really good, with well-developed characters and an intriguing plot. Using a strange girl’s telekinetic powers to help the yakuza is a unique idea! And Hinamatsuri delivers it well. If you’re interested in watching a gang anime but don’t want a lot of gratuitous violence, Hinamatsuri is a good balance between humour, action, and feelings - and a touch of sci-fi, too!
3. 91 Days
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2016 – Oct. 2016
Angelo Lagusa was just a child when he witnessed his entire family murdered in front of him by the Vanetti mafia family in 91 Days. He leaves his hometown of Lawless and even his name behind, becoming Avilio Bruno. After he grows up, he returns to Lawless to finally get the vengeance he seeks. Slowly, Avilio hunts down all the people responsible for his family’s death and kills them himself. Using all of his skills, he secretly befriends the Vanetti don’s son Nero as well to get closer and closer to the total revenge that he seeks.
91 Days is set in the Prohibition era, creating the perfect background for gangsters and mafia. After all, everyone is trying to profit off of selling illegal alcohol, and that profit is worth killing over. Add into that mix Avilio’s lust for revenge and well. You’ve got yourself a great gang anime! Since 91 Days is about the mafia, it’s not messing around with small-time street gangs. It goes right to the top with a long-running mafia family and all of the excitement and luggage that goes along with that sort of story. 91 Days is full of shootouts and violence with a great story to boot.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct. 2012 – Dec. 2012
K is about a world where people with supernatural powers called “Kings” control clans of people beneath them. And these different clans do not always get along. When a Red Clansman is brutally murdered, high schooler Yashiro Isana is blamed for the death. On the run, he tries to prove his innocence. But at the same time, gaps begin to appear in his memories and his friends question if he is even real or not. Is it all part of some greater conspiracy? And how will it affect all of the Kings?
K is a gang anime that is more about fantasy and the supernatural than anything real - and that’s what makes it fun! These aren’t your typical street gangs, mafia, or yakuza this time. Rather, the gangs in K are the clans that are controlled by the Kings. They are even colour coordinated! And these clans don’t get along well, leading to war between the opposing Kings. If fantasy is more your style but you still want to watch a gang anime, K is the perfect fit. It’s extremely popular for a reason.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jan. 2010 – Jun. 2010
Durarara!! is set in the Tokyo neighbourhood Ikebukuro, and while for the most part, it’s an accurate representation of the area, it does have a few...adjustments. For one, there is the supposedly headless motorbike rider that is spotted regularly around Ikebukuro, but no one knows the truth about. There’s also a mysterious group of people called the Dollars that are causing quite a stir between the two established gangs in the area. Mikado Ryuugamine is thrown right into the thick of things when he moves to Ikebukuro, making friends and enemies, and discovering all the strange quirks the city has. And maybe he’s more connected to what’s going on that he originally appears to be...
Durarara!! is an anime mostly about gangs. Sure, there are supernatural elements and side stories about the headless rider and more, but they all go back to the gangs in the end. The Yellow Scarves and Blue Squares are more traditional gangs, with the members connected to certain colours and well known around the neighbourhood. They are always fighting for their turf. What keeps things interesting is when the Dollars show up. They’re a more clandestine gang that no one knows the leader of, unconnected to any colour and mysterious in membership. Durarara!! presents a gang anime is a new way and with so many stories and characters that in the end are all tied in together with the gang war that you’re kept on the edge of your seat.
Are you already at the end of your seat? Are you ready to see some awesome action sequences and stories of strong brother and sisterhood amongst gang members? Are you ready to look beyond the violent exterior and truly see the struggles of these characters and the moral questions they wrestle with? And are you ready to see some sweet fights? If you said yes to any of these questions, pull up a chair and get ready for some great gang anime!
Did we miss your favourite gang anime on our list? Would you have ranked them in a different order? Have you seen any of these before, or are you excited to watch one now? Let us know in the comments below!
The word “gang” has certain societal connotations, especially in Japan, and this is reflected perfectly in the wide variety of gang-related anime available. But it’s a broad term that can refer to many things. Of course, shadowy brotherhoods like the mafia or the yakuza, who engage in illicit activity with a penchant for violence, but there are also less aggressive collectives: biker gangs, school gangs, and other groups that come together because, as individuals, they rest on the fringes of social expectations, and find comfort in comradery. We’ll explore them all, with our list of Top 10 Gang Anime.
