The best anime: 36 fantastic series and where to watch them

A still from the Netflix anime series Delicious in Dungeon, one of the best anime, showing characters crowded around looking at character Senshi on the floor, a dwarf warrior wearing a metal helmet.
Delicious in Dungeon is a new Netflix series based on Ryōko Kui's manga. (Image credit: Netflix)

If you’re looking for the best anime series to watch right now, this guide is for you. Anime is a super popular genre that’s brought us many amazing stories over the years, from the warmth of coming-of-age tales to the intense drama of science-fiction sagas. Some of the best anime stories have even become so popular that they’ve made the leap to live action series, like Netflix’s One Piece. 

However, with such a wide selection of anime shows to choose from on the best streaming services, it’s not easy to figure out which is the right anime for you. In our best anime guide below, we've picked the cream of the crop from streaming giants like Netflix and anime-specific platforms, including Crunchyroll and Funimation. Read on for our pick of the top anime shows to watch today.

Delicious in Dungeon

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First aired: 2024 | Episodes: 12
Where to watch it: Netflix

The most recent addition to our best anime guide, the new Netflix series Delicious in Dungeon is based on a a popular Japanese manga series of the same name that's written and illustrated by Ryōko Kui. 

Delicious in Dungeon is set in a fantasy world. The story follows a group of dungeon-exploring characters who experience a heart-breaking loss when they try to slay a red dragon. They need to return to the dungeons, but they're low on supplies. That's when they meet a dwarf called Senshi who has an inventive way of surviving amongst the monsters. 

The story goes on to detail their adventures through the depths of the dungeon, the environments and scary monsters they find there, as well as the meals they create. If you prefer fantasy anime series, we highly recommend getting Delicious in Dungeon on your must-watch list. It's a real feast for the eyes.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

First aired: 2023 | Episodes: 8
Where to watch it: Netflix

When the news first dropped that Scott Pilgrim was getting the anime treatment at Netflix, we weren't sure what to think. Was a Scott Pilgrim animated show necessary when the beloved comic books have already been turned into a live-action film and video game? 

But fast-forward to late 2023 when it was released and we loved Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. It's a bold and well-crafted reimagining of the cult comics that we believe fans both old and new will find incredibly fun to watch. It's packed with subversive storytelling, oodles of humor and there's plenty of satisfying, over-the-top action to boot. It's clear Netflix already has another anime hit on its hands.

To learn how the Scott Pilgrim Takes Off adaptation came about, read our exclusive Scott Pilgrim Takes Off interview with original creator Bryan Lee O'Malley and fellow TV co-creator BenDavid Grabinski. Or, to find out which other hit shows are available to watch right now, take a look at our best Netflix series and best Prime Video series guides. 


First aired: 2023 | Episodes: 26
Where to watch it: Netflix, Disney XD (US)

If Bakugan sounds familiar, that's because it's a popular toy brand that's been around for years. Anime adaptations have been released in the past, like Bakugan Battle Planet, which premiered in the US on Cartoon Network in December 2018. This latest Netflix series is best considered a reboot, with a new storyline and a fresh set of characters, too.

The story follows aliens called the Bakugans, which come from six planets in the Vestroian galaxy where there are six different species, Avian, Dragon, Insect, Beast, Aquatic and Dinosaur. These Bakugans are accidentally teleported to Earth and young people discover they can pair with them in order to transform into huge beings or Kaijus. 


First aired: 2004 | Episodes: 366
Where to watch it: Funimation, Hulu, Disney Plus

Bleach is an anime series based on the super popular manga series of the same name, which was created by renowned artist and character designer Tite Kubo and has sold more than 120 million copies. 

It follows the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who obtains Soul Reaper powers, which means that he then see ghosts. With these new powers he defends people from evil spirits and helps guide lost souls to the afterlife – a similar sort of role to the Grim Reaper. The series has proved to be incredibly popular over the years and we think it's because it's likely to appeal to people interested in all sorts of genres, including action, romance and the more supernatural side.

It first aired back in 2004, and there are 366 episodes to watch in total, so if you get hooked you'll have plenty to keep you occupied. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

First aired: 2022 | Episodes: 25
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury is mecha anime, also known as robot anime. It follows the story of Suletta Mercury, a teenager who comes from Mercury and transfers to a school run by big corporations where she mingles with the kids of powerful leaders and CEOs.

