Depending on which generation you belong to, you might have a very different idea of how long an anime series should be. Those that are a bit older might know more great anime shows that have several hundred episodes in total (think Dragon Ball, Bleach, Naruto, Digimon, Detective Conan, etc.), while younger audiences might know anime as a phenomenon with, at best, a 26-episode season.
The paradigm has changed, but we cannot say that modern anime are, really, short, at least not all of them. In this article, we are going to talk about the best 12-episode anime series you absolutely need to watch. A 12-episode format is becoming increasingly popular in Japanese animation and that is why we have decided to pick the best ones out there for you to enjoy.
Release: January 8, 2016 – March 25, 2016
We are in 2006. Satoru Fujinuma is a mangaka who cannot get his career off the ground. To make ends meet, he works as a pizza delivery boy. Reserved, Satoru does not open up to the world around him.
Yet he has the ability to go back a few minutes before an accident occurs. One day, following a sudden event, Satoru is taken back to 18 years ago when he was still in elementary school, giving him the opportunity to stop a criminal who had kidnapped and murdered three of his classmates.
2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Release: January 7, 2011 – April 21, 2011
In the fictional city of Mitakihara, Japan, high school student Madoka Kaname and her friend, Sayaka Miki, stumble upon a strange magical creature called the Kyūbey. This offers them the possibility of making a contract with him, by which they would see their greatest wish fulfilled, whatever it was, in exchange for obtaining supernatural powers that they will use to transform into puellas magi (magical girls) and fight against the diabolical beings known as witches.
Emerged from curses and invisible to human eyes, these witches are highly dangerous and responsible for many of the disasters, suicides, and crimes of modern society. Meanwhile, a mysterious exchange student and fellow puella magi named Homura Akemi tries at all costs to prevent Madoka from adhering to the contract with Kyūbey, attempting to assassinate him on several occasions.
Madoka and Sayaka later meet Mami Tomoe, a high school classmate from the same school who is also a puella magi, and who offers to accompany her on her witch hunt so that they can understand the responsibilities of the task in all its magnitude and decide accordingly.
As Madoka considers whether or not to accept the contract, an overwhelming series of events unfolds around her, joined by one more mage, veteran rebel Kyoko Sakura. Confusion, fear, the painful double edge of one’s own desires, and even despair and death pave the way for a puella magi, all revolving around the concept of “entropy” and the laws that govern the Universe.
3. Death Parade
Release: January 9, 2015 – March 27, 2015
In the Bar Quindecim in the realm of the dead, the recently deceased arrive who are not yet aware of their death. Here they are faced with a test that will determine whether they will be reborn or their souls will fall into eternal nothingness. They are being pushed into a game at the bar – darts, billiards, card games, or whatever – that will determine their fate.
But in fact, as a referee, the bartender Decim observes the behavior of the deceased, who reveal their hidden sides in the course of a game, and makes his judgment based on this behavior. One day, Decim is assigned a young woman as an assistant who was human but has lost all her memories. She gets to know Decim’s work and how he judges people, as well as his colleagues.
Nona is the boss of the referees and is increasingly dissatisfied with the rules by which they work: All referees are not allowed to have feelings and are only puppets. However, her and all superiors Oculus do not want to allow any changes. Ginti is another bartender and referee, and Clavis is the ever-friendly lift attendant who guides the referees to the underworld’s many floors.
Quin in the information office collects the information about the life of the deceased and passes it on to the referees. Decim’s aide becomes increasingly frustrated with his method of judgment, in which he ignores people’s feelings and pushes them to extremes in the game. At the same time, Nona secretly wants to help Decim feel real because she believes it will help the judges make better judgments.
Finally, the young woman at Decim regains her memory: She, Chiyuki, was an aspiring figure skater who, due to an accident, was never able to go on the ice again and committed suicide shortly afterward. Decim gives her the choice of living again and sacrificing another life in front of a mirage of her mother. Chiyuki tearfully refuses, otherwise, another would die and leave loved ones behind.
Their grief and desperation also pulls Decim, who develops human feelings for the first time. From now on he wants to get really close to the people who are sent to him.
