John's Top 10 Anime Series When you don't know what to watch

    So far I’ve written about my Top 10 Strange Japanese Movies and Horror Films. Now it's time for anime.

    And I realize that many of these titles will probably be familiar to all of you, but they each hold a special place in my heart and played a big part in my love and interest in all things anime. It’s a very personal list, so I’m sure not all of you will agree with these picks. These aren’t the top 10 picks for everyone, they are the top 10 picks for me.

    10. Dragon Ball Z

    characters of Dragon Ball Z

    Everyone knows DBZ. This show was responsible for bringing so many people into the anime fold and I was no exception. I still have a collection of DBZ VHS tapes back at my parents house from when I would go to the video store and buy a new tape with my allowance.

    Going back and watching DBZ today, I am sure that I would not enjoy it so much if it were my first viewing of the show. However, DBZ has such an incredible amount of nostalgic value and importance in my anime journey, so there is no way that I could not include it on this list.

    Who should watch this show: People who have never seen anime before or are below the age of 18 probably. Or you just wanna feel like a kid again.

    9. Love Hina

    characters of Love Hina

    Love Hina might not have as wide a recognition as DBZ, but I’m fairly certain a lot of people have at least heard of it. It’s a goofy harem type anime with tons of ridiculous situations. The main character finds himself living with a bunch of girls all under one roof while he studies hard to get into Tokyo University and meet the girl of his childhood dreams.

    As with DBZ, I’m pretty sure that this is another one I wouldn’t enjoy quite as much if I were watching it for the first time around today. This was the first anime I bought all the DVDs for, and also purchased all the manga for as well. As my tastes have greatly matured (for the most part) since watching Love Hina, it’s kind of embarrassing, but this show is important to me.

    Who should watch this show: People who like traditionally well done harem type anime with goofy humor and ridiculous situations.

    8. Sword Art Online

    protagonists of Sword Art Online

    SAO is about people who get trapped inside a MMO and have to beat the game to escape. If they die in the game, they die in real life too. This was a really interesting premise and everything was very strong from the storytelling to the animation to the sound and music.

    SAO was great. Really great. For the first half. The second half was kind of a big disappointment for me. SAO was one of the few shows these past years that I’ve actually been excited about and watched all the way through. I wasn’t expecting the transition halfway through the show but it was almost like a whole new show the second half. I didn’t like it, but I had to see it through to the end. The first half was great – the second half was not.

    Who should watch this show: People who can stomach a disappointing second half in exchange for an awesome first half. Also those that enjoy great action and interesting characters in a really cool digital world.

    7. Wolf’s Rain

    Wolfs Rain anime cover image

    This show is about four lone wolves (who can also take on human form) and their search for Paradise. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this show and I only watched it through once, but I remember liking it a lot. I just remembered them getting into really cool situations and always being excited to start the next episode.

    After I “graduated” from shows I could purchase in American stores such as DBZ and Love Hina, I hungered for what else was out there. I wanted stuff I couldn’t find in America. I started buying very poorly translated DVDs online. This was one of them. The subs seemed like they were ran through an online translator from Japanese to Chinese, and then Chinese to English. They took some work to decipher. Wolf’s Rain reminds me of those days, and I love the show for it.

    Who should watch this show: People who like wolves.

    6. Berserk

    main character from anime berserk

    Berserk is an action oriented dark fantasy noted for its extreme violence. The main character Guts is an orphaned mercenary and a total badass. The show focuses on themes of isolation, camaraderie, and the whether or not humanity is fundamentally good or evil. The show is a good balance of all things.

    When I first watched this show it was after renting it from Blockbuster with my best friend from high school. This was before I decided I couldn’t stand watching dubbed anime, so we watched it with English dubs. These dubs are hilarious. They even have dub outtakes at the end of each episode. It was fantastic. Berserk as a show is actually really good though. They recently released some movies retelling the story in a more updated and streamlined way and I’m really looking forward to getting around to watching those.

    Who should watch this show: People who like blood and action and humor and intrigue. This show is gritty.

    5. Ergo Proxy

    ergo proxy woman pointing gun

    This show is dark scifi with some psychological undertones. It takes place in a future where androids live alongside humans. Machines start to become self aware and start causing trouble and then there is also the emergence of humanoid beings known as Proxies. These Proxies are god-like and are said to hold the key to the survival of mankind.