This is a Gundam series, which is a Japanese military sci-fi media franchise that focuses on stories involving mecha and large robots. But Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury is a significant show in the franchise because Suletta is a female, LGBTQ protagonist.

Death Parade

First aired: 2011 | Episodes: 12
Where to watch it: Hulu, Funimation, Crunchyroll

A show of just 12 episodes, Death Parade feels like something from Satoshi Kon, the man between movies like Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. Two people enter a mysterious bar through a lift, with no idea of how they ended up there, and have to play bar games to the death – as bartender Decim looks on, utterly unmoved. But Chiyuki, Decim’s new female assistant, is much more empathetic – can she stop the inexplicable torture?

Death Parade is built on a novel and compelling idea, and it features great animation and offers an examination of a new character's story within each episode. It’s emotional, sometimes shocking and very memorable.

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) 

First aired: 2012 | Episodes: 94
Where to watch it: Hulu, Funimation, Crunchyroll, Disney Plus

Attack on Titan isn’t uncontroversial, but it is such an anime cornerstone you see it and make up your own mind, because it's still one of the best anime out there. 

We follow the last of humanity, which has shut itself in a walled city, ever-fearful of gigantic, humanoid titans that can attack and eat people. 

Attack on Titan doesn’t hold back on the gruesomeness of its monsters – the titans are uncomfortably human in a way that has sparked a lot of psychological and philosophical discussion among dedicated fans, and if you’re squeamish about violence and the sheer devastation attacks cause, this is not the show for you. There is absolutely nothing goofy about Attack on Titan.

This is what makes it so interesting – not a lot of anime take their fantastical plots this seriously, and make their premise about more than fighting the monster of the week. Attack on Titan considers morality and how to live when l danger is ever-present. 

However, the anime has also been criticized for its pro-military themes and fascist iconography and whether these can be detached from the anime’s own world. Either way, Attack on Titan will likely give you much to ponder, and that is undoubtedly its strength.

One Piece 

First aired: 1999 | Episodes: 1,087
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Netflix (US), Hulu

It’s almost impossible to have so much as a passing interest in anime and not come across One Piece. It’s based on the bestselling manga of all time worldwide, it’s been around for decades and it’s not even finished. All in all it's a pretty daunting affair, but also testament to the continued relevance of author Eiichiro Oda’s creation. 

At the heart of it, the saga of Monkey D. Luffy, who plans to take up the mantle of the pirate king and find the legendary treasure One Piece is quite simple, but Oda built a fantastic world around it and takes his sweet time introducing you to all of its facets.

Luffy builds a crew of characters who go through thick and thin together, he grows stronger in body and mind, and he forms alliances with just as many characters as he makes enemies of. Whether it’s magical fruit that gives superpowers, merfolk or world-spanning war, One Piece truly has it all, and just by looking at it art of Luffy and his friends, you wouldn’t fathom the depth One Piece hides. Yes, it is a lot to get into, but this show is super popular for more than one good reason. If you’ve watched it as a kid, try it again with the new Funimation dub, you’ll be surprised what difference it makes, too.

Demon Slayer

First aired: 2019 | Episodes: 66
Where to watch it: Funimation, Crunchyroll, Netflix, Hulu

No best anime list can  be complete without mentioning the biggest shonen anime of the moment. While its slick action is reminiscent of the best moments of shows like Naruto, Demon Slayer stands out for how genuinely nail-biting it is. 

When his entire family is killed by demons, everything changes for Tanjiro Kamado, a young man living in Taisho-era Japan. His sister Nezuko seemingly survives, but transforms into a demon herself. Holding on to her humanity, Nezuko refrains from attacking Tanjiro, giving him hope for a cure. In order to find one, there’s nothing for it than to become a demon slayer. 

The plot isn’t deep, but the sibling bond between Tanjiro and Nezuko gives the whole series a strong backbone. Tanjiro in particular is a truly likeable character, the kind of pure-hearted boy you wouldn’t expect in a largely unforgiving series. Kimetsu no Yaiba somehow manages to imbue a well-used setting with new life and boasts great production values all around, from the animation to voice acting and music.

Ousama Ranking (Ranking of Kings) 

First aired: 2021 | Episodes: 23
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this anime comes straight from Studio Ghibli with its soothing color palette, character design and because Ranking of Kings is the feel good adventure for hard times. 

Boji, a young prince, must embark on a journey to earn a good ranking in the world’s unique system, and thus prove himself as the next king. He doesn’t lack courage, but in addition to being small, he is deaf and mute. Naturally, this influences Boji’s relationship with the world around him – how he communicates, how people understand him, and if he’s taken seriously or not.

