So You Want to Watch Anime? Part 1 – 10 Shows to Start You Off

People often ask me what they should watch if they want to get into anime or have watched only a couple of shows. Obviously, it pays to ask people what genres they like, as anime is just another sub-medium of television and TV, movie and book preferences are all valid. Some of the shows listed here are often noted to be aimed at people who are very knowledgeable about anime, but they are on the list because they stand on their own, and none of us are rookie media consumers.

This list is designed in part to present you with a variety of genres, so you could watch these shows in order to have a better place to start from when looking for additional material – based on what you like and don’t like. Future posts will cover movies, and some more shows based on genres and themes. All posts will be organized on this page.

Note, unless noted otherwise, episode length is roughly 23-24 minutes, with 3-4 minutes per episode spent on opening song (OP), ending song (ED) and next episode’s preview.

1) Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995):

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Introduction to Anime - Psychological mystery mecha classic

One of the most influential shows of the last two decades on anime, referenced in many other shows, from small cameos to scene composition, to whole motifs being taken wholecloth, aside from the fact Shinji, Asuka and Rei are the archetypes on which countless other main characters had been modeled. That of course isn’t sufficient, but it’s a well told story about a group of teenagers who must risk their lives, relationships and psyche in order to defend humanity.

The show begins slowly, but as you go, the emotional hits and the mysteries keep ramping up, until you find yourself with nary a time to take a breather in between. This show had been considered a reconstruction of the mecha genre when it aired, but the story stands well on its own, and with how influential it is I think holding off on watching this show can only be detrimental.

The “twist to mystery” which also often includes references to the supernatural and real-world mythologies at times had truly been ever-present in longer shows after NGE. Its effect on the anime world can’t be overstated.

Genres and Notes: Action, mecha, psychological, teenagers, mystery. Give it at least until episode 8, where it truly shows you what it has to offer. Watch the main series and then watch End of Evangelion, an alternate ending to the last two episodes. Skip Death and Rebirth as it is entirely superfluous. “Rebuild of Evangelion”  (Evangelion 1.11, 2.22, etc.) are an alternate retelling via movies, and aren’t as highly recommended. I don’t suggest this show under the age of 15 – blood, violence, psychological wounds, etc. Often referred to as “NGE” or “Evangelion”.
Episode Count: 26 episodes. End of Evangelion is 90 minutes long.
Buy on Amazon: The complete series. End of Evangelion had unfortunately been out of print for about a decade now.

2) Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007):

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann anime - Introduction to Anime - Over the top action

When this show came out it swept the anime watching crowds, with how over the top everything was, with how each time something occurred the protagonists would “power up” in order to overcome their enemies. The “Rule of cool” and the triumph of will are big draws to this show, which is quite unapologetic about how the campy and “Bro” nature it has, and elevates these elements to an art-form by cranking them up to 11. A fun romp at a neck-breaking pace, not for this show are multi-episode fights against the same enemies, but a show where the power levels and ridiculousness ramp up in an exponential manner, and it is fun – more than a little ridiculous, but not taking itself too seriously is a large part of the show’s charm and greater-than-life aspect of the characters.

This show is often referenced in other shows, and while it’s filled to the brim with references to older mecha shows, you don’t really need to watch them in order to follow this show. Note, first few episodes are a tad slower, but when it picks up it really picks up. Has some of the coolest characters and lines to ever appear in anime – if you ever read a “favourite lines” discussion about anime, lines from this show will be very prominent, and these lines and messages can fill you with energy, as you watch the show, and as you think back on them.

Genres and Notes: Action, endless action, mecha. There are a couple of weak episodes early, but then it doesn’t let up. Often referred to as “Gurren Lagann”.
Episode Count: 27 episodes.
Buy on Amazon: The complete series.

3) Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (2011):

Madoka Magica - Introduction to Anime - Modern Classic

For a show from 2011, calling this influential or a classic seems like a rash decision, but this show is “important” in order to truly engage in discussions about anime in the west currently, and its importance can’t be overstated. This show is a “magical girl” show – where girls are given powers and don a shiny uniform as they battle the baddies – think Sailor Moon as the classic magical girl show. This show though is much darker and more mature by far than appearances would otherwise suggest. I can’t tell you too much in fear of spoiling this great great show. Good story, great characters, tough decisions. This is a show about hope and despair.

