Anime has become more and more mainstream in the last 10 years. With that newfound popularity comes all kinds of new fans. All kinds of people are getting into anime in their own way, mostly through various popular seasonal series. Those are great ways to get acquainted with the medium, but you can’t overlook some of the absolute classics that kicked-off anime fandom outside of Japan.
There’s a shortlist of classic anime that veteran fans may suggest to newcomers. They tend to be older series and give you a great window into how the industry used to be. This list will cover all sorts of different genres, so there’s going to be something for everyone. Shounen, slice of life, drama, comedy; you name it. Each will be represented by a series or two. So with that said, let’s look at 10 classic anime every newcomer should watch.
10 – DRAGON BALL/DRAGON BALL Z
We start things off with a given. Dragpon Ball is the series that initially got a lot of fans into anime back in the day. GT & Super aside, there’s plenty of content here to reel you in. With 153 episodes in the original series and 291 in Z, getting into this fandom will be a big time consumer. But it’s worth it.
The series has always been battle/martial arts focused, with slapstick comedy elements scattered throughout. If you want to get into anime, these are a great starting point.
9 – ANY ONE OF THE OLD BIG THREE
When you hear someone mention the big three in anime, they’re most likely referring to One Piece, Naruto & Bleach. For a time, these series were at the top of the mountain. They had massive fandoms and immediately followed Dragon Ball as the big Shounen Jump series.
Of the three, One Piece is the only one that’s still going. Bleach ended years ago and Naruto has moved on with a sequel series. Between the three of them, there are just under 2,000 episodes to go through. Just getting into one can be time consuming, but each one has something different to offer while staying true to the classic Jump formula.
8 – MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM
When it comes to mecha anime, some may suggest Evangelion. But that’s not really a good starting point. If anything, it’s better to acquaint yourself with the genre somewhat prior to embarking on that journey. For newcomers, Gundam is the absolute way to go.
The first Gundam series is only 43 episodes, so it’s relatively short compared to what we’ve seen on this list so far. But Gundam offers an incredible narrative experience that not many anime can match. It’s a great introduction to mecha anime sure, but it also serves as a gateway to one of the greatest anime franchises of all-time.
7 – INUYASHA
Based on the manga series by the legendary Rumiko Takahashi, InuYasha is a great introductory series for those looking for something that mixes in fantasy, action, and romance. The anime follows Kagome and Inuyasha – a half-dog/demon, half-human – as they try to find shards of a powerful magic jewel scattered throughout Japan’s Sengoku period.
The original anime ran for 167 episodes and spawned four feature films. A 26 episode series titled The Final Act aired five years after the original anime ended and closed things off. It’s typically a series many anime fans watch early on – and certainly offers something different compared to what’s been mentioned so far.
6 – KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD
Kimagure Orange Road is a series that doesn’t get all that much attention with most modern anime fans. But it did serve as an introduction to the medium for newcomers’ years ago, and it still can be today.
The series is a romantic comedy first, with whacky supernatural elements sprinkled in – though that aspect of it takes a backseat for the most part. It’s an early example of the love triangle trope that many modern romantic comedy anime employ, so it definitely maintains some relevance in the long run.
5 – URUSEI YATSURA
Urusei Yatsura is yet another Rumiuko Takahashi series, predating InuYasha by nearly two decades. While InuYasha is a fairly serious series, Urusei Yatsura is pure comedy. It follows high school student Ataru Moroboshi and the comedic misadventures that follow him after becoming involved with alien invader Lum.
The series is an even earlier example of the love triangle trope in anime, and the dynamic between Ataru, Lum and Ataru’s on-again off-again girlfriend Shinobu makes for some pretty hilarious scenarios. It’s a good light-hearted series for newcomers and has plenty of episodes along with some movies as well – so there’s no shortage of content.
4 – YU YU HAKUSHO
Most anime fans will know Yoshihiro Togashi for Hunter x Hunter, but way before that Togashi ensnared a generation of anime and manga fans with another series, Yu Yu Hakusho. The series is kind of overlook by many newcomers, but veteran anime fans will vouch for it.
It’s actually not all that long compared to other Jump series discussed on this list; with only 112 episodes to go through. It’s worth the commitment, and pretty much plays the same role on this list as series like Dragon Ball, One Piece & Naruto do.
3 – SAILOR MOON
Sailor Moon is probably the best magical girl anime to start out with, as it’s not only one of the most popular series of its time, but also heavily influenced other works in the genre that came after it.
The original anime presents plenty to work through, with a bunch of seasons and movies to occupy your time with. Sailor Moon is one of the most well known and popular anime/manga of all-time, so it would serve as a pretty solid introductory series to any newcomer.
2 – FIST OF THE NORTH STAR
Though it still lives on as a meme, Fist of the North Star doesn’t get nearly as much respect as it deserves. It’s one of the best anime of the 80s, and an incredibly influential martial arts anime that inspired countless classics.
If you’re looking to start from the ground up, this is the series to go with. With just over 100 episodes, it isn’t too long of a time investment, and will most certainly serve as a great first impression of that era of Japanese animation.
1 – COWBOY BEBOP
For many, Cowboy Bebop is an underappreciated masterpiece. It’s not exactly an anime that’s aimed towards newcomers, but it certainly would serve as an impactful first impression.
The show doesn’t really rely on a lot of the overused tropes that most others on this list either do or have popularized. A mishmash of genres, Cowboy Bebop has its fair share of lightheartedness, but also manages to ensnare you with its well-developed cast, setting, and character relations. If you want to experience something entirely different than what has been suggested thus far, this is for you.