Throughout the anime, you don’t only get to know Boji better and root for him like crazy, you also meet a colorful cast of fantasy characters, which all absolutely get their due here. But also, look at Boji. How could you not wish this little guy the best.

Violet Evergarden

First aired: 2018 | Episodes: 14
Where to watch it: Netflix 

One of Netflix’s first big anime, Violet Evergarden builds a completely new world with its continent of Telesis. Here, two nations have been at war for years. When it comes to an end, a “war doll” is left behind – Violet Evergarden, an android who was built for the conflict, but she started to develop feelings. Now that the war is over, she has to find a new purpose, and starts work for a postal company that also offers to have its employees essentially ghost-write letters for their customers. These letters are emotional affairs, and they often are emotions Violet is completely unfamiliar with, so she has to first listen to, and understand her client’s problems before she can help them with the process of healing emotionally.

This isn’t a light and fun series – it’s about the difficulty of facing up to emotions properly and getting closure. It’s about the horrors of war and the feeling of relief when you get closure. Violet Evergarden is excruciatingly beautiful therapy in 14 episodes, and if you’re looking for a good cry, this is your show.

As the series has a somewhat open ending, we recommend you watch the movie, also available on Netflix, in order to see Violet’s story through to the end. 


First aired: 2021 | Episodes: 13
Where to watch: Crunchyroll

You go in to Odd Taxi thinking “Hang on? That's a walrus taxi driver?” and then a mystery thriller unfolds that keeps you glued to your seat. 

Odd Taxi plays with our perception of anime – it’s more serious, both in its themes and its production values, than it first appears – it is very much like Beastars in that way, the other popular show with anthropomorphic animals, only that being an animal isn’t part of its narrative at all. 

A disappearance isn’t a particularly new concept for a thriller, but implicating a taxi driver, without letting the audience know what actually happened, draws viewers in as actual participants hunting for clues. 

There’s a lot about Odd Taxi that just feels like someone said “why not”, but its mystery is a compelling one, and the dialogue in it is so well-written and acted that just finding out more about each character is a joy.

3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes In Like A Lion) 

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 45
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation

If you’re at a point in life where you don’t know where to go next, if you’re lonely and maybe a little disillusioned, 3-gatsu no Lion will be a bit of a gut punch, certainly at first. 

But 3-gatsu no Lion is one of those rare anime that face up to difficult emotions like this, and that makes it an absolute must-watch. It tells the story of the 17 year-old Rei Kiriyama, an elite shogi player who buckles under the weight of expectations fellow top players and his foster family place on him. 

Rei never got to be a proper teenager, and he doesn’t know how to deal with the loneliness he feels as a result. A chance encounter with three girls is set to change this – the sisters Akari, Momo and Hinata and Momo are adamant to help Rei enjoy his life again and learn what it means to be part of a family.

It’s proper heartwarming stuff, even though Rei continues to come up to the limits of his own emotional intelligence. As he grows, 3-gatsu no Lion does a great job of making you root for him, both as a person and a shogi player.

Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 78
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll

The isekai genre of anime is filled with characters who end up transported to another world and are instantly gifted with all of the strength any good power fantasy deserves. While there have been other isekai that twist that formula slightly, it's hard to beat the sheer terror that Re:Zero manages to convey so regularly. 

It's tricky to discuss Re:Zero without spoiling any of it, but it's basically a very dark version of life in another world. The hero, Natsuki Subaru, is incredibly obnoxious at times, but his struggles throughout the series turn him into a fairly likeable protagonist. 

There's a lot to love about the lore of the world as well, which is revealed steadily throughout each episode. This isn't an anime for the feint of heart, but for those willing to grit their teeth when things get tough, this is a must-watch. 


First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 51
Where to watch it: Netflix

Adulting can be hard. In fact, it can often be downright exhausting. You’ve got countless bills to pay, office politics to deal with, and delicate social relationships to maintain. Sometimes you just want to let out a guttural death metal scream as a means of release... or risk imploding. It’s a good thing Retsuko, the timid titular character in this wonderful anime from Sanrio, can do exactly that.  

Aggretsuko is frighteningly relatable, and a must-watch to anyone feeling downtrodden by the rigors of modern day life. It perfectly encapsulates so many situations we’ve all encountered at some point or another – from working under a tyrannical boss to trying to appease your matchmaking mother – Aggretsuko holds up a mirror to the rest of the world in a hilarious way, sometimes painfully so.

