The only exposure I got to anime as I grew up was the ever-present reruns of “Dragon Ball Z” on Cartoon Network. Maybe throw in some “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and the iconic “Pokemon,” but beyond that, I didn’t care much about what else the world of Japanese-style animation had to offer me. As a result, my introduction to the medium was a little late.
Anime is a diverse art form with hundreds upon hundreds of shows and movies to offer if you’re willing to parse through them. Finding a place to start can be difficult though, so here are five anime shows that provide easy jumping-off points for a newbie. All of these shows can be found on most streaming services.
1. “One-Punch Man” (2015)
Adapted from an online web-comic, “One-Punch Man” is an action-comedy that began airing in October 2015. The first season consists of twelve episodes with a second season currently in production. The show focuses on superhero and protagonist Saitama, a man so powerful he can take out any enemy with a single punch.
Unfortunately for Saitama, his inability to be defeated means he’s incredibly bored with his entire existence; the only thing capable of exciting him anymore is when he thinks he’s found an enemy who can truly challenge him. When Saitama realizes that he never got around to officially registering as a superhero, his rank as a D-list crime-fighter reinvigorates his desire to prove himself by defeating greater threats to the world he inhabits.
2. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2009)
“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” adapts all twenty-seven volumes of the fantasy-adventure manga by the same name. The anime runs for sixty-four episodes, following brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric on their journey to restore their bodies after a terrible alchemic accident.
In the fictional country of Amestris where the brothers live, alchemy is practiced only by those who are skilled—usually members of the military. After the death of their mother, Edward and Alphonse attempt to bring her back in a highly taboo human transmutation ritual. As alchemy is governed by strict laws of equal exchange—you cannot bring something back without giving something in return—Ed loses a leg and Al loses his entire body. Ed gives up his arm to get Al’s soul back, binding it to a suit of armor that Al now inhabits. The creature that returns is not their mother and dies soon after the ritual.
Once the brothers recover from their accident, Ed joins the military as a state alchemist to fund the brothers’ travel around the country to restore their bodies. Dubbed “Fullmetal” for his automail arm and leg, Ed is the youngest state alchemist in history. However, the Elrics’ quest for restoration is not as simple as it seems. Along their journey, they will discover hidden conspiracies and powerful evils known as “homunculi,” creatures dedicated to destroying not just Amestris but the entire world.
3. “Attack on Titan” (2013)
“Attack on Titan” was an immediate successful upon airing in April 2013. Known for not shying away from bloody and graphic deaths of both major and minor characters, “Attack on Titan” details the desperate attempts of the last vestiges of humanity to survive after the appearance of giant, humanoid creatures called “titans.” The titans appeared for unknown reasons and nearly wiped out all of humanity. Human survivors reside within an enormous walled-off city; three layers of wall protect them from the titans on the other side.
The show begins with the protagonist, Eren Yeagar, witnessing the Colossal and Armored Titans break through the gate of the outermost wall, Wall Maria. The larger titans disappear but the demolished gate lets in scores of smaller titans, one of whom picks up Eren’s mother and bites her in half. Traumatized and angry, Eren and his friends, Mikasa and Armin, are evacuated to within the still-intact boundaries of Wall Rose. Four years later, the trio joins up with the army, specifically the Survey Corps, a team that ventures out into the world beyond the walls to kill titans and attempt to reclaim the land.
In their efforts to keep humanity from extinction, the team suffers immense losses and, in the process, obtain knowledge that has the power to either save the world or put an end to it once and for all.
4. “Soul Eater” (2008)
“Soul Eater” brings to life the supernatural action manga of the same name in fifty-one episodes, though the show diverges from the manga about thirty episodes in. Set in the fictional Death City, Nevada, viewers follow three teams (consisting of a weapon and a meister) attending Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA).
The school is a training academy for humans capable of transforming into deadly weapons, as well as the humans capable of wielding those weapons. The goal of DWMA is to create “death scythes,” otherwise known as weapons who have collected the souls of ninety-nine evil humans and one witch to become powerful enough to be used by Shinigami, the God of the Death and also the wacky headmaster of DWMA.
“Soul Eater” focuses on weapon-meister teams: one of Maka and Soul (after whom the anime is named), one of Black Star and Tsubaki and one of the son of the Shinigami, Death the Kid, and his weapons, Liz and Patty. When all three teams stumble in their quest to achieve death scythe status, remedial classes bring them together just in time to face-off against the growing threats seeking to destroy DWMA and everyone in it.
5. “Death Note” (2006)
“Death Note,” a supernatural thriller adapted from the manga of the same name, follows high school student Light Yagami after his discovery of a supernatural notebook called a death note, which belongs to a Shinigami named Ryuk. When someone’s name is written in the book, they die as soon as the writer has seen their face. Light begins writing down the names of criminals, seeking to create and rule over a new utopia cleansed of evil.
Ryuk allows this simply because he is bored and finds Light entertaining. During his killing spree, the public begins referring to the perpetrator as “Kira,” an alter-ego that Light embraces. The murders attract the attention of world-renowned detective L, who has deduced that the person behind Kira is able to kill by only knowing a name and a face. As Light’s games with the death note grow more intense, another death note user becomes involved and L and Light engage in a game of cat and mouse with deadly consequences.