Before I begin, I wanted to say this is the longest post I’ve ever created and I’m really proud of it.
I’ve been wanting to do an anime list for a really long time, not only because I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re interested in starting anime but are unsure of where to start, but also because I like talking about my passions—anime being one of them. Anime is something that has been in my life since I was a teenager and has given me the ability to communicate and connect with people I otherwise would have nothing in common with. I know what you’re thinking this is starting to read a lot like a cooking recipe blog post but bear with me. I started anime because I have a love for stories and anime creates such a unique perspective on story-telling.
Now you will see me use the term anime here for this post but understand that a lot of this content is interchangeable and actually heavily reliant on manga. Most anime you watch today is based on Light novels and manga created as a visual medium which then gets brought to life on screen. I enjoy both types regularly, and each has its own unique traits that make them worth looking at without excluding one or the other (plus manga readers know sometimes we don’t want to wait for the anime to come out when that story is just too good).
So for those reading this and asking themselves why should I even watch anime, there are a number of reasons but I can only tell you what I think. I think anime is worth watching for two reasons. First because of the medium. We watch a lot of cartoons, movies, and series that have wonderful stories and great characters but anime is a feast for your eyes. It’s like seeing the difference between next-gen games over multiple platforms progressing through the years and while a lot of mainstream content has visually improved considerably over the years I would wager a lot of that comes from the path paved forward by anime. An easy example is Star Wars Visions. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a series of episode one-shots created through Japanese studios taking the ethos of the Star Wars universe and infusing it with anime flair. The variety of artwork and story diversity is amazing. If you haven’t gotten a chance really check it out.
And my second reason for watching is because of culture. Never has such an eclectic amount of visual, story, and character representation been shown through one medium, but is still able to hold a common thread of the Japanese mindset and hints of their culture in it. That isn’t to say that all anime made is inherently Japanese but it truly is eye-opening to see a world and culture shaped through Japanese authors and mindsets shown so effortlessly behind the scenes without you looking intently for it at a first glance.
Okay, enough side story let’s get this list underway. I wasn’t really sure how I was gonna do it, but I figure breaking anime that I have seen, and feel are worth watching, up into different categories and lists may help. This is complemented by a short blurb on each show to help you understand what kind of a show it is and why it’s worth watching.
Anime? What’s that?:
This category is for those who have never actually seen anime before. You may have heard about it from a friend of a friend, or seen an advert on tv, perhaps you’re even down with the mehmehs and have seen son Goku super saiyaning himself and have always secretly wished you could have glowing blonde hair? Well, this category is for you!
There are three shows I’m going to recommend. And actually, they are not produced in Japan. I think a lot of newcomers are given recommendations that scare them off because they are told to watch shows that are more of a deep dive than a shallow toe-dip especially if you’re a “Why do I have to read subtitles?” kind of person.
So my three recommendations for starting are the Castlevania TV Series, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and Arcane. All three of these are more adult orientated with complex stories and characters. The content was created mostly for western audiences and the English voice acting is well made because of this. The reason I recommend these shows is because they are a great introduction to “mature cartoons” which is what anime finds itself attributed to a lot of the time. But the main reason I suggest these three is because the visual medium closely resembles anime. The content is on par with a lot of anime shows and the stories are actually really well written in their own right. If I had to pick one I would say stick with Arcane, it is amazing. The story, the characters, the pacing, everything is just so well thought out. If this category is considered a toe-dip, I would attribute Arcane as Achilles because you’re about to be dipped into the river Styx in all of its hellfire glory!
Arcane League of Legends:
If you need more than just my word, feeling attacked by the way, then let me tell you about Arcane. Arcane follows the story of one city divided. There is the upper-class part of the city called Piltover “a city of progress” and the lower-class underground known as Zaun. Caught up in the swirls of political intrigue, corruption, and technological discoveries that could usher in a new age of prosperity. We are introduced to a diverse group of characters from different walks of life as they intersect and act upon their own beliefs and circumstances, struggling in their own personal missions to realize their own goals, deal with loss, and try to survive in this nuanced and wonderfully crafted world and story. The artwork is detailed and emotive and my god that soundtrack… seriously it gave me Spiderman into the Spiderverse feels which is honestly the highest praise I can give a soundscore. It’s great, just do it.
So you’ve dipped your toes and now you want more!?
The next section of recommendations will be based on different genre categories. The reason being is that anime is so varied and diverse and wonderful, you kind of have your pick of the litter, it really just depends on where your interests lie? As a note, I’ve put both the English and Japanese names next to each other to make it easier to find online.
So without further ado welcome to my top anime picks! (Ya Noobs <3)
If you’ve never heard of Isekai anime the basic premise is the idea of a character either being transported to another world or dying and then being reincarnated into another world and now having to make their way through this new world using the memories from their past life to help shape and guide them in their adventures. While this genre can sometimes get a bit of a bad rap from “purists” with a lot of people outing themselves, saying this is actually a bit of a “guilty pleasure” of theirs. The genre has actually become recently very popular and offers a lot of interesting ways to tell stories, especially when the character’s previous life focuses on their regrets and how they want to change in this new life they have been given, living differently this time (Special mention: Mushoku Tensei). A subject I think a lot of us today can appreciate and reflect on. (Plus who doesn’t want to use magic??)
