Anime has pretty much taken over the world. What was initially viewed as weird Japanese cartoons in the 80s and 90s has become one of the fastest growing forms of media in the 21st century and I’m here for it. I already told you how I first got into anime in my first anime review and I knew, at some point, that I would do a list like this. I’m not the best person to go to when it comes to recommendations because there is a butt-ton of anime out there and I haven’t seen them all, but I will give some advice: find out what kind of anime you want to watch, find a series that peaks your interest, watch the first couple of episodes, and if you’re at least interested in what’s going on or are entertained, then keep watching. If not, feel free to drop the series. Anyways, here’s a list of my favorite anime series, not in any chronological order. Spoilers: Dragon Ball Z is not going to be on this list, not because it isn’t one of my favorites (quite the opposite actually), but because it’s way too obvious and I feel like I’ve said everything that needed to be said on that first review. Onto the list.
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
This one, I’ve already done a review on. If you haven’t check it out, here you go. I’ll summarize. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a top-tier anime that show the journey of Edward and Alphonse Elric in returning their bodies back to normal after an attempt at bringing back their mother goes horribly wrong. The relationship between the Elric brothers is one of the strongest aspects of the series as they’re motivated to make things right with one another learning and perfecting their alchemy skills. They meet a whole bunch of memorable characters who affect the plot for good (Colonel Mustang) or for worse (Shou Tucker). It also has one of the best endings of any series that serves as satisfying closure. This is a must-see for those getting into anime for the first time because it’s a great series.
If you’re someone who wants to get into anime, this is one of the essential series that you have to watch. Most people whose first taste of anime was through Toonami are familiar with Cowboy Bebop. Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and released in 1998, Cowboy Bebop follows the adventures of a crew of space bounty hunters in the year 2072 when humanity colonized other planets in the solar system. There’s a lot to admire about this series, starting with the soundtrack, which was composed by Yoko Kanno. Jazz is the main music used for the soundtrack and it sets a mood for the series that fits a space western. A main plot point of the series is the past coming back to haunt our main characters, especially Spike Spiegel, who used to be part of a criminal organization. This show has been considered to be one of, if not, the greatest anime ever made and served as a perfect gateway for newcomers of the medium for 20 years.
MY HERO ACADEMIA
This is the newest series on this list and it’s one that took over the anime world for a reason and I’ve done an entire review on the show. My Hero Academia bridges the worlds of anime and superheroes and I was here for it. This show has some amazing animation, courtesy of Bones, that captures the feel of Western superhero comics and gives us so many amazing action sequences. Along with that is the soundtrack, which enhances the epic moments and the smaller, more intimate scenes. So many memorable characters came from this show, from Deku to All Might to Bakugo, etc. If you want me to get invested in a show, getting me in the feels every time is one good way of doing so and My Hero Academia excels at that, plus more. You’re damn right, I’m looking forward to that fourth season that’s coming up this October.
JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE
Again, I’ve done an entire post looking at the entire series so far. JoJo isn’t just an anime, it’s an experience. A “Golden Experience” if I must say. And I’ll exit stage right. Anyways, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The ever-changing anthology of the Joestar family that lasts for generations has become one of the internet’s favorite series where the main characters go up against vampires in the first part to Stand users in later parts. Every part of JoJo gives off a different vibe and brings something unique to the table. Not one action sequence feels repetitive since it’s all about strategy and outsmarting the opponents, especially with the introduction of the Stand abilities. The same goes for the visuals, which gives the parts each a new look and I like how they play with the color palette in certain scenes. If you haven’t seen JoJo, you’re missing out, bruh.
Here’s the other Shinichiro Watanabe-directed anime that makes the list. Taking place in an alternate version of Edo-era Japan, Samurai Champloo follows three individuals, Mugen, Jin, and Fuu, as they travel through Japan in search of a “samurai who smells like flowers.” Story-wise, this is a road trip where peculiar characters are met and random circumstances occur. Hell, there was an episode where the characters play baseball. Our main characters are a classic trio: you got the hotheaded Mugen who’s always starting shit, the calm and stoic ronin Jin, and Fuu, the token girl who keeps the two in check and makes sure they don’t kill each other. As you can tell, this is not the most historically accurate story as the showrunners utilize a lot of hip-hop styles in terms of the visuals, the style, and even the music. This leads us to what makes this series great, the music. Dude, this is easily Top 10 in terms of anime soundtracks. This is where I discovered the dopeness of lofi hip-hop and I believe that this show helped bridge the gap between hip-hop and anime culture. I still bump the opening song to this day.
Rest in peace to Nujabes, who helped composed the soundtrack.
