The action genre is defined as “the literary genre that includes spy novels, adventure stories, tales of terror and intrigue (“cloak and dagger”), and mysteries. This kind of story utilizes suspense, the tension that is built up when the reader wishes to know how the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist is going to be resolved or what the solution to the puzzle of a thriller is.”
Of course, this definition expands to all other art forms and doesn’t just stick to literature it gives you a sense of what to expect, even when anime is concerned.
In this article, we are going to give you a list of the best action anime series you need to watch. We shall include works from all periods in history, meaning that you’ll find some true classics on this list, as well as some great modern works.
Best Action Anime
The list is going to be ranked from 35th to 1st place. Each series is going to be identified with a short informative paragraph and you’ll find out about the show.
35. Seven Deadly Sins
Original Run: October 5, 2014 – June 23, 2021
Number of Episodes: 120 + 3 OVA
Liones, Kingdom of Britannia. The Grand Master of the Sacred Knights Zaratras was murdered, and the culprits would be an order of legendary knights numbering seven in the service of the king who wanted to overthrow the throne.
Ten years later, a young girl named Elizabeth Liones goes in search of those mysterious knights who once were the pride of Liones: the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of seven great criminals chosen by the king himself, to foil a schemed plot by the sacred knights against royalty. It was then that she ran aground at the Boar Hat, a tavern owned by a little boy with his pig Hawk.
But what was her surprise when she discovered that the child at the head of the tavern was none other than the Sin of the Dragon of Wrath, leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas. This is when their adventures begin in search of the other six Deadly Sins, in order to save Liones.
34. Fairy Tail
Original Run: October 12, 2009 – September 29, 2019
Number of Episodes: 328
The story focuses mainly on the missions carried out by one of the teams of the Fairy Tail guild, composed of Natsu Dragnir (fire dragon hunter), Lucy Heartfilia (constellationist), and Happy (an Exceed, blue cat that can be done appear with wings, fly and speak), who will soon be joined by Erza Scarlett (knight mage) and Gray Fullbuster (Ice mage and later Ice demon hunter), two other members of the famous guild.
They are joined on the adventure by Carla (an Exceed white cat, like Happy), Wendy (Heavenly Dragon Slayer), and many more.
33. Soul Eater
Original Run: April 7, 2008 – March 30, 2009
Number of Episodes: 51
To fight the evil Kishin, which can “plunge the world into the abyss of madness”, Shinigami-sama creates The Academy is a place where Weapons and Overlords are trained together.
The former are the very weapons that will stop the death of the world; the second are those who will hold the weapon. The Scythe of Death will be obtained when the weapon eats 99 evil souls ready to become Kishin, and 1 witch soul, and therefore all overlords are actively competing in creating the Death Scythe.
The story takes place during the main events of the manga and anime, Maka and Soul at that time had not yet become known in the Academy and beyond.
Original Run: October 4, 2012 – December 20, 2012
Number of Episodes: 12
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 like the game without any idea of how he got there. Players are to eliminate 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.
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.
30. Vinland Saga
Original Run: July 7, 2019 – present
Number of Episodes: 24
Combining historical figures and events with many fictional elements, Vinland Saga is the story of the life of a young Icelandic man, Thorfinn Thorsson. This son of an illustrious repentant warrior will see his life turned upside down when his father is assassinated by pirates led by the cunning Askeladd. Driven by revenge, Thorfinn will follow and then integrate this gang, with the displayed desire to eliminate his father’s assassin in a loyal duel. Thorfinn’s vengeful quest is the common thread of the story’s prologue.
It will lead him, in particular, to participate in the invasion of England by the Danes at the beginning of the eleventh century. This part of the story brilliantly treats various subjects such as war, politics, religion, and paints a convincing and human portrait of the daily life of the populations’ victims of the war but also and especially of the warriors, far away from the clichés usually conveyed by the Vikings.
Original Run: October 9, 2014 – March 26, 2015
Number of Episodes: 24
One night, tennis ball-sized spheres containing snake-like creatures fell in numbers unknown all over the world. They are programmed to take the place of human brains. One of these attacks a young man, Shinichi, during his sleep, trying to enter through his ear but cannot reach him.
Awakened with a shock as the creature tries to enter through his nose, he tries to defend himself but ends up having his right hand injured. The high school student then takes his headphones and wraps them around his arm, preventing the parasite from climbing further.
Unable to leave his arm, the latter finally merges with his right hand. Meanwhile, other creatures, having managed to take possession of their hosts, begin to feed, while the creature and Shinichi are forced to cohabitate.
28. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Original Run: October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996
Number of Episodes: 26
In 2000, an explosion occurred in Antarctica. This cataclysm, officially caused by the fall of an asteroid, causes the waters to rise several tens of meters and devastates a large part of the planet, causing many casualties as well as a new world war.
Fifteen years later, mankind has overcome this dramatic event referred to as the “Second Impact” but mysterious giant creatures, the Angels, appear and attempt to destroy Tokyo-3, the new capital fortress of Japan.
To combat them, the secret organization NERV has developed the “Evangelion” (or “EVA”), humanoid giants of mechanical appearance. Shinji Ikari, a 14-year-old boy, goes to Tokyo-3 at the invitation of his father, director of NERV, whom he has not seen for ten years. Little did he know that he was called to pilot an EVA and take part in the fight against the “Third Angel”.
27. Hellsing: Ultimate
Original Run: October 10, 2001 – January 16, 2002
Number of Episodes: 13 (+10 OVA episodes)
The Royal Knights of Protestant Order are a noble house of London led by Abraham Van Helsing. For generations, he has been fighting against creatures that most ordinary people are unaware of like vampires, ghouls, and any non-human entity that is generally referred to as a “monster”.
The Order operates in great secrecy and has long been a paramilitary organization in the service of her Majesty. Leading the organization is Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, a direct descendant of the first Lord Hellsing. Still a teenager, she is forced to take control of the Order.
Her father Arthur falls sick, orders his daughter, should she feel threatened, to go down to the basement of the mansion, where there is something able to protect her.
26. DEVILMAN crybaby
Original Run: January 5, 2018
Number of Episodes: 10
Akira Fudo is informed by his best friend, Ryo Asuka, that the ancient race of Demons, has returned to Earth to take them back. Believing that the only way to defeat the Demons is to prove their existence to humans, Ryo suggests that Akira accompany him to see the Demons taking advantage of humans.
Merging himself with Amon, the Lord of Demons, Akira transforms into the Devilman, a human with the powers of a Demon while retaining his own heart.
25. Rurouni Kenshin
Original Run: January 10, 1996 – September 8, 1998
Number of Episodes: 95
The story takes place in 1878 in Tokyo. Kenshin Himura, a former assassin nicknamed Battosaï, literally “master in the drawing of the sword”, during the time of the Tokugawa reign, hides a very heavy past. Become a wanderer since the establishment of the Meiji era, he travels the country equipped with his sword with an inverted blade.
24. Kill la Kill
Original Run: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Number of Episodes: 24 + OVA
We meet a 17-year-old girl, Ryuko Matoi, who arrives in a Japanese city. She walks around with a strange briefcase on her back that contains half of a pair of scissors. Arriving through the slums, it is the target of a few pickpockets. After correcting them, she learns about the city, which is apparently under the yoke of a dictatorship.
It is within the Honnōji Academy that we find the president of the student council, and leader of the totalitarian movement, Satsuki Kiryūin. Matoi decides to enroll in the academy and challenge the president to tell him more about her father’s death and to find the holder of the second half of the pair of scissors, called when the halves are joined together, the snipitisnips.
23. Darker than Black
Original Release: April 6, 2007 – September 29, 2007
Number of Episodes: 25
Ten years ago, a mysterious area known as Hell’s Gate appeared in Tokyo, destroying the landscape and altering the sky. The celestial bodies disappeared, replaced by false stars. Shortly after, we discover the existence of human beings endowed with supernatural powers called “pactisants”.
Today, a vast wall has been built to prevent anyone from approaching Hell’s Gate. Each false star corresponds to a contracting party, vibrates when it uses its power, and disappears if it dies. Pactisants are therefore generally designated using an identifier from an astronomical catalog. Many nations use pactisants as secret agents or assassins.
22. Terror in Resonance
Original Release: July 10, 2014 – September 25, 2014
Number of Episodes: 11
In an alternate world, Tokyo is hit by a terrorist attack that leaves the entire city in shock. The only element of investigation is a video that the culprits posted on the Internet. The incident is caused by a duo calling themselves “Sphinx”, two teenagers called Nine and Twelve. They have survived an unknown incident, and decide to “wake up the world” with attacks.
21. Deadman Wonderland
Original Run: April 17, 2011 – July 3, 2011
Number of Episodes: 12 (+ OVA)
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 wearing purple armor floats outside the classroom windows. Smiling like a madman, the Man in Red attacks Ganta’s entire class and, rather than killing him, embeds a shard of red crystal in him.
