The Best Action Anime You Should Watch Right Now

For big anime shoot outs, sword fights, and more.

vinland saga, thorfinn
'Vinland Saga' | WIT Studio
'Vinland Saga' | WIT Studio

Action series have been a gateway into anime for the longest time, sparking the interest of new fans through thrilling confrontations and big, blowout battles. The main culprits behind the always increasing popularity are shows most of your acquaintances have been hooked on at some point in their lives: the endless adventure series like One Piece; iconic shows that continue to have that same impact over new generations, like Dragon Ball's recent iterations and Naruto's heir Boruto; and, of course, some new titles joining the fray as well, like Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, and the blood-pumping My Hero Academia, which successfully mixes Western superhero elements in a traditional shonen manga mold.

"Action anime" is a very broad category, so even if all you're seeking from your Japanese cartoons are exciting fights, there's room for something for everyone. To help out newcomers taking their first steps, or if you're seeking new exhilarating adventures, we've put together a list of other excellent action anime you can go and watch right now.

ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Best Anime of 2021 (So Far)

akudama drive
Pierrot

Akudama Drive (2020)

Set in an outlandish dystopian sci-fi world where the Japanese region of Kansai has been transformed into a vassal state under the rule of Kanto, the series follows an ordinary young woman who, after a chance encounter with a group of hardened criminals known as Akudama (literally Japanese for "bad guys"), is fitted with an explosive collar and tasked with performing a seemingly impossible heist at the behest of a mysterious benefactor in the guise of a robotic cat. What starts out wild only intensifies into an engrossingly over-the-top, visually abrasive, and unapologetically hyper-violent action show that lives and dies by the Rule of Cool. If you're looking for a show that throws caution to the wind and acts like subtext is for cowards, Akudama Drive was made for you.
Where to watch:Hulu, Funimation

Berserk (1997)

One of the most cult-famous and difficult-to-access series, Berserk is a true gem for those willing to take a few extra steps out of their way to find the original 1997 anime. (Hint: YouTube is your friend.) Adapted from Kentaro Miura's legendary manga, known for its incredibly detailed art and intricate plots and was ultimately never finished before Miura's sudden death at 54, the series starts amidst an alt-universe Hundred Years' War following a young mercenary known only as Guts, who carries a comically large sword, joining the feared, youthful, and scrappy Band of the Hawk, led by the enigmatically charismatic Griffith. What first appears to be an expertly told action story about the horrors of war turns into a terrifying dark fantasy engulfed by demonic forces. Though Netflix has a three-movie CGI adaptation of the series' arc, the 1997 Berserk is worth the trouble seeking out, if only for the excellent, affecting opening and closing themes.

Casshern Sins (2008)

Since we've slowed down to talk about action titles that are a bit more contemplative, it seems like the right time to bring up the most melancholic of all the choices in this list. Casshern Sins is another reimagination of a classic Tatsunoko property, much like the fascinating Gatchaman Crowds, which takes us to a Bad End of sorts; the title character is in a barren post-apocalyptic world where the few remaining creatures all want him dead, leading to both physical spats and the confrontation of his own memories. Series director Shigeyasu Yamauchi has a unique style that fits this passion project like a glove, amplifying the dreary atmosphere that defines the series but also keeping it intimate with his trademark close-ups. Despite being part of a larger franchise it's meant to be a self-contained experience, so if any of this sounds appealing, don't hesitate to give it a chance.
Where to watch: Funimation

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006–2008)

Breakneck action sequences and political intrigue drive Code Geass, which is still a standout more than 10 years after it originally aired. The series takes place in a colonized Japan (now known as Area 11); its plot hinges on high school student Lelouch Lamperouge, a former prince of the Britannian Empire who was exiled following the death of his mother. After being granted a mysterious power that allows him to compel anyone he makes eye contact with to do his bidding, Lelouch sets out on what feels like a one-man quest to reclaim Japan's independence and take down the Empire, manipulating everyone around him like political pieces on a chessboard. As the series continues, Japan's liberation takes a backseat to more supernatural plot points (like, uh, killing God), but the series manages to tie it together with emotionally charged character relationships, particularly between Lelouch and his childhood friend Suzaku, the son of the last Prime Minister of Japan. While the mech fights are dazzling and the lighter, goofy school episodes a nice distraction, Lelouch himself and his ethically dubious moral philosophy are the main attraction.
Where to watch: Netflix, Hulu, Funimation

