Top 18 Best Anime About Mafia, Yakuza & GangstersThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Whether they’re hero, villain, or a little of both, we love anime featuring criminal characters.
Especially when they band together working as an organization.
From inner psychological machinations of the lower grunt, to the bureaucratic processes that overhang the gang’s operations. It’s all found in anime.
Here we’re looking at some morally challenging & hype as all hell anime, all focused on yakuza members and crazy gang stories. Strap in, folks!
This anime follows Nicholas Brown and Worick Arcangelo, handyman mercenaries in a seedy European setting.
Manglobe’s 2015 anime adaptation of the manga received mixed reception once it wrapped up. Mostly due to the ending that offered a real lack of any conclusion… even when material exists in the manga’s ending!
Someday we may get a season two, maybe.
But for now we’re left with a short yet sweet take on brotherhood and mafia-socio-political-control.
Also, that opening theme song is still a banger.
Studio Orange are killing it with CGI anime at the moment.
Their brilliant Land of the Illustrious was followed up by an even more gorgeous school drama set in a world of anthropomorphism.
Legoshi and Haru are our protagonists – a tall yet timid wolf, and an insecure yet intimate rabbit. And it’s a romance.
So why is it on this list, right?
Well, a large part of the first (and currently only) season of Beastars features & stars a Yakuza syndicate, with the action-packed climax of the story even revolving around that part of the world.
Also many characters introduced in that arc will appear in later seasons. Once we get them.
It’s much more connected than one would assume at a glance!
16. 91 Days
Ah! This one probably slipped under your radar.
Released by the relatively unknown Studio Shuka in 2016, 91 Days is an anime centred on revenge.
Witnessing the slaughter of his family by the Vanetti mafia, Angelo Lagusa vows revenge.
Seven years pass and Lagusa is living with a new name – Avilio Bruno. And he returns to his hometown to infiltrate Vanetti and murder them one by one.
This series is stylishly unique. And it’s a fantastic effort from a relatively unexperienced studio (their only other property is features later on this list!)
15. Golden Kamuy
Geno Studio’s 2018-2020 run of Golden Kamuy has been as impressive as Studio Shuka, given their newcomer status.
Follow this absurdist testosterone-fueled adventure every step of the way.
Our MC Saichi Sugimoto is the Immortal, and his gang goes across the North of Japan in the Meiji era, as they face Yakuza and criminals in a dangerous treasure hunt for a hidden stash of gold. Exciting!
Bears, maps made of skin, plenty of food trivia, and honor. Honor!
The third season is right around the corner as of this writing, and I’m hyped.
Looking for a mixture of Romeo and Juliet, Parasyte, Tokyo Ghoul, and The Godfather?
OK, now throw in the energetic animation & artstyle of OG director Masaaki Yuasa.
Well guess who else loved this idea: Studio Madhouse in 2006 when they released Kemonozume.
Yuka Kamitsuki is a blonde lady by day, ravenous monster by night.
Toshihiko Momota is an honorable member of the Kiffuken dojo, sworn to protect humans from such monsters & oddities.
Now add in family strife: the Kiffuken and Shokujinki have been at war for centuries. A battle of families made all the more complicated when Kamitsuki and Momota fall in love.
A real Romeo & Juliet, except… not that.
With humor reminiscent of Gintama, Sakamoto-san, and Nichijou put together, the cult manga Hinamatsuri took the anime community by storm with the Studio Feel adaptation in 2018.
Yoshifumi Nitta is a materialistic member of the yakuza. He’s living day by day for himself and his family.
That is, until one day when a blue-haired girl falls into his living room (literally).
She reveals her name, Hina, before proceeding to explode. I guess she’s capable of incredible telekinetic feats or something? Trust me, you’ll get sucked on right from the beginning.
Nitta decided to take this girl under his wing.
And not just because her powers might benefit his unlawful position… No, of course not. That’s certainly not the reason…
The fate of the world relies on the feud between seven clans in a small Japanese city.
Each clan is led by a King – which in this case is an individual with supernatural abilities.
We follow the Red King Mikoto Suoh as he becomes wrapped up in the affairs of a mysterious student, Yashiro Isana.
This student has has been accused of murdering someone in his clan. Starting off deep!
Studio GoHands has been pumping out K content for nearly a decade now for the cult loyalists out there eager for it.
But the first 13-episode season is definitely the place to start.
11. Great Teacher Onizuka
The late great Great Teacher Onizuka is… well, great.
Two decades old, yet still able to split your sides and not hold any punches when it wants to break you down into a sobbing heap of God knows what.
Eikichi Onizuka is 22 and eager to leave behind a biker gang past, all in favor of high school teaching.
Though, not initially for savoury reasons.
But Onizuka soon learns how to bring past experiences to his teaching, becoming a character that will go down as one of anime’s greatest.
Brain’s Base brought Ryohgo Narita’s magnum opus light novel Baccano! to the screen in 2007.
And this is still on many people’s favorite anime list!
Its unusual method of disconnected yet entangled narratives really keep you hooked. Plus the wide selection of enjoyable characters resonates with so many viewers.
Set in 1930s Chicago aboard a transcontinental train, a confounding number of fast-paced plotlines rush out across its tracks before reaching the final destination.
And trust me; it comes with an understandable and satisfying conclusion!
Mafia wars, lovable thieves, eager gunslingers, weary scientises; a search for immortality lasting two hundred years!
Baccano! is a bizarre adventure you will never forget!!! Is that enough exclamation marks?
9. Black Lagoon
Damn Studio Madhouse, at it again with the killer toons!
Talk an outdated meme… What year is it again? Oh, 2006? Great!
Then we can watch Black Lagoon with fresh eyes.
