Gateway anime: my top 5 for beginners
Mikael Techane shares his top five anime to watch if you’ve never watched anime
Whenever anime comes up in conversation, the most common remarks I hear are “ain’t anime that hentai stuff?” or “anime’s for kid’s though?” While it’s true many younger western anime fans today grew up watching the likes of Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, child-orientated anime are only a fraction of anime as a whole.
Love it, hate it or know nothing about it, anime is becoming more mainstream by the day with media giants like Netflix licensing and screening loads of great shows (but DO NOT I repeat DO NOT take their anime live action remakes to be an accurate representation of what actual anime is!). Anime is steadily becoming more popular, and with how accessible it is nowadays, finding a show to try out is easier than ever. So, if you’re curious but have no clue where to start, now is as good a time as ever to give anime a try – you never know you might end up finding your next biggest binge!
Disclaimer: This list is completely subjective and not everyone will agree with it. This list is ranked by accessibility for those of us who have never or rarely watched anime (factoring in how long it is, how quick it takes to get into and where you can watch it). It only targets series so no movies unfortunately (Miyazaki/Shinkai fans – I’m sorry). On that note, let’s begin!
5: Hunter X Hunter (2011 version)
This is my personal favourite anime of all-time. It’s hard to condense all of Hunter’s 148 episodes into one quick summary (the English dub is still being completed so not all episodes are dubbed which might be a turn off for some newcomers) but LET’S GO. Hunter follows the story of a young, happy-go-lucky boy named Gon Freecss, as he goes on a journey in search of his father. Gon begins his journey trying to become a hunter (just like his dad, a licensed professional who specialises in a multitude of extraordinary freelance works from hunting down lawless criminal organisations to locating rare treasures and artefacts). Gon believes being a hunter will bring him one step closer to finding his father, meeting a multitude of colourful characters (some nice, some batshit crazy!) along the way. It’s easy to get into so if you’re looking for something wholesome and comedic but also emotional and downright savage, Hunter’s ya boi! Hunter is not on Netflix but is widely available online.
Erased is by far the easiest show to binge on this list, with 12 episodes in its entirety (all English dubbed or subbed if you’d prefer) and all available on Netflix (whoop whoop!). Erased is a sci-fi thriller centring around Satoru Fujinuma, an average person with a not so average ability to turn back time. When Satoru’s mother is murdered (don’t worry I haven’t spoiled the plot – it happens in episode one), Satoru is sent back in time to his childhood where he must try to erase (see what I did there?) the snowballing events leading to his mother’s death. If you like mystery, thrillers, heartfelt stories and characters as well as action, give Erased a shot.
3: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)
This was also one of the first anime I watched and, not gonna lie, the first anime to fully get me up in my feels. FMA: Brotherhood is on Netflix and has 64 episodes, all in sub or dub (the dub is one of the only anime dubs I would highly recommend over its sub counterpart – sub puritans don’t crucify me). FMA: B is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who possess the ability of alchemy – studying and harnessing the power to change basic substances like metal into other substances. When their mother dies however, the two brothers try and use their abilities to commit the most taboo act – reviving her. In the attempt, Ed lost an arm and a leg, while his brother lost his entire body. In a rush to save his brother’s soul he bonds him to a suit of armour and the two boys set out, becoming professional alchemists to help them find a cure. For a touching story on brotherhood and family as well as an excellent plot, go get your mind blown and watch it!
2: Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan is both relatively new and widely popular within the anime community, with some even saying it’s ‘hyped up.’ As it was the second anime I ever watched, I found it extremely easy to get hooked with just 24 episodes in season one (Season two has 12 episodes all in dub and sub with season three dropping currently!). Again, it’s available on Netflix! Attack on Titan revolves around Eren Yeager, a young male protagonist who lives a gated existence within the confines of a walled city, protecting the residents from the perilous titans – giant scary humanoid looking creatures with an insatiable appetite for humans. When the wall is breached and Eren’s life begins to fall apart, Eren vows to purge the earth of all Titans in humanity’s last chance for survival. The show is jam-packed with gore and violence which adds to the shows dire setting, showing much like “The Walking Dead” that no character is truly safe. Attack on Titan is also beautifully animated so, if you’re into high octane action, a crazy storyline, elements of horror and loads of violence, this is a good start.
