After merging with Funimation and buying out RightStuf, the Sony-owned streaming service Crunchyroll is scarily close to a monopoly over the North American anime market. Questions about business practices aside, this basically makes Crunchyroll the go-to platform if you want to stream anime. With a large library of classics (most of which are available to stream free with ads) and the latest hits simulcast straight from Japan (with a subscription), the sheer variety is unmatched.
Narrowing down the top 25 best anime series currently on the site was a struggle. Series that were considered for this list but got left off include the likes of Spy x Family, Zombie Land Saga, Sarazanmai, Demon Slayer, and Hunter X Hunter. This also doesn’t include the service’s growing movie library, which features such masterpieces as Akira and Your Name. This list is a mix of popular hits, personal favorites, and historically influential series. For those looking for their next anime binge, below are some of your best options.
25. My Hero Academia
Beloved anime My Hero Academia (based on the manga) kicks off with a protagonist who is bullied for not having a superpower (in a world where they are the norm), but who is soon bestowed with a particularly powerful one after, indeed, saving a bully. From there, young “Deku” goes into training at an elite academy where he must balance his schoolwork and friendships with his requirements as a hero.
It’s not too soon to liken My Hero Academia to a quintessential shonen, because the show is heavy on what the genre does best: Izuku is refreshingly emotional (so, of course, he helps his classmates open up enough to alter their lives), and villains are undergoing a renaissance thanks to the fumbles of hero society. It’s a fresh spin on a genre that’s laden with tropes, and—not for nothing—the fights are very good. —Sarra Sedghi and Allison Keene
24. Ouran High School Host Club
Largely a satire of the shoujo genre, Ouran High School Host Club blatantly employs and often twists our expectations of animated romantic comedies. The story follows Haruhi Fujioka, a normal girl attending the illustrious Ouran Academy on a hefty scholarship. A pragmatist who disagrees with shallow lifestyles, she’s mistaken as a boy because of her disheveled hair and slouchy outfits. She ends up indebted to the school’s host club, where they all slowly realize Haruhi is a woman (not that she hid it, per se) and is tasked with masquerading as a man to serve as a host until she pays back what she owes.—Austin Jones
23. Nichijou – My Ordinary Life
When it first premiered in 2011, Nichijou – My Ordinary Life was a massive flop for Kyoto Animation, barely selling any DVDs. For years, it had no legal release in the US due to its initial international licensor Bandai Entertainment folding. Today, fortunately, it’s streaming on Crunchyroll and fondly remembered as one of the best examples of the subgenre of anime high school comedies that, like Seinfeld, can affectionately be considered “shows about nothing.” (See also: Azumanga Daioh, streaming on HIDIVE.)
Based on the manga by Keiichi Arawi, Nichijou mixes “ordinary” slice-of-life sequences with wacky flights of fantasy (recurring characters include an 8-year-old mad scientist, a wind-up robot, and a talking cat). The real key to the show’s comedic genius is KyoAni’s signature outstanding animation; silly gags that could have been throwaways in any other show are afforded more lavish animation than most big Shonen Jump fight scenes end up receiving. —Reuben Baron
22. Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill was Studio Trigger’s first TV anime and a reunion for director Hiroyuki Imaishi and writer Kazuki Nakashima of Gurren Lagann fame. Just as over-the-top as Gurren Lagann and about five times as horny, Kill la Kill swaps giant robots for super-powered school uniforms made from alien life fibers—the most powerful of which have to leave a lot of skin exposed or else they’ll overpower the wearer.
