10 Most Popular Anime Genres (And The Best Series Of Each)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Princess Mononoke, and Mushishi split image.

As anime becomes more and more mainstream, writers can get creative with their stories, embracing newer sub-genres like soothing slice-of-life and expanding on the oldies-but-goodies, like isekai. The least popular genre in anime is historical fiction (the sort without any speculative elements whatsoever). Action, adventure, and romance are the most popular genres, but other sub-genres have risen to the fore and gained in popularity, like romantic comedy.

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Popular genres and sub-genres are not to be confused with demographics like shojo, shonen, seinen, and josei, which have more to do with marketing and target audience. Genres like romance and chosen-one fantasy are written for any kind of demographic.



10 Magical Girl: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Though Utena is the titular character of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Anthy is the true magical girl of this classic. Anthy contains the power of the Sword of Dios. Utena acts as her princely guardian. Kunihiko Ikuhara, who previously worked on Sailor Moon, also worked on Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Anthy is regal, powerful, and kind; Utena wants to break norms and become a prince. The two make an iconic fairytale duo. The series leans into symbolism and philosophical imagery even more so than Sailor Moon. The bubblegum-’90s aesthetic, regal battle imagery, and through-line of comedy are the reigning parts of the magical girl series.

9 Psychological Thriller: Death Parade

In Death Parade, the dead arrive at bars that act as way stations between life and the afterlife. The dead must participate in Death Games that expose their secrets and motivations in life, determining the kind of afterlife in store for them.

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Death Parade is a highly philosophical psychological thriller. Not all thrillers need to inspire fear in the audience; sometimes, examining one’s soul and the difference between right and wrong is mind-bending enough. It also features a character cameo from the classic psychological thriller Death Note.

8 Chosen One Fantasy: Berserk

In the dark fantasy Berserk, the chosen one is also the antagonist, Griffith. The protagonist is an incredibly flawed warrior, Guts, who wrestles with demons that threaten to take over his soul. Guts once served Griffith, and the two grew close, but that bond was sundered forever.

Griffith is the angel-faced leader who’s often cited as a savior. He’s no reluctant hero — he’s a man who believes he’s meant to create kingdoms. His fall from grace is one of the darkest and most heartbreaking failed heroic journeys in anime.

7 Horror: Hellsing

The Hellsing Organization ousts the undead and the nefarious supernatural from the world alongside the vampire, Alucard. Though Alucard is the strongest vampire in the world, he now serves the hunter Abraham Van Helsing. Hellsing elevates traditional vampire horror with whimsical weaponry, epic battles, and eldritch-style monster designs.

Though Hellsing embraces an at-times beautiful gothic aesthetic, there’s no doubt that its vampires are cruel monsters capable of true evil. Alucard makes a gritty, swaggering hero that would fit well in a spaghetti Western.

6 Environmental: Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke encapsulates the best part of environmentally-themed anime. Environmental anime examine humanity’s effect on the natural world, often rightfully critiquing industrialism and capitalism. The forest in the Studio Ghibli classic is a primeval home to gods and plant spirits. Lady Eboshi’s ironworks poison the natural world with its pain and noxious fume.

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San represents how the natural world will eventually fight back. Her brutal and determined defense is representative of the melting ice caps and a rising tide. Ashitaka, the honorable warrior prince, shows that healing and union between humanity and nature will always be possible.

5 Family Drama: When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There is a quiet, poignant movie often forgetten by Ghibli fans. It examines family legacy and trauma with great sensitivity and deftness. The bond between Marnie and Anna symbolizes the relationship between the pain of the past and the confused, lonely present.

Though not as flashy as many other Studio Ghibli films, When Marnie Was There is a worthy part of the studio’s legacy. It balances unpacking family trauma and loss with a sweet sense of nostalgia, which many can relate to.

4 Romantic Comedy: Recovery Of An MMO Junkie

Most romantic comedies take place in high school, but Recovery of an MMO Junkie is refreshing for its 30-something adult protagonist, Moriko. Romantic comedies are known for slapstick humor and a fanciful sensibility that makes the every day feel a little bit more magical.

Moriko wants more joy in her life and chases an escape from her repetitive job by playing the MMO Fruits de Mer. When her work life and her gaming life start to collide (in the form of a handsome coworker), things start to go from mundane to delightfully preposterous.

3 Isekai: Fushigi Yuugi

Isekai are portal fantasies popular both with shonen and shojo demographics; Fushigi Yuugi is a masterpiece both in terms of isekai and shojo romance. The romance between Miaka and her Celestial Warrior is consuming, delightfully tropey, and at times heartbreaking.

The Universe of the Four Gods is based on historical China and Chinese mythology. Rather than falling through a well like Kagome in Inuyasha, Miaka’s transported to the fantastical world of the Four Gods by falling through the pages of a book — a delightful metaphor.

2 Supernatural Romance: Fruits Basket

A relationship between a human girl and a boy cursed to transform into an animal when he’s hugged by the opposite sex may seem like an impossible romance, but in the shojo world of Fruits Basket, love finds a way. Tohru acts as the outsider to a family of supernatural beings — the cursed members of the Chinese zodiac.

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Tohru’s can-do spirit and optimism inject new life into the sad and dysfunctional members of the Sohma family. Not everyone in the Sohma family deserves a happy ever after, but the maligned cat Kyo certainly does.

1 Iyashikei: Mushishi

Mushishi is a contemplative fantasy based in a strange and magical world. The calm and philosophical tone merges with an absolutely stunning art style and forest setting to create one of the best examples of iyashikei anime. Iyashikei is a sub-genre of slice-of-life anime, and the term means “healing.”

The idea is to impart a sense of solace and well-being to the viewer, encouraging them to breathe deep, slow down, and immerse themselves in simple, beautiful storytelling. Some iyashikei focus on enchanted worlds and light humor, but Mushishi focuses on finding understanding in the complex natural world.

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