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10 Most Popular Anime Genres & Subgenres To Know [Plus, Must-Sees]

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Let’s explore anime genres and subgenres!​​

Anime fans unite!

How many anime genres do you know?

If you’re an anime buff, you probably know that there are more than 40 anime genres and subgenres!

This number may surprise you if you are new to anime, but hey, it’s time you discovered how rich and versatile this style is!

Every anime genre has a specific tone and story, which means that there is a show for everyone regardless of their age and preferences.

In this guide, we take a look at the 10 most popular anime genres and subgenres to get you started. We’ll highlight their key characteristics and recommend must-see shows every anime enthusiast should know.

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What Is Anime?

Anime is a style of Japanese animation.

In Japan, anime refers to all animation that originates in the country.

In the Western world, though, anime describes a specific type of Japanese cartoon with colorful, vibrant backgrounds, doe-eyed and energetic characters with specific face shapes and interesting hairstyles, usually filled with fantastical elements.

Stock illustration showing a male anime character with a bright red spiky hair and a fantastical background.
Anime is known for striking art! ​

Anime refers to a style and not a genre as many tend to think. So, the fact that there are so many anime genres and subgenres makes perfect sense.

Most anime genres feature fantastical stories, but the plot, the overall tone and the way the characters are portrayed vary depending on the genre.

Read on for examples!

In most cases, anime takes a long time to make. A lot of work goes into writing a storyline, storyboarding, voicing the characters and animating protagonists and backgrounds. Sometimes, anime can take a few years to complete depending on how complex the story and the characters are!

Anime Vs. Manga

By the way, don’t confuse anime for manga and vice versa!

Manga are Japanese comic books and graphic novels, while anime are cartoons, TV shows and movies!

Anime can be based on manga, but that’s not always the case!

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How We Made The List Of Popular Anime Genres?

Anime plots can get pretty intense, so we focused mainly on:

  • PG and PG-13 anime that the whole family can enjoy
  • Anime with large following
  • Anime that influenced other art and pop-culture references

We will first discuss anime genres depending on the demographic they’re targeting.

Then, we’ll delve into some of the most popular anime subgenres of all time that can belong to either of the four categories.

Let’s begin!

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4 Popular Anime Genres

1. Shoujo

Key characteristics:

  • Girl characters
  • Protagonists often have a dandere personality
  • Shoujo is often combined with romance

Popular shoujo anime shows:

  • Sailor Moon
  • Love, Be Loved, Leave, Be Left
  • From Me To You

Shoujo is an anime genre targeted at young girls. But that’s not to say that boys can’t enjoy it just as much!

Most protagonists in shoujo shows are usually high-school girls. They’re often portrayed as having a dandere personality, meaning they’re shy introverts and timid, like Yuna from Love, Be Loved, Leave, Be Left who finds it hard to make new friends.

Many shoujo shows combine romance and fantasy, but that doesn’t mean that romantic plots prevail.

Sailor Moon, one of the most popular anime shows of all time, is magic.

The show revolves around Usagi Tsukino, a middle-schooler who happens to possess powers so strong that she can fight off all kinds of bad guys attacking Earth.

2. Shounen Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Young male lead character

Popular shounen anime shows:

  • Naruto: Shippûden
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Attack On Titan

Shounen is a Japanese word that translates to “boy” or “youth.”

What shoujo is to girls, shounen is to boys.

This anime genre is the most popular of all!

The reason?

Shounen anime follows the life of a young male protagonist who tries to become the best at something despite life’s hardships.

Its target audience is mostly teenage boys under the age of 15 who are hooked on watching such plots develop!

Remember how Naruto, an orphan, tries his best to become the best ninja in his village?

Stock illustration of Naruto. ​
Naruto is one of the most popular anime shows of all time!​

Needless to say, the fans of the shounen genre aren’t young boys only. Girls and adults, too, enjoy following the inspiring plots and watching fantastic art! For instance, Attack On Titan is a huge hit among adult audiences, so no matter your age and gender, we encourage you to explore the shounen genre as you’re guaranteed to have fun watching it!

3. Josei

Key characteristics:

  • Target audience is adult girls
  • Dark and realistic topics
  • Relatable storylines

Popular josei anime shows:

  • Nana
  • Chihayafuru
  • Honey And Clover

Josei anime is marketed for girls in their late teens or early adulthood.

The shows are known for realistically depicting characters and their development. This means that the stories are often dark, but sadness and difficult times are sadly a part of everyone’s life.

For instance, Nana introduces you to two roommates with completely opposite characters. The show lets you see how they navigate life’s challenges, such as panic attacks, partner’s drug addiction, etc.

Is a happy ending a must?

Josei shows that it’s not; the fact that the authors don’t shy away from presenting gritty stories makes josei relatable and loved by adult audiences.

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4. Seinen

Key characteristics:

  • Serious tone
  • Dark plot
  • Written for an adult male audience

Popular seinen shows:

  • Berserk
  • Ghost In The Shell
  • Fate/Zero

Seinen is a genre that particularly appeals to the older male audience (18+).

The stories often contain a lot of horror and dark elements.

For example, in Berserk, which is one of the most popular seinen shows, the lines between good and evil are blurred and the lead protagonist has a layered personality. The tone is gritty and serious, so it’s not surprising adults love this anime.