Yes, this is one of those ridiculous fanservice anime where large chunks of the plot are mainly excuses to get everyone as naked as possible as much as possible, but Kill la Kill is as funny and thrilling as it is utterly shameless. The action and plot twists move at a rapid pace, the stylized cartoony animation is great, the distinctive characters you’ll either love or love to hate, and the story’s overall messages are strongly anti-fascist. Critics can argue all day whether Kill la Kill is feminist, sexist, or a stange mix of both, but whatever it is, it’s extremely entertaining. —Reuben Baron
21. Welcome to the NHK
There are plenty of anime about otaku out there, but few delve into the dark side of the otaku subculture as intensely as the 2006 series Welcome to the N.H.K., based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. The series’ main character, Tatsuhiro Sato, is a hikikomori—a shut-in who refuses to leave his apartment. With the help of Misaki, a mysterious girl who claims she can “cure” him, and Kaoru, his high school friend and more functional otaku neighbor, Sato begins to reconnect with the outside world, but he faces a lot of problems along the way.
The series works through themes of mental illness, conspiracy theories, and many Japanese social problems, making it a very dark comedy. For those who feel they relate to Tatsuhiro or the others, it can be extremely uncomfortable. And yet, in spite of (or even because of) that discomfort, the series stays both entertaining and compelling throughout. —Reuben Baron
20. A Place Further Than the Universe
The first anime to make The New York Times’ Best TV Shows of the Year list in 2018, A Place Further Than the Universe is an instantly charming, at times tearjerking adventure anime about four high school girls making plans to travel to Antarctica. Each of the main characters has their own reasons for taking the trip: energetic Mari is seeking out adventure, studious Hinata is looking to stand out from other students, child actress Yuzuki wants to forge real friendships, and shy Shirase is leading the mission to discover what happened to her missing scientist mother.
Made by the brilliant up-and-coming director Atsuko Ishizuka (Goodbye, Don Glees!) and veteran screenwriter Jukki Hanada (Princess Jellyfish), with animation from Madhouse, A Place Further Than the Universe is a one of the best coming of age anime in recent memory. For those interested in getting into anime but not drawn to the popular action series, this would be a great place to start. —Reuben Baron
19. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
If you were at an anime convention in 2007, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was inescapable. Kyoto Animation’s gorgeous adaptation of Nagaru Tanigawa’s hit light novel series simultaneously indulged the era’s popular otaku fantasies and parodied them. Kyon, the show’s sardonic narrator, is dragged into the SOS Brigade, a paranormal club founded by the eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi herself is unaware that she herself is a god, and that Kyon is the only ordinary human in a club secretly filled with aliens, time travelers, and ESPers trying their best to appease this chaotic deity.
Crunchyroll lists both seasons as a single entity with episodes arranged in chronological order, but you might want to watch the show in its non-linear broadcast order for better pacing. You might also want to skip through the “Endless Eight” arc from Season 2, a massive troll that illustrated a time loop by repeating the exact same episode eight times in a row with only minor variations until the conclusion. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie is not currently streaming on Crunchyroll, but is recommended viewing after completing the series. —Reuben Baron
18. Odd Taxi
The simple veneer of Odd Taxi belies a complex inner core; each of the show’s 13 episodes follows the beat of taxi driver Hiroshi Odokawa, an eccentric and terminally single walrus numb to his monotonous daily routine. Unbeknownst to him, a missing girl slowly invades his life as his taxi becomes the epicenter of the case. Part Taxi Cab Confessions and part Durarara!!, Odd Taxi eschews bombast for a slower story about relationships, societal expectations, and modern life. Yes, it’s a scintillating examination of life in the newly minted Reiwa era, but it’s also an exercise in the practiced building of tension, with each episode feeling like it’s about to reach a boiling point before it returns to a calm simmer.
