Anime is more mainstream than it has ever been in its history. Look all around you and you'll see anime DVDs being sold from every outlet alongside merchandise as far as the eye can see. In fact, I would argue that now is the absolute best time to get into anime for that very reason!
The issue is that by this point, anime is already over 50 years old, which means there are literally thousands of titles to sift through with another couple of dozen being added to that list every three months. Anime isn't a short sprint, anime is a lifelong marathon of always being behind in your viewing (which, by the way, is the fun part). So, faced with a seemingly insurmountable mountain ahead of you, how does one even begin? Read on for a handy step-by-step guide on how to dive headfirst into the world of anime!
How Will You Watch Your Anime?
Here's the wonderful thing about watching anime right now… you have literally limitless options when it comes to which path you want to follow. Say you want to collect titles for your home movie library so that you can have a hard copy of a title that may not be streaming forever. In that case, your journey begins at your local or favorite online geek retailer searching through the thousands of different titles that are available to purchase right now.
Maybe you don't want to start collecting hard copies of anime, but you also don't want to wait for new episodes to appear. In this case, you'd head to your nearest anime streaming service (we'll get into those a bit later on) and tune in to one of the many titles that are available to binge through from start to finish.
Then there are the people who don't want to sink a large portion of each week into watching anime and would rather just watch one or two episodes a week. At that point, those people would be best served to do research into which anime is airing in the current season and is still being released bit by bit on a weekly basis.
No matter how you want to consume your anime, there are no real wrong ways to go about it. Anime is one of those great hobbies where you can devote as much or as little time to it as you so desire and still always be devoting exactly the right amount to it.
Now that we've decided how you want to watch your anime, we can get to the really fun part… what exactly are you going to watch?
Research, Research, Research
As has been stated, there are literally thousands of anime out there with some real stinkers sprinkled in along the way. The question is, how do you find the gems before all the duds weigh you down and make you want to give up?
At this point, you should research what is out there that is similar to what you already like. Anime is wonderful, but it's also weird. Like super weird. And it's best to ease into that rather than taking a polar jump into the arctic ocean.
Start by making a list (it can be mental, it's not like we're trying to do advanced algebra here) of the television programs and movies that you love. What do you love about these titles? Is it because they make you laugh? Or think hard? Or feel something that you didn't know was inside of you? The odds are very good that you'll find something equivalent in anime that will do the same thing for you if you're willing to look for it.
Beginner Anime Cheat Sheet
It's entirely possible, however, that the entire reason you're reading this article, to begin with, is that you don't want to do a lot of research into what to watch. You just know that you have a passing interest in the hobby and want to check something out to see if it's right for you. That's totally fair.
In that case, here are a few starter titles from various genres to help kick start your journey into the world of anime:
Comedy is the hardest genre to recommend anything for because humor is such a subjective form of entertainment. Despite this, here are a couple of laugh out loud funny titles that are suitable for beginners:
The Devil is a Part-Timer - In this series, the main character is a demon king who rules over the world of Ente Isla with an iron fist. When the hero Emilia chases him from his world to Japan, the now-former demon king must get a job in a fast-food restaurant in order to survive.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War - This romantic comedy is all about making the other person figuratively tap out and admit their romantic feelings for the other. Following the top two students at an elite school, Kaguya and Miyuki, who lead the student council as vice president and president, respectively. The good news about these two is that they are in love with each other. The bad news is that they both have too much pride to be the first to admit it. Thus begins an eternal battle of wits to see which one can make the other confess first.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime - In this fantasy isekai comedy, an office worker is stabbed on the street in a random act of violence and dies. Instead of heading for the afterlife, however, he is transported to a fantasy world and reincarnated as a lowly slime with only a few basic powers. Luckily for him, one of those powers allows him to adopt the qualities of anything he absorbs into his slime body, which leads to him becoming the most powerful slime in this unknown world.
If there's one thing that anime can do better than almost any other medium, it's make an audience feel and think deeply about something.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - The primary law of alchemy is that of equivalent exchange. Whatever you try to create through alchemy requires an equal exchange. Two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, learn this the hard way one night when they try to use alchemy to revive their dead mother. Instead, the younger brother Alphonse loses his entire body and Edward loses an arm and a leg in exchange for being able to affix his brother's soul to a suit of armor. After the tragic incident, Ed and Al join the State Alchemists and embark on an almost never-ending quest to restore their bodies back to their original forms.
Violet Evergarden - When she was young, Violet was used as a disposable weapon of war. She knew no kindness in her life until a military officer named Gilbert gave her a name and taught her how to read and write. After Violet is injured in combat and cannot return to the war, she starts a new life as an Auto Memories Doll or someone who writes letters for other people to help express the feelings that are in their hearts.
Made in Abyss - In this dark fantasy, the story takes place in a world with an enormous abyss that is largely unexplored. The main character is a young orphan girl named Riko who dreams of exploring the pit and finding her parents. After she meets a young robot boy, the pair team up in order to explore the depths and go further down than anyone ever has before.