This show is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, and many people say you need to watch other magical girl shows first – I say the story of this show stands tall on its own, and in the same manner as the two shows above it, you can watch it and appreciate it for what it is now, and come back to it later after watching more shows and appreciate it in a whole new light. This show can get more than a bit emotional towards its ending.

Genres and Notes: Magical Girl, psychological, deconstruction. Often referred to as “Madoka”.
Episode Count: 12 Episodes. There are 3 movies, the first two are a retelling of the show, while the third continues the show. The third hadn’t been released in the west yet and thus I can’t comment on it.
Buy: Very expensive in the States, here’s episodes 1-4. Region 2 (Europe) has the complete collection on either BDs or DVDs.

4) Planetes (2003):

Planetes Anime - Introduction to anime - drama

This show is a drama, and is a very good introduction to anime by people who want “proper dramas” of the sort that western television is filled with but anime doesn’t have as many of. A story following the tale of a new space janitor and the crew she works with. Wait, space janitor? Sure sounds like a silly comedy – except it deals with the very real issue of space debris – items left in space after voyages into space or from old satellites, which can cause accidents.

We get to meet an assorted cast of characters, see how they interact with one another, see how they deal with weird situations and requests that come across their path, and get to see their “mundane” situations which seem very strange to our eyes through the eyes of the new recruit, who is the main protagonist. Also, a love story slowly unfolds.

Genres and Notes: Drama, romance, slice of life, space, science-fiction.
Episode Count: 26 episodes.
Buy on Amazon: Complete Series – Non-Amazon sellers only.

5) Genshiken (2004):

Genshiken Anime - Introduction to Anime - A proper comedy slice of life.

This show is a “proper comedy”, with the comic moments arising from the characters’ personalities, the characters’ interactions, and the situations they find themselves in, without relying much on gag humor. The show covers a college club focused on geeky pursuits in Japan, including anime, building models, cosplaying (dressing up and acting as characters from anime, manga, etc.), manga-drawing, etc. The show is often funny, with the characters feeling like real and relatable people, for the most part, even though they are also quite ridiculous in their own way.

The characters are young adults, who are also facing the future-fright one often faces before joining the “adult world” and the work-force, and the show handles all these things with aplomb. The first two seasons and the OVA (extra episodes) that connect them all tell one story. Just recently a new season, called Genshiken Nidaime (or the 2nd generation) had been released, which covers the new members of the club and a couple of the remaining seniors from the old club. The show is still very well done, and also includes one of the best treatments of cross-dressing in anime to date. The voice actors for Genshiken Nidaime did change, however.

If you want to watch a comedy/drama that is closer to a SitCom, then this is the show for you. Many jokes make references to insider anime knowledge, but just like Seinfeld or other SitComs from the mid-90s, while you might miss these references, the show is more than strong enough to enjoy without catching all of these notes.

Genres and Notes: Comedy, geeks (otaku), slice of life, college, real life, drama(?). Very geeky, to be honest, and walks a fine line between joking with and about the characters. You can watch Genshiken season 1 on its own, Genshiken Season 1, the OVA and season 2, and/or just watch Genshiken Nidaime. I strongly suggest watching all of it.
Episode Count: Two seasons of 12 episodes each, connected by a 3 episode OVA in between. Genshiken Nidaime is 13 episodes.
Buy on Amazon: First season + OVA, Second Season. The newer Genshiken Nidaime is more readily available.

6) Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006):

Introduction to Anime - Code Geass - action and intrigue

The show begins with a boy-genius who decides to take over the world, basically. Early episodes have quite a few army-sized fights, but later we see an organization and media being constructed in order to wage war, and a psychological battle between our protagonist and his adversaries as they try to best one another. The “mecha” in this show are colour, and could’ve honestly been other weaponry, not making much difference to the show. The action never really stops, though after a while it’s less oriented on fights and is more political, psychological, and “intrigue” based.

Many people say the second season is considerably weaker, but I find it more emotional and an even better exploration of the main question of the show – how much are you willing to give up, to sacrifice, in order to achieve your goals? Fukuyama Jun, the main character’s voice actor, delivers us a master-class performance in his portrayal of Lelouch, acting over the top in a manner fitting the role Lelouch himself portrays within the show’s universe.

