10 best action anime everyone must watch
Anime, particularly the action anime genre, is loved by millions around the world for its exciting stories, lovable characters, and captivating animation. This genre has produced some of the most popular and influential anime series to date and is perfect for those looking for anime with intense fight scenes, epic adventures, and larger-than-life heroes.
The action anime genre covers a wide range of subgenres and plotlines. Some action anime focus on martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, and special abilities. Others incorporate science fiction and fantasy elements with futuristic technology, magical powers, and supernatural creatures. Many popular action anime follow a shonen style with coming-of-age tales of young heroes on adventures.
Whatever your specific interests are, action anime has something to offer with its diverse mix of stories and characters.
Disclaimer: This list is ranked in no particular order. The opinions expressed here are subjective.
Ultimate guide: The 10 most thrilling action anime you can't miss
1. One Punch Man
What happens when the hero defeats every enemy with a single punch? That absurdist scenario is the premise behind the superhero parody series One Punch Man.
Main character Saitama has trained himself to be so strong that he can defeat any foe with one punch. This makes for a subversive take on the action genre as despite all the dynamic battles and menacing villains, Saitama ends every conflict unceremoniously with a single blow.
However, this simple premise gives birth to great comedy and charismatic characters like Genos that carry the show. For a fresh, comical spin on action anime tropes, One Punch Man packs a hilarious one-two punch. The fight scenes are intentionally over-the-top spectacles to showcase Saitama's immense strength in contrast to his unassuming appearance. This ironic subversion of expectations is a smart commentary on the action anime genre while also creating very entertaining battles for the viewer.
2. Dragon Ball
The king of overpowered characters and planet-destroying fights is the Dragon Ball franchise. Spanning over 500 anime episodes, numerous movies, and sequel series like the currently airing Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball follows the adventures of Son Goku and his friends as they defend the Earth using martial arts, energy attacks and the wish-granting Dragon Balls.
Dragon Ball pioneered the Shonen battle genre by introducing high-stakes competitions between larger-than-life fighters, as well as grueling training sequences for the heroes to achieve new power levels.
Even if the story is simplistic, the series continues enthralling new viewers through its explosive, fast-paced fights that serve as the lifeblood of the Dragon Ball universe. The series ramps up the power levels and fight choreography dramatically with each new story arc, leading to spectacular battles pitting planet-destroying warriors against each other. It lays down the blueprint for making jaw-dropping action an integral part of the Shonen genre.
No discussion of action anime is complete without the Naruto franchise. Following Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja with a powerful tailed beast sealed within him, the story details his quest to become the Hokage of Konohagakure village. Naruto unleashes his ninjutsu moves in battles, emphasizing strategy and wit. Over 720 episodes across Naruto and Naruto Shippuden, the narrative builds an entire ninja world with engaging characters and intricate lore.
The franchise pioneered many Shonen anime tropes but executes them masterfully through its resonant characters and dynamic ninja fights. Love it or hate it, no one can deny Naruto is an influence on action anime that will remain for generations. The ninja battles are imaginative with clever usage of substitution, clones, and elemental jutsu.
Later fights incorporate giant monsters and incredible scale, building on the strategic 1v1 battles of the original Naruto. Its captivating coming-of-age tale of the titular protagonist, combined with the ninja world's lore and combat, make Naruto a perfect starter anime.
4. Jujutsu Kaisen
Emerging as one of the most popular recent action anime is Jujutsu Kaisen, which many viewers and critics have crowned as a potential successor to classic hits like Naruto and Bleach. The story follows high schooler Yuji Itadori as he joins a secret organization of Jujutsu sorcerers to kill powerful Curses and rescue his friends.
Jujutsu Kaisen blends ancient occultism with modern anime tropes for a unique urban fantasy world brimming with Curses, exorcists and unimaginable powers.
Yuji’s battles with these otherworldly Curses are animated with such creativity and finesse that each fight scene is an absolute spectacle. With its captivating power system, kinetic action scenes, and Yuji's charm as an underdog protagonist, Jujutsu Kaisen deserves its popularity among new anime fans.
The curse battles expand in scope and scale as the series progresses, while retaining clever choreographed martial arts action. Yuji's development into a seasoned jujutsu fighter is executed masterfully across the anime's episodes.
For action-packed supernatural thrills, look no further than Fate/Zero. Set 10 years before the events of Fate/stay night, seven mages summon heroic spirits to compete for the Holy Grail in a battle royale to the death. The premise combines an intricate magic system with legendary heroes like King Arthur and Alexander the Great for dynamic fantasy action.