It’s an action packed, no throttle thrill-ride harkening back to Cowboy Bebop!
We follow Rokuro Okajima (Rok), a normal Japanese businessman with a boring life that gets turned askew when he joins Revy, Dutch, and Benny of the Black Lagoon.
This is the name of a mercenary group handling shady deeds and violent acts.
Virtues and morals are pushed to the breaking point with every episode. We watch Rok and his crew go deeper and deeper into the murky life of murder and mayhem.
Well I guess that wasn’t enough exclamation marks!!
Because Studio Brain’s Base (and the earlier eluded Studio Shuka) were keen to adapt another of Ryoho Narita’s criminal-based novels with Durarara!!
The streets of Ikebukuro play host to an array of unusual and deceptive characters, from the ruthless Izaya and Shizuo, to the supernatural Celty and Anri, to the completely normal, boring, and totally not complex Mikado!!
Strings of murders link a number of characters in the first season. But that thread slowly unravels into clan warfare and weird mayhem!! OK that’s enough exclamations Right?
MAPP released one of the most unique anime of all time at the beginning of 2020 with the wonderfully macabre Dorohedoro.
Set in the district of Hole, a derelict place for the poor and weak to die, and where strong sorcerers run rampant.
Our protagonist Kaiman is looking for the mage that turned him into a lizard-man.
Hellishly designed, fluidly animated, and with an amazing soundtrack to boot, Dorohedoro is a fresh take on stale genres.
When Kaiman’s search sees him directly encountering the suit-wearing mobster En family, the bizarro is knocked up a few notches before exploding in a climax begging for a second season.
Good gory show. Very much worth the watch.
So we’ve looked at anime from the perspective of the gangster, but what about the civilians they deal with?
Kaiji is a bum with a directionless life. Made all the worse when he’s tricked into accruing a large debt beyond what he can pay.
He accepts an illegal gambling cruise, and this gateway is what starts Kaiji’s risky exploits into the dark underworld of yakuza gambling and deceit.
Mind games, torture, financial torment; they all become secondary as Kaiji falls deeper and deeper into debt and greed, stirred on by threatening gangsters who mean what they say.
The stakes are high in this Madhouse masterpiece, and I’m dying for a third season.
Any bets on when that might be? Anyone? Please?
5. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
Once more, Studio Madhouse are at the reigns with an incredible adaptation. I hope most of you have seen this by now!
Hunter x Hunter entails a wonderful, vibrant fantasy world rich in personality and choice.
Our main characters Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio, all adventure across this world.
And with each encounter they come across a whole new genre to progress the overhanging plot.
One such arc, the YorkNew Phantom Troupe arc, is longer than many anime on this list on its own. But the characters they met stick around until the most recent chapters of the manga, so it really keeps your attention.
The Phantom Troupe are a famous gang of thieves and assassins, all with Class-A bounties on their heads. They refer to themselves as spiders.
Kurapika holds the most stakes this arc, keen to avenge the genocide of his people. But he’s not the only one with a reason to fight.
The Phantom Troupe are some of the most iconic villains in anime, and this arc of mob warfare really cemented their place. Chrollo is best boy, though.
Three radically different factions fight over the control of the city of Lux, an underground metropolis riddled with filth, decay, and violence.
The anime begins with Ichise, an orphan of Lux and a renowned ring fighter. Having his arm and leg torn from his body and replaced by prosthetics, his life is certainly different than most people’s.
Ichise and a few allies come to realize the city is on the edge of complete destruction and warfare, and they may be the only ones capable of making a somewhat amiable conclusion.
Texhnolyze is yet another Studio Madhouse masterpiece(I’m sensing a pattern here…). It tells a compelling existential tale rich with philosophy and tragedy.
Not for the faint of heart, but well worth a watch.
The anime to define a generation, reinvigorate anime as a cinematic property, and inspire animation for decades.
What starts as gang warfare on the streets of Japan quickly descends further into mind shattering, world ending eldritch horror.
Hand drawn and wonderfully animated, Akira is set in Neo-Tokyo: a city rife with organized crime and terrorism.
It follows two boys – Shoutarou Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima – as they become specimens in a greater, more grotesque plot.
The criminal background of the characters and city provide a greater socio-political lore to dig into. I’d say this is fundamental to the aesthetic and history of Neo-Tokyo.
Honestly, I could talk about Akira for hours, so just check it out. It’s a masterpiece and you’ll love it.
2. Cowboy Bebop
I felt as though ‘gang’ was not too far from ‘small family of space bounty hunters’ and the sordid jazz busting vibe.
There’s gambling, thievery, shadowlit chats in dilapidated alleyways, gunfights, betrayals, shady dealings, and all other types of illegal activity.
And our protagonists are not exactly innocent.
Studio Sunrise set a precedent with Cowboy Bebop. And they’ve aimed to keep up with the animation & choreography in this anime for life. It’s a wonderful series.
1. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure V: Golden Wind
If we’ve learned anything from other anime, it’s that the spirit of a gang-based anime stands on the shoulders of the characters.
It’s always about the people, their relationships, and connections.
JoJo’s fifth part carries those themes to the clouds, focusing on family more than ever before.
Follow Giorno Giovanna and a few other mafioso members of the Passione, a corrupt syndicate peddling drugs and injustice across the streets of Naples. All the while as they attempt to dismantle the organization.
Justice, resolve, determination, and companionship are the driving forces of this epic meme machine.
King Crimson. Metallica. Aerosmith. Sex Pistols. The references are quick, complex, and constantly engaging.
The care and love David Productions put into adapting Araki’s rollercoaster of a manga cannot be undersold.
We’re all eagerly waiting the sixth part!