The show precariously oscillates between mundane, often humorous conversations from Odokawa’s passengers and the dangerous conspiracies brewing just outside the safety of his cab. Where the show truly shines is in the former, though—the quippy banter between the cast’s characters reveal a deeply human view of modern life, tackling pervasive but often undersold conversations about online gambling, dating apps, and the urge to make it big in a world full of thousands of microcelebrities. Unlike many of its peers, though, Odd Taxi isn’t just some flash in the pan viral star—it’s one of the best anime of recent years, and unlike anything else out there right now. —Austin Jones
17. Dragon Ball Z
In every practical sense, Akira Toriyama’s status as one of anime’s greatest creators was all but secured with Dragon Ball. Loosely inspired by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the manga and subsequent anime series of Son Goku’s misadventures to collect all seven of the mythical dragon balls inspired whole generations of manga artists and animators in Japan. The original series was a classic, but it was Dragon Ball Z that marked the series’ transition from a national treasure into a worldwide phenomenon. With hyper-kinetic violence, flashy energy attacks, dizzying spectacles of mass destruction, and tense moments of serial escalation, Dragon Ball Z is a singularly important installment in the canon of martial arts action anime and an enduring entry point for newcomers to the medium to this day. —Toussaint Egan
16. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
For some time, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been the anime I turn to when I need some R&R. Not that anything about it, at least at first glance, is particularly chill. It’s an anime full of men built like classical sculptures arguing as loud as they can over psychic battles they’re having, seemingly in molasses-slow time. What feels like hours encapsulates little more than a minute in JJBA’s universe. The anime is so much more than that, though; it’s a journey that spans a century and obliterates the rules of how to tell a traditional adventure story, taking liberal inspiration from Indiana Jones, Versace, classic rock, and any other fleeting interest of mangaka Hirohiko Araki to make an explosive hodgepodge of fast-paced absurdity, a language you’ll pick up on quickly and soon fine cozier than Sailor Moon. There’s a reason JJBA continues to be one of the most influential pieces of media to come out of the anime world. – Austin Jones
15. Michiko and Hatchin
Michiko and Hatchin has all the makings of an instant anime classic: a country-spanning road trip, an irrepressible sense of adventure, a funky samba soundtrack courtesy of Brazilian artist Alexandre Kassin, and two of the strongest leads in anime history. Where the show truly shines is in Sayo Yamamoto’s directorial sense, with each scene lovingly capturing the unforgiving allure of South America. The show leads with Michiko Malandro, a convict, breaking out of prison to find her supposedly dead lover Hiroshi. Her only lead is their daughter, Hana, who lives with an abusive foster family. After plowing through their house on a motorbike, the duo travel the country looking for the only mutual connection they share.
Tackling themes of poverty and exploitation, Michiko and Hatchin is a bawdy tale that centers women every step of the way. With an intense sense of liberation, it’s one of the only anime to capture the spark that made Cowboy Bebop legendary. It deserves nothing but praise. —Austin Jones
14. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
For many, Brotherhood is the essential anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. A more faithful adaptation to Hiromu Arakawa’s mega-popular manga series, Brotherhood contends with loss, grief, war, racism and ethics in mature and unique ways, ahead of its time in nearly every aspect. What’s more, the show is paced perfectly, with neatly wrapped arcs that lead into each other and bolster a greater global narrative on selected themes. Brotherhood is just the right length, never overstaying its welcome and proving how versatile and malleable the conventions of shounen anime can be.
Brotherhood has a sizeable cast of characters all of different nationalities and ideologies, with motivations that often oppose one another—the show manages to use these moving forces to form factions, alliances and foils that flow in multiple directions, paralleling the often messy, always chaotic nature of human relationships during wartime. The show’s emotional core revolves around the plight of the Elric brothers, Ed and Alphonse, two alchemists sponsored by the authoritarian Amestris military. It’s not your classic military drama, though, as Ed and Alphonse quickly learn how far Amestris’ authoritarianism stretches.
Where Brotherhood excels lies in the sensitivity it expresses for every one of the characters’ fighting for their desires and contending with their mistakes, with particular highlights on the plights of minorities and women. Ed and Alphonse struggle with the fallout after attempting forbidden alchemy to revive their recently deceased mother. Later, their childhood friend Winry is portrayed heroically for acting as an emergency midwife. Scar, initially introduced as a brutal serial killer, is one of the last remaining indigenous Ishvalans, an ethnic group purged during a colonial war at the hands of Amestris—his odyssey continues to ring more and more resonant as we stray further into a post-terror world. It’s why the series continues to wow today: it eschews cliche to make cogent points on human consciousness. —Austin Jones
13. Ranking of Kings
Ever see a protagonist who is just so damn genuine that it elevates the whole story? That’s Ranking of Kings. The show follows Bojji, a little prince who is deaf. He excels in defensive tactics rather than offense, as he is bullied by his half-brother and ridiculed by his subjects, and his naivety makes those around him doubtful of his eventual succession. After the death of Bojji’s father, King Bosse, the court decides to install Bojji’s younger half-brother Prince Daida on the throne instead. Bojji then resolves to become a worthy king so he can take his rightful crown, and sets off on a quest to gain experience and grow stronger, but while he’s away from the kingdom, a mysterious force takes control.
