Anime is a tricky medium to get new people into. Whether they are your friends, family or just classmates, most people see anime as either: just cartoons for kids or weird fetish hentai. The sad part is that this statement being close-minded is also not entirely false, anime does contain both this sub-genres, but it is also so much more than it. Anime has led to the inspiration and creation of many successful Hollywood movies such as: The Matrix, Black Swan and Inception. All of this was born out of the medium and is the reason why it has such a big following all around the world.
That being said many people still need an extra push into getting into the medium to experience it,if they are teetering on the edge. I am here to supply you with the means to either enter it or help your friends enter it, by supplying you with top-tier anime that is conducive for newcomers. All the anime mentioned below have amazing english dub as it should be a pre-requisite as most people might be turned off by having to read and pay close attention to the lower third of the screen to obtain all the context of the show. Most of the shows below even have English dubs that not only rival the Japanese but in some cases exceed it. I have also tried to limit the amount of Otaku pandering that are contained in each show as a lot of people might not get call back to older shows or might stick to their preconceived notions of anime: that it is weird hentai if the show in question contains too much fan service. Now with all that out-of-the-way here are the top 10 anime’s for newcomers in my opinion:
10) Hellsing Ultimate
Hellsing Ultimate is a great anime in all regards, it has a clear focus and goes for it without getting caught up in other storylines that don’t involve it. Made up of 10 OVA’s roughly an hour each it is not as show meant to be consumed all at once. I did, but personally I do that with most shows I watch, but Hellsing is a show to watch an episode everyday or every other day to experience it to the fullest. Hellsing is a fantastic action-packed show about Vampires, yes I know the whole vampire stick has been done to death already but Hellsing finds a way to make it feel new a fresh again. Centred around the Hellsing organisation: a highly effective vampire slayer group aimed at preserving peace in the world, alongside their pet The Vampire Alucard, Hellsing manages not to mix itself around in romance but rather focuses on purely the action and fun of the series. This show leaves a little more to be desired in terms of storyline and character progression. However to a newcomer looking for high-octane action, and just a popcorn show to watch at the end of the day this show fulfils all those needs.
9) One Punch Man
Yes I’ve broken my rule about only having shows with great English dubs, but OPM is the exception to that rule as it is only available in Japanese right now. A relatively new show compared to the other that are going to be on this list. Having aired in late 2015 and produced by studio Madhouse which made a majority of shows that will appear later on this list including the above mentioned Hellsing Ultimate. OPM is a great little action show to watch either with friends or by yourself, it is 12 episodes which means that you can binge-watch it in no time at all. It contains beautifully executed fight scenes fantastic comedy that is guaranteed to get at the very least a chuckle out of you. OPM is for the people who grew up watching Dragon Ball Z and haven’t found anything that can get them as hyped since. Saitama (the main character) is very similar to Goku, and whilst watching the show the viewer starts to imagine themselves as the heroes of the story. The story is well written, engaging and immersive, and with season 2 on it’s way it’s a great time to pick this show up.
8) Soul Eater
To piggyback of my earlier point about DBZ, here is another shōnen battle show that may be easier to show some younger viewer (younger than 17) and have them engaged the whole time. Yes I could have put One Piece or Naruto or even Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and even though I really hate Soul eater for its ending many enjoy it. I recommend Soul Eater above the others in its category for newcomers, because it’s smaller and more condensed than all the other shows being that it is only 51 episodes which is relatively short compared to the +800 episodes of One Piece or the +700 episodes of Naruto and it sequel Naruto: Shippuden. Soul Eater tells a relatively simple story that is easy to follow along and does not try to be more than what it sets out to be; unlike other shōnen like Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood or HunterxHunter (2011). The storyline is linear and very addictive and you’ll find yourself up at 4am saying to yourself “just one more episode”. I personally marathoner the whole 51 episode show in just 3 days, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as I did (except the ending, because that was absolute garbage).
7) Cowboy Bebop
Seriously what hasn’t been said about this show already, it dominates most of the YouTube top 10 anime list and it has been praised by both fans and critics as a masterpiece of the genre and one of the best anime ever created. Cowboy Bebop is a good show, and even if you have watched it and don’t personally find that it lives up to the hype set by other, you still can’t deny that the show’s is accessible to almost any new fans. Just go watch it if you haven’t already…
6) Death Note
Here is another show like Cowboy Bebop that most people whether they watch anime or not, have seen or at least heard about. Death Note is the most popular anime ever according to MyAnimeList, it has been viewed by almost everyone in the anime community being that it was most people’s gateway into the medium. The anime can be described as Sherlock Holmes if Moriarty was the narrator instead of Sherlock, that should give you some semblance of what the show will provide for you. The show is a mental mind game between two equally opposite intelligent people, add it supernatural elements, the ability to kill people at a whim and the main character developing a God-like complex and you have all the ingredients for an amazing show. Another similar show that uses the themes and structure of Death Note better would be Code Geass, but since that show has more episodes than Death Note and being more unrealistic being that it is a mecha show I felt as if Death Note would be the better pick between the two.
5) Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon might just be the perfect action show. Being made by again studio Madhouse like Death note, OPM and Hellsing. Black Lagoon is Madhouse being Madhouse making incredibly action packed and engaging shows that makes the viewer wanting more after each episode. Black Lagoon season 1 is 12 episodes long is in my opinion great as an introduction to the series as it lays out the premise and characters. But it does fail in its execution of it’s narrative in some areas, and thus it’s follow-up 12 episode season Second Barrage and the 5 episode OVA Roberta’s Blood Trail is near perfection in its delivery and storytelling along with its action. Black Lagoon shows us anime in it’s prime from an entertainment standpoint: it is exciting, action-packed, has interesting characters, has A LOT of swearing, and has some of the most powerful and badass women in the medium.
I call out my own bias to this show. I fucking love this movie, it checks all the boxes for me. Yes the story is lacklustre and the characters aren’t that deep nor developed fully, but I was never expected that from this show in the first place. This show is a beautifully animated action flick. It took studio Madhouse 7 years to make this show, and probably the budget of some small countries and you can just feel the money bleed out in every shot. This show contains some of the most beautiful animated sequences I have ever seen. It a popcorn flick to be honest, a movie to sit down with at the end of a long day and just be entertained by it. Not to contemplate the meaning of life, or our existence of this planet but just to cheer for your favourite as they avoid certain death; all in a race. This anime is what would happen if The Fast and the Furious franchise was filmed whilst everyone was on LSD.
3) Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Well remember when I was just talking about how Redline doesn’t contemplate the meaning of life or our existence of this planet, well this show is exactly that. Ghost in the Shell is one of the most famous anime movies ever created, it inspired the matrix and is now getting a live-action movie starring Scarlett Johanson. This movie is a perfect example of mixing action and philosophical issues, without sacrificing either and instead highlighting both. The movie is amazing and does everything to satisfy both fans and critics; it mixes in really engaging action and characters that intrigues all fans, whilst most critics praise it on exploring deeper issues such as identity and what it means to be human. This movie alongside Akira might be the most well know anime movie worldwide. It spawned a whole series that ranges in quality, but there is no denying this movie alongside it’s tv sequel Stand.Alone.Complex are some of the best in Japanese storytelling.
2) Studio Ghibli
Is anyone really surprised by this? Studio Ghibli is a powerhouse of the anime world, and most likely many people have already seen one of them before. Studio Ghibli make great movies, and it doesn’t really matter which one you start with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away or even Kiki’s Delivery Service. Ghibli’s got a great catalogue for anyone to jump into, and most people would even say that all of them are masterpieces. I don’t really need to be selling you on this studio since you have probably seen one of two of them, just go watch all of them. And you should watch all the Ghibli movies, not just the one’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Almost everyone at Ghibli produces high quality anime, and all of them deserve recognition.
1) Mamoru Hosoda
Now I know some of you are wondering how anything can beat out Studio Ghibli and by extension Hayao Miyazaki. But here is a director that I believe beats them out, in terms of appealing not only to all generations but to all races and genders. Mamoru Hosoda makes the best family friendly movies that can be enjoyed at any time, anywhere and with anyone else. He hasn’t made as many movies as studio Ghibli having only made 5 feature films: The Original Digimon, The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast. All of these movies are amazing, they make you feel warm inside and make you think about happy memories and scenarios that the main characters are going through now. I will admit that I haven’t seen the original Digimon movie, but every other movie by this man is amazing, I haven’t thought a single one is less that great. These movies should be experienced by all, they tell incredible movies that explore concepts like what does it mean to really be a family and growing up, whilst also showing amazing female main characters in anime, which is sometimes a rarity in the medium
And there you have it, the top 10 anime recommendations for newcomers in my opinion. This isn’t a definitive list for all to follow, but my interpretation for the best anime to engage newcomers to the genre and have them stick around. This list is ranked from 10 to 1, but that does not mean it should be viewed in that way. This is all very subjective mind you, so take it with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to mix and match some of your recommendations into this list when showing your friends or family.