4. Yuri!!! on ICE
Original Release: October 6, 2016 – December 21, 2016
After coming in last place during his first participation in the Grand Prix, the young Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki continues to lose and begins to doubt his career. Months later, Yuri returns to his hometown of Hasetsu in Kyūshū, which he had left five years earlier, and there perfectly reproduces a choreography by the famous Russian skater Victor Nikiforov.
When a video of his performance filmed without his knowledge goes viral and catches Victor’s attention, the latter decides to become Yuri’s coach and train him with one of his prodigy students, Yuri Plisetsky.
5. Deadman Wonderland
Original Run: April 17, 2011 – July 3, 2011
A powerful earthquake ravaged mainland Japan and largely destroyed Tokyo, submerging three-quarters of the city in the ocean. Ten years later, the story centers on Ganta Igarashi, a seemingly ordinary student who attends Nagano Prefecture College.
Although a survivor of the earthquake, Ganta has no memory of the tragedy and has lived an ordinary life. All of this changes when a strange man covered in blood and wearing purple armor floats outside the classroom windows. Smiling like a madman, the Man in Red slaughters Ganta’s entire class and, rather than killing him, embeds a shard of red crystal in his chest.
A few days after the massacre, Ganta is declared the sole suspect and, after a speedy trial, is sentenced to life in prison in Deadman Wonderland, a prison lined with an amusement park.
6. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Original Run: January 11, 2016 – March 28, 2016
A boy named Haruhiro awakens along with twelve other people in a world called Grimgar. None of them have any memories of their past other than their own name, and in order to survive they decide to join as soldiers of the Alterna border town’s Volunteer Army. Haruhiro is part of the group composed of Yume, Shihoru, Ranta, Moguzo and led by their leader Manato, who slowly begin to progress in order to survive in this new world.
But just when everything is going its best, Manato is shot to death during a mission, and before expiring he asks Haruhiro to be the new leader of the group. Still upset by the loss of his friend, Haruhiro decides to inherit his will and keep his companions alive.
7. No Game No Life
Original Run: April 9, 2014 – June 25, 2014
Number of Episodes: 12
Sora and Shiro are inseparable brother and sister, both in reality and in video games (they are not actually brother and sister but see each other as such). As a team, their individual skills make them invincible: Sora has a shrewd intuition, great culture, very high intelligence, and unwavering insight, while Shiro possesses an intelligence beyond genius.
In the real world, they are reclusive, antisocial, and hikikomori. In the video game world, they play together as 『 』 (white), a mysterious group of online gamers unaware of defeat, finishing first in every game they participate in. Because character account names are always empty space, they are known as “White”.
Original Run: January 10, 2012 – March 27, 2012
In 1972, a popular and charismatic student named Misaki Yomiyama from Class 3-3 of North Yomiyama School suddenly died in the middle of the school year. Devastated by the loss, his classmates and teacher acted as if Misaki was still alive and even reserved a spot for him at the graduation ceremony.
What was even more suspicious was that Misaki appeared in the graduation photograph. In the spring of 1998, ninth-year student Kōichi Sakakibara moves from Tokyo to Yomiyama, the hometown of his late mother, because his father has gone to work on research in India. His transfer was to North Yomiyama School, to class 3-3.
9. Highschool of the Dead
Original Run: July 5, 2010 – September 20, 2010
On an ordinary morning, everything happened as normally as on any other day. From the roof, Komuro Takashi, the main character, observes a strange happening at the school gates: a suspicious man is causing trouble. One of the teachers, when trying to expel him, ends up being bitten by the suspicious man and amidst the cries of despair from the other teachers he gets up, but now he is a zombie.
He then starts eating the other teachers who were with him. Seeing this, Takashi runs back inside the high school and teams up along with his friend Miyamoto Rei and her boyfriend Igou Hisashi with whom he is best friends. Now the high school is already infested with teachers and other high school zombies. The three then decide to go up to the roof, but on the way, they meet a professor who has been turned into a zombie.