1: Death Note
No anime beginner’s guide would be complete without Death Note, NOT to be confused with the live action remake film licensed by Netflix (that film was so dead). As one of the most famous anime series of all time, Death Note was the first anime I watched, sparking my love for Japanese media. It has 26 episodes all dubbed and subbed and on Netflix. Even though Death Note is a supernatural crime thriller (a genre I was never a fan of) I still loved the entirety of it. The plot stars the academically gifted Light Yagami, a high school student who finds the Death Note – a book with the sinister power to kill anyone whose name is written on the book’s paper (providing they can put a face to the name). The book came from a Shinigami, a god of death who accompanies Light on his self-righteous journey to purge the Earth of crime and criminals. Light however, garners the attention of L, a mysterious yet world-renowned international criminal profiler, as he tries to apprehend Light and solve the world’s most difficult case. Even outside the realm of anime, Death Note shapes up to be a skilful slice of storytelling and a must-watch.
Before I wrap this up its worth leaving a few honourable mentions in case you actually end up liking this list and are curious what else is the best thing you’ve never seen (because my list is that sick, obviously).
Hajime no Ippo:
When I first came across Hajime no ippo A.K.A. ‘The Fighting’, had it not been for my interest in boxing I would’ve shunned it as I did all sports anime, why would I watch an anime about sports when I could just watch the actual sport? Well, not only has Hajime no ippo made me eat my words, it’s also become one of my favourite anime of all time; with it’s intense, impactful fight scenes, brilliant comedy that genuinely had me laughing out loud and a well fleshed out cast, I highly recommend it to sports and non sports fans a like! Hajime no ippo follows the story of an awkward timid high schooler named Makunouchi ippo as he takes up the sport of boxing initially to protect himself from bullies at his school. After gaining a great passion for the discipline however, the underdog goes on to advance the ranks in a bid to learn what it truly means to be strong, setting his eyes upon the Japan Featherweight championship. for a story filled with charisma, heart and comedy gold check it out! Hajime no ippo has 76 episodes all in dub and sub (not on Netflix) with a film and second season.
Blue Exorcist is the story of a boy named Rin who basically clocks he’s the son of Satan (wild I know). Rin joins the True Cross Academy (a mystical school for aspiring exorcists), hiding his identity in a bid to master his abilities and take down the Devil. Season one is available on Netflix while season two (equally as good) is not. By this point you should be on other sites as well to satisfy your anime cravings.
Neon Genesis Evangelion:
I was contemplating putting Neon Genesis in my top five but left it out because as an intro to anime you might accidently end up led in bed for a week on end contemplating your existence (which is not what I’m hoping your first experience of anime does to you). I’d like to say Neon Genesis Evangelion Is a story about a 14-year-old boy named Shinji Akari as he pilots a massive cyborg-mecha defending humanity from angels trying to destroy Earth. In reality though, it’s about so much more than that. Neon Genesis centres on existentialism, depression, introspection and psychological tendencies, with each character displaying widely different attributes, abilities and flaws. No piece of media has made me reflect this deeply before and if you’re ready to take a long hard look in the mirror shrouded in wide scale action and drama, watch it! Also – watch the first film Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone as it’s pretty much the real ending to the 26-episode series. Evangelion is also not on Netflix.
Cowboy Bebop is an artistic masterpiece. With music good enough to be a stand-alone album, stellar dubbed voice acting and a cast of likeable characters, it still holds up two decades on as a must-watch piece of entertainment gold. The story focuses on Spike Spiegel and his rag-tag team of space cowboys and cowgirls as they traverse the universe in search of criminals to apprehend in return for the bounty on their heads. The story doesn’t follow a particularly linear route (this can definitely be said about the infamous “fridge” episode) meaning I didn’t include it in the main list on account of it not being a conventional storyline for the most part like the other anime. But as one of anime’s crowning achievements it is definitely worth the watch. Cowboy Bebop is 26 episodes long and is on Netflix subbed and dubbed.
Now go forth and enjoy anime! I hope you’ve enjoyed this list (or hated it depending on your preference). Peace!