Anime used to be exclusive to those willing to seek it out. You might have known someone who was into anime, but you didn’t quite understand what it was or how to watch it. With streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime getting into the anime game, it’s the most accessible it’s ever been! Those new to anime may not know where to start. With so much now available and a culture that seems to consume dozens of new shows every few months, it can be intimidating. Here are ten shows that serve as a great introduction to anime and its various genres.
There’s a lot of anime in space, but “Cowboy Bebop” blends comedy against some pretty serious drama as a team of four bounty hunters (five if you count the dog) seek to make some coin. It is also well known for its distinct jazzy soundtrack as a departure from the orchestral or techno based themes in most space based series. Plus there’s Ein, a dog as cool RWBY’s Zwei. It’s a good show to introduce one’s self to the vivid ways outer space is portrayed in anime.
Where to watch: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Netflix
“Full Metal Panic”
This franchise will certainly expose you to what might be found in a military anime series. There’s a giant submarine, mechanical battle suits (“mechs”), and plenty of action. There’s also plenty of comedy, though the silliness varies depending on which series you watch. Sagara Sousuke is a tough and experienced, though very young, soldier charged with guarding high schooler Chidori Kaname, for reasons that eventually become clear. He does this with the aid of a submarine crew that is commanded, in true anime fashion, by a younger than usual captain who was brilliant enough to earn the rank despite her youth. This series both introduces anime tropes and also twists them. The sequel, “Full Metal Panic Fumoffu,” goes in a wild comedic direction, filling in the gaps of season 1 with silliness.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu
“One Punch Man”
Avoid hundreds of frustrating episodes of “Dragon Ball Z” by watching “One Punch Man” instead. It has the climactic fights, but they’re shorter and hilarious. Saitama is an incredibly powerful fighter, his origin story will amaze you (or not). In a world filled with superheroes and absurd supervillains, our hero approaches everything with a detached and calm annoyance, unlike his comrades. The other heroes all have fairly ridiculous names as the series both adheres to some superhero fighting anime tropes and also parodies them. The animation quality is excellent.
Where to watch: Netflix, Viz, Hulu
“Sailor Moon Crystal”
While the original “Sailor Moon” is superior, this is a faster way to engage with the series. “Sailor Moon Crystal” does adhere more to the manga on which all the shows are based more closely than the classic anime does. “Sailor Moon” is one of the central “magical girl” franchises and has inspired many others. The show follows a group of unlikely heroines who gain their powers through dazzling transformations and do battle with the various baddies that seek them out. By now, this concept is nothing new, but “Sailor Moon” is an excellent introduction to the genre.
Where to watch: Neon Alley, Hulu, Crunchyroll
Himura Kenshin is an incredible sword fighter. So far this is not an unexpected subject of an anime series, however, Kenshin has given up killing after a bloody past. Now, he uses his skills to subdue enemies in post Meiji restoration Japan. This series also is brilliant at sliding from heavy drama to ridiculous humor at a moment’s notice. “Rurouni Kenshin” is as hilarious as it is dire, but it is seamlessly both. The animation quality for the time is excellent, especially given the complexity of the battle scenes.
Where to watch: Netflix, Hulu
“Attack on Titan”
Definitely the most violent series on the list, but also a very popular one, with a stirring soundtrack and high quality animation. Giant Titans are attacking humanity, and the only apparent hope for them is a relatively small group of soldiers. One of whom, Eren, has a special ability that might just even the odds … or not. Eren is a bit of a doofus though, so Mikasa, Armin, and the large army of characters are reasons to watch the drama unfold in the beautiful, though lethal, battle scenes.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix, Hulu
Created by CLAMP, who often absolutely mess with their audience, this series behaves itself somewhat and stars Sakura, who uses her newfound magic powers to round up various monsters of the week that she accidentally unleashed on the world. If she doesn’t, bad things happen, bad CLAMP things. Because it’s a CLAMP project, it is also well drawn and animated. This is another classic “magical girl” series.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
“Yuri On Ice”
Sports anime is a major genre as well, and “Yuri On Ice” gets major credit for its authenticity in how it portrays figure skating. The actual skating scenes are wonderful, but the characters have a wide range of interesting and often silly personalities. There are also many positive messages within this great series as well.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Providing a twist on the high schoolers with magic powers trope, this anime puts a group of high powered teens on one side, and a nefarious enemy group trying to collect them on the other. It is hardly that simple though. Each character has one and only one ability, varying from the practical to explosive, and beyond. This series also features good animation, and doesn’t venture into transformation territories. The heroes have no alter egos, and don’t change outfits to do battle as they in fact are trying to keep it all quiet. The male protagonist is of the usual mold, though the leading woman is different in her demeanor from the usual leader types we see, which is a nice departure.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
There are a lot of series that are pleasant and silly and mainly revolve around a living room of some kind, but Princess Jellyfish also puts out a team of main characters who all have various quirks, and for the most part are reclusive to some degree, as they are outsiders from the more mainstream types of people. Whereas many anime series may have one or two such characters, this series is built around them. The show is absolutely hilarious and gives a spotlight to people who often aren’t given it.
Where to watch: Funimation
Featured photo credit: ONE, Yusuke Murata, and Viz