Ok folks. We’ve been asked repeatedly for our anime recommendations. So here is a list of some of our all-time favorite shows. We love anime and have watched hundreds of hours of it. There is a lot of anime we like so we had to trim down the numbers for this list of all-time favorites. To make the list the shows had to meet two conditions: 1) We’ve watched the full series (all seasons) at least three times, and 2) The show must be watchable online legally (there is one exception).
If you’ve never watched anime at all we recommend as a good introduction, Cowboy Bebop. It’s English dubbed so no reading subtitles and has great music. So it tends to draw in a variety of people.
Please note: This is not a list of the best anime ever. Just our site’s list of the shows we love and would recommend to our friends.
Note: Shinigami = Grimm Reaper
15-year-old Kurosaki Ichigo is not your everyday high school student. He has from as far he can remember always had the ability to see ghosts and spirits. A fateful day arrives as Ichigo encounters the shinigami Kuchiki Rukia, who saves him and his family from a Hollow at the cost of injuring herself. During this encounter, with Rukia unable to defeat the hollow she transfers her shinigami powers into Ichigo. In the aftermath, unable to continue with her job, Rukia allows Ichigo to take on the role of a shinigami in her place as they together defeat the Hollows plaguing Ichigo's town.
Our Opinion: There are a whopping 669 episodes for this show and several movies. That alone tells you how much of a fan base there is. This is a tournament style anime where the main character power ups between fights. If you like Dragon Ball Z you’ll probably like this one too. Fair warning though, the series has some lulls where side stories interrupt the main story line. Skip these if you like but some of them are pretty decent in their own right.
If you want to skip some of the filler in the series myanimelist.net has a list of the main arc episodes
Blue Exorcist (Ao no exorcist)
This world consists of two dimensions joined as one, like a mirror. The first is the world in which the humans live, Assiah. The other is the world of demons, Gehenna. Ordinarily, travel between the two, and indeed any kind of contact between the two, is impossible. However the demons can pass over into this world by possessing anything that exist within it. Satan the god of demons, but there's one thing that he doesn't have, and that's a substance in the human world that is powerful enough to contain him!! For that purpose he created Rin, his son from a human woman, but will his son agree to his plans? Or will he become something else...? An exorcist?
Our Opinion: Only one season to this show, but it’s a good one. The artwork on the show feels very original. Action, action, action, show. Part of the appeal for us is the dynamics between the characters. Fun show that we are sad only has one season.
Where to watch: Hulu
The year 2071 A.D. That future is now. Driven out of their terrestrial eden, humanity chose the stars as the final frontier. With the section-by-section collapse of the former nations a mixed jumble of races and peoples came. They spread to the stars, taking with them the now confused concepts of freedom, violence, illegality and love, where new rules and a new generation of outlaws came into being. People referred to them as Cowboys.
Meet Spike and Jet, a drifter and a retired cyborg cop who have started a bounty hunting operation. In the converted ship The Bebop, Spike and Jet search the galaxy for criminals with bounties on their heads. They meet a lot of unusual characters, including the unusually intelligent dog, Ein, and the voluptuous and vexing femme fatale, Faye Valentine.
Our Opinion: This space cowboy show got us through a rough patch after Firefly was canceled. Great space and bounty hunting action, good story, and amazing music. This show proved that the music can elevate a show to a new level.
Where to watch: Hulu
Yagami Light is a 17-year-old genius from Japan who is tired of his life, school, and the state of the world as he knows it. One day, on the way home from class, Light stumbles upon a dark notebook with "Death Note" written on the front. Intrigued by its appearance, Light reads the first few sentences, only to find out that it states that anyone whose name is written inside will die. Discarding it as a joke, Light continues his daily activities. Soon after though, his human curiosity takes the better of him and prompts Light to try the notebook, discovering the truth behind the first sentence. Now, with power in his hands, Yagami Light is on a quest to change the world and become God of the New World. His path to holy status won't be easy however, as another genius, known as L, is working against Light's beliefs and Light himself. Who will win this power of Gods between humans?
