The most influential anime in history
Japanese animation has managed to have a huge impact on an international level, this is a list of the anime series that have transcended history.
Although it comes from the other side of the world, Japanese animation or anime has managed to have an enormous impact on an international level, which grows stronger and stronger over the years. Conventions dedicated to the genre go around the world every year, and fans of many of these series show an enormous devotion to them, creating powerful communities.
Animators, artists, otakus, fans... whether you are already an expert in anime drawing or you are just starting in the genre, here is the list of the best anime series in history, either for their importance in the world of animation or for the impressive reception they had by the audience.
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)
After the 2003 anime adaptation, which ended up being completely separated from the original manga, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was created as a more faithful reinterpretation of the story than its predecessor.
In this anime, two brothers search for the philosopher's stone after trying to bring their mother back to life and losing too much in the attempt. In this universe inspired by early 20th century Europe, alchemy exists, which is key to the development of the story.
The story stands out for its powerful characters, built to seem like real and independent people. From the main characters to the secondary ones, the series makes sure you get to know them all and their motivations (and then break your heart on more than one occasion). From the dynamic fights based on alchemy, to the dark atmosphere that keeps us glued to the screen, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood honors the manga on which it is based and earns this position. Its combination of comedy and tragedy will leave a mark in your memory if you decide to delve into its world.
2. Attack on Titan (2013)
When we think of the most popular anime series, Attack on Titan comes to mind. Inspired by Europe at the beginning of the last century, the setting is a fictional world in which humanity is threatened by huge beings called titans. Humans must take shelter within great walls and learn to fight against these gigantic monsters to survive.
Through its excellently constructed characters, this anime deals with social issues such as racism/classism, war refugees, human nature, and the strength behind the conviction. As icing on the cake, Attack on Titan's animation style brings us battle scenes that will make us hold on to our chairs, and a thicker outline that gives it a striking aesthetic to go along with the rawness of the plot. The third part of the last season will be released in 2023, so you have time to catch up.
3. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
Hunter x Hunter (2011) is everything the 1999 anime wanted to be. It is more faithful to the original story, and the overall quality is much higher.
This incredible example of Shonen (action and touches of humor, usually about a group of protagonists who fight against enemies becoming stronger and stronger) gives us a lot of well-built characters. This anime stands out for taking clichés of Japanese animation and giving them a twist, creating recognizable and unique results.
On top of that, Hunter x Hunter's soundtrack blows us away, and complements the dynamic animation beautifully in every fight. If Shonen is your thing, you can't miss it.
4. Deathnote (2006)
Deathnote is an adaptation of the manga that began in 2003 and is one of the best-known anime for those less familiar with the anime genre.
Like the original product, the series became so famous after its premiere that today it has four feature film adaptations (some better than others), two novels and multiple video games released for the Nintendo DS. This anime is the choice of many (myself included) to introduce them to the world of anime. It is not particularly long, and the thrilling plot, accompanied by a dark and gloomy aesthetic, draws you in from the very first moment.
In the series, we will accompany Light Yagami, an outstanding student who one fine day finds a blank notebook with the word DEATHNOTE written on the cover. He soon discovers that every name he writes in that notebook will cause the death of that person.
5. Code Geass (2006)
Code Geass - Hangyaku no Lelouch is a 2006 anime created by Sunrise, an animation studio responsible for critically acclaimed works of the magnitude of InuYasha. This series is known for having one of the most fascinating and surprising stories of the genre, replete with jaw-dropping plot twists.
The plot is set in a Japan conquered by the Britannia Empire, where the Japanese have lost their freedom and rights. The exiled prince Lelouch comes into contact with the Geass, a supernatural power that will help him to free his nation and build a new world.
As in Deathnote, the protagonist is a tactician who must act through complex plans. Even though it is an anime in which mechas (giant robots) play an important role, the plot is mainly political and based on the relationship between characters. We recommend you take a look if you want to see a story that inspired many others.
6. Stein's; Gate (2011)
Based on a visual novel for Xbox 360, this anime is the greatest exponent of science fiction in the anime genre. It delves into the complex world of time travel, more precisely, parallel timelines.
Stein's; Gate tells the story of a scientist who, after several failed attempts, manages to send a banana back in time using a microwave. He soon discovers, along with his curious lab partners, that he can use the device and a cell phone to send messages to the past.
