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15 Must-See Anime Series

Sam enjoys crocheting, sculpting, DIY crafts, reading, writing, and traveling with her family.

Must watch anime series.

Must watch anime series.

Must Watch Anime Series

I have loved anime ever since the first time I saw an episode of Sailor Moon back when it was on the USA network. Of course, back then (We're talking early-mid 90s) cartoons were still just cartoons, and the only people who knew what the heck anime was were hanging out in comic book and hobby shops.

Since then, anime (and I'd say with the help of the internet) has become pretty mainstream. So much so that original Japanese names and music are being left alone in the translations and when you say "anime" most people will know exactly what you're talking about, even if they don't watch it themselves.

There are a bunch of anime series that are very popular in the US; Dragonball Z, Pokémon, and Naruto- just to name a few. Still, what are anime fans to do when they've grown tired of the popular mainstream anime series? Becoming active on anime forums and websites like Gaiaonline is one way to get familiar with different titles. But if you're like me and would really like to wind down with a show or two without putting too much effort into finding said show then lists are also a pretty good option.

So here's a list of 15 anime titles that I've either finished watching and still love or that I'm currently watching now. I tend to go for romance-comedies with a little action, some dramas, sci-fi, fantasy, obscure, a little perviness, and a cute, colourful style. So if that's not really your thing--these may not appeal to you. But if that sounds like something you're into then please proceed ahead!

These aren't in any special order- just whatever popped in my head first.

1. Kobato

This anime follows a young woman who must do good deeds in order to fill a jar with "kompeito." Once her jar is filled her wish to "go to the place she wants to go" will be granted. While filling her jar she befriends the workers and children of a kindergarten.

This is a CLAMP anime so nice artwork is to be expected. So is heartwarming romance and some crossover characters. If you're a fan of CLAMP's other works (like Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa, and Chobits), you'll enjoy this one too.

My favorite things about this anime are the romance, Kobato's song (it tears me up every time I hear it), the crossover characters, and the story. It's been a while since I've watched this but I enjoyed it so much that it has still stuck with me.

2. Bodacious Space Pirates

This anime takes place in the future where space travel is as easy and accessible to people as boating or sailing or taking a cruise. Due to measures that were taken during a space war, space pirating is now legal--granted the pirates fill out the appropriate paperwork. After a space pirate captain dies, his daughter, Marika, inherits his ship and position. The story follows Marika and her journey to becoming a great space pirate.

The art in his anime is pretty decent. The story is very interesting and definitely takes a different approach to the space pirate archetype.

I like this anime because it's fun and interesting, has a great cast of characters, and the music is pretty freaking awesome. I also love that the Serenity princesses look like Sailor Moon. I'm pretty positive that's no coincidence.

3. Inu x Boku SS

This anime takes place in an apartment building that is home to humans with demon ancestry. It follows a socially awkward demon girl and her Secret Service agent who is the descendent of the Nine Tail Fox.

The angst in this anime can be a bit annoying at times, but the humor usually makes up for it. The conflict in each episode is usually a bit of a joke, but the unfolding of the two main character's love stories is pretty interesting. I haven't watched the whole series yet but I know the manga is a bit complicated and sad, so it will be interesting to see how the story unfolds in the anime.

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I like the art, the depth of the characters--despite the foolish humor, and the music--especially the opening and when characters sing their own song at the end.

4. Ouran High School Host Club

Here's a reverse harem anime about a girl who is mistaken for a boy at her school and joins (or rather is humorously blackmailed into joining) a host club.

Although this is a story that has been done before in other anime series, mangas, and Asian dramas. I found that it was done so nicely in this show that it stood out from the others in a memorable way.

I love the humor and the various personalities of the characters (each fulfilling a beloved archetype in shoujo anime). This show was a great pick-me-up for stressful times. I enjoyed it so much I even bought my own Usa-chan. The twins also remind me of the Weasley twins from Harry Potter (they even have red hair!). Whether that's coincidental or not, I'm not sure- but it's still fun.

5. The Hentai Prince and The Stony Cat

This is a pretty new anime (it premiered in April, 2013) about a perverted high school student who prays to a stone cat to take it away. What follows is his journey and the misadventures of those around him to make sense of what the stone cat has given or taken away from them.

This is a cute anime with a well-balanced amount of humor and drama. I've never read the manga, but so far the anime is very entertaining with an interesting plot and fun characters. Despite the name, the pervertedness of the show is actually pretty tame.

