The Best Starter Anime Listed by Genre
What is this Animoo thing that my friend keeps raving about? Isn’t it just cartoons? It’s just for kids, right? Well, no longer do you need to ask yourself or enrage your friends by asking them those questions. I’ve compiled a list of the best starter anime for anyone willing to give it a chance. As a possible future Otaku (Japanese for nerd), you must understand that there are literally hundreds of thousands of anime out in the world. There is something for everyone! So, in order to keep this nice and easy for you (and my sanity), I have some ground rules.
First, for a show to make this list, it must be completed. I only looked at recommendations for under 100 episodes (sorry Naruto fans) and since opinions are subjective, this list is going to be very different than any other. I’m categorizing them by genre. Your friend may love Berserk but you can’t handle all of that gore and that’s totally okay! There is an anime out there for you! Also, in each genre, I’m going to list three choices. My choice as the top and two honorable mentions. Lastly, you need to know that many anime fall into multiple genres. I’m only sticking to main categories for this list but there are so many sub genres in the anime world. So, I figured, let’s stick with the basics. Now that we’ve laid out the ground rules, Lights, Camera….
Action anime are a thrill ride. Fighting, sword clashing, and guns blazing. If you enjoy superhero or martial arts movies, you’ll love this genre.
One Punch Man
One-Punch Man is a super hero who has trained so hard that his hair has fallen out, and who can overcome any enemy with one punch. However, because he is so strong, he has become bored and frustrated with winning all his battles so easily. (12 episodes)
This anime is a ton of fun. It pokes fun at superheroes and has a lovable main character. The animation is really great and One Punch Man’s reactions to things will have you rolling.
- Akame ga Kill (24 episodes)
- Darker than Black (26 episodes)
Move out! We need to gather these shards or go save the princess! The Adventure genre does just that. Mostly steeped in Fantasy, the main characters will usually be a bigger cast and have so much to do! If you enjoy platform type of games or shows like Lost or Game of Thrones, you’ll fit right in here.
Kazuma Satō is a hikikomori (shut-in) die-hard fan of games, anime, and manga. A traffic accident brings his disappointingly brief life to an end, or it should have, but he wakes up and sees a beautiful girl who introduces herself as a goddess. She asks him if he’d like to go to another world but he can only bring one thing with him. Kazumi chooses to bring the goddess. With that, he is transported to another world and his great adventure subjugating the demon king begins, but first the hard work of finding food, clothing, and shelter begins. Kazuma wants to live in peace, but the goddess raises one problem after another, and then the demon king’s army has its eyes set on him. (11 episodes)
I loved this anime so much! The main character is absolutely hilarious and the cast of wackos that join him are all troubled in some way or another from a Archwizard who can only cast one spell per day, to a Crusader who likes to get hit and take damage just a little TOO much.
- Norigami (12 episodes, 2 seasons)
- Gurren Lagann (27 episodes)
Love rolling on the floor? Enjoy that after work laughter? Obviously, Comedy would be the perfect genre for you. Everything from crazy randomness to romantic comedies are here and personally, I love the comedic timing in anime.
Nichijou (My Ordinary Life)
The ordinary life of the peculiar students from class 1-Q and their odd acquaintances. (26 episodes)
From the synopsis, My Ordinary Life sounds…well, ordinary but I can assure you that it is one of the most hilarious anime I’ve ever seen. You’ll see a guy wrestling a deer and the actual amazing reaction from getting bit by a dog in Japan. I can’t recommend this anime enough.
- Ouran Highschool Host Club (26 episodes)
- Baka and Test (13 episodes, 2 seasons)
Anime can really do Drama. For shows in this category, if you don’t cry, you have no soul. You’ll get attached and want the best for the characters only to see heartbreak and loss but in a good way….?
Your Lie in April
Kōsei Arima was a piano prodigy until his mother died when he was eleven years old. The shock of losing her made him lose any interest in piano, and his life has felt monotonous ever since. Then, when he’s fourteen, his childhood friend Tsubaki introduces him to her classmate Kaori, a free-spirited violinist. Her enthusiasm reignites his interest in music and in life. (22 episodes)
This anime is the epitome of drama. Every character has something going on and it is so good that you’ll never want to stop watching. Not only that but the animation and art is some of the best I’ve ever seen. I ended up binge watching the entire show over a weekend. I love my sleep but I was so invested that I nearly forgot to sleep!
- Clannad (24 episodes, 2 anime)
- NaNa (47 episodes)
Slice of Life:
Have you ever wondered what life was like in Japan? Look no further! Slice of Life focuses on the everyday life of Japanese citizens. Falling in love, going to school, and even running a business. Don’t worry though. It’s not a monotonous watch. Anime has an amazing way of entertaining even the simplest moments.
