Anime has been popular for quite some time, and there are loads of shows to choose from. So, how about I give you some recommendations on what everyone feels are the best action anime every year of the past decade? No movies or OVAs, just tv-series and no sequels. Each year has many strong contenders, but I’ll single out the one that people think is the best among them. It’s all my opinion, but hey, maybe you can finally decide to try out that show that you’ve been putting on hold for quite some time already.
List of best action animes of each year from 2011-2021
2011- Hunter X Hunter
What a year for anime, while most people will remember this year for three smash hits Stein’s Gate, Fate Zero, and Madoka Magica. The best action anime of the year is none other than Hunter X Hunter. It’s a close call between this and Fate Zero, two of my personal favorites. These shows push the boundary of what we typically associate with action anime.
People tend to associate Fate Zero with a dark and cynical outlook on things and its amazing animation and art, which still hold up now. The directing is superb, and the voice actors do an amazing job.
Still, Anime fans narrowly give the edge to Hunter X Hunter for being more of a straight-up adventure series that I could recommend to anyone. Accessibility to the new anime fan looking for their first show is good, and people think 2011 Hunter X Hunter is one of the remakes that improved on its original material. It’s also a bright adventure that can smoothly shift to dark and serious tones with many philosophical backdrops.
Honorable mentions this year include Blue Exorcist and Dead Man Wonderland. I also enjoyed the polarizing Guilty Crown and Future Diary a lot, and I’d say that those shows had their moments too.
2012 is officially where the isekai craze got its start when Reiki Gavahara became a household name. Accel World from early this year got a mediocre reception, but Sword Art Online took the anime world by storm. Behind SAO and Accel World, there are a lot of action shows that everyone enjoyed here.
Urobuchi continued his momentum from 2011 with the ever-popular Psycho-Pass. I found myself loving the harem jewel High School DXD and Oda Nobuna. Also, don’t forget Magi. Which are one of the more important underrated Shonen for its world-building and writing quality.
For 2012 fans give the crown to Jojo. Why? Well, Jojo’s pretty much one of the most beloved Shonen franchises out there. It combines a lot of your typical hot-blooded shown in action with super over-the-top powers and execution that would put even trigger to shame. It’s not just the craziness that it’s got going for it. Jojo has a legitimately interesting overarching plot that spans multiple seasons and in-universe generations. It’s a quintessential action series that you might want to check out.
2013 – Attack on Titan
Speaking of trigger 2013 is where their big hit Kill La Kill made its debut. If you want to talk controversial, this is the year Valvrave came out. Everyone loves the action-light novel shows with harem elements. I found my thirst for that quench with niche titles like Date a Live, Machine Doll, and Strike the Blood, but we all know what 2013 is all about.
Kill La Kill, largely considered one of the best shows in that era, paled in popularity compared to the blockbuster of that year.
2013’s the year of Attack on Titan, no questions asked. With its very intriguing premise of survival, its action-horror ambiance, and how it goes out of the way to create a high-octane action show devoid of the usual anime tropes that non-fans could find weird. Attack on Titan made its mark all over the world. It’s probably the year anime started to burst into the mainstream. I’d also say SAO got the ball rolling but at the end with the tropes that used the fan service. However, the attack on Titan shattered all boundaries that kept the normies away from the community.
It also helps the Attack on Titan, throughout its seasons, constantly found ways to reinvent itself. It hooked the people with the survival horror premise of season 1 and while the premise of humans fighting titans persisted towards the end of the next seasons. You’ll find that the show has dared to branch into many other areas like politics, morals, and humanity. This was truly a landmark year for anime.
2014 – Parasite
Unfortunately, with how much Attack on Titan took over the anime world. It’s hard to make a breakthrough the year after that, and it’s a shame because 2014 did have many great action shows.
This was the year Seven Deadly Sins started, and it was a legitimately fun action show before it got meme to death. Also, don’t forget Noragami and Tokyo Ghoul. Of course, how could we not mention my two light novel hits of the year, The Irregular at Magic High School and No Game No Life. The former had the luck to get a second season and an animated spin-off.
As a final honorable mention, Everyone enjoyed Black Bullet despite being grossly disappointed in the adaptation’s cut content as a source material reader. However, you see the problem besides Noragami. None of the shows above can be easily recommended to non-anime fans. Tokyo Ghoul feels a tad bit too edgy for the average normie. While the others have fan service that those same people likely wouldn’t take too kindly.
Thankfully though, 2014 also gave us my action anime of the year, Parasite. Parasite often gets compared to Tokyo Ghoul with its edgy action style. Still, viewers feel that Parasite maintains a better balance between the violence and the message behind the plot. It feels more relevant to society as a whole, and how the characters developed.
