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Top 20 best action anime of all time [Top list to watch]
At some point, we’ve all grown up with it, watching it, emulating it, and wishing we could visit such unique characters and places that only anime can create.
The most viewed type of anime is still Action Anime, which we’re going to explore in detail here.
For those who are new to this genre, Anime and Animation are two entirely different worlds.
Top action anime has a certain illustration style that can’t be missed. Neat crisp edges complement a sense of length that defies normal expectations.
Music and pacing are specialized as well. No two stories in good action anime feel exactly the same.
Creators of this beautiful genre of visual storytelling have taken a non-linear approach to craft plotlines and character arcs. Anime may have originated in Japan, but its influence has since spread throughout the world.
The Best Action Anime – Top 20 Worth Watching Action Anime
Gosh, this is going to be a roller coaster ride of nostalgia for some of us. There are so many outstanding anime selections, some of which we may have seen more than a few times.
Action anime has created its own niche in the genre. Flashy action sequences and catchy soundtracks are just half of it. Wait till you check out Entoin’s top-20 best action anime picks. Note: numbering does not signify the importance or ‘best of’.
A global disaster has taken place 20 years into the future from the time of this show’s airing, namely 1995.
The ‘Second Impact’, as it comes to be called, has generated a fallout the likes of which has forced the United Nations to team up with Nerv, a specialized military organization, to counter the threat to life and livelihood.
Genocidal aliens called Angels meet a worthy adversary in Eva units or Evangelions, which only children capable of synchronizing with can even operate.
Psychoanalytical action-driven plotlines flood this gorgeous anime that took the mecha sub-genre and made it introspective.
Questions like ‘If you are trained to serve as a tool of war, what will you do once the war concludes?’ and religio-spiritual ideals of a God and his cruelty toward humankind are some of the ‘serious’ messages explored in this anime.
You can also expect some fun robot battles on a par with “Transformers” and “Gundam”.
2. One Punch Man
Containing a good dose of ‘punchlines’, this comedic action anime certainly lives up to its repute.
The protagonist is a guy named Saitama who, to put it simply, has ambitions to become an actual superhero all so he can fight an epic villain, much like he recalls from stories about such things.
A self-appointed training regimen takes a strange turn. Not only does Saitama lose all his hair, but he also becomes inhumanly strong.
His dreams are never quite realized because when you can take a person out with a single punch, there will definitely be no long drawn out villain battles. So much for those three years of training.
His journey now becomes one of seeking the ‘thrill of the fight’. This leads him to accept a 19-year-old cyborg as his disciple. Together they form the Hero Association to help the world recognize their efforts.
3. Blood of Zeus
A recent title in the list of anime greatness, this beautifully illustrated and perfectly executed Netflix show deserves all praise for its wit, pace, and action.
Outstanding voice talent, as with all the anime recommendations here, have set this show a class apart. The tale follows the story of Heron, the bastard son of Zeus, as he experiences emotional tragedy and loss on his path to becoming his better self.
His half-brother Seraphim experiences his own transformation, particularly his dark choice to adopt demon-hood via the consumption of the flesh and blood of a Giant. Many a Greek-myth connection pervades the series, with clever modifications here and there.
They did not skip on the gore either, making this action-driven series a must-see. Season 1 recently concluded, with quite the jaw-dropping cliff-hanger.
“Naruto” and “Naruto: Shippuden” have both set ground-breaking standards in anime.
This series follows the misadventures of a knuckle-headed ninja and his buddies. The titular character Naruto is established as someone without any real talent until he personally discovers the Nine-Tailed Fox.
This demon was called Kyuubi when it first started attacking the Hidden Leaf Village. To end its rampage, the village leader, aka the Fourth Hokage, sealed it away inside a newborn Naruto.
From a bright personality to his willingness to make a difference in the world using his newfound powers, Naruto aims to defend his pals from evil while also aiming to become the leader of the Fire Village of ninjas.
This show is popular for several reasons and has still not lost its allure among fans and sundry. Plenty of adrenaline-rush moments in this action anime.
5. Soul Eater
Paranormal themes and outstanding musical scoring complement the unforgettable action sequences in this somewhat under-rated anime. Maka Albarn is the main character in this show, but he is far from the only memorable one.
To be fair, his scythe weapon is just as much a character in its own right. Death Scythes are begotten when the human wielder in question hunts down ninety-nine bad people and one witch, in a specific order. They should also succeed in properly extracting each soul.
In a fictional location in Nevada, we have two schools. Death Academy deals with weapons while Death City trains weapon wielders.
This brilliantly written anime progresses with characters learning how to sync up with their weapons, and using them to dish out some serious damage. They all answer to a Death God, further adding to the supernatural attraction woven into this anime series.
6. Cowboy Bebop
The sheer versatility of the anime genre can best be seen in a show like “Cowboy Bebop”, which blends bebop jazz, western movie themes, and sci-fi elements into a gorgeously executed series that has stood the test of time among fans.
The show takes viewers through the main character’s (Shinichiro Watanabe’s) emotional journey. It’s the year 2071, and Earth has proven un-survivable for human beings.