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

You can skip Netflix's live-action adaptation and head straight to the source to watch the legendary Cowboy Bebop. Director Shinichiro Watanabe's most acclaimed work, Bebop, set in the year 2071, is a potpourri of sci-fi, western, and noir films all tucked under a jazz soundtrack. The result is a masterpiece about the adventures of a ragtag crew of space drifters: effortlessly cool bounty hunter Spike and his pragmatic partner Jet; femme fatale Faye, who also suffers from memory loss; and computer wunderkind Ed, the show's main source of levity and comic relief. Though Cowboy Bebop mainly receives praise for its varied aesthetics, fully developed character arcs, and thematic punch, its action provides most of the thrill. Like everything else in this anime, the action scenes are an eclectic mix: mesmerizing fistfights, grandiose shootouts, tense standoffs, and exhilarating spaceship battles. A series chock full of iconic moments, Cowboy Bebop will undoubtedly stick with you for a long time.       
Where to watch it: NetflixHuluAdult Swim

Deca-Dence (2020)

Deca-Dence follows the story of Natsume, a young girl living aboard a massive mobile fortress in a post-apocalyptic world who dreams of becoming one of its defenders, and Kaburagi, her taciturn mentor figure whose past and nature conceals an unfathomable secret about the nature of their world and Natsume’s very existence. What starts out as an impressively executed, if boiler-plate, mash-up of Attack on Titan by way of Mortal Engines quickly transforms into a cerebral action sci-fi drama resembling a cocktail of Westworld, Monster Hunter, and mutant hybrid of Pixar's Wall-E meets Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. Deca-Dence is stuffed with dazzling action, beautiful animation, and a deliriously high-concept premise that’ll leave your head spinning.
Where to watch:Hulu, Funimation

demon slayer kimetsu no yaiba
Ufotable

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019– )

Adapted from Koyoharu Gotōge’s Shonen Jump manga series, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has become a bona fide anime sensation. The series (and its box office record-breaking movie) follows Tanjiro Kamado, a young charcoal merchant turned demon slayer, as he sets out to not only avenge his family’s grisly murder, but to find a cure for his younger sister Nezuko, who survived their family’s attack only to be transformed into a feral half-demon with an aversion to sunlight.
Where to watch:Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

Dororo (2019)

In the midst of a terrible plague at the height of Japan’s Warring States period, Lord Daigo Kagemitsu of the Ishikawa province makes a pact with 12 demons in order to save his region and secure a path towards a future of wealth and power for his region. In exchange, each of the demons collect on Kagemitsu's debt by taking body parts from his newly born son—his limbs, his eyes, his tongue, his skin—until the baby is rendered into a horrifying testament to his father's sins, a newborn that's only exposed muscle and bones. Years later, the boy, having survived his father's attempts to get rid of him out of shame, grows up to become an itinerant swordsman named Hyakkimaru with a prosthetic body, sheathed swords for arms, and the extrasensory ability to "see" demons. Adapted from Ozamu Tezuka’s original manga and anime from the late ‘60s, Dororo tells the story of Hyakkimaru’s quest to slay demons, regain his humanity, and learn to open up to other people in a time of immense cruelty with the help of his companion, an orphaned thief by the name of Dororo.
Where to watch:Amazon Prime

Fate/Zero (2011–2012)

If you liked other Fate/ series but would like to see a Holy Grail War — a fight to the death between mages and their summoned legendary heroes — go down with some actual adults in the room, then Fate/Zero is for you. An entry in the "not for children" category, Fate/Zero does not hold back in its bloodshed and the ways in which dark people manipulate others for personal gain. It's tense and unforgiving; plus, there's some freaky bug magic that will surely get your skin crawling.
Where to watch:Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

FLCL (2000–2001)

It's been more than 20 years since the first broadcast of FLCL (short for "Fooly Cooly," a term which itself doesn't really mean anything), a raucous and anarchic six-episode series that rewrote the animation rulebook with its whirlpool of contemporary pop culture, sucking in and breaking apart everything in its orbit. Director Kazuya Tsurumaki, a longtime animator at studio Gainax and protégé to Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, set out to break the established rules of anime through eclectic visuals, anti-narrative approach, and unusual soundtrack, trading in classical motifs for thrashing guitars and heavy percussion from the contemporary Japanese rock band The Pillows. As with every other concept chewed up and spit back out by FLCL, it twists well-trodden tropes into something absurd. It's not strictly action, not strictly comedy, not really a mecha anime, or any one thing. At its very core it represents the necessary rebellion of adolescence, the beginning of a path towards independence.
Where to watch: Hulu, Adult Swim

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009–2012)

Another modern behemoth, and for good reason. Countless fans had already gotten into anime thanks to the first adaptation of the manga, arguably more ambitious and shakier. But Brotherhood's truly complete tale makes for an even easier recommendation: The story of alchemist brothers Ed and Al, who learned about the world's equal exchange principle the harsh way, needs no introduction at this point, and neither does the fact that this is one of anime's most impressive long-running series; its 64 episodes are packed with high-octane, polished action that its peers can't really match, giving appropriately striking form to its many iconic confrontations.
Where to watch: NetflixCrunchyrollHuluHBO Max