    The first time I tried to watch this show, I didn’t like it. I only watched the first episode or two I think, but when I came back to it a second time, I ended up really really enjoying the show. I think I might have been too young to appreciate it the first time I tried to watch it or maybe I was in a bad mood or something. Either way, this show was really enjoyable. I feel like I definitely need to give this series a second full viewing sometime soon.

    Who should watch this show: People who like awesome female leads, scifi, and mystery.

    4. Xam’d: Lost Memories

    anime action shot with explosions

    The show starts off normal enough until the main character is caught in an explosion on a bus and a strange foreign entity enters his body causing him to gain the ability to transform into a Xam’d. His old friends are now afraid of him but he gets an offer to travel on an airship with some new friends and go on lots of adventures and get into lots of battles.

    This show features music from Boom Boom Satellites (one of my favorite Japanese bands, so that’s pretty awesome). The show itself is really good too and I was really surprised at how much I ended up liking it. The animation and the colors are all really pretty and impressive. I don’t feel like this show is particularly deep in meaning, it’s just a whole lot of fun.

    Who should watch this show: People who like pretty colors and great action in an intriguing setting.

    3. Neon Genesis Evangelion

    anime Evangelion main characters

    I feel like these last three here most people will know about, but Evangelion is about kids who have to pilot Evas to defeat alien beings known as angels who are trying to end the world more or less. It’s much more complicated and layered though, with lots of character development and interaction. Many themes are addressed and I get something new from it every time I watch.

    Evangelion. Man, this show was a turning point for me. This show showed me how mature anime could really get and how much it could affect me. I absolutely loved the ending of this series. My best friend hated it. I didn’t understand how he couldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. All the cerebral nonsense and crazy thinking happening was just too awesome for words.

    Actually, the top three for this list are more or less tied for first. I really like all of them and all three are really deep and layered and crazy. It’s really hard for me to rank one over the other here.

    Who should watch this show: People who like having their brains exploded.

    2. Death Note

    anime Death Note main characters

    This show should be familiar, but it’s about a high school kid named Light who finds the notebook of a Death God and it grants him the power to kill anyone as long as he knows their name and face. He takes full advantage of this power and starts shaping the world as he sees fit by killing off criminals. His father is a police officer investigating the murders Light is causing, so things get pretty crazy.

    I love these kinds of shows. So many times Light gets himself into impossible situations and always manages to find a way out and the reveal on what he does is always brilliant. It’s so cool. This is one of the shows I make my non-anime watching friends watch and not one of them has disliked it. This show is awesome. I actually had really low expectations before watching this show and Death Note just blew me away with how good it was.

    Who should watch this show: People who enjoy amazingly intricate situations circumvented by an ingenious high school kid in the most entertaining of ways.

    1. Code Geass

    anime Code Geass main characters

    This show takes place in an alternate future where the main character Lelouch makes a contract with a strange being giving him the power to command anyone to do anything, though only with direct eye contact. And, this power only works once on each person. Lelouch takes on an alter ego and fights a rebellion against the Holy Britannian Army occupying the colony of Japan.

    This show has some very strong parallels to Death Note. They both star a highschooler with crazy powers who hides their identity and tries to change the world. I never felt like Code Geass was ripping off Death Note though. Even though the premise is similar, it is still very much its own show. And it is fantastic for the same reasons Death Note is and more.

    Who should watch this show: People who enjoy amazingly intricate situations circumvented by an ingenious high school kid in the most entertaining of ways.

    Nostalgia Overload

    ironic nostalgia poster

    After writing this post and watching the trailers for each show, I am just bursting with nostalgia right now. Maybe some of the above shows were your favorites back in the day so maybe you felt some nostalgia too. Some of the openings for these shows included above are so hilariously bad (see Berserk) but they’re special in their own way.

    Writing this post made me want to watch a lot of these shows over again, especially the ones I haven’t seen for a really long time. They all mean a lot to me in their own way and for different reasons. If you’re into anime, I’m sure you understand what I mean. If you aren’t into anime, give Death Note or Code Geass a try because they’re great shows to start off with.