For Anime fans, the genre is life. For non-Anime fans, there are many reasons that it feels like it’s too much to get into. Especially when you don’t know where to start. And that’s where I come in!
Anime has dramatically changed and evolved over the years. There is a lot to watch in Anime today. However, the genre also has seminal works that you can watch without any prior knowledge. The animation style of these shows are simple enough for casual audiences. And the stories are engaging and interesting enough to draw in the most amateur of Anime audiences.
So here are 5 of the best Anime TV series out there for people who might not be into Anime.
Be sure to check out our Anime Guide as well to understand more about the genre.
Sailor Moon was one of the first Anime to become popular in the West.
The story features a teenage girl, given powers to transform into a princess-soldier, tasked to save the world. She finds other teenage girls from various walks of life to join her as the Sailor Squad, destined defeat evil forces and protect their world.
Sailor Moon’s worldwide success was in part due to the everyday appeal of the main character. The themes of teenage drama & romance, superheroes and other relatable elements make Sailor Moon feel grounded among the fantasy. The series has something for everybody. There i not only action, adventure, and superheroes, but also romance, comedy and a lot of heart.
The latest incarnation of the series, Sailor Moon Crystal, is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is one anime that almost everyone will have heard of, given its superhero-like story and premise, in an age before superheroes were the hottest trend.
Dragon Ball Z continues the Dragon Ball manga series, released as its own anime series in 1989. The show features the adventures of Goku, an alien destined to conquer Earth, who becomes its strongest protector. With a story that’s been spanning decades with multiple generations of characters, it’s quite possibly the most accessible anime.
The series features incredible action sequences that were unheard of in North America and truly popularized the concept of fighting Anime. Fans of the DC Animated Universe television series and movies will surely appreciate the epic action sequences of Dragon Ball Z.
A remastered and condensed version of Dragon Ball Z is now available, retitled as Dragon Ball Z Kai. You can stream it from Funimation.
Mobile Suit Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam is a sub-genre of Anime, known as mecha anime, which revolutionized an entire industry through its franchise.
Mobile Suit Gundam features massive mecha-robots, piloted by human characters used in a war against warring federations. The original show has spawned countless spin-off TV series and movies since then to the present day. The appeal of Gundam is the mechanized robots that look photo-real and act as characters of their own. The robots also evolve and change with various designs that can be upgraded and modified.
Gundam is a must-watch. The franchise has influenced many real-life industries all over the world. The show has inspired car manufacturers, military and aerospace and academics, to name a few fields.
If you’re a fan of Transformers, Power Rangers or Voltron, check out the original anime that pre-dates all of it. Despite the countless Gundam stories, you can watch any of the series to start with. Most of the Gundam shows take place in alternate timelines and have little to no connection to one another.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is also available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a fantasy story set in a period era. It’s also one of most critically acclaimed Anime out there.
The series explores the journeys of two brothers, in a fantasy world where Alchemy is the highest level of technology and science. An attempt to bring their mother back from the dead, forbidden, by the way, results in the loss of their bodies and limbs. While one brother’s soul is trapped in a suit of armor, the other augments his limbs with metallic ones. The brothers then search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone to revert their fates and become whole once again.
Fullmetal Alchemist has received a lot of praise for its touching story, development of characters and intense action and adventure storylines. The story’s tragedy turned soulful drama remains its mainstay. It’s a sub-genre of Anime that sees more feudal Japanese setting with magic and supernatural elements, similar to many video games as well.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the most recent of two Anime series adaptations, and the truest to the manga. There is a live-action adaptation which was poorly received, so you can probably skip that one unless you’re a completionist.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is now streaming on Netflix.
While most Anime may seem exclusively adult fares, many are aimed at all ages or family-friendly audiences, the most popular of which is Pokemon.
Beginning as video games for the Nintendo Gameboy system, Pokemon eventually became a multimedia franchise worldwide spawning games over many different consoles, and of course, anime TV shows and movies. I’m sure you’ve heard of, if not participated in the Augmented Reality adventures of the mobile Pokemon Go! game.
Pokemon are the cute and sometimes small creatures found in the wild in this series. The humans of this world realized potential uses for these Pokemon, such as pets, workers or used in recreational competitive battles.
Majority of the story of the Pokemon Anime series revolves around one such aspiring Pokemon trainer, Ash Ketchum, and his quest to be the best trainer of all time. Joined by his cute-as-hell Pokemon, the face of the franchise, Pikachu, their adventures are the focus of most of the films and TV series.
The franchise is a worldwide sensation that has sustained itself since 1996 in various forms. Pokemon Detective Pikachu is the first and only live-action adaptation of this Anime. The movie has broken box office records and critics have called it the best video game adaptation ever.
The show currently has 22 seasons of stories, beginning with Pokemon: The Beginning and Gold and Silver. There is also a rebooted movie from 2017, Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You, which adapts the pilot episode of the series in a new franchise. Just in case 22 seasons of a series seem like too much for you.
What is your favorite Anime TV series? Let us know in the comments below.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.