I'm already invested in the story and characters and can't wait to see what else unfolds!

6. The World Only God Knows

In this anime, a gamer is unwillingly recruited by a demon to capture lost souls. The gamer uses his dating sim skills to win the hearts of the girls that the souls capture in order to push the souls out and capture them.

This anime is romantic, super funny, and drawn in a cute, smooth style that I really like.

When I first came across this anime, the title really threw me off. I thought, "what the heck could this be about?" And when I saw it was a comedy I was definitely intrigued! I love that the protagonist is so unconventional. A character like him is definitely not often portrayed as a hero- usually, his archetype is a nameless extra if ever portrayed at all.

I think it's pretty safe to say this is currently my number one favorite anime right now.

7. Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth

Croisée is an anime drama that follows a young Japanese girl who leaves her homeland to make a life in 19th century Paris, France.

This is an enchanting story that is beautifully drawn and full of deep characters you can't help but fall in love with. If you don't know much about the history of the time it gives you a little peek at French-Japanese relations and dynamics at the time.

I haven't watched this series for some time now, but it really stuck with me because I just found it so charming. The ending was a bit bittersweet for me, but it was acceptable. When the series finally came to a close I realized just how much I didn't want it to end! I had become so invested in the characters' lives, I just wanted to learn more.

8. Say "I Love You"

This anime is about an anti-social high school girl who falls in love with the school's most desirable and popular boy.

This drama storyline has been done before, but the way this particular anime addresses issues of bullying and the awkwardness of teen years makes this one special.

I really like how empowered the protagonist, Mei, is despite having been bullied in the past. I also love that her love interest, Yamato, is so cool and yet shamelessly encourages the underdogs. As an advocate for bully-free schools, I really appreciate this show because I think it shows people how horrible it is to be a bully and that you don't have to accept mistreatment if you are bullied.

9. Mawaru PenguinDrum

This is an extremely obscure, abstract anime about three siblings, two brothers and a younger sister. When Himari, the sister, dies during a trip to the aquarium her brothers make an agreement to find the PenguinDrum in order to bring her back to life and keep her alive.

This is a very strange anime that isn't predictable at all because it is just so obscure. You really need to check your perception of reality at the door if you want to get through this one, otherwise you are just going to get frustrated. There are a few cute tension-relieving funny moments, but mostly this is a dramatic tale full of death, betrayal, and angst, angst, angst.

I only started watching this anime because the style and cute little penguin sidekicks made me think it was a romance comedy of some sort- but it wasn't at all what I expected. To be honest, I'm not sure if I love it or hate it- it's just that bizarre.

10. Angel Beats

This anime follows a group of dead teenagers in their afterlife; stuck in a high school limbo. After having lived sad and difficult young lives the group, known as the SSS, decide to take this world as their own and rebel against the God that dealt them such harsh fates.

It is beautifully drawn with an original storyline. It's pretty comedic and lighthearted in the beginning (given the subject matter), but becomes increasingly more dramatic by the end.

I wasn't entirely pleased with the ending of this series because I feel they left a lot of things unsaid, but I still think it is a series that needs to be seen. Be prepared to cry (if you're sensitive like me) or at least be moved, because it is a very, very touching series.

11. Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl

Jiyu is your average high school girl, until she learns that she is the fated successor to Yagyu Jubei--the greatest samurai ever known. When Jiyu puts on the heart-shaped "lovely eye patch" she goes from typical high school teen to cutthroat samurai.

This anime is nicely drawn with some fun musical interludes. It is full of comedy, romance, action, and lightheartedness--but becomes a bit more dramatic near the end.

If Sailor Moon and Rurouni Kenshin had a baby it'd be Jubei-chan; it's magical girl meets action samurai. When I first started branching out from the mainstream, Jubei-chan was one of the first anime series I came across on my own. To this day, it's still one of my favorites.

There is a sequel to it as well, but I have yet to see it. After writing this article, though, I might have to give it a shot.

12. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Sakura Hall is the dorm for creative misfits--people who are "unfit" for the other normal dormitories. Sorata, an average high school boy, finds himself at Sakura Hall after taking home a kitten. He can't wait to get out of Sakura Hall until Shiina moves in and he is assigned to take care of her.

