One of the persevering genres of anime tells the focuses its lens on the misfits of society working and surviving together as an unlikely, yet loyal family. ChasingAnime presents 30 of the best mafia anime to watch next.
For The Uninitiated: What is the Mafia?
Mafia originally refers to organized crime groups operating in Italy involved in a variety of illegal activities. While the word has become popular enough to be a general term for organized crime, the members of these groups don’t use the name themselves. Italian-American members, for example, call their groups “Cosa Nostra.” In the same way, the Chinese have their “Triad,” the Japanese “Yakuza,” and the Russian “Bratva.”
What Does Mafia Mean in Anime?
The premise of having groups of organized crime has been an enduring vessel for telling tales of bravery, loyalty, and the value of bonds over all else. A mafia anime, simply put, is an anime that features these groups in one way or the other. While it can freely be combined with any other genre – such as shonen, mystery, supernatural, or even slice of life – the main defining element has to be the presence of a mafia group.
For those unfamiliar with it, it often has a boss with numerous underlings serving under him. Dressed in suits, they are sometimes represented as the Robin Hood of their community – protecting the weak from outsiders and abusers. In others, they are presented as a group of outcasts working together to survive – even if it means doing unlawful things to get through.
“A family that can’t protect their own turf has no future.”
– Nero vanetti, 91 days
What is the Best Mafia Anime series?
Since mafia anime often intersects with other genres, it is hard to name which of them absolutely stands at the top. However, with MAL Scores at our side, the quick and easy answer is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure(JJBA) Part 5: Vento Aureo – with an 8.60 mark. With the goal and the core of the story focusing on an Italian mafia family, it does not get any more mafiosi-like than this. Expect intrigue, deception, and the good old JJBA fighting. Vento Aureo delivers a great adventure story towards becoming a GangStar.
It is closely followed by the cult classic Baccano with 8.41. Its unconventional storytelling strategy, great character variations, and mindblowing story make Baccano keep on making noise among anime aficionados. Aside from these two highly-acclaimed works, here are some of the best mafia anime to include in your next binge-watching session.
1. 91 Days (2016)
MAL Score: 7.84
For a mafia anime with twelve episodes, 91 Days actually sets a grounded background, introduces us to relatable characters, and runs through its story pretty well. While its premise seems a little too common in all of mafia-related literature, its character development warrants a chance at your next binge-watching session.
The story is set in the fictional town of Lawless in Illinois, the United States in 1928. This period falls into what is historically known as Prohibition. This is the time when the US government effectively banned the production and sale of alcohol. In Lawless, however, brewed liquor makes the rounds thanks to the Italian mafia. It focuses on Angelo Lagusa, who takes on the name Avilio Bruno to infiltrate and exact revenge on the Vanetti Family. He is driven by a tragedy that befell his family several years before the story begins.
From the day he receives the mysterious letter that began his revenge, the 91 Days of plotting and revenge begetting revenge is sure to have audiences finishing this series. The story does not only revolve around Aviolio and members of the Vanetti Family, especially Nero. It will soon engulf other families – such as the Orco and Galassia Families – and the rest of Lawless in a cat-and-mouse chase on different dimensions.
Mafia Families During the Prohibition Era
For our peace-loving, law-abiding fans, 91 Days does introduce an element of the law through Delphy. The straight-laced detective sincerely wants to eradicate mafias in the town of Lawless as a representative of the Federal Bureau of Prohibition (which was a real thing under the Volstead Act in the US). Unfortunately, he was used to flex the power of the mafia ruling families.
As a mafia anime, it clearly paints the Mafia families as being untouchables by law. Some people, like the head of the Vanetti Family, is a renowned public figure and patron in their city. Furthermore, it places deep emphasis on the value of Family and ensuring its survival. 91 Days show that even the best of friends are not exempted should they be a threat.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced fiction story grounded largely in reality, 91 Days sets itself early and fills you up with deception and schemes. Tension rises so quickly that it feels like the series ends abruptly.
2. Noir (2001)
MAL Score: 7.31
Noir is one of those rare anime series that has become the pillar for the girls-with-guns anime genre. It doesn’t pander to male fans with cutesy female character stereotypes. This 2001 anime is full of unapologetic badassery and with a unique premise to boot. It feels like a psychological mystery to the audience as the adventure and mafia anime unfolds.
The story focuses on two young assassins – the France-based Mireille Bouquet and the Japan-based Kirika Yuumura. One was the survivor of a brutal attack she knows almost nothing about, and the other is an amnesiac whose only memories are of the word Noir and the John Wick-ish instinct for killing. Together they begin operating under the name Noir – the title of a legendary assassin – as they go deeper into the world of “Les Soldats,” a secret organization that aims to kill them… or train them to be the next real Noir.
Actually, it does not tell the story in a coherent story-driven style. It is a largely episodic mafia anime that drops hints like Easter eggs across its 26 episodes. Also, we strongly recommend you try to watch at least past the first five episodes. It is understandable that the non-talkative Kirika would come across as bland. However, as she begins uncover the truth about herself, she begins to grow more human-like, and more deadly. Generally, the first half has that “flavor of the week” feel, but the second half is more coherent. It goes into a crescendo letting you feel how deep they’re getting. As they grow closer to their objective, twists start to appear and more worthy foes face them.
A great girls-with-guns anime, though on the serious side, and an equally rad soundtrack, it is a great Noir mafia anime – not just in title, but in quality.
3. Katekyo Hitman Reborn (2006)
MAL Score: 8.18
Once among the headliners for Shonen Jump, Katekyo Hitman Reborn had a glorious run even in its anime form that run continuously for four years. If you have the Ninja world (Naruto), pirates (One Piece), grim reapers (Bleach), Reborn was the mafia anime representative. And it did damn well.
Tsunayoshi Sawada, a wimpy, cowardly Japanese boy suddenly gets his world around after knowing his lineage: being the descendant of an Italian mafia boss, that of the Vongola Family. Even weirder, the “tutor” assigned to prepare him for the mafia life is a small infant-like hitman – the Arcobaleno named Reborn. He grows into a braver, stronger version of himself, first with the use of bullets (called Dying Will Bullet) shot into his head. He grows into his role and eventually ascends as the rightful Vongola boss.
