15 Best Anime Under 50 Episodes

Not everyone has the time for a 100-episode anime epic, nor do you want to blow through the typical 12-episode show in a weekend. Luckily there are many shows that strike just the right balance between telling a meaty story and not stretching things out too much.

You'll notice that we're bending the 50-episode rule a little. A few of the shows on this list have just a smidge over 50 episodes, but they're so good they should be on this list anyway. So without further ado, here are the best anime with under (or just over) 50 episodes.

15. Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (52 Episodes)

Based on legendary manga author and artist Masamune Shirow's work, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex is the best adaptation of the original property. While the 1995 feature film directed by Mamoru Oshii is widely lauded, we much prefer this version of the cyberpunk world Shirow drew on the page. Stand Alone Complex is set in a different timeline than the film and tells the story of Section 9 - a covert government group staffed mainly by Cyborgs.

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a rare full-body cyborg and leads the field team for Section 9. In each episode, they investigate a cyber-related crime, showing the strange possibilities for mischief in a world where man and machine are blurred. Apart from the case-of-the-week format, there is a major overarching plotline leading to a climactic resolution in each season. With amazing sci-fi tech and action scenes galore, GitS:SAC is a modern classic and is the perfect 50 (or so) anime series for sci-fi lovers.

14. Fullmetal Alchemist (51 Episodes)

This 2003 manga adaption was remade as an entirely new series titled Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. This newer show is much more faithful to the manga, so many events are different. The new series has 64 episodes, so it is quite a bit longer, but it's still worth watching.

That doesn't mean anyone should ignore the original 2003 adaptation. The two series have a different feel, and FMA 2003 is arguably more fun and less grimdark. It follows the story of two brothers who lost all or part of their bodies thanks to a botched attempt at resurrecting their mother with alchemy. Working as State Alchemists, they pursue various alchemical criminals, with the larger goal of finding the philosopher's stone, which may have the power to return their bodies to normal.

FMA offers one hell of an adventure and an infinitely interesting world. It's a must watch, even if you've already seen Brotherhood.

13. Code Geass (50 Episode Anime)

Code Geass is one of our personal top 10 anime of all time, so forgive us for being a little biased. Luckily, it's also widely considered to be one of the best anime ever, so we don't have to feel too bad about it.

The "hero" of the story Lelouch, is an exiled member of the Britannia royal family. Living in a conquered Japan, he plots revenge on his world-conquering family using every ounce of his genius intellect and dubious moral code. Oh, and the show is full of mecha and people with superpowers, along with heaps of drama and tragedy. There's really nothing else like it. If you're looking for a 50 episode anime with gut-punching twists, this is the one for you.

12. Log Horizon (50 Episodes & Counting)

Log Horizon is part of a larger anime genre where people are pulled into and trapped within a video game world. This has been a theme explored in many shows, but Log Horizon manages to do it in a unique way. Some 30,000 Japanese gamers get pulled into an online multiplayer game somehow, taking on the appearance of their in-game avatars. Their main goal is to find a way back home, but in the meantime, they need to figure out how to live and form a society in this strange new place.

The main character, Shiroe, has the wisdom and knowledge to help forge these players into an organized nation, but forces from outside and within don't necessarily want that to happen. Log Horizon is a bit more cerebral than something like Sword Art Online and will appeal to viewers who want something more thoughtful to chew on. It will be more than a 50-episode anime soon, but that's no reason not to catch up!

11. Re-Zero (50 Episodes & Counting)

Re:Zero is another title on this list that's in our personal top anime titles. At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was just another isekai anime. However, by the end of the first episode, you'll be disabused of that idea. Natsuki Subaru is a shut-in, but one in peak physical shape.

One day, while buying some snacks from a convenience store, he's transported to another world filled with fantasy creatures. Subaru has no special powers here, despite what so many anime he's seen might have promised. At least, that's what he believes until he suffers the pain of death and is reset back to an earlier time, with his memories intact. With his only power to die painfully and return to try again, Subaru slowly suffers mental breakdown after mental breakdown in pursuits of answers about why he's there and what the one who brought him wants from him.

This is another one that is only a 50 episode anime until the next season drops, but in the meantime, it's deserving of a spot here.

10. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (49 Episodes)

An anime that is just shy of 50 episodes! While the Gundam franchise as a whole is massive, the series with the most mainstream success is probably Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. While the show didn't do particularly well in Japan, it was the Gundam series that broke open the franchise for US audiences.

The basic plot is that five independently-created Gundam suits and their pilots are dropped on Earth. Their mission is to attack the global Earth government in order to fight the oppression of the colonies in the space each Gundam represents. Each of the given pilots is an interesting and unique character, paired with their equally unique Gundams. If you have any interest in mecha Anime at all, Gundam Wing is essential viewing.

9. Assassination Classroom (47 Episodes)

Assassination Classroom is one of the most interesting series we've ever seen, with a very unique concept. Essentially, a super-powerful creature that looks a bit like a yellow octopus destroys most of the moon. This incredible show of force comes with a warning - in one year, it will destroy the entire planet. However, it offers one chance to avert this fate.

It wants to teach a homeroom class, where children will learn to be assassins along with all the usual subjects. If the students can kill him before the year ends, they'll save the world. Not to mention get an incredible 10 billion Yen reward! Don't miss this one, it's one of the best shows to come from Japan in a long time.

