Anime is a wildly popular type of animation originating from Japan. The earliest Japanese animation dates to 1917, but it wasn’t until later that the medium exploded in popularity. The last statistic I read stated that Japanese anime accounted for 60% of the world’s animation cartoon television shows.
Some of us who are (or at least pretend to be) adults now, grew up watching the small number of dubbed shows that aired after school. For me it was Dragonball Z. I remember turning on the TV in the middle of an episode, and wondering what in the world I was watching. It was weird, crazy, and wonderful, and I was hooked.
For people who want to start exploring anime for the first time, it can be a bit intimidating. There’s an seemingly endless genres you’ve probably never been exposed to, which makes choosing something difficult. Then there’s the sheer number of shows you can watch. What’s an anime newbie to do? Hopefully this guide will get you started on the on a lifelong enjoyment of anime.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Should you watch dubbed or subbed? The ‘subbed’ or subtitled versions are how the shows originally aired in Japan, with Japanese voice actors. ‘Dubbed’ just means the anime was redone with English speaking actors. Which version you watch is completely your decision. There are some purists who insist on watching only the original (subtitled) version, insisting it’s the best version. It really varies by show however. Some dubbs are so well done, people prefer them over the subtitled version.
If you’re just starting out, I would recommend choosing a good dubbed show. There’s a lot going on in Anime shows, and reading the subtitles while trying to watch all the action can be challenging at first. I personally enjoy the dubbed versions more, simply because I can focus on the show and the art. Choose the version you enjoy the most.
One Punch Man
One Punch Man is a genre bending take on the superhero genre. Saitama is a normal looking dude who just happens to be so strong, he can defeat any enemy with a single punch. As exciting as being that strong might be, Saitama finds it extremely boring. The show follows Saitama as he unintentionally gets a disciple, Genos – A human cyborg with some crazy tricked out weapons. Together, they join the Hero Association helping to protect the world from monsters. One Punch man pokes fun at the anime and superhero genre, while retaining the perfect balance of laugh out loud humor and beautifully animated fight scenes.
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia shares some themes of One Punch Man. The story is set in a world where most people have some kind of superpower – called quirks. Most everyone that is except Izuku Midoriya, who dreams of becoming a hero like his idol All Might, the #1 super hero in the world. One day Izuku, although quirkless, finds himself attempting to save his frenemy Katsuki Bakugo from a villan. They are ultimately saved by All Might, which sets events in motion where All Might passes on his quirk to Izuku. The show follows Izuku through U.A High School that teaches the next generation of super heroes. My Hero Academia has a great mix of humor, suspense, and action.
Light Yagami is a high school student who finds a notebook with the power to kill anyone who’s name is written inside it. At first, Light figures he can use do the world good by trying to eliminate all criminals. All these mysterious deaths catch the eye of law enforcement, and a special task force is set up to investigate. What follows is a suspenseful game of cat and mouse, full of twists and turns that keep you engaged. Although Light starts out with good intentions, the line gets blurred along the way. Although the themes are dark and serious, there is some clever dry humor exchanged between the characters.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime classic from 1998, that hooked a generation of fans. The story follows a group of rough around the edges bounty hunters across the solar system as they chase criminals and scrap together a living. With a soundtrack full of jazz, and a cool noir vibe, it’s the stories that really make the show. It’s often recommended for anime newcomers, who might not realize the shows can be filled with three-dimensional characters, and engaging plots.
Psycho Pass is a crime thriller set in a dystopian future where cops and detectives carry guns called dominators that determine the psyche and danger level a criminal poses. Criminals are determined by their psycho-pass, a scan that reveals their crime coefficient. The higher the number, the more likely they are to engage in violent crimes. One thing that makes the show so interested is the dynamic between the inspectors and enforcers. The inspectors are essentially what we would think of as regular police detectives. They’re paired up with an enforcer, who have naturally high crime coefficients, making them ‘latent criminals’. A new inspector is paired up with a veteran enforcer. The two ultimately began to suspect the Sibyl System, the artificial intelligence that determines someones psycho-pass, is really something more sinister.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
There are two versions of this anime – Full Metal Alchemist (2003) and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009). Brotherhood sticks closer to the story told in the manga (the Japanese comic it was based on). There are a number of differences, but Brotherhood is often recommended first because it’s a little more accessible. If you enjoy it, I would encourage you to watch both.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is a story centering around two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric. The pair lose their mother, and attempt to bring her back through alchemy but fail and mess up their bodies. Edward loses and arm and leg, but Alphonse loses his entire body but his spirit inhabits a suit of armor. The brothers set out to get Alphonse his body back by seeking the Philosopher’s stone. Along the way, they get caught up in a war, and learn the truth about a government conspiracy. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is an easy show to binge, and will keep you entertained the whole way through.
Attack on Titan
Once you start watching anime, you wont get far before hearing about Attack on Titan. It’s a dark tale that captured a mass audience who had never watched anime before. The shows follows Eren Jaeger who lost his mother to a giant human-like monster called a Titan. The last remnants of humanity live behind multiple walls to keep out the numerous Titans who seem intent on wiping them out. Eren, along with his childhood friends Mikasa and Armin join the military to avenge their fallen family and friends. Along the way, they stumble upon the truth behind the Titans and the rest of humanity. Attack on Titan can be violent at times, so you might want to watch it before letting your kids.
This is a bit of a departure from the rest of the list, but is a beautifully done anime that appeals to non fans and fans alike. The story revolves around Auto Memory Dolls, who were initially employed by a scientist to assist his blind wife in writing her novels. Violet Evergarden is a young girl formerly known as “the weapon”, leaves the battlefield to start a new life at the CH postal service. There, she is moved by the work of Auto Memory Dolls and joins the profession. Through her journeys, she learns and experiences various peoples that reshapes the lives of her clients and leads to self-discovery.