Anime has a reputation for producing long-running shows. Popular shonen like One Piece and Bleach span hundreds of hours of watch time. Luckily, there are also some amazing anime shows that you can binge in a single day. We've gathered our favourites, to put together a list of the best short anime series.
Short anime aren’t just more accessible than their longer counterparts. They’re also much more likely to actually be finished! For a long time, the anime industry has had a bad habit of not finishing their adaptations, leaving series with open-ended conclusions, or no endings at all.
The best short anime
Here are our picks for the best short anime, for those who want a complete story without spending a decade watching One Piece. Get ready for a whole host of different anime that will please newcomers and diehard fans alike!
Deadman Wonderland is a 12-episode dark action series about Ganta, a teenage boy framed for mass murder. After he’s found guilty in a sham trial, he travels to the most infamous prison in Japan: Deadman Wonderland.
Deadman Wonderland isn’t just a normal prison. In fact, it’s actually a tourist destination. Criminals imprisoned in Deadman Wonderland become attractions in the theme park that surrounds the prison. If they want to survive, they’ll have to fight through hellish games and battles, all for the amusement of the crowd.
The Deadman Wonderland anime isn’t a perfect adaptation of the manga, but it is absolutely worth a watch for anyone who wants a fast-paced, violent shonen.
Cyberpunk dystopia meets Suicide Squad in Akudama Drive. Set in a fictional version of future Japan, Akudama Drive follows an ordinary person’s experience with a group of Akudama, extremely dangerous supervillains.
Through a series of mistakes and accidents, Ordinary becomes ever more entangled in these criminals’ schemes. Along the way, she witnesses the brutal actions of criminals and police officers alike.
Over just 12 episodes, Akudama Drive manages to make you feel empathy for incredibly evil people, and ask yourself whether you believe people can ever truly be beyond redemption.
Yuri on Ice
Yuri on Ice is perhaps the most successful Yaoi anime of the past decade. It follows Yuri Katsuki, a professional ice skater who hangs up his skates after a crushing public defeat. After a chance meeting with an ice skating idol of his, Yuki begins to find meaning in his life again, discovering what it really means to succeed.
Yuri on Ice is an incredibly heartfelt rom-com about finding purpose after defeat, and learning to love yourself and others. It’s also one of the most popular anime to prominently feature outwardly LGBTQ+ characters, a fact that it is praised for to this day. At only 12 episodes plus an OVA, there's no reason not to give it a try.
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is a sci-fi anime about a self-aware AI trying to save humanity from an apocalyptic human-versus-AI war. The show’s premise gets even wilder, when you factor in that the AI in question isn't programmed for combat. Instead, she’s been designed for one purpose only: to make people happy with her beautiful singing voice.
Despite the completely ridiculous premise, Vivy is actually rather mature. Its quieter moments reflect on what makes someone human, and what it means to have found purpose in your life.
These philosophical questions underline every part of the show, even when an episode is full of intense fight scenes and thrilling time-travel shenanigans.
Set in a bar between life and death, Death Parade is an incredible 12-episode analysis of what makes a human good or evil. Each episode brings a fresh set of newly-deceased people to the Quindecim bar, a purgatory where their morality will be judged.
Through a randomly selected death game, the participants must choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and life or death. Their choices will determine whether their souls are reincarnated, or extinguished into the void of death.
Death Parade’s deconstruction of the human psyche is a masterclass of writing. It rivals the best depictions of morality from across TV, film, and anime.
Steins;Gate follows a group of rookie scientists as they accidentally invent time travel. It's also the longest anime on this list, clocking in at 25 episodes. Despite its relatively long runtime, it’s absolutely worth bingeing.
Starting out as a slice-of-life comedy, Steins;Gate soon turns dark, becoming more twisty and obscure with every episode. What follows is perhaps the most complex and intriguing time travel mystery to ever be animated.
Steins;Gate isn’t just about time-travel and winding plot threads, though. It also has a great cast of characters, each with flaws and triumphs that make you root for their happiness above all else.
If you don't fancy watching the Steins;Gate anime, you can instead choose to play the visual novel that it's based on. Every major Steins;Gate game is currently included with PS Plus Extra. There's also a sequel anime, which released in 2018.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is still one of the most discussed magical girl shows in all of anime, 11 years after it first aired. It remains one of the most enigmatic, incredible deconstructions of an anime genre ever created.
Before we go any further, be aware that minor spoilers lie ahead! It’s impossible to talk about Madoka Magica without giving away the first of its many surprises.
Madoka Magica begins as your average magical girl show: an ordinary schoolgirl encounters magic, and harnesses the power to control it. What follows is pretty standard, for the first few episodes at least. Episode three is when the show reveals its true nature, as a magical girl is brutally beheaded by the supernatural evil she faces.
What follows is a complete deconstruction of the magical girl genre. The happy-go-lucky tropes of magical girl shows are tossed aside, replaced by a bleak look at the psychological torment suffered by the children that save the world.
As long as you’re up for some misery alongside your magic, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a must-watch.
That's it for our look at the best short anime! Any of these are fantastic choices for those looking for a show to get through over a weekend, or newcomers ready to dip their toes into anime. We hope you enjoy!