8. Twelve Kingdoms (45 Episodes)

This is an anime series based on Japanese fantasy novels from the '90s written by Fuyumi Ono. Influenced by Chinese mythology, the plot centers on Yoko Nakajima. She's a Japanese girl who gets transported to another world, where it turns out she's the empress of one of the titular kingdoms. The novels that the show is based on have many more main characters, but the anime focuses on Yoko within its relatively limited scope.

For an anime, however, the adventure is suitably epic, and little of the 45-episode run is wasted. If you're in the mood for an isekai fantasy adventure drawing on something other than Western or Japanese tropes, give 12 Kingdoms a try.

7. Mobile Suit Gundam (43 Episodes)

It's hard to imagine am anime industry without Gundam today, but back in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam was groundbreaking. The biggest contribution this show made was the popularization of realistic mecha.

Unlike so-called "super-robot" shows, the Gundams aren't magic. They are depicted as real military machines that have to operate in the real world. Of course, there's certainly a lot of sci-fi handwaving, but the point is that these mecha are much more grounded in feel. The original Gundam series centers on Amuro Ray and his experimental Gundam. He's thrust into piloting duty as a young man because enemy forces destroyed his colony, and the survivors must flee on a military ship, crewed largely by teenagers. It's also an excellent drama, even by modern standards. Worth watching for both historical and entertainment reasons.

6. Psycho-Pass (41 Episodes)

Psycho-Pass is set in a world where technology allows us to know whether someone has a criminal mind or criminal intent before they even commit any crimes. Thanks to a central computer known as the Sybil System, every Japanese system can be scanned to calculate its criminal coefficient. If it's too high, an Investigator and Enforcer team are sent to either apprehend or neutralize that person.

Enforcers are "latent criminals" with crime coefficients that are too high, yet they have value as effective agents to combat other latent criminals. In the first series, the main antagonist is a man who can commit acts of extreme violence and destruction - yet doesn't register as having a high crime coefficient, making it impossible to neutralize him legally. His existence throws the entire system into doubt, but first, they have to prevent him from doing more harm. A fantastic psychological thriller that can really make you think.

5. Overlord (39 Episodes & Counting)

Overlord is quite possibly our favorite isekai anime and simply one of our top shows as a whole. The main character is a Japanese gamer who's a hardcore fan of an MMORPG called YGGDRASIL. After years, the game is going to be shut down, but our hero stays logged in to the bitter end.

When the clock strikes 12, it all becomes real. He's no longer in a VR game, and he's actually become the undead overlord that was only an avatar until now. Armed with a massive hidden base and an army of powerful creatures that serve him with faultless loyalty, the overlord sets out to explore and conquer this new world.

We love a good anti-hero or villain protagonist, and Overlord is just brilliant from start to finish. Another season is still on the way, but it was delayed by COVID. So it's the perfect time to catch up. The light novels are pretty good too!

4. Revolutionary Girl Utena (39 Episodes)

Surreal, arty, and very gender-queer. That's how we would describe the anime classic Revolutionary Girl Utena. Utena is inspired to become a prince herself by a meeting with a traveling prince when she was a child. She trains and eventually enters an academy where a duel leads her to be betrothed to a girl named Anthy Himemiya. Utena and Anthy become close, and so Utena decides to defend Anthy from new duel challengers. This show is weird, we won't lie, but it's still fresh and unique after all these years.

3. Death Note (37 Episodes)

Light Yagami is a brilliant young man who does well at school, with a solid sense of justice. He seems like an upstanding dude from the outside, but one day a notebook falls from the sky. This "Death Note" is the one that death gods use to write down the names of people who then die at the appointed time, in the specified manner.

In Light's hands, it becomes the tool of twisted justice. He "punishes" criminals and strategically sows terror among the criminal underworld - but as a murderer, he's wanted as well. Soon, Light matches wits with another genius simply named "L," and one of the greatest cat and mouse games ensues. This dark and twisted story should be on every anime fan's shortlist.

2. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (36 Episodes & Counting)

Another isekai with a great twist: the main character is killed during a random stabbing and is reincarnated as a powerful slime in a fantasy world. This is the story of how Rimuru Tempest found himself in a strange new body and quickly became an influential figure in that world's history.

This show is almost like the anti-overlord, where Rimuru uses his formidable powers to build a monster nation and attempt to negotiate peace with humans. Both shows are brilliant - but in such diametrically opposite ways.

1. Super Dimension Fortress Macross (36 Episodes)

Super Dimension Fortress Macross was introduced to the US as Robotech, a show put together by Harmony Gold from several mecha shows, including Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Robotech changed the plot of all three shows to somehow connect to each other.

Macross is the anime that the chopped-up first season of Robotech is based on. Humankind finds an ancient spaceship and reverse-engineers its technology. They also retrofit the ships, christened the "Macross." However, during its launch ceremony, Earth is attacked by an alien enemy known as the Zentradi. Thus commences one of the most epic space operas told in anime form.

It's also an iconic mecha show, with the famous VF-1 Valkyrie craft that can switch between jet, mecha, and in-between mode. Macross is also a showcase for Haruhiko Mikimoto's work, one of our all-time favorite character designers.

What's Your 50 Episode Anime of Choice?

These shows are surely heavy hitters, but plenty of series come in under 50 episodes that also deserve to be here. Feel free to share your best 50-episode anime in the comments below. Just keep in mind that our list of the best anime with 30 episodes or less is on its way, so those shows aren't included here.

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