Essential Anime A Newbie Should Watch


I’ve seen some anime folks over the years debate about what products they should use to get people into the whole hobby. After being asked this question myself and some thinking on the subject, I compiled a nice little list of stuff I’d introduce to a newcomer in order for them to get a feel for anime, along with some short reasons why.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of anime I actually like (although there are some on here as well) and you don’t necessarily have to finish all of these. But if you want to consider yourself a fan, it’d probably be helpful to have an opinion on these shows. Now I honestly wouldn’t recommend seeing the more mindfucky ones on this list first, but it’d be good to get into them early nevertheless.


Akira – We all know that America became more accepting of the medium when Akira hit its shores, and I think it’s essential that anime fans understand why.

Aria – Pretty much the definitive slice-of-life/healing show.

Azumanga Daioh – Has everything that categorizes 4-koma adaptations/cute girl stuff in one package.

Cardcaptor Sakura – Sailor Moon may have came first, but this anime represents the straight-up magical girl stuff better. Plus it’s a good introduction to CLAMP to boot.

Clannad – Is there any anime that defines the pros and cons of VN adaptations as well as this one?

Cowboy Bebop – Do I really need to explain why Bebop is on here?

Death Note – Melodramatic visual storytelling at its most hardcore.

Eureka Seven – The underdog romance/mecha story that touched a generation.

Fist of the North Star – Kenshiro demands that all shonen fans looking for manliness see him in action as a precursor to all the other manly ones out there!

Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) – The original FMA nails pretty much all the basics of what most people want in a quality anime based on established source material in general.

Gintama – Probably the most accessible Shonen Jump series in existence. Even in its comedic satire, it’s still knee-deep in everything that categorizes shonen.

Kare Kano – Whilst it can be argued if this is the peak of romantic comedies, it definitely does all the cliches with charm.

Mobile Suit Gundam – If you’re going to get into the most relevant mecha franchise since the 80s, might be good to start with the original.

Natsume’s Book of Friends – The easiest of the episodic adventure/atmosphere shows to fall in love with.

Neon Genesis Evangelion – Because it’s Evangelion.

Ranma 1/2 – If you indulge in 80s anime without having seen this, there is something wrong with you.

Revolutionary Girl Utena – Because after you see this, you’ll realize just how crazy anime can be.

Spirited Away/Princess Mononoke – The definitive Ghibli films and for good reason.

Tenchi Muyo – There’s a reason it’s called the granddaddy of harem anime.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – Because who hell do you think you are to exclude me from this list?

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – All the “started with one good volume only to become crap in later volumes” LN adaptations and school club anime became noticeable when Haruhi appeared.

Am I missing anything? If so, feel free to comment below. Or make your own list. That’s cool too.


Oh, and here’s a short list of anime I intentionally left off because I think something above represents what it does better (even if the thing that’s left off is a better product on the whole) or because it’s too uninspired to recommend.

Stuff I Intentionally Left Off: Madoka Magica, FLCL, Shakugan no Shana, Steins;Gate, Ghost in the Shell, Lupin III, Macross, Shuffle, Code Geass, Angel Beats, Black Lagoon, Satoshi Kon/Makoto Shinkai films, Yoshitori ABe anime

41 responses to “Essential Anime A Newbie Should Watch

  1. It’s hard to pick one show, but probably should have an example of the more modern style of “Anime comedy”, I personally prefer Baka to Test in this category.

    • Gintama’s already on the list. It’s parody-heavy, uses overreactions as punchlines, etc. etc. Perfect representation of those sorts of comedies right there.

      Also, I’d never recommend Baka to Test to a newcomer because aside from some visual tricks, I think it added no inspiration to the genre, nor defined anything that wasn’t defined before.

      • Right, Gintama is so very long, and I found the early episodes to be a drag.

        About Baka to Test, it added nothing, it’s true, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of all the tropes already existing, so serves as a one-spot-summary for the genre, in a way.

      • Haruhi already serves as a good one-spot summary for the genre. And whatever Baka Test adds is already defined better by some other stuff on this list. So no, not even considering it when I didn’t even bother to consider Shaft’s non-Madoka stuff.

  2. “But if you want to consider yourself a fan, it’d probably be helpful to have an opinion on these shows.”