Also, Tokyo Ghoul’s first season is really enjoyable. Parasite at least wrapped up its story neatly in its only season. In comparison, the other show required multiple seasons, the later ones which were rushed to oblivion. If you know someone who’s never touched anime before and wanted to recommend a show from 2014, then Parasite is my pick.
2015 – One Punch Man
2015 is yet another big year for action anime. Arslan, Overlord, and Danmachi take the forefront for action novel adaptations. Still, some other novel adaptation hits like Chivalry of a Failed Knight, The Polarizing Gate, and Asterisk War. Also, there’s a personal guilty pleasure and favorite of mine, Testament of Sister New Devil.
On the manga side of things, we have Assassination Classroom making its big debut.
2015 undoubtedly belongs to One Punch Man. It’s not quite Attack on Titan in terms of how big of a cultural phenomenon it became, but One Punch Man seriously came pretty damn close to it. Attack on Titan broke the barrier between anime fans and ordinary people. One Punch Man was the show perfectly poised to capitalize on that.
At this time, superheroes were becoming the in-thing. Thanks to the excellence of the MCU and the general awareness of them growing. Whether by chance or by intention One Punch Man did take advantage of that. It also helps that while the show is an exciting action series through and through. It does deliver the goods as a parody.
It’s a show that would first be passed off as comedy because it pokes fun at the ridiculousness of Shonen anime. Yet, it becomes such an immersive and emotional roller coaster when you do watch it. The hype is real for one punch man, and while season two is quite mediocre, season one was a legitimate cultural phenomenon during its time.
2016 – Mob Psycho
If 2015 is one punch man’s year, the crown for 2016 goes to Mob Psycho.
With all the shows that I’ve talked about so far, Mob Psycho could probably be the title of being the best in his much-renowned animation. However, animation doesn’t make an anime, and luckily for Mob Psycho, it’s got so much more going for it. It’s got a very simple yet exciting storyline, and its characters are all interesting and well written. Character dynamics and the action make Mob Psycho feel like a cinematic production more than anything. People have compared this amazing show to a comic book flick, and it’s not hard to see why.
When I was quick to give Mob psycho the crown, I won’t pretend it was an easy win given what 2016 gave us. Superheroes never went out of flavor, and the year introduced My Hero Academia. A show which is still going strong to this day to the world. It’s also had many knees shows that everyone enjoyed, such as 91 days, Alderamin on The Sky, Bungo Stray Dogs. Twin Star Exorcists and Drifters.
Do you classify Re-Zero as action because that’s certainly one of the strongest contenders for the year, given how much everyone loves it?
2017 – Land of the Lustrous
Compared to the previous year’s, 2017 seemed more like a lull in action anime. Suppose we exclude sequels movies and OVAs.
Don’t get me wrong though, there’s still quite a lot to like, such as Saga of Tanya the Evil. The year also gave us Re Creators, Inuyashiki, Fade Apocrypha, and Akashic Records. It’s just that besides Saga of Tanya the Evil, none of these feel as if they made a big impact on the community is something like Overlord or One Punch Man.
If you take the sequels that included Attack on Titan out of the way. The year felt quiet as far as action shows go, and it’s more of a testament to what blockbusters the preceding year gave us.
For my 2017 pick, I’ll direct you to a hidden gem of an anime pun intended in Land of the Lustrous. A cast of humanoid gems fighting for survival against enemies abducting them and turning them into jewelry. However, you see the story unfold through the lens of one who’s not exactly a fighter. It’s more than an action show, and it’s an anime that everyone can confidently introduce to a non-fan, at least compared to something like Saga of Tanya the Evil.
The 3d presentation might discourage some people from watching the show, but it is surprisingly well done if I were to look at an action show as a whole in terms of value and not just popcorn entertainment. Land of the lustrous easily takes the top spot this year.
2018 – Megalo Box
As we inch closer to the end of the decade. We start getting into the action shows that made a buzz in the community for good or bad reasons. Who could forget Goblin Slayer’s controversy? Or the weekly reactions Darling in the Franxx joined the community.
This year also marked Golden Kamui’s debut, and while its focus is more exploration and adventure, it’s got some good action, and it’s one of the shows that couldn’t get enough of. Slime also started this year, and it’s one of the big Isekai hits in the coming years as far as anime adaptations go. If we’re talking straight action, that can see some mainstream appeal to non-fans.
In 2018 no anime can top Megalo Box for that year. Combining classic western aesthetics with an epic boxing setting made for a wonderful addition to the library of action anime. People have called it an exciting anime that looked like a heavy sci-fi cross between Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Shamplo. It’s easy to see why. From the presentation to the music, and has that nostalgic 90s feel & its unique style that many people have loved.
