Best Anime Series
Of the hundreds of thousands of anime shows, how do you know which title is right for you – or even that good at all? With this list, we toss you a much needed lifesaver as you drown in potential anime to watch, and steer you to some shows worth looking at. This list features anime old and new, all of which still look good and hold up against what’s currently airing. With a mix of shoujo, seinen, action, adventure, sci-fi and more, you’re bound to find your next favourite anime in this list of Top 25 Best Anime.
The best anime on this list is one that could probably be liked by anyone who watches it. Long-time anime fans? Family? Friends who’ve only seen Avatar: The Last Airbender? Seriously everyone. It’s as accessible as a Ghibli movie with the development beyond a children’s show and a style that has influenced a lot of others. It’s none other than Cowboy Bebop, the late 90s space western.
Cowboy Bebop is an episodic series showing the average lives of a group of bounty hunters. Everything seems as usual for much of the series: main man Spike and best friend Jet find various criminals, apprehend them or let them go. But what appears throughout (and was there all along in hindsight) is a slowly emerging backstory that takes you by surprise. Nobody in the crew can escape their past and it all culminates in one huge fight.
There’s something to be said about a show that works in backstory without explaining it all at once or even pausing for a moment to show that it dropped hints. While you’re confused about what exactly Spike and Jet talk about or run into, explanations drift up like bubbles until it all falls into place. It’s a small galaxy after all with this series and to hell if you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Why it’s on the list: It’s an absolute classic that doesn’t show its age nearly as much as other shows released at the same time. Accessible, mature, jazzy and fun, it’s a classic in every aspect and is likely to mature like a good wine as time continues on.
Watch if you like: Jazz; space; cowboys; episodic shows; subtle plot; fight scenes; being cool; Western-influenced anime.
Next in our top anime spot is the hulking muscle and power that is Berserk. With enough spraying blood and dismemberment to sate the needs of even the most rampant of homicidal maniacs, Berserk brings a rare quality to an action anime with its cast of realistic characters and a tragic plot that involves politics as much as it does weird, demonic snake men.
Guts is the main man of the series and, as appropriate of his reputation as the best swordsman ever known, wields his six foot sword like an overly obvious dick joke. Seeing the potential of a man who kills as naturally as breathing, army leader Griffith forces Guts into the ranks of the Band of the Hawk. After that follows a tale of fate, revenge and waterfalls of blood.
Underneath the aging animation and slideshows with speed lines, Berserk offers an irresistible mix of beat-the-crap-out-of-em action combined with a story that turns out so much more than the usual quest for bloodshed. It’s careful, layered and feels more real than any other anime in its genre. Very few shows can weave a compelling story into an action-based series with a heavy atmosphere, but Berserk does just that and stands apart from the crowd as an ultimate favourite of the dark fantasy/action genre.
Why it made the list: The show’s combination of action, plot and characterisation almost make it too good to be true, but by god does it pull it off.
Watch if you like: Blood, manly men fighting manly battles; well-set up plot; rushing to read the manga afterwards.
I’ve not met a single person who hasn’t said that their lives were changed thanks to Clannad. Almost everyone goes into it expecting the same old school slice of life/romance and comes out of it with a house flooded in tears.
The story starts with Tomoya during his final year of high school. Due to various family problems, Tomoya’s outlook on life is pretty bleak and he doesn’t really take part in life, let alone school life. All this changes when he meets Nagisa, a sickly older girl who has lost her friends to graduation. Tomoya decides that since he barely does anything with his life, he’ll try to make Nagisa’s a bit brighter. Then he kind of turns into a therapist for a bunch of girls with problems.
While the power of an anime shouldn’t be in how many boxes of tissues it makes people go through, Clannad can make you sob at a simple tune. Its characters (yet again) are what makes the show and it’s hard not to see a bit of yourself in Tomoya.
Why it made the list: Clannad is surprisingly moving and beautiful, or perhaps not so surprisingly if you know of KEY’s track record for making people sob over everything. Tomoya’s character resonates with a lot of people and his journey can make you see the more important things in life.
Watch if you like: Crying; sobbing; uplifting shows; character-centred arcs;
Between the bloodbaths and deep contemplation of the anime on this list is Mushishi, a relaxing and calm show that feels like soaking in a bath while pretty glowing bubbles float around with an air of quiet mystery.
