okuha-logo-small-white

The Best Anime Artists of All Time

best-anime-artists-all-time-feature-image

If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. As an Amazon affiliate partner, I may earn from qualifying purchases.
Read our disclosure.

For this article, I’ve gathered the best of the best anime artists and animators of all time. Showing the best works each anime artist is known for and why they deserve the recognition of being the best anime artist. Let’s dive in!


Key Takeaways

  • Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be one of the best Japanese animators worldwide.
  • Other notable animators include Yutaka Nakamura, known for fluid and amazing animations, especially seen in Mob Psycho 100, One Punch-Man, and My Hero Academia.
  • Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name anime became the highest-grossing anime film worldwide of all time, overtaking Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
  • The work of Megumi Ishitani for One Piece episode 1015 has received praise from many animators.

Hayao Miyazaki

Worlds_best_anime_artists_spirited_away
Spirited Away: Hayao Miyazaki and Masashi Ando

Hayao Miyazaki is a highly acclaimed Japanese animator, filmmaker, and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, known for his signature style of visually stunning and emotionally resonant animated films.

Throughout his career, Miyazaki has received numerous awards and recognitions for his contributions to the animation industry, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for his film “Spirited Away” in 2003.

Miyazaki’s films often explore themes of nature, environmentalism, and the interconnection between humans and the natural world while also delving into complex human emotions and relationships.

Other notable anime movies from Haya Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – 117 minutes
  • Castle in the Sky (1986) – 124 minutes
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – 86 minutes
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – 89 minutes
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) – 103 minutes
  • Only Yesterday (1991) – 118 minutes
  • Porco Rosso (1992) – 94 minutes
  • Ocean Waves (1993) – 72 minutes
  • Pom Poko (1994) – 119 minutes
  • Whisper of the Heart (1995) – 111 minutes
  • Princess Mononoke (1997) – 134 minutes
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) – 104 minutes
  • Spirited Away (2001) – 125 minutes
  • The Cat Returns (2002) – 75 minutes
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – 119 minutes
  • Tales from Earthsea (2006) – 115 minutes
  • Ponyo (2008) – 101 minutes
  • The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) – 94 minutes
  • From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) – 91 minutes
  • The Wind Rises (2013) – 126 minutes
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) – 137 minutes
  • When Marnie Was There (2014) – 103 minutes

Yoh Yoshinari

animation-work-kill-la-kill-Yō-Yoshinari
Yoh Yoshinari was the key animator for the Kill la Kill anime series.

Yō Yoshinari is an animator who entered the anime industry through his brother’s influence. After completing professional school, he applied to Gainax and Madhouse but received no response from Gainax.

He joined Madhouse but eventually switched to Gainax due to a misunderstanding. At Gainax, he began working on visual development for the film Aoki Uru and quickly became a key animator.

Yoshinari is recognized for his unique style, which incorporates spheres to represent volume and perspective, particularly visible in his design work for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Little Witch Academia.

He cites Nijitte Monogatari as one of his most important influences and lists Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, and Lauren Faust as his favorite American creators.

Anime series and movies the artist has been part of:

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (key animator, mechanical animation director)
  • The End of Evangelion (key animator, assistant animation director)
  • One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island (key animator)
  • Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (key animator)
  • Gurren Lagann (mechanical design)
  • Gurren Lagann Parallel Works (director, animation director, storyboard artist, key animator, ep. 8)
  • Little Witch Academia (concept creator, director, character designer, animation director)
  • Kill la Kill (storyboard artist, key animator)
  • Promare (storyboard artist, key animator)
  • BNA: Brand New Animal (director)
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (character designer)

Hiroyuki Imaishi

redline-Hiroyuki-Imaishi-animation-work
Hiroyuki Imaishi was a key animator for the anime movie Redline.

Hiroyuki Imaishi is a Japanese key animator and animation director and one of the co-founders of Studio Trigger.

He is known for his fast and frantic animation style combined with elaborate storyboarding and punchy direction. Prior to founding Studio Trigger, he worked at Gainax, where he worked on various anime titles, including Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano, and FLCL.

His directorial debut was with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which received multiple awards. He later directed other anime series, including Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and Kill la Kill.

Imaishi’s main influence is Yoshinori Kanada, and Imaishi’s works pay special tribute to Yoshinori and his art. He left Gainax and established Studio Trigger in 2011.

Anime series and movies the artist has been part of:

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) In-Between Animator
  • Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) (1998) Storyboard, Key Animator, Animation Director, Script (ep. 19)
  • Medabots (1999) Animation Director (episode 14), Key Animator
  • FLCL (2000) Animation Director (episode 5)
  • PaRappa the Rapper (2001) Ending Animation Director (ED1)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) Key Animator (episodes 4, 22)
  • Redline (2009) Key Animator
  • Ninja Slayer (2015) Character Designer
  • BNA: Brand New Animal (2020), Storyboard Artist (episode 5)
  • Gurren Lagann (2007)
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010)
  • Kill la Kill (2013)
  • Promare (2019)
  • Star Wars: Visions (2021) (“The Twins”)
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022)

Yutaka Nakamura

Yutaka Nakamura is a Japanese animator, designer, and cinematographer. He is currently employed by Bones (at the time of writing) and is known for his dynamic and unique action sequences that make heavy use of impact frames.

yutaka-nakamura-animation
Animation work of Yutaka Nakamura.

His work includes key animation on popular projects like Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, Fullmetal Alchemist, One Punch-Man, My Hero Academia, Pokémon, and Eureka Seven.

He is also known for creating very detailed animations of debris, which have become synonymous with his work and are called “yutapon cubes” after his nickname within animation circles. One of his most notable works is the final action scene in the movie Sword of the Stranger.