As a Shonen Jump headliner, you know it has cool fight scenes and impressive world building. From simple conflicts, he later faces increasingly dangerous enemies. Escaped mafia convicts? Check. Vongola infighting? Check. Time travel? Check. Heck, it even expands to a The One arc, if you know the parallel universe film by Jet Li back in 2001. How it grows into an epic quest of Stone Ocean proportions, and how it goes full circle to mafia wars is for us to know and for you to find out.
As a shonen mafia anime, it doesn’t get bigger than this. Action, visual effects and story – Katekyo Hitman Reborn has it. If the ending somehow leaves you scratching your head, you have the twisted timeline to thank for (or blame).
And to make sure it goes into your list, look at these abnormally cute Arcobalenos:
4. Black Lagoon (2006)
MAL Score: 8.05
Well, Black Lagoon has to be one of the most iconic mafia anime you will find on the Internet. It’s like the Cowboy Bebop anime but has a rich representation of the world’s underbelly. The main group has smugglers that regularly pirate the Southeast Asian waters. Furthermore, they work in a fictionalized, modern hub of all organized crime. Imagine a place where the Yakuza, the Triad, the Bratva, the cartel, and the mafia all thrive and meet each other.
Black Lagoon follows the Lagoon Company during the 1990s and their hostage turned ally, the innocent and good-natured Japanese salaryman Rokuro Okajima. Soon taking the alias Rock, he joins Benny, Revy, and Dutch of the Lagoon Company in its various assignments from different dangerous entities.
Black Lagoon – A Murky, Shady Exaggeration of Our World
Yeah, this is some shady anime, but one that you’d love once you tried. It is shady in the sense that government entities, especially the CIA, is often involved in the missions. Whether as their direct client, or someone who tasks the Lagoon Company to clean up loose ends involving other organized crime groups, they have a couple of run-ins in the CIA. In a way, it feels so real… and we’ll leave the rest of this for you to discover.
As for its world, it feels like a compressed, exaggerated version of the real world. While all those groups do exist, I think all of them present in one place is incredible to imagine. It’s like a Pirate Island in the early to mid 1990s. However, this anything-goes representation is one of the things to love (or hate) in this series. From the Russians to the Colombians, everyone gets an equal chance at getting shot at.
Their backstories are hinted at as the story goes. However, for my part, the complexity of Black Lagoon has made it partly doubtful that their stories should be taken at face value. I think some of the backstories require a bit of reading between the lines.
As for the characters, they’re like the A-Team of the world’s criminal groups – with Benny the hacker and mechanic, and Dutch being the experienced and cool-headed leader. The only rose among the thorns, Revy, is the most dangerous of them all. With an almost superhuman reflex in gunfights, she’s borderline scary. If you enjoy shows like Black Lagoon, do check out our action anime list. Your next binge watch might be there.
5. Gungrave (2003)
MAL Score: 7.86
Yes, we will be establishing that the mafia groups featured in our entries are not always the good guys. Also, in this 2003 anime series, you’ll find elements of revenge and the supernatural. It surprisingly adds a human side to its “undead” character. If I would compare it to classic films, it’s like a cross between Leon: The Professional and Van Helsing – story and visuals wise.
Also, it was derived from a PlayStation 2 video game of the same name. Designed by the makers of Trigun and Oh My Goddess! series.
Right off the bat, we see Mika Asagi, a young girl on revenge who gets to witness “Beyond the Grave” in action, killing off white shape-shifting monsters with relative ease. As the story proceeds, we learn the backstory of Beyond the Grave – a former hitman known as Brandon Heat, betrayed by his best friend whom he could not kill himself. Now brought back from the dead, Grave protects Mika from members of a crime syndicate out to kill her.
A Cult Classic Among Mafia Animes
With a visual style similar to Trigun, Gungrave creates an environment suited for stories where only the strongest survive. It uses the mafia genre to plant seeds of conspiracy, lawlessness, and non-stop display of bravado and hard-boiled-ness. When I first saw it years ago, it visually struck me as Devil May Cry’s Dante in a hopeless suicide mission.
Aside from the sleek fight scenes and varied pacing over the course of the series, it ended up in a heart wrenching finale. I have always had the sense that when a film or a series starts showing the acknowledgments as the show still goes on, there has to be a last-minute twist, or something epic. And Gungrave delivers both, making you cry like a little kid in this world of killers and badasses.
From characters used to deliver particular lessons, to mafia stock characters that contribute to cooler scenes, Gungrave is definitely a work that deserves to be among the classics in the studio Madhouse – those who did the 2011 HunterXHunter, Death Note, and One Punch Man S1.
6. Jormungand (2012)
MAL Score: 7.84
Of course, some entries manage to get your attention and leave you just as fast. With only 12 episodes, Jormungand leaves more questions than it actually answers. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that good. Although it has its misgivings, it still makes up for a good mafia anime experience.
A child soldier, Jonah, hates guns and the people who make a living out of these tools of death. However, in order to ensure the safety of his fellow orphans, he had to work under what he hates the most. Jonah becomes the latest bodyguard to Koko Hekmatyar, the silver-haired heiress known as among the most cunning and most successful arms dealers in the world.
It also comes across as episodic. Jormungand runs through Koko’s dealings with troubled nations, wealthy customers, and shady criminal organizations. She provides them with guns, ammo, military vehicles, and aircraft. Of course, among their regular clients are related to, if not directly, the Italian mafia.
It does, however, become more coherent and engaging by the second season, known as Jormungand: Perfect Order. This sequel also reveals what the titular Jormungand actually is. It should suffice to say that this reveal, in a flash, makes Koko’s actions and choices slightly more understandable.