While Retsuko might seem like your typical mild-mannered employee, her secret lies in the fact she can wail like the best death metal singers on the planet, and it’s the only way she manages to stay sane. A cathartic and incredibly comforting anime, Aggretsuko really rocks. 


First aired: 1998 | Episodes: 1,269
Where to watch it: Netflix, Hulu

If you’ve never watched Pokémon before, you may not want to binge-watch the whole thing from the beginning. But you should, and not just for nostalgic reasons. The Pokémon anime didn’t just take the world by storm by being a clever marketing tool for a video game series, it’s genuinely wholesome entertainment. It defined a whole genre of shows, all centred around young protagonists making fantastic friends, helping out where they can and of course duking it out in Pokémon tournaments.

Sure, Pokémon is a show for kids, but the values it presents are enduring. Besides, the animation quality is really good and the seemingly never-ending variety of small monsters is a feat in itself.

If you want more Pokémon in your life, then we highly recommend reading our best Pokémon games guide.

Your Lie in April (Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso)

First aired: 2014 | Episodes: 25
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Kōsei is a young piano prodigy, but his mother’s death results in a breakdown so profound that he can no longer play. Mired in depression, there doesn’t seem to be anything he enjoys. One day, his friends manage to drag him to a local violin competition, where he listens to Kaori, a young girl with a captivating personality, who is eventually able to break him out of his rut. But Kaori isn’t without her own problems.

Your Lie in April is a story full of emotions, with depression, love and illness all on the table. Rather than Kaori being a manic pixie dream girl that exists for Kōsei’s benefit, though, their relationship is characterized by its give and take dynamic. It’s a story about living life to its fullest, and trying to let go of regrets, without making light of how truly difficult things can get.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 194
Where to watch it: Netflix, Crunchyroll (4 seasons), Hulu (3 seasons), Prime Video (2 seasons in the US), Peacock (2 seasons), Funimation (2 seasons in the US)

Never has a title fit its series better than Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, because at its core, bizarre is exactly what it is. From capturing Hirohoki Araki’s highly recognizable art style to plot lines and action that can often be described as camp, it surely is an anime that evokes a solid love or hate reaction in many people.

Over the course of eight seasons, you follow different members of the Joestar family through several decades. It all starts in the late 19th century with English aristocracy and the rivalry between Jonathan Joestar and his archnemesis Dio Brando. There are mixed martial arts, vampires, and very Japanese ideas of what England was like. There will be more supernatural occurrences than you can shake as stick at, as members of the Joestar family time and time again try not only to thwart the Brandos, but also save the universe with their mighty fists. It doesn’t really make any sense, but it has to be seen to be believed.

Yuri!!! on Ice 

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 13
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Anime has a complicated relationship with gay representation, even today. In the worst cases, it's a source of cheap comedy or exploitative titillation. That history makes Yuri!!! on Ice quietly revolutionary for its depiction of sexuality and gender. Yuri, a professional figure skater, returns to his hometown after a crushing loss, only to be surprised when his idol appears and offers to coach him.

The relationship that blooms between them is complex and multifaceted. The show establishes archetypes – the preternaturally talented, capricious mentor; the quiet, hardworking student – before slowly dismantling them as each character is more fully revealed both to the viewer and to themselves. Ostensibly a sports anime, the show's beautifully choreographed, fluid figure skating sequences are less about the competition than the way it lets its characters reveal their hidden depths. Plus its opening theme is a banger!


First aired: 2011 | Episodes: 24 + 1 OVA and 1 alternate episode
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu (1 season)

Adapted from the visual novel of the same name, Steins;Gate follows self-described mad scientist Rintaro Okabe and his band of misfit friends as they accidentally invent a device that can send text messages back in time. In its early episodes, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the show as a slice-of-life comedy – its main character an irritating mix of pompous jerk and goofball klutz that makes him pretty hard to like.

As the story progresses, though, Steins;Gate reveals a hidden depth. As you learn of the underlying traumas that haunt its characters, Okabe is revealed to be more sympathetic and noble than he first appears. And as their experiments with time travel take a dark turn, the show morphs into a gripping, urgent thriller that you won't want to put down.

