11 Anime Series That Are Great to Binge Watch
Ah, binge-watching. My favorite sport. And now, due to COVID-19, it's kind of become everyone's sport.
Some series just work better if you watch a bunch of episodes in a row. Of course, a story like Puella Magi Madoka Magica is good because each episode flows into the next. But in this article on binge-worthy anime, I wanted to include those that have at least 26 episodes, allowing for hours and hours of entertainment. So get some coffee, make a blanket fort, and hunker down for my top 10 favorite anime series for binge-watching.
11. Naruto Shippuden
Even though there are many individual episodes that are boring, if you consume Naruto Shippuden by the overall narrative, it becomes much better. The interesting thing is that these episodes rarely have a self-contained story that ends when the episode ends. Instead, it's all one long epic tale that spans across many episodes. It's more serious and deep than other shows, and is better (in my opinion) than the original Naruto. The characters' traits that annoyed me in the original Naruto have been improved upon here. Most noticeably, Sakura has become a better fighter, less boy-obsessed, less cliche, and is on her way to becoming an expert healer. Naruto, on the other hand, has become less stupid, loud, and annoying. Isn't maturity a great thing?
10. Death Note
This one's not quite as long as the others on this list (I tend to think of long-runners as the ideal for binging because then you can watch them over the course of several sittings), but it does share the similarity of being more fun to watch in terms of arcs than in terms of individual episodes. Similarly to Shippuden, Death Note has episodes that flow into one another instead of any episode standing alone. You could even look on Wikipedia and find the episode list and plan your binges by breaking the show up by story arc. Plus, let's be honest, one of the drawbacks to this show is that the plot is convoluted and detailed as f*ck, so maybe if you watch episodes one right after the other, it will make more sense, because you won't forget as much between episodes.
I've always loved me a good slasher story with thrilling chases and creepy children, and oh boy does this show fit the bill. Boring protagonist Keiichi transfers to a school in a small town where the cute girls he meets are not all they seem. He uncovers the towns' dark secrets while trying to avoid becoming a victim of his classmates' insanity. Like other shows, this one is neatly broken up into story arcs, so watching a few episodes at a time is an ideal way to see this show.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion
I always notice something new every time I watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. While the show is good for if you want to obsessively over-analyze individual episodes or scenes, it also works surprisingly well for watching in sessions of three to five episodes at a time. It can roughly be broken down into four parts:
- Before Asuka Appears
- When Asuka Was a Brat
- The Part Where Sh*T Gets Weird
- The Part Where Sh*t Gets Even Weirder
For best results, I'd recommend watching End of Evangelion afterward.
7. Fairy Tail
Like with most long-running shounen series, Fairy Tail is best if watched by the arc or in chunks of episodes, instead of one episode at a time. Fairy Tail is light-hearted and fun—and like other shounen series, it focuses on friendships and character development. It's cute, funny, and the magic and monsters make it interesting.
6. Dragon Ball (Various Series)
Whether you watch Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super, the one I'm not going to mention because it sucked, or even the movies, the Dragon Ball universe is great if you want to just shut off your brain for a while and watch some hot, manly studs fighting each other in . . . midair . . . for some reason. To see a great fight, watch any single episode, but if you want to see them defeat the villains, you might be there a while. Magic and mayhem make this long-running story one unforgettable roller coaster ride.
5. Rurouni Kenshin
This classic samurai epic takes place in the Meiji Restoration period of Japanese history. This period saw the country open up to foreign influence and attempt to catch up to the West in terms of modernization and industrialization, eroding the traditional samurai way of life. The conflicts are essentially microcosms of the larger political strife within Japan, so each battle is like a struggle for Japan's soul. Like Dragon Ball Z or many shounen anime, in each episode, you're guaranteed a great fight. But it is good to watch a bunch of related episodes at once so you get more narrative detail.
I own the box set and have binged it a few times, including the movie, Badlands Rumble. This is a long, continuous story of Vash the Stampede fleeing from town to town as he is always being hunted by someone. It's about the grueling search for peace in a harsh society. I like the comedy in this show because it really does relieve the stress of the harrowing nature of what the main characters endure. While it may have mood whiplash, when Vash realizes he can't run from his past or his brother forever, that's when things get serious.
3. Black Butler
You've got to love the Victorian/Gothic atmosphere of this exciting anime about deals with the devil, serial killers, demons, and grim reapers—abounding in so much homo-erotic subtext you'd think it was written by Oscar Wilde. It's about the one family in town you do not mess with that solves crimes and investigates mysteries with both natural and supernatural causess
2. Sailor Moon/Sailor Moon Crystal
The original is just called Sailor Moon, with subsequent seasons being Sailor Moon S, SuperS, R, and Stars, the last of which was not released in the U.S. at first due to some of the subject matter being considered too taboo for American audiences at the time (having boys who transform into girls and back). The original series is a classic, and although the Monster of the Week formula can get tiring, the best way to watch this is several episodes at a time, so you can see more of the development of the plot. This is one of the best "girl power" fantasy shows, so if that's your thing, check this out. I like Crystal, the recent reboot, well enough, but it does kind of rush exposition and back story a bit, so it's better for fans who have already watched the original series enough to be already familiar with the characters and their stories. But, Crystal might be better if you want glamour, maturity, less goofy humor, and more epic fight scenes.
Other Anime to Binge-Watch
"Ghost in the Shell"
"Hayate the Combat Butler"
"Hellsing" and "Hellsing Ultimate"
"Sword Art Online"
"Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040"
"Ushio & Tora"
All Studio Ghibli Movies
1. Attack on Titan
This is a horror survival story about three young military recruits, Eren, Armin, and Mikasa, who are being trained to battle gigantic humanoid monsters called "Titans." Humanity knows very little about them, and it's dangerous to fight an enemy you don't understand. What we do know is that these things love to eat people, so when they breach one of three walls humanity has held them off with, it's an "oh sh*t!" moment for sure. This anime is engaging and suspenseful—and the violence has a strong emotional impact on the characters. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, it's easy to see the insane amount of violence in this show and write it off for that reason. But, also like Mad Max: Fury Road, it's more about the hope that the world can someday become a better place, and the grueling struggle to retain humanity in a brutal conflict, than a mere mindless display of gratuitous carnage.
Anime wouldn't be the same without the internet and binge-watching. Nothing beats a cozy evening or weekend in your pajamas while watching your favorite show. What you binge-watch really depends on your personality and what kinds of stories you like. If you want ultra-girly, go for Revolutionary Girl Utena, Sailor Moon, or Ouran High School Host Club. For intense drama and serious action, something like Attack on Titan might be better. Lucky for you, anime comes in all shapes and sizes. So happy binging!
© 2017 Rachael Lefler