Ginko, a researcher, meanders through the peaceful Japanese countryside to look at pretty lights that people can’t see. These lights are actually various life forms called “mushi” and nobody seems to be able to explain what they are. And neither can I. The show then goes on to show pieces of Ginko’s life as he wanders around, probably for eternity.
In its essence, watching Mushishi is like meditating. It’s a welcome break from violence and overly cute shows and is special for its incredibly calming tone and atmosphere. For those who need a break from pretty much everything else, Mushishi is a very welcoming show that can slowly relax you but still keep you interested.
Why it made the list: There’s something different about Mushishi, whether it be its core cast of one man or its peaceful atmosphere. Regardless of its episodic nature, the show is pleasantly calming while still interesting and endlessly pretty.
Watch if you like: The supernatural; episodic series; incredibly small casts of characters; pretty colours and pretty things to look at; exploration.
It’s not rare to find an ambitious anime where the show’s creators try to tackle multiple themes and issues only to fail – or sometimes even crash and burn. Code Geass itself is crammed with observations about power, racism, love, war, culture, history, justice, violence and societal standing but manages to tie everything together beautifully, though not without a few ass-pull moments.
Code Geass introduces us to one of the most prominent anti-heroes in anime, Lelouch vi Britannia, an abandoned prince of an empire that has conquered most of the world and forced foreign populations into servitude and poverty. After wishing to change the world for his crippled sister, Nunnaly, Lelouch is granted the power of geass, which manifests as a power to bend people to his will. Surprisingly, he uses it to launch his own plan for world domination rather than doing what every other teenager would do.
What follows is a long tale of strategy and deception elevated to a worldwide level but never too overpowered to be bad. Everyone has clear goals that clash and merge to become something incredible. While everything works on a global scale, Code Geass is really about the personal and you’d be hard pressed not to want to root for everyone.
Why it made the list: Code Geass is like an action-packed chess game that pulls out a few questionably legal moves but is so entertaining that it’s completely passable. It should be a classic by now.
Watch if you like: World-changing powers; Norio Wakamoto; a humungous cast of characters; plots with intricate plans; mecha; alternate world history.
Sequels, or prequels made after the original story (if you want to get confusing), don’t normally meet the expectations set up by the original series, let alone surpass them. This series comes in this list’s sixth spot for doing exactly that and showing off a well-animated, immediately accessible version of the chaotic fourth Holy Grail War. Fate/Zero pits ideals against reality and strategic combat against intuition, bringing a darker interpretation to the much loved seinen series.
Fate/Zero is the prequel to Fate/Stay Night, a popular series (perhaps more for the visual novel) where a group of magic-users are chosen to summon famous heroes and fight in a secret battle for a wish-granting device. This series centres around Kiritsugu Emiya, his wife Irisviel and his summoned hero Saber as they fight to essentially save the world.
You would expect that jumping into a prequel would be as easy as, well, jumping into a prequel. And it is. Experiencing Fate/Zero before the rest of the franchise is surprisingly fine, and any further viewing only adds to the show’s details. It is all about the details, after all, and one character’s actions in the past can vastly change how you see them in the future. The series gets high marks for being a fine entry point to the franchise as well as for being well-animated, having a solid soundtrack and being well-planned overall.
Why it made the list: Everything about Fate/Zero far exceeds the anime adaption of its sequel and is brought together with excellent execution. Seeing a series of novels brought to life so faithfully is a wonder and never has a dull moment.
Watch if you like: Life or death plots; tragedy; world history; elaborate schemes to kill people; lots of talking about said schemes.
An inevitable entry on this list, Madoka Magica rose to great fame in 2011 for its dark take on the magical girl genre, focusing the spotlight on the shady aspects of usually bright and positive shows. Saying that it pushed the genre is probably pushing it itself, but there’s no escaping the incredible force that was this short 12 episode series.
In a world where little girls are granted big wishes, Madoka finds herself faced with the choice of giving her life to make something impossible happen or sitting back knowing that people will die at the hands of witches. As her new and old high school friends grab at the glory that is fighting witches and getting bitches, Madoka is thrown into a mental spiral when she discovers that heroes of justice and magical saviours are only on a path of despair.
