The 13 Best Historical Anime Series of All Time, Ranked

These fantastic anime series incorporate real-world elements from history and the results are totally worth watching.
The 13 Best Historical Anime Series of All Time, Ranked

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Some of our favorite anime series of all time are the ones based in history, that bring the past back to life in animated form.

Historical anime is a genre that involves real history, whether that means real people, events, or time periods. By incorporating real-world elements from our past, they feel that much more palpable.

When an anime series blends historical accuracy with creative liberty, the end result is often greater than the sum of its parts—as long as the creators know how to strike that balance.

Looking to enjoy a taste of the past in your anime? Here are our picks for the best historical anime series of all time, from epic tales of wandering samurai to the criminals of Prohibition America.

13. Emma: A Victorian Romance

Drama, Romance

Originally aired 2005 to 2007

24 episodes (2 seasons)

7.62 on MAL

Who doesn't love a good period drama? The eponymous Emma of Emma: A Victorian Romance is a lowly maid who's trying to make a living in the harsh world of Victorian England.

However, her luck changes for the better when she happens to capture the heart of a wealthy aristocrat named William.

The drama of having to hide their untraditional love from the world while finding each other inescapable makes this one of the most romantic historical anime series worth watching.

12. The Rose of Versailles

Drama, Romance

Originally aired 1979 to 1980

40 episodes (1 season)

8.33 on MAL

The French Revolution is no stranger to retellings, so it isn't hard to imagine why it became the subject of this classic anime.

The Rose of Versailles (also called Lady Oscar) was produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now known as TMS Entertainment) way back in 1979. But don't discount this series just because it's old!

Based on the manga of the same name, The Rose of Versailles follows real events of the French Revolution with surprising accuracy.

If you're a history buff, you'll love this anime for how it shows a different side to both famous and not-so-famous faces of this period. But if you aren't a history buff, you can still enjoy this, too!

11. Black Butler

Action, Comedy, Mystery, Supernatural

Originally aired 2008 to 2010

36 episodes (2 seasons)

7.66 on MAL

When you think of Gothic horror, Victorian-era London probably springs to mind first. Well, that's the setting for Black Butler!

Having sold his own soul for the chance to avenge his family's murder, the wealthy Ciel Phantomhive is both master and servant to his demonic butler Sebastian.

On top of devoting himself to finding the people who killed his parents, he also seeks to use Sebastian's demonic powers to carve a place for himself in the Phantomhive business empire.

Black Butler is an excellent historical anime series that does a great job of exploring 19th century England in a new, eerie light.

10. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Action, Adventure, Supernatural

Originally aired 2012 to 2022

190 episodes (5 seasons)

7.89 on MAL

Why set your anime in a single time period when you can set it in multiple time periods? Leave it to Hirohiko Araki—the creator of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure—to execute on such a bold idea.

This classic shonen series starts off as a Victorian drama about two brothers destined to feud, but subsequent parts jump to later generations of Joestar in later time periods. For example, Part 2 tackles World War II while Parts 3 and beyond inch closer to modern times.

If you like variety and frequent switch-ups in your anime, you should definitely check out JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Just don't be surprised when things get a little (or a lot) strange...

9. Kingdom

Action, Historical

Originally aired 2012 to 2022

129 episodes (4 seasons)

7.93 on MAL

If you can get past the unorthodox CGI animation in this series, you'll find that there's actually a lot to love about Kingdom.

Long story short, this series is a dramatized version of the Three Kingdoms period of China's history, from 220 to 280 AD. The period has been featured in books, movies, and TV shows of all kinds, but Kingdom brings new elements that keep it fresh.

Through the eyes of protagonist Xin, we get to see the sacrifices and tribulations of war during this deeply beloved historical period. You'll notice some familiar faces if you're a history buff, but Kingdom does a good job of easing you into the different figures if you aren't.

8. Golden Kamuy

Action, Adventure, Historical

Originally aired 2018 to 2023

49 episodes (4 seasons)

7.87 on MAL

Golden Kamuy centers on the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido Island in Northern Japan, set during the end of the Russo-Japanese War (which was fought between 1904 and 1905).

There's a great balance of humor, action, and heart in Golden Kamuy, which faithfully represents the traditions of this somewhat obscure setting and its underappreciated people.

