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28 Anime To Watch If You’re A Complete Beginner

These are the anime that will get you hooked.

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1. Death Note

Madhouse

Watch if you like: Psychological thrillers and the supernatural

A boy finds a notebook that can kill people. Seems simple, but as the series goes on, everything starts to twist and turn in on itself. Be prepared to ask yourself some deep, soul-searching questions after watching this.

2. Sailor Moon

Toei Animation

Watch if you like: Romantic comedies, princesses, and girl power

Tbh, you should get into Sailor Moon just because we have the best merchandise of all the fandoms. My Usagi handbag is ON. POINT. Also, there's pretty guardians saving the world, a secret princess, and Tuxedo Mask, '90s boy crush of dreams. What more could you want?

3. Attack on Titan

Wit Studio

Watch if you like: Post-apocalyptic worlds, action fantasy, dystopia, and feeling dead inside

If anyone ever tells you that cartoons are for kids, just show them this. It is BRUTAL, but so, so addictive. I cannot stop watching it, even though it makes me feel like lying down and not leaving my room forever. Set in a world where what's left of humanity lives behind giant walls protecting them from human-eating giants, it's a potent tale of human survival in the face of adversity.

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4. Cowboy Bebop

Sunrise

Watch if you like: Film noir and Star Wars

Jazz, space travel, and westerns. Not a combo you'd think would work, but Cowboy Bebop proves it does, all while boasting an ~amazing~ soundtrack. The storytelling is what really makes this show, with cowboys, bounty hunters, and lonely wanderers alike all trying to navigate the fractured world around them.

5. Mawaru Penguindrum

Brain's Base

Watch if you like: Romance dramas, mystery, and comedy

Twin brothers Kanba and Shoma Takakura love their terminally ill sister Himari more than anything. When she collapses at an aquarium a spirit residing in a penguin-shaped hat takes over her body and promises to extend her life – but only if the brothers manage to find an elusive item called the Penguin Drum. Watch this for a lesson in how anime can deal with real-world emotions in batshit crazy settings.

6. Dragon Ball Z

Toei Animation

Watch if you like: Action-adventure, superheroes, and fantasy sci-fi

This was my gateway drug: the very first anime I ever got hooked on, age 11. It's still my favourite series, and in my opinion one of the best anime ever made. The show is mammoth, with Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT (not as good but worth watching if you're a megafan), and the new Dragon Ball Super series to get through – you can start right at the beginning with Dragon Ball if you'd like, but Dragon Ball Z is the best one. It's got all the classic flavour, but with a bigger scope of characters and more depth.

7. Claymore

Madhouse

Watch if you like: Dark fantasy and blood and guts

Demon shape-shifters preying on humanity. A cool-as-fuck half-human heroine fighting them with swords and generally kicking ass. All with a solid fantasy medieval aesthetic. If you like Game of Thrones, you need to watch this.

8. Toradora

J.C Staff

Watch if you like: Rom-coms and reminiscing about your school days

A charming series about a delinquent-looking-but-gentle-really guy and a violent girl agreeing to help each other out with their respective crushes. Obviously, it doesn't go quite to plan.

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9. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Bones

Watch if you like: Sci-fi and adventure fantasy

After trying to bring their mother back from the dead with alchemy, two brothers inadvertently mess up their bodies; the story follows their attempts to restore themselves and their search for the fabled Philosopher's Stone. It's their relationship that's the real star of the show – it's dynamic, heartfelt, and hugely compelling. And it's all set in the most brilliant magi-science world ever dreamed up.

10. Fruits Basket

Studio Deen

Watch if you like: Romance, fantasy, and ALL THE EMOTIONS

A recently orphaned girl comes to live with a family possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac – they turn into said animals when hugged by the opposite gender. Fruits Basket is what got me into manga (the stunningly drawn comics most anime are based on), as the ending to Fruits Basket the anime felt unfinished so I ended up going and reading the whole manga series (which is WAY longer). Both are worthwhile though; from start to finish the story is sweet and surprisingly touching.

11. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Tatsunoko Production

Watch if you like: Action fantasy, apocalyptic dystopia, and underdogs

The plot to this is complex, but so worthwhile. It's full of angst (so much angst), religious symbolism, the human fight to survive, and giant robot battles. Trust me, it blows Transformers and Pacific Rim out the water.

12. Trigun

Madhouse

Watch if you like: Spaghetti westerns, comedy, and old-fashioned shoot-ups

The main character is a wanted outlaw with a reputation for decimating towns and bounty on his head to match. In reality, though? He's a goofball with a thing for doughnuts, who will make you laugh and cry and keep you on tenterhooks throughout.

13. Clannad

Kyoto Animation

Watch if you like: Romance, hysterical crying, and The Fault in Our Stars

A school delinquent meets a girl at school and agrees to help her kickstart the school drama club. Straightforward, right? Hahahaha, no. This anime will make you feel things you didn't think you were capable of feeling. You will laugh hysterically and cry in a foetal position on the floor, and then go back for more.

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14. Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli

Watch if you like: Romance, adventure, fantasy, and Diana Wynne Jones

Is it better to get into anime via a big series, or via a film? Whatever you think, you cannot deny how incredible this animated movie is. Set in a magical 19th-century kingdom, the story revolves around Sophie, a young girl who gets turned into an old woman by a witch's curse, and her encounter with Howl, a powerful magician. There are probably bigger hitters to come from Studio Ghibli, and specifically Hayao Miyazaki, but Howl's Moving Castle will always have my heart for its incredible graphics and the pure romance of it.