Genres and Notes: Action, mecha, intrigue, psychological, thriller, villain-as-hero. Note, there are more than a few moments of “fan-service” during the show, where girls are shown in suggestive poses, this is quite normal for anime. Also, there are a couple silly “high school” episodes, which pause the action at times. The art style is the distinct style of the manga-group CLAMP. Usually referred to simply as “Code Geass”.
Episode Count: Two seasons, 25 episodes each.
Buy on Amazon: First season,  second season.

7) Steins;Gate (2011):

Steins;Gate Anime - Introduction to Anime - Time Travel Sci-fi thriller

A time-travel show, a mystery show. I also think of it as an “action” show but not for sequences of chases and fights, but for being a thriller. The show begins as a simple science-fiction story, about a group which realizes they have a time-travel machine, and the alterations they make to the time-stream, along with the way their relationships develop, but slowly they uncover and time-spanning conspiracy that threatens not just the world and its future, but targets them specifically.

The second half deals with a race against time, within the time-streams, and the emotional toll of endlessly repeating a horrible event on a man’s psyche. What had been done must be undone – the second half is quite a deal heavier in mood than the light-hearted feel of the first half. Also, there’s a romantic sub-plot here which showcases one of the more enjoyable to watch couples on screen.

Genres and Notes: Thriller, suspense, science fiction, mystery, time-travel. I suggest this show for those who love a good suspense-thriller sci-fi story, of the sort you most usually get in films, these days.
Episode Count: 24 episodes.
Buy on Amazon: First part, second part.

8) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009):

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood - Introduction to Anime - Action, magic

This is a coming of-age story of two brothers, who after their mother had died had tried to return her from the dead, but the laws of alchemy (the setting’s magic) require equal-trades (and in general has internally consistent rules), so one of them had to trade an arm and a leg, and the other traded his body and now animates a walking suit of armour. The brothers are state alchemists, and we follow their journey for the Philosopher’s Stone, which will hopefully allow them to transmute their bodies back without having to trade more body-parts for the ones they are missing.

The show has action, and the siblings uncover a mystery as they travel the length of the land. The cast of the show is large, and aside from actions the humor is solid at times as well. You might note how many episodes there are, but this show is enjoyable throughout, and is actually  a good example of a longer action show without running on for hundreds of shows as the more familiar “big shounen” shows do (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc.). There’s a reason this is one of the most popular “gateway” shows in recent years.

Genres and Notes: Action, fantasy, coming of age. Not to be confused with simply “Fullmetal Alchemist” – the show is based on a manga, where the original show aired before the manga’s publication was done, and as such had to create their own story and ending from a certain point.
Episode Count: 64 episodes.
Buy on Amazon: First part, second part.

9) Baka to Test (2010):

Baka and Test Anime - Introduction to Anime - Comedy and Anime-ism

Comedy and humor are pretty personal things, but I think this show is a good nod to humor in this series of posts (aside from the SitCom-ish Genshiken and the moments of levity spread throughout many of the other shows) – this show covers a school-setting where the students’ grades power up small fighting avatars, and the different classes fight, vying for better facilities. The show follows the lowest-ranked class, and their efforts to better their situation, and how they spend their time instead of studying – they aren’t ranked last for nothing.

This show has a lot of “anime conventions” and “cliched archetypes” – a pervert, a violent tomboy, a mild mannered bodacious girl, nosebleeds to signify someone is lecherous or aroused, and so on and so forth. I know this might sound a tad off-putting, but this show has undeniable charm that enables all these things to coalesce to an enjoyable whole – and that one can easily laugh throughout the entirety of the show certainly doesn’t hurt. Comedy is deeply personal, but humor is always appreciated.

Genres and Notes: Comedy, gag-humor, fan-service, anime-humor, high-school. The title translates to “Baka and Test”, where “Baka” means “Stupid” or “dumb”, with some nuances – often used by a girl to say someone’s dense for not realizing she likes him, in anime.
Episode Count: Two seasons, 13 episodes each.
Buy on Amazon: First season, second season.

10) Shigofumi (2008):

Shigofumi - Introduction to Anime - Heartbreaking and beautiful

Shigofumi, or Letters from the Departed follows the story of Fumika, who delivers “shigofumi”, the last letter someone can send after dying. Most of the series doesn’t revolve around Fumika, but is vignettes exploring the lives of characters – those who die and those who will receive the letters, the death and its effects on people, and then how they react to the letter they receive. The last few episodes deal more with Fumika’s past, and the secrets surrounding her.

