We've journeyed across the stars to find the best space anime out there - from intergalactic space cowboys to the dark side of the force, these are our top picks.
Space is a great setting for a good story, and a wide variety of different adventures as well. The big black inky void that stretches above us to infinity has been used as a backdrop for everything from sitcoms to introspective philosophical dramas. Even anime, Japanese animation, has made a few forays into the yawning chasm of nothingness that exists above and beyond the Earth.
There are so many different series and movies set in the infinity of space, so how is the average consumer supposed to figure out where they can begin? Luckily for you, we’ve put together a pretty comprehensive list of some of the best space anime that you’ll find on the market.
You should also check out our best sci-fi anime guide to see more futuristic anime that doesn't quite make it into outer space, but still blows our minds.
5. Star Wars: Visions: Best space anime for newcomers
- Released: 2021
If you’re looking for a good space anime to use as a gateway into a broader world of anime in general, then consider checking out Star Wars: Visions. If you’re not already familiar with Star Wars then I’d like to know exactly what rock you’ve been living under. Visions is an anthology series featuring 9 stories from 7 different Japanese animation companies, including some big names like Production I.G. and Trigger.
Because it’s an anthology series, Star Wars: Visions offers a smorgasbord of different options. If you’re not feeling a particular episode, then you can just straight-up skip to the next episode and try your luck there. Another benefit of the series is that it’s set in a familiar universe, so if you’re a little on the fence about getting into anime, this is a perfect mixture of familiarity and new stuff to get you used to it. The series is already fully available on Disney+, so there’s really no reason to at least think about trying it out if you’re a fan of Star Wars already.
4. Astra: Lost in Space - Best space anime journey
- Released: 2019
When it comes to epic journeys, space is an unbeatable setting, and that’s exactly what you’ll experience in Astra: Lost in Space. If you can’t tell from the name of the show, Astra: Lost in Space is about a group of young people who find themselves stuck in deep space. After arriving at a space camp, 8 students find themselves flung into orbit around a random planet thousands of lightyears away from home.
Astra is a great series if you want an even blend between high-art storytelling and more pulp adventure sorts of stories. The series is only 13 episodes long and follows the group as they leapfrog from planet to planet on their journey home. This is a great structure for a space show, allowing the viewer to enjoy plenty of different planets, while still dealing with their day-to-day struggles for survival, and throwing in the occasional funny moments to break up the tension. There’s also an overriding mystery that helps the show keep you hooked.
3. Space Dandy: Best funny space anime
- Released: 2013
If you’re feeling more in the mood for a comedic experience, then Space Dandy is a great recommendation for you. It’s from the same director as Cowboy Bebop, but it has an incredibly different style, tone, and structure. It tells the story of Dandy, a “dandy guy in space” who makes his living hunting aliens. Each episode is a pretty much self-contained story of Dandy and his robot friend QT going around hunting aliens and getting themselves into a variety of comedic situations.
Space Dandy is light-hearted and funny and doesn’t feature much of an arc, both in terms of the storyline or the characters. You’re mainly here to watch the show explore various insane and completely ridiculous situations without being tied down by a message or overarching plotline. Go into this without taking it too seriously, and you should have fun, just make sure there are no children around when you do.
2. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans - Most Intriguing Storyline
- Released: 2015
Don’t let that mouthful of a title fool you, Iron-Blooded Orphans is a great space anime that isn’t too overly-convoluted or obtuse to get into. If you have any knowledge of the medium at all you might recognize the first bit of that title. Iron-Blooded Orphans is part of the Gundam mecha-fighting anime series, so it features lots of cool battles between human-piloted mecha suits, as well as plenty of spaceship-to-spaceship combat.
The real draw here isn’t just the action, though that is well done, instead it’s the main characters and the storyline. Set on Mars in the distant future, Iron-Blooded Orphans follows a group of orphans who are basically war-slaves for a mercenary company. These juvenile soldiers rebel against their cowardly leaders, forming a new mercenary company and becoming embroiled in a political battle between the working class poor on mars and the rich elites back on earth.
While there’s plenty of action, it’s seeing the drama between the characters, and their heart-breaking struggles to gain better lives that make Iron-Blooded Orphans so appealing. Of course, the awesome opening tune helps too.
1. Cowboy Bebop - Best space anime overall
- Released: 1998
If you’ve ever enjoyed a good space western, then you’ll fall immediately in love with Cowboy Bebop. It’s perfect for hardcore anime enthusiasts and newcomers to the genre alike, with plenty of western influences and one of the best English dubs in all of anime. It tells the story of the crew of the Bebop, a bunch of bounty hunters who live from paycheck to paycheck and are almost always down on their luck.
The cast of characters here is stellar, from Spike, and Jet, all the way to Ein the corgi, you’ll fall in love with these people as soon as you start watching. Then you’ll be heartbroken once it’s all over. There’s also a movie alongside the TV series, and the same “western but in space” style can be found in both. If you’re into the idea of a space-faring adventure with lots of steel-string guitar in the background then you should definitely check out Cowboy Bebop.