What makes it riveting to watch is Koko herself – a ruthless, unforgiving arms dealer who can get into the most dangerous territories and get herself out of the stickiest situations. Despite her cold and fearsome behavior, she develops a soft spot for Jonah as the story goes on. Jonah, who hates Koko and her kind, starts to open up. But personally, I find this unlikely relationship to be more of an older sister to a younger brother, promising to protect each other in the world they live in.
7. Baccano! (2007)
MAL Score: 8.41
It is one of the highest-rated entries on our list, and rightfully so. Every now and then some story uses an existing trope (in this case, mafia anime). It uses it as a springboard into something entirely different. It challenges tropes and standards at every turn, and somehow it manages to deliver a great story involving fascinating characters, wrapped in the goodness of high-quality animation.
Baccano is one of those pieces.
Story-wise, it does not follow a singular line of narrating as with most anime. It is basically the Game of Thrones for anime – with the story told through the vantage points of different characters. To give us all a starting point, three years of Prohibition-era New York is apparently dotted with seemingly unconnected events. From a theft occurring at the transcontinental train Flying Pussyfoot to altercations with various mafia families in both New York and Manhattan. It later turns into a massive conspiracy involving men of power from the 18th century seeking immortality.
First of all, I would like to start with how fun the opening sequence is, featuring all those characters (it’s a lot) by name. It seems to care not whether you’d remember them all or not. More importantly, it creates a connection to the audience, partly due to the jazzy sound that covers it all. As for the story, once the audience starts to piece the story together from the various vantage points, it becomes apparent how everything actually makes sense.
Lastly, despite the involvement of demons and alchemy and stuff, Baccano actually stands out for keeping everything grounded in reality. From the characters’ choices and reactions in a Prohibition-era world, it manages to mix different genres for an entirely relatable experience.
8. Heat Guy J (2002)
MAL Score: 7.17
This is an excellent anime to watch, though I’d like to strongly recommend finishing the first episode at least. It actually starts out a little low and slow, plus the animation style is from almost twenty years ago. It starts picking up the pace once its main characters start moving. With enough action and drama to go on, Heat Guy J is a futuristic mafia anime bordering on a short shonen series.
In the futuristic city of Judoh, we are introduced to a young Special Services officer, Daisuke Aurora, whose work is being a detective of sorts. His partner on duty is a cyborg, the titular heat guy “J.” The series follows their day-to-day quests as members of the underfunded Special Services Divison, capturing bad guys and eventually coming across a mafia group whose actions have previously left a scar on young Daisuke.
A rather divisive storytelling choice for Heat Guy J is how it goes along its length being episodic. For most of the first half of the series, episodes focus on a particular case and leave a small slice at the end to remind audiences of its overarching story – that of Daisuke Aurora’s past, and the crime syndicate responsible. While some fans would agree and some would beg to differ, one thing that was near-perfect with the anime adaptation of this series is how every episode builds up sufficient tension and excitement.
Lastly, a temperamental villain works well as the final big bad. Bothered by his own past, Clair Leonelli appears cold and computing but throws into a fit whenever his father is mentioned. Surrounded by a variety of skilled crew members, the “villains” in this series feel relatable if not outright likable. I’d say half of the reason to watch it are the members of “Vampire.”
9. Durarara!! (2010)
MAL Score: 8.14
Another gem that intersects with our mafia anime hunt, DURARARA!! Is another anime that should be a must-see. Aside from mafia anime fans, it also has great elements of urban fantasy (more on that later), action, and even suspense. For a 24-episode anime, it feels as fast as any other shorter anime. Also, like Baccano, it follows different characters. DURARARA!! tells the story from each of their perspectives, converging together either in casual experience or in a larger, more complex storyline.
Also, contrary to popular belief, its title is not from the sound of a revving engine (as Celty drives a motorbike in the series). It was supposedly a random title with no meaning at all.
So, in DURARARA!!, we have the Japanese district of Ikebukuro in Tokyo as the main city. Mikado Ryuugamine, who longs to enjoy the perks of city life, moves there with his childhood friend Masaomi Kida. Once they started exploring Ikebukuro, Kida starts lecturing Mikado about who to watch out for – including the abnormally strong (and violent) Shizuo Heiwajima and Izaya Orihara who deals with information for the right price, and the local legend of the Black Rider.
A unique element of this anime is that it has a narrator who weighs in on the story, usually about the conflict presented in the same episode. Aside from the multi-faceted gang war and the modernized version of Sleepy Hollow, Durara makes for a great watch, even for non-mafia anime fans. It’s unpredictable, fast-paced, and it surprisingly doesn’t rely on fight scenes to keep fans hooked.
If you’ve loved Baccano for all its complexity, I’d say DURARARA!! is the next best thing in this unusual storytelling only these two have pulled off so far.
10. Bungou Stray Dogs (2016)
MAL Score: 7.79
We have written about Bungou Stray Dogs before as a part of our Detective Anime series. Seriously, it was in the name of their office, the “Armed DETECTIVE Agency.” Also, every now and then, the team of the good guys investigates a thing or two, fighting off against other groups. Some of the main enemies in the series are members of the Port Mafia. Clad in mostly black and equally powerful as members of the Armed Detective Agency.
The Port Mafia is an overarching entity throughout the Bungou Stray Dogs series. One of the reasons is that Osamu Dazai, who has the ability to nullify any other abilities with a touch, served as one of the group’s executives a few years prior to the start of the story. His desertion is among the reasons the motivations of the Port Mafia going after the Armed Detective Agency.
The Port Mafia: In Nuances and Subtleties
As a mafia anime, it has all the cool aspects we find in mafia-related works. It has an enigmatic (or weird?) leader in Mori Ogai. It has a well-established organization, with executive members directly below the leader, as well as a variety of specialized groups such as the Flags, the Command Unit, and the popular Black Lizard group, which features beloved characters such as the old man Ryuuro Hirotsu and the magneto Michizou Tachihara.
In one episode, a copycat crime tried to pin the killing of a policewoman to the Port Mafia by using curb-stomping. It is a punishment/ execution method where the victim’s mouth is forcefully opened to be put on a sidewalk curb. The executioner then stomps at the back of the head, causing damage or even death. I think this was inspired by that one episode from The Sopranos, I haven’t seen this in any other mafia works so far.
