It's never been easier to start the best anime shows, even if you're new to the medium. Right now, there are a ton of shows available to watch across the best streaming services that offer intricate storylines, mind-blowing animation, compelling characters and world-building.
On top of that, anime isn't a genre, it's a medium, so there's a little bit of something for everyone. That said, it can be difficult knowing where to start if you're entirely new to anime. It doesn't help that many of the most popular series are also very, very long, spanning hundreds of episodes and multiple seasons. One Piece alone is over 1,000 episodes — and still counting!
We've designed this list to bring more bite-size, beginner-friendly anime series to the attention of those interested in seeing what the fuss is all about. These shows range from sci-fi thrillers to slow-burn romances to comedies and everything in between, so there's sure to be at least one entry to match everyone's taste.
Don't expect anything too intense or graphic, as we made this list to be appropriate for all audiences, excluding shows with a lot of gore or sexual themes. I love Attack on Titan and Cyberpunk Edgerunners as much as the next person, but unnecessarily traumatizing anime newbies is the last thing we want to do.
Here are some of the best anime shows to watch for beginners. If you're still itching for more recommendations, check out some of the best anime shows and movies on Netflix.
Cowboy Bebop is often ranked among the best animes of all time, making it a no-brainer to kick off this list of recommendations. Bebop is also so ubiquitous that you may already be familiar with it, or at least its live-action Netflix adaptation.
But just because Cowboy Bebop is loved, doesn't mean it's an epic. Instead, it's a short (26 episodes) but beloved series that's part sci-fi, part Western and part gritty crime drama. Set in a future where humanity has colonized the solar system, the show follows the misadventures of Spike Spiegel and his ragtag gang of bounty hunters.
Amid all the gunslinging and space travel, Cowboy Bebop masterfully weaves in themes of existentialism, loneliness and the want to belong with its collection of misfits. Its moody jazz music, high-octane fight scenes and stylized set pieces leave plenty for new anime fans to enjoy.
Shoujo anime, shows geared toward female audiences that center on romantic and interpersonal drama, is a juggernaut in the anime industry. And Fruits Basket is a staple of the genre.
The original 2001 adaptation barely scratched the surface of what made its heartfelt story so popular in the first place, but the 2019 reboot does the tale of Tohru Honda and the Sohma family justice.
Fruits Basket follows high school student Tohru after the death of her single mother. Her classmates, members of the mysterious Sohma family, take her in after learning she's homeless and living in a tent on the edge of their estate. As Tohru gets to know the Sohmas, friendships grow and romance blossoms, and she learns of a paranormal bond many of the family members are cursed with. The romance is a nice slow burn as she works to break the curse and unravel their generational trauma. You're going to want to keep some tissues handy for this one.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
If you want to get hooked on anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a great place to start and is considered essential viewing by most anime fans.
This steampunk dark fantasy series is a tale of grief, war, and morality through the lens of two brothers, Ed and Al Elric. A failed experiment to bring their mother back to life using forbidden alchemy costs Ed his arm and leg, and leaves Al a body-less soul tethered to a suit of armor.
The two travel the world to learn more about alchemy, hunting down clues on how to restore their physical bodies and ultimately getting wrapped up in something much bigger than themselves. The fight scenes are top-tier, and there's plenty of political intrigue and compelling character arcs to keep viewers invested during its quieter moments.
For the sci-fi fans out there, Steins;Gate is a must-see. It tells the story of a college student and aspiring scientist who stumbles upon a way to send messages back in time. It's classic butterfly theory stuff, where altering events in the past ends up having huge and unintended consequences on the future.
Rintaro Okabe and his friends start experimenting with adjusting their fates in subtle ways, and when things inevitably spiral out of control, they're forced to make heartbreaking choices. Steins;Gate is a cerebral and heartfelt thrill much in the same vein as sci-fi staples like Doctor Who or Quantum Leap. So keep some tissues nearby for this one too.
Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
If you're looking for something a little lighter, you can't go wrong with Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun.
The premise is one you'll already be familiar with: A high school girl is in love with a guy that barely knows she exists. But things take a turn when she finally works up the courage to confess her love to him. As it turns out, he's a renowned shojo comic artist working under a pen name, and he misunderstands her advances, mistaking her for a fan of his work. He asks her to be his assistant, which she accepts in a bid to get closer to him. The misunderstandings only spiral further from there.
As they work on his comic together, they grow closer and bring their eccentric schoolmates into the fold, who serve as inspirations for the story. The disconnect between his stoic, tough guy exterior and the flowery romance plots and cutesy art of his comics makes for a hilarious running gag, and with the series being only 12 episodes, it never manages to get stale.
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Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment.
Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats. She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.