    I have an opinion on Clannad, and that’s that I can’t be bothered wasting time of my life watching that kind of melodramatic sobfest.

    • I’m still mad at E7 for wasting 50 episodes of my life on something I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy, but so many people said “it’s fucking amazing. Watch it!” Bleh.

      • “The underdog romance/mecha story that touched a generation.” indeed!

        …haven’t seen that either. I’m not a completist fan, I just watch stuff that I have good reason to think I will like, and drop it as soon as possible if it turns out I was wrong.

    • Well this is just a general rec list regardless of personal preferences. You may not like Clannad or E7 (I sure don’t), but you can’t deny the former pretty much set the VN adaptation standards that stuff like S;G (and that’s pretty much it) would later improve on whilst the latter characterizes that sort of young love/adventure feel that most teen boys look whilst settling them into Bones’ usual traits (good/bad) easier than most of their other shows.

      • Oh, yeah, you’re probably right on all fronts. It’s just that I think this kind of dedication would almost be academic – studying anime as a medium surely would require knowledge of those two series. I simply never feel compelled to go that much in depth with my pastimes. Maybe because I already am an academic and honestly, when I’m off my job, I’m OFF.

  3. Good list, i think is just missing some historical thing like InuYasha.
    in romance/comedy category i would put Fruits Basket. I think is a very nice start.

  4. “Ranma 1/2 – If you indulge in 80s anime without having seen this, there is something wrong with you”

    Thanks but I think Urusei Yatsura will be all the old school Takahashi I need for now. Will probably just turn to the manga intstead and save 160+ eps worth of time

    • And yet you had no problem with City Hunter.

      Although truth be told, I’m having a hard time finishing the last fifteen episodes of the third Lupin series.

  5. Angel Beats! One of the best anime I’ve ever watched. Or one of the classic shonen (Hunter X Hunter, Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, InuYasha, Shaman King etc). Maybe some Tiger & Bunny (it was a incredibly refreshing title when I watched), Skip Beat, Sakamichi no Apollon. But anyway good list!

    • I think you need to watch Clannad before giving Angel Beats a shot. I already have Gintama for shonen. What Tiger and Bunny and Apollon represent are too niche. Kare Kano covers what Skip Beat does.

    • It’s the same as Clannad at how the protagonist helped sob little girls, but Clannad does it better, because of it’s long duration, we get more time to know the characters.
      Angel Beats is only 12 episode and the protagonist saved even more people than in Clannad. Let’s see. The guitarist girl who disappeared as soon as she finished her performance. We hardly know anything about her! What’s with the dramatic music? We hardly know anything about her loli replacement too, her story also finishes in one episode.

  6. Surprised Satoshi Kon is in the left-off list. You could probably argue that what he does is generally covered between the Miyazaki and Evangelion, but it seems to me it would be pretty significant for a newcomer to check out his stuff.

      • Does the same logic apply to Code Geass for you, or is it because you consider it a derivative work? I’d say CG is quite relevant for a newbie in merely “cultural” terms (aka getting references and citations to it, since it was quite impactful), though I can see how you wouldn’t consider it quintessential – not even to the genre on its own that is Sunrise mecha anime.

  7. I definitely feel like Trigun is a must-have on any anime-watcher’s list. It’s got a unique setting, comedy, action, a deep story underneath the surface, and it’s just a fun time (if you can get over the killing). Also, Psycho-Pass or Fate/Zero would be a good suggestion: Psycho-Pass shows just how far anime has come and how deep it can be, while Fate/Zero is a fantastic ride with outstanding ideas and visual scenes throughout.

  8. The ones that got me into anime were the original Ghost in the Shell, Akira, YuYu Hakusho and Ninja Scroll, Bebop and Big O. I would highly recommend any newcomers to watch these as they are all classics in my opinion.

  9. Ghost in the Shell narrates at me too much and it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the plot holes against the backdrop of exposition.

  10. Interesting list.Didnt like the idea of sidebenching CodeGeass,FLCL,Angel Beats,Black Lagoon.N where is Baccano?

  11. If I would like to add an anime in your list, that would be Love Hina which is considered as one of the pinnacles of harem based animes that is not from a visual novel.