A few days after the incident, Ganta is declared the sole suspect and, after a speedy trial, is sentenced to prison in Deadman Wonderland, a prison lined with an amusement park.
20. BLACK LAGOON
Original Run: April 9, 2006 – December 19, 2006
Number of Episodes: 24
Rokuro Okajima, a young Japanese employee of a large company, is tasked with traveling the seas of Southeast Asia to deliver a disc containing secret and vital data on the company for which he works.
Unfortunately, his boat is attacked by a band of freelance pirates wanting to recover his property and he himself will be taken by pirates on their boat, the Black Lagoon, an old torpedo boat. Thinking that his company will do everything to help him, he is not overly worried.
What he does not know is that his superiors hired mercenaries to silence him and destroy all evidence of the record’s existence. At the end of this incredible first episode, he decides to give up his life in Japan to join the adventure of these modern-day pirates.
Original Run: October 12, 2012 – December 12, 2019
Number of Episodes: 41
In 2112, in Japan, Sibyl, a computer system, transformed society into a “perfect world”, thanks to the ubiquitous cameras, drones, and scanners, Sibyl is able to analyze and quantify the intentions of a person (named “Psycho-Pass”) and determines who is likely to commit a crime.
When a citizen exceeds the norm, the inspectors of the Bureau of Public Security accompanied by their executors (person having an abnormally high “Psycho-Pass”), pursue and apprehend these people to make them undergo therapy.
This is the world that embarks Akane Tsunemori, a new inspector who has just joined Division 1 of the Public Security Bureau. She wishes to uphold justice truly and loyally, however she learns that Sibyl’s judgments are not as perfect as her colleagues think.
18. Samurai Champloo
Original Run: May 20, 2004 – March 19, 2005
Number of Episodes: 26
Fuu, a 15-year-old girl, worked in a tea house until it was destroyed after a three-way fight between Mugen the vagabond, Jin the wandering samurai, and the bodyguards of the Daikan’s son from that town.
At the end of the fight, Mugen and Jin are arrested. Fuu helps them escape in exchange for helping her find the “samurai who smells like sunflowers.” Despite agreeing to the deal, Mugen and Jin are always trying to end each other, in an almost professional rivalry. Both samurai have a blurred past.
Thus, the story tells of their travels between paths and dark passages, and how they fix the trouble they get into. Samurai Champloo employs a mix of historical settings from the Edo Period, with modern styles and references.
It incorporates various elements of modernity, especially hip-hop cultures, such as rap, graffiti, Adidas and Converse logos, baseball, and references to the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
17. Tokyo Ghoul
Original Run: July 4, 2014 – December 25, 2018
Number of Episodes: 48 (+2 OVA episodes)
The story of Tokyo Ghoul revolves around the student Ken Kaneki, who falls in love with a young woman named Rize Kamishiro. After meeting her, she bites him in a secluded alley and reveals that she is a ghoul, which shocks Ken.
As Rizeis about to consume Ken, several large metal poles fall on her from the construction site of a building. Roze perishes in the process, while Ken is rushed to the hospital. After recovering, he is released from the hospital. On the day of his release, he finds out that he is no longer human. He looks in the mirror and shivers run down his spine because he now has one “red-eye”.
He realizes that Rize’s organs were given to him in the hospital. Since he now owns Rize’s organs, he is a so-called and very rarely occurring “half-ghoul”.
16. Akame ga Kill!
Original Release: July 7, 2014 – December 15, 2014
Number of Episodes: 24
Tatsumi is a fighter who leaves for the capital in search of a way to earn money to help his poor village. After being robbed by a woman and losing all of her money, Tatsumi is taken in by an aristocrat named Aria.
The following night, Aria’s mansion is attacked by a group of assassins known as the Night Raid. As Tatsumi attempts to defend Aria from assassin Akame, another member of the group ends the fight.
15. Gurren Lagann
Original Run: April 1, 2007 – September 30, 2007
Number of Episodes: 27
Tengen toppa Gurren-Lagann takes place in the distant future where humanity has been forced to live underground, creating isolated underground civilizations. These cities have no contact with the surface or with other underground villages. Earthquakes are frequent and cause damage to villages. Individuals, called “excavators”, are designated to dig further underground in order to enlarge the territories.
14. Mob Psycho 100
Original Release: July 12, 2016 – present
Number of Episodes: 25
The story follows Kageyama Shigeo, a fourth-grader with psychic powers. He can bend and lift any object with his mind. However, he slowly refused to exercise his abilities in public as his too much power can inflict negative consequences on “normal” humans. Today, the one and only thing he wants is to date a girl from his college: Tsubomi. With his mentor, who possesses no power, he continues to live peacefully trying to achieve his goal.
