Most everyone has seen an anime or two whether they know it or not. Ask yourself, did you not grow up watching Pokémon, Dragonball Z, or even Digimon? I know I did and it’s what sparked my love for animation. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that these shows weren’t even American and were Japanese; it opened an entire new world of incredible stories, characters, and ideas. For anyone on the fence about anime, I’m here to give you some good beginning recommendations and, for those of you who are already a fan of anime, maybe tell you about a show you’ve never seen.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The second anime based on the manga Fullmetal Alchemist, this show is fantastic in almost every way. It follows the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, searching for an item called the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s a sprawling epic that will make you laugh, cry, smile in happiness, and be fearful for the character’s lives, sometimes all in the same episode. There are arguably some of the best character arcs present within this series all encapsulated in a wonderful fantasy world. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is available to stream on Netflix.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
This is one of two shows I own in its entirety, the other being later on this list, so if that doesn’t tell you how much I love this series I don’t know what will. Combining the dystopian fantasy, science fiction, and political thriller genres would seemingly be near impossible, yet this show does so near effortlessly. The main character, Lelouch, is devilishly charismatic and although he would traditionally be a villain, it’s near impossible not to root for him. There is so much intrigue that will keep you watching episode after episode and combined with its amazing mecha battles, this show is probably the best crash course into anime. Code Geass is available to stream on Funimation.com
Set in 2071, this show follows a group of “cowboys,” aka bounty hunters on their ship, the Bebop, hence the title. This show is more episodic than serial, as compared to the other shows on this list. Almost every episode follows a different adventure that the crew is on and with that comes a different genre in almost every episode. Although there is a different adventure every episode, there is almost always an exploration in each character’s tragic past, which leads to the final episode with probably one of the best final shots in anything, ever. This is the only other show I own in its entirety if you need even more assurance. Cowboy Bebop is available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
If you’re looking for a show with a slightly more realistic feel, then Death Note is the right show for you. By more realistic, I mean that it’s set in what could be our world, but includes Shinigami (Japanese death gods), notebooks with which you can kill people, and magic eyes. That may sound crazy, and it is, but this is a show that uses each of these things perfectly in order to provide the maximum amount of tension for the audience. The entire series is predicated on a cat and mouse game between the main character, Light, and the investigator attempting to catch him, L. There are so many tense sequences that you constantly are holding your breath because you simply don’t know what is going to happen. Death Note is available to stream on Netflix.
These are some of the best introductory series into the world of anime. If you are looking for films, Your Name, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are great places to start.