1. Re: Zero − Starting Life in Another World / Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu:
Re: Zero is my first recommendation for this category. And the reason is easy Subaru, SUBARU, SUBARU! While this genre’s bread and butter is based normally on how similar it reflects video games and the character’s abilities, magic, equipment, and progression system put in place to upgrade the protagonist or antagonist ala Overlord, Re: Zero is a bit different. While the main character Subaru does upgrade and gain new abilities as he progresses through the story, the focus is on not what he gets but on how he uses his abilities. Most specifically his greatest ability or perhaps “curse?” known as return by death. The reason this show is so good is because it takes the idea of choice and asks the protagonist what they would do differently if they could redo their past over and over again upon their death? And that is what this story revolves around, the idea of return by death, an ability the main character Subaru is gifted with when he is transported to a new world, whereby upon his death he is brought back to life for a certain amount of time before he would die to make new choices or take new paths, and see how he can change or create a new outcome to his situation. While the character of Subaru can be a bit of a hit or miss, his choices and character progression coupled with the story and the questions asked along the way on what death is? And what one could do with a second chance? Really make this anime something worth watching.
2. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime / Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken:
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is my next Isekai recommendation. It centers around Rimuru Tempest, a man who died in a tragic stabbing (more common in this anime genre than you think) and is subsequently reincarnated based on his thoughts and needs upon his death to no longer feel cold and pain, as well as to be wiser and do things differently. Thus resulting in him becoming the ultimate monster! No, not a dragon ya goof! Something far worse, far more lethal, the deadliest… SLIME-KUN!
I really recommend this show if you have never watched Isekai before but are interested or intrigued in trying it out. The reason being is because That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime strikes the perfect balance of what this genre should be. It has it all: epic abilities, showstopping magic, a great progression system for the characters, and just a wonderful story. It really has such a solid foundation and executes it so well. The characters are likable, the story has its high and low moments that can pull on the heartstrings, and honestly, it’s just such an easy watch. It may not have anything completely new that wows you with that “this is so different” feeling but it’s like Shadow of War on ps4 you know what to expect, you’ve seen it before, but you really aren’t disappointed because all the right pillars needed for it to work are there holding it up above its peers.
The Rising of the Shield Hero, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, The Saga Of Tanya The Evil, Log Horizon,
and No Game No Life.
Adventure is an intriguing kind of category because there is a lot of inter-lapping with adventure fantasy, adventure action, etc. There is a lot of wonderful anime that fall into this category but I’m only going to recommend my two favorite anime for this category that I think encompass the true spirit of adventure. That idea of going on something huge and monumental. Lord of the Rings-esque if you will!
1. Made in Abyss:
Made in Abyss. There’s not much that needs to be said about how great this show is. It’s in my opinion, a masterpiece. The set pieces and landscapes and structure of the Abyss created from the vivid imagination of Akihito Tsukushi are honestly just breathtaking. The story is a journey of innocence and friendship. It so closely resembles Tolkien’s idea of loss. The idea of undertaking an adventure with hope and childlike determination. But much like Frodo, some journeys leave scars, and accomplishing one’s goals requires sacrifice. In many ways, Riko’s journey (the protagonist) is a loss of innocence, but its portrayal is seamless and natural, and in the end, it’s hauntingly beautiful.
Made in Abyss follows Riko a novice diver -someone who looks for ancient artifacts- who lives in a town called Orth. One day she finds a mysterious robot boy, Reg, whilst exploring one day on the upper levels of the Abyss- a huge expensive chasm that’s depths hold ancient relics, unexplained mysteries, and deadly creatures. Receiving a message from her missing mother, Lyza, who was an elite diver known as a “White Whistle”, Rin along with her robot friend Reg decide, much like Alice, to go tumbling down the rabbit hole into the Abyss in search of her. The premise is mysterious and captivating but the hook is what’s called the “The Curse of the Abyss”. The curse is a mysterious sickness that affects all living things that come back up out of the Abyss. If a person goes down one layer into the Abyss, coming back up will cause a person to feel dizzy and nauseous, further down causes intense pain and bleeding from their eyes and ears, to go further can cause even death. And it’s for this reason that Made in Abyss is such a great story, because it’s a story about consequences, about things that are more important than the fear of the unknown. It’s a journey that from the beginning hooks the viewer making them understand that in some journeys there’s no going back.
2. Full metal alchemist: Brotherhood / Hagane no Renkinjutsushi:
Full Metal Alchemist which I recently learned has been watched by one of my favorite authors Patrick Rothfuss (shoutout to twitch chat) is actually a bit of a double threat because the episode list is almost long enough to make it a shounen. But for the sake of this list, I’m counting it more for adventure due to the distance covered over the entire series. Now I have been watching anime for a long time and you’ll hear a bunch of people say watch this version or this version of Full Metal but trust me when I say just watch Brotherhood the story is better thought out and it is just far more well rounded.