Ranking of Kings takes place in a fairly classic fantasy world (it resembles Dragon Quest in both style and vibe), but is rendered in beautiful watercolor. Its gorgeous fights and fluid, freeform take on fantasy channels the whimsical worlds of Jacques Demy, and its heartwarming story gives way to a classic epic adventure. Did we mention that Bojji’s most reliable ally is Kage, a creature who looks like an evil black puddle, but who learns to love Bojji? Ranking of Kings is special not only for its adventure, but because Bojji is the best boy and well worth following on his great journey. More than any of that, though, it’s a truly sensitive depiction of disability, empowering yet challenging in its dedicated portrayal of Bojji. The show features sign language advised by the Tokyo Federation for the Deaf, which is a huge step forward for media—we should be making these essential languages more appealing, and Ranking of Kings does a lot to make signing cool. —Max Covill and Austin Jones
12. Mob Psycho 100
Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama is a psychic of unquestionable talent. Unfortunately, that’s about all he has going on in the skills department. Based on a web manga by One (One-Punch Man), Mob Psycho 100 is a psychedelic blend of coming-of-age tropes and Ghost Adventures , following Mob as he and his fraudulent mentor Reigen solve supernatural problems in Seasoning City. The show’s animation, courtesy of Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, My Hero Academia), maintains film-quality action sequences and trippy, technicolor style throughout, but what really makes it a cut above the rest is its seemingly forgettable star. Mob starts off as an unremarkable boy who just wants to be normal. His dedication to live everyday to the fullest is infectious, and by the end, he’s got a hearty cast of confidants and companions. Mob Psycho 100 might attract you with its wackiness, but its moments of emotional clarity will keep you coming back. —Austin Jones
11. Mobile Suit Gundam
In 2018, it’s easy to forget—considering the countless spinoff series, films, manga, and model kits—that this legendary 1979 mecha anime was… really, really freakin’ good. The animation may look dated. The mechanical designs and character models may not move with the consistency of the later series. And the implications of its world-building, in which a separatist faction of humans abandons Earth for space colonies, hadn’t been perfectly fine-tuned. Nonetheless, Mobile Suit Gundam’s core arguments hold up four decades later: The people we ask to fight for us—often before they can maturely engage with the world—come back broken or don’t come back at all; Nazis and Nazi-lookalikes are bad; and giant robots are compulsively watchable. —Eric Vilas-Boas
10. Gurren Lagann
Up until to the release of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Gainax had always been a studio perilously skirting the line between disaster and success. The runaway success of Neon Genesis Evangelion had buoyed the studio from the brink of disaster, and in the intervening years Gainax found itself again in need of another boon. Hiroyuki Imaishi’s directorial television debut, a “hot-blooded” and “unconventional” super robot anime that functioned as a spiritual successor to the studio’s prior works like Gunbuster and Evangelion. With boundless charisma, meteoric stakes, and exponential heaps of absurd spectacle that laugh in the face of sensibility, Gurren Lagann delivered Gainax another cult classic and became the launchpad for the studio’s own successor, Trigger. On the height of Gurren Lagann’s success, Imaishi and co. pierced through the heavens and showed the world just who the hell they were. —Toussaint Egan
9. Revolutionary Girl Utena
With a psychic incision on adolescence, Kunihiko Ikuhara’s opus Revolutionary Girl Utena is a shining beacon for the shoujo genre. Inspired by the seminal works of Riyoko Ikeda and legendary all-female theater troupe Takarazuka Revue, Utena is a post-structural examination of queer identity and generational trauma filtered through a surrealist lens and romantic, heart-swelling backdrops. The show follows Utena Tenjou, a middle schooler obsessed with becoming a prince so that she might meet the prince who saved her when she was a young girl. She challenges the gender norms of her school (which may as well be a Grecoroman city-state with its own all-powerful student council and intersecting political structures) and charms the female student body with her unwavering dedication to safeguarding other women. After saving the school garden’s caretaker, Anthy, from her abusive boyfriend, Utena becomes embroiled in duels for Anthy’s possession, who is somehow instrumental to revolutionizing the world as we know it.