Those who delight in the sadness of others are the only ones who will laugh themselves silly with this show, but it’s never a bad thing. Madoka Magica gives you the standard lovable characters and magical world but twists everything to reveal the sinister intentions behind giving little girls power. Because not everything is about escapism. It is still about cute girls though.
Why it’s on the list: Madoka is a breath of fresh air for anyone keen on watching magical girl shows but is sick of the regular set-up. It made waves with its sudden twist on the genre and is always a good show to bring up if you want to argue about what “deconstruction” is.
Watch if you like: Magical girls; dark twists; Faust; soundtracks by Yuki Kajiura; colour-coded characters; time travel.
Baccano chops up various stories and characters, churns them through a blender and spits out a fine tasting drink despite the bloody process. With a skilful hand, the show presents you with a confusing array of stories only to pull everything together in a moment of sudden understanding.
People shoot each other on a train to pull off a railway heist; a scientist and his aide search for bottles of immortality elixir; a war between mafia groups grows more violent. All of these plots are thrown together in some kind of thematic lethal lockdown bout to fight it out until the series conclusion.
This show is a mix of gritty and classy, wrapped in a Western-focused setting and topped off with excellent music and solid animation. Although drenched in buckets of blood, the series has a bright tone and has as much comedy as it does shooting. It’s a faced-paced ride to the end and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.
Why it made the list: It’s commendable that a 13 episode series can cram so many ideas and events into its short time span and still come out like a masterpiece. While there’s no central point of focus, Baccano manages to string everything together using characters and central themes.
Watch if you like: Being confused; everything making sense at the end; large casts of characters; Western-influenced anime; non-sequential episodes; high attention to detail; jazz.
Steins;Gate is kind of like a book you pick up on a whim at a second hand store. While you don’t expect it to be great – and it certainly doesn’t look too good – it suddenly pulls out a story that you can’t help but fall in love with. To hell with all the stories about time travelling to save someone, this one does it in such a charming… such an otaku way.
The show focuses on Okabe Rintarou, also known as Hououin Kyouma the mad scientist. After several experiments with turning bananas into a disgusting blob, he succeeds in creating a time machine. But, of course, it sets of a large chain reaction of events that Okabe needs to fix with the power of maids, traps, cosplayers and supaa hakkaas.
Despite the levels of 2chan and otaku culture in the show, it’s surprisingly serious and has more than a few mature moments. Each of the characters are terribly seeped in their specific interest but mesh together well and have moments of incredible sincerity.
Why it made the list: Steins;Gate turns from a visually unappealing show into an engaging plot-driven anime, speckled with comedy and sincere moments.
Watch if you like: Being compelled to read the visual novel afterwards; time travel; 2chan; satisfying endings; plot over animation.
Drills are a metaphor for dicks. That’s the entire show. In-between those are battles, romances and confronting moments where childhood transitions to adulthood with a burst of chest hair. Beneath a fun show with a ridiculous premise are some of the hard truths of growing up, and if mecha makes it easier to think about, why the hell not?
Gurren Lagann starts deep underground in a particular network where humans have lived for centuries. Simon, a young digger, and his brother figure Kamina are one of the few residents who wish to see the surface world. During his daily job, Simon unearths a peculiar mecha head and sets in motion a chain of events that one day sees mankind surface from the ground to take on the universe.
There’s nothing quite like a coming of age story that has a strange mix of sexuality, action and emotion. Gurren Lagann certainly has the outrageous factor with stylised fights and mechs that need to get bigger to defeat enemies. But what makes it worth a watch is how entertaining aspects mix with some pretty big concepts to think about. The drills never really get old, either.
Why it made the list: I honestly think this is the anime form of achieving manhood. It’s also got one of the most giant-scale battles I’ve ever seen. You’re gonna need a bigger drill to watch this show.
Watch if you like: Mecha; Studio Trigger; a large cast; time jumps; coming of age stories; battles on a galactic scale; drawing dicks on tables.
Staying inside for years on end finally gets its own slice of life anime with NHK ni Youkoso. There’s bed-making action, piles of trash, shelves of manga and heads full of conspiracy theories to enjoy though the series does make it fun and darkly humerous.