Fans who want to be technical with mafia elements will find their fill in Bungou. Also, fans looking for action and awesome fight scenes will find encounters between ability users to be top-notch. My favorite part is that fight scenes in Bungou are not just people throwing their powers at each other. It also involves strategies and generally being creative with their powers. Doppo with his “Lone Poet,” which allows him to write anything into reality provided it’s not larger than his notebook, is one of the must-see skills in the series.
So, as a mafia anime and in overall, Bungou Stray Dogs is a great anime to watch. With interesting characters, incredible fight scenes, and even more incredible world-building, it’s a work like no other. We just hope we get to see the anime series updated.
11. Gangsta (2015)
MAL Score: 7.40
Usually, people connote gangsters as less refined versions of mafia members. However, they are in no way weaker or less dangerous than their suited counterparts. Gangsta seems to understand this and plays it to its strengths, focusing on two unlikely partners in a city filled with messy elements such as mafia groups, snatchers and pickpockets, and dirty cops. When I first saw it (don’t ask when), it felt like a more grounded version of GetBackers.
It follows the pair of Nicolas “Nic” Brown and Worick Arcangelo. They work as “Handymen,” who take on odd jobs in the city of Ergastalum. After finishing their first mission (in the series), they decided to keep and protect a surviving prostitute, Alex, who starts to work with the pair.
The town of Ergastalum is controlled by four mafia families: the Cristiano, the Monroe, the Corsica, and the Paulklee Guild. This structure adds to the flavor of Gangsta being a good anime. The families prevent overexposure in every episode yet the town always refers and acknowledges their presence.
It is not a children’s anime, tackling issues of drugs, prostitution, corruption, and more. Additionally, it doesn’t shy away from violence and gore. Blood sprays around, people get shot, and Nicolas turns police cars over. Furthermore, rewatching it as an adult made me realize that its lack of flashy scenes works to keep the storytelling grounded. It is a seinen series, aimed at older audiences. I like how it balances fight scenes and dialogue, creating both action and drama at a seemingly hopeless town.
Additionally, this is worth watching if only for its portrayal of humans – regardless of race, or background, or station in life. At the bottom of it all, I believe humans are still humans, deserving of opportunities and hope of living better lives.
12. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom (2002)
MAL Score: 8.01
Adapted from a visual novel by Nitroplus, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom goes for the suspense-thriller approach in tackling a mafia anime story. Instead of going for the cool and explosive approach you find in other series, Phantom tries its best to leave something hanging for the next episode. In fact, it manages to create a low-key cycle of “just one more episode” until you finish all its 26 episodes.
In a world where gang wars and assassinations are commonplace, a company known as Inferno capitalizes on the violent world through the use of its top-notch killer, “Phantom.” The series starts with frame storytelling where a man and a woman take down a mafia boss in Las Vegas – later finding the young boy waking up in an empty room with no memory of everything. He is tested, SAW-style, and chooses life, taking the mantle of Zwei and serve as a sidekick to Ein – the legendary Phantom.
Every episode can be summarized as a mission, then a fragment of the bigger picture being dropped. Whether it be Zwei’s past or the nature of Inferno, it smoothly creates a contained story in each episode as well as a part of an overarching story. While it does not shy away from the violence expected in a world of assassins and criminal groups, Phantom remains relatively low-key in its storytelling. This made me stay for the rest of the series, both hoping for something large yet staying invested in its character development. By the end of the series, I was satisfied with how things turned out.
Despite what others say, I’d definitely recommend Phantom as one of those anime that slowly burns and stay with you even after watching.
13. Arcana Famiglia (2012)
MAL Score: 6.28
This has to be one of the entries where the mafia element takes center stage. Adapted from the visual series of the same name, The Story of the Arcane Family breaks some anime conventions that have led to divided opinions on the anime. But as far as the lore, the story, and the animation are concerned, Arcana Famiglia is a good anime to watch.
On the island of Regalo, a mafia family protects the inhabitants from outsiders and attackers. The anime follows Felicita, the only daughter of the current boss and set to be the heir of their mafia family. To decide who Felicita has to marry, her father has called for an Arcana Duello. Members of the family – each with a superpower related to cards in the Arcana (like the Tarot cards) – fight to be the next head of the family, a chance for Felicita’s hand in marriage, and a wish to be granted. Refusing to sit idly by, Felicita joins the tournament herself for the right to live her life her own way.
However, I believe that Arcana Famiglia actually delivers the anime in a way that the Family comes first – a lesson often employed in mafia-related works. There are instances when other members are given the spotlight – with their interesting backstories and even interesting powers. The family is well illustrated as a beloved entity in their city, a trustworthy and dependable crew. This balance alone makes the 12-episode series a great watch.
Also, while the mafia anime might appear dull and restrictive, its use of the tarot to build its mythology is a good touch. The author creatively thought out the powers, although some of them are revealed later on in the story. From the literal “Strength” to “Temperance” canceling other abilities (temperance means to abstain or restrain oneself), or “Death” being lighter by forcing the targets to sleep.
14. GetBackers (2002)
MAL Score: 7.61
One of the classics! For those who watched it during the early 2000s, it was one of those memorable, wacky duo adventure stories that hits just the spot. While most of us learned what we missed later on in life (that the anime was not complete and the manga continued), it was still a good 49-episode experience.
GetBackers follows the adventures of Ginji Amano and Ban Mido, superpowered individuals who work as recovery agents in the suburbs of Shinjuku, Tokyo. Their earlier missions focus on seemingly simple recovery requests that turn out to be dangerous or takes a surprising turn. Later on, they start getting tangled with the events in the place known as the Infinity Fortress. Remnants of their past return to haunt them, and their own dark pasts are gradually revealed.
The mafia elements in GetBackers are mostly confined to the first half of the anime, either as their employers or their enemies. An interesting part of the anime I particularly liked is that the GetBackers themselves are not that special, they are just another pair in an industry filled with monsters working for money.
