15 Must-See Anime Series
I Love Anime
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 90's) 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), anime 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.
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 awhile since I've watched this but I enjoyed it so much that it has still stuck with me.
Bodacious Space Pirates Opening & Ending Song
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.
Inu x Boku SS
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 story 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.
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.
Episode 1 of Ouran HSHC (Subtitled)
4. Ouran High School Host Club
Here's a reverse harem anime about a girl 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 is 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!
TWOGK Season 2 Ending
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 character's 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.
Angel Beats Opening
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 series that needs to be seen. Be prepared to cry (if you're sensitive like me) or at least be moved, because it is 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 Hub though, I might have to give it a shot.
Scene from Sakurasou
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.
Black Butler Episode 1
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.
Speed Grapher Episode 1
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.
Medley from Kids on the Slope
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 getting 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 awhile 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.
More by this Author
List of anime series you may not have heard of, but would probably enjoy watching if you like coming of age comedy and dramas, romances, or anime in general.