Popular Anime Subgenres

Based on the plot, style, characters, and theme, anime can be divided into multiple subgenres, including action, adventure and romance.

We take a look at some of the fan-favorite genres!

1. Action Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Battle scenes
  • Fast-paced plots
  • Often blended with other anime genres, such as fantasy and adventure

Popular action anime shows:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Dragon Ball Z (yes, it’s both a shounen and action anime)
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba

As its name suggests, this anime genre is full of action and excitement!

There are usually a lot of adrenaline-fueled fight scenes and adventures that are keeping you glued to the screen. Fullmetal Alchemist and Dragon Ball Z ring any bells?

Action is one of the most popular anime genres, but it’s rare to find an anime that doesn’t combine action with other genres. Imagine watching anime with nothing but fighting on the screen?

For example, both Fullmetal Alchemist and Dragon Ball Z blend adventure and fantasy with action. The combination of several genres makes the shows unique, so it’s not surprising that these shows are so loved!

2. Comedy Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Lighthearted humor
  • Silly dialogue
  • Wacky characters

Popular comedy anime shows:

  • Gintama
  • Ghost Stories
  • The Devil Is A Part-Timer

Comedy is greatly popular and often combined with other genres.

It is rarely (if ever) the main ingredient of an anime show, but it’s the one that makes you all the more hooked on a show.

For example, Dragon Ball Z is action anime, but it also has elements of comedy. Remember how Majin Buu turns people into candy just because he has a sweet tooth and is insatiable? What a silly pink creature.

In comedy anime, humor is usually light, often silly. Its goal is to make you at least giggle if not burst out laughing.

So, whenever you need a little pick-me-up, give comedy anime a chance!

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3. Slice of Life

Key characteristics:

  • Realistic stories
  • No supernatural elements
  • Relatable plots

Popular slice of life anime shows:

  • Clannad
  • K-On!
  • Nichijou – My Ordinary Life

Slice of life anime is all about depicting real life.

There are no supernatural elements. Instead, characters lead ordinary lives, like you and all of us.

And just like us, they go through some hard times, like when they fall hopelessly in love with someone who doesn’t love them back. Sadly, we’ve probably all been there.

If you watched 5 Centimeters Per Second, you know how much Takaki struggles and becomes depressed because of his unrequited love for Agaki. *sigh*

The popularity of the slice of life anime lies in the realistic portrayal of ordinary people’s lives. You can easily relate to characters and stories, and that’s why audiences of all ages enjoy this genre!

4. Fantasy Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Made up settings
  • Supernatural elements
  • Protagonists with special powers

Popular fantasy anime shows:

  • Strike Witches
  • Nanatsu no Taizai
  • Digimon Adventure

Fantasy anime shows are set in fantastical, often dreamy worlds.

Characters often have supernatural abilities, such as Strike Witches; the power of telekinesis and healing powers are just some of the special “skills” the characters in the show have.

A popular concept in fantasy anime shows is the lead protagonists’ journey from a real-life setting into a fantasy or parallel world. These shows are called isekai anime. In them, the characters face a lot of challenges and tasks as they explore unknown territories.

One of the most popular isekai shows ever made is Digimon Adventure.

In the series, Tai, Izzy and the rest of the gang are transported from the real into a digital world. And that’s where all of them get their respective Digimons to accompany them and protect them as they navigate the Digital World.

5. Romance Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Cute love stories
  • Tender & sweet moments
  • Often combined with slice of life and other genres

Popular romance anime shows:

  • Clannad
  • Fruits Basket
  • My Bride Is A Mermaid

Romance is one of the most popular genres not just in anime but in fiction in general.

People of all ages enjoy watching protagonists fall in love, seeing how they face potential obstacles and how they fight to stay together against all odds.

In anime, romance is usually blended with other genres, such as slice of life, but there are elements of romance in other genres, too.

One of the most beautiful romance anime shows is Fruits Basket, which combines comedy, romance, slice of life and magic.

The show depicts how Sohma and Thoru, lead protagonists, fall in love and how they navigate life’s hardships and challenges.

6. Magic Anime

Key characteristics:

  • Characters can cast magic spells
  • Plots are usually placed in fantasy worlds
  • Magic girl characters are especially popular

Popular magic anime shows:

  • Little Witch Academia
  • Zero No Tsukaima
  • Magi: The Labyrinth Of Magic

Magic anime features characters with magical powers.

They can cast magic spells, grant wishes and transform objects and other characters to their liking. In Little Witch Academia, we watch Atsuko as she learns to use the Shiny Rod — a magical object that can be changed into any weapon.

Most magic anime shows revolve around magical girls, like Sailor Moon. But that doesn’t mean that magic anime can’t get scary.

For instance, in the Mononoke horror series, the plot takes place during the Meiji period of Japan’s history. At the time, medicine travelers were viewed almost as supernatural beings that posed a threat to others and it’s interesting to explore the way the authors portrayed the nameless medicine seller’s character.

A Recap On Anime Genres & Subgenres

Anime is a versatile style with an abundance of genres and subgenres for fans of the style to explore.

The shows can be classified into four genres depending on the demographic they’re made for, including:

  • Shoujo
  • Shounen
  • Josei
  • Seinen

If you wish to explore anime based on your thematic and stylistic preferences, we recommend starting from the most popular anime types:

  • Action
  • Comedy
  • Slice Of Life
  • Fantasy
  • Romance
  • Magic

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