I am still relatively new to watching Anime. I started a little over 2 years to the day of this article largely due to peer pressure. If peer pressure can get you to do drugs and drink, why not watch animated Japanese shows? I mostly started out kind of feeling my way around with some recommendations from friends and kind of picking shows at random based on plot and character design. I can be shallow like that. As is usually the case, there were some hits and some misses in that tactic. With that said, I looked at a a lot of different best anime lists to try and get a bead on what to try.
With all of that said, tastes widely vary. If a show ends up not working for you, that’s great as some shows don’t work for everybody even including the classics that perennially top “best of” lists. Now let’s start off the countdown!
The Top 10 Anime List
Number 10: WataMote: No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular
Tomoko Kuroki is an introvert prone to fantasies, playing dating sims, and watching anime. She’s 15 years old and about to embark on a journey to a dreaded life altering event: high school. It’s a quick and fast series only going 12 episodes but Tomoko is a very solid main character to follow. If you are introverted she’s more appealing and easier to associate with as the lead. A lot of the series revolves around slice of life aspects with Tomoko dealing with social events, her older brother Tomoki, and her more outgoing friend Yuu Naruse. If you want something fairly light-hearted and easy to breeze through, this is a great show to start off with.
Number 9: School Rumble
This series goes 2 seasons totalling 42 episodes. It spins on a classic love triangle between lead character Tsukamota Tenma’s crush on the serious, quiet Karasuma while classmate Harima Kenji struggles with his feelings towards Tsukamoto. From the very catchy theme song on, this is just a great show featuring a wide variety of characters both friends and siblings along with very funny situations. The love triangle is a centerpiece to the entire show but there are enough subplots and subrelationships that it is very easy for a viewer to get into this even if they are not a fan of the main story. If you are looking for something that has a lot of visual comedy with a few serious situations here and there, check this show out.
Number 8: Angel Beats!
I actually got into this off a recommendation and am really glad I did. Otonashi wakes up dead and is confronted by Yuri, a rifle toting young girl waging a war against another girl named Tenshi. Yuri leads a group called the SSS in this battle. It’s only 13 episodes but is a lot of fun if you are more into violence and generic action movie style shows. Like most of my shows it’s an ensemble cast and while the relationships are mostly okay, the show is at its best dealing with the action and thematic exploration between the two sides.
Number 7: Future Diary
This was recommended to me by David Forrister. It’s a violent and frenetic story at times centering around Yukiteru Amano, a boy who is selected by the God of time and space Deus Ex Machina to engage in a bloody battle royale with 11 other people. They all possess diaries that tell them of future events and Yukiteru is forced to work with his Yandere stalker Yuno Gasai whom also possess her own future diary. The final survivor of the 12 Future Diary owners is granted the new God of space and time. While Yukiteru takes some getting acclimated to as a lead character, his relationship with Yuno is very well done and Yuno is a fantastic character largely selling the show itself. This show runs slightly longer at 26 episodes but is very solid throughout and worth a watch if you want something a little more violent and with a relationship that hews closer to something out of Basic Instinct in terms of uncertainty and more than meets the eye.
Number 6: Your Lie In April
Kousei Arima is a piano prodigy but he suddenly loses his ability to hear the sound of the piano upon his mother’s death. Two year later, he comes upon violinist Kaori Miyazono who helps set him on his path to regaining his ability. While I admittedly did not care much about their relationship over the 22 episode run, the music is gorgeous. The entire arc does its job in setting up emotional stakes for the lead character involved but this show is largely about the beautiful piano and violin music that comes forth. If you are into classical music at all than you must check out this show for that reason alone.