Btw, if you like this, you should also check out My Neighbour Totoro and Princess Mononoke.

15. Tokyo Ghoul

Pierrot

Watch if you like: Supernatural horror and Stephen King novels

In Tokyo there's a new breed of flesh-devouring monsters called ghouls. After a date goes badly wrong, the main character finds himself as a half ghoul, half human hybrid. It's the classic "average Joe gains supernatural powers" plot, but way darker, with way more gore, and way more headfuckery.

16. Vampire Knight

Studios Deen

Watch if you like: Romance, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and YA fantasy

Cross Academy is a school for both vampires and humans, but the humans have no idea the vampires are actually vampires. Instead, the "special" class go to school at night, with two human monitors guarding them to make sure everything runs smoothly. It's high school though, so nothing goes smoothly.

17. Berserk

Madmen Entertainment

Watch if you like: Graphic violence and questioning whether humanity is fundamentally good or evil

Warning: If you aren't good with gore, Berserk is not the anime to start off with. It will scar you for life. But if you want a show that makes Game of Thrones look like a rom-com, then this is the dark fantasy anime for you.

18. Fushigi Yuugi

Madman Entertainment

Watch if you like: Historical drama and romance.

Two schoolgirls find an old book, read aloud from it, and find themselves in ancient China. They quickly return, but after a fight with her mother, the main heroine goes back to the book and ends up back in the novel's universe – this time as the Priestess of Suzaku and with seven Celestial Warriors to find.

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19. Sword Art Online

A-1 Pictures

Watch if you like: RPG and World of Warcraft

If you're a gamer, this anime is full of cheeky winks to RPGs that you'll love. Even if you're not a gamer though, this anime is still great: It has romance, adventure, fantastic action sequences, and a great soundtrack.

20. Lovely Complex

Toei Animation

Watch if you like: Odd couples and romantic comedy

It's the classic story: Very short boy meets very tall girl. Despite not wanting to be paired up with each other, they're always being pushed together as the class comedy duo, and eventually agree to help each other with their respective crushes. Three guesses how well that goes.

21. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Production I.G.

Watch if you like: Cyberpunk, action, and CSI

If you've heard of the forthcoming Hollywood film version of this, do yourself a favour and watch the anime first. This is the series that explored human-cyborg hybrids and it's effects long before Black Mirror or the Westworld series ever did. In it, you see the badass cyberhuman heroine and a cybernetic law enforcement team go up against dangerous hackers and criminals, while asking questions about our future with technology. (Also don't miss the earlier anime film version from 1995.)

22. Hunter x Hunter

Madhouse

Watch if you like: Father-son bonding, action-adventure, and camraderie

A young boy finds out his father isn't actually dead, and is actually a famous Hunter, a recognised profession that involves treasure hunting, exploring new territories, and hunting down criminals, among other things. The obvious thing to do? Enrol in the difficult Hunter Examinations to follow in his footsteps.

23. Elfen Lied

Arms

Watch if you like: Psychological horror, aliens, and never being able to sleep again

The tale of a young girl from a mutant species and her quest for revenge. Spoiler alert: human beings have not treated her kindly. In this anime you've got everything: social alienation, identity issues, the worth of humanity, and so, so much violence. If you're into recurring nightmares and having your emotions ground into paste, this is the show for you.

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24. Nana

Madhouse

Watch if you like: More mature romance and Girls

Nana Osaki is an independent punk singer in Tokyo looking to start her career. Nana Komatsu is looking for love. They meet on a train by chance and eventually come to live together, becoming close friends despite their wildly different personalities. This is a story of love, and life in a big city, but most importantly, it's a story of female friendship.

25. Black Butler

A-1 Pictures

Watch if you like: Sexy demons, black humour, and Batman

A demon butler pairs up with a 13-year-old aristocrat trying to avenge his parents' death. In exchange for his help, he gets to consume the rich kid's soul. Which wouldn't be such a hardship when it's a demon this charming doing the eating.

26. Bleach

Madman Entertainment

Watch if you like: Action, adventure, and death

After a chance encounter the main character becomes a Soul Reaper, a death god (similar to the Grim Reaper). From there, he's forced to take on the duties of a Soul Reaper: defending humans from evil spirits and helping departed souls find peace. This anime has it all really: interesting characters, beautiful animation, and a story arc that just keeps getting better.

27. Ouran High School Host Club

Madman Entertainment

Watch if you like: Romance, good-looking men, and the idea of your own male harem

A school for ridiculously wealthy kids has a "host club" with six ridiculously attractive "hosts". After the school's poorest, but smartest, scholarship student breaks a costly vase, he finds himself working there too...except it turns out "he" is a "she". If you're addicted to screwball romantic comedies, this is an excellent first step into the rabbit hole that is shoujo (stories aimed at young women) anime.

28. Psycho-Pass

Production I.G.

Watch if you like: Cyberpunk, action-adventure, and Criminal Minds

Is there something in specific personalities that predisposes us to become criminals? The answer to that question is yes, according to Psycho-Pass, an anime that features a police team able to capture people based on their personalities.

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