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Our Opinion: Originally aired in 2006. This show started a new standard in suspense story driven anime. The main character Light is simultaneously a villain (since he kills people) and hero (he only kills evil people). The show ultimately becomes a game of cat and mouse between Light and a police genius L. Who will win? Watch and find out.
Dragon Ball Z / Dragon Ball Z Kai
Where to watch: Hulu ….Dragon Ball Z Kai: Cartoon Network
Note: Dragon Ball Z Kai is the streamlined version of Dragon Ball Z.
The Saiyans are coming! The last survivors of a cruel, warrior race, these ruthless villains have carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, and now they have set their sights on Earth! They will stop at nothing until they have the wish-granting powers of the seven magic Dragon Balls for their very own.
Gokuu along with old and new allies defends the earth against an assortment of villains ranging from intergalactic space fighters and conquerors, unnaturally powerful androids and near indestructible magical creatures.
While the original Dragon Ball anime followed Gokuu through childhood into adulthood, Dragon Ball Z is a continuation of his adulthood life, but at the same time parallels the maturation of his son, Gohan, as well as other characters from Dragon Ball and more.
Our Opinion: One of the first anime shows many American’s ever viewed. This show has a special place in our hearts. The anime is actually a sequel to Dragon Ball, a show about little kid Gokuu and his hunt for the wish granting Dragon Balls. Dragon Ball Z is more mature, with all the characters all grown up and fighting to save the world from lots of bad guys. This is the epitome of a tournament style action anime. Lots of fighting and little plot.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Where to watch: Hulu, Netflix
In this world there exist alchemists, people who study and perform the art of alchemical transmutation—to manipulate objects and transform one object into another. They are bounded by the basic law of alchemy: in order to gain something you have to sacrifice something of the same value.
The main character is the famous alchemist Edward Elric—also known as the Fullmetal Alchemist—who almost lost his little brother, Alphonse, in an alchemical accident. Edward managed to attach his brother's soul to a large suit of armor. While he did manage to save his brother's life, he paid the terrible price of his limbs.
To get back what they've lost, the brothers embark on a journey to find the Philosopher's Stone that is said to amplify the powers of an alchemist enormously; however, on the way, they start uncovering a conspiracy that could endanger the entire nation, and they realize the misfortunes brought upon by the Philosopher's Stone.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a re-telling of the story from the manga's point of view.
Our Opinion: There is another Full Metal Alchemist show (2003) that is a decent show. However, we recommend this one because the story is soooo much better. You care about the characters. The alchemy system is a new and interesting way to create great battles. While there are lots of great fights in the series it is the story that sucks you in. One of our all-time favorite series. One we watch at least once a year.
Tada Banri, a newly admitted student at a private law school in Tokyo, found himself completely lost after the opening ceremony, trying to find his way to the freshman orientation. At that moment, he ran into another lost freshman from the same school, Yanagisawa Mitsuo, and they hit it off at once. Somehow arriving at their intended goal just on time, there appeared in front of the two a beautiful girl holding a bouquet of roses. The girl then whacked Mitsuo across the face with the bouquet and handed the flowers over to him. "Freshman, congratulations," was all she said, and then left. The stylish, well dressed, perfect woman that had swung at Mitsuo was his childhood friend, Kaga Kouko. As children they had promised to marry each other one day, fulfilling their dreams. In order to escape from her, Mitsuo had gone out secretly and taken the examination for this well known private college, but now she showed up in the freshman orientation hall. She too had taken the law school entrance examination, catching up with him there.
Our Opinion: One of the few anime shows we love that doesn’t have any fight scene. This is a great drama centering around the main character Tada Banri. The show is one part slice of life, and one part romantic comedy. Tada Banri is starting life over after he loses his memory in a accident. He has started college and falls for a high maintenance girl. However, his childhood love shows up. Unfortunately, he does not remember her at all or the love he felt for her. But she stirs up a part of him that has a hard time remembering. The show ponders the question: Are we just our memories? What happens if we lost them, are we now a different person?
Where to watch: ????
