Toonami has dedicated itself to supplying a solid action animation block since 1997. More than a mere collection of shows, the Cartoon Network block has reached cultural icon status. The program introduced a whole generation of American viewers to anime. Check out the best Toonami shows from over the years to show appreciation.
1. Dragon Ball Z
Countless anime fans can thank Dragon Ball Z for introducing them to the medium. DBZ changed the shonen genre forever; its blood flows through the veins of several other shows on this list. Even decades later, it has the most iconic heroes, villains, and battles in all anime.
2. Yu Yu Hakusho
The Dark Tournament arc alone would earn Yu Yu Hakusho a spot on this list, but the series holds gems from beginning to end. Its relatively restrained nature in the pacing and power-scaling departments compared to other hits in its genre allows its cast of characters to really shine.
3. Samurai Jack
Samurai Jack has everything. A futuristic sci-fi dystopia. Magic. A Scottish man with a gun for a leg. All the ingredients for a good that it couldn’t stay dead. Its final season benefited immensely from the thirteen years the crew had to hone their skills since the show was first canceled.
4. Megas XLR
Tune into Megas XLR for the ultimate power fantasy for every gamer who wants their own giant fighting robot. If the phenomenal action isn't enough of a sell, then the comedic chemistry between Coop, Kiva, and Jamie will sweeten the deal.
5. Justice League Unlimited
Justice League Unlimited expands immensely upon the groundwork of the previous Justice League cartoon. Relatively minor characters in the DC universe like Shining Knight, Wildcat, and Huntress, come to life with such care that we challenge anyone to watch this series without coming out with a handful of new favorite characters.
6. Sailor Moon
No other magical girl anime defines the genre like Sailor Moon. Usagi and her friends seem like ordinary schoolgirls, but they magically transform into the Sailor Scouts when the Earth faces danger. The show gave a lot of people their first step into the magical girl genre and remained a favorite even in the wake of all the series it inspired.
7. Space Dandy
Alien-hunter Space Dandy and his crew travel the universe searching for undiscovered lifeforms they can register for a bounty. Watch this show for a who’s who of legendary anime staff, where every episode experiments in art and storytelling.
8. Cowboy Bebop
Even people unfamiliar with anime should watch Cowboy Bebop. Few can resist this masterfully crafted story with deep characters, incredible action choreography, and an eye for design that makes its 2D world look more real than the sets of many live-action productions.
9. Fooly Cooly
Viewers can watch Fooly Cooly half a dozen times, and it will still feel brand new. Underneath the random chaos lies a dense and complex story that explores the full breadth of what it means to grow up. A perfect soundtrack from Japanese rock band The Pillows tops it all off.
10. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
Few anime can match the unique nature of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. In this series, where the comedy is as strange as the name, Bobobo and his friends fight against the oppressive Hair Hunters who rule over the land. Instead of typical shonen battles, expect nose hair whips, deadly gas, and powerful weapons made of green onions.
11. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan gets a lot of praise for its creative and thrilling action. But the story elevates it to legendary status. Many stories initially introduce a host of mysteries, only to stumble over the answers. Attack on Titan stands out by coming up with satisfying answers to every question it raises in its audience to keep them engaged from beginning to end.
12. My Hero Academia
For demonstrating that he has the true heart of a hero, powerless Izuku Midoriya gets rewarded with the One For All quirk. Come for Midoriya, stay for the dozens of incredible heroes and villains who make up the supporting cast.
Come to Naruto for some of the best world-building in anime. Every new hidden village, every new ninja, and every new technique introduces a rabbit hole of intrigue. Fans can spend years exploring the ninja world as they watch Naruto blossom from a friendless loner to the hero of the Hidden Leaf Village.
14. Black Lagoon
What happens when writers combine the most bombastic elements of American action films and use the medium of anime to take it to the next step? Black Lagoon. Few shows can claim levels of heart-pounding excitement present in every episode of this classic anime.
15. Eureka Seven
Eureka Seven has all the classic ingredients: a coming-of-age story, a boy, his robot, and the love of his life. Renton and Eureka must fight the military to stop the war between man and nature. With an eclectic identity sourced from counterculture zines, surfing, EDM rave culture, and more, there’s no other mecha show like it.
16. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood might hold the title of “perfect anime.” The tale of two brothers seeking a way to restore their bodies after attempting to revive their mom from the dead is a must-watch.
17. Gurren Lagann
In 2007, the legendary Studio Gainax gave birth to one of their most-loved works: Gurren Lagann. It takes the trope of heroes winning through sheer willpower and makes it literal. In this show, fighting spirit fuels mechs to become stronger and defy the laws of physics. The themes of perseverance and self-improvement make it practically impossible to watch Gurren Lagann and walk away without feeling inspired.
18. Mob Psycho 100
ONE already blew away the world with the release of the anime adaptation of One Punch Man. But his success went even further beyond with the release of Mob Psycho 100. The creativity in the animation portraying psychic powers reaches heights unmatched by other shows. But don't think it stops there. The show dives so deeply into the human condition that viewers will walk away looking at themselves in a new light.
For a show with no equal, look no further than Primal. The series lacks dialogue because the sublime artistic direction makes it so the story doesn't need words. It tells a can't-miss tale of a caveman and his dinosaur fighting for survival in a savage world with violent death lurking around every corner.
20. Sym-Bionic Titan
Behold: a little-known secret in Genndy Tartokovsky’s portfolio. Sym-Bionic Titan tells the story of three aliens who must blend in among humans while being hunted down by the conqueror of their home planet. This show has everything lovable about Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack but polished to perfection.
Bleach embodies everything people love about the shonen battle genre. It has a deep bench of fantastic characters with iconic weapons and special attacks. Bleach fans have such dedication that even after a ten-year hiatus, they’ve returned in droves to witness the series’ final story arc.
22. Dragon Ball
Although not as popular as its sequel, many fans will testify that Dragon Ball marks a franchise high point. Viewers get the pleasure of seeing Goku’s origin and plenty of unforgettable characters who didn’t get the spotlight in subsequent series.