In the most confusing and crazy moments, the quality of the characterization of the characters keeps us hooked on the narrative. The time jumps that this story makes in a coherent and successful way will blow your mind.
7. Berserk (1997)
The first anime adaptation of this 1989 manga surpasses the later ones for various reasons. It is the most faithful to the original, both in the plot and thanks to its old-school animation style, which does not fail to capture the rough and disturbing atmosphere of the story.
The story of Berserk is set in a fantasy world with the aesthetics of medieval Europe, in which Guts, an orphaned mercenary, is dedicated to hunting demonic beings along with the elf Puck.
It is very important to mention that without manga we would not have video game sagas like Dark Souls or Bloodborne as we know them. Although they all have the dark medieval fantasy books as a base, Hidetaka Miyazaki himself, creator of the Souls franchise, commented in an interview that he asked his artists to create designs specifically inspired by Berserk.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
Neon Genesis Evangelion takes us to a futuristic world in which humanity must defend itself against supernatural beings called angels. The military organization NERV sends young people ("the children") to fight them using EVAs, giant robots with which they establish a neural link.
The unique appeal of this anime lies in the way it evolves, seeing the characters mature with traumas related to the apocalypse. The plot, which becomes increasingly psychological, is based on the personal experiences of Hideaki Anno, the director and screenwriter.
This anime has one of the best drawings ever seen, and it is equally impressive in terms of photographic direction. Being a post-apocalyptic future, the world creates the possibility of hosting architecture of gigantic proportions that plague this series of breathtaking visuals.
9. Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Another Sunrise studio production, Cowboy Bebop takes us to 2071, to a future in which a group of bounty hunters travel the solar system experiencing adventure and tragedy.
Cowboy Bebop is a particular mix of genres, from space western, to drama, action, adventure and several others. It deals with deep themes such as solitude, the emptiness of existentialism and the impact of the past. If you are looking for an anime that reminds you that Japanese animation is an art, don't hesitate to delve into it.
This anime also shines due to its soundtrack. The opening is a prime example, featuring the song "Tank!" by The Seatbelts, considered one of the most outstanding in the world of the genre. The animation that accompanies it is not short, a striking composition of colorful shots with pop style that reflects many influences of the 50s film noir.
10. Mushishi (2005)
Although less known than others on this list, this anime is one of the most awarded anime in Japan and has even spawned a video game for the Nintendo DS (Mushishi: Amefuru Sato).
In Mushishi we accompany Ginko, a mushi expert who travels the world helping people who are negatively affected by these creatures. The mushis are beings that only few can see, and that live through humans in a parasitic way, granting in exchange abilities to those they infest.
Mushishi is an episodic series, each chapter devoted to a different case. Therefore, it does not have a continuous narrative to follow and develop. It belongs to the slice-of-life genre, which together with the fantastic atmosphere created by the animation style, generates a very human, extraordinarily relaxing and beautiful final product. No wonder it won a Tokyo Anime Award for Best Art Direction in 2006.
11. One Piece
Of course, One Piece, one of the greatest anime in history and certainly one of the most popular franchises of the last decades, could not be absent. This animated series narrates the adventures of a crew of pirates in search of a treasure called the One Piece. It has one of the most personality-driven styles ever seen in an anime (and that's saying a lot).
A 1997 manga by Eiichiro Oda with more than 1,000 chapters and 14 movies, special episodes and short films. But, in what order should we watch the main One Piece movies and at what time should we do it with respect to the animated series? At Meristation, we've got you covered.
Bonus track | Honorable mentions
For the most nostalgic, we have reserved this small space for those animation classics that have shaped, in one way or another, a turning point in the history of Anime.
Going back to the topic of Shonen, this demographic would not be as we know it today, without its existence. Toei Animation, one of the best animation studios in the world, brought us Dragon Ball, probably the most important anime series in history that made anime popular and known all over the world.
How not to mention one of the longest running anime of all time. More than 20 movies, miniseries, novels, manga, collectibles, events, merchandising, cosplays and of course, the origin of this franchise: video games.
The never-ending Pokémon saga is already much more than an animated series, created by Satoshi Tajiri, Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori.
Kimetsu No Yaiba
The second season of Kimetsu No Yaiba left us just as amazed as the first, and the animation of the battle scenes of hunters against demons will make you wish you were watching them on a big screen.