The story revolves around the Elric brothers. Two exceptionally bright brothers who learn the miraculous ability of alchemy (kind of like magic but they are able to transmute matter into something else using energy) at a young age. However, an event takes place that causes the brothers to recklessly try forbidden alchemy. A type of alchemy that should never be meddled with and following the consequences of this action the story follows the brother’s journey as they search for what is called the philosophers stone a stone that may have the power to help right the consequences of their ill-advised alchemy that fateful night.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is deceptive in how well its characters are developed, at a first glance the design and animation give off the idea of something child-like complemented by Edward and Alphonse’s back-and-forth repertoire and banter it’s light-hearted and warm. But the further the story progresses and the more you learn about the world the more you realize how this story is shaped by tragedy and consequences. (Don’t even think about commenting here about NINA! You monsters!)
Full Metal is captivating. It pulls you into a world of intrigue and wonder, with just a hint of loss and something darker underneath. And I think that’s what makes this show such a great adventure because the journey of the brothers is rounded, and by the end, you can recognize how much they have had to have gone through to appreciate where they wind up by the time the ending credits roll.
The comedy genre in anime is one of the more hilarious culture shocks you will ever experience. It’s varied and wonderful and just has layers and layers of tropes you have to watch from regular anime to truly… truly! appreciate it. That’s not to say that you need prior knowledge to enjoy the next anime on the list, but some of the nuances are lost with certain references from other shows that are put in that enhance the overall comedic experience. There is a decent amount of comedy anime but my main focus point for this category was re-watchability. I find myself coming back to watch these anime every now and then and I still find them just as hilarious as the first time and I think that’s what sets them apart from others in this genre.
1. Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! / Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!:
Oh, Konosuba where to begin… This show is, I have no words honestly. It’s so over the top, so ridiculous, so clever, and completely inappropriate in the best way. Konosuba is an Isekai but one that identifies the tropes and pitfalls of the genre and intentionally makes fun of them. It’s a comedy in the same way that Scary Movie is iconic. It uses the tropes of the Isekai genre against itself intentionally. It follows the story of Kazuma a shut-in who dies trying to “protect” a girl from being run over. Upon his death, he is brought before a beautiful goddess who tells him he can have one wish before he is reincarnated, looking it over he chooses her as his wish and the rest is slimy frog stomach acid history.
From a debt-ridden goddess to a masochistic perverted female knight, Konosuba really has it all. Its characters are terrible people in the best way and honestly, I really recommend this show for anyone who has played role-playing games from the moment you start you’ll recognize the ideas and how this show so cleverly subverts typical conventions in the gaming genre in witty and outrageous ways.
But, I think its biggest selling point is its re-watchability. I have watched an incredible amount of anime but it’s rare that I keep coming back for more and truly that is why Konosuba is just such a great show to watch. Plus you can never unsee Kasuma’s finger gestures… They’ll haunt you…
2. Blue Exorcist / Ao no Ekusoshisuto:
Ao no exorcist was one of the first animes that truly got me hooked on anime, period. It’s an engaging story with a truly black sheep main protagonist called Rin who is dim-witted and stubborn but tries his best and through persistence is able to make things work out.
I should put a warning label under this saying that this anime does involve religious content that may not agree with some people who identify as Christian as the plot does revolve around two brothers Rin and Yukio who are the offspring of Satan himself. That being said the story itself is endearing and heartfelt and you really feel moved as you watch the bond between the characters form as they break past barriers and prejudices to connect to each other on a personal level. The story focuses on the brother’s journey as they try to define themselves not based on their birthright but as beings worthy of trust and friendship, characters who want to be treated as themselves, as individuals not based on who their parents were but who they are.
The story is action-packed with incredible effects, the introduction theme song for S2 should be played on repeat over and over, and the concept is something thought-provoking that hasn’t really been captured before in a way that is handled well and not with too heavy a hand on religion and what connotations that could entail.
The supernatural genre is quite an interesting one because it actually does a lot in showcasing old Japanese culture and lore, especially in superstitions and urban legends normally revolving around the world of Yokai or spirits in Japanese folktales and myth. Similar to ancient legends like the Greeks who had Zeus and Athena, Japan has many fables and interesting spirits such as Oni and Tengu. What’s interesting is how these spirits interact with the world and how this is reflected in the supernatural anime genre as a whole. If you enjoy the culture of spirits and Japanese folklore this is definitely the genre to look at. The two recommendations below focus on two that I think are well-developed and who have such quirky characters it’s impossible to not fall in love with them.