With potentially the most entertaining group of miserable characters in the world, NHK ni Youkoso introduces you to Satou and a range of other shut-ins who have sealed themselves in a world of anime for years and years. Almost like a kind of miracle, a young girl named Misaki descends to try to help Satou escape from his shut-in delusions of conspiracies. Slice of life ensues.
NHK ni Youkoso is a twisted take on a twisted lifestyle with a fair amount of comedy and sexual fantasies mixed in rather well. For as boring as a slice of life show about people who trap themselves inside could be, this anime makes it interesting by instead exploring their hopelessly messed up minds.
Why it made the list: While technically a slice of life anime, NHK ni Youkoso isn’t your typical fare, finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and dealing with characters whose delusions are real and quite serious.
Watch if you like: Lots of insert songs; conspiracy theories; dark humour; fantasies; a small cast of characters.
Almost breaking into the top ten of this list is Evangelion, practically the psychological sci-fi anime to start all psychological sci-fi anime. With massive robots, aggressive aliens, teenagers with power and large-scale destruction, you’d think this was a fairly generic action anime. Until you realise that this is Evangelion and it guarantees you your “what the fuck” quota of the year.
In a world where alien invasions cause mankind to take great measures to stop them, Shinji Ikari is forced to pilot an experimental robot. The robot is one of two functional machines that can damage the aliens at all, and of course only special teenagers can pilot them. Over the course of the series, Shinji screams and cries and probably defeats a few aliens while he’s at it, but it’s mostly him crying and writhing in anguish.
Evangelion is an iconic anime but falls to a lower place on this list due to the director pretty much hating you for watching the show. There are a lot of shots at anime fans and the ending is a pretty big fuck you. But possible interpretations are pretty wide and the show itself can be better with your personal view. It doesn’t stop it from introducing some big ideas and, if you’re watching Evangelion after all the shows it influenced, you can easily see how many shows have taken a little something from it.
Why it made the list: Interpretations of Evangelion are about as wide as the fanbase and is guaranteed to get you thinking. The show is iconic for psychological and mecha series and worth the watch if you want to know how countless other series have borrowed from it.
Watch if you like: Mecha; psychological themes; thinking; battles; aliens that don’t look like aliens; waiting for the movies.
Viewers tired of historical try-hard shows can take a break when hip hop meets Edo period Japan in Samurai Champloo. With fluid action scenes, hilarious episodic adventures and striking animation techniques, there’s a lot to love in the show directed by the same man who directed Cowboy Bebop.
A breakdancing warrior gets into a fight with a straight-laced ronin and both of them are thrown into jail to be executed for being such badasses. But the night before, they’re saved by a girl who wants them to seek out a samurai who smells of sunflowers (actual plot point). They find him. The end.
Samurai Champloo’s plot very obviously doesn’t make demands on the script, the show instead opting to make the journey the most entertaining aspect.
Why it made the list: Samurai Champloo’s unique mix of pop culture and traditional Japanese culture makes it stand out musically and visually, with plenty of entertaining aspects. Those tired of shows heavily embedded in Japanese ways can take a break with this mix of Western and badassery.
Watch if you like: Hip hop; Edo period Japan; samurai; sword fighting; Cowboy Bebop; creative animation; fun; episodic shows; a small cast of characters.
One of the larger opinion battles of our time is the everlasting war between the original Fullmetal Alchemist fans and the Brotherhood fans. And while those two factions continue to do battle day and night, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood sneaks off to capture the hearts of more people to add them to its growing army.
Two brothers, mourning the loss of their mother, decide that it’s better to reanimate her corpse than to accept her death. By performing alchemy, they manage to resurrect their loving zombie parent, but one sacrifices their body and the other two of his limbs. Realising that they royally fucked up, the two forget their mother and set out on a journey for the Philosopher’s Stone to regain their various parts.
While the series has two shows to its name, Brotherhood triumphs over its older brother by being self-contained and true to its original nature. It feels more like a shonen show than its dreary predecessor, expanding its cast of characters and developing the core cast at a steady pace. It’s also handled by one of the most talented animation companies, so you know it’s going to look fantastic.
