The 15 Best 12-24 Episode Anime

What is the sweet spot for an anime? Some people love a 100 anime episode epic, and others feel comfortable with 50 or 40 episodes. However, there’s something to be said for anime between 12 and 24 episodes in length. They may focus less on world-building and contain more action and tighter character focus. Most importantly, if you don’t have a lot of time, they offer complete story arcs that can be watched in a weekend or two. We’ve pulled together 15 of the shows we think represent the best examples in this category. They aren’t ranked but instead listed by episode length and then alphabetically.

15. GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There (24 Episodes)

GATE is an isekai (other world) anime, but it better fits another niche genre that really doesn’t get enough attention. In different media over the years, every now and then there’s a story that ponders what would happen if you matched up modern military technology against medieval suits of armor, swords, and the like.

That’s exactly what happens in GATE, where a mysterious gate appears in the middle of Tokyo, and fantasy creatures and soldiers rush out, slaughtering civilians left and right. The unexpected invasion is quickly put down by the Japanese armed forces, and they, in turn, enter the gate and set up a base in this new world.

It quickly turns out that the fantasy world warriors have made a grave mistake. However, the Japanese government isn’t crushing them with pure might. Instead, cultures collide, and our main character sets out on a mission to explore and make contact with the inhabitants of this magical realm.

We’ve been waiting for a long time to hear when the second season of GATE will air, but even if it never happens, the first 24 episodes are well worth your time.

14. Parasyte: The Maxim (24 Episodes)

We’re huge fans of body horror, and John Carpenter’s The Thing is our favorite horror film of all time. So it should be no surprise that Parasyte: The Maxim grabbed our attention right away since mysterious parasites fall from the sky. Those that are successful eat the heads of human beings and then take over their bodies, and those that aren’t – end up taking over animals – or, in the case of the main character, end up taking over a limb instead.

Our hero wakes up with his hand eaten and replaced by a shape-shifting creature he names “Migi,” which means “right” in Japanese. Migi isn’t his enemy anymore since their survival is now linked, but other parasites in hiding are a serious threat to them and other humans. What is the parasites’ mission? Where do they come from? These mysteries and the constant monstrous threat lurking around every corner.

13. Steins;Gate (24 Episodes)

Steins;Gate is a cult classic and definitely one of the best anime for people who like their minds to be screwed with. Half the time, you’ll be wondering what the heck is going on, but this is an intricate time-travel yarn about a wacky dude who thinks he’s a mad scientist. While he’s actually just a crank, he does manage to accidentally invent time travel using a microwave and a cellphone, which allows him to send text messages back in time.

Unfortunately, this has serious implications for the world as a whole, and now a race is on to undo the damage those time travel texts have caused, not to mention that his love interest keeps dying, and there’s a shadowy organization gunning for his technology!

12. Welcome to the NHK (24 Episodes)

Keeping with the theme of madness, Welcome to the NHK is another dark psychological show that follows the lives of several Tokyo residents with serious personal problems. Most of them, including the main character, is hikikomori – a special type of shut-in syndrome that originated in Japan.

Tatsuhiro Sato is saddled with the syndrome and develops a conspiracy that the NHK (Japan’s national broadcaster) is actually turning people into hikikomori. A mysterious girl offers to cure him using psychology, but she’s not exactly packing a full deck herself. If you like dark psychological trips, Welcome to the NHK is a must-watch title.

11. Ergo Proxy (23 Episodes)

We really feel that Ergo Proxy didn’t reach the level of popularity it deserved. With Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex for competition, it might not be too surprising. However, it really is one of the best cyberpunk anime ever: set far in the future in a post-apocalyptic utopia, a series of murders rock modern society.

The robots that make modern life possible are going wild after being infected with a strange virus. These incidents are assigned for investigation by a woman named RE-l Mayer. As she uncovers the truth behind the murders and the virus, she discovers shocking revelations about the truths that underpin their very way of life.

Ergo Proxy is still a stunning show to look at, even 15 years later. It’s dark and atmospheric and takes some properly unexpected turns. If you like cyberpunk properties like GiTS or The Matrix, put this on your watchlist.

10. Key the Metal Idol (15 Episodes)

Key the Metal Idol is a mid-’90s OVA that’s still one of the most singular shows ever made in the medium. Key is a robot created by Dr. Murao Mima. Upon his death, he tells Key that if she can make 30,000 friends, she’ll become human – a quest that she sets out on, but as you might expect, plenty of people stand in her way. Especially since there’s something in the technology Key is built with that’s of interest to some very powerful players.

We think Key is most notable for us, thanks to its uniquely dark art style and tone. It’s creepy, disturbing, and has plenty of times where you’ll have a “what the heck?” moment, but that’s also why you should watch this unique experimental masterpiece.

9. Charlotte (13 Episodes)

There have been many different shows over the years that deal with young people developing superpowers. That’s true for Charlotte as well, but this is a show that really plays with the tropes in interesting ways.

Charlotte is the name of a Comet that visits Earth every 75 years. The dust it sprinkles onto the planet lets some young people develop special powers, which will disappear when they become adults. While these powers all offer amazing benefits, they each come with serious downsides as well. Not to mention that powers like these in the hands of children can lead to tragedy.

Charlotte starts off as the typical lighthearted anime school show but takes a dark turn around the halfway mark. So don’t be fooled by its familiarity in the beginning, and be sure to stick around for the full ride!

8. The Devil Is a Part-Timer! (13 Episodes)

The Devil Is a Part-Timer is what we would call a reverse-isekai anime since, instead of someone from our world finding themselves in a fantasy realm, in this case, it’s the other way around. The demon lord Satan flees his world for ours after nearly being defeated by a hero. Unfortunately, our world doesn’t have any magic.