1. Mob Psycho 100 / Mobu Saiko Hyaku:
Mob Psycho 100 is a sleeper hit that I think a lot of people haven’t watched before. It’s about Shigeo Kageyama also known as Mob, Mobu, the Mobinator, Mobosaur perhaps? A middle schooler who is pretty much everyone who was ever introverted in school’s spirit animal. The only difference is Moby has immense psychic powers that he uses to fight evil spirits during his part-time job working for Reigen Arataka a self-proclaimed “amazing psychic” who owns his own business “Spirits and Such Consultation Office”. However, even with this immense power all Mobbles wants, is to live like any normal teenager as he tries to befriend his crush, join a school club, and fight other espers like himself, you know usual middle school things.
While supernatural in nature this show is worth watching for the way it contrasts the supernatural with ordinary life. The 100 counter after Psycho in the name represents Mob’s mental state and the more stress he receives the higher the counter gets. It’s a physical representation of people’s ability to cope with the things around them. What’s especially interesting and why I think a lot of people are able to connect to this show is because of how introverted Mob is. He is learning how to deal with the external things around him and how to interact and internalize the way it affects his mental state which is such a great representation of growing up with the added effect of him blowing up with excessive psychic power if it gets too high.
I think Mob Psycho 100 strikes a really good balance between supernatural, slice-of-life, and comedy. Mob has a bit of all of us in him and the audience really can empathize with his journey through the day-to-day as he just tries to make it through teenagehood with all its ups and downs. Heck, it even throws in a few epic esper showdowns in between just to make it a little bit more SPICY.
2. Jujustu Kaizen:
Jujustu no Kaizen is relatively new in terms of release but it still hits its stride in execution, exceptionally well within the genre. Supernatural anime has seen a bit of a dip in terms of popularity recently but much like Attack on Titan this anime seems to have revitalized the genre, reaching the right balance between horror, supernatural, and action. The story is similar to most supernatural-like stories following in the vein of cursed spirits causing pain and destruction wherever they wander. These spirits are born through negative emotions created by the humans who they end up harming in the process. A lot of the spirits take the form of the negative emotions felt by humanity, as well as from the beliefs, fears, and insecurities humanity holds. These characteristics, therefore, tend to represent Japanese lore and spirits with a lot of this being based upon the culture found within Japan.
Enter Itadori Yuuji who is a charismatic, able-bodied high school boy who has an uncharacteristically strong body after being non-committal towards high school because of his sick grandfather, he eventually decides to get the teachers off his back by joining the occult club. Soon after joining one night, his occult club finds a mysterious cursed object that leads them into a dangerous situation. Yuuji figuring out something is amiss rushes to rescue them recklessly eating the cursed object they found, a finger of an incredibly evil demon known as Sukana, allowing him to combat evil spirits at the cost of having his body become possessed by the demon he ingested. The story follows from there as Yuuji learns to harness his newfound sorcerer powers in the hopes of helping people from cursed spirits.
The animation quality is incredibly high and comes from MAPPA which recently has been creating astounding anime. The characters are charming and well-lived in and the reason anyone should pick this anime up is because of how effectively it contrasts the pain of the character’s backstories with their ability to use it to help others regardless of their motives. Having been affected by a curse thus allows a person to then be able to interact and affect other curses which creates an interesting dynamic within the show allowing for creative plot development that really makes the viewer understand how different sorcerers can be. From helpful and determined Yuuji, to his enigmatic mentor Goto, to the “I’m only in it for the money” salary-man Kento all of these sorcerers have their own motivations and reasons for helping those from the cursed spirits that seek to harm the everyday person.
Shounen anime is most people’s anime childhood. Shounen actually means boy in Japanese with Shoujo meaning young girl and it focuses on teenagers as its target demographic. Shounen is known for a number of tropes and they are almost always ongoing with no end in sight. So if you are thinking of picking one of the below series up just know you are in for a long… longgggg ride. The anime I propose in this category is my childhood. Bleach was one of the first anime I ever watched and One Piece has been with me since I was a teenager. Luffy and his crew are old friends that I have grown up alongside and I hold them dear to me, like your favorite kid’s television show or that one character you want to dress up as every year for Halloween, this is the kind of anime I think people will resonate with. Aside from some of its faults Shounen is something everyone should watch at least once. It’s without question the most popular of all the anime genres and for good reason. It takes the classic coming-of-age stories and turns them into superhero comics. There’s heartbreak, laughs, super op abilities, and most importantly MEAT. (Great segway right)
1. One Piece:
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and while it cannot be understated how One Piece is an anime series of a generation, something that is not only incredibly well written, so much so that it feels more like a novel more so than a comic, that it has the ability to last far beyond its years if it ever does get completed, it will, however, take your soul, social life and place immense strain on your bladder to get through! (You’ve been warned) One Piece is long, I cannot understate how LONG it is, like long-long, it’s like that: It’s been a long week but it’s only Monday meme long.
