Top 15 Best Anime Under 30 Episodes

Written by Sydney Butler
Last updated July 15, 2021

There are many long-form anime that are well worth the watch, but if you want intense and action-packed storytelling, then anime with fewer than 30 episodes are usually the best place to look. The 26-episode seasons used to be the standard, but these days it seems we're either getting 12-episode seasons or thousand-episode shonen epics. Nonetheless, you'll find both modern and classic anime on this list.

The list is arranged in descending episode length. Where multiple series have the same episode count, the order is alphabetical. This isn't a ranked list, and of course, what's considered "best" is subjective! So let's get straight into our list of the best anime under 30 episodes.

15. Claymore (26 Episodes)

Claymore is based on a rather excellent manga, which you can actually read right now using the Shonen Jump app. It centers on a woman named Clare, a so-called Claymore. These are female warriors who have been infused with the flesh and powers of a Yoma. The Yoma are shape-shifting monsters who hide among humans and then eat them at their leisure. The Claymores (named for their large swords) are the only ones who can detect and defeat Yoma. However, they've lost a part of their humanity in the process - and will eventually lose it all, at which point, the rest of their order will have to take them out

This beautiful, action-packed show takes on a journey with Clare and her young human companion as she battles the monsters without and within. Despite being an anime with less than 30 episodes, Claymore certainly feels like a longer journey.

14. Cowboy Bebop (26 Episodes)

It's almost cliche at this point to put Cowboy Bebop on any list of best anime, and personally, We're not actually huge fans of this show. Yet there's no denying that Cowboy Bepop has a lot going on. Interesting characters, charming '90s anime aesthetics, and some of the best music in any show - anime or not.

The Bebop is a ship shared by several ragtag folks from all over the solar system. They make a living by hunting bounties for money, but each one of them has a dark past they'd rather not talk about. For the most part, Cowboy Bebop follows a bounty-of-the-week formula. However, there's a major story arc bridging the entire series, culminating in the excellent Knocking On Heaven's Door movie.

If you've somehow never seen Cowboy Bebop, then we don't want to get too much into the characters and their individual journeys. This is a show you should watch without knowing what's coming, just like the characters themselves.

13. Mirai Nikki - Future Diary (26 Episodes)

Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) ranks as one of the very best anime for me personally. It's twisted, thrilling, and honestly one of the most original shows in the medium. The god Deus Ex Machina transforms the phones of twelve people into a special "diary" that offers slightly different powers. All of them can show the future in some way, but with unique strengths and weaknesses reflecting the nature of each diary holder. The diary holders must eliminate each other, with the last one standing becoming the successor god to Deus.

That makes Mirai Nikki a battle royale anime, but it's so much more than that. The main character, Yukiteru Amano, has an obsessive stalker named Yuno Gasai. Yuno is a "yandere" character. That is, she's sweet and innocent towards the object of her affection but psychopathically jealous as well, often leading to murder and other twisted evil deeds. Yuno may not be the first-ever yandere character, but she's certainly the most famous. This dynamic between Yukiteru and Yuno is worth the price of entry alone but be prepared for some very unforeseen twists in this wicked story.

12. Neon Genesis Evangelion (26 Episodes)

Full disclosure: this is our number one favorite all-time anime, and we never really see that changing. Evangelion is such a singular and special show that it's hard to describe exactly why someone should see it. The premise is that the world has suffered a major catastrophe known as Second Impact, with the event that wiped out the dinosaurs being the first. In this post-apocalyptic world, strange gigantic creatures known as Angels start to attack the city of Tokyo-3. Only a special giant humanoid weapon known as Evangelion has any hope of stopping these creatures, who apparently want to cause Third Impact and finish off humankind for good. The only people who can pilot the Evangelions are 14-year old children identified as being compatible with them. Our hero Shinji Ikari, the son of the man who leads NERV and the Evas, is one of these pilots - even if a very reluctant one.

On paper, this sounds like every mecha anime: there's a Chosen One who must pilot the giant robot to save all of mankind. Well, Evangelion takes every single mecha anime trope, shreds it to pieces, dopes it with hallucinogens, and force-feeds it to you. Nothing is as it seems, and everything is not going to be all right.

The original 26-episode run of Evangelion has not been available to stream or purchase in the West for decades. Recently, Netflix has negotiated the rights, so you can now watch the entire show, as well as the movies that give the story a proper ending. Just note that Netflix commissioned a new English dub for Evangelion since they could not get the rights to the iconic original English dub we all know and love. This isn't just the best anime under 30 episodes, in our opinion, it deserves to be at or near the top in every category. But hey, we are a little biased here.