Nakamura is considered one of the greatest action cinematographers of his generation and has been featured in an animation panel called “Yutaka Nakamura: Grandmaster Fight Animator.”

Anime series and movies the artist has been part of:

  • Space Dandy (2014) (key animator)
  • Blood Blockade Battlefront (2015) (key animator)
  • Concrete Revolutio (2015) (key animator)
  • One-Punch Man (2015) (key animator (ep 12, under a pseudonym))
  • Mob Psycho 100 (2016–2022) (key animator)
  • My Hero Academia (2017–present) (key animator)
  • Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (2017) (key animator)
  • My Hero Academia: Two Heroes (2018) (key animator)
  • My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (2019) (key animator)
  • My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission (2021) (key animator)

Yoshiaki Kawajiri

yoshiaki-kawajiri-anime-artist
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Yoshiaki Kawajiri is a highly regarded Japanese animator and director known for his distinctive style of dark, adult-oriented anime that often features graphic violence and mature themes. Yoshiaki also has one of the most unique anime art styles among anime artists.

Kawajiri’s career spans several decades, during which he has contributed to numerous critically acclaimed anime productions, including the films “Ninja Scroll” and “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust,” as well as the TV series “Wicked City” and “Demon City Shinjuku.”

In addition to his work in animation, Kawajiri has also written and illustrated manga, including “Bio Hunter” and “Birdy the Mighty.” He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the anime industry and has influenced many other animators and directors with his unique vision and style.

List of anime movies directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri:

  • Wicked City (1987)
  • Neo Tokyo (segment “Running Man,” 1987)
  • Cyber City Oedo 808 (1988)
  • Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
  • The Animatrix (segment “Program,” 2003)
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2007)

Makoto Shinkai

makoto-shinkai-animation-work
Animation work by Makoto Shinkai.

Makoto Shinkai (officially Makoto Niitsu) is a Japanese animator, filmmaker, author, and manga artist. He began his career as a video game animator in 1996 and gained recognition as a filmmaker with the release of the original video animation She and Her Cat in 1999.

He has since released a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including:

  • Voices of a Distant Star
  • The Place Promised in Our Early Days
  • 5 Centimeters per Second
  • Children Who Chase Lost Voices
  • The Garden of Words
  • Your Name (highest-grossing anime film worldwide of all time, overtaking Miyazaki’s Spirited Away)
  • Weathering with You
  • Suzume

Shinkai studied Japanese literature at Chuo University and traces his passion for creation to the manga, anime, and novels he was exposed to in middle school.

Makoto Shinkai also received a number of awards, such as Best Director at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival in 2020 and Best Animation Director at the 26th Japan Movie Critics Awards.

Megumi Ishitani

megumi-ishitani-animation
Animation work of Megumi Ishitani for One Piece episode 1015.

Megumi Ishitani is an accomplished anime director and storyboard artist known for her work on the popular anime series One Piece and Dragon Ball Super.

She graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts’ GEIDAI program and quickly gained recognition at Toei Animation for her immense talent.

Ishitani’s directorial debut on One Piece, episode 957, was followed by episodes 982 and 1015, which have been praised by fans and industry professionals alike.

She is known for her exceptional storyboarding skills, attention to detail, and ability to create dynamic and cinematic episodes. Ishitani’s talent and ability to structure episodes seamlessly have made her one of the greatest directors ever.

Hideaki Anno

hideaki-anno-anime-artists
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Hideaki Anno

Anno’s career in animation began in the 1980s, and he has since directed and written for numerous successful anime productions, including “Gunbuster,” “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water,” and “Shin Godzilla.”

Anno is known for his unique storytelling style, which often explores complex psychological themes and features deep character development.

He has been recognized with numerous awards for his contributions to the anime industry and has inspired many other animators and directors with his innovative approach to storytelling.

Fun facts about Hideaki Anno:

  • Anno was born on May 22, 1960, in Ube, Yamaguchi, Japan.
  • Anno was a huge fan of science fiction and tokusatsu (live-action special effects) shows as a child, which inspired him to pursue a career in animation.
  • Anno started his career in the anime industry as an animator and storyboard artist, working on shows like The Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Anno created the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1995, which became a cultural phenomenon in Japan and worldwide. The show was known for its complex characters, religious symbolism, and themes of depression and self-discovery.
  • Anno has also directed several other anime series and films, including Gunbuster, Kare Kano, and Shin Godzilla.
  • Anno has won numerous awards for his work in the anime industry, including the Best Director award at the 17th Japan Media Arts Festival and the Special Merit Award at the 37th Japan Academy Prize.

Norio Matsumoto

hunter-x-hunter-animator-work-Norio-Matsumoto
Norio Matsumoto created key animation for the Hunter x Hunter anime series (screenshot from ep. 11).

Norio Matsumoto, is an animator and character designer in the anime and manga industry. Matsumoto is known for his action animation and his ability to work quickly and with discipline.

He started his career at Tatsunoko’s animator’s training institute and has worked on many popular anime series such as Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto, and You’re Under Arrest.

Matsumoto’s style includes loose and full-of-smears character animation, and he also tends to draw smoke without highlights.

He is influenced by animators Satoru Utsunomiya and Takashi Nakamura and has collaborated with Atsushi Wakabayashi on several projects.

Matsumoto occasionally storyboards his own scenes and prefers battles that take place in open spaces. He is known for being a well-connected and helpful member of the anime and manga community.

Feature image credits (Pokémon Special Music Video including Yutaka Nakamura’s animation work).

Search
artist-profile-picture-avatar

Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

More Posts

Contact and Feedback