Watamote! (No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!)
Tomoko Kuroki is about as socially dysfunctional as it is possible for a first year high school girl to be. We start the story when she realizes she has attended high school for three months without even talking to anyone at all. Not all is lost, however, since she is irrepressibly optimistic about her chances to turn it around and live a fulfilling high school life. (12 episodes)
Watamote! (The Japanese name is so long, they shortened the name) takes the smallest details such as a teacher saying hello and shows you a shy girl’s reaction to it. Don’t be fooled though. In her head, Kuroki is awesome and it’s everyone else’s fault that they don’t see it.
- K-On! (21 episodes)
- Daily Lives of High School Boys (23 episodes)
Dungeons, mages, dragons, alternate universes, timelines, and busty elves. The Fantasy genre is your Japanese gateway to all of it. It’s so vast that they have many different sub genres just to categorize them. The new style is called “Seinen” or Other World anime that places the main character in some sort of new world. Often times, a video game world that they played in real life! Pretty interesting concepts.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Two brothers lose their mother to an incurable disease. With the power of “alchemy”, they use taboo knowledge to resurrect her. The process fails, and as a toll for using this type of alchemy, the older brother, Edward Elric loses his left leg while the younger brother, Alphonse Elric loses his entire body. To save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm and is able to affix his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. With the help of a family friend, Edward receives metal limbs – “automail” – to replace his lost ones. With that, Edward vows to search for the Philosopher’s Stone to return the brothers to their original bodies, even if it means becoming a “State Alchemist”, one who uses his/her alchemy for the military. (64 episodes)
FMA stands at the top of MANY peoples’ top anime lists and it deserves that spot. There are 2 FMA anime that were made and both are very very good. However, the original takes liberties and changes the story about halfway through. That’s why I recommend Brotherhood. It follows the manga (original story) fully.
- No Game No Life (12 episodes)
- Sword Art Online (25 episodes)
The reason why magic has its own category is because Fantasy is just too vast. There are so many magic anime out there. Wizards, magicians, witches, and so much more. Anime is all over it. They even have their own type called “Magical Girl” anime. These have girls gain superpowers through a magical item and fight against evil. I wish we had a style like this in America since more young girls need strong female role models to look up to.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
After experiencing a bizarre dream, Madoka Kaname, a kind 14-year-old girl, encounters a magical creature named Kyube. Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki are offered the opportunity of gaining magical powers if they agree to make a contract with the strange little being. He will also grant them one wish, but in exchange they shall risk their lives by accepting the responsibility of fighting witches. Invisible to human eyes, witches are catalysts of despair in the areas they inhabit. An ally of Kyube, a magical girl named Mami Tomoe, befriends and encourages the two girls to accept the contract. For an unknown reason, another magical girl named Homura Akemi is determined to prevent Madoka from accepting the deal. (12 episodes)
Madoka Magica seems like a lighthearted affair as you get introduced to the characters in the first few episodes but it is far from that. Things go pretty dark soon after that and make this anime good for anyone despite the magical girl setting.
- Little Witch Academia (25 episodes)
- Familiar of Zero (13 episodes, 4 seasons)
This has nothing to do with Dean and Sam. Although, it has everything to do with what they fight. Demons, ghosts, and monsters. This genre doesn’t need to have the horror aspect to them. Just the supernatural. There are horror anime and we will get to those in a moment.
Humans live in the world of Assiah, demons in Gehenna. The two dimensions are not meant to interfere with each other, but demons still possess creatures in Assiah in spite of this. The humans who can fight these demons are known as exorcists. Rin Okumura is a boy who bears the curse of being Satan’s illegitimate son. His foster father sacrificed himself to save him from demons. To avenge his foster father’s death as well as to prove himself, Rin decides to follow the path of an exorcist. (25 episodes, 2 seasons)
Blue Exorcist dips into a lot of religious themes (Rin is Satan’s son after all) but it doesn’t bog down the story or throw it in your face too much. The art is beautiful and character progression throughout the story is spot on. The 2nd season dives deeper into some of the side characters that you meet and takes the art up a notch.
- Elfen Lied (13 episodes)
- Ghost Stories (22 episodes ONLY WATCH ENGLISH VERSION)
Told ya we would get to it. This genre brings the gore and the hardcore. If you love movies like the Grudge and Ring then you know exactly how far Japanese horror can go.
When Kōichi Sasakibara transfers to his new school, he can sense something frightening in the atmosphere of his new class, a secret none of them will talk about. At the center is the beautiful girl Mei Misaki. Kōichi is immediately drawn to her mysterious aura, but then he begins to realize that no one else in the class is aware of her presence. (13 episodes)
The roller coaster starts at the first episode and doesn’t stop all the way through. Another will keep you guessing and trying to figure out what exactly is happening to this class. Just beware, this anime is bloody.