11. Trigun (26 Episodes)

Trigun is an absolute juggernaut of the late '90s anime. It has a solid, unique art style, great comedy and fascinating characters. Set on a desert planet, it starts with two female insurance agents who try to minimize the damage caused by a man nicknamed Vash the Stampede. While they imagine some monstrous man, Vash instead turns out to be a bumbling, friendly guy. It's just that major disasters seem to follow him around. Of course, there's way more to Vash than anyone can imagine, and the origins of his misfortunes go further back than the ladies in question could guess.

If you like space westerns and solid action-comedy anime, Trigun needs to be part of your anime bucket list. This is a very easy anime to watch, it might be just under 30 episodes in length, but it actually feels like it's over sooner than that.

10. Kill La Kill (25 Episodes)

Before you know anything else about Kill La Kill, you should know it was animated by Studio Trigger. In fact, Kill La Kill is the studio's first production and an original work. This is important because Kill La Kill established the unique visual style of Hiroyuki Imaishi, first seen in Gurren Lagan. That iconic animation and visual design look would again feature in later Trigger shows, such as Kiznaiver and the excellent Darling in the Franxx. The point is that Kill La Kill is worth watching just for the pure visual joy it brings, but there's also a compelling story under the sakuga.

Ryuko Matoi is looking for the person who murdered her father. She wields a giant scissor blade and wears a special sentient dress that enhanced her physically. Enrolling in the Honnojii Academy to find the culprit, she has to battle an ever-tougher set of opponents who themselves have power-enhancing school uniforms. Be warned, this show has a lot of bare skin in it, which can put some viewers off, but it's highly stylized and absolutely stomps for every minute of its runtime.

9. Spice and Wolf (25 Episodes)

Spice and Wolf tells the story of a merchant who visits a small village during harvest time and leaves with much more than he bargained for. Hidden among the grains in his wagon, a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf sleeps. This is a goddess of the harvest who lives in the wheat, but she's tired of the village and wants to head back home. This is the story of how the two travel towards her dimly-remembered homeland and how their relationship deepens through one adventure after another.

This show is, to be honest, filled with more talk than action. The banter between Lawrence and Holo the wolf goddess is the main reason to watch, but it's also beautiful and laid back. There's more than enough danger from time to time, but the anime as a whole is more contemplative than average, which makes it a great show to chill out to.

8. Toradora! (25 Episodes)

Another entry on this list that's also on our personal list of favorites. At least as far as romance anime goes. Toradora! is the story of how two very different people with their own baggage end up developing affections for each other, even though they started out with feelings for different people. Ryuji is a gentle boy with an intimidating face and an unrequited crush on his high school sweetheart.

Taiga is a girl with problems at home and big insecurities about her size. She's emotionally unstable and tends to lash out violently at her perceived transgressors. They are each in love with each other's best friends, which is why they team up to make romance happen for the other. You can probably get where this is going, but the road there is twisting and entertaining. It's very much about the journey and not the destination. There's a reason Toradora! often tops the lists of best romance anime, and if you feel like giving the old blood pump some attention, check it out.

7. The Ancient Magus' Bride (24 Episodes)

There's so much to say about The Ancient Magus' Bride. It's a hauntingly beautiful show and has incredibly interesting character designs. The Ancient Magus himself draws on much of western folklore, as does every other creature shown in the anime.

Set in England, this dark fantasy tells the story of Chise Hatori, a Japanese girl with an unfortunate past who lets herself be sold into slavery. She's bought by the ancient magus Elias, who takes her home to England. He buys her because she's a Sleigh Beggy - a magus with the ability to draw magic from her surroundings, but one that's physically weak with a severely shortened lifespan.

Elias takes her on as an apprentice and gives her magical artifacts that help control the constant damage that absorbed magic does to her. Chise is also Elias's betrothed, hence the name of the show, but their romantic relationship is rather otherworldly. Elias hopes to learn more of what it means to be human from Chise since they are quite literally from different worlds.

Fans of both dark western fantasy and tragic romance, in general, will most likely fall in love with this show. We know we did! Note that there is an OVA as well, which is available on Crunchyroll. This anime is criminally overlooked and definitely belongs with the other shows that clock in under 30 episodes.

6. Darling In The Franxx (24 Episodes)

As an avowed Evangelion fan, it's natural that I would be attracted to Darling in the Franxx thanks to its superficial resemblances to that show. However, unlike RahXephon (an excellent Eva clone), Darling in the Franxx charts its own path. An original work by Studio Trigger, the show doesn't quite have the loose elasticity of Kill La Kill. Still, the signature Trigger style is there, especially when it comes to action sequences and mecha or creature animation.

The show takes place in a dystopian future where adult humans are immortal, living in protected cities. They no longer procreate or form pair bonds as we do today but human children are created artificially and raised in isolated facilities that prep them emotionally for the job of piloting Franxx. The show's name for the mecha weapons that defend against the strange Klaxosaur monsters.