But goddamn is it a ride. The best way to describe it is how Star Wars fans felt at the release of The Force Awakens. That moment of anticipation, that build up towards its release; a nostalgic drive for those who had seen the original movies, but also a new introduction to new fans of a younger generation who had never experienced the Star Wars magic before. One Piece is similar to that, it’s been around for so long it has multiple generations of fan bases and each generation finds something amazing to cheer for. I think that in itself shows the versatility of One Piece.
It’s a show that has so many facets of intrigue and adventure. For the few of you who have never heard of One Piece, it’s a story about Monkey D. Luffy a boy who wants to be the pirate king, and that is really all you need to know. I could go into more detail and explain in-depth about the lore, the mechanics of how certain systems in the world work, etc. but I don’t think I need to. One Piece does a better job of telling its story than any writer could explain on a blank canvas. So all I can say is if you want to experience one of the greats of anime and manga ever produced, in general, just watch One Piece.
Trust me on this one.
Hoooooo boy Bleach what can I say about this one. Bleach has a bit of a checkered past. A lot of fans were disappointed and upset with how the manga ended, it felt rushed and abrupt. However, not all is lost there has been news confirming Bleach will return and will pick up where the anime was cut off without warning. While the ending was interesting it’s the characters and designs that truly had me watching Bleach, again and again, it was the first anime I ever really watched back in the day when dial-up connection was still a thing and I was constantly berated by my dad to and I quote, “Stop using up all the internet” when we had a cap limit of 4GB yea, that long ago…
There’s something about Bleach that captivates the audience, the outfit designs the character animations, and just the overarching story of life and death and what’s in between really has a strong hook for new audiences. Bleach is one of the OGs of anime and as a fan and as a writer I would be remiss not to recommend the adventures of Ichigo (The greatest strawberry of all time) and his exploits as a substitute soul reaper -similar to the grim reaper but much more Japanese.
Out of most of the mangaka, Kubo is incredibly auteur in terms of design and style. His work is instantly recognizable and that’s deliberate. He has been known to talk at great lengths about his influences and why he choose particular cuts, colors, and other miscellaneous features for his characters. It’s what sets Bleach apart—the detail. I mean just look at him in all his glory!
So if you are looking for great designs, amazing costumes, power-ups and a story that asks questions about the afterlife Bleach is the right anime for you. Also, the newest season will be released after almost a 10-year hiatus so perfect time to get back in or start for that matter!
While a lot of sports anime falls under the shounen category in idea, I would be remiss in not stating how much nostalgia this genre brings with it. Sports anime has this wonderful blend of making even the nerdiest person feel the highs and lows of playing a sport or being in a team or club. The best way to describe it is the same way you feel when your favorite football team is playing on the weekend or watching the final lap of the F1 Grand Prix! Much the same as sports anime, school anime is also something that brings back such good memories, it’s wonderful because even though the Japanese schooling system is very different from the classes I had when I was younger they still hold this thread of commonality. Every time I watch something like this I feel warm remembering the good things of my high school life. And for those who are in school and are struggling (it happens to all of us!) These shows are also for you!
Assassination Classroom is based around the outcasts of the school and the characters for Haikyuu are weird and eclectic, they make you empathize because they give us an outlet to feel understood whether we are in or out of school. This genre bottles all the emotions of school, friends, and competition and creates this wonderful smorgasbord of slice-of-life, school, and heroic figures in one genre. The real catch for those who are unsure of trying a sports or school anime is how these anime create superhero-like abilities. What was once a simple maneuver becomes this stunt that is used in the final match to win the game, or a secret technique passed down from senior to junior, like the karate kid’s crane kick, and in doing so our protagonists learn and adapt as they battle new foes on the court, or take exams in the classroom, facing new trials and adventures as if they were Achilles or Odysseus in the Odessy itself!
Haikyuu holds a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first animes to ever introduce me to the concept of competitive volleyball and also to one of my all-time favorite character duos Kageyama Tobio and Hinata Shoyo. Haikyuu is about a high school volleyball club that is trying to regain its once fearsome reputation that has subsequently dimmed over the years. Joining the club is two out-of-the-ordinary 1st-year newcomers Shoyo and Kageyama, who cannot stand each other! The story takes place over the season as Karasuno High goes from match to match showcasing amazing techniques and moves the players learn and grow into as they continue forward throughout the season.
Haikyuu is special in not only the animation of the character’s emotions but also in the openness the characters portray grounding the show in a “feels-good” series that shows these young students grow up and learn from their time in the volleyball club. I love Haikyuu because it makes you feel like you are right there next to the game, cheering on your favorite team as you watch these players do extraordinary things that seem almost supernatural. Haikyuu builds up its teams showing not only how the main characters progress through the story but also how other teams grow. It has so many moments that send shivers down your spine moments of you watching rival vs rival go at it trying to show why they should be the best, but it also does this fantastic job of letting you choose who you want to support, there isn’t a good or bad but a middle grounded spirit of either team deserves to win. Haikyuu romanticizes the “High School” experience of playing sports and making friends and it struck a chord with me reminding me of the good times I had myself as a teen going through similar heartaches and triumphs that we all experience during those years.
