I am a big fan of samurai animes. I am also satisfied with “normal” sword animes, where the protagonist has a sword, and the plot is not only about sword fighting. This list is a small mix of both. So, if you are looking for a sword anime, I hope you find it on my list. It isn’t supposed to be a ranking, so don’t pay attention to the placements.
Here are my top 20 sword animes:
1. Chivalry of a Failed Knight – (Rakudai Kishi no Kyabarurii)
© SILVER LINK., Inc.
In a world where people with magical abilities called “blazers” are trained as knights, Ikki Kurogane is the most unsuccessful student at the Knight Academy Hagun. His abilities are weak, and so is his “Device”, the weapon he can form from his soul. The fact that the notorious loser comes from a famous family doesn’t make it any easier for him, as his relatives also keep preventing him from success. One day, however, Stella Vermillion, a princess from Europe, becomes his roommate. Since he surprises her while changing, a duel ensues. Stella sets as a stake that the loser must serve the winner for the rest of his life, and then unexpectedly loses to a trick by Ikki. He doesn’t care much for her subservience and only wants to share the room peacefully with her.
Stella is considered an exceptional talent among the young knights. Therefore she is nominated for the Seven Stars Sword Art Festival. Hagun has not been very successful lately, and Stella should finally bring them a victory again. Ikki is chosen as her partner. The continuation of his school attendance is tied to his success – after all, he has already been stuck once. So the two roommates have to prepare for the tournament together and learn how their skills complement each other.
2. Shakugan no Shana
© J.C.Staff Co., Ltd.
Besides the human world, there is a parallel world, Guze (Crimson Realm), from which the Guze no Tomogara comes (Crimson Denizen), who devour human existences. As a result, not only the person himself disappears but also his effect on the world as if he had never existed. For this purpose, the eaten people are replaced by so-called torches. These take over the characteristics of the person they are supposed to represent in order to appear in the world of humans for a particular time. The torches become weaker and weaker until they finally disappear entirely.
The Flame Haze are responsible for the balance between the human world and the Guze. Flame Haze are fighters who have allied with a Guze no Tomogara to fight other Guze no Tomogara when they threaten the balance between the worlds.
Yuji Sakai was just having his first day at high school when he witnessed the attack of several Rinne (Rinne are puppets of the Guze no Tomogara, who use them against humans) in the pedestrian zone. They have built a Fuzetsu (influence) and a Guze no Tomogara tried to eat Yuji. A Flame Haze appears and fights against the Rinne. After the fight, Yuji learns from her that he is long dead. He is not a human being anymore. He is just the flame of existence and a Mystes (Mystes are torches that have a Treasure Tool inside of them). The artifact he carries inside of him causes that he can regenerate his life energy and so he does not extinguish.
3. Shigurui: Death Frenzy
© Madhouse Inc.
One-armed Fujiki Gennosuke and the blind Irako Seigen face each other in a tournament hosted by Lord Tadanaga. In the past, such tournaments were traditionally held with wooden swords. But now, for the first time real blades are being used. However, the two swordsmen are not only simple opponents in this tournament, they also share a common past: they were taught by Iwamoto Kogan, Japan’s best swordsman. But what happened in the past and why do they meet as opponents today?
© White Fox Co., Ltd.
The legendary swordsmith Kiki Shikizaki created 1000 swords in his career. The more swords a state owns, the greater its success in war. When the Shogun was victorious, he collected 988 of the swords, but these were only the “practice pieces”. The last twelve swords were the highlight of Kiki’s career. Each of them is so powerful that a single man could defeat a small army with them.
The Shogun’s strategist, Togame, was given the order to obtain these swords. First, she hired a ninja, but the value of each sword was so high that the entire ninja clan broke away as soon as they held one of them in their hands. She then put her trust in another warrior, who kept the sword for himself. Her last hope now is Shichika, the seventh and last student of the Kyotoryu school. He and his sister live on an island away from civilization and therefore have no use for money. Will Shichika accept to help?
Btw, i just loved the art style of Katanagatari.
5. Sword of the Stranger (Film) – (Sutorenjia: Mukō Hadan)
© Bones Inc.
The boy Kotaro flees together with the monk Shoan and his dog Tobimaru from mysterious pursuers. When their pursuers attack the monastery where they found shelter, Shoan is left behind. He instructs Kotaro to travel to Akaike and seek help from a monk named Zekkai. A harrowing journey begins.