The two main characters, Hiro and Zero Two, end up as a partner group. Zero Two is part Klaxosaur, which gives her special powers when fighting in a Franxx. Unfortunately, the strain of that power ends up killing her male human copilots. Hiro seems to be the only one who can endure it, becoming her "darling." We're not going to give away any more plot points, but if you like weird philosophical mecha anime in the same ballpark as Evangelion, Darling in the Franxx definitely scratches a familiar itch. Just five anime under 30 episodes left to go on the list! Things get a little, erm, darker from here on, so hold on to your hats.

5. Tokyo Ghoul (24 Episodes)

Tokyo Ghoul is a rather unique show set in an alternate reality where there are "ghouls" living among humans in secret. They're faster, tougher, and much stronger than humans, but they must eat human flesh in order to survive.

The main character, Ken Kaneki, is a human boy who goes on a date with a classmate. She turns out to be a ghoul who tries to eat him and nearly kills him in the process. Ken wakes up in the hospital to find that he's been turned into a half-ghoul and that his life will never be the same. If you like dark body horror and psychological thrillers, Tokyo Ghoul is just the ticket.

4. Vinland Saga (24 Episodes)

Vikings have become fashionable again, largely thanks to shows like Vikings and video games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Well, we're here to tell you that all of these modern Viking media pale in comparison to Vinland Saga. With incredible animation, brutal violence, and a compelling story of revenge, Vinland Saga is the sort of show you binge all in one go and still want more.

It's animated by Wit Studio, who are also responsible for such hits as Attack on Titan and Ancient Magus' Bride. It tells the story of Thorfinn, the son of an AWOL elite Viking who is murdered by a group of raiders. They take in Thorfinn, and he becomes part of the band, but he makes no secret that his goal is to kill the leader of the band, Askeladd - something he tries over and over again in formal duels over the years.

Thorfinn slowly changes from an innocent little boy to a devastatingly effective warrior. Askeladd, in the meantime, has a date with destiny, which makes Thorfinn cross paths with kings and other great historical figures. Believe us when we say this is a show you don't put down until you've seen all the available episodes. Then, you'll also be waiting for that second season fix.

3. Hellsing - 2001 (13 Episodes)

Hellsing has been adapted and remade a few times, but so far, nothing has topped this original 13-episode adaptation from 2001. The Hellsing Organization serves the monarch of England as a defense against vampires and other supernatural threats. Lead by Sir Integra, a woman of stern resolve, the soldiers of Hellsing are specialized in anti-vampire combat. Their greatest weapon is Alucard, an ancient and powerful vampire who serves Integra as part of a pact. Hellsing also has a recently turned vampire child in the form of policewoman Celes Victoria, who is still coming to terms with her status as an undead.

Hellsing has a problematic relationship with the Catholic church, which also fights vampires, but has little love for the Protestant Hellsing organization. Their great weapon, Father Anderson, and Alucard often battle intensely. We much prefer the animation style of this adaptation to those of the Hellsing versions that came later. It's also notable for having an excellent dub, where characters of different nationalities have the correct English accents. It's the perfect show for a weekend binge.

2. Goblin Slayer (12 Episodes)

The first thing you should know about Goblin Slayer is that it's 100% R-rated. It's violent and deals with themes like torture and sexual violence. So, if you aren't looking for something hardcore, you should steer clear of Goblin Slayer. If you're up for a violent, adults-only dark fantasy, then Goblin Slayer is one of the best examples. It's a fairly recent show, based on the manga of the same name, and it definitely walks in the footsteps of shows like the original (unfinished) adaptation of Berserk.

The Goblin Slayer is a guild adventurer who specializes only in killing goblins. Most adventurers only think of these monsters as a minor nuisance, but the Goblin Slayer has a first-hand experience of what horrible things can happen when goblins are allowed to become numerous.

Despite only having a one-track mind, the Goblin Slayer slowly attracts friends and party members to himself, and eventually gets involved in events that are far larger than his day-to-day pest control business.

1. Devilman Crybaby (10 Episodes)

The original Devilman anime adaptation was a classic in its own right, but this Netflix Original retelling of the classic mange takes it to a whole new level. First of all, just like the source material Devilman Crybaby is utterly brutal and should only be watched by adults with a strong stomach.

It's also beautiful, haunting, and uses a rather unique art style. Devilman Crybaby tells the story of a young man who comes to possess the body of one of the most powerful demons in existence. A power he uses to fight other demons who would harm human beings. Despite how powerful he is, the relentless fight becomes more and more hopeless until the final showdown brings a reckoning. Devilman Crybaby is another of the more recent programs on this list, but it's already earned a spot among classic anime.

We hope you've found some new great shows in this shorter category of anime, if you want something more substantial to watch go check out our best anime with more than 100 episodes and best anime with under than 50 episodes.

Which are your favorite anime with fewer than 30 episodes?

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