Their ideological clashes are highlighted through beautifully choreographed sword fights and magical duels. Coupled with deep themes of kingship, honor and utilitarianism, Fate/Zero is an intelligent battle anime with unforgettable heroes and villains. The Holy Grail War provides the ideal stage for mythological heroes to engage in meticulously crafted confrontations.
Meanwhile, the clashes in ideology between the cast's differing views on heroism add strong philosophical depth. Fate/Zero is a standout for blending thoughtful themes with exhilarating fantasy action.
6. Cowboy Bebop
This 1998 space western is considered by many to be the greatest anime series ever made. Set in a future where space travel is commonplace, Cowboy Bebop follows a ragtag crew of bounty hunters on their adventures aboard the ship Bebop. Its fluid animation, neo-noir atmosphere, stylish characters, and eclectic jazz-infused soundtrack create a vibe that is distinctly Cowboy Bebop.
While episodic, the series builds an immersive world and mythology, with each crew member getting a dark yet engaging backstory. Whether it's spaceship dogfights or Western-style shootouts, Cowboy Bebop has some of the most fun action sequences brought to life through masterful direction.
The smooth, almost poetic action choreography gives mundane fights a stylistic flair that turns every confrontation into a captivating setpiece. Combined with its attitude-filled characters and cool tone, Cowboy Bebop set the bar for action anime style that is yet to be matched.
7. My Hero Academia
In a world where 80% of people have superpowers called Quirks, young Izuku Midoriya is one of the powerless 20% but dreams of becoming a superhero. He enrolls in the prestigious U.A. High School to learn how to control his newly acquired Quirk and eventually joins the mighty heroes in protecting the world from evil.
My Hero Academia boasts movie-quality animation, appealing characters with unique Quirks, and nail-biting battles as Izuku starts on the path to being the greatest hero. It’s an uplifting coming-of-age story packed with superpowered action that shows why modern Shonen anime like My Hero Academia dominate mainstream popularity.
The series takes the superhero genre in a fresh direction by exploring what it means to be a hero through thoughtful character drama. Meanwhile, its Quirk-fueled fights are brimming with creativity as characters utilize their unique superpowers in clever combinations.
8. Demon Slayer
A newer series that took the anime world by storm is Demon Slayer. Set during Japan's Taisho era, kindhearted Tanjiro becomes a demon slayer after his family is slaughtered and his sister Nezuko turned into a demon. He joins the Demon Slayer Corps to find a cure for Nezuko while battling fierce demon foes.
Demon Slayer's storytelling mixes Japanese folklore with emotive writing, while its fluid animation during Tanjiro and Nezuko's fight scenes is simply breathtaking. It's an inspirational martial arts adventure, rife with courage, compassion, and some of the best sword combat sequences ever animated.
The fight choreography captures the essence of classic samurai films with dynamic swordplay between Tanjiro's Hinokami Kagura Breathing style and the various demon combat forms. Combined with endearing characters and thoughtful drama, Demon Slayer is a modern anime classic not to be missed.
9. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an action fantasy set in a world where alchemy is practiced. The story follows brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they search for the Philosopher's Stone to restore their bodies after a failed attempt at human transmutation. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has exhilarating fight scenes, deep philosophical themes, and unforgettable characters that have cemented it as one of the most beloved anime of all time.
With 64 episodes packed with conspiracy, redemption, sacrifice, and what it means to be human, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is essential viewing for all anime fans. The mix of magic and hand-to-hand combat creates diverse and creative fight sequences. It also explores thoughtful themes of science vs faith through the lore of its alchemy-based world.
Even a decade after its release, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood remains a complete package representing the best of action anime storytelling.
10. Attack on Titan
Few anime can match the sheer adrenaline rush of Attack on Titan. Set in a world overrun by towering, man-eating Titans, Attack on Titan follows the members of the Survey Corps as they desperately fight to save humanity from extinction.
Every encounter with a Titan is a white-knuckle showcase of dynamic action choreography. And as the mysteries surrounding the Titans are uncovered, the story expands into a rich lore involving military conspiracies, social commentary, and complex characters.
With its cinematic animation, potent storytelling, and nonstop action, Attack on Titan is the perfect gateway into action anime. It blends post-apocalyptic horror with martial arts action, along with engaging drama between its substantial cast of main characters. From its intense chase sequences to the stylish vertical maneuvering action possible with the show's Omni-Directional Mobility gear, Attack on Titan remains an exhilarating action anime even after multiple seasons.
In conclusion, action anime continues to be a driving force shaping pop culture worldwide. The examples here showcase the storytelling possibilities of the genre, whether it's high-flying martial arts, thought-provoking science fiction, or laugh-out-loud parody.
From pulse-pounding fight scenes to lovable characters, these 10 series represent the best that action anime has to offer.