Many people somehow grew up watching some form of anime, most likely not knowing what it was at the time. Anime is any form of animation native to Japan.
Whether it was Generation X who grew up on “Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac”, millennials who grew up on “Sailor Moon” and “Pokémon”, Generation Z who grew up on “Naruto” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!”, or the generation-spanning appeal of the cultural juggernaut known as “Dragon Ball,” anime has had a long-standing presence in Western media.
With the airing of several Japanese shows to American TV networks in the 2000s, such as Toonzai, and a select few aired on Cartoon Network and Fox Kids/Jetix regular programs, as well as the rise of the Internet and streaming platforms, anime reached a wider audience.
By the 2010s, watching anime wasn’t the preserve of geeks. Everyone started to notice the appeal of anime and the impact it had on popular culture. According to Our Culture magazine, it is estimated that “more than 60% of animated shows broadcast around the world originate in Japan.
Apart from the unique art style, perhaps the most notable feature of anime, with its sharp lines, exaggerated expressions and color palette, what also attracts adults to anime is the mature writing and themes compared to western cartoons, which are marketed for children or explicit comedy shows for adults.
Anime shows tend to be much more layered, with a variety of genres ranging from comedy, romance, and adventure to suspense and psychological thrillers, which are rarely one-dimensional. Some shows strike a tender balance between light-hearted comedic moments and serious emotional character arcs that address themes of grief, social injustice, and even taboos like sexuality and violence. This greater variety is what makes anime so successful. There are shows for all tastes.
It is important to note that anime requires an open mind to fully appreciate it. The culture gap between Japanese and Western audiences leads to quite objectionable aspects of the medium, particularly the over-sexualization of female characters and how lightly they are treated. Anime can also get really weird, which can turn off some audiences.
This binge-watch list aims to give you a taste of what the medium has to offer: colorful, well-developed characters, amazing world-building, beautiful animations, mesmerizing music, and brilliant storytelling.
Cowboy Bebop (1998)
This space western directed by Shinichirō Watanabe is highly regarded as one of the shows responsible for popularizing anime in the west thanks to its charismatic cast of characters and pioneering English dubbing. One of the last entirely hand-drawn animations before most studios moved to digital animation, studio Sunrise injects a heavy neo-noir style that envelops the entire show, balancing existential themes, light-hearted comedy and compelling action thrown together. held by Yoko Kanno’s iconic music score. Fifteen years later, Cowboy Bebop’s legacy has not diminished and continues to leave his footprint in pop culture.
Gurren Lagann (2007)
Gurren Lagann, made by the same studio that made Evangelion, but this time directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, is also a Mecha anime, but much lighter than Evangelion. It is centered on a dystopian future where people are forced to live underground by an evil ruler, but a pair of brothers discover a gunship that allows them to surface and revolt against the ruler’s army. Together with a colorful cast of characters, they team up to liberate all of humanity in a show that never slows the pace and delivers high adrenaline in every episode. The animation is absolutely fantastic with each character in a unique design and each battle is a non-stop blast that always holds the viewer’s attention.
Featuring arguably one of the most iconic and relatable premise in anime history, studio Madhouse’s supernatural crime thriller remains one of the most captivating and thought-provoking shows of the past few decades. Centered around a high school student’s discovery of a magical notebook, which allows him to kill anyone whose name is on it and the moral quandary surrounding his goal to rid the world of all criminals, the show captivates viewers with a cat-and-mouse game between Light Yagami and the investigative team, led by the enigmatic L, try to uncover his methods and bring him to justice.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
This Hideaki Anno-directed classic is hailed as one of the most influential anime of all time, and with good reason. Produced by Gainax, Evangelion has been the subject of analysis and discussion to this day, regarding its dystopian and philosophical themes, as well as its controversial ending. Behind these complex themes and character studies lies an entertaining and action-packed production that is still popular more than 20 years later.
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Another Shinichirō Watanabe masterpiece, this time produced by Studio Manglobe, this unique adventure show combines an Edo period samurai setting with a modern hip-hop inspired soundtrack and style that surprisingly creates a timeless work. The show even inspired Western shows, such as Aaron Macgruder’s adult comedy show, The Boondocks. Samurai Champloo, follows a young girl and her two swordsman bodyguards who travel across Japan in search of an ancient samurai. Rather episodic in nature, the show mainly focuses on the high jinks the group encounters on their journey, leading to both comedic moments and stunningly choreographed sword fights.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)
A Bones studio production, Brotherhood is a remake of the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime that aired in 2003, but with a more faithful rendition of the source material. In this steampunk-inspired world where humans can use the science of alchemy for combat and other uses, the Elric brothers search for the philosopher’s stone while trying to get their bodies back after failing to bring their mother back to life. wake up. The show’s themes of sacrifice and humanity are beautifully woven between the heart-pounding action sequences and deep character moments.
Soul Eater (2008)
Bones Studio creates a stunning gothic world in this dark fantasy action show. In a world where humans can transform into weapons and team up with other humans skilled enough to wield them, the story revolves around the students of Death Weapon Meister Academy led by the Grim Reaper himself. They train to collect the souls of witches and become “deadly scythes,” weapons powerful enough to be wielded by Death itself. While fairly comedic in nature, the story shifts into second gear to deliver a high-stakes, high-adrenaline show that oozes style in every corner.