Original Run: October 7, 1997 – March 31, 1998 / 1 July 2016 – 23 June 2017
Number of Episodes: 25 / 24
Berserk tells the story of the meeting of Guts and Griffith, leader of the Falcon Troop, a band of mercenaries in the pay of the kingdom of Midland. From this meeting will be born an ambiguous friendship, but nevertheless efficient: the presence of Guts, a warrior with the disproportionate sword, will quickly prove essential to the ambition of the young Griffith, swashbuckler and outstanding tactician.
The anime is thus the account of the rise and fall of the Falcon Troop, and of the relation between Guts and Griffith, particularly complex, between relation of interest (Griffith uses the force of Guts), mutual respect ( both see each other as soldiers), and deep affection (each inexplicably needs the other’s presence).
12. ΛFΓO SΛMUΓΛI
Original Release: January 4, 2007 – February 1, 2007
Number of Episodes: 5
In a futuristic Japan with the feudal system still in force, it is said that the one who wields the armband called Number 1 will be the proudest fighter in the world and will have in his hands a power equal to that of the gods. The only way to get this armband is to challenge the current owner to a fight.
11. Hunter × Hunter
Original Release: October 16, 1999 – March 31, 2001 / October 2, 2011 – September 24, 2014
Number of Episodes: 62 / 148
Gon Freecss is twelve years old and dreams of becoming a hunter. Hunters are elite citizens authorized to do almost anything they wish on simple presentation of their membership card: they can thus acquire free of charge any object for sale on the funds of the association; requisition all vehicles, accommodation, and tools for their work; and are de facto entitled to exercise all trades in the world, being able to become bounty hunters, chefs, archaeologists, zoologists, vigilantes or consultants in various fields as well.
His father, Ging Freecss, whom he does not know directly, is considered one of the greatest hunters of his time. It is also to find him that Gon wants to become a hunter.
10. Attack on Titan
Original Run: April 7, 2013 – ongoing
Number of Episodes: 70 (+8 OVA episodes and several movies)
The plot of Attack on Titan revolves around the young Eren Jäger, his adoptive sister Mikasa Ackermann and his best friend Armin Arlert, who live together with the rest of humanity in cities that are protected by huge walls from the attacks of the so-called Titans, gigantic humanoid beings.
The walls that promised peace have existed for 107 years. But one day the Titans break through the outermost Wall Maria and the people are pushed back further. Eren’s mother dies and he and many other people flee behind the second wall, Wall Rose. Eren swears when his mother dies that he will wipe out the Titans.
9. Jujutsu Kaisen
Original Run: October 3, 2020 – ongoing
Number of Episodes: 24
The plot of Jujutsu Kaisen takes place in a world where plagues are created from the negative emotions of Humans. Thus, to protect places with a high concentration of these emotions such as schools or hospitals, these infrastructures have a relic, receptacle of a plague, because we can only fight against plagues with a more powerful plague.
These are invisible to human eyes except for a handful of people, for example, exorcists. The exorcist’s job is to eliminate the plagues and thus protect the people from them, but this is not without risks, because these plagues can be more or less powerful.
8. Demon Slayer
Original Release: April 6, 2019 – present
Number of Episodes: 34
In Taishō era Japan, Tanjirō is the eldest son of a family of coal merchants whose father has passed away. To meet her needs, he left to sell charcoal in town. Despite the difficulties of life, they manage to find little happiness in their daily life.
One day, due to rumors circulating about a demon hanging around after dark, he is unable to return home and ends up spending the night with a Good Samaritan in the city. Only, everything changes on his return when he finds his family was attacked by a demon.
Nezuko, one of her younger sisters, is the only survivor but she has been transformed into a demon. She initially attacks Tanjirō, but she continues to show signs of human emotions and thoughts, which is when a demon slayer named Giyū Tomioka steps in.
While trying to eliminate Nezuko, Giyū realizes the bond between brother and sister Kamado, and decides to leave them by sheathing his sword. On Giyū’s advice, Tanjirō goes to his master Sakonji Urokodaki to train to become a demon slayer, in order to begin his journey to find an antidote that can make his little sister human again.
7. My Hero Academia
Original Run: April 3, 2016 – present
Number of Episodes: 110 + 5 OVAs
My Hero Academia is a shōnen manga written and drawn by Kōhei Horikoshi. It has been published since July 2014 in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump by publisher Shūeisha, and has thirty-one volumes to date. An anime adaptation by studio Bones has been airing since April 2016 on MBS in Japan and globally.
