Some anime is good, some anime is great, and some anime is life-changing. These shows range from the classics that helped put the genre on the map to innovative new programming that pushes the boundaries of animated storytelling. One of the best parts about anime is that the stories are only limited by the imaginations of their creators, so don’t expect this list to be full of traditional fantasy and sci-fi sagas. If you’re looking for anime that will change your life, here are the shows you need to watch.
The first on this list is a fairly universally loved anime. A fascinating genre mishmash that transcends science fiction, Westerns, film noir, and martial arts, this 26-episode epic is a prime example of great anime. It features complex characters, a snappy soundtrack that keeps the story bouncing along, and tight writing that never feels like it’s diving into filler territory. Best of all, both language tracks are outstanding. Whether you prefer subtitles or Americanized dubs, you’re in for a treat because the voice acting is top-notch throughout the entire series. Cowboy Bebop is one of those few programs that isn’t simply quality anime; it’s also just great television in general.
Attack on Titan
From the gorgeous animation to the story that goes from zero to dark incredibly quickly, this action-packed giant-slaying romp proves that modern anime is every bit as satisfying as the classics of the past. The story starts out simply enough. Eren Jaeger joins an elite training squad to have his revenge on the rampaging titans that killed his mother and ruined his childhood. What follows is fluidly animated action-adventure bliss in a world populated by likeable, deep characters, complex social undertones, and a few surprising twists. It’s likely that this fan favorite will be fondly regarded for years to come.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those anime franchises that appears on most every fan’s top 10 lists, and for good reason. With its fine blend of comedy and drama, its incredibly well-written characters, and its satisfying plotlines, this is one show that has an incredibly wide appeal. Both iterations of the anime are solidly crafted but most fans prefer Brotherhood because it remains more faithful to the manga and is more deliberately paced throughout. If you’re ready to fall in love with some of the best characters in modern fiction, don’t pass over Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
A Place Further Than the Universe
This 2018 newcomer is one title on everyone’s lips lately. It’s a close look at the bonds between women that doesn’t trivialize the female experience or subject it to stereotypes. It follows a group of young women en route to Antarctica, and while there’s a defined destination, A Place Further Than the Universe is all about the journey. You see the ebbing and flowing of friendship, the high emotions, and the full, vibrant personalities of every lovingly rendered character that crosses the screen. It’s an unfussy feel-good drama that makes the most of every second of airtime.
Dragon Ball Z
While you’ve no doubt seen plenty of commercials for the latest iterations of the Dragon Ball universe (including games, movies, and new shows), the initial run of Akira Toriyama’s Super Saiyan saga is no small part of what turned anime into a global phenomenon. It’s full of stylish action, memorable villains, and good-natured heroes that make rooting for them easy. For the anime newcomer who wants to find a great starting point, it’s hard to go wrong with Dragon Ball Z.
A Show for Everyone
Luckily, for the die-hard fan, this list is nowhere near comprehensive. While it features some of the best in classic and modern anime, it’s still only five features. There’s an entire galaxy of life-changing anime out there just waiting to be watched. With streaming services expanding their new content offerings and building up their classic libraries, it’s never been a better time to be a fan of anime.