The good, the bad, the perverted. We've all heard about these series in hushed whispers. Here are some of the best:
Food Wars - The endless shonen battle formula gets a foodie twist! In this hype battle series, food is the name of the game as a teenage chef named Yukihira Souma enrolls at an elite cooking school that has a very low graduation rate. There he will do battle against other chefs who consider themselves the best of the best.
Haganai - Poor Kodaka just wants to make friends, but because of his natural blond hair and a series of misunderstandings on his first day of school, he's ostracized and feared by everyone around him. Luckily for him, there are other people in his class who feel the same way, and so they start the "Neighbors Club" to make new friends. If only they knew what to do after that.
Is This a Zombie? - This is an example of what happens when multiple tropes are thrown into the anime blender and the results get thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Luckily for everyone, the result isn't a complete disaster.
In Is This a Zombie?, the main character is a real-life living zombie named Ayumu. Having been murdered by a serial killer, he is resurrected by a mute necromancer named Eucliwood. This is followed by Ayumu accidentally stealing the powers of a magical girl and having a hostile vampire ninja move in just for good measure.
Either high fantasy or low fantasy, anime has a bit of everything for any tastes.
Attack on Titan - Love it or hate it, this is one of the most popular franchises in the world. Attack on Titan features a dark story where humanity has been driven inside of walled cities because, in the outside world, giant monsters called Titans roam freely. One day, the walls of one of these cities are breached and a young boy named Eren witnesses his mother being eaten by these monsters. This inspires him to join the highly dangerous and usually fatal military forces responsible for defeating these Titans whenever they attack.
Yona of the Dawn - Taking place in the kingdom of Kouka, the main character of this adventure series is a princess named Yona who lives with and adores her pacifist father. Her biggest concern in life is how to convince her father to allow her to marry her cousin… that is until she witnesses that same cousin murdering her father one night and staging a coup to take power. Now she's on the run with her bodyguard, attempting to find the legendary four dragons who will help her take back her kingdom.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis - This high fantasy series might feature a bit more fan service than you'd normally expect, but the story is solid. This fantasy story tells a grand tale about a young lord named Tigrevurmud Vorn who is drawn into a war against another country. While out in battle, Vorn meets a beautiful Vanadis (or a warrior who has been given a mythical weapon by a dragon) named Eelnora, which leads to the pair forming a new partnership.
Sometimes you're just in the mood for a good scare and these series are perfect for just that!
The Promised Neverland - Orphans are on the menu in this twisted psychological thriller. In this dark story, the setting is an orphanage filled with young children that are cut off from the outside world. The twist is that these kids aren't being raised to be adopted into loving families, but rather to be eaten by monsters.
Higurashi: When They Cry - Considered a classic of the genre by many anime veterans, this is a time skip story that will take the audience back in time multiple times before finally revealing the truth late in the second season (get comfortable if you plan on watching this). In this series, the main character is a high school kid named Keiichi who has moved from the big city to the tiny village of Hinamizawa where there's only one schoolhouse that all the village children share. What Keiichi doesn't realize, however, is that this village is actually hiding secrets that involve a string of murders and disappearances that always happen on the day of the annual cotton drifting festival.
Hell Girl - Would you be willing to trade your soul and guarantee eternal damnation for yourself in exchange for one act of revenge? That's the question posed to many people who find themselves in need of someone who can right a tragic wrong. At midnight, these people are able to access a website that will connect them to Hell Girl, an agent of the underworld who (with the help of her three assistants) will torture people and curse them into hell.
This genre is aimed at adult women and often times tell sweet stories about real life.
Bunny Drop - This is a very good anime that stops exactly where it needs to in order to maintain a lasting positive legacy within the community. In this series, the story stars an adult male bachelor office worker. After the death of his grandfather, everyone is shocked to learn that he actually sired a daughter with his caretaker and now no one knows what to do with the kid. Disgusted by the callousness of the rest of his family, the man named Daikichi invites the girl named Rin to live with him.
Chihayafuru - Yes, this is sort of a sports series but not really… plus it's so good! In this amazing series about a very niche card game (it's niche even in Japan), this series stars a high school girl named Chihaya who dreams of becoming the best competitive karuta player in Japan while also sharing her love of the game with as many people as possible. In the background, however, is a sweet and tragic love story unfolding between Chihaya and her two childhood friends Taichi and Arata.
Princess Jellyfish - Created by a woman for women, Princess Jellyfish is a hallmark of this genre. In this short series which aired in the now-famous noitamina animation block in Japan, the main character is a jellyfish otaku named Tsukimi who lives with other female otakus in a household that they have declared to be a "Man free zone". One night, Tsukimi is helped by a stylish woman but it isn't until later that she realizes that this stylish and chic woman is actually a man!
Not every magical girl series is cut from the same cloth as these will attest to!
