Anime has quickly become a global phenomenon and has risen to the top of the animation world. Between intricate storylines, over-the-top animation, and mind-blowing world-building, anime has been the one place that guarantees that a short attention span is no problem.
For those new to the genre, getting comfortable reading subtitles is only one small barrier to unlocking an entirely new world. Ranging from the classics to more modern shows, here are a few critically acclaimed shows to get started with.
With the first episode of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba released in 2019, the relatively new show has taken the world by storm and solidified itself as a modern classic. The series was first introduced to the world as a manga comic and quickly became a fan favorite through its TV series and film.
As a result of a demon epidemic, a young Tanjiro Kamado takes on the quest to avenge his family, all whilst searching for a cure for his sister. Besides the ambitious premise, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaibapays homage to Japanese artistry and offers stunning visuals of sword choreography. With the recent release of its film, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train, making over half a billion dollars at the box office, now is not the time to miss out on something this good.
Stream Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba on Funimation, Crunchyroll, Hulu, or Netflix.
As one of the classics, Cowboy Bebop has been unmoved as the highest-rated anime series of all time. Following a group of bounty hunters who hop across the Solar System in their ship, the Bebop, the show navigates ideas of existentialism and the search to belong amidst a collection of misfits. Described as a blend of sci-fi cyberpunk, Western, and neo-noir, the series is a chaotic mix of unexpecting and exciting.
The show is easily binge-able, with 26 half-hour episodes in one compact season. Gaining a score of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes, Cowboy Bebop is easily accessible yet universally acclaimed, perfect for those looking to enter the world of anime.
Stream Cowboy Bebop on Funimation, Crunchyroll, Hulu, or Netflix.
Jujutsu Kaisen may be fresh off the press, but it has already made an impressive mark in the anime world. Released in late 2020, viewership of the show has skyrocketed past many of its current peers. Detailing a young sorcerer's journey to exorcise a demon he consumed, Jujutsu Kaisen also comments on deeper links between the soul and the body.
As a gripping dark fantasy, this series is perfect for fans of the occult. Supplying an array of stunning animation, compelling characters, and gory fight scenes, Jujutsu Kaisen is suited for beginners entering the modern generation of anime. Viewers looking to sample the show could enjoy its prequel in film form, Jujutsu Kaisen 0. Expect season 2 of Jujutsu Kaisen to be released in 2023.
This steampunk dark fantasy series is a complex tale of grief, war, and moral ethics. Through alchemy, two brothers tamper with mortality and must seek to restore their physical bodies following the skewed experiment to bring their mother back to life.
With episodes only running for 12-18 minutes, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is quick yet effective with storytelling. It paces beautifully, with each character arc flowing freeing into one another, and utilizes its time to detail the powerful bond between the brothers. Another series with a 100 on Rotten Tomatoes, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is here to impress and guaranteed to tug at heartstrings.
Attack on Titan is another wildly popular series that has taken the world by storm. The series explores darker and heavier themes, depicting a violent dystopia where humanity has walled off cities in a war with colossal, flesh-eating Titans. Gritty and heart-stopping, Attack on Titan is a mental challenge that takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster.
Visually unlike anything else, the series produces a dynamic space by experimenting with scale and size. Attack on Titan sports a more graphic aesthetic, where the uncanny humanoid titans and their barbaric nature border disturbing more than intriguing. As violent and brutal as the show may be, its well-rounded nature and near-perfect acclaim have won many over as another modern classic.
For those here for the long haul, Naruto: Shippuden is another classic that has carved out a league of its own in pop culture. Having a show run spanning a decade with exactly 500 episodes, Naruto: Shippuden is a part of the Big Three Shonen that globally popularized anime. The premise deals with Naruto's coming of age and his journey to master his skill as a ninja to become the head of his village.
Naruto sees the hero’s journey to its fullest extent, with many long-time fans voicing how growing up alongside this show has shaped who they are. Beyond its sentimentality, the show also boasts some of the most iconic hand combat animation in anime history. The series is more easy-going and perfect as a starter to anime.
Another classic series that put anime on the map, Death Note is a broody crime thriller that tinkers with life, mortality, and the idea of justice at the hands of karma. Light Yagami is a young vigilante who comes across the Death Note, a book in which any name inscribed will face death.
Alongside a Shinigami spirit (Grim Reaper equivalent), what Light does with the Death Note is a critical commentary on personal ethics and how power and ego influence the role of playing God. With elements of horror and thriller, the series entices viewers with just enough emotional damage to keep coming back. Yet another series with a perfect Rotten Tomatoes rating, Death Note is a twisted, mind-bending game of cat and mouse.
Take a deep breath before heading into the flashy world of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, because bizarre it is, indeed. The series follows the many descendants of the odd Joestar family, who take down forces of evil with powers passed down from a generational curse. The show is known for its quirky humor and eyebrow-raising absurdity.
The show travels through different eras with different members of the Joestar family in eight split volumes. Each season increasingly becomes more vibrant and slowly uncovers how the curse came to be. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure feels like a fever dream, from its campy fashion to its theatrical villains.
Perfect for science-fiction fans, Steins;Gate is a cerebral adventure on time travel, exploring the classic theory that something altered in the past will change its future. Situated in the gadgety Japanese district of Akihabara, three friends tip-toe into the future and send text messages back into the past to adjust their fates.
When one slip up can trigger an entire butterfly effect, the choices made in Steins;Gate is nothing short of anxiety-inducing. The show is a heartfelt thrill containing complex character dynamics and requires viewers to use active thinking.
Another series of the Big Three Shonen, Bleach is a classic for those who love action, adventure, and anything supernatural. Set around angsty teenager Ichigo Kurasaki, Bleach follows his journey as he inherits the abilities of a Soul Reaper and must harness these skills for good.
Filled with sword fights and one-too-many sexual innuendos, Bleach is a smug teenager’s fantasy. For a series that covers many themes rooted in graphic and heavy material, it still manages to have a tongue-in-cheek air about it. Bleach may run for a lengthy 366 episodes, but is a reliant and essential viewing for those digging their teeth into anime culture.