I can’t stress how hopeful I am that one day GetBackers get a full anime adaptation, seeing how Shaman King is set to have its own. Still, the build-up it did for 49 episodes remains a rewarding experience. It is full of great fights and character development for both friend and foe. Coming from the early 2000s, Getbackers remains one of the underrated gems that came from the same generation as Ghost in the Shell: SAC and Death Note.
15. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Vento Aureo (2018)
MAL Score: 8.60
The fifth installment of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (JJBA from this point on), Golden Wind, is often hailed as one of the best installments in the franchise so far. Go on, check all JJBA MAL scores. With well-fleshed characters, stepped-up action sequences, and an unusually convoluted body swapping, Vento Aureo deserves the hype.
If you’ve seen this series, repeat the mantra after me: “I, Giorno Giovanna, have a dream…” The young boy, conceived by Dio through Jonathan Joestar’s body, has to be the weirdest Jojo so far. He dreams of becoming a GangStar: a big-time gangster in Italy. Giorno aims to use his power and position to make life better for everyone. From Naples to Rome to the island of Sardinia, Giorno and his squad will uncover the mysterious identity of their mafia boss – and take over the Passione mafia family.
Additionally, I have mentioned this earlier as a fan of mafia anime – the authenticity is important. JJBA V does this by showing the importance and the effect of the structure of the mafia, Passione. The use of Italian terms like Consiglieri or Caporegime, in my opinion, only serves to add to the authenticity of portraying an Italian mafia. Furthermore, its emphasis on secrecy and hierarchy is a point other anime could learn from. Case in point, those who tried to uncover the Boss’ identity were punished in a most gruesome way – like being cut into 36 individual glass frames.
Returning fans of the JJBA franchise (like me) know that it’s not always the bigger guns that win, it’s who uses them better. It’s a recurring lesson and a point of curiosity, as to how Giorno and the gang would turn otherwise stacked odds into their favor.
MAL Score: 8.19
While mafia anime usually strikes fear and intrigue, sometimes we get gems that make us laugh and entertained. To be honest, it starts with a badass encounter scene, which immediately cuts and skips to three years ago. Anyway, I’d say it doesn’t lean too much into comedy like Gintama, but it has a balance of laughter and heartfelt moments.
It follows a mid-level member of the Yakuza, Yoshifumi Nitta, who was celebrating the latest addition to his collection when a girl in a capsule suddenly drops on his head. He only knows the girl’s name, Hina, and soon discovers her incredible power. Starting off as an unusual “unexpected father,” Yoshifumi soon finds himself in the middle of a time-traveling conflict as people from the future attempt to take her or eliminate her.
When I first saw it, it felt reminiscent of UFO Baby or Midori Days. The comedy comes in various shapes and sizes. It includes Yoshifumi’s attention to detail such as separating trash (the Japanese are really orderly with these things!), to Hina’s cluelessness of the modern world. However, the heart of the series is in the unexpectedly wholesome development of their relationship together. This is a quick watch, but one that will stay with you long after you’re done with it.
Also, aside from Yoshifumi and Hana, there are a variety of characters that work both for comedy and a warm slice of life. For a 12-episode show, it does deliver a steady stream of jokes and funny moments.
17. Gokushufudou (The Way of the Househusband)
MAL Score: 6.99
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like the good kind of work that fits in with the GTO universe. One challenging aspect for former Yakuza, or Mafia, or whatever is joining society once more. We’ve seen characters like John Wick, Hutch Mansell in “Nobody,” or if you’re familiar with Great Teacher Onizuka or Sakamoto Days. Look them up. However, Gokushufudou or The Way of the Househusband takes this trope and throws it into an impeccably funny story.
The man known as the “Immortal Tatsu,” a legendary Yakuza, suddenly disappeared one day. Later, he returns with an unexpected job: being a househusband to his wife Miku. Though he has given up violence in exchange for a simpler life, Tatsu soon realizes that even life as a househusband has its challenges. The fearsome “Immortal Dragon” has to learn household chores while handling people from his past.
Its “fish out of water” humor makes it a fun experience. I won’t tell where, but there’s a part in the series where Tatsu and Miku are in the shopping district. The people here know him from his Immortal Dragon days. While visiting various shops, Tatsu talks with the storekeepers in a threatening tone. Since he’s a regular, they make outrageous offers but he takes the “you-know-what.” Whatever that is, I leave it for your viewing experience.
However, we won’t lie. The animation is awful. I’m only confidently pushing this one because the manga was superb, with the story and scenarios extremely funny even in its black-and-white pages. While it looked more like a Powerpoint presentation, its faithfulness to the manga saves it story-wise. Also, its VA cast – including Kenjiro Tsuda, who also voiced Manji in Blade of the Immortal, Nanami Kento in Jujutsu Kaisen – brings the work to life.
18. HunterXHunter (Yorknew City/ Phantom Troupe Arc)
MAL Score: 8.41 (1999)/ 9.07 (2011)
HunterXHunter is a piece of work that holds a place in the hearts of many anime fans. Even though it remains set back by hiatuses, it still has a solid fanbase. Also, over the years, it has tackled a number of tropes and genres. It had the Hunter Exam, the Isekai Greed Island, and the iconic Chimera Ant Arc. A personal favorite, and a perfect fit for this article: the Yorknew City arc.
This arc is memorable for a lot of reasons aside from introducing the city’s Mafia structure. Here is where the four main characters reunite: Yusuke, Hiei, Kuwabara, and Kurama. Just kidding. Gon, Leorio, Killua are finding ways to get their hands on the mysterious Greed Island game. Meanwhile, Kurapika has started working for a Mafia family. Additionally, the mafia in Yorknew City has turned on its heels as a group of hooligans – The Phantom Troupe – set up shop in the city.
Of course, we’d recommend HunterXHunter any day. However, the main reason to watch it is the Phantom Troupe itself. Here is a group of criminals from relative obscurity and poverty, banding together to be such big shots. Although they’re responsible for the extermination of Kurapika’s clan, you can’t help but like their guts. It’s a great heist story and one of the best villain introductions I’ve seen. By the time the Spiders get to the Chimera Arc, they’ve basically stolen even the show itself.