The show is centered almost entirely around character drama, cleverly using stock footage and repetition to foster a mythic portrait of its central cast’s shifting, intersecting psychological profiles and taboo desires. With its decadent symbolism, Utena has marked itself on anime history as much as its fellow ‘90s pioneering peers Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion. —Austin Jones
8. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
It’s crazy to think that until a few years ago, Masaaki Yuasa was anime’s best kept secret. Long popular among fans of experimental animation, he finally crossed over into mainstream success with his Netflix adaptation of Devilman Crybaby. But where Devilman Crybaby is an indulgent work of hedonism and destruction, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is one of his chillest works to date and a fine entry in Yuasa’s expansive oeuvre.
Yuasa is an expert in making the mundane seem magical, and that’s exactly what makes Eizouken so infinitely relatable. The story’s a simple one—Midori, an incoming high school freshman, dreams of creating her own anime. She soon meets her classmate, Tsubame, a popular young model frustrated with her expectant parents who similarly yearns to work in animation. Together with Midori’s best friend, the hilarious miser Sayaka, they form an animation team masqueraded as a film production club at their school to avoid suspicion from Tsubame’s family (and to siphon the school’s generous budget offering).
Eizouken’s all about the power of collaboration and dreams. It’s an optimistic show nestled perfectly in an otherwise dismal year, earnestly hopeful and just a little naive. We could all use a little wide-eyed idealism in 2020, which makes Eizouken irrefutably the best anime of the year. —Austin Jones
7. Space Dandy
Let’s let Space Dandy’s opening narration set the scene: “Space Dandy: he’s a dandy guy in space. He combs the galaxy like his pompadour on the hunt for aliens. Planet after planet he searches, discovering bizarre new creatures both friendly and not. These are the spectacular adventures of Space Dandy and his brave space crew in space.”
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, Space Dandy takes the episodic sci-fi bounty-hunting set-up of his breakout hit and twists it in sillier, surrealistic, smartly-stupid directions. With each episode set in a different universe, and with some of the world’s best animators using this freedom for maximum artistic experimentation, the show matches and at times even exceeds the hilarity and unpredictability that made Rick and Morty’s journeys across the multiverse such a hit. Somehow all this chaos coheres into one horny space himbo’s journey to Enlightenment. —Reuben Baron
6. Fruits Basket (2019)
Both the 2001 and 2019 anime adaptations of Natsuki Takaya’s classic Fruits Basket shojo manga are available for streaming on Crunchyroll. The first anime was cut short early in the manga’s run (Takaya didn’t like the changes made and didn’t allow a second season despite fan demand), so it’s the more faithful, more recent adaptation you’ll want to watch to get the full story.
