If you are new to anime and don’t know where to start? Let us help you.
Anime is taking over. Far from being the odd little brother of the animation world, Japan’s favorite export has gone global in recent years. With Netflix and other streaming sites helping to lead the surge in popularity in the West. However, with literally hundreds of different shows to choose from – and nearly every genre catered for, from musical comedies and horror to school dramas and cooking shows – it’s difficult to know where to start when you’re a complete anime newbie.
If you’re looking to get into anime, GamesRadar+ is here to help. We’ve gone through hours of animation and whittled it down to the essential shows for fans of all types of television. The criteria for being selected included length (barring one Poke-exception, there’s nothing too daunting, so the likes of One Piece and Bleach’s hundred-strong runs won’t feature here), approachableness, and how likely you are to fall in love with anime after watching each show. So, without further ado, here are the best anime for beginners. Sugoi!
What would you do if you could murder anyone in the world just by writing their name down in a book?. That’s the killer narrative hook of Death Note, which sees schoolboy Light Yagami stumble across the eponymous journal at the outset of this beloved anime. What starts off as a moral crusade against the criminals of the world turns into a twisting cat-and-mouse thriller that will have you rattling through the show’s 37-episode run in record time.
Death Note also proves that anime can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its live-action contemporaries. It’s never been quite so fun to witness an ordinary person’s descent into super-villainy.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is regarded as one of the best anime shows of all time. It’s not hard to see why. Sporting two of televisions most likable leads in Alphonse and Elric, and a world rich with lore, magic, and more than a handful of shadowy rulers lurking in the shadows. It’s a pure fantasy come to life.
Brotherhood plumbs the wells of emotion better than most, too. It’s the perfect proving ground to show how heavily anime can tug on the heart-strings. Several episodes revolving around familial loss and tragedy. Elric’s journey to help get the body of his brother back after an alchemy spell gone very wrong. Soon spirals into a conspiracy that leads to the very top of society. Throw in some of the greatest, most chaotic battles ever seen on the screen into the mix, and you’ve got all the makings of a box set that rivals anything out there.
Attack on Titan
Inarguably the most popular currently ongoing anime, Attack on Titan has a bit of everything to entice anime amateurs. Scares, thrills, and chills – it’s all here.
The world of humanity is trapped within the Three Walls of its new civilization and, at its edges, the nefarious Titans roam. Far from shirking away from the horrors of the towering beasts, Attack on Titan regularly goes heavy on the body horror, with some of the most gruesome found anywhere on television.
Of course, the gore can only sustain you for so long. Thankfully, the coming-of-age story surrounding Eren’s ascent as a member of the Survey Corps after the loss of his mother is captivating – you’ll be hard-pressed to find an episode that doesn’t leave you immediately wanting to start the next one. Plus, each episode races along at a lightning-quick pace and features action sequences that rival everything but the big-budget summer blockbusters.
Sword Art Online
In the year 2022, virtual reality has progressed by leaps and bounds, and a massive online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is launched. With the aid of “NerveGear” technology, players can control their avatars within the game using nothing but their own thoughts.
Kazuto Kirigaya, nicknamed “Kirito,” is among the lucky few enthusiasts who get their hands on the first shipment of the game. He logs in to find himself, with ten-thousand others, in the scenic and elaborate world of Aincrad, one full of fantastic medieval weapons and gruesome monsters. However, in a cruel turn of events, the players soon realize they cannot log out; the game’s creator has trapped them in his new world until they complete all one hundred levels of the game.
In order to escape Aincrad, Kirito will now have to interact and cooperate with his fellow players. Some are allies, while others are foes, like Asuna Yuuki, who commands the leading group attempting to escape from the ruthless game. To make matters worse, Sword Art Online is not all fun and games: if they die in Aincrad, they die in real life. Kirito must adapt to his new reality, fight for his survival, and hopefully break free from his virtual hell.
In the year 2010, the Holy Empire of Britannia is establishing itself as a dominant military nation, starting with the conquest of Japan. Renamed to Area 11 after its swift defeat, Japan has seen significant resistance against these tyrants in an attempt to regain independence.
Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, unfortunately, finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces. He is able to escape, however, thanks to the timely appearance of a mysterious girl named C.C., who bestows upon him Geass, the “Power of Kings.” Realizing the vast potential of his newfound “power of absolute obedience,” Lelouch embarks upon a perilous journey as the masked vigilante known as Zero, leading a merciless onslaught against Britannia in order to get revenge once and for all.
One Punch Man
The seemingly ordinary and unimpressive Saitama has a rather unique hobby: being a hero. In order to pursue his childhood dream, he trained relentlessly for three years—and lost all of his hair in the process. Now, Saitama is incredibly powerful, so much so that no enemy is able to defeat him in battle. In fact, all it takes to defeat evildoers with just one punch has led to an unexpected problem—he is no longer able to enjoy the thrill of battling and has become quite bored.
This all changes with the arrival of Genos, a 19-year-old cyborg, who wishes to be Saitama’s disciple after seeing what he is capable of. Genos proposes that the two join the Hero Association in order to become certified heroes that will be recognized for their positive contributions to society, and Saitama, shocked that no one knows who he is, quickly agrees. And thus begins the story of One Punch Man, an action-comedy that follows an eccentric individual who longs to fight strong enemies that can hopefully give him the excitement he once felt, and just maybe, he’ll become popular in the process.
In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as “Cowboys.” The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high-density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after.