Megalo Box 

First aired: 2018 | Episodes: 26
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Peacock

There's nothing particularly complicated about Megalo Box, which was created as a tribute to the boxing manga Ashita no Joe on its 50th anniversary. It's the future, and Megalo Boxing is a popular sport in which fighters compete wearing metal frames – called Gears – to augment their combat ability. In a bid to escape the slums, a young fighter gains entry into an elite tournament and wins unexpected popularity by fighting Gearless.

The reason to watch Megalo Box is its unparalleled, effortless sense of style. Its retro design, its eclectic soundtrack, its defiant end title card proclaiming "not dead yet…" There's a likeable cast of characters, sympathetic backstories and moral quandaries, to be sure, but the joy here is rooting for the underdog as he survives a series of brutal, frenetic battles. 

Death Note

First aired: 2006 | Episodes: 37
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Peacock (season 1 only)

When high school student Light Yagami discovers a book that can kill anyone whose name is written in it, he sets about creating his idea of utopia – offing high profile criminals in an effort to eradicate crime. As the legend of a mystical killer of killers grows across the world, an eccentric detective known only as 'L' sets about trying to bring him down. What follows is a fascinating game of cat and mouse, as Light and L battle to discover each other's identity.

Despite its fantastical concept, Death Note is an accomplished crime thriller. The convoluted rules of the Death Note itself are slowly unveiled, giving you the chance to appreciate the depths of Light's scheming. And the way L goads Light into making mistakes – even just revealing more information than he intended – is always a delight. The second season takes a drastic dip in quality, but those first 25 episodes are masterfully constructed.

Mob Psycho 100

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 37
Where to watch it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Mob Psycho 100 is one of the best action series, thanks to the peerless animation of Studio BONES, imaginative characters, and a whole lot of heart. Mob is a middle school kid who happens to have incredible psychic powers, and he inevitably uses them to fight other psychics in outlandish battles. But Mob Psycho 100 deviates from most series of its kind by being a surprisingly deep character study, especially in its second season. 

Mob is gentle to his core, and cares deeply about growing up into a better person without taking advantage of his psychic gifts. His mentor, Reigen, has no psychic powers but is an inveterate fraud and constant comic relief. Mob Psycho 100 manages to be surprising at every turn, smarter and more thoughtful than any of its contemporaries. And better-animated, too. The creator cut his teeth with the parody manga series One-Punch Man, which is great. Mob is better.

Ping Pong the Animation

First aired: 2014 | Episodes: 11
Where to watch it: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Most sports anime are comfortable, trope-y hang-out shows with a fun cast of characters that are content to trundle along for a couple hundred episodes. Ping Pong the Animation, despite telling a conventional story about a pair of friends trying to become champion ping pong players, is nothing like that. And it probably looks like no anime you've ever seen. Director Masaaki Yuasa retained the art style of the manga, by acclaimed artist Taiyō Matsumoto, characters rough and exaggerated, scenes cut up into panels just like a comic. 

At first it may even come off as ugly, but stick with it to see the animation blossom in expressive, surreal ping pong matches that reflect the psychology of the characters as much as the real action of the sport. It has style to spare, but it's ultimately the relationship of friends Smile and Peco that makes Ping Pong an all-timer.

Cowboy Bebop

First aired: 1998 | Episodes: 26
Where to watch it: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix

The quintessential anime gateway drug. Cowboy Bebop is an ensemble series about a crew of misfit bounty hunters, scraping by as they meander around our solar system. The genre is as eclectic as the cast: generally it fits somewhere into the realm of a space western (think Firefly), but one episode it may veer off into treasure hunting, then the next into horror and the next yakuza drama. 

Cowboy Bebop gets silly and weird on occasion, but is overall more adult than most anime series, and more subtle with its themes than Japanese writers tend to be. There's a good reason it's still beloved enough to get a live action Netflix adaptation more than 20 years after it aired. (And if you like jazz, be ready for the best soundtrack ever written for a TV show).

Neon Genesis Evangelion

First aired: 1995 | Episodes: 26
Where to watch it: Netflix

Evangelion is so monumental, so influential in the history of Japanese culture, that it's worth watching no matter what. Even if you don't like mecha shows about giant fighting robots, which is what Eva is at a high level. Even if you can't stand protagonist Shinji Ikari, a depressed teenager who can't deal with his hormones, his daddy issues and the insane save-the-Earth circumstances he finds himself in. 