19. Great Teacher Onizuka
MAL Score: 8.70
Another one for the classics, Great Teacher Onizuka first aired this month 22 years ago. If you watched it as a kid, yeah, you know what we’re getting at. It has a greater variety than The Way of the Househusband and where Tatsu has found the love of his life, Eikichi hasn’t. GTO probably helped bring a brighter outlook towards people with rough pasts. It also did a great job of showing the importance of that out-of-the-box thinking, plus street smarts.
For our younger viewers, GTO follows 22-year-old (see what I did there?) Eikichi Onizuka. He is an ex-gang leader and a virgin who suddenly realizes his dream: to be Japan’s greatest teacher. While his intentions for doing so are weird enough, his methods of getting there are even weirder. He disregards rules and authorities and teaches his students the truths of the world. Onizuka was tasked with handling the infamous Class3-4, who have been making their previous teachers quit.
While it has a similar fish-out-of-water appeal to it, GTO is equal parts comedy and action. Onizuka is the kind of adult kids like me wanted to be: free, brave, and with a devil-may-care attitude. Furthermore, it tackles serious school issues: family problems, bullying, and student-teacher relationships that last a lifetime. With its good share of ecchi, suplexes, and damaged properties, GTO is an anime that will just keep on aging well.
Of course, people have been wondering what Onizuka was like when he was still a gangster, which brings us to…
20. Shonan Junai Gumi
MAL Score: 7.47
This five-episode OVA is an underrated gem. From my perspective, I saw GTO first before this one. It makes me feel like Shonan Junai Gumi being its prequel. Released in the gaps between 1994 and 1997, Shonan Junai Gumi had the same flavors as GTO but followed their OniBaku days.
When Onizuka was younger, he was a part of a feared biker gang duo called the OniBaku, together with Ryuji Danma. Also, Ryuji appears in GTO as a supporting character. The main plot is these two fearsome gangsters looking to mature as persons and to pop their cherries. However, in doing so, they learn what life is while always looking out for each other’s backs.
Its entertainment value comes from the fact that they’re trying to get out of their image as biker gang members. From posing as waiters to sales agents, their true nature still comes out. Also, the best part of it is the friendship between Ryuji and Onizuka, which explains a lot in GTO. Ryuji Danma seems to have matured quite nicely. He maintained his passion for motorcycles and opened up his own workshop. He also seems to be the more mature one between the two of them. This healthy pair-up is always amazing, a dumb one and a smarter one, yet both being equally strong. Think Gol D. Roger and Silvers Rayleigh, or Yuno and Asta. No, not Naruto and Sasuke, that relationship had a toxic phase, so pass.
If you’re looking for a fulfilling gangster anime, Shonan Junai Gumi and GTO is a great package deal.
21. Tokyo Revengers
MAL Score: 8.21
At first, seeing the content surrounding the latest anime from Liden Films (Terra Formars, The Legend of Arslan), I thought that this was something similar to the thugs of the Crows series. However, upon seeing it, it was a lot different than I expected. Instead of something straightforward like Crows, Worst, or Shonan Junai Gumi, it had more layers of it. Think of the run-of-the-mill gangster anime plus elements of time travel and mystery.
What’s it about: It follows Takemichi Hanagaki, a person who seemingly has no hope in life. While lounging around and watching TV, he finds on the news that his ex-girlfriend from middle school, Hinata Tachibana, was killed by the Tokyo Manji Gang. Later in the day, he was pushed in front of the train, sending him back 12 years in the past.
From here on, Tokyo Revengers spirals into a riveting storytelling experience between the past (2005) and the present (2017). Right off the bat, it gives you a taste of how crazy this ride will be. For me, I instantly understood how it skyrocketed to be the best-selling manga of 2021 behind Kimetsu no Yaiba and Jujutsu Kaisen. I think two things made this Ken Wakui masterpiece: the gangster element and the time-travel element. And the first one made its popularity explode.
Why recommend it to your friends: Its impressively cool fight scenes remind us of our brash younger days, and it leads us to this series’ breakaway character. Manjiro Sano, better known as Mikey, is a cool, fearless though slightly childish character. So far, he’s the strongest fighter shown in the series, despite being short. If it gives you Satoru Gojou or Levi Ackermann vibes, you’re welcome.
22. Banana Fish
MAL Score: 8.50
One of those underrated classics you might’ve heard, Banana Fish was adapted by MAPPA is a commemoration project for its creator, Akimi Yoshida’s 40th year anniversary in the industry. Its name still pops up every now and then, especially when people talk about two genres: mafia and BL. It’s a revolutionary work whose influences still reach the works of today.
Basically, Banana Fish is the name of the drug that sets the events of the series in motion. It starts as a clue. “Banana Fish” are the last words Griffin Callenreese utter after he went on a rampage. Afterward, he ends up severely mentally handicapped. He is taken care of by his brother, Ash, who leads his own gang and is raised by the Corsican mafia boss Dino Golzine. As Ash begins to investigate the mysterious drug, his benefactor stands in his way. He soon finds Japanese journalists Shunichi Ibe and Eiji Okumura – with the Japanese knowing crucial information putting their lives in danger. The young master now has to save them and uncover the truth.
While it was not directly marketed as a BL manga, it remains one of the most influential works in the genre. Additionally, its great character development, thrilling action sequences, and the overall intrigue that fills New York and its characters have also made it a popular mafia anime among male anime fans.
It has a good feel of GTA San Andreas for me, with Ash’s rise against his benefactor and abuser including a healthy mix of different characters. We have Japanese journalists, a Chinatown gang leader, and an ex-con on a false charge. Additionally, Banana Fish somehow leaves you with a feeling that the world is not as bright and colorful as it should be, with things like banana fish and thugs like Golzone lurking in the shadows.