If anything you should watch Haikyuu if you were never much of a sports person just to understand a little bit about what it means to be part of a team and the experiences you feel from it. Haikyuu is a rollercoaster ride that keeps you glued to your screen from the moment it starts.
2. Assassination Classroom:
Assassination Classroom is every kid’s dream premise growing up in school. It asks the question how fun would it be to actively try and kill your teacher? And having watched the show apparently, the answer is really fun. This show is worth the watch on the premise alone, it’s new and creative and lets people -especially kids- view school in a new way. And if that was all that it did it would still be worth the watch, but it goes beyond that it seamlessly weaves the characters’ narratives together really letting you understand not only their personal goals in school but also how that connects to the overarching story and I think that’s where Assassination Classroom’s real strength lies. It shows how even the mundane problems of school kids matter and that we all deserve the opportunity to prosper in the right environment. But it’s not just the students that carry the show, it’s Koro-sensei himself the enigmatic alien that drives the show’s plot and always keeps the audience questioning what twist the plot will reveal from his background.
Assassination Classroom is amazing in its simplicity it takes an easy everyday common idea of school and flips it on its head asking the simple question: “So uh… what would happen if I try to assassinate my teacher?”
Creeeeeepppppyyyyy but oh so good:
This genre should technically fall under horror but I’m not much of a scary anime kind of guy so you really can see how special the chosen two below are. The horror genre in anime can be incredibly twisted and visually extremely gory at times. I think quite a bit of content covered in anime focuses on more personal traits of Japanese culture particularly loneliness and being different from society at large which can center a lot of the time on children or teenagers, leading to these interesting almost innocent but taboo kinds of topics that are covered in this genre. I don’t enjoy twisted stories all that much but the two below are a good intro to the genre as well. However disclaimer I don’t think Mirai Nikki is a “good” introduction to anime to be honest, but if you’re someone who enjoys this kind of genre then yes it’s great.
Another great reason to watch this type of anime genre is because of how amazing the Japanese voice-acting talent is. The characters come to life on screen, especially in shows that give the voice actors these meaty and deep characters that they can really dig into. I don’t want to ruin it for you but Yuno is one of these amazing characters that will have you thinking back and talking about for years afterward both in a good and bad way which is truly impressive.
1. Future Diary / Mirai Nikki:
Where… to… start… I guess there’s really only one word that you should need to know about this anime and that’s simply –Yuno. Yuno, yuno, YuNo, YUNO, Y@no, ahhh poor Yuno. Normally I would give you a brief idea of what this show is about, but it’s ruined if you know what the idea of the story is going into it. What I can say is that it gets dark and uncomfortable, and you almost never see it coming. But it’s such a gripping show you can’t take your eyes off of it for one second, mostly thanks to the cast and characters. So try it at your own risk, and I hope it stays with you for years to come afterward. Whether it is for better or for worse? Who can say? But god is it memorable.
2. Parasyte: The maxim / Kiseijū:
Parasyte is an interesting anime. It follows the main character Shinji who through happenstance has his hand taken over by an alien Parasyte called Migi who was trying to take over his mind but missed and ended up on the wrong part of his body hence the hand. The story follows them as they come to terms with each other, both characters trying to find a balance – cohabitation. I would start with this anime if you’re looking for something a little darker than the ordinary everyday happy-go-lucky anime characters. Parasyte can be brutal at times and is not afraid to show you how cruel and savage an alien invasion can actually be. The opening intro track is sung by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas: Let Me Hear and is amazing, who knew higher-pitched Japanese artists with Metal-scream in the background could be so catchy, but give it three episodes and you’ll be screaming at your screen in jamming glee! Another thing to keep in mind is that this anime does handle more mature content than most anime so there are scenes of sex and blood and gore so just know that going into it. But to its credit, it’s handled incredibly well and really fits the tone of the story that is trying to be told.
There’s a decent selection of mystery anime, with Moriarty based on Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis having just come out, and while a lot of shows have mysteries in their story most aren’t solely based on that genre alone. The two mentions below are great for not only first-timers but also for anime fans that are looking for something different than your typical run-of-the-mill shounen or slice-of-life anime. The typical Mystery genre shows are usually slow burners but not always. I really enjoy this genre because of how different the ideas and style are compared to regular anime and also because of how much emphasis is put on the story, not to say the characters aren’t badly created but the bread and butter of the Mystery genre is in its story, and that is where the two mentions below truly shine and for very different ways which is why it’s such a great anime genre to start or even change to for a while. The twists and turns keep you guessing and the story itself pulls you in, with no tropes or predictable sequences that you know are coming from most mainstream anime genres.
Mystery is eclectic and intriguing what more could you ask for in an anime?
