As the proliferation of anime on Japanese airwaves continued in the 2000s, the variety of series available to fans blossomed as well. The fantasy genre got to experience quite a bit of growth during this period, cranking out some absolute classics which deserve to be remembered.
With that in mind, this list takes ten of the best fantasy anime from the 2000s. For the most part, we'll be sticking to anime which actually bothered to create a fantasy universe, though there are a few exceptions. Get ready to be transported to realms of swords, magic, and...giant robots? Sure, they can fit anywhere else, why not with castles, knights, and monsters?
10 Star Ocean EX
An adaptation of the second Star Ocean game, EX centers on Claude C. Kenni, a space-faring member of the Calnus, the ship piloted by his legendary father Ronyx J. Kenni. Claude winds up on the planet Expel, a world where magic exists and technology is still stuck in the Middle Ages.
There, he’s asked by a member of the planet, Rena, to help them deal with the Sorcery Globe, a dangerous meteorite causing monsters to appear across the world. Rena believes he is the Warrior of Light, a special being who can save them all. Along the way, Claude and Rena meet several other individuals to help them discover the truth of the Sorcery Globe.
9 Rune Soldier Louie
Louie is a musclebound magician who despite having graduated from magic school prefers to solve problems with his fists first. This sounds like the worst idea ever, so fortunately he works alongside three women who are all vastly more competent at their jobs than he is, and need Louie because they can’t find any other magicians to join their party. Rune Soldier Louie feels like a comedic pastiche of every high fantasy and anime trope, which makes sense because it’s creator is Ryu Mizuno, the creator of Record of the Lodoss War, a series which pioneered many of those very tropes.
8 Marchen Awakens Romance
Ginta is a young boy with dreams of traveling to MAR, a faraway world spoken of by his father. One day, he’s transported there, and stumbles upon a mysterious talking weapon...and is planted in the middle of an ongoing war between two sides.
MAR is the second major series by creator Nobuyuki Anzai, creator of Flame of Recca. It’s very much a shonen series from its fights and power-ups and training scenes, and the war itself even takes the shape of a massive tournament. But it’s a shonen viewed through the lens of high fantasy, as world of MAR-Heaven is clearly heavily influenced by fairy tales, right down to the visual designs for the characters, where there’s witches and princesses and magical summons.
In the world of Claymore, shapeshifting monsters known as “Youma” travel the world looking to consume human flesh. The only thing capable of destroying them are Claymores, women who boasting large blades who are half human and half youma themselves, existing specifically to strike down monsters. Clare is one such Claymore, who saves a young boy after his family is killed in a Youma attack. After being exiled from his village, he’s left with nothing other than following her. Tragic backstories and gritty fights are the attraction du jour for this series, though be aware that an anime original finish awaits.
6 Tenchi Muyo: War On Geminar
Kenchi Masaki is the victim of a familiar story: he’s been taken away from his home planet, and to get his way back he’s got to accomplish a specific task: assassinate the empress of an empire. When the mission fails, because he’s just some kid from another world, the empress decides to take him in, turning him into her attendant.
War on Geminar is another of Tenchi Muyo’s many...many spin-offs, this time utilizing the isekai idea but also adding a bunch of additional tropes, like a school setting and giant robots, because a franchise as big as Tenchi Muyo needs frequent shake ups for things to feel fresh.
5 Scrapped Princess
Pacifica is a teenaged girl who’s supposedly meant to destroy the world on her sixteenth birthday. Seen as a pariah by her village for this reason, though her brother and sister refuse to believe in this prophecy and instead help her escape being killed. Still, none of them can let their guard down, as someone is constantly trying to kill Pacifica. Fortunately her siblings are a skilled swordsman and spellcaster. Easily one of the strongest fantasy series to come out of the 2000s, Scrapped Princess has some gorgeous animation work courtesy of Studio BONES, and some unexpected revelations to the story that will keep viewers hooked until the last episode.
4 Spice And Wolf
Kraft Lawrence is a young man with dreams of starting his own merchant shop. He meets Holo, a wolf deity with a desire to go back to her home, and begins working with her after he notices her wisdom and excellent ability to judge someone’s character.
Rather than being a series focusing on action and pulse pounding fights or the complex web of deception of court intrigue, Spice and Wolf instead discusses the intricacies of trading and economy. It’s an anime completely unlike anything else, both then and now.
Kagome Higurashi wants nothing more than to enjoy her life as a teenage girl...until she gets dragged through a well at her family’s shrine, pulling her five hundred years into the past. While there, she winds up involved in the adventures of the dog demon Inuyasha, who helps her to collect the shards of the Shikon Jewel, a powerful magic item which shatters not long after she winds up in the past.
With Inuyasha, Rumiko Takahashi draws on both ancient Japanese history and mythology to create a world which looks wholly unique for both her characters and viewers to explore. It’s definitely a must-watch for every anime fan.
One of the few “modern” series on this list, but Mai-HiMe’s setting is so outlandish it resembles very little of what we know to be the real world. Mai Tokiha lucks out when she gets an invitation to Fuuka Academy, a swanky school that pays for her education and allows her to take care of her sick younger brother.
What she doesn’t know is it becomes her responsibility to battle against the Orphans, giant monsters that can only be subdued with a mix of her magic powers and her “child” Kagutsuchi, a massive monster under her control. It’s a straight-forward enough plot that introduces a number of heart-breaking twists to eventually wind up being one of the best fantasy series in anime.
1 12 Kingdoms
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: a character is living their normal life when suddenly they get dragged into something that looks like a page out of a DnD manual. 12 Kingdoms is about as cliché with origins as possible: Youko Nakajima is a teenage girl who’s dragged to another world after being told she’s meant to be the queen of a kingdom there. But what happens next is what matters, as 12 Kingdoms eschews the typical shenanigans in favor of dense political drama and deep, well-developed characters. It’s biggest issue is that the series never got a proper conclusion, only adapting part of the full story.