Even if you're disappointed that by the end, Evangelion doesn't really know how to follow through on the mysteries, themes, and characters it's developed along the way. There's just so much in Evangelion: it's dense with biblical imagery and psychoanalysis and what-the-hell moments that have inspired countless games and anime since the '90s. After watching Evangelion, we guarantee that there's at least one reference in something you've watched or played that will belatedly make you go ohhh, now I get it.

My Hero Academia

First aired: 2016 | Episodes: 146
Where to watch: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

The best shonen (teen) action series currently going. My Hero Academia is the anime take on the X-Men, except most humans, rather than a rare few, develop Quirks, which are strange powers. The series follows a group of high school kids training to become the next wave of heroes, and thanks to a fun cast and brisk pacing, it's a prime candidate for binging. 

My Hero Academia is unabashedly earnest, which in the wrong hands could end up trite, but here it just works, and will likely have you pumping your fists when protagonist Midoriya and his classmates fight with all their hearts. Maybe the most surprising thing about My Hero is that it stars an honest-to-god smarter, more nuanced take on Superman than we've ever seen in a movie or TV adaptation of the DC hero. All Might is a treasure.


First aired: 2014 | Episodes: 89
Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Don't mind don't mind! is what the members of Haikyu's high school volleyball team say to each other whenever they lose a point, and that positivity radiates throughout the entire show, which casts volleyball as the most thrilling sport in history. Haikyu is a conventional sports anime, but tuned to perfection, with a cast of underdogs bonding over their love for the sport as they compete against increasingly skilled rival schools. 

The show really works because of the dichotomy of pint-sized, endlessly energetic spiker Hinata and arrogant setter Kageyama, who make an unbeatable pair as they learn to work together. We promise you don't have to care about volleyball to love this show. They're just such good boys, and they deserve to win.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

First aired: 2009 | Episodes: 68
Where to watch: Hulu, Funimation, Crunchyroll

You can't go wrong with either animated version of Fullmetal Alchemist, but the second adaptation of the manga, Brotherhood, is ultimately the better of the two. It stays faithful to the manga's plot and moves briskly through an imaginative story that weaves together politics, mystery, war, and science (or, let's be real, basically magic). The heroes and villains using alchemy to reshape their bodies and the environment makes for spectacular and clever fights, and you can count on animation studio Bones to always make it look great. 

Brothers Alphonse and Edward Elric are the anchor, a pair of wunderkinds searching for a mythical philosopher's stone to repair the damage they caused to themselves in a transmutation gone horribly wrong. What starts as a grand adventure slowly and confidently expands into a deeper story, as concerned with the morality of war and political corruption as it is flashy action scenes.

Natsume's Book of Friends

First aired: 2008 | Episodes: 74
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Growing up hasn't been easy for Natsume, because he's an orphan, and also because he can see yokai, or spirits, that no one else can. This makes him a bit of an outcast, but when he inherits a book from his late grandmother, his life suddenly makes a lot more sense. She could see spirits, too, and "bound" many of them to her in the Book of Friends, which is why they now hound poor Natsume. 

The simple premise of Natsume's Book of Friends is that Natsume seeks out these spirits in order to restore their names to them and unbind them. It's a show that manages to be melancholy and heartwarming from episode to episode and even moment to moment. It's a slice-of-life series with a touch of the supernatural, but what makes it great is how it uses those supernatural encounters to tell human stories. Getting to watch Natsume grow across many seasons keeps the formula from feeling rote.

Samurai Champloo

First aired: 2004 | Episodes: 26
Where to watch: Hulu, Funimation, Hulu

Director Shinichiro Watanabe's follow-up to Cowboy Bebop is very nearly as good. It trades space for samurai-era Japan, and jazz for wonderfully anachronistic hip hop. Samurai Champloo follows the same loose structure as Cowboy Bebop, with a trio of misfits – wild ronin Mugen, quiet and precise ronin Jin, and chipper young girl Fuu – encountering all kinds of oddball situations as they travel across the country.

Most episodes are standalone adventures, but Fuu's central quest to find 'the Samurai who smells of sunflowers' gives it structure, popping up every so often. The characters all have their own mysteries that slowly unravel over the 26 episodes, and the action scenes are some of the most stylish samurai battles ever animated. As in all Watanabe's shows, the music really sets the tone for the show, and his use of modern hip hop gives Champloo a wholly unique tone.

