A travel writer living in Japan, Steve spends his downtime delving into the world of Japanese entertainment.
The Best Anime for People Who Don't Like Anime
You may have had that die-hard anime friend sit you down, put on their favorite show, and say, "You're going to love this!" But then you don't.
It can be difficult to get into anime, but don't give up yet! There is plenty of anime out there perfect for people who don't like anime.
Here are nine anime series that, in my opinion, regardless of your taste, anyone can enjoy!
1. Death Note (2006) (37 Episodes)
While Death Note’s immense popularity has caused it to fall out of favor with most anime fans this decade, looking back, it still holds up as a classic. Packed with suspense, drama, and nail-biting plot twists, each element of the story is perfectly timed to allow the viewer breathing room before the rug is pulled again and again. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!
2. Berserk (1997) (25 Episodes)
A dark fantasy that rivals the medieval horror of Game of Thrones, Berserk is a masterful demonstration of the purest genre of storytelling—tragedy.
Unlike some of the flasher inclusions on this list, Berserk’s age shows. A questionable number of stills, badly drawn blood and gore, and animation mistakes are rife throughout. But Berserk has a soul.
If people from the Middle Ages could produce anime, Berserk is what they would make. It feels genuine, personal, and rough. You’ll remember the characters long after finishing the series.
3. Kaiji (2008) (52 Episodes)
Kaiji is a gambling addict telling their story. The crushing pain of the lows and the unmatched ecstasy of the highs, Kaiji shows it all. There are no pretty women, cute creatures, or even nice people in Kaiji because none of those exist if you are a Japanese man in your 20s who can’t catch a break.
While watching nine episodes revolving around paper/scissors/rock and over half a season about pachinko would never work in a conventional TV series, Kaiji makes every second nail-biting. This is truly something you’d never see anywhere else but in anime.
4. Serial Experiments Lain (1998) (13 Episodes)
Serial Experiments Lain’s complex and surreal vision of the world wide web is more relevant today than ever—despite its 1998 release date. Its rudimentary prediction of today’s internet culture, which includes cyber-bullying, online personas, and digital addiction, are all hauntingly accurate.
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Even if you don't ‘get’ Lain’s bizarre story, its direction and sound design are enough alone to draw in anyone who enjoys the works of directors such as David Lynch. They don’t make anime like this anymore.
5. Baccano! (2007) (16 Episodes)
Baccano is essential viewing for fans of mafia flicks. Its gimmick lies in its unique storytelling, whereby the entire series is randomized. Imagine someone wrote a script, threw each page in the air, and haphazardly collected them all. They then hand it over to the director as it is. This is the Baccano experience!
It takes about three episodes just to start understanding character relationships, not to mention the plot. It’s all worth it, though, as Baccano’s fresh take on the dead genre is both a love letter to gangster flicks as well as an exercise in extreme disorder.
6. Cowboy Bebop (1998) (26 Episodes + Movie)
Effortlessly merging everything that represents blues with a space opera setting, Bebop breathes new life into both outdated genres. A typical entry to any "best anime" list that is deep, honest, funny, and without pretentiousness. There’s not much to say about Bebop that hasn’t already been said. The series holds a place in the anime community that can never be argued against. An untouchable classic.
7. Detroit Metal City (2008) (12 Episodes)
With a certain indie feeling to it, Detroit Metal City is the most un-anime anime on this list. An unapologetic and hilarious exposure into the campiness of heavy metal, DMC is one of the only Japanese comedies I actually find funny. Japanese comedy has never clicked with me, usually being too immature or lame, but DMC was clearly written by someone with a great sense of humor.
With only 12 episodes of 10 minutes in length, the only downside to this series is that it finishes too soon. The re-watch value is high, though!
8. Devilman: Crybaby (2018) (10 Episodes)
2018’s Devilman: Crybaby is the first time since Bebop (or its sister series Champloo) that anime has been cool. Crybaby oozes stylish edge, with director Masaaki Yuasa reviving the dorky '70s battle manga for the millennial generation. On the surface, Devilman appears convoluted, revolting, and juvenile. It is. But under the initial facade of gore, guns, rap, and nudity is a carefully crafted narrative told in a way that seems to put style over substance but later reveals vast depth.
9. The Tatami Galaxy (2010) (11 Episodes)
The Tatami Galaxy’s masterfully constructed narrative is warped by Devilman director Masaaki Yuasa into a visceral exhibition of art in animation. Each episode restarts the story with our unnamed protagonist’s first day of college. Each time the outcome is predictably regrettable, and the circumstances are blamed on this first day.
The Tatami Galaxy shows how the choices we make are a result of ourselves, not the other way around. You made that choice. It was the culmination of everything you. Even if you could go back and make another, with your personality and conduct, would things be different? If you're looking for anime with depth, this is where to start!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.