This is the exception we mentioned in our introduction. Our list wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning Gundam. The Gundam Universe is vast and many anime’d. There are at least a dozen animes made over 30 years that encompass the show. Not to mention a recent series about Gundam model building and battling. The popularity of the show comes down to fantastic space battles between giant robots with awesome powers. There are often good stories to accompany the battles but not always. Unfortunately, as of the writing of this review there is no “legal” way to watch most of the shows online or on the internet. There are talks in the works to bring all the Gundam franchise to the U.S. to watch but it’s not finished yet. You can purchase the varies series on DVD or VHS but we can’t in good conscience recommend the high prices associated with this method.
If you want to start watching Gundam there is a good Reddit post about the chronological order to watch. However, we recommend you start with the Gundam SEED shows since they are more recently produced and still have all the good things we love about Gundam.
A chance event triggered Shouyou Hinata's love for volleyball. His club had no members, but somehow persevered and finally made it into its very first and final regular match of middle school, where it was steamrolled by Tobio Kageyama, a superstar player known as "King of the Court." Vowing revenge, Hinata applied to the Karasuno High School volleyball club... only to come face-to-face with his hated rival, Kageyama!
A tale of hot-blooded youth and volleyball from the pen of Haruichi Furudate!!
(Source: Shounen Jump)
Our Opinion: A great sports anime. If you like movies like Rocky and Rudy this show is something you might like. Lots of competition and struggle as the main character fights to make the volleyball team. Fun one season show.
Hajime No ippo
Where to watch: Crunchyroll,
Makunouchi Ippo has been bullied his entire life. Constantly running errands and being beaten up by his classmates, Ippo has always dreamed of changing himself, but never has the passion to act upon it. One day, in the midst of yet another bullying, Ippo is saved by Takamura Mamoru, who happens to be a boxer. Ippo faints from his injuries and is brought to the Kamogawa boxing gym to recover. As he regains consciousness, he is awed and amazed at his new surroundings in the gym, though lacks confidence to attempt anything. Takamura places a photo of Ippo's classmate on a punching bag and forces him to punch it. It is only then that Ippo feels something stir inside him and eventually asks Takamura to train him in boxing. Thinking that Ippo does not have what it takes, Takamura gives him a task deemed impossible and gives him a one week time limit. With a sudden desire to get stronger, for himself and his hard working mother, Ippo trains relentlessly to accomplish the task within the time limit. Thus Ippo's journey to the top of the boxing world begins.
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Our Opinion: If you liked the movie Rocky, you’ll like this show. It’s a little harder to find since it’s a slightly older show. But well worth the effort. Lovable main character who starts off as a wussy kid that gets bullied but then falls into boxing. The decision to pursue boxing changes his life. Also, the anime makes reference to the manga later in the series. Oh, also, there are about 3 seasons to the show but we love the first one the most.
Hunter X Hunter (2011)
Where to watch: Netflix, Crunchyroll
A new adaptation of the manga series by Togashi Yoshihiro.
A Hunter is one who travels the world doing all sorts of dangerous tasks. From capturing criminals to searching deep within uncharted lands for any lost treasures. Gon is a young boy whose father disappeared long ago, being a Hunter. He believes if he could also follow his father's path, he could one day reunite with him.
After becoming 12, Gon leaves his home and takes on the task of entering the Hunter exam, notorious for its low success rate and high probability of death to become an official Hunter. He befriends the revenge-driven Kurapika, the doctor-to-be Leorio and the rebellious ex-assassin Killua in the exam, with their friendship prevailing throughout the many trials and threats they come upon taking on the dangerous career of a Hunter.
Our Opinion: We love this show. Very fun. No real filler. This show has a very similar appeal to Dragon Ball. It focuses on the adventures of Gon, a boy, growing in martial strength to first become a hunter and then to find his dad. The anime is essentially a tournament style fighting show. Where the characters level up between major fights. There are 4 major story arcs to this great action anime. Be warned, the last story arc of the show gets kinda dark. Even killing off some characters we’ve come to love.
Where to watch: Hulu
Based on a hit light novel series by Keiichi Sigsawa, the philosophical Kino's Journey employs the time-honored motif of the road trip as a vehicle for self-discovery and universal truth. Deeply meditative and cooler than zero, the series follows the existential adventures of the apt marksman Kino along with talking motorcycle Hermes as they travel the world and learn much about themselves in the process. Imaginative, thought-provoking, and sometimes disturbing, Kino's journey is documented in an episodic style with an emphasis on atmosphere rather than action or plot, though still prevalent.
