Anime has been around for decades, charming genre devotees with whimsical Studio Ghibli movies and keeping them on the edge of their seats with high-octane action series. For a while, the fandom around anime was considered niche in the United States, but in recent years the genre has exploded in popularity. The anime boom doesn’t look like it’ll slow down anytime soon, so if you have yet to go on board, now is the perfect time. However, it can be pretty intimidating finding the right anime to check out if you don’t know where to start, so here are some anime show recommendations for newbies that will help ease you into the fandom:
In America, the term anime is used to refer to any animated media originating from Japan. Clearly, that’s a pretty broad definition, but over the years distinct attributes have arisen that help characterize a show or movie as distinctly anime. While there’s no singular anime art style, the characters often have colorful, unmistakeable hairstyles and incredibly expressive reactions. The genre also varies widely under the anime umbrella, but the two most well-known subsets are action-packed fantasy animes and calming slice-of-life animes. Chances are, even if you don’t watch anime yourself, you’ve heard of some of the popular titles and know someone who’s into it. That said, it’s high time you join the club.
1. Demon Slayer
Combining gorgeous animation, hugely inventive action sequences, and laugh-out-loud humor, it’s no wonder Demon Slayer is one of the most popular anime shows of the moment. The series is about a young boy named Tanjiro who trains to become a demon slayer after his sister Nezuko is transformed into a demon. In the show’s world, demons and demon slayers can wield powerful elemental and mystical powers, which elevate the fight scenes to flashy, creative new levels. Demon Slayer is available to stream on Netflix.
2. My Hero Academia
If you love Marvel movies, then you’ll probably be obsessed with the hugely popular anime series My Hero Academia. The show takes place in a world where nearly everyone has a unique power, known as their Quirk, with some Quirks being more powerful and useful than others. Because of the existence of these abilities, both supervillains and superheroes have arisen. Although he was born without a Quirk, Izuku Midoriya has always idolized heroes, and he finally gets his wish to become one when his favorite hero All Might passes his Quirk on to him. With his newfound power, Midoriya enrolls in a hero school full of powerful classmates to learn how to take down villains. My Hero Academia is available to stream on Hulu.
3. Death Note
An iconic anime series full of existential questions and wild twists, Death Note is a great watch for anyone looking for a more cerebral and engaging experience while also getting plenty of fantasy and action. In the two-part series, high school student Light Yagami discovers a black notebook that can kill any person whose name is written in it. This “Death Note” comes with a unique set of rules and a supernatural spirit named Ryuk to offer advice. Throughout the show, Light uses and misuses his new power over life and death to seek justice, revenge, and protection, leading to disastrous consequences. Death Note is available to stream on Netflix.
4. Sailor Moon
Throughout its run in the ‘90s, Sailor Moon was one of the biggest hit anime series in the world, and helped introduce many American fans to the genre. The magical anime centers on a schoolgirl named Usagi Tsukino who gains the power to transform into her evil-fighting alter ego, Sailor Moon. Alongside a group of other girls who’ve unlocked their Sailor forms, she fights against dark supernatural forces that threaten humanity. Sailor Moon is available to stream on Hulu.
5. Yuri on Ice
If romantic dramas or sports movies are more your speed, then Yuri on Ice is an excellent way to get into anime. The buzzy series chronicles disgraced figure skater Yuri Katsuki’s path to rebuilding his athletic career. The show is packed with gorgeous ice skating routines, and also has an engaging romance at its core as Yuri grows closer and closer with his new coach, Victor. Yuri on Ice is available to stream on Funimation.
6. Fullmetal Alchemist
An anime classic filled with intense action, colorful characters, and fascinating lore, Fullmetal Alchemist presents a world in which those trained in alchemy can create almost anything they want, but must offer up something of equal value to do so. After a failed alchemical attempt to bring back their dead mother cost brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric to lose parts of their bodies, they set out in search of a mythical stone that can return what they’ve lost. Along the way, they meet other powerful alchemists and face off against mysterious dark beings known as Homunculi. Fullmetal Alchemist is available to stream on Netflix.
7. Cowboy Bebop
An early anime hit, Cowboy Bebop is space Western that chronicles the intergalactic adventures of a group of bounty hunters taking on different dangerous job throughout the solar system. It’s a great show to watch if you’re a fan of Star Wars, Firefly, or other similar, planet-hopping stories. Each new episode finds aloof leader Spike, hard-working former cop Jet, and persuasive con artist Faye tackling a new mission on various planets that have been colonized in the years since Earth became uninhabitable. Cowboy Bebop is available to stream on Hulu.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Often heralded as one of the most iconic anime series there is, Neon Genesis Evangelion is as much about giant robot fights as it is about complex human emotions. The series follows teenager Shinji as he begins a military program to bond with a massive mech suit and fight the increasingly appearing Angels, a destructive race of otherworldly monsters. It becomes a lot more complicated than just a good-versus-evil scenario, though, as Shinji learns more about the Evangelion program and the Angels. Neon Genesis Evangelion is available to stream on Netflix.
9. Fruits Basket
If you’re someone who loves all things zodiac, Fruits Basket could be a great way to get into anime. The new iteration of the hit series kicks off with an orphaned girl named Tohru moving in with the Soma family and learning their strange secret: Each member of the family is possessed by the spirit of one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. The curse forces them to transform into their animal counterpart under specific conditions, and Tohru takes it upon herself to try to free them. Fruits Basket is available to stream on Hulu.
10. Avatar: The Last Airbender
OK, OK... technically, Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t really an anime since it was created in the U.S., but it can still serve as an excellent introduction to anime since it draws so much inspiration from the genre. The three-season Nickelodeon series garnered a massive fandom thanks to its compelling world-building and endlessly satisfying character arcs. Set in a world where members of four different kingdoms control the elements of fire, water, earth, and air, respectively, only the fabled Avatar can master all four elements. When the Avatar returns as an immature child named Aang after being missing for a century, he sets out to master the elements and take down the oppressive Fire Lord. Avatar: The Last Airbender is available to stream on Netflix.