23. Back Street Girls: Gokudolls
MAL Score: 6.93
If a Gintama arc had a spinoff, this would probably be it. An outrageously funny premise but with a good heart to it – it’s like a story of friendship, but for adults. Let’s put it out here: it’s dirty and vulgar. Also, it offers a rare glimpse into the darker side of the Japanese idol industry. It’s understandable how this turns people off. But, if you’re looking for mafia anime that’s not all fights and conflicts, Back Street Girls: Gokudolls is worth a try.
After failing their Yakuza boss for the last time, thugs Yamamoto, Tachibana, and Sugihara are given two options. They can either commit seppuku for the group and have their organs sold or go to Thailand for a sex reassignment process and become idols. Hilarity ensues when they return as a trio of “cute” and “pure” idols. Airi Yamamoto is the leader, Mari Tachibana is the “cool” member, and Chika Sugihara is the “cutesy” one.
First of all, I honestly think it deserves better: in MAL Scores and in reviews. The art style is something that worked with other anime like Detroit Metal City or Yami Shibai. Honestly, you don’t need smooth HD flows as MAPPA does with its shounen series. Its jokes are one-time treats and it always comes back to their nature as men raised as Yakuza members. However, it does have its good points in the middle of the murky world it lives in.
The Darker Side of the Idol Industry, and Brothers for Life
Also, a good source of comedy is the conflict between their idol images and the Yakuza thugs that dwell within. They are seen applying for TV and radio appearances, often facing snob or sleazy network executives. A gold moment for me is when they did an audition where they supposedly had to talk with their beaten-up gang leader – a mannequin in a wheelchair. Imagine how this turns out, being actual gang members themselves, using language that normal citizens don’t even know.
Additionally, as underground idols, I saw something I only used to read about them. They always have to put up with badgering fans and they have to navigate around a dangerous industry. Sure, they develop a fan base that is devoted to them and they regularly receive gifts. However, they also get to hear hostility from the people they work with and all they can do is promise to do better. They only get through their experiences and manage to avoid killing anyone and tarnishing their pure idol image, with support from each other.
It does reinforce some problematic ideas, but I think it does this in an attempt to be realistic. I mean, the premise itself is already crazy. If you think you can handle what Gokudolls has to offer, by all means, go ahead.
MAL Score: 7.96
I know what you’re thinking and yes, most likely yes, this is Zootopia The Anime! However, aside from the hype surrounding this 2019 hit anime, I watched it for one other reason. Its creator, Paru Itagaki, is the daughter of Keisuke Itagaki, the creator of Baki the Grappler. Anyway, Paru has established herself with this work that’s as rare as it is familiar.
In Beastars, we have a modern, civilized world of anthropomorphic animals. However, there is tension underneath the surface as herbivores and carnivores remain culturally divided and uneasy against each other. At Cherryton Academy, where Legoshi the wolf studies, the peace is thrown off the window with the murder of his co-member at the drama club.
First of all, it wastes no time trying to pain the idealistic world of animals. Instead, it treats us to a tense hunt-and-kill scene that would spur the events of the anime into action. From the first episode, Beastars immediately tackle mature topics such as discrimination and prejudice. It even makes Legoshi, a great gray wolf, stand out. Despite being known as one of the most fearsome predators, here he is shy and quiet. He also has been carrying the burdens of prejudice against his kind.
However, lest it is forgotten, it also has equal parts of being a slice of life/ school drama. You see bullies, campus crushes, and that one standout who fights against everyone. Hal the rabbit is like Tsukushi Makino from Hana Yori Dango. This is highly recommended: riveting at some parts, relatable at others. Lastly, it makes a good job of “it’s the people you least expect that’s at fault.”
Oh yeah, it has finished its second season, which expands on the themes of the first one and is more thrilling than the first.
25. Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai (Twittering Birds Never Fly – The Clouds Gather)
MAL Score: 8.45
A fair bit of warning: this is a BL movie, and a seriously mature one at that. It has men, it has nudity, and it has culture. You get the drift. It is realistic, violent, and unapologetic in its portrayal of the Japanese mafia: the yakuza.
What’s It About: A business president at first glance, Yashiro is also the leader of the Yakuza family that lurks in the business’ shadows. He has, however, a secret: he is a masochist with an appetite for men. He gets a new bodyguard with Chikara Doumeki. While Yashiro vows never to touch his own men, he just can’t resist Chikara, who is new to the world his boss lives in. Living in a dangerous world of killers and swindlers, the two navigate their decisions. It’s a high-stakes push and pulls chase between the suave Yakuza leader and the naive new guy.
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: I would, for a LOT of reasons. First, the dialogue has some thought put into it. Whether it’s the smooth double entendre or the tension from the characters swiping against each other in this Yakuza anime. We have previously written about it before focusing more on the yaoi as a part of our BL Anime series.
Next, narrative-wise, don’t expect too much action here, although it has a number of scenes that are straight-up gorefests. It will make you shiver, either with direct or implied scenes – the writing is just that good.
Lastly, in contrast to its macho, male-dominated world, with all its dangers and bravados, Twittering Birds is actually a sad story at its core. Without spoiling anything, the title is the best clue, one you’d understand after watching.
MAL Score: 7.47
Have you imagined if L and Light are the same person, separated by temporary bouts of amnesia? It’s that awesome, yet much more complicated. K, originally released in 2012, managed to remain an underrated gem of controversy and betrayal that explores rather complex topics like the meaning of belongingness and individuality.
What’s It About: A technologically advanced world is inhabited by “Kings.” These are supernatural beings that recruit and accept clansmen that support and protect them in return. One day, an important member of HOMRA, one of the clans in the city, is killed brutally. A video was also leaked showing the killer, who looks a lot like the MC Yashiro Isana. Hunted by a horde of mafia members, “Shiro” meets “Kuro” (get it?). Kuroh Yatogami is a man on a mission – he must eliminate the one known as the “Colorless King.” Together, the two of them plus an innocent-yet-powerful creature known as Neko work to uncover the truth – one that nobody has prepared for.
