For a long time, action series served as a gateway into the world of anime, luring in new viewers with their promise of intense conflict and massive showdowns. Most of your friends have probably seen some of these shows at some point in their lives, including One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, and Naruto’s descendant Boruto, as well as some newer entries like Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, and the heart-pounding My Hero Academia. Also, there are some classics that are still making an impact on new generations, like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto’s heir Boruto.
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Even if all you’re looking for in your Japanese cartoons is an exciting fight, there’s place for something for everyone in the “action anime” genre. We’ve put together a selection of other outstanding action anime that you can watch right now to assist newbies or those looking for new adrenaline adventures.
1. Akudama Drive (2020)
The series follows an ordinary young woman who, after a chance encounter with a group of hardened criminals known as Akudama (literally Japanese for “bad guys”), is fitted with an explosive collar and tasked with performing a seemingly impossible heist at the behest of a mysterious benefactor in the guise of a robotic cat. When things go out of hand, the result is a thrilling, visually jarring, and unabashedly bloody action flick that adheres rigidly to the Golden Rule. Akudama Drive is the concert for you if you want to throw caution to the wind and behave like subtext is for cowards. To view, go to Hulu or Funimation
2. Berserk (1997)
Berserk is a rare jewel for those who are prepared to go the additional mile to track down the original 1997 anime, despite its cult status and accessibility issues. If you don’t know where to look, YouTube is your best bet.) In an alternate universe Hundred Years’ War, a young mercenary known only as Guts, who carries a comically large sword, joins the Band of the Hawk led by the enigmatically charismatic Griffith. From a skillfully presented war story to a scary dark fantasy consumed by demonic powers, what appears at first to be an action story about the hardships of war is transformed. Netflix has a three-film CGI version of the series arc, but the 1997Berserkiis worth the bother, if only for the wonderful, emotional opening and closing themes..
3. Casshern Sins (2008)
This is a good time to bring up the most melancholy of all the options in this list, since we’ve slowed down to discuss action titles that are more thoughtful. Similarly to Gatchaman Crowds, another famous Tatsunoko reimagining, Casshern Sin leads us to a sort of Bad End where the few remaining creatures all want him dead, leading to both physical spats and the confrontation with his own memories in a post-apocalyptic world. With his distinctive close-ups, series director Shigeyasu Yamauchi creates a moody, intimate ambiance that is perfect for this labor of love of a project. This is a standalone experience, even if it’s a part of a larger series. If any of that sounds interesting to you, don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Funimation is the best place to watch anime.
4. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006–2008)
Even after more than a decade, Code Geass remains one of the best television shows ever made, thanks to its fast-paced action sequences and political intrigue. Lelouch Lamperouge, a former prince of the Britannian Empire who was banished after the murder of his mother, is the protagonist of the series, which takes place in a colonial Japan (now known as Area 11). A mysterious power grants Lelouch the ability to command anybody he looks at to obey his will, and he sets out on a one-man mission to free Japan and bring down the Empire by manipulating everyone around him like political pieces. More supernatural story lines (such slaying God) gain precedence in the series’ later episodes, but Lelouch’s emotional ties to boyhood pal Suzaku, the son of Japan’s last Prime Minister, remain a unifying thread throughout. It’s not just the mech battles that are spectacular, but Lelouch himself and his ethically questionable moral theory that are the main draw. If you want to see it: Netflix, Hulu, Funimation
5. Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Instead than waiting for Netflix’s live-action version, you may view the original film of Cowboy Bebop.
Bebop, the critically praised film from Shinichiro Watanabe, is a mashup of genres set in the year 2071, including sci-fi, western, and noir. When you put together a team of space drifters that includes a cool bounty hunter (Spike), a pragmatic companion (Jet), a beautiful femme fatale (Faye), and a computer wunderkind (Ed), you have a masterpiece. Aside from its various aesthetics, well formed characters, and thematic impact, the action of Cowboy Bebop is what keeps viewers engaged. A variety of combat styles, from fascinating confrontations to tense standoffs to awe-inspiring spaceship encounters, are featured in this anime. Cowboy Bebop is a series that will stay with you for a long time because of its famous moments. Adult Swim, Netflix, and Hulu are all options for viewing.