This teacher ends up biting Hisashi, who is left with an injured arm. After eliminating the zombie, they manage to get to the roof of the school, in addition to finding several zombies and normal students being attacked by them on their way. On the roof, Hisashi begins to feel the first effects of the bite caused by the zombie.
10. Daily Lives of High School Boys
Original Run: January 9, 2012 – March 26, 2012
A trio of teenagers, Tadakuni, Hidenori, and Yoshitake, and their second A class live a very mundane everyday life. They attend the Sanada Nord high school, an establishment reserved exclusively for boys. Tadakuni, the main character, lives in a charming house with his younger sister and parents.
He wishes to have a companion like his two best friends, but his life is far from quiet because they often involve him in more than embarrassing situations and crazy plans, between his friends who constantly squat at his house, fittings of her sister’s female clothes, and their jealous classmates who can’t stand to see one of their own going out, or even talking with a girl.
11. GOBLIN SLAYER!
Original run: October 7, 2018 – present
In a fantasy world where the fate of each is governed by the dice rolls of the fate of the deities, adventurers in search of wealth and glory come from all over the world to join the Adventurers Guild.
An inexperienced young priestess who has joined the Guild joins a group of novice adventurers, but her first quest turns into a nightmare when the rest of her team is slaughtered by Goblins: she owes her salvation only to a mysterious man in armor, the “Goblin Slayer”, an adventurer whose one and only objective is the eradication of these creatures.
Original Run: January 12, 2020 – March 29, 2020
Number of Episodes: 12 + 6 OVA
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world divided into two hermetic dimensions: Hole, the city-dump of the Humans, and the world of the mages. Magi can travel the human world through magical doors. The story revolves around Caiman, a character who has lost his memory. Transmuted by a mage, he possesses a reptile head and impressive strength. He is accompanied by a young woman, Nikaido, with whom he tracks down the mages to find his original identity.
Release Date: July 1, 2015 – September 27, 2015
The chaotic and violent city called Ergastulum, born to contain the mercenary troops during the war is used as a great prison for the Twilight, who cannot cross its borders, under penalty of killing.
In this city, the law is not that of the police or the state, but that of the street: in fact, the city lives in the balance between the great Mafia families and the guilds of mercenaries.
The power within Ergastulum is divided between the 3 great mafia families, the Monroe, the Corsicans, and the Christians (these, weakened by the premature death of the boss, are affiliated with the Monroe family and are responsible for the production of the celebrated drug) and the PaulKlee’s Guild of Mercenaries, made up entirely of Twilight, some of which stand out among the strongest in Ergastulum.
14. Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou
Release Date: July 7, 2015 – September 22, 2015
For years, the Japanese government has kept a secret: mythical creatures like centaurs, harpies, and lamias are real. Three years before the story began, the government revealed the existence of these creatures and granted them a legal pass license, the “Interspecies Cultural Exchange Act.”
Since then, these creatures, known as “liminals” or “extra-species”, have become a part of human society, living with normal families as foreign exchange students and au pair visitors, but with other rights and certain restrictions. (The main restriction is that liminals and humans are prohibited from hurting each other).
Kurusu Kimihito did not initially volunteer for the exchange program, but when he watches in amazement as Mrs. Smith accidentally delivers the scared and embarrassed Miia to her doorstep, he doesn’t have the heart to deny her a roof and they start living together. Over the course of the story, Kimihito gathers and shelters other female liminals, each of a different species.
15. Devil May Cry: The Animated Series
Original Release: June 14, 2007 – September 6, 2007
Two thousand years ago there was a bloody war between the world of humans and demons, a war that humans would have lost had it not been for Knight Sparda, one of the most powerful demons who took pity on the human race, taking his side and defeating the demons by locking the demon prince who had caused the war deep within a sealed crypt.
After this, Sparda went to live with the humans and married a woman named Eva with whom he had two half-human, half-demon children. In the third installment of the game, they face each other for their power. One stays in the demon world and the other returns to earth. This son, who returned to earth, calls himself Dante, has the mission of preventing the demon prince from rising again to dominate the world after 2000 years.