So Satan and his comrade Alciel have to conserve what little magic they have and survive as humans until they can figure out how to get back. Satan picks up a job working at a knockoff McDonald’s burger joint. He quickly rises to the position of assistant manager and brings his demonic management skills into play when it comes to other businesses muscling in on the competition. It’s hard enough to pay the bills in the modern world, but Satan soon has to deal with other people showing up from his world, and not all of them are friends!

We’re all still waiting for a new season of The Devil Is a Part-Timer, and it’s been eight years since the original 13-episode run, so we were pretty shocked to hear that a second season would be coming either in 2021 or 2022. With a revival of the show confirmed, there’s never been a better time to catch up on this classic comedy.

7. Made in Abyss (13 Episodes)

With animation and art design on part with something from Studio Ghibli, Made in Abyss was always going to grab attention. However, don’t let the cutesy, storybook style of the show fool you. This is a dark and gripping tale that contains equal measures of terror and beauty.

Set next to a giant hole in the ground known as the Abyss, orphan girl Riko yearns to be like her heroic mother, a woman who managed to plumb the depths of the abyss until she was never heard from again. One day, she meets a robot who looks like a little boy, someone who came from the abyss and its many mysterious artifacts and technologies.

Befriending this robot, Riko decides to follow her mother’s journey after receiving a message from her saying that Riko will find her at the bottom of the abyss. Made in Abyss is a modern masterpiece that’s likely to only grow in status over time, so make a plan to see it.

6. Serial Experiments Lain (13 Episodes)

Lain is a late-’90s classic that, like Key the Metal Idol, is memorable for its dark tone and artwork. Lain Iwakura doesn’t know or care that much about computers. Not like her dad, who is absolutely obsessed with them. She’s also not that familiar with the Wired, which is like our modern-day Internet. Yet, students in her class start getting emails from a deceased classmate.

Dusting off her old computer, Lain herself receives a message that the girl isn’t dead. It’s just that her mind now lives in the Wired. This kicks off a series of events involving the Wired where Lain has to grapple with questions about what’s real, what it means to exist, and whether your perceptions can really be trusted. Also, that intro song is fire!

5. Elfen Lied (12 Episodes)

Elfen Lied is a personal favorite of ours and, although it came out all the way back in 2004, it still holds up against modern horror fare. This is a hyper-violent show that deals with a race of humanoids known as the “diclonius,” who have two horns, just as the name suggests. These exclusively female creatures have invisible telekinetic arms that they can use to do anything from stopping bullets to ripping people limb from limb.

One of these diclonius, a girl named Lucy, escapes from a research facility where they are experimented on brutally. She loses her memory after a bad fall (and a bullet to the helmet), ending up in the home of a young man who takes her in. Elfen Lied is a strange mix of cute romantic anime and bloody violent guro (gore) anime. It’s R-rated, but it’s also excellent and a must-watch if any of those themes sound remotely interesting to you.

4. Death Parade (12 Episodes)

What happens after we die? Despite what religions may tell us, according to Death Parade, you go to a bar. In this bar, you’ll have to play pub games like darts or billiards. Depending on how you do, you might be rewarded with reincarnation or banished to oblivion.

Decim is a barman and, therefore, also an arbiter. Having never lived or died, he has no emotions and is impartial. However, he begins to take an interest in human beings, their lives, and their emotions. Perhaps not the best course of action for an agent of Death.

3. Detroit Metal City (12 Episodes)

These days there are many different short-form anime doing the rounds, but for the most part, few of them do it right. Detroit Metal City episodes are only 13 minutes long but manage to effectively tell a hilarious story in short vignettes.

Basically, the frontman of an up-and-coming death metal band is actually a meek Japanese boy who loves Swedish pop music. He’s just doing the metal act to make some money while he chases his dream. However, his metal persona continues to screw up his life while also slowly becoming an alter-ego he needs to embrace. Even if you don’t like heavy metal music much, Detroit Metal City never overstays its welcome or wears out its premise. If you get a chance to watch this one, it only takes about three hours to watch in total.

2. I Couldn’t Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job. (12 Episodes)

Building on the ridiculous light novel tradition of putting the entire plot into the title, this anime is almost shorter than its name. Imagine you’ve trained to be the hero who would take down the demon lord your entire life, only for someone else to pull it off first. Now the main character has to take a job working in an electronics store? Electronics?

Well, in this world, they’ve figured out how to use magic in much the same way we use electricity, so maybe “magitronics” would be a better description. It’s not the worst life, but one day a new employee shows up – the daughter of the fallen demon lord! Can he train her up to be a model employee? The answer is “sort of,” but the hijinks definitely ensue.

Just be warned that this show is solidly ecchi, so if you don’t like a little bit of raunchiness, then you may want to avoid it. Also, keep an eye out for a perverted parody of Captain Picard from Star Trek. It makes no sense but still manages to be hilarious.

1. No Game, No Life (12 Episodes)

We are ending this list with yet another truly weird entry, but one that’s hard to ignore. No Game, No Life is an isekai anime where two shut-in gamers are transported to a game-centric world after beating an interdimensional god at chess. The brother and sister are game geniuses, and the world of Disboard has magical rules that mean people can only settle disputes by playing games.

Look, we’ll be honest: this show sounds really, really stupid on paper, but give it a chance. It actually turns out to be a pretty compelling story of conquest and strangely endearing sibling love. If a little creepy. Give it a chance, you’ll probably like it!

It’s Not OVA Yet!

With a lower limit of 12-episodes, we’ve entered into the zone of classic OVA (original video animation) anime, but things can get even shorter! What are your favorite short anime series? Which do you think should be on the list?



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