25 Best Samurai-Themed Anime Series & Movies Of All Time (Ranked)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
What is Japan known for?
Anime, weird erotica choices, and samurai.
So when you combine two of these three together you get some pretty memorable stuff. Or maybe combine all three, I don’t judge.
Well today I’ll be going over the absolute best samurai anime you can watch. Give these a try if you’re big into the genre!
25. Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls
Every genre needs a fanservice anime.
And Samurai Girls, even by name alone, is pretty on the nose.
It’s a harem show where the male lead is as useless as harem male leads tend to be, and his three waifus get most of the screen time and most of the flattering angles.
They are also in high school, so you can check that off the list of tropes as well.
The anime serves for a great time killer, it is not the most engaging series in the world but the fights are decent and the show never takes itself too seriously.
It is technically centered around samurai. But there are plenty of supernatural elements, nudity and attempts at comedy thrown into the mix. So it is far from the usual solemn & dark samurai show.
24. Asu no Yoichi! – Samurai Harem
I guess Hyakka Ryouran wasn’t the worst example of being on the nose.
Our protagonist, Yoichi Karasuma, has spent the first 17 years of his live training in the mountains in the ways of the samurai. After mastering everything his father could teach him, he goes to a dojo in the city to develop his skills further.
The main driving point of the series is the fact that Yoichi is socially inept and barely knows how women function.
So the expression “living under a rock” suits him quite nicely.
Asu keeps to his samurai beliefs and ways of life causing a comedic setting among the ‘modern’ supportive cast. It’s no Konosuba but it will get a few chuckles out of you.
The best way to describe Amatsuki is like Sword Art Online, but you’re a history nerd.
It is an isekai with the most hilarious scenario to start it all off.
The protagonist Tokidoki Rikugou was a normal student who just hated history and kept failing the class. So he was sent to a museum where he could go inside a simulation set in the Edo period in order to understand it better.
You can see where this is going.
He gets trapped in the simulation. There are also demons afoot so he quickly partners up with two swordsmen, and the rest is history. Japanese history to be more precise.
22. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings
Sengoku Basara is a samurai centered anime that takes place in Japan during the later years of the Sengoku period.
It is a very battle-focused series and features many historical figures. Granted they have been tweaked a lot in order to fit the anime format, but still interesting to see so many big names.
Some fantastical elements have been sprinkled throughout so the battles are far from realistic. Don’t think somber and broody one-on-one duels, but rather flashy spectacles where even the samurai’s horse does front flips.
21. Hakuoki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~
Hakuoki is your standard samurai anime mixed with fantasy.
The story follows Chizuru Yukimura who was on the search for her father but got tangled up with the Shinsengumi.
The Shinsengumi are like an undercover special police force and they were dealing with vampire-type creatures, because why not.
Vampires aside, the story is based on some historic events like the existence of the Shinsengumi, and gives some insight into the political climate of the Edo period.
The animation is so-so but the use of lighting for some atmosphere is a major plus. Nothing groundbreaking, but in more ways than one it is a better love story than Twilight.
20. Blade of the Immortal
With “Blade of the Immortal” think Rurouni Kenshin mixed with Seven Deadly Sins’ Ban.
Our protagonist Manji has been cursed with immortality for leaving mountains of bodies in his wake.
The only way he can become mortal once more is by killing 100 bad men for every 1 good man he has killed.
Along the way he is joined by a young girl, Asano Rin, who is on her own revenge path.
They end up joining forces hoping to clear their soul and make things right with the world. It is a very somber series, tackling all kinds of injustices that take place every day.
19. Samurai Deeper Kyou
The scene is set as two legendary samurai are having a duel. Kyoushirou Mibu, a man possessing the powers of the Mibu clan, and “Demon Eyes” Kyou, the man who killed over 1000 people to get his edgy title.
But then a meteor hits the battlefield and through some plot twists Kyou ends up trapped in another person’s body.
Kyoushirou’s body to be precise.
From that point on the series divulges into a villain of the week series, where they mow down villain after villain until they reach the final boss. We also learn about both Kyo and Kyoushirou as the story progresses.
Kurozuka overall has pretty mixed reviews.
The animation, especially during battles, is pretty top notch as it was made by Madhouse.
The plot is hit or miss, depending on the viewer. Protagonist Kurou retreats to the mountains after losing a duel against his brother, who was the first Shogun to rule all of Japan. He then meets Kuromitsu and the two fall in love.
Plot twist, Kuromitsu is immortal and before you know it vampires are thrown into the mix.
I wouldn’t call the story sloppy nor bad. It just isn’t as easily digestible as most plots are.
