In Japan, the term “anime” signifies – generally – all forms of animated works, both Japanese (although these are sometimes called manga, like the comics they are based on) and foreign. In the West, the term “anime” exclusively signifies animated works that come from Japan (or the Far East, if made in the style of traditional anime works). This means that from our perspective, there are no anime series outside Japan, but there still are series that were either co-produced by Japanese and/or Western studios or were produced in the West but in the style of anime works. This article is going to be dedicated to these two groups, as we are going to bring you a list of the 20 best “American Anime” series that you absolutely need to watch.
1. The Transformers
What it’s about: After a war between the Autobots and Decepticons makes their home planet uninhabitable, the robots arrive on Earth; the Autobots ally themselves with the humans to stop the evil Decepticons from destroying the planet.
Why you should watch it: Although most people don’t know it, the original Transformers series was a co-production that can definitely be considered an anime. It is a great series and a cult classic that you absolutely have to see.
What it’s about: After the human Lisa Tepes is accused of witchcraft and then condemned to the stake, her husband Dracula decides to take revenge by exterminating the entire human species. He is opposed in his action by Trevor Belmont, a human vampire hunter, Sypha Belnades, a magician, and Adrian Alucard Tepes, his half-human, half-vampire son.
Why you should watch it: While undoubtedly an American series, Castlevania‘s style is heavily influenced by anime, and there is no doubt that it is one of the best and most thrilling titles on this list that you absolutely must watch.
3. Avatar: The Last Airbender
What it’s about: Prisoner inside an iceberg for a century, Aang, an Airbender of twelve years, is freed from the ice by two young members of the South Pole water tribe. Aang has an extraordinary destiny: he is the Avatar, responsible for maintaining the balance between the masters of the four elements. However, his task becomes complicated when he discovers that the Fire Nation has taken advantage of the past hundred years to sow war and destruction.
Why you should watch it: If there is one Western series that can be described as being anime-like, it’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. Relying heavily on Oriental folklore and with anime-style animation, this is a classic that you absolutely have to see.
4. The Animatrix
What it’s about: The Animatrix is a series of short animated anthology films set within the lore of The Matrix franchise, which explores different segments of the world initially introduced via the feature film series.
Why you should watch it: The Wachowskis managed to create an animated version of their most famous franchise and it was a movie to remember. It never became as popular as the feature films, but it is undoubtedly better than some of them.
5. Batman Ninja
What it’s about: While battling Gorilla Grodd, Batman is caught in his time machine and sent to feudal Japan. He is hunted there by samurai in the service of the Joker. While escaping, he encounters Catwoman, also time-bound for two years, who tells him that Gotham’s criminals are all there and have become feudal lords after abusing the daimyō. Batman and Catwoman must, therefore, intervene to prevent the villains from re-writing history.
Why you should watch it: The first DC Comics anime adaptation, Batman Ninja remains a masterful and refreshing coproduction that combines the best aspects of Western comics and Japanese animation.
6. Voltron: Legendary Defender
What it’s about: Five pilots who are in their lion-style starships have to unite forces to defeat the evil Emperor Zarkon whose primary goal is to take over the whole universe. The only one who can stop him is the legendary “Defender of the Universe” Voltron.
Why you should watch it: The Voltron franchise is quite famous, so this animated reboot is certainly something you need to watch out for. It is heavily inspired by Japanese animation, so there should be no problem with giving it a chance.
7. Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!
What it’s about: The series tells the story of a normal teenager, Ichiro “Chiro” Takagi, who discovers a super robot while on a walk. The boy unintentionally wakes up a team of Super Robot Monkeys. Chiro, who has become the leader of the robot monkeys, is tasked with protecting his world from the evil Skeleton King. The group lives on the planet Shuggazoom, where most of the events of the animated series take place.
Why you should watch it: This was a thing on children’s television a while back, and since it was one of the first of its kind on television, we definitely had to list it. Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! is atypical, but it’s definitely fun.
What it’s about: The show takes place in the made-up planet of Remnant, where teenagers are taught to hunt Grimms, or creatures of the night, by Beacon Academy. According to old traditions, during their disastrous battle with the adversary, humanity found the energy source known as Dust. They can make weapons and cast spells that work against Grimm’s creatures thanks to this power source. Since then, dust has played a crucial role in the advancement of humanity on Remnant.
Why you should watch it: RWBY is undoubtedly one of the best-known titles on this list, and this action-packed anime-style series definitely has a large and devoted fanbase. Is it worth your time? Absolutely!
9. The Legend of Korra
What it’s about: The series takes place in the same fictional world as Avatar: The Last Airbender and is set seventy years after the fall of Fire Lord Ozai. The new Avatar is a seventeen-year-old teenager named Korra, from the Southern Water Tribe. She masters waterbending, earthbending, and firebending; however, at first, she was not able to perform airbending due to the lack of connection with her spiritual part and because his training was delayed because of Tenzin, Aang’s son.
Why you should watch it: As the sequel to Avatar, The Legend of Korra has all the elements of the original series, upgraded with a great story and a great new protagonist. If you liked the original, you’ll love Korra as well.