Other non-gaseous planets in the Solar System are the targets of various explorations. Our characters are part of the ragtag ensemble comprising the Bebop spaceship that undertakes varied missions.
Despite having a sombre storyline, with the plot covering the protagonist’s past and present life-moments, the anime also implements sufficient action to make it worthwhile.
Philosophical themes like ennui and existentialism are part of the core focus in this anime, but that takes nothing away from its fun and funny moments. The fight sequences are sometimes amusing and at other times, powerfully choreographed.
“Bankai!” Most fans will actually hear this word in their heads, one uttered by the protagonist (Ichigo Kurosaki) of this excellent action anime series.
This is one of the longest-running anime series and follows high schooler Ichigo who is capable of seeing spirits, including the dangerous kind called ‘Hollows’. The character of Soul Reaper Rukia plays a crucial part in his journey.
There are beautiful family-driven moments in this show and not a small amount of comic relief. Plenty of action balances it out and gives viewers enough reason to understand how this show still enjoys a vast fanbase.
It covers a good deal about life in the afterlife, which adds to its storytelling value. The songs in this anime are just as brilliant as its wide array of distinct characters.
8. Hellsing Ultimate
“Hellsing” and “Hellsing Ultimate” are two chapters in the book of action anime that simply must be seen to be appreciated. Drawing heavily upon the former, as well as the manga that inspired it, “Ultimate” has become a standard in action anime.
Anyone familiar with vampiric lore will find the name interesting.
Van Helsing is the original literary character this anime is based on, only this action-oriented show takes things up several notches.
It is not just a story of survival but also one that covers a range of macabre moments, including though not restricted to inhumane acts of the depraved kind. Plenty of gore in this series, as you might imagine.
9. Code Geass
“Code Geass” and “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion” are both outstanding additions to the action anime roster. This ‘alternate reality’ series tracks the progress of one Lelouch in his fatalistic ambition to wield powers that make others implicitly obey him.
Mecha-battles and psycho-supernatural thrills suffuse this exquisitely paced action anime. Themes of drama, espionage, colonization, mecha-warfare, and moral dilemmas are all present in good measure in this multi-award-winning anime.
Lelouch’s travails against the Holy Britannian Empire make for interesting viewing. There are quite a few symbolic parallels to our current society, which makes this show eerily on point in several regards.
‘Geass’, the mind control ability, fuels Lelouch’s motivation. This is a story not just of power-madness but the human reasons why we seek power in the first place.
10. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
This anime takes action and familial bonding to a whole new level. Fans will have discovered plenty of dark moments in this well-written series, as well as a generous helping of warm emotions.
In “Brotherhood”, Edward and Alphonse find themselves on a path to bring their mother back from the afterlife. Sadly, they make an error by not considering the Law of Equivalent Exchange.
The storyline also boasts some interesting transmutation moments involving the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. From occultism and alchemy to mysticism and the paranormal, you’ll find plenty to appreciate in this outstanding action anime.
“Brotherhood” released in 2009/2010, and is an alternate version of the original “Fullmetal” show that came out in 2003/2004. The former completes the story of the two brothers, in keeping with the manga that inspired the series.
11. Dragon Ball Z
This action anime barely needs an introduction. From a distinct 80s vibe to some of the most cherished plot twists in the realm of anime, “Dragon Ball Z” does an excellent job of balancing comedy and action.
It’s ‘Super Saiyan’ character arc is second to none. Its protagonist is often considered the Superman of anime.
Harking back to Chinese literature and a certain Monkey King, the character of Son Gokuu is exquisitely crafted without relying too much on the above-mentioned source.
The last of the Saiyans and an alien, Gokuu does everything in his power (and oh what power!) to defend his new home-planet, namely Earth, from a variety of threats.
This memorable character-driven action anime has inspired fans of the genre to no end. The story centers around Band of the Hawk mercenary leader Griffiths and lone-wolf mercenary Guts.
The plotline is distinctly battle-oriented, making this show truly live up to the action anime genre. The rivalry between Griffiths and Guts is also something worth watching.
The entire anime takes place in a medieval setting, with Guts trying to forge his own path in a world as gritty as it is power-hungry.
The series delves beautifully into the darker side of human nature and its manifold tragedies. 90s era gore complements amazing sword fights in this series known for having some of the most compelling characters in the anime field.
13. Attack on Titan
Yet another anime that focuses on humankind surviving an extinction event, this show introduces a fresh element by way of its antagonists. Giant creatures are the norm in this post-apocalyptic anime universe.
Their ‘Kaiju’ abilities and zombie-like mentalities do not sit well with the humans who have survived and are trying to pick up the pieces while staying safe inside a multi-walled Germanic civilization, purportedly the last of its kind.
The story revolves around the experiences of Eren Jaeger and his friends who experience the tragic invasion, and consequent destruction, of their home by some of these titans.
The show has been hailed as a masterclass of action anime, more so thanks to Hiroyuki Sawano’s score. Outstanding sparring matches, nail-biting cliff-hangers, and battles galore suffuse this anime classic.
14. One Piece
In a world made of five great seas, this adventure-driven action anime takes us back to the golden age of pirates. The pirate king, Gol D. Rogers, left behind a legacy by way of a ‘verbal treasure map’.