Sakurasou is funny, nicely drawn, and full of entertaining characters. Through its humor it shares some great coming of age advice on pursuing dreams, falling in love, and being true to your own self. There is some perviness, but it is very light and mostly for comedic purposes.

Honestly, I was about ready to drop this show after the first or second episode, but something told me to stick with it--and I'm so glad that I did. This is a great show for people who aren't really sure what they want to do with their life or who are afraid to pursue their dreams because of how they may be perceived. I came across this show at a very appropriate time because I myself have been dealing with those issues and this show has really motivated me.

13. Black Butler

Set in the Victorian Era, this anime is about a boy who enters into a contract with a demon after a fire destroys he boy's family, home, and takes his life. The demon acts as the boy's butler and together they pursue revenge on the arsonists that set the boy's home on fire.

There's action, drama, some comedy, and a little bit of romance. Though I'd label this as mostly an action anime.

After I saw this anime I wanted to name my son Ciel (after the protagonist), but learned that's more of a girl's name, haha. I really enjoyed this show and was quite sad when it ended, but it was done very well.

There is a sequel that I haven't seen yet, too. I'm not sure I will see it though since the characters are different and I don't know how I feel about that yet. I guess we'll see.

14. Speed Grapher

This anime follows Saiga, a former war photographer, who is trying to expose an underground fetish club of the wealthy. Saiga learns that the club is so much more than that after he is given powers by the club's "goddess" to destroy anything he shoots with his camera. Together Saiga and Kagura (the goddess), work to bring down the underground club and put an end to their dark plans.

This anime is pretty twisted and perverse. There are some pretty bizarre aspects to it too. It's action packed, with little room for anything else. The best part about it though is the story which completely absorbs you.

My sister and I finished this anime in one sitting because at the end of every episode we went straight to the next without pause. We HAD to know what happens next! It's quite a thrill ride.

15. Kids on the Slope

This takes place in Japan during the late 1960s. It follows the lives of a trio of unlikely friends brought together by jazz music.

It's a sentimental drama with love triangles galore, great music, and some every day humor. If you're a fan of Cowboy Bebop, you'll probably enjoy this since it's done by the same people.

My favorite parts are the jam sessions because the music is so nice. Love triangles are also a guilty pleasure of mine.

Some More Anime Titles

Here are some anime series that I like but didn't make the list for some reason or another.

High School of the Dead - This anime follows a group of High School students that are trying to survive after the zombie apocalypse has begun. The art is well done in my opinion and the story and characters are very good too. I didn't include it in the list because it is pretty well known, although not necessarily mainstream. I also didn't include it because zombies terrify me and I would have nightmares every time I watched this show. I wish that were a joke.

Sekirei - I actually really like Sekirei, but it's pretty much your typical harem-type anime with an extra dose of pervy fanservice. It's about a pretty average guy who is brought into this crazy world of Sekireis. Sekirei's are sexy fighter chicks with special skills to combat each other. All in all, the series is kind of like Tenchi Muyo meets Pokémon.

Fruits Basket - This is a really interesting story about a girl who befriends a boy that comes from an interesting family; when hugged by members of the opposite sex they turn into creatures of the Chinese zodiac. This is a great anime with a great story and decent art. Seriously, the only reason it wasn't included on the list is because IT WAS NEVER FINISHED! What the heck! It just stops right when it starts to get interesting! I was so angry when I found out, I swore I would never recommend it to anyone because I didn't want them to suffer the same fate as me. Despair! Of course, you could always read the manga to pick up where the anime left off.

Hare & Guu - This show is about the misadventures of two kids that live in the jungle. It's been a while since I've watched it so I wasn't sure if it'd make a good recommendation. It's funny and pretty random, although there is a storyline hidden in all the craziness.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why isn’t Maid-Sama on the list?

Answer: Maid-Sama is awesome. When I wrote this list, I wanted to include anime series that others may not have heard of yet. As you can see, this list is a bit old now, but a lot of these series are now quite popular.


sakura khim on January 16, 2020:

where i can find the episode 2 full with eng sub of kobato?

nightcorenaime on July 11, 2018:

is there any bl anime like ouran high and kiss him not me

ash on September 20, 2017:

i really liked Puella Magi Madoka Magica its a really cool anime check it out!

elvi on August 14, 2017:

Wait wait.. Kamisama hajimemashita must watch you know!!

Yuno on August 28, 2016:

WHAT?? Mirai Nikki is the best anime in the history of anime..