Madoka Magica - The series that took the world by storm in 2011! In this dark deconstruction of the genre, Madoka is a junior high school girl who is approached one day by a strange creature that identifies itself as Kyubey. Kyubey invites Madoka to become a magical girl in exchange for any one wish, no matter how grand or miraculous it might be. At first, Madoka thinks that this sounds like a great deal until she is warned by the new transfer student, Akemi Homura, to never accept the deal.
Princess Tutu - This isn't so much a magical girl series so much as a magical duck series. In this series, the main character is a tiny duck who is in love with a prince. What she learns, however, is that this prince is incapable of feeling anything due to his feelings being locked away. Her mission is to become the magical girl Princess Tutu and restore the prince's emotions one by one.
Anime has turned the sci-fi world on its head more than once.
Steins;Gate - Another time skip series, Steins;Gate is considered one of the high bars when it comes to anime science fiction. Steins;Gate is one of the finest time travel series in existence, no matter which medium you're talking about. In this series, the star is a mad scientist named Okabe who manages to invent a cell phone powered time machine which he uses to make small changes in history. What he doesn't realize is that there is no such thing as a small change to history.
Cowboy Bebop - Despite being over 20 years old, Cowboy Bebop is still considered an all-time classic for a good reason. Telling the story of a space bounty hunter named Spike, this series follows him all across the galaxy as he hunts down bounties and tries to keep food in his stomach.
Neon Genesis Evangelion - The sci-fi series that has rocked the world for multiple decades and has spawned a license to print money. In this series, the main character is a young teenager named Shinji who is summoned by his estranged father to pilot a giant mecha and do battle against giant monsters called angels.
Generally aimed at adult men, seinen is where you go when you want a serious story or a bloody action-fest!
Black Lagoon - In this action series, an office worker's life is turned upside down while on a business trip in SE Asia. Kidnapped by a group of mercenaries and left for dead by his employers, Rokuro Okajima ditches his old life, takes on the moniker "Rock", and joins the Lagoon Company as their newest sailor.
Space Brothers - One of the most underrated titles in anime history! Space Brothers is all about two adult brothers who are both chasing their dreams of becoming real astronauts and going out into outer space. The younger of the brothers, Hibito, has already accomplished this dream while the older brother, Mutta, fell behind and must now do his best to stay out of the shadow cast by his more successful brother.
March Comes In Like a Lion - A tragic story about depression and anxiety, March Comes In Like a Lion is all about a seventeen-year-old professional shogi player named Rei who lives on his own so that he doesn't bother anyone else after living a hard life filled with rejection and resentment. The only people in his life that he feels close to is a trio of sisters who show him unconditional love and kindness.
Generally aimed at young girls, shoujo series are your "go-to" for true, bitter heartbreak.
Fruits Basket - A series so good it's been animated twice! Fruits Basket is a tear-jerker no matter what version you watch but if you want the real and true experience, you'll want to watch the 2019 remake. In this series, the star is a high school girl named Tohru who tries her best to stay positive no matter what life throws at her. Through the death of her mother and having to live outside in a tent, she keeps pushing forward until she meets the Sohma family and moves in with them which leads to her learning their secret; they are cursed and turn into members of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by members of the opposite sex!
My Love Story!! - Telling a sweet story about first loves, this series is as sweet as the cakes that the female lead is constantly baking. In this love story, the lead is a large, gentle giant who constantly falls in love only to be rejected by the object of his affection. That is until he meets a sweet girl and saves her from a train groper. Thus starts a wonderful relationship!
Easily the most popular genre of anime, shonen stories are generally filled with fantastical action.
My Hero Academia - In a world where at least 80% of the population are born with special powers called quirks, Izuku is just unlucky enough to not be born with any kind of power but that doesn't stop him from idolizing his hero All Might. One day, Izuku does something heroic and is seen by exactly the right person who bequeaths to him a very special quirk that only one person in the world can possess at a time.
Dr. Stone - Another popular series that is firmly based on survival science, Dr. Stone takes place in a distant future after the entire human population of Earth has been turned into stone. After finally escaping the stone prison, a young scientist attempts to repopulate the planet and advance civilization a million years forward.
Where to Watch Anime Online
Depending on which region of the world you live in, there are multiple services that will feed your newfound anime addiction. For a full list of services around the world, we suggest heading over to Yatta-Tachi and checking out their listings.
The three most popular and common services are Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HIDIVE which service North America and parts of Europe.
Conclusion and Why You Should Watch
Anime is a varied hobby that has something for everyone. No matter what your tastes are or what subject you're interested in, you're likely to find an anime for it. No matter what feeling you want to experience, there's an anime for it. No matter what you want to see, there's an anime for it.
Anime is an eternal art form that will live on for generations to come. Even if the entire industry crumbles and dies, there will always be something new for you to check out and you'll always be able to find other fans to enjoy it with making it the perfect social tool.
So go forth! Enjoy and spread the good word of anime far and wide!