Superheroes have never been more popular than they are right now—and we aren't just talking about the West's infatuation with Marvel and DC. Anime superheroes are just as hot!
In fact, anime has given us some of the most iconic superhero characters of all time. The shonen genre is no stranger to colorful heroes who aim to save the world from unspeakable doom, and recent anime series have started poking satirical fun at superhero stereotypes.
Here are our picks for the best superhero anime series of all time and what makes each one so fun to watch.
10. Astro Boy
Apart from being the inspiration behind the Mega Man video game franchise, Astro Boy is often cited as being the establisher of what is now known as the anime aesthetic.
Based on the 1952 manga series, the first Astro Boy anime debuted in 1963 and aired in black and white. It brought to life the manga's story of Astro Boy, a robotic humanoid that fights off mechanical villains.
While many of the concepts featured in Astro Boy might feel dated now, there was nothing else like it at the time. The series laid the groundwork for many classic animes, and it shaped the superhero genre in Japan.
Astro Boy was so popular and iconic that a color remake was released in 1980, and then a modernized remake in 2003.
9. Gatchaman Crowds
In Gatchaman Crowds, the city of Tachikawa has its own lineup of superhuman bodyguards, known as Gatchaman.
One high school girl named Hajime Ichinose becomes a Gatchaman herself when a mysterious being gives her a notebook titled "NOTE." She soon finds out that this device isn't a simple notebook—it's the power source of Gatchaman.
Hajime and the rest of the Gatchaman have a daunting task ahead of them: she must help eradicate an alien race called MESS, but her carefree personality often gets in the way.
8. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K follows the extraordinary life of Saiki Kusuo, who was born with several different superpower abilities, including teleportation, psychokinesis, and telepathy.
Despite all the powers at his disposal, Saiki keeps it all on the down-low as he just wants to live a simple life and blend in with his fellow high school students. Of course, that's easier said than done when he keeps finding himself in unusual situations that force his hand.
In Charlotte, a mysterious comet named Charlotte flies by the Earth every 75 years, sprinkling dust across the planet. If a child happens to inhale this dust, they develop superpowers upon reaching puberty.
One boy, Yuu Otosaka, has the ability to take control of another person's body for five seconds—and this secret power has allowed him to cheat his way into a prestigious school.
But he's exposed by another girl, Nao Tomori, who has the ability to make herself invisible to one target. When she finds out about Yuu's powers, she convinces him to enroll at the Hoshinoumi Academy for superhuman students.
6. Mob Psycho 100
If you've seen One Punch Man and want more like it, you have to watch Mob Psycho 100—if only because it's from the same creator.
Although Shigeo "Mob" Kageyama seems like a normal middle school kid, he harbors unbelievably strong psychic powers.
Mob becomes an assistant to Reigen Arataka, a fake psychic who takes advantage of Mob's powers to earn cash.
However, Mob's powers don't come without danger. If Mob's emotions ever get out of hand, he can cause catastrophic destruction.
While most of the animes on this list are on the lighthearted side, Zetman is decidedly more brutal. It isn't afraid to explore dark themes, take narrative risks, or flip superhero tropes on their head.
Zetman takes place in a world where monstrous creatures known as Players threaten humanity. As the threat worsens, heroes are forced to stand against them and take action.
The core of Zetman centers on the rivalry between two heroes: ZET and Alphas. Each has their own different approach to heroism, causing them to butt heads quite often.
However, as both ZET and Alphas slowly uncover the truth behind the Players, Zetman really takes off and manages to do something truly special with the concept of superheroes.
Zetman is a very grown-up superhero anime series that goes to some very dark places before reaching its final episode.
4. Sailor Moon
You might not consider Sailor Moon to be a superhero anime, but it does have all the tropes you'd expect from the genre.
From secret identities to elaborate costume changes to snarky animal sidekicks, this trailblazer of the magical girl genre is as much a superhero show as any other series on our list.
Following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino as she protects her world against all kinds of threats, Sailor Moon is one of the most important anime series of all time—so it deserves inclusion here.
More than three decades after Sailor Moon's first episode aired in Japan, it remains one of the most celebrated animes ever created.
Not only did it help establish the magical girl genre as a whole, it was also years ahead of its time in its portrayal of LGBT+ characters during a time when such characters were seldom seen on screen.
Even today, it's rare to see a superhero group that's so completely focused on female empowerment and celebration. Sailor Moon managed that more than 30 years ago.
3. Tiger & Bunny
Tiger & Bunny takes place in Stern Bild City, where superheroes—known as NEXT (Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents)—reside.
In this world, heroes have basically become marketing tools, as each hero is sponsored by a specific brand.
These heroes appear on Hero TV, a show where they compete to defeat the most villains and rack up points to become the King of Heroes.
While Wild Tiger has been in the superhero game for a long time, his partner Barnaby Brooks, Jr is new to the scene.
Both heroes have very different ideologies when it comes to being a hero, but they must try to collaborate to save the city and keep their jobs.
2. One Punch Man
Saitama is just your average guy with a dream. He's lived his whole life wishing he was stronger but never did anything about it. When he ends up unemployed, he rediscovers his purpose.
Saitama wasn't born with any special superpowers, but he decides to become one anyway—so he does 1,000 pushups, situps, squats, and runs 10 kilometers every day for a year.
By the end, he's literally stronger than everyone on the planet. As monsters rampage through cities, Saitama gets to work and defeats them with nothing more than a single punch.
The crux of One Punch Man comes down to this: now that he's able to vanquish any enemy with just one punch, Saitama's life as a hero grows incredibly boring—so he searches the world for a formidable foe.
One Punch Man works so well because it's a brilliant take on what life would be like as the strongest hero in the world. Saitama suffers at the hands of his own strength, isolated from his friends and largely unappreciated by the world around him.
The show has amazing character designs, beautifully laid-out action, and a great mix of adventure and comedy, making it one of the best superhero anime series you'll ever see.
1. My Hero Academia
In a world where everyone has some sort of superpower, there will always be those who use their powers for selfish or evil reasons. That's why schools like UA exist: to teach a new generation of heroes how to protect those in need.
My Hero Academia is one of the cleverest takes on the superhero genre, with a huge range of powers across a wide cast of characters, many of whom have cemented themselves as legends of shonen anime.
The show centers on Izuku Midoriya, a boy who's born without any superpowers yet still works to become the greatest hero of all time. But the real star of My Hero Academia is All Might.
All Might's struggle to cope with his fading power is starkly contrasted with his overwhelming desire to protect people. He's easily the most interesting character in the early seasons and one of the reasons why My Hero Academia became so popular worldwide.