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: Aside from the rather simplistic names – Shiro, Kuro, Neko – K has one of the most complex storylines I’ve seen for a 13-episode series. It builds around the idea of color-based Kings. Each of them is a uniquely powerful character appears at a stalemate with the others. The season 1 anime is enough to satisfy even the most nitpicky audience. Its plot is complex and simultaneous that others think it to be disjointed and scattered all around.
Back to the question, will I recommend it? It’s better to say yes, watch the anime, and read all the manga that picks up the story afterward. I’m sorry, it’s the only way to fully appreciate that grandiose of K.
MAL Score: 8.28
Old school animation, no valiant MCs, and it’s focused on gritty and frustrating gambling. Kaiji is a curious case and a masterclass in narration. I think it’s fair to say that Kaiji can hold its own against hits and classics like Liar Game, Kakegurui, and Alice in Borderland. It’s the type that would make you question your grasp on reality, same as cult classic movies like the Cube trilogy.
What’s It About: Itou Kaiji, a man who has fallen on hard times, suddenly finds himself neck-deep in debt. He co-guaranteed a loan for a co-worker who has since disappeared. Kaiji got an unusual offer to repay his debts: join a shady gambling event on a ship called Espoir. Once onboard, Kaiji finds himself among a sea of people also deep in debt. They then play games against each other for a chance to win money and clear their debts once and for all.
Kaiji learns the dangers of a man pushed past his limits and the true nature of deceit and betrayal. By strategizing against his fellow players and the organizers, Itou Kaiji fights to survive – and take the organizers for what they’re worth. He realizes that behind everything – the debts, the Espoir, and the shady men following him after – are all a part of a grand scheme, of some shadowy syndicate.
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: For everyone who’s had a hand in gambling, you’ll instantly relate with Kaiji and the rest of the players on the Espoir. The desperation, the thrill, and the pull you can’t seem to get away from. Its games are all masterfully written, with the strategies coming in the “didn’t see that coming” direction. Also, aside from the human side, it also presents the mathematical aspect as well, which is not something others might look for in an anime. But for me, it better illustrates the stakes and the odds at which players like Kaiji stand.
MAL Score: 7.42
A manga that has an anime adaptation, a live-action TV series, and a live-action film, Gokusen is one of the most popular entries in the mafia/ gangster/ Yakuza genre. With equal parts action, comedy, and drama, it’s a definite must-watch, especially for the younger generation. Women power and street smarts all in a neat Yankumi-sized package!
What It’s About: Kumiko Yamaguchi is the granddaughter of the Kuroda Ikka boss and is the next in line to succeed the Yakuza leader. Despite being raised by gangsters, she dreams of being a teacher. To do so, she must hide her true background. Her first teaching stint is to handle a class of young delinquents. To gain their acceptance, and to be a true teacher to her students, Kumiko gets tangled with her students’ problems out of school. While trying to keep her secret, she tries to help everyone in any way she can.
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: Despite the overwhelming similarities, I won’t compare it to GTO. A not-so-attractive young woman with the strength of a Yakuza legend makes for a good mix of action, comedy, and drama. While most solutions involve her unusual strength and fighting abilities, Yankumi still tries to keep her students safe (from other delinquents and more importantly, from her own temper). There’s a variety of running gags that are both believable and weird af, depending on how you choose to look at it.
In the end, it still makes a good case for not judging a book by its cover. It applies to Yankumi and the students from Class 3-D. Also, the anime is from 2004 and, growing up at around the same time, I’d say it’s a good anime especially because of its faithfulness to the source material.
29. Darker Than Black
MAL Score: 8.10
Usually, people are looking for a strong and coherent plot. It’s rare for an episodic “flavor of the week” work to leave a lasting impression. Darker than Black goes beyond this preconception and manages to keep itself relevant even in the years to come.
What’s It About: Darker Than Black is set in a world much like our own, except for a pair of two spatial anomalies. One of them was “Heaven’s Gate” in South America and the other was “Hell’s Gate” in Japan. At the same time, people with supernatural abilities called “Contractors” emerged, used as assassins and spies by the world’s governments.
The story follows a Chinese contractor named “Hei,” who is looking for his missing sister while working for the “Syndicate.” Together with his cover family, Hei finds the truth about her sister and makes sure everyone involved will pay.
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: First, it offers a globally realistic approach to what happens when a spatial anomaly opens and when superpowered people start appearing. As a mafia anime, this is exemplified by none other than the Syndicate. Its organization and tendencies toward betrayal create some of the best scenes in the series. Whether it is fighting the Contractor of the episode or the conversations that shape the direction of the story, Darker than Black makes a good case. The cherry on top has to be the animation; it felt like a cooler, no-nonsense anime X-men adaptation (not that it didn’t exist). From manipulating electricity to turning cars into armors, Darker Than Black has more than enough to keep you wanting for more!
30. Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens
MAL Score: 7.40
Please excuse me for stating this right off the bat: you must see Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens! It’s an action anime that’s like a cross between Getbackers, Bungou Stray Dogs, and the streetfighting part of Slam Dunk. It delivers a unique punch perfect for a binge-watching session.
What’s It About: The city of Hakata looks like a normal city from the outside. However, its people are another story, with assassins, hitmen, and gangsters filling its streets. One of them is Zenji Banba, a private detective who runs his own agency. One day, he runs across a dissatisfied cross-dressing hitman from China, Lin. The man who was supposed to be Lin’s target, Zenji, asked him whether he wanted to work with him instead. Together with a host of colorful characters, they deal and survive against the various hitmen going after them – more importantly, those hunting the famous assassin The Niwaka Samurai
Why Recommend It To Your Friends: Cool characters enjoying a solid development is perhaps the main reason to enjoy Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. Aside from the unlikely partnership between Lin and Banba, there’s a host of characters that are just as cool and as powerful as they are. From ex-baseball player Saitoh to Enokida, an ultra-intelligent hacker who serves as their information broker with a rich background.
It’s so good, I’m still waiting for the next season of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, in the same way that I’m waiting for No Game, No Life season 2. It’s actually a personal favorite, so yeah, I’d recommend it any time of the day.