Fruits Basket’s fantasy rom-com story follows Tohru Honda, an orphan high school girl living with the Sohma family, who are cursed to transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by members of the opposite sex. It’s a silly setup, but one which affords each of its quirky characters significant depth and goes to some impressively heavy emotional places. Fruits Basket will make you laugh and cry, and maybe even inspire you to be a better person. —Reuben Baron
5. Yuri!!! on Ice
Sayo Yamamoto and Mitsurou Kubo’s figure skating anime Yuri!!! on Ice is beloved by all, including actual Olympians like Miu Suzaki and Adam Rippon. Yamamoto, a disciple of Shinichiro Watanabe, was a breakout director of the last decade or so, leading the equally impressive Michiko & Hatchin in 2008 and Lupin III’s achingly beautiful sexploitation spin-off The Woman Called Fujiko Mine in 2012. Yuri!!! on Ice is what made Yamamoto a star, a much needed voice in an industry not typically friendly towards female directors. Yuri On Ice’s story of hopeful athletes might seem simple, but serves as a perfect setting for Yamamoto’s continued fascination with the complex, creative potential of human bodies. —Austin Jones
FLCL was intended to feel unlike anything else you’ve ever watched, anime or otherwise. It’s got an incredible Japanese alt-rock soundtrack from the band The Pillows. Its editing is frenetic. Its characters interact in extremes of manic, moody, or forlorn. Its plot—in which robots pop out of a young boy’s swollen, injured head, heralding the return of a powerful extraterrestrial being—kinda doesn’t matter. None of that stuff matters, according to series director Kazuya Tsurumaki. “Difficulty in comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL,” he once wrote in a comment thread for Production IG. “I believe the ‘rock guitar’ vibe playing throughout the show is a shortcut on the road to understanding it.” Rock on, brother. —Eric Vilas-Boas
3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
If you’ve never heard the term “deconstruction” applied to anime, this is where to begin. This series takes the light-hearted “magical girl” archetype and completely juxtaposes it with a reality so grim it feels dystopian. The superpowers that usually empower characters becomes an unrelenting source of anxiety and peril in this anime, and lead to an inevitable end. Emotionally investing in these brave young women will be a masochistic practice you can’t stop once you learn the truth about what it means to be a magical girl. There’s only one season (on Netflix) that makes for a quick, convenient watch. —Jarrod Johnson II
2. Paranoia Agent
The great Satoshi Kon’s only television series—excepting his 1993 OVA adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure—was released six years before his death, of pancreatic cancer, at age 46. While it may not be as widely lauded as his final feature film, the experimental masterpiece Paprika, released two years later, or even his first feature film as director, 1997’s Perfect Blue, it’s every bit the sublime exercise in psychological thriller as either. In this tight, 13-episode shonen/seinen, Kon’s knack for cerebral, postmodern storytelling is in full effect. The story of visual designer Tsukiko Sagi, who invents a pink dog character called Maromi that takes Japan by storm, entwines mysteriously with that of Shonen Batto (Li’l Slugger in the English dub), a mysterious elementary schooler on inline skates who attacks her with a bent golden baseball bat. Two police detectives take the case, while Batto’s singular attack soon becomes a streak and the distinction between the real and the surreal becomes harder and harder to discern for everyone involved. —John Maher
1. Cowboy Bebop
Every debate over whether or not Cowboy Bebop—Shinichir? Watanabe’s science-fiction masterpiece—is the pinnacle of anime is a semantic one. It is, full stop. Its particular blend of space-based cyberpunk intrigue, Western atmosphere, martial arts action, and noir cool in seinen form is unmatched and widely appealing. Its existential and traumatic themes are universally relatable. Its ragtag group of bounty hunting characters are complex and flawed, yet still ooze cool. The future it presents is ethnically diverse and eerily prescient. Its English dub, boasting some of America’s greatest full-time voiceover talents, somehow equals the subtitled Japanese-language original. Its 26-episode run was near-perfect, and episodes that might have been filler in another series are tight, taut, and serve the show’s thesis even as they do not distract from its overarching plot, which is compelling but not overbearing. It’s accessible to new hands and still rewards old-timers with every repeated watch. Yoko Kanno’s magnificent, jazz-heavy soundtrack and score stand on their own. Its opening credits are immaculate. It’s an original property, not an adaptation. It feels like a magnum opus produced at the pinnacle of a long career despite being, almost unbelievably, Watanabe’s first series as a director. It is a masterwork that should justly rank among the best works of television of all time, let alone anime. We eagerly await a rival. We’re not holding our breath. —John Maher
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