10. Cromartie High School/Sakigake!! Kuromati Kōkō
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2003 – March 2004
Cromartie High School follows the everyday life of high schooler Takashi Kamiyama. His struggles are a bit more severe than normal high school woes, because he attends Cromartie, a high school famous for its bizarre student body, populated mostly by gangs of hooligans and delinquents. He doesn’t simply need to navigate the social minefield of high school; he has to do it without getting on the wrong side of gangs and thugs who eat wimps like him for breakfast.
The show itself is a uniquely hilarious lampooning of Japanese yankii culture, which spread its cultural roots in the 70s and 80s, and is still seen in pockets today. Most of the comedy comes from the larger-than-life cast; whether it's Takashi, and his aspirations to become a comedian, potential robot delinquent Shinichi Mechazawa, Freddie, who bears a striking resemblance to a world-famous rock legend, or Gorilla, who is…well…a gorilla. It’s a daffy, interesting exploration of high school life and school gang culture, and requires viewing to be understood.
9. Great Teacher Onizuka
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: June 1999 – September 2000
While not known for having the greatest track record with its previous teachers, Holy Forest Academy attempts to turn its reputation around with the arrival of unorthodox teacher Eikichi Onizuka, a former gang member who managed to get his teaching certificate by the skin of his teeth. Located in the Tokyo suburb Kichijoji, Holy Forest is home to rather mischievous student body, to say the least.
Although Onizuka’s motivations for becoming a teacher initially are quite suspect, he has the right mix of street smarts from his experiences in a gang, and a surprisingly firm moral compass. While his methods are somewhat unorthodox, he has the best interests of his students at heart, and will go to anything length to teach them valuable life lessons, and help them view the world in a different way.
The way he interacts with his students’ lonely mothers, is a different issue altogether.
- Episodes: 16
- Aired: July 2007 – November 2007
The story of Baccano! blends the supernatural and ganster seamlessly, and begins when a group of alchemists summon a demon who teaches them how to make an elixir of immortality, at the expense of the souls of others. When a power-hungry member of their order begins to murder them for his own designs, the surviving members scatter around the globe in fear for their lives.
The plot of Baccano! is a winding one indeed. The story takes place in the U.S. in the 1930s, which saw a huge rise and consolidation of power by gangs in major cities, thanks in large part to prohibition. It centers around the exploits of a low-level thug named Dallas, the Mafioso Gandor brothers, a couple of foolish, down on their luck thieves, a powerful family, and of course, alchemists. The musical score is as much a star as the cast, and it perfectly captures the mix of nostalgia and fear associated with 30s gang culture.
7. KenIchi: The Mightiest Disciple / Shijō Saikyō no Deshi: Kenichi
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 2006 – September 2007
Kenichi Shirahama is a 16-year-old high school student who is subject to a very prevalent problem: high school bullying. After a fateful run-in with the enchanting transfer student, Miu, Kenichi followers her to her grandfather’s dojo, where he begins to learn the basics of martial arts.
The show does a great job of balancing displays of the regimented discipline required to master martial arts studied in the Ryōzanpaku dojo and the daily struggles of the all-too-real problem of high school bullies. After besting a member of the school’s karate club, he becomes the target of a malicious gang of delinquents, Ragnarok, who alternately attack and try to recruit him. The conflict of the school eventually bleeds into the goings-on at the dojo, making for an incredibly dramatic conclusion.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
No list would be complete without the inclusion of 2015’s hit, Gangsta.. It takes place in the gritty, rough and tumble town of Ergastulum, where crime is the bread and butter of all too many of its inhabitants, 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 dark family history, and Nicolas, a deaf mercenary/bodyguard with superhuman abilities from prolonged use of a super drug, and revs up 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.
5. Dogs: Bullets and Carnage
- Episodes: 4 episode OVA
- Aired: May 2009 - July 2009
Dogs takes place in a dystopian, crime-ridden European city where violence, genetic manipulation, and criminal syndicates are the name of the game. It centers around four anti-hero protagonists whose stories intertwine in unexpected and insidious ways, as they seek to resolve issues from their tragic, complicated pasts.