The characters in this anime series try to track said treasure down by relying on nothing but Rogers’s last words, that all his treasure was hidden in “that place”, and in one piece.
From characters like Monkey D. Luffy and the rest of the sea-worthy gang comprising the Strawhat Pirates, you have an anime that is equal parts fun and action-oriented.
Various factions (the marines, world government leaders, the nobility, the revolutionary army) vie for supremacy. Luffy’s don’t-care attitude is charming, but his sub-textual message is even more profound.
His desire to find Rogers’s treasure and become the new pirate king is to ensure that he finds the most freedom in the world.
There are numerous branches in the Pokémon franchise, proving this anime’s global popularity. The show may have a large sprinkling of funny moments but its action-driven approach and defined characters steal the plot in more ways than one.
Most of these characters are non-human, namely creatures called Pokémon that are wielded and used in competitive battles.
The protagonist Ash Ketchum takes viewers through an alternate world that is filled with these creatures. How close a person understands and bonds with them is often the crux of various plot-twists.
Relationships like that between Ash and Kukui bring in a much-needed emotional element to this fantastically balanced action anime series.
16. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Fantasy, action, and adventure all merge into this outstanding anime that reaffirms the possibility of storytelling through this singular genre.
The show has a simple foundation but a complex arc. It uses the four basic elements of earth, water, fire, and air, and combines them with its characters’ abilities to use telekinetic variants of “Bending”, which has roots in Chinese martial arts.
This anime world is made of four nations, and only the ‘Avatar’ can bring balance between them. This supreme character can bend all four elements.
They also perform the role of being a ‘bridge’ between the physical and spirit worlds. The protagonist Aang carries the viewers on a journey of self-discovery that is action-filled, fantasy-based, and well-motivated.
17. Hunter X Hunter
The ‘hunters’ in this show are actually specialists who have shown excellence in almost every scientific field of knowledge. The villains and allies that the protagonist Gon Freecss encounters set the tone for this brilliant action anime.
There’s something for everyone in this show, anything from card games and gang warfare to mutant genocide and tournaments. This is why some fans think Studio Madhouse makes the best action anime.
Different kinds of hunters roam this anime world, making it as dangerous as it is diverse. There’s even a Hunter Exam, one that Gon and his like-minded buddies take before traveling this risk-ridden world in search of their dreams.
This monster dueling action anime packs plenty of surprises and thrills, especially for card game enthusiasts. It’s a show about a game, and it only gets better the more you watch.
The plot centers around a boy called Yugi Mutou and his aim to solve the ancient Millennium Puzzle. As a consequence, Yugi inadvertently ends up inviting a mysterious spirit with a gambler personality into his body.
He then goes about using his newfound powers to resolve various real-life problems on the wings of a card game called Yu-Gi-Oh.
He challenges bad people to Shadow Games, with the loser having their ‘true self’ exposed. A lot of darkness is at play in this anime series. The story arc progresses into various sub-plots, including the reveal of the spirit inside Yugi as an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh.
When this peculiar anime’s protagonist Kei Kurono met with a train accident, little did viewers realize that they were in for a bizarre and plot-twist-ridden series that was sure to take them by surprise.
The show revolves around a rather dark afterlife, plunging the main character Kei into a seemingly never-ending battle involving armor, weaponry, and alien invaders.
As if a certain ‘dark orb in the room’ wasn’t creepy enough in an afterlife setting, the orb informs Kei that if he loses the fight against the dark spiritual beings he will not be reincarnated.
Facing a final death, Kei Kurono does his best to survive. This show is as gruesome as it is disturbing, and is not for the faint-hearted.
Netflix has added another chapter to the book of action anime with “Castlevania”, a show that takes the character of Dracula to interesting and rather dark depths.
Inspired by the video game series after the same name, this anime centers around Trevor Belmont, who is the last surviving member of the Belmont clan. The show portrays most of its characters in a distinct emotional light.
Eastern Europe comes under the threat of the legendary and feared Vlad Dracula Tepes and his vampire legion who want nothing better than to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth.
Belmont and his allies try to find ways to stop this beast, but along the way, they discover that there is more to Dracula than meets the eye. There is gore and action in good measure in this gorgeous and well-written anime series.
Are There Live-Action Adaptations for These Anime?
Before we list them for you, bear in mind that it is nearly impossible to do justice to anime, especially for those titles that have made or are making inroads into live-action.
We say this with good intentions. In a world where some books cannot possibly be remade into movies/shows that do the original source material justice, we are concerned about what creators are going to do with various anime live-actions.
Anyone who has seen anime will agree that it has a certain flair and charm that cannot easily cross the threshold from that genre onto something ‘realistic’.
Only time will tell whether live-action anime adaptions like “The Last Airbender” (2010 // Netflix is eyeing a remake) | “Detective Pikachu” (2019) | “Attack on Titan” (2015) | “Dragonball Evolution” (2009) | “Bleach” (2018) | “Fullmetal Alchemist” (2017) | and “Gantz” (2011) will create their own fan base and an alternate future for the action anime genre.