It's one of the best historical anime series you can watch simply for how far it goes to expose you to this lesser-known culture.

7. Rainbow

Drama, Suspense

Originally aired 2010

26 episodes (1 season)

8.48 on MAL

Set in 1955, Rainbow tells the story of a group of Japanese boys who are placed in a disciplinary school for acting outside societal norms.

As you might expect, they're then subject to a string of abuses perpetrated by the people in charge of the school.

Yet, despite all of the atrocities and cruelty, they learn how to cope and deal with their traumatic experiences. Even so, the trauma follows them even after they leave the school years later.

Rainbow is one of the darker historical anime series on this list, but its difficult subject matter makes it all the more worth watching.

6. Baccano!

Action, Comedy, Mystery, Supernatural

Originally aired 2007

16 episodes (1 season)

8.37 on MAL

Baccano! is a rare example of a historical anime series that's set across multiple eras. In this case, there are three separate timelines, and the plot brings all three together in a wonderfully satisfying way.

Mostly taking place in a fictionalized version of the United States, Baccano! involves all kinds of characters—including alchemists and mafia mobsters—and the primary timeline occurs during Prohibition.

Baccano! dives into the excesses of the Roaring Twenties decade, plus a handful of fantastical elements added in for good measure. There's a lot of fun chaos in this surprising show, and you won't guess the ending.

5. 91 Days

Action, Crime, Drama, Historical

Originally aired 2016

12 episodes (1 season)

7.83 on MAL

91 Days is a tale of revenge that's set during the Prohibition era in the United States (which lasted from 1920 to 1933).

Sure, there are gangsters and speakeasies in this anime, but the real allure rests in the intricacies of the feud between Avilo and Nero, which threatens to tear the Orco family apart.

Throw in the chaotically unpredictable Fango and you've got a great historical anime series that'll keep you guessing.

4. Yasuke

Action, Fantasy

Originally aired 2021

6 episodes (1 season)

5.76 on MAL

Yasuke may be a bit controversial for some of the creative liberties it took—hence the review bombing it received—but, to its credit, the show does tackle a lesser-known subject in a fresh way.

This anime series tells the story of the eponymous Yasuke, a real-life African samurai who served the legendary Oda Nobunaga. In Yasuke, he's given up his violent life, but must now travel across Japan to keep a young girl safe so they can battle a demon queen.

Sure, Yasuke takes place in an alternate version of 16th century feudal Japan with magic and mechs, but it's a beautifully stylized account of the enigmatic figure's life, complete with great action and music.

3. Demon Slayer

Action, Fantasy

Originally aired 2019 to 2023

55 episodes (3 seasons)

8.50 on MAL

The Taishō period, which spanned from 1912 to 1926, remains one of the most interesting times in Japanese history.

Back then, life in the rural areas of the country was largely the same as it had been for centuries, yet people who traveled a few short miles to a city would see cars, electric lights, and steam trains.

Now, what if you threw demons into the mix? It's no surprise that Demon Slayer ended up becoming one of the most popular anime franchises of the past several years. It just works!

2. Vinland Saga

Action, Adventure, Drama, Historical

Originally aired 2019 to 2023

48 episodes (2 seasons)

8.74 on MAL

Vikings don't get enough love in anime, so it's great that we have Vinland Saga, which does such a great job showcasing them.

Instead of depicting them as the usual savage berserkers that we often see in fiction, this historical anime highlights the deep and sophisticated culture of these people.

Vinland Saga is every bit as epic as the tales of the Viking people themselves. Phenomenally animated by Wit Studio and MAPPA, it's one of the greatest anime series to come out in the last decade.

1. Samurai Champloo

Action, Adventure, Comedy

Originally aired 2004 to 2005

26 episodes (1 season)

8.51 on MAL

What happens when you mash up the era of wandering samurai with a soundtrack of sick hip-hop beats? You get Samurai Champloo!

This stylish historical anime series follows Jin and Mugen, two rōnin (i.e. samurai without masters) who are polar opposites yet find themselves stuck together on a quest to protect Fuu as she searches for a samurai who smells of sunflowers.

The music blends seamlessly into the Edo period, giving Samurai Champloo a truly unique vibe that's totally its own. This is the perfect marriage of period drama and modern style.