This show is a master-class in showing you how you can be made to care for characters in less than 20 minutes from when you first get to meet them. While there’s certainly an element of emotional manipulation going on here, it’s just so well done, and the stories are all so poignant while being extremely bleak, that you can’t help but fall in love with this show. It’s one of my favourite shows of all times, but is relatively unknown.

Genres and Notes: Emotional, vignettes, drama, afterlife. Note, the show contains stories of bullying, abuse, sexual abuse, murder, suicide and more. It’s definitely not a light show, so some discretion is advised.
Episode Count: 12 episodes. Make sure to watch the first two episodes together, they comprise one story.
Buy on Amazon: Complete series.

Note on shows mentioned and their order in this post: The first three are the “influential” shows, listed in chronological order, I do think you should make sure to watch all three before delving deeper. 4-5 are shows which are more similar to western shows, as drama or comedy, to ease the transition. 6-8 are all “fun” action shows, thriller or fight oriented. 9-10 are good shows which round up what I’d often recommend, with 10 being a personal favourite, a true gem, showing you again what anime can do, emotionally.

Note on obtaining the shows: I linked to Amazon as someone requested it. Do pay attention to regions, especially of Blu-Rays (BDs). When it comes to BDs, even usually sells Region 1 (USA and Japan) discs and not Europe’s region 2.
Here are the main anime-centric torrent sites, though I will not link to specific torrents or groups.
Nyaa – the main western anime-related torrent aggregate site.
TokyoTosho – Has many of the same things as Nyaatorrent, but more manga and non-translated things appear. Also has issues remaining online.
BakaBT – A collection of higher quality videos and often harder to find shows, but you’re expected to keep a proper ratio.

42 comments on “So You Want to Watch Anime? Part 1 – 10 Shows to Start You Off

  1. Don says:

    Evangelion for starters? Not a good idea. To quote Jonathan Tappan, “If this is the first anime series that you watch, you will probably never watch another.

    • Guy says:

      First, this list is aimed at people who want to watch anime, not to be handed to people to convince them to watch anime, so I suspect they might have watched a couple of series and/or movies.

      Second, I know plenty of cases where Tappan’s argument is factually incorrect – NGE is probably between the first and third anime series I’ve watched, though I’ve watched films beforehand, simply because at the time to watch a show I had to buy it, though you could watch movies at anime conventions. I actually know a number of other people for whom NGE had been one of the first shows they’ve watched, without it turning them off of anime at all.

      Now, that doesn’t mean you’re not right – the Ghost in the Shell movie was one of the first movies we’ve encountered in the west as our introduction to anime, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good introductory show, right?

      And that brings us back to NGE, the show is hyper-dense, but it’s not “anime-dense”, it’s dense in the same way that a Cronenberg film can be dense. It’s not that you need to get used to anime to appreciate the show, but that you need to get used to complicated media works to appreciate it. That it’s an anime in this sense is almost accidental.

      I stand by my choices of NGE, TTGL and Madoka, assuming you’ve watched a series or two, or several movies beforehand, but these need to be watched. NGE above all else just influenced shows too much for it to not be watched, and if you keep holding it off, it just languishes there. What is the moment when one is “ready to watch NGE?” – Would someone understand everything they watch when they watch NGE? No, but a large part of it is true even if it’s the 200th show you watch. You watch it early, let it rattle in your brain and shape your future watching, then you go back to it a few years later and glean more from it, and also see other shows in it in retrospect.

      It helps that NGE is a very solid story, with a deep psychological aspect, and where character relations aren’t just a sub-theme, but a major aspect, thematically as well.

      • fencedude says:

        Haha replying to 6 month old posts.

        Anyway, to back that up, Evangelion is what got me into anime 13 years ago. I don’t rank it as highly as I used to, but it really is a shockingly good “intro” show.

  2. Yeah, I would have taken out Evangelion, replaced it with Fruits Basket.

    • Guy says:

      Hey Andy,

      First, see my response to Don above, about NGE.

      Second, as for Fruits Basket, as you know I’ve read the manga, we’ve even covered it. The anime is one I hadn’t watched and which deviated so much from the manga that even though people speak well of it, I never really had the desire to watch it (I usually lose the desire to watch anime adaptations of manga I’ve read).