1. Death Note:
A lot of people you meet always have their original gateway anime. You know, that anime that got them hooked or started on how good anime was. And what you’ll usually find in the top 3 are Code Geass, A Shonen, and finally Death Note. So why should you watch Death Note? Well to be honest the easiest way to describe Death Note is that it’s the GOAT, the OG of anime, and for good reason. Years later it still holds up in standard to newer better-animated anime. Why? Simple it’s writing. Tsugumi Ohba is a master at keeping you guessing, and while Death Note has elements of the supernatural, the premise being that of a diary that when a name is written in it they will die, the true genius comes from the main characters: Light and L.
It’s these two intellectually fencing each other with one trying to avoid being caught and the other trying to figure out who the killer is. I’ve had plenty of times where someone will recommend a show or video game that is old but they claim it’s amazing still and I find I just can’t get into it, Death Note is the one that beats the odds every time.
Steins;Gate is different from the anime I’ve covered above in this post. It’s hard to describe what kind of a show Steins;Gate is. The best comparison I could give is like watching Tenet for the first time as a series where you honestly have no idea what’s going on for the entire first half of the show but then one thing starts to click, then the next and by the end, you feel like Charlie from Sunny in Philidelphia:
What I can say is that this shows characters are quirky and weird and there is in fact time travel! But aside from that, it’s really hard to give you more, unfortunately. I guess I’m not really doing this show justice but let me try, this show out of all the shows I have watched, this would definitely be in the top 5 of all the shows I’ve mentioned before this, and convincingly so. It grabs you in with its weirdness and keeps you hooked just enough to keep watching until it’s too late and you’re trapped in this time loop where you’re automatically hitting the next episode before the one you are watching is even finished, impatient to find out why/how/what is going on!?!
Action in anime is actually just an undercover front used to show off how spectacular animators are at their jobs… Seriously though it’s eye porn there is no other way to describe it. If you are interested in a good time, not a long time, this is the genre for you. Who needs complicated plots, (ironically the mention below is this but that’s beside the point), in-depth characters, or a story that’s set on another planet? If you answered no to all of these then action anime is for you! But seriously action anime is first and foremost about the action set pieces and the nominees below deliver this in bucket loads. Both are funny, intriguing and actually are worth watching for their stories.
1. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works:
UBW: aka Unlimited Budget Works as it’s commonly referred to is an eye feast. I have watched an unending amount of anime in my life so far and I can tell you without a doubt that excluding Ghibli the Fate/Stay series has some of if not the best animation and fight scenes in the business. They are absolutely draw-dropping in their execution, you consistently find yourself forgetting to breathe every two seconds too intense on following the action. The story itself varies depending on the season but the basic premise of most of the Fate/Stay shows is a competition for the holy grail of legend where players bring back heroes of legend such as King Arthur and Alexander the Great to help them battle and win the holy grail. And while the story can be a little convoluted at times the show is worth the price of admission so to speak. It reminds me a lot of the Kaiju and Kong movies of late you know what you’re getting into, to explain you don’t really go into a Kong movie expecting an amazing story that will bring you to tears you go in knowing that a giant ape is about to fight a mecha robot/ or giant beast and it’s gonna be amazing just for that. That is the best way I can describe Fate/Stay Unlimited Blade Works. I would also say that this is a sequel to the original Fate/Stay Night so while it isn’t 100 % necessary to watch that first you will understand and get a lot more out of this series if you start there. Honestly, I’m jealous the first time I watched this show I went into it with limited expectations, and what I got from it was so far above what I expected I can’t wait for you to experience Archer for the first time, good luck and enjoy!
2. One Punch Man / Wanpanman:
One Punch Man is this weird and wonderful show that’s hard to put in a box, to be honest, but actually in the best way possible. One Punch Man creates this amazing balance between action and comedy following Saitama a superhero who can defeat his enemies with you guessed it “One Punch”. I love this anime because the animation transitions between action Saitama and everyday regular citizen Saitama are some of the best in the business and you can tell the animators know exactly what kind of tone and atmosphere they are trying to achieve with the series. One Punch Man also does such an amazing job in finding a balance between keeping the show refreshing with action sequences that punch way above what you would expect for a series not entirely focused on action heh punched see what I did there. But honestly, One Punch Man is just such a great show overall its consistency in the way it portrays the story and its characters are perfect in their execution if you just want a light-hearted show that gives you belly chuckles and good times I cannot recommend One Punch Man enough.
So you’ve come to the end of the list and you have an idea of what you want to watch, you think you are ready to tackle the anime world and all it has to offer… WRONG-O! You’ve missed one crucial element and that is the wonder that is STUDIO GHIBLI. A lot of people call this studio the Disney of Japan and while there are some similarities I think comparing this studio to another is insulting because of how wonderful and unique their pieces are. I use the word pieces because that’s what I consider their work—art. A lot of their award-winning movies are hand-drawn and look like moving art across a screen. If you are concerned about the time you have and don’t think you can commit to a full season of anime Ghibli is a good place to start. Their movies range from about 1 hour 30 to about 2 hours 30 minutes and they are stunning… STUNNING.
