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How to Find the Best Anime Series to Watch

Updated on March 11, 2013

Finding the Best Anime to Watch

For those who are not adept in watching anime, the entire breadth of content may seem daunting at first glance, and that's because it is. There are so many genres of anime to start with, so please, read on and I'll do my best to simplify the complicated mess of craziness that is Japanese Television. For it is truly Japanese television. There are some American-based anime, but they will not be covered in this article, as they are a different breed; akin to mixing breeds of dogs together. It become an entirely different entity, and therefore cannot be judged next to its predecessor.

And so, I seek to elucidate you on the genres of anime, as well as my own personal opinions on the best anime in each genre, based upon factors such as story, execution, episodic-content/length/count, and a host of other factors. I hope you enjoy the article, and learn a think or two about Japanese television in relation to UK television and American broadcast television. Oh, and can't forget HBO, Starz, and Hulu as well, but I'll get to that later.

What is Anime? How do I begin my search?

So you want to start delving into Japanese television. Wonderful! You will not be disappointed. You will go on great adventures, and learn things that will change your life. Before I delve into the different genres of anime, I wish to compare loosely the differences between American, Japanese, and UK television.


American television


Most of you, reading this, are familiar to some extent with American television. I grew up with it, and have seen every corner there is to find of it. There are the primetime shows that appear at 6-8pm weekdays and are constantly fighting for time-slots and ratings and viewership. These are most often sitcoms and rarely dramas. Humor is usually involved, and rarely is it a series that is serialized, meaning that each episode is its own entity and contains its own dilemmas, problems, and storylines.

There are also late-night television programs that are usually either talk-shows meant for humor, and there are also television programs that are not meant for children (past their bedtimes) and that's where you'll find the more vulgar, profane, gory, realistic shows on channels such as FX. Some shows of this manner include The Shield, Law and Order: SVU, and Late Show with David Letterman. I have fond memories growing up of my parents allowing me to watch David Letterman past my bedtime once in a while. While most of his jokes went over my head, it was still an experience.

There are also what I call rogue networks. They are HBO, Starz, Showtime, and the like. They are their own entities, and are not a part of the broadcast cable phenomenon of days past. They have a different rule-set and are able to "get a way with" pretty much anything they want. Since people have to pay premiums to see this content (and oftentimes require a cable subscription in the first place to even have access to the premium content) they can show pretty much anything they want. They aren't concern with ratings like prime-time television on cable are. Shows in recent memory that have received acclaim on these networks are Dexter, Spartacus, and Game of Thrones among many, many others. The production budgets of these shows can be massive, or they can be minimalistic, since they don't have to appeal to the mainstream American viewer.

UK television


Of what I have watched, UK television that makes its way to America showcases one thing above all else. British humor. It truly is one of a kind. The level of quick-witted sarcasm and mockery of social norms mixed with deadpan delivery and deep, ever-changing characters all tied up in short 23-minute episodes makes for not only an enjoyable experience, but you'll be laughing the whole way. Though, British humor is not for everyone. It takes some getting used to. Like coffee. No one drinks their first cup of black coffee and says "yum, I want more!" . They usually say "ugh, how could anyone stand to drink this....hot black filth?!". That's how I see British television. It's a black filth of awesomeness that grows on you and becomes like a long-lost friend that always knew you had, but hadn't really known all the same.

Japanese Television


And this is where it gets tricky. There's so much to pick from. Some of it is light-hearted, funny, and aimed at young audiences and revolves around school-room romances, or such similar situations and never really touches into any of the deep issues of life, and the meaning of our own existence. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are anime that do reach that existential core, that human aspect, that philosophical plateau that no other television I have seen has been able to reach. And the funny thing is, it's wildly popular in Japan. When I first watched some of these deep, existential anime, I thought, "there's no way anyone would want to watch this but me. It's way too 'out there'"

But that just isn't true. Japanese culture is just more introspective and individualistic and imaginative than other nations. And this culture aspect has led to the creation of some of the best television, and conversely, some of the absolute worst television known to mankind. I'll elaborate later.

What are the Different Genres of Anime?

There's action, adventure, comedy, demonic, drama, game, harem, historical, horror, kiddy, romance, magic, martial arts, mecha, military, mystery, psychological, samurai, school, sci-fi, seinen, shoujo, shounen, space, super powers, supernatural, and a special category for vampires. So, this is probably incredibly daunting for you. Seeing all these different categories and thinking "There's no way I can sift through all of this! It's too much!"

Well, let me assure you. All of these genres is specifically targeted at certain age groups, and genders. Seinen for example, is usually mature anime aimed at men aged 18-40. Just as in a video game, which many anime seem to resemble, you can find yourself wandering into a genre that is either completely NOT your taste, or you can find your niche in the vast, never-ending market of Japanese televsion. So, let's take a stroll through the different genres, and see what's right for you. I'll give my own personal biased opinions when I feel necessary, but mostly this is all about helping you make sense of Japanese animated television that is so often misunderstood because of how vast and diverse the market is.

Genres of Anime

Anime Genre
Specified Audience
Specific Examples
Additional Notes
Action (swords, guns, explosions)
Ages 14+, mature content possible
Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball(Z,GT), one piece
Usually involves action, death, explosions, and all the fun stuff you love
Science Fiction
Ages 18+, usually mature content
Steins Gate, Gurren Lagann, Psychopass
Usually takes place in cyberpunk future or deals with sci-fi elements heavily to define the theme of the anime
Seinen (gore, sex, violence)
Ages 18+ mature content
Shigurui, Berserk, Claymore
For mature audiences only. Lots of killing, lots of blood, lots of dying.
Shounen (more kid-friendly)
All age appropriate
Bleach, Naruto, Inuyasha
Tends to be your typical anime. Many seasons of content, very little story to be had.
Vampire (entirely about vampires!)
Ages 18+ mature content usually
Hellsing, Blood+, Trinity Blood
Vampires!
Shoujo
Ages 7-18 (mostly female)
Vampire Knight, Kare Kano, Complex, Sailor Moon
For little girls!
Samurai
Depends vastly on anime
Shigurui, Samurai Champloo, Blade of the Immortal, Rurouni Kenshin
Dealing with Samurai and their katanas
Psychological/Philosophical
Ages 18+ rare mature content
Ergo Proxy, Kino's Journey, Casshern Sins,
Brainy trips down the limits of imagination
Existential
Ages 18+
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gilgamesh, Texhnolyze, Serial Experiments Lain
Brainier Trips down the even greater limits of imagination
Society-based
Varies wildly
Psychopass, No 6, Sword Art Online
Commentaries on society
Supernatural
Varies wildly
Bleach, Code-breaker, Persona
Deals with Supernatural Abilities or powers
Card-game-based
All age appropriate
Pokemon, Yugioh, etc
Card games...
Intense Drama
Ages 18+
Death Note, Code Geass
Psychological mind-battles beware!
Adventure-based
Varies wildly
Ergo Proxy, Kino's Journey,
Usually a long journey involved with some great revelations about mankind thrown into the mix

What's your favorite genre of anime?

See results

So Many Genres, Where Do I Start?!

Well, first things first. Most of the genres overlap, or are contained in multiple genres. That's a knack of Japanese television. Any particular anime usually consists of 3-4, sometimes as many as 10 different genres at once. The more they mix and match genres, time-periods, existential concepts, the better, and more interesting and original.


But you want to know where to start.


Yes, in the table above, you've got your start. Depending on who you are, you will absolutely find something to be loved in there. Once you've found your first anime, which mine was Berserk, you can go from there. Berserk became my favorite anime of all time, and so I wanted to find more anime like it. The answer to that dilemma is: myanimelist.net. It's a site devoted to anime, and even lets you record what anime you've watched (so you can keep record, I guess, and communicate your interests with the forum members) but the most handy feature of the site is the "recommendations" panel whenever you select a particular anime.

So, I went to Berserk, and click on recommendations, and that led me to Claymore, and to Bleach, and to Inuyasha, and to countless, infinite other anime over the years. It's a journey, as many anime will teach you, but it's not a journey that you're ill-equipped for. You're ready now to journey out and find Japanese television that is not only interesting to you, but will engage you mentally and make you a better person for having watched it. That's the beautiful thing about anime. It can really revolutionize the way you think or feel about any particular topics or idea. They can get the root of what "love" is, or societal-standards in class-based societies, or other such ideas. Yes, they're all stories, but they're all borne from imagination and set to a central theme. That theme can either speak to you or turn you away.

Now That You've Found All The Anime You Could Ever Want or Need

Well, you might want to first know how to watch all these anime without spending a fortune on boxed sets of seasons and whatnot. I recommend Netflix, Hulu, and sites like Crunchyroll. Netflix has plenty of streamable anime right away, and the rest you can have mailed to you. Hulu has added a HUGE selection of the latest, greatest anime, and the oldies too, all for a modest subscription fee. They also have them in subtitled English, or in dubbed English most times. Crunchyroll is mainly for anime that is airing in japan RIGHT NOW and you absolutely want to watch it RIGHT NOW and can't wait for it to appear stateside. There are plenty of other sites you can visit to watch anime, you just need to look with a strategic eye.


Also, next step. TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT ANIME. They will either love it or hate it, misunderstand it, or embrace it. You don't know, but now that you've found the love of your life, why not share it with everyone?! Now, go forth and spread the good news. Japanese television is amazing and should be watched by everyone all the time! (in moderation, take breaks, don't run 10 day long marathons, not a good idea)

Now That You Know

Now that you have the knowledge, you can run with it, or you can simply sit on the knowledge. Knowledge doesn't necessarily need to be acted upon, but can become trivia. And at the very least, you know some trivia, but hopefully this article has not been trivial to you, and you've found something out that you didn't know before, and that may lead to something wonderful. One can only hope. One can only hope. Go, in peace, and watch anime fervently. Now.

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    • Ericajean profile image

      Ericajean 4 years ago

      Thanks for the highly informative hub! I have begun keeping a list of anime that I watch and include seasons already watched...there are so many!

      What helps me is narrowing the list down to my favorite genres: Shoujo, Drama, and Shounen.

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 4 years ago from Lebanon

      hoohoooo, i can't believe people haven't taken a look at your hub :P

      Your hub is really interesting :)

      I live in Lebanon, so we basically don't have anime airing on our local stations :P Yet for the french speakers, mangachannel seems to be a good start. Although i am not a french speaker, based on what i heard french speakers enjoy the french dubs. For me, since anime is not available on DVDs here, i torrent all what i need. { although some might raise the ethical flag concerning torrenting, as the japanese say Shikata ga nai, we don't have easy access to them ::( ]

      I do love how you presented the hub, especially with the table summing up the genres.

      Luckily, we have an anime group on Facebook were anime fans from all over Lebanon join the discussion and share anime and manga. We meet every Friday at Starbucks and share tons of anime. To us, we prefer the English subs not the dubs, thus we learn some Japanese. Also, my university has the Japanese cultural club as well as its companion Facebook page where we learn Japanese words on a perpetual basis.

      Another thing i would suggest the use of myanimelist.com, the site is really helpful offering anime recommendation, summaries , as well as suggesting similar anime. It usually contains information regarding the OSTs in the anime which can be breathtaking on various occasions.

      As for on-going mangas and animes that have hit a stop, i suggest that people who don't want hanging animes must check the story-line and the reviews as well. A well known example would be Claymore for instance or even Skip Beat and Bleach ( i really hope they continue bleach though :( ).

      Also, online streaming also works properly in case DVD, TV channels, or torrenting in unavailable. Again, i am aware of the whole ethical issue behind torrenting, copyright, as well as the arguments, but for me that is my only option. Not even Virgin MegaStore offers the anime as DVDs.

      PS: Several Facebook Groups are really active both for local and international users. eg: Lebanese Otaku :P

      Have fun my anime friend, and i really love your enthusiasm :D

      PS: did you know about the comic Incarnate that plagiarizes bleach ? I am linking you, yet all the material on the hub was quoted from Mangahut.com

      https://hubpages.com/literature/Plagiarizing-Bleac...

      Again, thank you for your educational hub Edwardo-kun ( as Winry Calls Edward in Fullmetal Alchemist - awesome anime btw :D ).

      Matane !!