Our Opinion: Not too much action. Rather the story focuses on the journey of the main character and the people he meets. A light anime series that makes a great change of pace. Also nice that it isn’t too long.
KUROKO NO BASKET (KUROKO’S BASKETBALL)
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll
The Teiko Middle School Basketball Team. The class that produced three perfect seasons in a row, with five once-in-a generation players, called "The Generation of Miracles." There was another player who all of them respected... A legendary 6th player. An up-and-coming power player, Taiga Kagami, is just back from America. When he comes to Seirin High School, he meets the super-ordinary boy, Tetsuya Kuroko. Kagami is shocked to find that Kuroko isn't good at basketball, in fact, he's bad! And he's so plain that he's impossible to see. But Kuroko's plainness lets him pass the ball around without the other team noticing him, and he's none other than the sixth member of the Miracle Generation. Kuroko makes a pact with Kagami to defeat the other members of the Miracle Generation, who have all played basketball at other schools. A battle of light (Kagami) and shadow (Kuroko) begins!
Our Opinion: This is an action packed basketball anime show. Each season revolves around a high school basketball tournament. Great character development. Great action. One of our long time favorites. If you like sports anime then this is a gem. Note that this is an ongoing show.
Naruto: Naruto Uzumaki, a hyperactive and knuckle-headed ninja, lives in Konohagakure, the Hidden Leaf village. Moments prior to his birth, a huge demon known as the Kyuubi, the Nine-tailed Fox, attacked Konohagakure and wreaked havoc. In order to put an end to the Kyuubi's rampage, the leader of the village, the 4th Hokage, sacrificed his life and sealed the monstrous beast inside the newborn Naruto.
Shunned because of the presence of the Kyuubi inside him, Naruto struggles to find his place in the village. He strives to become the Hokage of Konohagakure, and he meets many friends and foes along the way.
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Naruto Shippuden: Naruto: Shippuuden is the continuation of the original animated TV series Naruto. The story revolves around an older and slightly more matured Uzumaki Naruto and his quest to save his friend Uchiha Sasuke from the grips of the snake-like Shinobi, Orochimaru. After 2 and a half years Naruto finally returns to his village of Konoha, and sets about putting his ambitions to work, though it will not be easy, as he has amassed a few (more dangerous) enemies, in the likes of the shinobi organization; Akatsuki.
Our Opinion: Lots of great ninja action in both series. Main storylines are very engaging and interesting. Downside of having such long running series is that there are boring side stories that break up the main action. I generally skip through any episode that isn’t part of the main story. Other folks love the side stories too.
Gol D. Roger was known as the Pirate King, the strongest and most infamous being to have sailed the Grand Line. The capture and death of Roger by the World Government brought a change throughout the world. His last words before his death revealed the location of the greatest treasure in the world, One Piece. It was this revelation that brought about the Grand Age of Pirates, men who dreamed of finding One Piece (which promises an unlimited amount of riches and fame), and quite possibly the most coveted of titles for the person who found it, the title of the Pirate King.
Enter Monkey D. Luffy, a 17-year-old boy that defies your standard definition of a pirate. Rather than the popular persona of a wicked, hardened, toothless pirate who ransacks villages for fun, Luffy’s reason for being a pirate is one of pure wonder; the thought of an exciting adventure and meeting new and intriguing people, along with finding One Piece, are his reasons of becoming a pirate. Following in the footsteps of his childhood hero, Luffy and his crew travel across the Grand Line, experiencing crazy adventures, unveiling dark mysteries and battling strong enemies, all in order to reach One Piece.
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Our Opinion: Like Bleach and Dragon Ball Z, this show is all about the fights. A tournament style fighting action anime. The main characters are all pretty lovable but Luffy is the most charismatic. Overall the series is very fun and I watch every new episode. However, with over 829 and counting the show falls into a common trapping of long running series, filler. Some episodes are amazing and others are just meh.