I’ve been waiting too long to talk about this series. Let me tell you, Naruto is my shit. When I started getting into anime, this was one of the first series that I became a fan of. This brain-child of Masashi Kishimoto follows Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who aspires to be the Hokage, the leader of the Hidden Leaf Village (or Konoha). Naruto is the ultimate underdog story as he’s often underestimated and dismissed because he was an underachiever and he’s the vessel of the Nine-Tailed Fox (or Kyubi), a demonic force with immense chakra (the source of power in the ninja world). But as the series goes on, he works his way to master ninjutsu and face several opponents and obstacles. The supporting cast are also great and you see what they’re capable of in the Chunin Exams arc. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched the Rock Lee and Gaara fight. Speaking of, I like how strategy-based the fights in Naruto are. Like with JoJo, there’s more emphasis on out-thinking the opposition as opposed to powering up and punching the shit out of each other. Hell, I dare say that the action in Naruto is better than the action in Dragon Ball Z. Oh, and the soundtracks kicks ass. It compliments the mood of every scene, plus, every opening and ending song is a banger. The series isn’t perfect, though. The pacing can get really slow, the female characters are poorly utilized through the series (along with many side characters), and let’s not even get into the filler. Like its Big Three contemporaries One Piece and Bleach, Naruto got dragged down by its filler episodes and arcs and this, alongside the other problems, got worse in the sequel series Naruto Shippuden, which I still enjoy. Still, this anime holds a place in my heart and will always be one of my favorites.
YU YU HAKUSHO
When you think 90s anime, shows like Dragon Ball Z would come to mind, but there’s more. From Yoshihiro Togashi, the same guy who would make Hunter x Hunter, comes Yu Yu Hakusho. Yusuke Urameshi is a 14 year old juvenile delinquent who dies in a car accident and is revived by Spirit World as a detective going after demons. He’s assisted by a shinigami named Botan, fellow delinquent Kuwabara, and demons Kurama and Hiei. Yusuke is unique among shonen protagonists in that he’s a delinquent asshole who’s ready to fight anyone, but he still has a heart of gold. The first arc of the series is more of a detective story before shifting into action by the Dark Tournament arc where humans and demons alike fight for a prize. Yu Yu Hakusho delivers exactly what you want in a shonen show; compelling characters, great action, and one memorable soundtrack.
RAWW, RAWW, FIGHT THE POWER!! Gurren Lagann (or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) is a Gainax original that follows Simon and Kamina who live underground and have their lives changed when they come across a mecha that takes them to the surface and they come across a diverse range of allies and foes. The series is a love letter to the mecha genre and serves as a tribute while doing its own thing. The animation is brilliant and matches the intensity of the series except for episode 4. We don’t talk about episode 4. Simon goes through a huge character arc, starting as a little brother figure and then taking a more prominent leadership role after Kamina’s death. I also dig how the scale grows as the series goes on, starting small and then by the end, there’s huge universe-sized battles. Check out the series if you haven’t. It’s about 27 episodes, so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Time to switch things up from the other action-heavy shows on the list. Death Note is about a high school student named Light Yagami who gets ahold of a supernatural notebook where anyone whose name is written on it dies, so he uses the book to rid the world of criminals as judge, jury, and executioner while law enforcement and detectives are on the hunt. The story plays out like a game of cat-and-mouse where Light avoids being caught. When a detective named L is involved, things get more complicated and Light has to be careful and not get caught slipping. This shows what happens when someone gains too much power and they decide to take matters in their own hands when it comes to morality. This anime is definitely worth checking out, just avoid the live-action movie. You’ll thank me later.
ATTACK ON TITAN
Initially, I questioned whether or not I wanted to put this on my list, but the second part of the third season sold me. Attack On Titan (or Shingeki no Kyojin) is considered to be the anime equivalent of Game Of Thrones in subverting expectations, complex story, and a lot of gruesome violence. This is not one of those series made for the little ones because of the death and carnage that occurs. It takes place in a world where humanity lives in an area protected by three walls and then giant man-eating creatures known as Titans breach said walls, threatening mankind. We follow Eren Yeager and his friends Mikasa and Armin as they join the military and fight for humanity’s survival. You think it’d be that simple, but no. The series throws a huge curveball and turns Eren into a Titan. Then you find out that other people can turn into Titans and they’re not just simple-minded monsters. Revelations that unravel later on in the series will change how you view everything that’s happened so far. What makes this series great isn’t just the layered unpredictability of the plot and the mystery, but it’s also beautifully animated and has one epic soundtrack. I can’t wait for the fourth season and I’m curious to see how they bring it all together.
And those were my favorite anime series. What are your favorites? Comment below and let me know. Here are some other anime series that I think are worth checking out.
- Dragon Ball Z
- Mob Psycho 100
- Afro Samurai
- Kill la Kill
- Naruto Shippuden
- Black Lagoon
- Soul Eater
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
- Hellsing/Hellsing Ultimate
- Seven Deadly Sins
- One Punch Man (season 1)
- Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
- Hunter x Hunter
- Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Sama