10 Famous and Popular Anime in Japan

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Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022, they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part-time and writes to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food from all countries, travelling, and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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In Japan, anime is a cultural phenomenon! It’s a fantastic mix of art, storytelling, and innovation, often with a sprinkle of playful charm. But what makes anime so magnetic in and out of Japan? It boldly explores new ideas, takes on complex themes, and dives into the world of fantasy. And the cool thing about anime is that it’s not picky about who enjoys it. Kids and adults are hooked on shows like “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball.” And if you’re up for some deep thinking mixed with action, there’s plenty of grown-up anime like “Neon Genesis Evangelion” for you.

Japanese anime has incredible attention to detail, many vibrant characters, and some seriously groundbreaking animation techniques. Thanks to this, it’s no surprise that anime transcends borders to capture the attention of folks worldwide. Beyond cartoons, anime is a captivating art form that tells stories about life, the universe, and everything. And let’s be honest, a big chunk of it is just plain fun!

You don’t have to be otaku to dive into anime. If you’re getting into anime or looking for some of the most popular ones in Japan, check out our list of 10 famous and popular anime in Japan to get started!

1. Doraemon 

Doraemon is a cultural icon so ingrained in Japan’s post-war family life that he’s practically a household member. The anime’s popularity is next level, too. You can even visit a cute museum and dine at a themed cafe in Kawasaki, where Doraemon-inspired dishes are as delightful as they are delicious. But what is Doraemon? Imagine an earless, blue, robotic cat who time-travels from the 22nd century to help out a kid named Nobita Nobi. But here’s the kicker: Doraemon’s got a bag of nifty gadgets that redefine cool!

There’s the “Take-Copter” that lets you fly with a bamboo hat, the “Anywhere Door” that reads your mind and transports you wherever you want, and even a “Time Kerchief” that can make objects and people age in reverse, to name a few. But more than all these gizmos, it’s the bond of friendship that Doraemon shares with Nobita that’s truly timeless. In a high-tech world, this blue cat’s got the secret sauce to make your heart go “Dora, Dora, Doraemon!” 

2. Pokemon 

Does this one even need an introduction? Pokémon, the pop culture phenomenon that’s caught ’em all, is more than just a franchise; it’s a global sensation, but it all started in Japan! The anime’s success can be traced to its compelling blend of adventure, friendship, and a world teeming with charismatic creatures. Since its debut in 1997, Pokémon has captured the hearts of kids and adults in Japan and created a worldwide craze. 

The Pokémon Centers and themed cafes have become pilgrimages for fans, with Pokémon cards evolving into a currency of nostalgia and strategy and apps and video games keeping fans connected. Pikachu’s electric charm transcends borders, proving that when you mix catchy tunes, Poké Balls, and a dash of “Gotta Catch’ Em All” spirit, you’ve got the recipe for domestic and global adoration!

3. Naruto 

Naruto, the ninja with the spirit of a nine-tailed fox, has conquered Japan’s anime scene. Its popularity perfectly blends relatable underdog themes, epic battles, and an unforgettable cast. Naruto’s journey from outcast to hero is a universal tale of perseverance and self-discovery, hitting home for audiences of all ages. With its ninja clans, hidden villages, and signature headbands, it’s not just a show; it’s a cultural phenomenon that’s etched its mark on Japan’s pop culture landscape, proving that when you mix guts, ramen, and a foxy attitude, you’ve got a sensation that’s hard to ignore!

4. One Piece 

Ahoy, matey! One Piece is the ultimate blockbuster in Japan. Its enduring popularity is as epic as the quest for the One Piece itself, thanks to swashbuckling pirates, boundless imagination, and a crew of lovable misfits. And with over a thousand episodes and counting, it’s the marathon of a lifetime! But that’s precisely what makes this anime so popular: it’s a never-ending adventure. And now, brace yourselves for the live-action series, which promises to bring Luffy’s straw-hat shenanigans to a new dimension. In Japan, One Piece is a series that’s set sail for a lifetime, capturing the hearts of devoted fans along the way. 

