Cream of the crop
There are thousands of anime shows out there in the world for us to enjoy, but not all anime's are created equal as some are niche while others are general. They all appeal to different audiences, but some anime shows appeal to a vast array of audiences. I've listed the most popular anime here based on certain criteria. This isn't just based on total views, total purchases, or size of the fan base but instead it's based on all this and more. I've taken various websites with poll data and followed numerous fan based websites to gather what I believe is the definitive list of the most viewed anime out there.
This anime was interesting when I first viewed it, but I never knew how popular it was until I began my research on the internet. Apparently this show is a mega hit in both Japan and America. Votes on dozens of sites list Code Geass in the top 3 for their reader base due to the production quality of the show, the characters, the voice acting, and the compelling storyline. Lelouch is a character many fall in love with due to his sense of justice and desire to see a world at peace for his sister Nunnally's sake. He uses this Geass power to control others and force them to do his bidding. The whole production level of this anime far exceeds most we see on television and in stores, and anxious fans have been calling for a Season 3 for quite some time now. Despite what people talk about with the way R2 ended, people still cling to the hope that the series will continue and that's what drives Code Geass into this spot.
Naruto (shippuden and original series)
While many people bag on this anime for its childish appeal, the facts cannot be denied that Naruto ranks at the top of the food chain when it comes to anime popularity. Naruto has a huge fan base and following, with manga and anime sales topping others by a long shot. The people who follow this are raving fans and continue to create sub plots and storylines for the show and debate characters and plot twists. While the show is pretty interesting I didn't like it as much as the fanatics, though I did find some of my favorite bad guys graced this anime so that was a great redeeming quality. I think the back story is great especially for shippuden, but some filler junk thrown into the mix irks me. Naruto in the original series was loaded with episodes that could easily have been skipped but those who are obsessed with this show will take anything they can get. Regardless, Naruto is super popular and continues to be a best seller in the anime department.
The whole idea of everyone using swords and fancy speed techniques is enough to draw me in. Bleach is extremely popular in the world and for good reason; the story and concept are superb. The show does run very long and some filler seasons could be cast away, but the fact remains that Bleach is an excellent show for sword lovers and for anime fans who enjoy a great storyline and plot. From beginning to end the storyline continues on and all comes together to show that the story guys knew what they were doing in creating a dynamic plot that tied together perfectly. The characters are all amazing and unique, and I'm particularly biased towards Kenpachi because he's just so darn cool. The show is viewed more frequently than just about any other anime out there and this show has seen amv's, movies, and spin offs frequently come from it due to its popularity.
It's a pretty universal feeling and thought that Cowboy Bebop is in general the best anime of all time. Appealing to such a large selection people, anyone can watch this anytime and enjoy it. It's become so popular that even non anime fans have found their TV sets playing this show it's just that good. The characters are relatable and also really interesting to watch. Spike is just awesome and his attitude was always compelling to watch on the screen, but all of the characters are really neat which helps in the shows popularity. The storyline and plot is solid and progresses well all the way to the end, and the animations and drawings are spectacular
I have watched this show a little bit but it's been years since I've seen this one. Regardless I remember this anime show being excellent and the votes sure to indicate that. The polls, sales, and views of this anime are through the roof because people love Al and Edward and relate to their sad story. The beginning was eye opening and really set the stage for an interesting adventure when they both are damaged and in emotional pain from losing their mother. The idea of Al losing his body and being sealed in a suit of armor was an interesting concept and that's why the anime is so great. These brothers love each other and their adventures lead to some very interesting (sometimes disturbing) plot twists and character development turns. I thought that the concept of state alchemy used by the military was also neat, instead of using guns and swords. Definitely a fun anime and the action is heart pumping. People love this anime and TV stations love to play it to draw in the ratings.
Much much more
This list simply shows which animes are doing the best, have good sales and have a huge following on top of being quality material for the viewer to take in. There are tons of other great animes, some of which are my favorite but they didn't make this list because they aren't nearly as popular as these shining examples. I remember the days of Adult Swim when their anime line up consisted of basically all of these animes. Those were some good nights, and we get to continue to live in those moments when we can watch these animes anytime online or head out to the store or amazon to buy a cheap season or two.