But it’s not the visuals that should have you hooked on watching these movies. It’s their stories. Ghibli’s stories are so different from anything you’ve seen. There’s this amazing quote by one of the co-founders of the studio Hayao Miyazaki who says, ‘I would like to make a film that tells children, “It’s good to be alive.”‘ And it’s this sentiment that makes Ghibli movies so amazing. They illustrate how wonderful life can be, but also they portray such a vibrant and different world from Western movies. Ghibli moves away from the idea of good and bad, villains and heroes, and instead, gives us people, people who have to make decisions in the moments they are presented in and it’s wonderful to see how these characters interact with the world they are presented with. Especially in the two mentions below where there is this strong emphasis on nature and the effect we as people have on it shown so poignantly in Princess Mononoke. This is followed by the ever-wonderful adaptation of Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle whose food scene is portrayed in a godlike visual display of deliciousness weird anecdote but for reals, you’ll have to watch it to get why I’m so OBSESSED.
1. Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-hime:
Mononoke Hime is the crunch of the forest under your foot as you walk through the rain, bleeding from your eyes, fighting a wildfire battling against the sky, slowly feeling smoke fill your lungs as droplets of water wash away your vision, your lips curved, smiling in ecstasy.
Princess Mononoke is raw and unashamed to be itself. From the moment it starts you are transported to another world. A world of life and death of people and choices, but mostly of nature, wonderfully beautiful harsh, and chaotic nature, whose depths hold spirits of the forest proud and ancient who reside within nature.
You follow the story of Ashitaka and his animal companion Yakul as he goes through a journey being not only a “neutral party” but also a medium for the audience to watch through as he witnesses the interaction between nature and the humans who live on its outskirts in a small settlement called Irontown.
I can’t explain easily why this movie is something everyone should watch from children to adults it holds something different for everyone. It reminds me a lot of the Alchemist a piece of time that depending on when in your life you interact with it, you will get something different, some small piece of insight that differs from person to person. But it’s crucial you do interact with it.
And while Princess Mononoke holds such beautiful and emotional beats and moments that are lastingly beautiful, it’s worth watching merely for the spectacle, Mononoke Hime is picturesque in its portrayal and execution a truly lasting piece of art that is worth not just anime enthusiasts’ time but something everyone should watch at least once in their life.
2. Howl’s Moving Castle / Hauru no Ugoku Shiro:
Howl’s Moving Castle is such an interesting movie. Its source material is based on a novel written by European author Dianna Wynne Jones that has been adapted by the Japanese animation Studio Ghibli and portrayed through the animation style of Cottagecore art. And it’s just such a wholesome movie. Howl’s Moving Castle is the kind of movie you watch on a cold day with a warm hot chocolate, a nice blanket, a bunch of cookies, and a cozy attitude. The CGI is stunning the benchmark of all Ghibli movies but the writing is strong and the story whisks you away on a fantastical journey that feels reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz.
Much like Dorothy, Sophie the main character finds herself faced with a new set of circumstances as she navigates her way through a curse a witch placed on her that makes her old seeking Howl to try and help remove her curse. She makes new friends and learns more about who she is as a person as well as the wonder of magic and the world around her.
While Princess Mononoke has engaging characters that provoke incredibly varied emotions from the audience, Howl’s Moving Castle has characters that make you want to cheer for them. They are endearing and thoughtful, characters that give you a feeling of wholesome almost family-like presence.
The wondrous thing about Studio Ghibli is how varied and magical their movies are. Their stories are magical and mysterious, cruel and lifelike in the best of ways held together by an art direction and style that is breathtaking and natural in its execution. Ghibli reminds me of how I felt the first time I read the Harry Potter series or played God of War for the first time, you just knew that it was going to be different, special in some way. And while Studio Ghibli holds a lot of similarities to anime I think the true quality it holds is that it’s universal in its ability to connect and charm people.
So while I truly recommend these movies to those who are unsure about starting anime, Ghibli is something that should be experienced by everyone. Just as parents can’t wait to let their children experience their favorite Disney classics for the first time as they did when they were children it should be the same for Studio Ghibli, whose stories are transcendent of their situation in time. They hold a timeless quality, that offers insights to both old and new, truly wondrous to behold.
They are precious and should not be forgotten.
Alas, here our journey ends. We have trekked through Isekai middle earth, made our way up the dark peaks of Shounen Mount Doom, flung the Godlike animation of Studio Ghibli into the fire, and have safely flown away on eagle wings of feel good mehmehs throughout this post.
Thank you for going through this trek with me, this passionate hobby of mine, this arduous climb of knowledge, and arriving informed and ready to take on the world of anime and beyond.
So I will keep this end short and sweet and let you begin your real journey of starting anime. Godspeed and may the anime gods be with you Dear Reader may the odds ever be in your favor, keep your swords sharp, winter is coming, for Frodo “insert more cliched sayings”.
Seriously what are you still doing reading this get going already I believe in you!
Good luck and thanks for all the fish ❤
Disclaimer: All images displayed are not owned by me and I take no ownership or monetary value from using them in this writing post.
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