Why it made the list: Very few anime based on light novels or manga resolve the entire story in the show, but Brotherhood manages to pace everything neatly to do just that. It follows its source more closely than its older brother and ultimately feels more true to the concept due to that.
Watch if you like: Epic final battles; shonen anime; Kyoto Animation; faithful adaptions; large casts of characters; long series with 50+ episodes.
During talk about the most consistently funny slice of life series, Azumanga Daioh rises up like the classic monolith it is to assert its comedic dominance in jokes worked into natural daily life situations. It flicks other anime to the side with simple jokes that appeal to a wide range of humours without trying too hard.
Azumanga follows the lives of seven girls, three teachers and a few weird cats as they live through their school life in modern Japan. Each episode is self-contained, though is guaranteed to have at least one cat biting, one child genius moment and one empty-headed joke.
What makes the show enjoyable is its not-so-blatant use of nostalgia, easily transporting most people back to their high school days when hanging out with friends was the thing to do. There’s nothing especially amazing about the characters or their setting, which only adds to the comfortable, carefree atmosphere of the show. It wouldn’t be hard to compare Azumanga to Seinfeld or Friends as a show about nothing that is good because of this nothing.
Why it made the list: Azumanga has a careful balance between comedy and slice of life, working in jokes more naturally than other series. It also has a strong nostalgic atmosphere that many other shows lack.
Watch if you like: Slice of life shows set in high school; Norio Wakamoto; “weird” humour; four-panel comics; episodic series with no overarching plot.
Suicidal comedy isn’t usually at the top of everyone’s to-watch list, but Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei manages to bring comedy to depression and despair through creative animation and humorous parody.
As appropriate for a teacher in absolute despair, Itoshiki Nozomu wishes to kill himself over every little thing. It almost seems natural then that his class is full of emotionally crippled children who need to deal with their own over-the-top problems with the pessimistic advice of a deeply depressed man.
Premise isn’t everything with this anime. There’s nothing dramatic or serious about the show at all unless you surgically removed your funny bone. Every character is on a heightened pedestal of parody and their interactions simply a point of comedy supported strongly by the show’s quirky animation.
Why it made the list: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei’s unusual and colourful approach to dark humour makes it stand out as an intriguing and funny series. It’s episodic slice of life structure allows the show to parody normal situations and make them unusual.
Watch if you like: Dark humour; interesting visual styles; school settings; parodies and satire; catchy opening themes; episodic series.
A romantic comedy invading the top 20 of the best anime list? It’s more likely than you think! With genuinely funny moments, a cast of characters that don’t feel too thrown-in and a plot that wraps things up like a man, Toradora stands out as one of the few enjoyable romantic comedy shows.
Toradora’s plot seems like the usual romantic comedy set-up: Ryuuji, a scary-looking guy, and Taiga, a short and aggressive girl, devise a plan to help each other get together with their high school crushes. It definitely seems like the two main characters will fall for each other instead over the course of the show. And of course they do. But in doing so they struggle with their various insecurities and the drama that comes from love pentagons.
Romantic comedies rely on the strength of their characters and Taiga packs enough violence for everyone. But here there is a strong sense that the characters are more than people thrown into the mix to create drama. Side characters getting the spotlight at times help this, as well as everyone having something of a clear goal. It’s not all like mice in a maze, scrambling to get the cheese that is a stable relationship.
Why it made the list: Despite the predictability of the main plot, Toradora excels thanks to its characters, some solid pacing and it generally not fucking around. There’s drama, but there’s also a firm resolution, already putting itself above the thousands of forgettable titles that drag on forever.
Watch if you like: Romance; odd couples; love pentagons; love drama; character development; catchy opening themes.
Giant battle robots on hoverboards. Need I say more? With a memorable soundtrack and a large cast of relatable characters, Eureka Seven comes out with guns blazing, tackling an army of themes from coming of age to anti-war sentiments to romance.
Renton, a 14-year-old kid who loves hoverboards just as much as anyone, has his dreams come true when his home is destroyed. After a chance meeting with a girl in a robot, Renton is willingly dragged into being the mechanic for a mercenary group he admires. And thus his 50 episode saga begins.
