The Best Anime Movies And TV Shows To Watch If You’re Just Starting Out
Getting into anime can feel daunting, but there's something for everyone if you know where to look.
For far too long, fans have been gatekeeping anime — being overprotective, snobby, and making it hard for beginners to find their feet when dabbling in the genre for the first time.
The truth is, there’s something for everyone with anime, but it can be hard to know where to start if you haven’t been watching it since Toasted TV was still broadcasting. With a mix of classics and fun picks, here’s what to try first if you want to get into anime.
All good stories have a quest. Fullmetal Alchemist centres on the inseparable Elric brothers in a steampunky world who try and procure the mystical philosopher’s stone and learn the forbidden secrets of their chosen science. Fullmetal gets a bit existential (a common thing in anime) with questions around the life, death, faith, corruption, genocide, the soul, and what it means to be human.
There are actually two separate FA television shows: the original, which veered from the original manga when its airdate caught up with the comics, and had to make up an ending like in Game of Thrones. Then there’s the more esteemed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which came out six years later, and stays true to the intended ending.
The latter is longer, goes more in-depth narrative-wise, and left fans a lot happier in the final episode than its predecessor did. That being said, Fullmetal Alchemist is still really engaging — so if you’re looking for something shorter, start there, but if you have the capacity too, definitely watch both.
Want More Of That? For more mythical realms or hybrid species, try Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, and Tokyo Ghoul
I personally like my anime dark, warped, and psychologically damaging, but you might want to start your journey with an easy watch.
Aggretsuko was created by Sanrio (the people behind Hello Kitty), and explores the stress of Japan’s intense office culture through a cute, 20-something-year-old anthropomorphic named Retsuko. On the surface, she’s a polite and hard employee, but whenever her stress builds up, she lets it out through aggressive heavy metal karaoke.
Aggretsuko is a chill watch — a great background show for when you don’t want to think. Despite the characters all being animals, Retsuko’s real world problems are endearing and relatable.
Sometimes you just want to see an adorable worker bee navigate driving tests, love triangles, and pushy bosses. Stern anime fans might stick up their nose and turn to other intellectual other-worldy canons, but if you’re looking for something relaxed, give Aggretsuko a go.
Want More Of That? For more things that give off Bojack Horseman or Zootopia energy, try BNA: Brand New Animal, Beastars, and Seton Academy
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Prepare to buckle up, this is one for throwing yourself into the deep end. Neon Genesis Evangelion goes from zero to 100 real quick — one minute it’s all ‘what are these Transformer-looking things’, and suddenly you’re having a headache trying to keep up with the conspiracy, philosophical questions, and ancient lore.
A thing you’ll notice throughout anime is a continual grappling with post-apocalyptic destruction and mecha robot genre — both simultaneously exemplified by Neon Genesis.
The original ending is a bit abstract, so much so that it’s fine to give the final episode a miss. Instead, jump to the feature film The End of Evangelion, which picks right up from the second-last ep, and is a more harrowing and fulfilling ending. Neon Genesis is definitely a bit more advanced, but is an absolute must-watch, and a great reference to whip out at parties. The opening theme song also slaps.
Want More Of That? For more unsettling earth-shatterers, try Akira, Perfect Blue, and Japan Sinks: 2020.
So you’ve seen a couple of Studio Ghibli classics and like the idea of standalone animated movies instead of a television series. This is your bag.
Your Name broke records around the world as one of the highest grossing anime films of all time when it was released in 2016. Your Name is downright stunning visually, and tells the story of a pair star-crossed lovers who find out each other exist when they accidentally switch bodies, before embarking on a mission to find each other in real life.
The beloved anime revolves around city boy, rural town girl romance with a twist halfway through that feels like a punch in the gut. Its 2019 follow-up Weathering With You wasn’t quite as good, but equally as aesthetically stunning if you liked the animation style. Your Name is also a great one to watch on date night.
Want More Of That? For more small-town experiences, try Wolf Children, Barakamon, and When They Cry.
Death Note did the rounds on TikTok last year, introducing millions to the popular anime, and offering a good shoe-in to the world of anime.
It’s essentially about a righteous, smart, and bored teenager who gets his hands on a special notebook that will kill (within the margins of some very specific rules) anyone whose name is written down in it. What starts off as a way to serve justice in a cruel world spirals into a cat-and-mouse chase between main character Light Yagami and the special police force who try and stop him — not knowing the culprit is right under their noses the whole time.
Death Note is dark, futile, and a good place to start to get used to a longer series. Whatever you do, don’t watch the 2017 live action remake which all but flopped in the box office and made a lot of people mad. Or do! Form your own opinion! Live your best life!
Want More Of That? For more classics that’ll earn you some street cred, try Cowboy Bebop, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Ghost In The Shell.