5. Dragon Ball 

Dragon Ball, the powerhouse of “Kamehameha” and over 30 years of electrifying battles, is a legend in Japan and worldwide. This iconic anime is a high-octane fusion of heart-pounding fights, quirky humor, and legendary transformations, creating a recipe for universal appeal. Since its debut in the ’80s, the adventures of Goku and friends have transcended borders, smashing through cultural barriers and breaking power levels. Dragon Ball’s soaring popularity isn’t just a fluke; it’s thanks to the unforgettable moments that have blasted their way into the hearts of fans everywhere, proving that the spirit of a Saiyan never truly dies.

Rest in peace, Toriyama-sensei.

6. Cowboy Bebop 

Cowboy Bebop, the space-western masterpiece, is a sonic blend of jazz, noir, and pure coolness that has captivated Japanese hearts. Its popularity lies in how it seamlessly dances between genres, delivering stylish gunfights, unforgettable characters, and a soulful soundtrack that hits all the right notes. Spike Spiegel and the Bebop crew are intergalactic cowboys chasing bounties across a beautifully gritty universe. In Japan, this anime is a cult classic, proving that mixing bounty hunting, existential musings, and a saxophone soundtrack creates a timeless space odyssey. 

7. Demon Slayer 

KamranJackson297 CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DEED via DeviantArt

Demon Slayer, or “Kimetsu no Yaiba” in Japanese, is a red-hot phenomenon that’s ignited the anime world. Its blazing popularity results from its gripping tale of a young swordsman’s quest to avenge his family and cure his demon-inflicted sister. Initially a manga, it caught fire when the anime adaptation hit screens in 2019, and ever since, this franchise has touched every corner of Japan, from attractions at Universal Studios to every possible piece of merchandise imaginable. The perfect blend of heart-rending drama, epic battles, and rich folklore taps into Japan’s cultural roots while resonating with a global audience. Demon Slayer’s impact is fierce, proving that when you blend tragedy, courage, and supernatural swordplay, you’ve got a sensation that cuts deep and leaves a lasting mark.

8. Jujutsu Kaisen 

Jujutsu Kaisen, the supernatural showdown extravaganza, has cast a spell on Japan with its blend of dark sorcery, high-octane battles, and irresistible characters. Its popularity is a potion brewed from gripping storytelling and stunning animation that serves up an irresistible cocktail of cursed spirits and exorcists. Japanese audiences have been hooked since its release in 2020, offering a captivating escape into a world of curses and chaos. Jujutsu Kaisen’s allure lies in its ability to tap into the supernatural while keeping it eerily accurate. It proves that when you mix curses, charismatic sorcerers, and a dash of occult intrigue, you’ve got a magically irresistible series!

9. Neon Genesis Evangelion 

crcjames CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DEED via DeviantArt

Neon Genesis Evangelion dishes out mecha mayhem with a side of existential crisis and is a cultural lightning rod in Japan. Its enduring popularity stems from its ability to dissect the human psyche while showcasing jaw-dropping robot battles. This anime is more than a series; it’s a mind-bending journey that dives into the depths of the soul! Since its debut in the ’90s, it’s become a touchstone for fans who seek depth and chaos within the framework of a mecha saga. Neon Genesis Evangelion is like a psychological rollercoaster that you can’t help but ride again and again, proving that when you combine inner turmoil, towering Eva robots, and a dash of cryptic symbolism, you’ve got a mind-blowing anime.

10. Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk shot to the top of Japan’s anime charts thanks to its thrilling blend of sports, humor, and high-flying hoop action. This series scored points for charisma following the misadventures of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a former delinquent who discovers his basketball talent. Since its debut in the ’90s, it’s become an integral part of Japanese sports culture, fueling a love for the game and inspiring generations. In Japan, Slam Dunk is a dream come true, proving that when you mix underdog spirit, basketball wizardry, and a dash of humor, you’ve got a classic that won the hearts of existing sports fans while creating plenty of new ones. 

As you can see, the anime world in Japan is full of creativity and storytelling that transcends borders. If you’re itching to explore your anime dreams in real life, why not consider booking a tour with Japan Wonder Travel? They’ll take you on an unforgettable journey to discover the anime magic woven into Japan’s cultural fabric. So, grab your pokeballs, sharpen your swords, and prepare to embark on an adventure!

Japan Wonder Travel Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if yu have any questions or need some help! 

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Drink Tour
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

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Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

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Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo
Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

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