While criminal and gangster activity is front and center in the show, the real star is its ensemble cast, especially its morally ambiguous protagonists. Whether it’s Heine, an albino gunman with an incredibly violent alternate persona caused by genetic experimentation, nicotine-addicted information broker with a penchant for violence, Badou, orphaned, amnesiac swordswoman Naoto, or grizzled assassin Mihai, their complex past is explored in a rich gangster setting, making it a must-watch for any fan of the genre.
4. Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2006 – June 2006
Black Lagoon follows the exploits of the Lagoon company, a fast-gunning, hard-hitting group of pirate-mercenaries that will take on any job, no matter how dangerous, for the right price. The status quo of the gang is shaken up quite a bit when average Japanese salaryman, Rokuro “Rock” Okajima, is taken hostage during one of their missions, and eventually joins up after discovering his company cut all ties with him in an attempt to cover up their involvement in illicit smuggling.
The home base of the Lagoon company is Roanapur harbor, home to vicious chapters of organized criminals from around the world, as well as no goodnicks from all walks of life. Roanapur has just as much personality as the rest of the cast, because its seedy underbelly is filled with clandestine illegal dealings and more violence than you can shake a stick at. Following Rock and the badass members of the Lagoon company as they scour the high seas for the perfect payday, getting in increasingly over their heads, will have viewers on the edge of their seats.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: January 2010 – June 2010
Durarara!! takes place in the Tokyo neighborhood of Ikebukuro, and relies on a stellar cast of characters, changing viewpoints each episode to create a cohesive story that explores the complicated, sometimes daffy intersection of their lives.
After Mikado moves to Tokyo to experience the excitement of city life and attend a prestigious school, he runs into his more streetwise childhood friend, Masaomi, who warns him that the alluring veneer of the city hides a sinister, gang-filled underbelly. The narrative style of this show definitely sets it apart from other entries on their list, and the inner monologue of the episodes’ narrators, who navigate their violent world with their own motivations, will keep you hooked from episode to episode. Fortunately, there is a follow-up series, Durarara!! x2, once you’ve blazed through the first series.
2. Tekkon Kinkreet
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: December 2006
Who says a great gang-related anime has to be a series? Tekkon Kinkreet is set in the Asian metropolis of Takaramachi (literally, Treasure City), a crumbling shadow of its former prosperity. It follows the exploits of two orphans, Shiro and Kuro (White and Black), a duo that calls themselves “The Cats,” as they attempt to navigate the perils of gang-controlled slum life, and keep the city in a modicum of order.
Danger is part and parcel of the daily lives of Kuro and Shiro. When they run afoul of a gang boss with plans to turn the town into an amusement park, events spiral out of control, and Kuro begins to lose his tenuous grip on reality. The film has a lot of creative license thanks to the Kuro’s interesting view of reality, and is incredibly animated. It explores the nature of friendship and violence from multiple perspectives, making it a one of a kind viewing experience unlike any other in the genre.
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: July 1998
Akira is the legendary film that is partly responsible for turning anime into the cultural juggernaut it is today. The events of the film take place in 2019, in Neo Tokyo, a dystopian metropolis rebuilt on the ruins of the former city after a psychic explosion leveled the area and started World War III. The city is under martial law, due to the frequency of anti-government activity and delinquent gang violence.
Shōtarō Kaneda is one such delinquent, a mostly good-hearted high schooler who leads his own bōsōzoku biker gang, the Capsules, who have a fierce rivalry with the Clowns that leaves a swath of damage and destruction throughout the city. When Kaneda’s best friend Tetsuo encounters a psychic who escaped from the clutches of the government, his gang becomes entangled in a conflict that engulfs the city’s warring factions in violence, and threatens to repeat history. The true pinnacle of cinematic anime, Akira is a sci-fi, gangland staple that belongs in the collection of any true fan.
And with that, our list of top 10 gang anime comes to a close. What do you think of the selections? Are there any gangs that weren’t featured on our list, that you’d go through any initiation ritual to be a part of? Let us know in the comments below!