6. Deca-Dence (2020)
As the story of Natsume, a young girl who dreams of becoming one of the fortress’s defenders, and Kaburagi, her taciturn mentor figure, unfolds, it becomes clear that Kaburagi’s background and nature conceal an incomprehensible mystery regarding the nature of their world and Natsume’s very existence. Mortal Engines, Mortal Engines, Mortal Engines, Mortal Engines, and Mortal Engines are just a few of the many genres that make up Mortal Engines, which is an admirably performed, albeit boiler-plate mash-up of Attack on Titan by way of Mortal Engines. In Deca-Dence, you’ll find spectacular action, gorgeous animation, and a dizzyingly ambitious premise. To view, go to Hulu or Funimation
7. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019– )
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is an anime phenomenon based on Koyoharu Gotge’s Shonen Jump manga series. As a young charcoal merchant turned demon-slayer, Tanjiro Kamado, sets out to avenge his family’s brutal death and find a cure for his younger sister Nezuko, who survived the attack but was transformed into a feral half-demon with an allergy to sunlight. Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Funimation are just a few options for streaming anime and cartoons.
8. Dororo (2019)
Ishikawa’s Lord Daigo Kagemitsu makes a deal with 12 demons to spare his region from an impending disease during Japan’s Warring States period and pave the way for his region’s future prosperity and dominance. Instead, the demons use his newborn kid as a living witness to Kagemitsu’s misdeeds, stripping him of his skin and limbs until he is reduced to little more than a collection of exposed muscles and bones. His father had tried to get rid of him because of his embarrassment, but he grew up to become an itinerant swordsman called Hyakkimaru with a prosthetic body and sheathed weapons for arms and an extrasensory capacity to “see” demons. Dororo is based on Ozamu Tezuka’s original manga and anime from the late ’60s, which depicts the story of Hyakkimaru’s quest to battle demons, reclaim his humanity, and learn to open up to other people in a period of enormous cruelty. Amazon Prime is the best place to watch.
9. Fate/Zero (2011–2012)
In Fate/Zero, you’ll see a Holy Grail War between magicians and their summoned legendary heroes, with some real adults in the room, which is a fight to the death between mages and their legendary heroes. Fate/Zero, a video game classified as “not for children,” does not hold back when it comes to depicting violence and evil characters’ devious ways of getting what they want. Additionally, there is some kind of weird bug magic that will have you creeping out of your skin. Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Funimation are just a few options for streaming anime and cartoons.
10. FLCL (2000–2001)
Twenty years ago, the first episode of FLCL, a rowdy and anarchic six-episode series that rewrote the animation rules with its vortex of modern pop culture, drawing in and smashing apart everything in its orbit, was aired. Tsurumaki’s goal was to defy the established rules of anime through an eclectic visual style that was both visually and narratively diverse, as well as an unconventional soundtrack that swapped out classical motifs for thrashing guitar and heavy percussion from contemporary Japanese rock band The Pillows. As with many of FLCL’s concepts, it takes well-worn cliches and turns them into something ludicrous. Not just action, not just comedy, not just a mecha anime, or just one thing. It’s a mixture of all three. Adolescence’s necessary revolt, the first step toward independence, is embodied in this song. Hulu and Adult Swim are two good options.
11. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009–2012)
For good reason, this is yet another modern colossus. By the time the first manga adaptation was released, it had already attracted large numbers of new admirers who were interested in the medium. Brotherhood, on the other hand, has a much easier recommendation to make: A brief synopsis of Ed and Al, two alchemist brothers who discovered the world’s fundamental equality through trial and error, is all that’s required at this point. The fact that this is one the anime’s most impressive long-running series, with 64 episodes of high-octane, polished action that none of its peers can really match, is a given. Netflix, Crunchyroll, Hulu, and HBO Max are all good options for watching this.