- Tokyo Ghoul (12 episodes)
- Parasyte -The Maxim- (24 episodes)
Love Criminal Minds, CSI, Law and Order? This genre might be perfect for you. My absolute favorite is Detective Conan and I just had to put it as an honorable mention for this genre because if you really love mysteries, it’s a necessity even if it breaks my rule of less than 100 episodes. The nearly 900+ are worth watching since they do such an amazing job of giving you crazy but still realistic ways of how the suspect did it.
Satoru Fujinuma is a struggling manga artist who has the ability to turn back time and prevent deaths. When his mother is killed he turns back time to solve the mystery, but ends up back in elementary school, just before the disappearance of his classmate Kayo. (12 episodes)
To make sure I follow my rules, This is the anime I recommend (highly) for someone just getting into this realm. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The only complaint I can have is that I was hoping for a different ending. However, that is just me being nitpicky about what I still consider a fantastic watch.
- Detective Conan (910 episodes, 25 movies. VERY popular in Japan. Please don’t call this Case Closed or watch the English version..)
- Monster (74 episodes)
The Psychological genre really messes with your head. Things are not the way they seem and/or will make you really question existence as you know it. If you’re a fan of Memento, Inception, and Fight Club, these dark alleys of the mind anime are just for you.
Yagami Light is an ace student with great prospects, who’s bored out of his mind. One day he finds the ‘Death Note’: a notebook from the realm of the Death Gods, with the power to kill people in any way he desires. With the Death Note in hand, Light decides to create his perfect world, without crime or criminals. However, when criminals start dropping dead one by one, the authorities send the legendary Detective L to track down the killer, and a battle of wits, deception and logic ensues…(39 episodes)
I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys, I’m not a major fan of this genre. I try my hardest to get into them but I just can’t. Many many others that I’ve discussed this with swear up and down that Death Note is a very good anime but I haven’t seen it myself. I’ll trust those that love this type of anime though. If you disagree or have any other suggestions for me, let me know in the comments and I’ll give them a try.
- Paranoia Agent (13 episodes)
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (26 episodes)
‘Tis torture for a river of love to flow in only one direction. Everything from Shakespeare (Yes, there is a Romeo and Juliet anime) to Rom Coms are here. Snuggle up with your significant other and enjoy the tug of your heart strings as you watch the struggles of “Will they? Won’t they?” and will that triangle, square, octagon ever break so MY OTP can be together!!! *ahem* excuse me…
Despite Ryuji Takasu’s gentle personality, his eyes make him look like an intimidating delinquent. Class rearrangements on his second high school year put him together with his best friend, Yusaku Kitamura, and his hidden crush, Minori Kushieda. Along with these two comes Kushieda’s best friend, Taiga Aisaka. Her delicate appearance contrasts with her brutal personality. Secretly in love with Kitamura, Taiga agrees to help Ryuji with his love interest as long as he helps her get closer to hers. (25 episodes)
Toradora! is a classic. It is consistently on top anime lists for romantic comedies and the characters are lovable with plenty of growth throughout the show. It is a bit on the older side (original air date is 2008) so, the art is a bit outdated.
- Golden Time (24 episodes)
- MY Love Story!! (24 episodes)
Space ships, mecha, and crazy science. This genre is perfect for the Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who fans. Don’t hate me for not putting Gundam as a recommendation. I didn’t because there are way too many series in the franchise and to recommend specific ones, we would need an entire article just on them! So, with that in mind….
Spike Spiegel, a bounty Hunter with a dark past, lives on bounty to bounty, barely making it each time, or not making it at all. His partners Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed and Ein the dog all help him in his adventures from planet to planet. (27 episodes)
This is the anime that started it all for me. I first watched Cowboy Bebop in high school and it was so easy to get into because of it’s heavy influence in old western mixed with outer space. Honestly, if you loved Firefly, you will absolutely love this anime. Not only the main characters but the villains are a very deeply layered masterpiece and the art still holds up even after nearly 20 years since its original run.
- Psycho-Pass (22 episodes)
- Trigun (26 episodes)
As we come to a close, I have to mention again that if you are just starting out in this massive world of anime, don’t get overwhelmed. Just be whelmed. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your watch list will get smaller as time goes on. If you still don’t become a fan after giving some of these a try, that’s totally okay! Leave a comment down below and let me know what your interests are and I will do my best to try and find something for you! This list was compiled from my personal experiences and what I think would best fit in each genre but as I said above; from hundreds of thousands to choose from, there is definitely something for everyone.