10. Star Wars: Visions
What it’s about: Star Wars: Visions is an anthology series set in the lore of Star Wars. Each episode is a standalone story exploring different characters and part of the Galaxy, focusing on different periods in the franchise’s evolution.
Why you should watch it: This anthology series actually was produced by Disney, but it features the input of several different anime studios, which showed off their unique styles and visions, creating a truly marvelous anime series that you’ll love.
What it’s about: Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia, and Hay Lin, five best friends, see their lives turned upside down when they learn that they have been elected as guardians to protect the wall that separates Meridian, a dark world, from Earth, thanks to their powers. They will have to face the terrible prince of Meridian, Phobos, and his monstrous servant, Cedric (half-man, half-lizard), who threaten the Earth.
Why you should watch it: W.I.T.C.H. is also a children’s classic and something that was very popular with girls when it first came out. Although mostly Western in style, the anime influence is obvious, which is why it landed a place on this list.
What it’s about: The story takes place in a techno-futuristic feudal Japan devastated by war. Yasuke, a former samurai turned boatman, will have to return to battle to protect a child with unsuspected powers from the hands of warlords and dark powers.
Why you should watch it: Yasuke is a great ONA series that combines history with the imagination of Japanese animation. The story and the characters are great, which is why we definitely recommend it.
13. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
What it’s about: Adora is a member of the terrible army of the Horde, led by the monstrous Hordak who brings fear to the planet Etheria. She discovers a magic sword that transforms her into the powerful warrior She-Ra. She meets the princesses of the Great Rebellion who tell her about a legend: She-Ra had to return in the guise of their best heroine and restore balance to Etheria, by uniting all the princesses.
Why you should watch it: This female-led reboot and spin-off of the original He-Man series is something that female anime fans will definitely love. It’s got a lot of action, and the adventure is truly great, so we advise you to check it out.
14. The Boondocks
What it’s about: The series satirically depicts American society in relation to African-American culture. It deals with the events of the Freemans, a family who lives in the quiet white town of Woodcrest. The protagonists are Robert Jebediah Freeman and his two nephews, Huey and Riley Freeman, aged 10 and 8, respectively.
Why you should watch it: Whatever you might think of slice-of-life series, The Boondocks is a definitive classic that speaks about some difficult and complex topics. Anime was a major inspiration for the series, so we definitely recommend it.
15. Dungeons & Dragons
What it’s about: A group of friends, aged 9 to 15, are transported into the world of Dungeons & Dragons by chance and have to find a way to get back, but also to survive and defeat the perils in the new world.
Why you should watch it: Based on the popular board game, this was a fairly popular fantasy series back in the day. It was co-produced with Japanese studios, which is why we put this classic on the list.
What it’s about: Stitch! builds on the lore created by Disney’s animated film and series, and follows Stitch and his friends as they experience a series of new adventures.
Why you should watch it: Something for the younger ones, we decided to include Stitch!, an animated spin-off of Disney’s original franchise, to show that not every Western anime has to be for adults and that children can also find something to enjoy!
17. Suicide Squad Isekai
What it’s about: Members of the Suicide Squad mysteriously end up in a different world (isekai) and they have to find a way back in 62 hours, or else the nanobombs planted in them are going to kill them.
Why you should watch it: Although this series is relatively new, the fact that DC Comics decided to capitalize on the success of Batman Ninja led to the creation of a truly fascinating and beautifully animated series that you’ll love.
18. Pacific Rim: The Black
What it’s about: Hayley and Taylor Travis are siblings who were seemingly orphaned when their parents left to fight a Kaiju but never came back. When they find an abandoned training Jaeger called Atlas Destroyer five years after the disappearance, they activate it and set on an adventure to find their parents.
Why you should watch it: Well, the Pacific Rim anime, although not as known as the movies, is certainly better and more lore-friendly than the (supposed) sequel, so we think that the fans of the original will enjoy it.
19. Dota: Dragon’s Blood
What it’s about: The narrative centers on Davion, a Dragon Knight who hunts dragons to protect the planet. An ancient dragon joins forces with Davion’s soul during a struggle between dragons and demons. Davion begins a quest with the moon princess Mirana to stop the demon Terrorblade, whose goal is to exterminate dragons and gather their souls to feed an even more wicked entity than Terrorblade.
Why you should watch it: Another fantasy title on this list, Dota: Dragon’s Blood might not be a classic, and it is mostly Western in terms of the plot and characters, but the style is heavily influenced by anime, so we had to list it here.
20. Blood of Zeus
What it’s about: Within the realm of Greek mythology, the series narrates the tale of a young man who finds out he is Zeus’ illegitimate son after being rejected by his own people. He can redeem Earth and heaven on his own, but in order to do it, he must withstand the tremendous anger of a goddess who wishes him dead and the hideous demonic forces she has allied herself with.
Why you should watch it: Based on Greek mythology, this isn’t the most anime-accurate Western series you’ll encounter, but it is definitely heavily inspired by anime, and it has a very thrilling plot.
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!