So if you are just looking for Madhouse action or you don’t mind pondering over the plot a bit then this fantasy/samurai anime is for you.
17. Peace Maker Kurogane
This story follows our protagonist, Ichimura Tetsunosuke, who basically gets the Uchiha treatment.
And I don’t mean being overpowered and narratively holding all the key points of the story.
Ichimura’s family gets murdered right in front of him and now he is out for revenge. To do so he must get stronger, so he approaches the Shinsengumi.
Remember them from a few entries back? And in true Shinsengumi fashion he must learn how to cut down his foes or anyone who is a danger to the government or the Shinsengumi themselves.
He comes to find it isn’t that easy nor pleasant. Go figure.
16. Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto
Like a few of the shows on this list, if the first 4 words get you excited then you will love this anime.
It takes place during the Bakumatsu period, so the very end of the Edo period. And it deals with the social ramifications of a political shift.
History and politics are key factors here. Almost more so than the characters, which is why I have few words for them.
The protagonist is a mercenary called Yojiro Akizuki whose goal is to travel across Japan and destroy supernatural items that may endanger humanity.
So there is also a supernatural twist to the entire shindig. But it’s mostly politics. And anime.
15. Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki
The English title of this anime is “Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion” and that is all you really need to know when it comes to plot.
It is a historic series that describes the invasion of the Mongols in the 13th century.
Our cast of protagonists is mostly comprised of people exiled from the mainland and tasked with protecting Tsushima Island. This one little detail, them being exiled, holds a lot of weight. Since you are never completely sure how ready some characters might be to protect a country that kicked them out.
Also the anime doesn’t sugarcoat war at all, so be prepared for heads rolling and blood flowing.
If you are looking for a proper shounen that just happens to be samurai related, Mushibugyo is for you.
It’s an alternative Edo period Japan where giant bug monsters roam the earth and kill people on sight.
So a special division is formed in order to deal with these pests called the Mushi.
Our protagonist is the classic semi-incompetent guy who believes in his friends and pulls victories out of his rear end. He is called Jinbei Tsukishima and his goal is to join this special force and destroy all of the Mushi.
It starts of in the usual monster of the week fashion. But the plot gets more intense, complex and gory the more you watch. So definitely don’t drop it cause you’ll have to watch this one a bit to see where it’s going.
After watching shows like Hakuoki or Sengoku Basara you almost forget how brutal the Edo period was in reality.
You understand that people died, but not necessarily the horror that comes with it. That is where Shigurui comes in.
The central point of the plot is a fight between a one-armed samurai and a blind samurai.
They have trained under the same master, and now as ordered by Lord Tokugawa Tadanaga, they will fight to the death.
The series is not for the faint of heart. It is explicit, raw, and gory as it does not romanticize tragedy. If you have the stomach for it you will come out with a whole new understanding of what it means to be a samurai.
12. Ninja Scroll
Now I’m gonna throw it back to old school 90s Madhouse for this one.
Ninja Scroll was likely the first anime movie a lot of kids in the 90s ever saw. And I am going to be frank with you, it is all about the fight scenes.
There is a plot but it mostly justifies why our protagonist Jubei Kibagami has to kick some more butt.
He is a samurai and along the way we get our second protagonist, Kagero, who is a ninja.
They are investigating a plague while more or less demon ninjas and BHNA’s Kirishima want to stop them. Trust me, it is a good time.
11. Samurai 7
Do you like samurai and mechas? Boom, now you have both.
Samurai 7 takes place in a futuristic world where Transformers is more popular than the Bible and everyone dresses appropriately.
In all seriousness, the plot centers around 7 mecha samurai who are tasked with protecting a village from bandits.
The bandits also have mecha suits, just to be clear.
Each of the 7 samurai has their own special set of strengths and weaknesses and step-by-step they learn how to function as a unit. You might be turned off by the premise, but trust me the story is actually very engaging and the show is worth a watch if you’re into samurai content.
10. Sword of the Stranger (Stranger: Mukou Hadan)
Stranger: Mukou Hadan is a classic samurai movie in the best way possible.
We are introduced to an orphan called Kotarou and his furry friend Tobimaru.
Life doesn’t seem too good for the two as they have to steal in order to survive. And if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly there are people trying to kill them for no apparent reason.
By sheer luck they run into a ronin called Nanashi who decides to help the two out. For me, Nanashi is the selling point.
Considering that this was made by studio Bones and has won an international award for animation, oh boy you can imagine how beautiful the fight scenes look. It isn’t even 2 hours long so definitely give it a try.
If you are really into Japanese history, bloodbaths, or a combination of the two, you will probably enjoy Drifters.