Fruits Basket (2019 reboot) 

First aired: 2019 | Episodes: 63
Where to watch: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

Romantic shoujo anime is cute and fun, but you know what’s even better? Romantic shojo anime that aren’t about romance at all. Fruits Basket is as much less about a cute girl living with cute boys and the feelings that can arise from that, and more about the importance of found family. Toru, while undeniably cute, isn’t a flawless manic pixie dream girl, but someone who grows throughout the series, and who helps others grow in turn. 

And it’s not just about her – if you enjoy good character writing, Fruits Basket is the show for you, as it masterfully establishes its characters, their individual doubts and relationships with each other. Add a spark of fantasy for some comedy shenanigans and you end up with an earnest show about much more than just romantic love.


First aired: 2005 | Episodes: 63
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation

Mushi-Shi is a contemplative, melancholy series about a wandering doctor/researcher who specializes in "mushi," paranormal creatures that feel conjured from myth and folklore. Every episode feels like a meditation on life in some form, and they're all self-contained stories that leave you with something to think about when their 20 minutes are up. 

The protagonist, Ginko, deals with the tragic and the mundane, dispensing words of wisdom while curing a young boy's hearing loss or helping a man search for a mystical rainbow you can reach out and touch. Mushi-Shi's approach to the relationship between man and nature is quieter and more contemplative than the movies of Studio Ghibli, but you can definitely draw parallels there.

Hunter X Hunter

First aired: 2011 | Episodes: 148
Where to watch: Crunchyroll and Funimation (UK and US); Prime Video, Peacock, Hulu, and Netflix (all US only)

A beloved adaptation of one of the most beloved shonen manga of all time. Hunter X Hunter starts out conventionally: young boy Gon goes on an adventure and meets an odd cast of characters undertaking the Hunter's Exam, a ridiculous test of endurance, smarts, and fighting ability that leaves most dead and a select few licensed to basically go anywhere in the world and do anything they want. 

It's fun from the get-go, a breezy action series with likeable characters, especially the eternally upbeat, pure-hearted Gon. It's a slow burn to get to the stuff that elevated Hunter X Hunter to an all-time genre classic, with far more care paid to character development and psychology than who can out-punch who. It's an ever-evolving series, and especially adept at planting seeds that will pay off in big, revelatory moments a dozen hours down the line.

Paranoia Agent

First aired: 2004 | Episodes: 13
Where to watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

A mysterious boy with roller blades and a bent metal bat starts attacking people on the streets of Tokyo, at crisis points in each of their lives. What at first appears to be a horror show is far more than that. Creator Satoshi Kon, who died from cancer tragically young, is famous for films like Perfect Blue and Paprika that explore the human psyche and brilliantly use techniques of animation to blur the lines between what's real and what's imaginary. 

Paranoia Agent is a series of dense character studies, at first seemingly unrelated, that link together into a larger story. It's weird, it's funny, it's creepy, and there's just nothing else like it. Except, of course, Satoshi Kon's movies. Chase them down once you devour Paranoia Agent.


First aired: 2000 | Episodes: 18
Where to watch:  Hulu (original), Crunchyroll (Alternative, Progressive), Adult Swim (Alternative, Progressive), Prime Video, Max, Funimation

There are a couple ways to tackle coming-of-age stories. You can explore the conflicting emotions of teenagers and their relationships gradually, showing their growth across many methodical episodes. Or you can have your main character grow a literal horn out of his head because he's horny, represent the power of adulthood as a badass fighting robot, and use guitars as blatant symbols of sexuality. 

This, of course, is FLCL, a series so heavy with surreal symbolism that on a first viewing, a lot of it probably just comes across as wacky and random. It is wacky – but none of it is random. It all means something, from the moment the wild, pink-haired, Vespa-riding Haruko smashes tween Naota in the head with her guitar and sets off his journey through adolescence. FLCL doesn't realistically show what it's like to go through puberty, but you don't have to understand all of it to realize it brilliantly expresses what it feels like. Wild, overwhelming, confusing, sad, empowering – it's all in there. And the robot's really cool, too.

By now, the FLCL release history may be a bit confusing – the original series from 2003, simply called FLCL, isn’t as widely available as season 2 (alternative) and 3 (Progressive) – thankfully, you can enjoy season 2 and 3 without having watched the first one, even though we would really urge you to.

For more anime-based coverage, read our guide on the best anime streaming services.

Malindy Hetfeld

Malindy Hetfeld is a full-time freelance writer and translator specializing in game narrative, Japanese games, and, of course, music. You can find her work on,, Official Playstation Magazine and Techradar

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