6. Wandering Samurai – (Rurouni Kenshin)
© Gallop Co., Ltd
The nine year old Shinta is kept as a servant until robbers kill his owners. He only escapes death with the help of Seijuro Hiko, who becomes his master and calls him Kenshin. He learns the art of sword fighting named Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, and at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, he goes into battle as a 15-year-old assassin for the Shishi to prevent further tragic fates like his own…
7. Sword Art Online – (Sōdo Āto Onrain)
© A-1 Pictures Inc.
On November 6, 2022, the VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) Sword Art Online (SAO) was launched. Its special feature is that players can fully immerse themselves in a virtual reality of a medieval fantasy world called Aincrad and, by recreating all sensory perceptions, have the illusion of actually living in it. This is done by using a device called NerveGear, which can directly read and stimulate the sensory and motor areas of the brain. Similar to an MMORPG, players can gain experience points by killing monsters, which allows them to level up. The more powerful the monster, the more experience points the player gains. The higher the level of a player, the stronger the player is in combat.
One of the 10,000 players is the student Kazuto Kirigaya under the pseudonym Kirito, who had already participated in the beta test of the game. After some time, he notices that he cannot log out, and shortly afterward, the developer of the game and the underlying NerveGear technology, Akihiko Kayaba, announces that players can only leave this world after the bosses of all 100 levels of Aincrad have been defeated. Death in this world, as well as the removal of the NerveGear, automatically leads to death in the real world.
8. Samurai Champloo – (Samurai Chanpurū)
© Manglobe Inc.
The young girl Fuu works in a teahouse and gets molested by a customer. She lets something like this happen to her because she needs the money to go on a journey to find the ‘Sunflower Samurai’. This samurai is her father, who left her and her now-deceased mother when she was a little child. For this reason, Fuu wants to take revenge on him.
9. Afro Samurai – (Afuro Samurai)
© Gonzo K.K.
As a child, Afro had to watch his father, Rokutaro, being killed by Justice (antagonist of the story). The fight was about the headband of Afro’s father, the headband number one, which is said to give godlike powers to its owner. However, the owner of this headband can only be challenged by the owner of headband number two, while the owner of headband number two can be challenged by any opponent. Now that Justice has become the owner of headband number one, Afro is leaving home. Afro takes his father’s sword and the number two headband, which he soon loses. He finds a new home in the Dojo of a one-eyed swordmaster. Afro cannot forget his desire for revenge and continues to search for the owner of headband number two.
10. Gin Tama
© Sunrise Inc.
At the end of the Edo period in the 19th century, aliens, the Amanto, seized power in Japan and prohibited the carrying of swords. That was the demise of the samurai. But Gintoki Sakata still feels obliged to the ideals of the samurai and carries a (wooden) sword. Because he cannot or does not want to continue his old life, he starts a new life as “jack of all trades”, whereby he accepts almost all orders for money.
11. Ninja Scroll – (Jūbē Ninpūchō)
© Madhouse Inc.
In the Japan of the Edo period, the young swordsman Jubei Kibagami worked as a ninja for the Yamashiro clan under the leadership of Himuro Gemma. When the clan found a huge gold mine, the lord tried to keep the discovery secret and gave Gemma the order to eliminate all witnesses. So Gemma wanted to wipe out the entire ninja corps by ordering Jubei’s elimination. In self-defence, he killed all his former friends. He then ambushed Gemma in revenge and beheaded him as he rode by. Since then, Jubei has been vagabonding around the country and can be hired as a swordsman for little money…
12. Samurai 7 – (Samurai Sebun)
© Gonzo K.K.
In a distant future, a long war will be fought on a planet between mechanized samurai. When the fighting finally ends in favour of uncertain peace, many of these samurai find themselves deprived of their livelihood. Some, therefore, join together in groups and become Nobuseri (bandits), who raid villages. The village Kanna wants to defend itself and sends Mikumari Kirara to the capital with the support of her little sister Komachi and the farmer Rikichi. There they are to hire samurai to help their village. The search is not very successful at first, as they have nothing to offer except rice. During the search, they are suddenly robbed, but luckily the samurai Katsuhiro is there and helps them. During the further search, Kirara and her two companions meet Kambei, an excellent and helpful samurai, who joins them. Eventually, seven samurai gather…
13. Basilisk – (Bajirisuku Kōga Ninpō Chō)
© Gonzo K.K.
At the beginning of Japan’s Azuchi-Momoyama period (late 16th century), two ninja clans, Iga Tsubagakure and Kouga Manjidani, are involved in a bitter vendetta that has lasted for centuries. The fighting only stops when Hattori Hanzo I. succeeds in enforcing a ceasefire by placing both in the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nevertheless, hostilities between Kouga and Iga continue…
14. Samurai Deeper Kyo – (Samurai Dīpā Kyō)
© Studio Deen Co. Ltd.