Its central premise is that a bunch of different warriors throughout history are given the isekai treatment and are thrown into a fantasy world on the brink of war.
It’s also filled with fantasy creatures such as elves and demi-humans. Our main cast is comprised of Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, and Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, which if you know history will already give you a feel of what’s to come.
As far as the action is concerned, rest assured that it goes toe-to-toe with Hellsing.
8. Afro Samurai
In the universe of Afro Samurai we have the classic action set up.
Afro’s father was killed by a man, and yes his name is actually Afro. And now he seeks revenge.
His father was killed in a duel for his number 1 headband, which basically means that only the number 2 headband can challenge him. The number 2 headband can be challenged by anyone, so do you want to take a wild guess as to who has it?
For me the show has three selling points:
- Amazing fights
- A character called Ninja Ninja, and
- Samuel L. Jackson voices Afro
You have to admit that is a badass round-up.
Dororo is a pretty odd take when it comes to samurai anime.
The main protagonists are Pinocchio’s edgier brother Hyakkimaru, and the kind hearted Dororo. Being cursed at birth, Hyakkimaru has to slay multiple demons in order to get his body back in hopes of becoming fully human.
The lack of real limbs lead to Hyakkimaru’s body being party made up of swords. This is a setup that the series uses brilliantly.
The fights are probably the strongest points of the series as they are very raw and wild in nature, while also having some beautiful choreography too.
6. Saraiya Goyou
I’ve talked about a few shows so far, and most of them follow the route of “unstoppable master of the demon blade will bring honor to his dojo and overthrow the government” formula.
Saraiya Goyou doesn’t really do that.
The protagonist, Akitsu Masanosuke, is a pretty average warrior who just fulfils his job as a samurai to bring bread to the table.
Because he kept getting fired for being a lousy bodyguard, he gets involved with a group called the Five Leaves. They are a group of morally ambiguous characters who we get to know throughout the show.
Crimes are committed, but at what cost and for what purpose? Lots of questions in this one. Also the art style, it’s… interesting to say the least.
Onihei, or “50 shades of morality grey” is told through the eyes of Heizou Hasegawa. He’s chief of the Arson and Theft police department.
And of course, by police I mean samurai.
It is an episodic series where each episode is self-contained and presents with a new lawbreaker & their backstory.
And here is where my fun little alternative title comes into play: some of these characters will really make you question what it means to be good or just.
Alongside them we also learn about our protagonist bit by bit, and come to find that his past might not have been so squeaky clean either.
4. Hyouge Mono
This anime is probably the most out of place compared to others on this list.
This is because it takes a very different approach to storytelling and samurai anime in general.
If you only like hack and slash anime, don’t even consider this one. The story is a slow burner completely reliant on its characters, with the main themes of the anime being more philosophical than necessarily entertaining.
The only resemblance to popular anime I can find is that the main character is called Sasuke Furuta. The story takes place during Japan’s Sengoku era and showcases the importance of aesthetic and art during turbulent and unpredictable times.
Again, it is not for everyone. But for fans who enjoy this I know they’ll vouch it to be one of the best samurai animes ever to come out.
3. Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo is anything but your run of the mill action anime.
The story might seem messy, as there is little-to-no overarching plot and each episode is self-contained.
The only constant is the search for the samurai who smells like sunflowers, a flower that has no scent. The story is driven through the three main protagonists Mugen, Jin, and Fuu, which seem to have very few things in common.
Mugen and Jin especially juxtapose each other as one is a street-smart talent with the sword, while the other is a trained elite. And yet all three characters are alone… until their paths cross.
2. Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin is undoubtedly a classic when it comes to the portrayal of samurai, but also anime in general.
The story is set at the very end of the Japanese revolution and lets us peek behind the curtains of what led to the war, and what the war left in its wake.
It’s a story about Hitokiri Battousai, a ruthless assassin aiding the revolution who decides to put down his blood covered sword and atone for his sins. Now dawning the name Himura Kenshin, he tries to stay happy and protect those close to him while also suppressing his blood-filled conscious and murderous past.
It’s a classic for good reason.
Gintama is a romantic, samurai, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, parody, shounen/comedy and somehow delivers well on all of these points.
The story is set in Japan after an alien race called the Amanto takes over, disbands the samurai, and skyrockets the country’s technology.
But one knucklehead called Gintoki Sakata still has the heart of a samurai and refuses to bow down.
So he opens a shop where he, along with the friends he makes, do odd jobs around the city.
Gintama is above all a comedy. One of the best out there.
But still has serious arcs sprinkled throughout. It is a pretty long series too, but not a minute of screen time is wasted. If you’ve got time to check this out you’ll likely enjoy it as much as many other anime fans.