16. School Days
Release: July 3, 2007 – September 27, 2007
School Days centers on the life of Makoto Itō, a first-year high school student living with his divorced mother in the fictional town of Haramihama. He is attracted to Kotonoha Katsura, a classmate from another class who shares the same train with him to go to high school.
After a change of class plan, he becomes acquainted with Sekai Saionji, an optimistic girl who will help him form a relationship with Kotonoha by giving them reasons to meet.
17. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Original Release: April 8, 2016 – June 30, 2016
During the industrial revolution, a mysterious pandemic struck the world and soon spread to the far reaches of the East, even in the sovereign island of Hinomoto. People themselves infected or bitten by other infected humans are transformed into Kabane, formidable blood-hungry undead whose extermination is extremely difficult.
Indeed, the heart of the Kabane is covered with a special steel film which renders most conventional weapons (bladed weapons and steam rifles) bushi ineffective.
Original Run: October 4, 2012 – December 20, 2012
The series follows the story of Ryouta Sakamoto whose only real achievement was being Japan’s top player in a popular video game name Btoom! He soon gets drawn into a reality that looks likes the game without any idea of how he got there. Players are to kill seven other players and redeem their green crystals in order to return home. Ryota has to team up with a fellow player, Himiko, as they try to escape and also find out the real truth behind the reality they found themselves.
19. 91 Days
Original Release: July 9, 2016 – October 1, 2016
During the Prohibition era in the USA, the illegal alcohol business flourished, and with it the mafia. Angelo Lagusa grows up sheltered in a Mafiosi family, but one day his parents and brother are murdered by another Mafia family. Angelo escapes and hides with the help of his friend Corteo. Years later, when Angelo has grown up, a letter awakens his desire for revenge and he decides to kill all four of his parents’ murderers.
He returns to the city and stays with Corteo. He distills schnapps himself and offers Angelo, now under the name Avilio Bruno, entry into the alcohol business. In this way, Avilio gains the trust of the Vanetti family, who are under pressure from the competing Orco family. Avilio is tasked with the murder of Fango, one of the most dangerous of the Orco. But he uses this to kill Vanno Clemente and foist it on the Orco.
The death of Nero Vanetti’s best friend – son of the Vanetti Don and his heir – fuels the family’s hatred for the Orco and they plot revenge. The conflict between the two families escalates and Nero drives to the country to get to safety. Avilio accompanies him and together they survive an assassin’s attacks.
During the journey, Nero tells him that his first assignment was to assassinate the Lagusa family. But back then he couldn’t bring himself to kill anyone. Avilio also learns that there were four of the perpetrators, but not who the fourth was. By the time they return to town, Fango has also made himself unpopular with his own family, the Orco.
Now they want to get rid of Fango together with the Vanetti. But Nero can no longer be sure of the support of his entire family, who could sacrifice his life for peace with the Orco. At the same time, he has Corteo burn a schnapps, which sells successfully in the city and thus turns the Orco against him. The conflict escalates, forcing Nero, Avilio, Corteo, and some subordinates to flee to Fango.
They join forces with him against the Orco family and Nero’s opponents among the Lagusa. Together they can kill Don Orco and Fango takes over the family. Soon after, Nero was able to assert himself with the Vanetti and killed his two brothers in the process. This makes him the last perpetrator of the murders of his family known to Avilio.
20. Tsuki ga Kirei
Original Release: April 6, 2017 – June 29, 2017
The somewhat shy and reserved Kotarō Azumi comes in the third year of middle school for the first time with the sporty Akane Mizuno in a class. During the preparations for the sports festival, they get to know each other a little better and exchange their line contact details. Soon they are texting each other regularly on their cell phones and getting closer.
Both spend their free time very differently: Kotarō is active in a traditional festival association, works in a bookstore, and is often in the school library. He writes stories himself and wants to be a writer. His role model is Osamu Dazai, whom he often quotes. Akane, on the other hand, is a runner in the athletics club and is also successful at it. She represents the school in competitions. After a while, they finally admit their love for each other.