The event takes place in Japan in 1604, four years after the battle of Sekigahara. The legendary murderous fighter, Demon Eyes Kyo’s mind is stuck in the body of the pharmacist Kyoshiro Mibu. While he only wants to lead a normal life, Kyo is searching for his real body. On his wanderings, Kyoshiro meets the bounty hunter Yuya Shiina, who eventually accompanies him because of the bounty that has been placed on Kyo. On their journey, they meet old enemies of Kyoshiro and find new comrades. Yet, Yuya and Kyoshiro are never sure if they can rely on Kyo’s support, who always appears when there is great danger and apparently enjoys killing…
15. Blade of the Immortal – (Mugen no Jūnin)
© Bee Train Production
The former samurai Manji submerged in the historical Edo (former name of Tokyo). For moral reasons, he killed his Lord, Lord Shigenobu, and a hundred of his followers. He had Manji kill not only criminals but also citizens who had dared to rebel against the Lord.
Now Manji is a Ronin, a stray samurai, and meets one of his pursuers in the city. Too late, he realizes that it is his brother-in-law. He kills him in front of his little sister Machi, who unfortunately has come along. As a result, Machi loses her mind and later her life. Manji is tired of life. He would love to die, but he is inhabited by worms, so-called kessenchu, which keep him alive and close his wounds again and again. Desperately he turns to the nun Yaobikuni, who gave him these worms, and asks her to take them away from him. But since everything has its price, he has to make a deal with her: If he succeeds in killing a thousand criminals, she will release him from his curse…
16. Peacemaker Kurogane – (Pīsu Meikā Kurogane)
© Gonzo K.K.
In the last years of the Edo period, the Bakumatsu period, 15-year-old Tetsunosuke Tetsu Ichimura, becomes a member of Shinsengumi (an organization of warriors). He wants to grow stronger and avenge the murder of his parents. After his admission to the Shinsengumi, to his dissatisfaction, he becomes a mere lad of Vice Commander Hijikata. However, he wishes nothing more than to carry a sword by his side and become a full member of the Shinsengumi.
17. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan – (Nurarihyon no Mago)
© Studio Deen Co. Ltd.
Rikuo Nura is partly human and a quarter Yokai (demon). He lives with his Yokai grandfather in a house filled with ghosts and demons. Rikuo Nura tries to escape his fate as a Yokai by doing good deeds, although his grandfather wishes him to follow him as master of the Nura Clan. Throughout the series, Rikuo Nura reconciles with his demonic ancestry and decides to take the position at the head of the clan. However, various groups try to prevent him from doing so or even take his place. To fight for his position within the clan, a group of friends and comrades unite under his banner to establish a new Hyakki Yako.
18. Inu Yasha – (Sengoku Otogizōshi Inuyasha)
© Sunrise Inc.
The plot of Inu Yasha is set both in Japan during the Sengoku period (15th – 16th century) and alternately in modern times. Many of the characters are Yōkai, Oni, or other beings from Japanese mythology. The protagonist Inu Yasha, as well as some others, is based on the Inugami. Yōkai are powerful supernatural beings, who also appear in a human-like form. In contrast to the western demon, they are by no means exclusively evil. The main plot tells primarily about the fight of the main characters against a half-demon called Naraku. The main plot revolves around the triangular relationship between Inu Yasha, Kagome, and Kikyo.
19. Berserk – (Beruseruku)
© OLM, Inc.
The orphan boy Guts spends a loveless childhood in the mercenary unit of his foster father Gambino. Frustrated with his crippling, he attacks one day and kills Gambino in self-defence. Guts joins various armies of mercenaries in the following years, but he doesn’t last long anywhere. He only finds camaraderie with the Falcons. The charismatic and ambitious Griffith leads these mercenaries. While Guts wanders through the world, Griffith has a lofty dream to which he subordinates everything: Griffith wants to become ruler of his empire, even though he comes from poor circumstances.
20. Blood+ – (Buraddo Purasu)
© Production I.G, Inc.
The student Saya, one of three adopted children, lives with her foster father, George Miyagusuku. She suffers from severe amnesia and cannot remember any events that happened more than a year ago. One day, however, when she forgets her sneakers at school and wants to pick them up in the evening, very unusual things happen that decisively shape her future life and provide information about her past…
I would also recommend you to watch Blood – The Last Vampire (movie), and Blood-C (12 episodes). It’s not really important in which order you watch those since it‘s set in an alternate universe and has only a few similarities (Animes to the film!). I watched the movie, then Blood+ and lastly Blood-C.