Anime has become a popular form of entertainment in the world today, with millions of global fans invested in the medium in some shape or form. However, for someone who is new or curious to these Japanese cartoons, the prospect of getting into it is unsurprisingly daunting. Some of the more well-known shows can have an incredibly large episode count, like One Piece which has well over 1,000 instalments and counting. You also might be confused by all the different choices. At the start of 2023, MyAnimeList – a website used to record the different anime users have watched – featured just under 24,000 different anime entries.
If you find yourself in this position, this list will be able to help you out. Each entry has been picked for its popularity and quality, but also for how friendly it is to beginners. So with that being said, here are our ten recommendations for those who want to get into anime, but aren’t sure where to start.
For the first entry, let’s go with a lighthearted watch. Produced by Studio Trigger and released in 2017, the story follows Akko, a young girl who enrolls in a magic school to train to become a witch, learning all about magic while making new friends and rivals along the way.
To start off this list, Little Witch Academia is recommended because it is a light comedy that has strong characters and stunning animation. Compared to other entries on this list, the plot may not be as captivating as other anime in this list, but the show’s main message of believing in yourself makes it a welcoming choice for newcomers to anime.
Animated by Studio Trigger and premiering on Netflix in September 2022, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is based in the same universe as the video game Cyberpunk 2077 and follows a teenager from a poor background called David Martinez. After a sudden tragedy leaves David with nothing, he falls in with a mercenary group known as the Edgerunners.
Though this is the newest anime show on this list, it must be included for the fact that it has such a well-written yet simple story mixed in with the action, gore and an absolutely banging soundtrack. Coupled with the fact that it is an easily watchable standalone narrative – ten episodes at about 20 minutes each – Edgerunners is a great show for any beginner to get into anime. Just don’t blame me when you’ve finished the anime and you start weeping any time you listen to ‘I Really Want To Stay At Your House’
Animated by Studio Gainax, Gurren Lagann is a mecha (giant robots) anime that was released in 2007. Set in a future where humanity is forced to live underground, the story follows Simon and Kamina, respectively a timid boy and a teenager who longs for adventure and the outside world. After stumbling across a mecha, the pair venture to the surface world, taking the fight to humanity’s oppressors.
The mecha subgenre is a staple of anime, and Studio Gainax is well-known for its productions in this category. While they are best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion, another mecha anime that is worth watching, Gurren Lagann is much more friendly for anime newcomers. The medium of anime can get absolutely ridiculous at points in terms of a story’s scale, and Gurren Lagann is a perfect example of just how insane some projects can really get, with an earthbound fight growing into universe expanding battles where galaxies are hurled at opponents. The narrative of the show is emotionally charged, but it’s also comedic. Highly recommend it if you want a good story with an extra helping of testosterone-fuelled action.
Now, let’s go for something that is a little bit less emotional than Gurren Lagann. The comedy anime One Punch Man follows Saitama, an ordinary human who after three years of doing 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a 10 km run every day unlocks the power to – as you may have guessed by the title – defeat any enemy he faces with a single punch.
That is essentially the premise of the whole show, and while that may sound like it can get old very quickly, it does quite the opposite. Saitama’s superpower puts the character through a state of existential crisis, which is where an element of the comedy comes from, as battles with towering monsters and intergalactic overlords are concluded with almost no effort. The show as a whole doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there is an expansive list of memorable characters, like Mumen Rider, a wannabe hero who is literally just a cyclist and Genos, Saitama’s cybernetic sidekick who is determined where his teacher is laidback. Watch this anime if you want a laugh while turning your brain off.
While the previous entries have been set in a futuristic universe or world similar to our own, let’s take a look back into some historical fiction with Samurai Champloo. The story takes place during the Edo period in Japan, and follows three characters: Fuu, Mugen and Jin. Fuu is an eccentric tea waitress, Jin is a wandering ronin and Mugen is an outlaw. After Mugen and Jin are rescued from being executed thanks to Fuu, they vow to help her look for the samurai who smells of sunflowers, a mysterious figure from her past.