While Eureka Seven has a daunting episode count, it’s gripping and can easily have you watching the whole series for three days straight. Characters get plenty of development and Renton’s journey to adulthood is both heart-warming and satisfying.
Why it made the list: Characters are the strong point in this series but are thoroughly supported by a moving soundtrack and solid animation for action scenes and somber moments.
Watch if you like: Realy long series; mecha; hoverboards; coming of age stories; battles; a large cast of characters.
Amidst the bubbly, colourful, in-your-face cuteness of most anime of the early 2000s is Paranoia Agent, the trippy mystery series by known trippy director Satoshi Kon. It’s not the drug kind of trippy though – sorry, weed smokers.
Mystery figure “lil’ slugger” (or “shonen bat”) strings together a series of events where giving people’s heads a solid, skull-cracking thwack seems to get the job done. Each episode follows a certain group of people and can change from a depressing look at school social life to a surprisingly comedic suicide story in a beat. There’s no use trying to understand Paranoia Agent; just go along for the ride and maybe set up a drinking game.
Drinking games aside, Paranoia Agent is a pleasant mix of cartoonish characters and absurdism that doesn’t quite go into what-the-fuck territory but certainly makes you wonder what’s going on.
Why it made the list: Everything is confusing and weird, but it damn well ties together a bunch of interesting stories that wouldn’t have a common thread otherwise. Director Satoshi Kon is known for his absurd style, and Paranoia Agent is like a box of variety chocolates for people who want to sample his works.
Watch if you like: Satoshi Kon; not knowing what the hell is happening; realistic or non-cutesy character art; detailed animation; episodic series.
Of the millions of Gundam shows, it might be just a little bit hard to find one that stands out. But thankfully, Gundam SEED adds enough new parts to the giant robot that is the Gundam series that it can be seen as one of Gundam’s more refreshing shows.
As anime as a whole makes sure to establish, teenagers are the best military personnel when it comes to piloting large robots. Kira, the series protagonist, is no exception. After an attack by a race of genetically engineered humans, Kira is forced to pilot a giant robot and ascends to main character glory where he must fight his best friend in a largely meaningless war. But the battles look cool.
While semi-recycled fight scenes can intrude on some of the large-scale battles in space, Gundam SEED lets its characters carry the show, deviating from the stoic personalities of its other series to something much more human, even if the main character could easily cry a river early on.
Why it made the list: There are more Gundam anime than I can throw a robot at, but Gundam SEED manages to stand apart, being a breath of fresh air in a long-standing series. It’s also incredibly accessible to anyone new to the set of shows but has enough references to the previous series to make long-time fans smile.
Watch if you like: Mecha; galactic battles; wars split between two factions or races; Code Geass; a large cast of characters; friends fighting against friends.
Rabid fans of servant and butler relationships can rejoice with the dark supernatural anime Black Butler. Although packed with demons and supernatural fights, the series at times has a strong focus on comedy and can be an enjoyable series to watch between more intense shows.
When Ciel loses his parents to a sinister plot and is faced with death, he agrees to a contract where he exchanges his soul for a demon butler. While the demonic butler’s job is to help Ciel exact revenge for his parents, Ciel doesn’t really have any leads, so he becomes a moody English aristocrat who does small jobs for the queen. Fighting angels becomes as much of Ciel’s daily life as dealing with servant shenanigans in Victorian-era England.
While the premise seems dark, only the supernatural aspects stick around as much of the series becomes something like a comedic slice of life. And what’s not to like about the adventures of a master and his servant?
Why it made the list: While dark and supernatural for much of the series, Black Butler knows how to enjoy itself and show off a little skin while it’s at it. There’s a lot of young male fanservice for the women and enough plot twists to keep everyone guessing.
Watch if you like: Cute young boys; male fanservice; Victorian England; the supernatural; demon fighting; high-class settings.
It’s no secret that Shingeki no Kyojin has skyrocketed in popularity and turned from a relatively well-known manga into a towering giant of a franchise. Behind action animation that must have been drawn by a small team of gods is an intriguing story filled with characters that struggle until they die and leave a lasting memory when they do.