Gurren Lagann (2007)

Gurren Lagann is set in a world where humanity is forced to live in underground colonies; in fact, society isn't even fully aware that the surface is the domain of the terrifying Spiral King and his robot-piloting crew of monsters. But the series' never-ending sense of escalation and dynamism, courtesy of director Hiroyuki Imaishi, allow it to reach the very ends of the universe, making Gurren Lagann stay true to its own message about humanity's endless possibilities. While it proudly showcases its many mecha anime influences, Gurren Lagann has enough identity of its own to be considered a modern classic in the genre. Of course, it helps that the show is a vividly colorful animation feat, one where ludicrous fights give idiosyncratic artists the chance to imprint through rough line art and wild posing, an excellent argument that fluidity by itself isn't all that makes animation exciting. If that isn't enough, know that much of the same production team returned for KILL la KILL; beware that it's a messier endeavor – arguably more ambitious, but also much less satisfying than the straightforward, yet perfectly constructed, anti-oppression tale of Gurren Lagann.
Where to watch: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll

hunter x hunter
Madhouse

Hunter x Hunter (2011–2014)

If we're talking about narrative and thematically compelling action anime, the king might very well be Yoshihiro Togashi's Hunter x Hunter. While there's more directorial oomph to the 1999 incarnation, it's easier to recommend the cohesive vision and satisfying end of the 2011 version. For those of you still not acquainted with the series, Hunter x Hunter starts off with the young Gon Freecss, who is following his missing dad's path and taking a practical exam to become a Hunter, a special title for adventurers of the world. What first appears to be an unassuming tale keeps on growing in scale and ambition, eventually forming large arcs that tackle genre staples like heroes' lack of concern for their own well-being, while staying a very touching and entertaining narrative on its own right. The interconnected narrative threads spun from the massive cast prove that Togashi isn't just a conceptually interesting creator, he's a masterful storyteller as well. Hunter x Hunter's true potential takes a while to surface, but once it does it'll stand a chance to become one of your favorites.
Where to watch it:Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (2012– )

Let's return to crowd favorites with a classic among classics, a series that has been running since the '80s and that constantly manages to reboot itself with unparalleled creativity: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. It's essentially impossible to sum up the happenings of the Joestars, which at this point span multiple decades, families, and even timelines. From vampire slaying to protecting a small town, this animated adaptation has already seen them experience many bizarre adventures – and there's many to come! Each season has its own appeal: the charmingly old-school beginning; its follow-up with arguably the most charismatic protagonist; a curious round-trip with an even more iconic villain; and even a small scale conflict with the most inspired direction to date. But as settings, abilities, and tones change, two things stays the same: Hirohiko Araki's unforgettable poses, and the fact that fights in JoJo's quickly become a strategy game where everyone attempts to be 10 steps ahead of whoever they're facing. While this all might sound like a bit of an impenetrable franchise, just a few episodes should be enough to understand the enduring popularity of the series.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix

Jujutsu Kaisen (2020– )

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An athletically-gifted high schooler (Itadori Yuuri) with tremendous physical strength and the ability to converse with spirits is whisked away from his ordinary life to become a highly specialized supernatural warrior (Jujutsu Sorcerer) under the careful tutelage of an eccentric masked mentor (Satoru Gojō) after he inadvertently becomes the vessel of an immensely powerful and evil entity (Ryoumen Sukuna). No, this isn’t Naruto or Bleach or Yu Yu Hakusho; it’s Jujutsu Kaisen, and it’s awesome, perfect for any fan of deftly animated action anime searching for a new favorite series. With an exhilarating blend of supernatural horror-action, dizzying fight scenes, oddball characters, and charming slice-of-life humor, Jujutsu Kaisen zigs where a more normal shonen anime would zag.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, HBO Max

Mob Psycho 100 (2016– )

Although its sibling series One-Punch Man receives a bit more attention, as its irreverent attitude and ridiculously grand action caught the attention of countless fans, Mob Psycho's heart ultimately gives it the edge. Shigeo "Mob" Kageyama is an awkward yet kind teen who forces himself to keep his emotions in check, as his tremendous psychic powers are unleashed when his emotions peak. Shigeo's character arc is compelling, but the true star of the series might be his mentor Reigen Arataka, a complete farce of an esper, but at the same time, one of the most genuine parental figures in anime. And don't get us wrong, Mob Psycho 100 is also an astonishing action production, and quite the inventive one at that. The work of digital and traditional artists is intermingled with techniques as unusual as paint-on-glass animation, giving unique form to the feelings Mob unleashes. Mob Psycho is in all respects a one of a kind series you shouldn't miss.
Where to watch it:Crunchyroll, Funimation, HBO Max