Number 5: Yuru Yuri
Much like School Rumble, this anime is all about friendship and middle school in this case. Lead character Akarin Akaza joins up with her friends Yui Funami and Kyouko Toshinou to form the Amusement Club. It’s an excuse for them to have fun and just goof off. It’s now up through 26 episodes having completed its 3rd season and the show is just a lot of fun. The relationships are enjoyable even if the characters are a bit stock but its a good entryway into the yuri (girl’s love) genre without dealing with melodramatic serious plots. Even if you are not partial to the lead, there are more than enough characters to find somebody to get into and the character-centric comedy works really well.
Number 4: Higurashi noNaku Koro ni and Higurashi No Koro ni Kai
Maebara Keiichi moves into a town called Hinamizawa. Soon, he learns of a murder and finds himself and his friends locked into a mystery of culprits, which friends to trust, and explanations. It is hard to say a lot about this without delving into spoiler territory but the show is a fantastic murder mystery with a bit of science fiction thrown in. In a funny twist of fate, I had actually screwed up and watched the 2nd Season by accident (making this the first season/show I ever watched Anime wise) and greatly enjoyed it but it took me a while to get around to the 1st Season. The friends are mostly more interesting than Maebara but the show itself is aided along by a terrific little overarching mystery that has some fun twists and unique alterations as it evolves during the seasons. Definitely worth the watch if you like a little mystery and science fiction.
Number 3: Fullmetal Alchemist (or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
I actually watched the original 51 episode series and have heard that Brotherhood is essentially the same show with slightly better artwork and runs closer to the manga. 12 year old Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse try to resurrect their deceased mother through alchemy only to pay a harsh price for their actions. A year later, Edward is named fullmetal alchemist of the state and sets off with his brother for the Philosopher’s Stone. This is one of the few shows that many “best of” lists rank high that I also enjoyed on a personal level. The relationship between the two brothers is fantastic and the constant arcs not only keep the attention but build up the stakes along with the growing challenges and obstacles faced. The group of villains are equally engaging and the artwork is very good although better in Brotherhood. If you want to marathon a show that has great characters, a deep and complex storyline, and solid artwork than I highly recommend either version of this show.
Number 2: Kill la Kill
Credit Ruko119 at DeviantArt
17 year old Ryuuko Matoi is on a search to find her father’s killer and winds up at Honnouji Academy. Ruled by Satsuki Kiryuuin rules it with clothes making up the hierarchy within. The clash of wills immediately puts them at odds and the battle of revenge against order quickly ensues. The friendship between Ryuuko and Mako Mankanshoku is sweet and the action is fantastic. To call the pacing frenetic is an understatement as the entire series seems to work on hyperspeed with over the top violence, a lot of ecchi (usually light sexual moments e.g. panties showing), and very distinct characterization. This show is for adults but it’s the very definition of a fun 24 episode binge highlighted by the over the top action sequences and a surprisingly engaging feud between Ryuuko and Satsuki. If you are looking for something that is almost an Anime equivalent to Mad Max: Fury Road in action than this fits that bill.
Number 1: Soul Eater
By far my favorite anime. Set at a school for weapon meisters, the show revolves around 3 groups of a weapon meister (controller) and their human weapon(s): Maka and Soul, Black Star and Tsubaki, and Death the Kid and the Thompson Sisters. It’s a 51 episode series that conjures up Tim Burton-esque set designs in the artwork with a ton of fun character depth and interrelationships between not only those characters but the various adults in the series including Death who runs the Shinigami school. Eventually a long term plot is established with a fantastic villain and subvillain that keeps the stakes dire for our heroes. The artwork is great, the characters are deep and flawed and realistic, the relationships are very intricate even between characters who don’t share a lot of screentime together, and the overriding plot sets up some serious drama. The series has its flaws having had to divert from the unfinished manga to reach a conclusion but it still worked for me as a viewer. If you want something Gothic/Tim Burtonish while relying heavily on characterization and complex plotlines, this is a great anime to get into that makes a re-watch of it all the better.
There we have it, my Top 10 Animes for anybody getting into or having just started out watching Anime. While my tastes may end up differing from your own, I hope that a couple of these selections quickly become your own favorites down the road.