      And yeah, the show is definitely a bit light on romance, which is found more as a side-dish in other offerings, and there are good dramas/romantic stories I could’ve suggested, especially ones that are very “Western drama like”, say Welcome to the NHK. I actually often suggest from a group of ~16 mainstay shows to people, and a whole bunch of films, with other suggestions being tailored to people specifically.

      These are just some of my more general and universal suggestions, which come up a lot when people ask me for advice.

      There’ll definitely be future entries, which will serve people with more particular tastes/desires. Can’t have a 30 item list, at this stage, unless I just give people a one-liner, which is not what I wanted for the first post.

      And the Fruits Basket manga was absolutely wonderful, and would star highly if I ever recommended people manga on a consistent basis!

    • Kamille says:

      “NGE above all else just influenced shows too much for it to not be watched”

      Then why not recommend the show that influenced NGE? And yeah, I know nobody knows which one is it but it’s called Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985). This is the show that revolutionized mecha anime as we know it with its psychological twist that many copied later on.

      • Guy says:

        Is it a transitive relationship? If I read a book and it influences me, am I also required of acknowledging the books that influenced that book? That’s not a flippant answer, but a serious question that bears thought.

        Regardless, I hadn’t watched said show, or heard it mentioned that often, and as such wouldn’t wish to recommend it. I would like to recommend NGE.

        And yes, I did comment that NGE is considered a reconstruction of the mecha genre, and as such it should be apparent that it draws upon such shows as influence.

  3. Artemis says:

    Oh, I haven’t watched Shigofumi yet – perhaps I’ll make that my next older anime to check out. I enjoy keeping up with the new stuff that comes out every week, but I also prefer to balance that lot out with one already-aired series that I can watch at my own pace.

    • Guy says:

      Shigofumi is a gem, I use almost any platform I have to get more people to give it a try – I wouldn’t say it’s under-rated because the show is received with praise by almost anyone who had watched it, but it’s definitely underwatched.

      After this post and another discussion that followed I sat down and watched the first 10 episodes again, after 1 AM. I really love this show, but yeah, it’s bleak. Ok, that’s probably a large part of why I like it :3

      Also, Artemis, you’re making me a bit sad by calling 2008 an “older show” :D

  4. steelbound says:

    I initially read this as a list to try to get people into anime and thought it contained many titles I would not initially recommend but in the comments it sounds like this list is meant to be taken more along the lines of the start of your take on the Canon of Anime. As a start to your take on the Canon of Anime, it’s not a bad list. I’d quibble about some – I’d swap out Kino’s Journey for Shigofumi – for example, but any list that contains Planetes is a list that should be studied.

    Since everyone else is speaking about Evangelion, I’ll chip in. It was not the first anime series I watched but it was somewhere in the first 10 and I hated it. After finishing it, I placed the DVDs on a shelf where they’ve been collecting dust for 10 years now and next to those DVDs is the End of Evangelion DVD which I never bothered to take the shrink wrap off of. It’s an important work to the history of anime but I’d never recommend it. The new movies are another story and I have been really enjoying them.

    • Guy says:

      Not exactly, this list assumes you’ve watched something and most importantly, want to watch more.

      What you describe might be more relevant for the movies entry, where Ghost in the Shell and Akira will be brought up as movies we grew up on, but not really the best movies to get introduced to anime on.

      The first three entries are influential/important, but I do think one would benefit greatly from watching them on the beginning of their anime-journey, and then revisit them a few years down the line.

      That’s why entries 1-3 are about the canon, and 4-5 are both canonical, and a good “middle-ground”, shows that are very much like western shows.

      Shows 6-8 are very popular, lots of action, lots of fun, very well executed but I’d be loathe to call them “canonical”, maybe in a couple of years ;)

      9 specifically is a comedy pick, and also a way to truly introduce people to anime-cliches and genre-tropes in an overt manner.

      10 is just an amazing show, that I think people would appreciate, and also shows them yet again the emotional depth and control of short-stories an anime series can aspire to.

      If I really went for a list of canon, I’d take 15 entries (note, I often suggest 15 shows, had to cut for this list)? NGE, TTGL, Madoka, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star or K-On!, Genshiken, Planetes, Mushi-shi, Welcome to the NHK, Shinsekai Yori, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Deathnote, and Toradora! – note, a mixture of acclaim and execution here.