Junghn from Vancouver BC on May 10, 2015:

Kids on the slope! A great addition for sure. I haven't seen many of the others you've listed so I got a few to add to my list.

I highly recommend Ping Pong the Animation which seems to be slipping under the radar. A fantastic coming of age story with a refreshing change of animation style from what I'm used to seeing. Similar to Tekkon Kinkreet. 8.7 on myanimelist.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on April 16, 2015:

Thank you for the suggestions! I haven't seen a lot of those, so after I check them out, I'll consider updating this or creating a new list :)

kotobukijake on April 15, 2015:

Great list, and well-written hub overall. I've actually only seen about half of your picks, though I have Kobato, Bodacious Space Pirates, Speed Grapher and Kids on the Slope waiting to be watched in my collection, and I really want to see each one. Ouran High is indeed a classic, one of the few shows I've actually watched fully in the English dub (though I've also seen it in Japanese); Haruhi and Kiyoya are particularly memorable for me. I loved Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth; it's such a lovely little show, with phenomenal art and music. It's also worth mentioning that Sentai went ALL-OUT on their release, making it one of the best budget purchases out there for collectors. Penguindrum and Angel Beats! were both awesome; the former was the anime David Lynch would make if he were to make anime, and the latter was notable as one of the few shows I've seen that really needed a couple more episodes. I also enjoyed Black Butler; the second season was disappointing, but not so bad as I'd feared (I understand your worries though, since the show seems to END at the end of season one). I also enjoyed Sekirei (have not seen the second season of that one), and I fully agree that Fruits Basket was a great show that NEEDED a second season. Anyway, as to the omissions: there are five shows that definitely should be on any Top 15 list, and while you may have considered Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to be too mainstream, that still leaves Clannad: Afterstory, Bunny Drop, Kino's Journey and the greatest anime of all, Maison Ikkoku. Some other greats: Elfen Lied; Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei; Anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day; Genshiken; K-On!; and Arakawa Under the Bridge. Finally, I just finished two of the fall/winter shows that I'd unhesitatingly put on a list like this: Death Parade was great, and Shirobako is easily one of my new favorite anime. Again, enjoyed your hub, and I do look forward to checking out some of those shows eventually.

animeswarm on April 05, 2015:

Angel beats really touched my heart and frankly made cry a while. After the end I couldn't get the satisfaction of solving many questions that were left.

Naomi Starlight from Illinois on February 07, 2015:

Great hub! I'll have to remember this one for future ideas of what to watch because apart from Angel Beats and Black Butler, I haven't seen any of these.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 27, 2014:

Ah yes, Death Note is a great anime, but I was trying to list ones that are not as well known.

Amine san on October 27, 2014:

No death note, no party.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on May 20, 2014:

I have to admit, that's how I felt too. But it is too beautiful to be ignored.

Julio Tenorio on May 19, 2014:

Angel beats really touched my heart and frankly made cry a while. After the end I couldn't get the satisfaction of solving many questions that were left.

DChance on April 29, 2014:

I bought Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl years ago. It is so much fun to watch. I still don't like the ending too much but I love characters. The villains are amazing.

lily on April 20, 2014:

Honey & Clover

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 14, 2013:

Haven't seen it yet but I'll check it out. :)

anonymous on October 03, 2013:

Okay.. Where is Clannad??

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on July 29, 2013:

I haven't seen that yet, but I'll check it out! Thanks!

Lena S on July 28, 2013:

Have you ever watched Hunter x Hunter? I am watching the 2011 version, and loving it. If you have, what do you think of it?

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on June 22, 2013:

Wow that review was too awesome haha! Pretty accurate too. Thanks for sharing.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on June 22, 2013:

If you liked Fruits Basket you'll probably enjoy Inu x Boku SS and Kobato when you're ready to start watching something new. :)

Seet from California on June 21, 2013:

Thanks for the list, I am going to check out Black Butler.

You should check out gigguk's review on Highschool of the Dead, its really funny.

AZ Review: Highschool DxD

precy anza from USA on June 21, 2013:

Thanks for the list :) I remember those days I had finished watching "Fruit Basket" and I went on looking for something else to watch. It had made me laughing out loud. :) You're right about it. I am not satisfied either. Up and shared. When I have the time to start a new anime I'd be coming back here to see all your 15 suggested anime and choose which one I'll watch first. ^-^'

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