In a world where 80% of the world’s population has superpowers, here called “Quirks”, we follow the adventures of Izuku Midoriya, “Deku”, one of the rare humans who does not have a Quirk. Despite this, Izuku dreams of joining the super-heroic current of the great superhero academy and one day becoming one of the greatest heroes of his time.
One day, Izuku had the chance to meet his lifelong idol, All Might, the number 1 superhero. This one will bequeath to Izuku his Quirk, the One For All.
6. One-Punch Man
Original Release: October 5, 2015 – July 2, 2019
Number of Episodes: 24 + 12 OVA
Saitama is an unemployed, troubled young man with no deep purpose in his life. One day, he meets a crab man who is looking for a young boy “with a chin slit like an ass” in his words. Saitama ends up meeting this young boy and decides to save him from the crab man, whom he manages to beat with difficulty.
From then on, Saitama decides to become a superhero and trains for three years very seriously: 100 push-ups, 100 squats, 100 sit-ups, and 10 km of running every day and there are no heating or air conditioning conditions. At the end of his training, “so intense that he loses his hair”, he notices that he has become so strong that he now manages to beat all his opponents with one punch.
His disproportionate strength is a source of problems for him, since he cannot find opponents of his size and is bored in his job as a hero because the fights no longer give him any sensation or adrenaline.
5. Cowboy Bebop
Original Run: April 3, 1998 – June 26, 1998
Number of Episodes: 26
In 2071, the crew of the Bebop spacecraft travels the solar system in search of bounties. In the slang of the time, these bounty hunters were called “cowboys”. Most episodes revolve around a bounty; however, the center of the story is each character’s past and more general old events, which connect as the series progresses.
The first story is that of Spike Spiegel, a former member of a criminal organization, the Red Dragons, who is haunted by a love triangle he experienced with his former Red Dragons teammate, Vicious, and a mysterious woman named Julia.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Original Run: April 5, 2009 – July 4, 2010
Number of Episodes: 64
In the land of Amestris, a land where alchemy is elevated to the rank of universal science, two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, roam the country in search of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. Their father left them and their mother, Trisha Elric, died a few years later of an illness, leaving her two young children behind.
Sometime later, the two brothers try to bring her back through alchemy, defying the law which formally prohibits human transmutation. They will pay a heavy price for it.
Edward decides to enlist in the military at the age of 12 as a State Alchemist, passes the exam with flying colors, and gets his alchemist name: Fullmetal. Helped by Edward’s status as a state alchemist, the two brothers will seek, at the risk of their lives, the stone that will give them back what they have lost, but the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone is well kept.
Original Run: October 5, 2004 – March 27, 2012
Number of Episodes: 366
Ichigo Kurosaki is a young man gifted with the ability to see spirits. His life undergoes a drastic change when a Shinigami named Rukia Kuchiki crosses his path in search of a Hollow. During the battle with the spirit, Rukia is seriously injured and is forced to transfer part of her powers to Ichigo, who accepts the Shinigami’s proposal in an attempt to protect her family.
However, during the transfer process, something goes wrong and Ichigo absorbs all of Rukia’s powers, becoming a full-fledged shinigami. Having lost her powers, Rukia gets stuck in the world of the living until she regains her strength. Meanwhile, Ichigo replaces Rukia in her duties as Shinigami, battling the Hollows and leading the souls to the realm of the afterlife, known as the Soul Society.
Original Run: October 3, 2002 – March 23, 2017
Number of Episodes: 720
The story begins during Naruto’s adolescence, around his twelfth birthday. A dunce orphan and a great prankster, he does everything possible to get noticed. His dream: to become the best Hokage in order to be recognized by the inhabitants of his village. Indeed, the nine-tailed fox sealed in him has stirred up the fear and contempt of the other villagers, who, over time, no longer differentiate between Kyûbi and Naruto.
Despite this, Naruto trains hard in order to become a genin, the first level among ninjas. After failing the genin exam 3 times, he finally manages to receive his Konoha forehead band.
1. Dragon Ball
Original Run: February 26, 1986 – March 15, 2018
Number of Episodes: 806
Son Goku is a simple-minded and pure young boy with a monkey tail and extraordinary strength. He lives alone, after the death of his adoptive grandfather, on a mountain and in the middle of nature, in a landscape having the characteristics of a wild forest. One day, he meets Bulma, a young city girl, very intelligent but immature and impulsive. She is on the hunt for the legendary Seven Crystal Balls called Dragon Balls.
The two of them team up and this Goku’s extraordinary adventure begins.