12. Gurren Lagann (2007)
It’s set in a world where humans are confined to underground colonies since the surface is the territory of the fearsome Spiral King and his robot-piloted squad of monsters, a truth that society isn’t even completely aware of. As a result of director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s never-ending dynamism and escalation, Gurren Lagann manages, in spite of its own message about humanity’s infinite possibilities, to reach the ends of the cosmos. Gurren Lagann is a modern masterpiece in the mecha anime genre, even if it freely displays its various mecha anime influences. Although the program’s vibrant color palette and wacky conflicts make it a strong case for the idea that fluidity isn’t the only thing that makes animation exciting, it does help that the show is an outstanding illustration of how fluidity isn’t all that makes animation exciting. This isn’t all: the same production crew is back again for another anti-oppression tale with a considerably more ambitious scope, KILL la KILL. However, it’s far less fulfilling than Gurren Lagann’s more plain but still well designed anti-oppression story. Watch on Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll, to name a few options
13. Hunter x Hunter (2011–2014)
Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter may be the king of narratively and thematically fascinating action anime. Even though the 1999 version has more directorial pizazz, the 2011 version is simpler to recommend because of its more cohesive vision and satisfying conclusion. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hunter x Hunter begins with the young Gon Freecss, who is following in the footsteps of his father, who has gone missing, and attempting to pass the practical exam to become a Hunter, a designation reserved for the world’s most daring explorers. In what looks to be a simple story at first, the story expands in scope and ambition to confront genre tropes like heroes’ disregard for their own well-being, while still remaining a deeply moving and amusing tale within itself. That Togashi isn’t simply a creative genius but also an excellent storyteller is demonstrated by the numerous narrative strands that he weaves together from the huge cast. If you’re patient, Hunter x Hunter has the potential to become one of your favorite shows after its true potential emerges. Crunchyroll, Hulu and Netflix all have it.
14. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012– )
Returning to a fan favorite from the 1980s, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has managed to reinvent itself time and time again with unmatched originality. At this point in time, the Joestars’ history spans numerous generations, families, and even time periods. Vampire hunting to small town defense, this animated adaption has already seen them go on many strange adventures, and there will be many more to come. There’s something appealing about each season’s beginning, its follow-up with perhaps the most captivating protagonist, its intriguing round-trip with an even more memorable adversary, and the most imaginative directing to date. There are only two constants in the series: Hirohiko Araki’s iconic stances and the fact that fighting in JoJo’s becomes a game of strategizing to keep one step ahead of your opponent. Even if this sounds like a complex series, a few episodes should be enough to see why it has remained so popular for so long. Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix are all good options.
15. Jujutsu Kaisen (2020– )
If you’ve heard this one before, please stop me. Itadori Yuuri, an athletically-gifted high schooler who has the ability to communicate with spirits, is taken away from his normal life to become a Jujutsu Sorcerer under the careful tutelage of an eccentric masked mentor (Satoru Goj) after he inadvertently becomes the vessel of an enormously powerful and evil entity (Ryoumen Sukuna). No, Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t Naruto, Bleach, or Yu Yu Hakusho; it’s a fantastic action anime that’s excellent for any fan of well-animated action anime. Jujutsu Kaisen zigs where other shonen anime would zag with its thrilling mix of supernatural horror action, dazzling battle scenes, quirky characters, and endearing slice-of-life humor. Streaming options include Crunchroll and HBO GO.
16. Mob Psycho 100 (2016– )
The sarcastic attitude and insanely huge action of One-Punch Man have captivated a large audience, but the heart of Mob Psycho gives it the upper hand. When Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama’s emotions get the best of him, his psychic powers are unleashed to the fullest extent possible. As a whole, Shigeo’s story is intriguing, but Reigen Arataka, Shigeo’s mentor and one of the most genuine anime parents, may be the real star of this series. Not to mention, Mob Psycho 100 is an incredible action film, one that is also pretty imaginative. Paint-on-glass animation and other unconventional techniques are used to express the sentiments Mob elicits in a way that is truly unique. Mob Psycho is a one-of-a-kind series that you should not miss in any way. Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HBO Max are the best places to watch it
17. One Punch Man (2015– )
A lot of superhero programs these days are being hailed as deconstructions of the genre, but they tend to be gritty and dark, forgoing squeaky-clean super archetype in favor of the dirty underside of heroics. Once again, One Punch Man pokes fun at superheroes by asking: “What would it be like to be so powerful that you could destroy all of your opponents with only one punch?” Saitama is a normal guy who decides to become a superhero by undergoing a rigorous training regimen. To his detriment, his opponents have no chance against him, so he loses interest in the game (and goes bald). When it comes to today’s heroes, they’re a nuisance rather than a threat, and younger heroes looking for mentors are just a nuisance. It’s a wacky, zany story with plenty of action—even Saitama has to take things seriously from time to time. There are a number of streaming services to choose from, including Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll.