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Top 5 Anime That Everyone Should See Before They Die

Updated on August 23, 2017

What Anime Should You Watch Before You Die?

New to Anime? Long time Anime-junkie who is wondering what to watch next? Join me as I reveal my top 5 favourite anime of all time, and why every anime fan should see them before they die.

I've been a fan of anime since I was 8 years old, after having scraps with my dad over whether we watched Dragon Ball Z or Stargate on a Thursday night. It's a great medium that manages to cater to both young children and adults, and tends to convey far more mature themes than most western cartoons.

If you are looking for the best Anime to watch, the anime you must see before you die, look no further: here are my top 5 anime that everyone should see before they die!

Don't mess with the breasts.
Don't mess with the breasts.

1) Black Lagoon

In this show we follow Rock, a Japanese accountant who gets kidnapped by modern day pirates, and in a potential case of Stockholm syndrome, ends up joining their crew.

We are instantly plunged into the world of criminals, with mafias and cartels from all over the world vying for control, assassins crawling in every corner, and our friends at the Black Lagoon company always caught up in the middle of it all.

Why You Should Watch It Before You Die

Black Lagoon is mainly known for its awesome female characters and high impact, over-the-top action sequences.

If you happen to have breasts in the Black Lagoon universe, congratulations, because they give you the ability to leap long distances, take on 30 people in a gun fight by yourself, and they're probably good for concealing a weapon or two.

Stand outs include Revy, foul-mouthed pirate and Rock's partner in crime, Eda, a nun working for a church that is actually a front for a smuggling business, and Roberta, the human maid-equivalent of the Terminator. Oh, and Balalaika, but we'll get to her.

Over the course of the show the gang fights Nazis, incestuous transgender vampire assassins, the Yakuza and pretty much every absurd enemy you can think of. This is what makes the show so awesome; there's no lines it won't cross and it won't hold back. However, it also takes the time to establish characters and make the audience care about them. One thing that surprised me most about Black Lagoon was its ability to win the audience's sympathy for villains that only appeared for a single episode, such as the aforementioned incestuous transgender vampire twins.

This anime also gets props for being one of the rare instances where the dub is so good, it's actually better than the original Japanese voice acting. It's a great show, and if you like anime, action movies and great characters, give it a watch!

My Favourite Character

My favourite character would have to be Balalaika, all the way. She's an ex-Captain of the Russian army, who served time in Afghanistan where her face was disfigured. The war ended and the soviet union broke apart, leaving her and her unit without purpose. When her old lieutenant is killed over a petty drug dispute, Balalaika bands her unit back together, swearing they will stick together from now on and show the world not to mess with Hotel Moscow.

She's the strongest mob boss in the show, her men are fanatical elite soldiers, and even Revy is scared of her. She knows what she wants and she'll mow down anyone who gets in her way. She's Balalaika, and she is freaking. Awesome. Patricia Drake renders a truly memorable performance and the character is deep, interesting, and bad-ass.

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2) Death Note

Yagami Light was a brilliant but bored student born into an ordinary family and living an ordinary life. That all changed when he came across the Death Note, an artefact from another word that allows you to remotely kill anyone you want by simply writing their name in the notebook.

Light begins to use it to enact vengeance on criminals, but his plans are soon interrupted by the attentions of L, the world's best super detective.

The race is on: first one to discover the other's identity is a dead man...

Why You Should Watch It Before You Die

This show is a fantastic thriller, full of high stakes and tension as two of the greatest minds in the world compete against each other. Light and L and perfect rivals, each always an inch away from victory but able to thwart each other by brilliant means.

The dub is also excellent, with Brad Swaile and Alessandro Juliani turning in great performances as L and Light. Every episode is memorable, the story is well written, and it's exciting and gripping from beginning to end. If you haven't seen it already, put it on your to-do list!

My Favourite Character

It's a close toss up between Light and L, and I refuse to choose. Both of them are great characters that evolve and grow as the show goes on, with Light starting out naïve and unskilled and slowly becoming more savvy and cunning in his murders and schemes, and L becoming more morally ambiguous and emotionally troubled as he gets deeper into the case.

One of the best features of the show is that it's never clear which one of them is meant to be the protagonist. After all, Light is killing people who've done some truly heinous things and gotten away with it, and while L is trying to prevent death he engages in some very immoral acts in his attempts to catch Light.

3) Yu Gi Oh GX

Welcome to the world of Duel Monsters, set in an alternate modern world where there are no laws, no police force and everything revolves around a children's card game. We join Jaden Yuki, the newest student at Duel Academy (a prestigious school that teaches...well, children's card games), on his adventures as he fights evil ancient demons, monsters from outer space and crazy scientists...with a children's card game.

Why You Should Watch It Before You Die

What makes this show so fun to watch is its complete and utter what-the-hell-ery.

The setting is insane, a whole world where card games are the law and winning could lose you your soul (or your lunch. The stakes are variable), the characters are all out of their minds in one way or another, the plots are frequently absurd, and the writers for the English dub are loving it.

The dialogue is constant making meta jokes and taking pot shots at the show's insanity. It really shines through how much fun the writers and voice actors are having, making it difficult not to enjoy. Hell, I even wrote a whole lens on how insane the show is. Plus, despite being incredibly weird, the stories are oddly compelling with some genuinely scary villains. (Team Yubel right here)

The Chazz is unimpressed with this lens.
The Chazz is unimpressed with this lens.

My Favourite Character

My favourite character would definitely have to be Chazz Princeton. He wins the award for being absolutely out of his mind, starting not one but three cults over the course of the show, and being the source of most of the show's quotable lines. After all, he's really good at playing card games. And that's what life is really all about anyway!

The female characters of the show deserve a mention too, since unlike in most anime they aren't just there to be captured/eye candy/useless. Sure there's a lot of stereotypes in the minor characters (the nurse is female, there's some squealing girly fangirls walking about) but Alexis Rhodes is a fine duellist, wins her share of important battles for the team and is generally respected and not given special treatment by the rest of the group. It's really nice to see, especially after the rather...less inspiring female characters from the first Yu Gi Oh series.

Axel Brodie also gets a special mention for being one of the few african american characters in anime - and being a complete badass. So awesome in fact that he's been eaten by zombies while saving the group, ravaged by monsters while saving the group, and even crushed by a wall he was holding up to let the group escape, but survived every time. Damn.

4) Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl is the tale of a group of girls who were taken from their previous lives of pain and suffering to be used to do the Italian Governments dirty work in taking down terrorist cells.

Each one has been mechanically enhanced, mentally brainwashed into obedience and conditioned into loving their handlers unconditionally and obsessively.

Our main character is the most recent addition to this cell of pre-teen assassins, Henrietta, and we follow her through her life as a cyborg puppet for a morally ambiguous cause...

Why You Should Watch It Before You Die

This is by far the most heart-wrenching anime I've ever seen. I went into it expecting it to be a load of gratuitous girls-with-guns violence, but there's actually very few action scenes. The show is all about the characters, exploring themes or trust, love and betrayal, and how the girls' brainwashing and physical condition is tearing them apart body and mind.

I've broken down into tears every time I've watched the final episode. And to put it in perspective, four-year old me sat stoically through the death of Bambi's mother without a tear being shed. That's just how much of a tearjerker Gunslinger Girl is. It's emotional, it gets you invested in the characters and the story and is just an all round great anime.

My Favourite Character

Though all the characters in Gunslinger Girl are tragic and amazing in their own way, my favourite is Henrietta herself. She really evolves as a character, becoming increasingly more tragic and even scary as her mind succumbs to the side effects of mental conditioning and of her obsessive adoration of her handler Jose.

Her relationship with Jose is also incredible; Jose named her after his dead sister and is subconsciously attempting to use her as a surrogate, a process that is emotionally draining for both of them. It's a fascinating thing to watch.

5) Axis Powers Hetalia

This has probably one of the weirdest premises for an anime ever: every country in the world is personified into a human being and forced to interact, re-enacting major events from history and generally bickering with each other. The plot jumps about history and even into alternate dimensions where everyone is a cat (...don't ask).

Why You Should Watch It Before You Die

This show is not for the excessively patriotic. It's charm and humour lies in being unabashedly stereotypical towards every country on the planet, and what it does it does well.

That said, the humour is light and it doesn't set out to offend. The show is over the top and completely ridiculous, making it a ton of fun and hilarious to watch. All of the characters are unique and charming in their strangeness and everyone will have their favourites by the end.

Every country has their own spotlight at some point and I've actually learned an embarrassing amount about the history of other countries just from watching it. Not that I'll admit to anyone where I got my knowledge from.

The best thing is, each episode is only five minutes long, consisting of a few sketches and vignettes, making it a very unique experience that you won't get from any other anime.

No love for France...
No love for France...

My Favourite Character

Well, England, obviously.

I love America too. England and America are a great duo, constantly annoying each other with their mannerisms and cultural differences.

Italy and Germany also make a great pair, playing the excessively serious German against the head-in-the-clouds food and girl obsessed Italian with the cutest face imaginable. Prussia is also awesome- ah I could probably go on all day about the great characters. I'll leave it to you to make up your own mind as to who is the best!

What's Your Favourite Anime?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Fairy Tail.

    • profile image


      5 years ago


    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I don't really have a favorite since I don't know very much about popular anime shows. When I was teaching a big favorite was Dragon Ball Z and Yu Ge Oh. I did enjoy this lens though. Great job!


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Dragonball Z is number one ;)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Cool lense you have here!

    • DesignSpace profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks so much! I've been told Detective Conan is good, but the fact that its running at like 1000 episodes is a bit intimidating! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I watch Dragonball too,and some of the animes listed(but,I love mysteries such as Detective Conan) Thanks for the informative article.Your recommendations is featured in my 'Otaku!Squidoo group'

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      go for death note

    • DesignSpace profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @theXodus: Boo! I kid. The original was awesome though. Anything with Bakura in it had to be. :P

    • theXodus profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm gonna have to check out Gunslinger Girl... and I totally disagree about Yugioh GX :p the original all the way!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      I haven't seen all of them, but I loved Death Note! L is my hero :)

    • chinchilla-cages profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens. I had fun reading it.

    • MillBucks profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice write up, you're off to a great start with Squiddoo. Wish you success as you move forward.

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 

      6 years ago from Johanesburg

      welcome to squidoo ,looking forward to reading more from you

    • DesignSpace profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @goldenrulecomics: Ah that's so cool! I'm jealous. Thanks for the welcome!

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Welcome to Squidoo. My daughter really likes anime, and we have the Hetalia DVDs. We've gone to a number of anime and comic-book conventions, and the time she dressed as Hetalia she met the actor who dubbed the Hetalia characters lines into English. It was very cool!


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