To watch the series without the filler follow myanimelist.net recommended episode list
PARASYTE-THE-MAXIM (KISEIJUU: SEI NO KAKURITSU)
Based on Iwaaki Hitoshi's science-fiction horror manga by the same name.
The 17-year-old Izumi Shinichi lives with his mother and father in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo. One night, worm-like aliens called Parasytes invade Earth, taking over the brains of human hosts by entering through their ears or noses. One Parasyte attempts to crawl into Shinichi's ear while he sleeps, but fails since he is wearing headphones, and enters his body by burrowing into his arm instead, taking over his right hand and is named Migi.
Because Shinichi was able to prevent Migi from traveling further up into his brain, both beings retain their separate intellect and personality. As the duo encounter other Parasytes, they capitalize on their strange situation and gradually form a strong bond, working together to survive. This gives them an edge in battling other Parasytes, who frequently attack the pair upon realization that Shinichi's human brain is still intact. Shinichi feels compelled to fight other Parasytes, who devour humans as food, while enlisting Migi's help.
Our Opinion: The show started off with some decent action in the first few episodes and has regular bloody fights throughout. We found that the action was not the main draw of the show though. Rather it was the main characters interaction with his parasite. There is a constant tone that asks the question: what does it means to be a human? Or at what point we cross the line into monsterhood?
Silver spoon (gin No Saji)
Yugo Hachiken dreams of life separated from his family, so he takes the initiative by enrolling in an agriculture school. He thinks, with his talent in studying, no problems will arise no matter what kind of school he attends. He is proven wrong very quickly. Raised as a city boy, he is forced to uncover the inconvenient truth about agricultural life. Enjoy the story of Hachiken, as he tries to keep up with his new friends, farmers' heirs, who are already accustomed to the harsh world of farming. With no clear goals or understanding of farming life, how will Hachiken survive this new, cruel reality? The story of a sweat, tear, and mud-stained youth begins!
Our Opinion: Another of the rare non-action animes we love. The show is a slice of life comedy with an interesting agricultural education theme. Hachiken goes to an agricultural college without any real purpose. He soon learns that the college is not an easy place to rest but a rigorous courses in agriculture. He soon comes to appreciate all the things that go into growing food, raising food, and producing food products (I love the bacon episode). Hachiken soon makes friends and even a love interest. However, he soon has to choose between the life he establishes here and his parent’s desire for him to go to a real college. The show has two seasons and we loved them both.
Where to watch: Hulu
The eccentric mad scientist Okabe, his childhood friend Mayuri, and the otaku hacker Daru have banded together to form the "Future Gadget Research Laboratory," and spend their days in a ramshackle laboratory hanging out and occasionally attempting to invent incredible futuristic gadgets. However, their claymore is a hydrator and their hair dryer flips breakers, and the only invention that's even remotely interesting is their Phone Microwave, which transforms bananas into oozing green gel. But when an experiment goes awry, the gang discovers that the Phone Microwave can also send text messages to the past. And what's more, the words they send can affect the flow of time and have unforeseen, far-reaching consequences—consequences that Okabe may not be able to handle...
(Source: Anime Planet)
Our Opinion: Very original time travel show. Great characters. Interesting story that has plenty of timey whimmey plot twists.
Sword Art Online
In the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players can control their avatars through brain waves using technology called "NerveGear." When players enter the game, they discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive. To escape, players must beat the game by defeating each boss on all 100 floors; however, if they die in the game, they die in real life too. Their struggle for survival starts now...
(Source: Crunchyroll, modified)
Our Opinion: If you like video games or VR then you might like this show. We love both and we LOVE this show. When VR becomes a real thing we’d be happy to get stranded in this world. Note that there are actually two other seasons of this show but we like the first season the best.
TOKYO GHOUL √A
Where to watch it: Hulu
Po Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.
Our Opinion: The second season of Tokyo Ghoul. Fair warning. This anime is pretty gory. This season is more action packed and faster paced than the first season. The main character, Ken Kaneki, struggles with what it means to be a monster. Lots of great story twists. Lots of great action. Till the very last episode I was never 100% sure where it was going.