One Punch Man (2015– )

Plenty of series get heralded as deconstructions of the superhero genre these days, but they tend to be gritty and dark, eschewing squeaky-clean super stereotypes in favor of the seedy underbelly of heroism. While still spoofing the genre, One Punch Man goes in a completely different direction, posing the simple question: What if a superhero became so strong that he could defeat all of his enemies with a single punch? The series starts off with a normal dude named Saitama, who decides to undergo a ridiculous training regimen in order to become a superhero. He kind of overdoes it, becoming so powerful that his opponents pose no challenge, and he gets bored (and goes bald) as a result. Now, supermarket sales are more important than supervillains, younger heroes seeking mentors are just nuisances, and heroism is kind of just a bother. All of that being said, it's a funny, bonkers series that features plenty of action—every once in a while, even Saitama has to take things seriously. 
Where to watch: Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll

samurai champloo
Manglobe

Samurai Champloo (2005–2006)

Another Shinichiro Watanabe gem, Samurai Champloo features a similar format to Cowboy Bebop, but replaces guns with swords. After the teahouse where Fuu works gets trashed thanks to the antics of vagrant Mugen and ronin samurai Jin, she eventually forces the two to become her bodyguards as she searches for the "samurai who smells of sunflowers." By weaving hip-hop culture into the fabric of the series, Watanabe created an anachronistic version of Edo-era Japan, complete with graffiti, beatboxing, and a gripping soundtrack that coalesces with the free-flowing sword fights. Speaking of sword fights, the clashes in Samurai Champloo ooze style. Mugen's technique is like a freestyle—instinctive and unpolished, figuring it out with each hack of his sword. He also incorporates breakdancing and martial arts into his fighting. On the other hand, Jin's precise movements and slices makes him ruthlessly efficient, kind of what you'd expect to see from a true samurai. Though the characters and storytelling don't quite hit the same high notes as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is unique enough to stand out in the gigantic samurai subgenre.
Where to watch: Hulu

Soul Eater (2008–2009)

Soul Eater's most remarkable feature is how relentlessly committed it is to its aesthetic. Rather than a generic alternate universe rife with magic or technology, the series is Halloween as all get-out, but throughout the entire year. There's a creepily grinning moon, curly-haired witches, buildings that loom over dark streets, and a bright, cartoon-ish art style that indexes a particular kind of playful spookiness. Set in a world where certain humans have the ability to turn into weapons at will, students at the Death Weapon Meister Academy (run, of course, by Death himself), the series focuses on three pairs of student weapons and meisters who become entangled in fights against increasingly dangerous villains. Between studio Bones' animation and the delightful banter between meister and weapon, the series' action sequences pop. Overall, Soul Eater is a delight that's more spook than scare, grounded by deep-running relationships and a killer OST
Where to watch: Netflix, Hulu, Funimation

Vinland Saga (2019– )

Adapted from Makoto Yukimura's popular historical fiction manga series, Vinland Saga is as metal a Viking story as they come, following Thorfinn Karlsefni, a legendary Icelandic explorer, as he embarks on a perilous quest to avenge the death of his father. Initially set in the year 1002 A.D., the series traces Thorfinn's story from childhood to adulthood, maturing from a lighthearted boy into a harsh, relentless mercenary until finally leaving to colonize North America alongside Leif Erikson. Drawing elements from real-life historical accounts, Vinland Saga is an intense and captivating fictionalized depiction of a fascinating chapter of European history. Beneath the heart-pounding action and impressive animation pulses a resolutely humanist theme of anti-violence, with Thorfinn’s father, Thors, imparting him with the life lesson that every human being is fighting a hard battle and that no one is truly his enemy.
Where to watch:Amazon Prime

Yu Yu Hakusho (1992–1994)

Before the age of Hunter x Hunter, author Yoshihiro Togashi was already a bit of a legend in this genre thanks to the unforgettable Yu Yu Hakusho, which starts off with the death of its protagonist Yusuke Urameshi and follows his adventures as a spirit detective. Qualities shown in Togashi's later work weren't much of a factor in this mid-'90s series; rather than a wonderful ensemble cast, Yu Yu Hakusho is all focused on a charming group of four, and the fights are more hot-blooded than tactical. That said, his creativeness makes standard situations feel unusually fresh, to the point of peaking with perhaps the greatest tournament arc in action anime history. The abrupt ending to the series is still a shame, but it otherwise stands the test of time perfectly—enough that Netflix is making a live-action adaptation of it.
Where to watch: HuluFunimation

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