The series follows young hothead Eren Jeager and his insatiable urge to slaughter giant naked humans that like to eat regular humans. As teenagers are the always best suited for large-scale combat, Eren and his friends join the war effort to reclaim his home from the rampaging titans. But when he discovers he can transform into the enemy, Eren’s quest becomes much more important as he grasps the power that can finally save mankind.
Shingeki’s animation for action scenes must have broken the studio’s hands, as everything is animated so beautifully that you can’t look away. Even with 25 episodes to watch, you’re going to want more.
Why it made the list: Even if you’re not looking to sink your teeth into a high-tension action series, Shingeki easily draws you in with its large cast of characters and incredibly set-up of an intriguing premise. Action scenes will not let you down and are spaced appropriately with slower scenes and crucial dialogue.
Watch if you like: Catchy opening themes; stellar animation; stories where people struggle with what it means to be human; a large cast of characters; lots of action.
If you’re in it for the anime boys, nothing beats a cast of characters that show off their various tropes, knowing they’re playing it up. While on the surface Ouran looks like another anime where a single girl is buried under a pile of handsome men, it’s much more. Amidst the flirting, crossdressing and blatant manservice are some surprising mature moments.
When Haruhi literally stumbles across the school’s male host club, she breaks a vase and is bullied into dressing up as a new host in order to pay it off. While in the care of the group’s various trope characters, Haruhi tries her best to deal with her new circumstances and isn’t afraid to flirt with girls to keep her place. But nobody in the host club can resist the charms of a feminine boy, and the members eventually fall for her like the inevitable harem anime the show is.
While the series could easily fall into the depths of pandering, it manages to stay true to its messages and explores the characters behind the tropes. It’s not all depth and backstory, though, and spreads much of its mature moments through comedic scenes.
Why it made the list: Ouran hides some mature, thoughtful moments behind veils of harems and high-class high school romance. The surprising insights are the gems in this series but is still very enjoyable for the shoujo show it is.
Watch if you like: Crossdressing; men; meaningful moments mixed with fun; romance; character-focused episodes; cast of colourful characters.
Bakemonogatari sets out to prove that watching high schoolers talk to each other for half an hour can be incredibly interesting. With a mix of typography, word play, silhouettes and abstract settings, this anime could probably be considered a form of art but is definitely entertaining.
Araragi is just your average teenager who survived a vampire attack. Perhaps due to his supernatural scent, he begins to attract various girls who are similarly affected by oddities. Thanks to his hero complex and recent experience, Araragi decides to help these people by pretty much letting them kill him repeatedly.
The show is a huge success in making general conversations fun, most in part due to the comedic banter and word play. Everything is abstract enough to feel like an attempt at art but is more playful than straight-up what-the-fuck.
Why it made the list: Despite the artistic approach to dialogue, Bakemonogatari can be pretty action-packed too and you’re in for a treat if you’re hankering for some supernatural fight scenes.
Watch if you like: Folk tales or mythology; stylistic presentations; listening; typography; clear episode arcs; supernatural fight scenes.
Amidst shows bouncing large breasts in your face and others that cast thousands of cute girls sits Kuragehime, an anime where conventionally ugly girls show that they can be pretty and charming too. What makes the show a joy to watch is not just its romantic comedy aspects or light atmosphere, but its approach to handling otaku characters. The cast, who would be a point of humour or simple caricatures in any other show, are instead given respect and strengthen the series because of this.
Tsukimi, the world’s biggest fan of jellyfish, moves to Tokyo to live with similarly-minded shut-ins who have managed to mooch off their parents for the better part of thirty years. After Tsukimi meets crossdresser Kuranosuke – who looks remarkably like a Ghibli character – her life starts changing one makeover at a time. Also, the cast has to work to save their apartment somehow.
Each character has their charm point repeated enough to induce Stockholm syndrome but never strays too far from being realistic. The show puts a more charming spin on otaku culture and what love means in modern Tokyo but doesn’t hide its true intentions of wanting take over the world with drastic makeovers and shoujo sparkles.
Why it made the list: Kuragehime’s short but charming approach to handling otaku characters is a breath of fresh air, and its awkward but sincere take romantic comedy sets it apart from the masses.
Watch if you like: Finding the “diamond in the rough” stories; crossdressing; beautiful ladies; cast of quirky characters; bright and light-hearted anime.