Samurai Champloo is an interesting anime for the fact that it is basically a road trip set in Edo Period Japan, but is influenced by hip-hop culture. The soundtrack was done by the late Nujabes, a record producer who is considered to be the godfather of lo-fi, and it is possibly one of the most uniquely iconic soundtracks of any anime with R’n’b and hip-hop beats. On top of that, the show is a nice balance of action, drama and comedy, with sharp and fast sword fights and a compelling set of protagonista who the audience grows more and more invested in with each new hijinks they face.
Taking place in Japan during the turn of the 20th century, Demon Slayer follows the protagonist Tanjiro, a young man whose life changes forever after a demon attack. With his sister left alive but transformed into a demon, it’s up to Tanjiro to join the Demon Slaying Corps and find a way to bring the only family he has left back to human form.
Demon Slayer is worth watching purely for its aesthetics, but it’s not the only reason to get into it. While Demon Slayer may not stand out for its story – standard underdog training to defeat the evil villain of the piece – what makes Demon Slayer such a good watch is the memorable characters and the fact that the show can so effectively hit emotional notes whether that be humour or emotional drama.
Humanity is on the edge of extinction. Plagued by supernatural monsters known as Titans, what is left of the human race lives in cities guarded by giant walls. The story follows Eren Yeager, a teenager with aspirations of wiping out the Titans after they destroy his hometown and eat his mother.
Attack on Titan is one of the most popular shonen anime to come out in years. It has captured the attention of anime and non-anime fans alike for its plot which has consistent twists as well as a unique take on the dystopia subgenre. If you want to follow a dark story that is well-loved within the anime community, this is one you do not want to miss out on – especially with the final chapters coming up in November 2023.
Set in an alternate universe where the British empire only continues to grow and where technology is much more advanced, Code Geass takes place during the colonisation of Japan, where it is renamed District 11. The protagonist of the show, Lelouch Vi Britannia, is an exiled Prince, who after gaining a supernatural power known as a Geass, joins the local resistance movement under the identity of the masked Zero, vowing to bring destruction to the Britannian Empire.
On its surface, Code Geass may look like another mecha anime, but once you go a little deeper, there is an intricately written political drama of revenge against an imperialist superpower. At the core of the story, it presents an interesting moral quandary – which is better, to join a corrupt system in the hopes of changing it from the inside, or to bring down that corrupt system via violent means? While all the characters stand strong enough on their own, Lelouch steals the show with his powerful presence and his carefully laid-out schemes to dismantle the empire that has brought so much pain and suffering, and bring peace to the world, no matter the cost.
The shows follow the crew of the spaceship Bebop, who are a group of struggling bounty hunters who try to make ends meet. Each find themselves on the ship for different reasons, with the show starting with Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, while Faye Valentine, Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (or Ed for short), and Ein the dog join throughout the story. As the crew venture among the stars, more of their pasts are revealed as the show goes on.
You may already be aware of Cowboy Bebop thanks to the live-action adaptation on Netflix. However, if you haven’t already, you need to watch this one because it is by far the superior. Similar to Samurai Champloo in the sense that it’s a character-driven narrative with one of the most recognizable soundtracks, Cowboy Bebop is an engrossing narrative which is a mixture of genres, from neo-western, drama, comedy and even horror. Among the many themes explored throughout the anime, one of the key motifs is the reconciliation of your own past, and it is a story you need to experience for yourself.
Death Note follows Light Yagami, a young man of extraordinary intelligence who, after receiving a supernatural notebook that gives him the ability to kill whom he wants, plans to use this newfound power to bring justice to the world and reign over it as a god. However, not long after receiving this power, he comes to the attention of L, a famous detective who does everything in his power to bring Light to justice. What follows is a game of cat and mouse between the pair – who will win? Will Light see his new world created, or will L bring him to justice?
This psychological thriller is the big one for cutting your teeth on anime. Death Note shares a similar reputation to Code Geass for its cleverly written story of intellectual powerhouses facing off against each other. However, while Code Geass is the story of one man facing an imperialist superpower, Death Note is about two rivals of equal intelligence facing off against each other. Even almost two decades after its release, it is still regarded as a classic for its intriguing narrative that pulls you in with its twists and turns. If you want to get into anime, then Death Note is not just a recommendation: it is an absolute necessity, which is why it gets the number one spot.
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