      Also, thank you for sharing your experience about NGE. I remember receiving the DVDs in the late 90s and watching them with my best friend, and we’d pause and have a discussion about points now and then and then resume watching. This might have been my 2nd time watching the show? Not sure anymore.

  5. JEZZMAN55 says:

    Yeah….. No. This list sucks.

  6. 123 says:

    *adds Planetes and Shigofumi to his ever-growing anime list*

    This is pretty cool :-). I’m the biggest sucker for posts like this, even though I die a little inside when I see how many shows I want to watch. I’ve watched 7 out of these 10 already though so I think I’m doing pretty well for myself though!

    • Guy says:

      If you’re looking for a list, and are willing to do the research yourself, then this list of 50 worthwhile anime should really help you get started. I like almost all the suggestions on this list, and they mirror a lot of the suggestions I plan to make, without having consulted the list myself.

      And yes, the “PTW” list only grows, especially if you try to follow multiple current shows >.>

      Also, you watched 7 out of the 10 shows and added 2 more to your list now, so which one are you not interested in?

      • 123 says:

        Oh haha thanks, looks like I have more to watch!

        The one I wasn’t interested in was Baka to Test. I can’t remember finding it particularly funny so I dropped it after one episode, which was probably unfair, but I kinda assumed the whole series would be of the same tone.

  7. […] what got me off my rocker this time? Last week I posted to my blog 10 shows I think someone who had watched a show or two, or a couple of anime movies, should watch in order […]

  8. rikuo06 says:

    I’m definitely on board with Gurren Lagann and Madoka. They have tightly-written, self-contained stories that don’t rely on prior knowledge of their genres to understand and enjoy. In fact, they were my first mecha and magical girl series, respectively, and watching them first led me to explore older shows of their genres that I had no interest in before.

    I’ve only recently read Genshiken (the manga). While I agree that the overall comedy and drama is written well enough so that they can be enjoyed without prior knowledge of otaku culture, a huge portion of my own enjoyment of the series came from “getting” the references, understanding many of the geeky behaviors and activities, and emphasizing heavily with the characters. But maybe the show can also function as an introduction to otaku culture, while warranting a rewatch later on.

  9. lifesongsoa says:

    NGE is the first anime I watched and what got me into anime. A friend sent me files over aim after I bad mouthed anime for being weird while playing a video game. The rest is history.

  10. You know, for kids! says:

    I like this list, especially Gurren Lagann, Steins;Gate, and FMA: Brotherhood. NGE is one of the first anime I watched (not counting Pokémon and Digimon). I guess it’s a good series to demonstrate how the medium isn’t limited, though I would dispute whether it’s a good series or not. I also think Madoka could be watched on its own, even if it’s a deconstruction. If something can’t be watched on its own, then it’s probably not a good story.

    If I may add some series to the list, I’d recommend Baccano and Kuragehime. Both might have some overlaps (Baccano with Gurren Lagann and Kuragehime with Genshiken), but they both have their merits. Baccano might seem like a rehash of Pulp Fiction in the 30s, but it’s still a good example of anime that weaves together multiple, non-linear storylines together with a good sense of action. And Kuragehime is a nice example of what josei can be like.

    • Guy says:

      I hadn’t watched Baccano! and Kuregihime yet, though Baccano! is pretty high on the list. From what I know of Kuregihime I don’t think it’s really comparable to what Genshiken is.

      As all lists, it must be constrained and limited. Give people 100 choices, and you may as well not have a list at all.

  11. Dugos says:

    I like the list. I don’t have much free time and so do a lot of research before starting to watch a show and things I’ve watched so far align nicely with your list so I will definitely be watching the other ones mentioned at some point.
    Last show I watched was Madoka, that was a while ago and I didn’t feel like watching anything else after that because it ended up being one of these experiences where at the end you feel like you’ve just seen something that is so good that it’s hard to imagine anything else topping it, ever.

    • Guy says:

      My experience with Madoka is a bit different. I also watched it as it aired.

      I noticed it’s good, but just how good it is is something that truly hits you as you keep thinking back to it and keep watching other shows, which just shows you how much better it’s been.

      Not to mention it’s a show that really rewards rewatching :)

  12. gedata says:

    this is a fine list. I’d actually reccomend the first FMA to peeps who aren’t into anime yet since it did really well as a gateway drug back in the day. I also refuse to live in a world where that series is forgotten.