One of the main reasons I’d recommend Megalo Box to someone is how amazing the second season is which was just released in 2021. Don’t get me wrong, the first season was good and all, but the second season is just on another tier. Easily won the best anime of 2021 so far.
So, in a different twist, Megalo Box is something that I would recommend more to older fans who went through the 90s and took a break from anime. It should bring back memories of those good old days that they’ll surely enjoy reliving.
2019 – Vinland Saga
We all know what 2019’s about but first, let me talk about the honorable mentions. First up, everyone had a great time watching Dororo, Fireforce, and Shield Hero, and I’d recommend those to anime fans.
Wise Man’s Grandchild is also a fun show to watch, although it only caters to a specific niche. So, fans can’t easily recommend that one as much.
The same can be said of Arifureta, but this one also had the dubious distinction of possibly some of the worst CG in animation I’ve seen in an anime for a long time.
We all know 2019 is the year of Demon Slayer. Breaking into the mainstream like nothing’s ever done before. Heck, the Demon Slayer craze has officially surpassed Attack on Titan with the manga. The opening song and even the recent movie shattering records left and right, but fans give this year’s crown to Vinland Saga.
As an action series, Vinland Saga brings so much more to the table than Demon Slayer. Viewers can understand why the latter became more popular but where Vinland Saga lacked in the flashy explosive Ufo table animations and cool powers. It brought with a more grounded and complete story. The narrative develops better, and the characters are a tier above Demon Slayer’s writing and characterization.
I’m not saying that Demon slayer characters are bad that’s not the case. The Vinland Saga’s cast feels way better. If we’re going to look at it from a critical perspective. A captivating story of hardship and growth filled with epic action of very complex characters. Vinland Saga’s my pick for 2019’s action anime.
2020 – Jujutsu Kaizen
2020 will always be the year of delays due to real-world circumstances as well as the year of sequels. You’re left with a few gems if we take all the sequels movies and Ova out the way. Everyone had a blast with the trio of edgy action titles Doro He Doro, Darwin’s Game, and Gleipnir. The Dragon quest anime was also fun. Princess Connect and Bofuri are two of my favorite chill action shows the past year.
Things would change in this rather slow year for non-sequels as it marched towards the end with what everyone can feel to be suspiciously Demon Slayer’s spiritual successor Jujutsu Kaizen.
No, the two shows aren’t related, but the Demon Slayer’s smashing success had a bit to do with Jujutsu Kaizen getting the green light. There’s also the revival of Shaman King and Bleach not long after. It’s like that time when many shows with the Attack on Titan approach got greenlit, giving us Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Black Bullet, Seraph of the End, and God Eater.
However, supernatural actions-Shonen are back on the menu, and Jujutsu Kaizen is now leading the charge. Like Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaizen is a show mostly carried by how good it looks. The action’s good, the characters are relatable and likable, and the powers are interesting. That’s basically the recipe you use to turn in a winner in the realm of action Shonen, and Jujutsu Kaizen passes the test with flying colors. Every other episode gave us a moment or a reveal that set the whole anime community ablaze with discussions, and I’d say that you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the animation team for that.
2021 – Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
The anime industry seemed to have recovered and stabilized from the shock of early 2020. There have been a lot fewer delays now.
2021’s still not over, so we can’t know whether this will hold, but as far as an action anime go, I’ll give the title this year to Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. Viewers didn’t know what to expect out of Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song at first. Despite the fact that the guy behind Re-Zero was involved in it. It’s an understatement to say that the show just blew me away with its incredible animation and an often-underrated aspect in action anime, the music.
It packages everything in a very well-placed action anime that has quite the depth in terms of themes. One that’s becoming more and more relevant to society gets integrated with technology. Even though Vivy won the title for 2021’s best action anime, the year has had many strong contenders. Vivy just felt to be the most complete for widespread appeal for lack of a better term. The violence isn’t extreme. The fan service is little to non-existent, and the story is well-paced and has a good conclusion.
You have 86 for those who want tragedy, drama, and military in their action series. 2021 also unleashed Mushoku Tensei, known as the granddaddy of isekai, for a lot to the world, and by the looks of it seems that it will stay for good. We have a long ride ahead.
If you prefer something that involves time loops then, why don’t you try Tokyo Revengers? It has a gripping plot that continues to keep me on the edge of my seat.
What is the best action anime in 2021?
2021’s still not over, so we can’t know whether this will hold, but as far as an action anime go, I’ll give the title this year to Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song.
Where can I watch anime?
There are some names legit websites where you can watch anime Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
What is the number 1 action anime right now?
On action genre right now Attack on Titan is the number one trending action anime of the world.
How do you like our Action anime selection of each year? Tell us your favorite action anime in the comment down below.