    • Guy says:

      Considering how often people mention the original’s charms when someone brings up the new one, I don’t think it’s going to be forgotten anytime soon ;-)

      Also, gateway series come and go, or rather, the folder of what is a good gateway series just keeps growing.

  13. corti says:

    Unfortunetly, I can’t find on your list the best of the best. Cowboy Bebop is an anime which can convince that japanese cartoon aren’t that bad. The same goes for Ghost in the Shell. (My friend who hates anime watched with big interest Death Note and Hellsing Ultimate, so I’m convinced that those titles are good for newcomers).

    • Guy says:

      As I explain elsewhere, my goal in this list is not to try and “convince” anyone to watch anime. This list is designed under the assumption that you already want to watch more and want more suggestions. The list would look more than a tad different had this been my goal. Though some shows here exist to ease the transition (Planetes, Genshiken).
      Hadn’t watched Cowboy Bebop yet, though I’ve owned it legally for over a decade >.> So I don’t suggest it. The only show here I hadn’t watched it FMA:B, but having read the manga along with reports, I feel fine having it there.
      Ghost in the Shell is great, but it’s not light sci-fi, and in my mind it requires the film. I only listed self-contained works here. The movie will appear on the upcoming movie-list, and the series will appear in the dedicated sci-fi list post, whenever that happens. I like GitS quite a bit, but I wouldn’t recommend it here. I’d recommend Dennou Coil first, probably. The movie list will also have a couple of other sci-fi films.
      Death Note’s position is replaced with Steins;Gate and Code Geass, as both are “thriller” shows, and Hellsing Ultimate is an action show of which there are countless, of which a couple appear on this list. There are a billion good gateway shows, and especially on the action front you can replace them for one another every couple of years. Inflating the list, especially with such shows is meaningless, so I tried to give a more balanced approach.

      • corti says:

        Yeah, you’re right. I think Stein’s Gate is a really good position and i would recommend it to everyone. Code Geass was good, but I don’t have think I would watch it again. I think the list could be different for everytime, when you think about the age of potential spectators.

  14. Great list! I’ve watched 5 out the 10 shows you mentioned and at least from that I can say that I agree that these are great shows to start watching anime. These shows made me admire and appreciate the art styles and stories of anime. I’m gonna go check out the other 5 I haven’t seen on your list! I also like how you write. I enjoyed reading your article.

  15. A very good list, and I don’t agree with the people complaining about the presence of Evangelion and TTGL on it. I do think that having watched a considerable amount of anime will allow one to more fully appreciate those series, but I also think that they have a lot to offer for newcomers as well.

    One thing of note, however, is that most of the shows you listed are rather action-y or dark (or both, in the case of things like Madoka and NGE). Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, I think most western anime fans are drawn to shows like that. However, as someone who is more oriented towards things like comedies, romances, and slice of life series, one of the things that prevented me from getting into anime for quite some time was the fact that I really only associated it with violent or dark series (or shonen action like Naruto). The first four anime that I properly watched were Shingeki no Kyojin, Madoka, Hyouka, and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and of the four, the ones that I enjoyed the most were the latter two. Don’t get me wrong, I think Madoka is a great show, but I just was drawn in a bit more by the calm atmosphere of Hyouka and the comedy of SZS (as for SnK, it is a decent series, and I’m keeping up with the manga, but it isn’t something I love).

    If someone really isn’t into dark action and whatnot, something like Evangelion might be quite the turnoff. I actually think TTGL is a great recommendation though, because it has the action that a lot of people like, whilst keeping an upbeat atmosphere. Out of your list of ten anime, I’d actually put it at the top.

    • Guy says:

      You’re right. I wish to have specific genre lists in the future (procrastination! I wanted to have the list of films up by January, and we’re now in May), which would be more fitting.

      I just… don’t enjoy many of these light shows as much. Had this list been 15 shows long it would’ve probably included at least two of the following shows: K-On!, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Toradora!, and Spice and Wolf.

      As is, of the above list, you still have Genshiken, Planetes, and Baka to Test. 3/10 isn’t too bad, I hope. And yeah, while TTGL is very action-oriented, I think it’s pretty light and fun in its atmosphere.

      There’s a whole segment on the order of the list, it’s not the order in which to watch them, but an organizational order. The first 3 are the “important shows” in release order.

  16. John I.G. says:

    I think the title makes the list a bit dubious. “So you want to watch anime” sounds like they haven’t really watched anime yet.

    I’m with the majority of people here that I think its a bit of a mixed batch, and maybe not a great list to ease people in, or see the many sides anime can present.

    And although Neon Genesis Evangelion has been hailed for 30+ years, its definitely NOT the place I would start anyone off who is newly into anime (even if they’ve already seen some).

    But then again I like the outliers, the things that don’t fit inside the standard boundaries.
    Give me Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, give me Tatami Galaxy, give me FLCL, give me Tsuritama, Hyouka & Ping Pong.

    Definitely shows like Tengen Toppan, Eureka Seven, Psycho-Pass, Shinsekai Yori, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note, Kill la Kill & Ghots in the Shell have their place too.

    I guess I’m just looking for more variation to widen someone’s idea of anime once they’ve been exposed to it a little.

  17. Marcos says:

    Me gustó la recomendación, ya que señala ciertos ítem antes, la lista, está bajo márgenes o contexto.

    Yo para introducir al animé a personas que no ven animé, primero les muestro algún animé del momento, para que se interioricen de que se trata, esto no es ver Tom y Jerry, así que lo siguiente es algún animé de comedia, si les gustó uno shonen y para finalizar, que vean algo de tipo Seinen, o también algún animé fuera de lo común tanto en historia como animación.

    sigo esta ruta para interiorizar.
    1..Great Teacher Onizuka
    2. Naruto. u otra del momento.
    3.Gantz, Monster,Hellsing.
    4. DMC, Redline

    Después de eso, ven que les llama más la atención y se orientan más.

    Bueno el Blog.

  18. i think the list should be switched around x.x no newcomer will want to start on such an old anime, no matter how amazing it was <3_<3

    • Guy says:

      I actually explain in the post why the list is ordered as it is, and if people actually come to ask for your opinions rather than tell you how wrong your list is, then they wouldn’t mind age. Especially when this old show actually looks good. Not for its age, but good, period.

  19. Laura says:

    I am looking forward to checking out these anime. I’ve heard of 2 on the list the full metal alchemist and the NGE but not the others.
    I’ve saw Howells Moving Castle then Spirited Away then proceeded to watched all of Miyazaki’s movies. What an artist. Because of this, Netflix recommended Samari 7, then fruits basket and princess tutu and I was watching anime. More recently I have enjoyed:
    Moribitu, Noragami, red data girl, and Nura rise of the Yokai clan demon capital and these are simple stories and western friendly in my opinion.
    I even saw 50 episodes of InuYasha now that is western friendly based on what I saw.
    I am currently watching Mushi-shi and find this visually beautiful, definitly a work of art.
    Though my sister still smiles and says oh that weird Asian cartoon you love, when talking about Howels Moving Castle so there may not be a best starting point just the question if the mind will embrace the alternative story styles of anime. Something I find refreshing. If so, your list of top anime is then an enjoyable place for these individuals to begin.

  20. JekoJeko says:

    One of the things I’m always careful of when recommending anime is how referential it is to an expected bank of knowledge. I love Hayate no Gotoku, for instance, but only advertise it as a great show to watch once you feel familiar with what anime is and does in its various forms.

    With that in mind, I think Genshiken if the kind of show you should wait for too. To say you can still enjoy it while missing references is like giving someone who’s allergic to nuts a bag of mixed nuts and raisins. Even the parts the can enjoy will be affected by being in close proximity to all sorts of things they’ll feel they’re not able to be a part of.

    For another SoL comedy, I’d replace it with Shirobako, as the humour in it is enjoyable by anyone, and it contains references to anime that can encourage people to explore more of anime, be it giant robot shows, shows like those that Musani make, or even Japanese kids cartoons. It emphasises the power of anime and is an enjoyable, well paced comedy drama in its own right.

  21. itachy says:

    Kiseijuu / Parasite is not on this list? I am disappointed

    • Guy says:

      Aside from the list being written before it aired, this is very much not a list of “Best shows”, what does Parasyte offer that isn’t covered by Steins;Gate (for thriller), Code Geass (for thriller x action) or Fullmetal Alchemist? I don’t see it.

      It also wouldn’t appear on my list of top 50 anime series either, alas.

      And if you come to these lists expecting certain shows on them, then you’re not the target audience for such a list, probably :)

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