Anime is a nearly endless ocean of content from every level of quality, and for almost every genre there is a series out there for anyone. Often, people like to keep themselves within certain genres and only explore out of that genre in certain fringe cases. For a long time I was the same, but as anyone who has checked my Anime-Planet knows, that isn’t exactly the case now.
Below is a list of series I believe everyone should give a watch. Many of the series may be critically acclaimed, but that doesn’t lessen the impact these series had on me when expanding my interest.
Nana is the first series the really made me begin to expand my horizons. Nana is a shojou series that has been sadly on hiatus since 2009, and it is one of the most critically acclaimed shojou series to this day.
Nana follows the two title characters, Nana Komatsu, a small town girl who moved to Tokyo following her boyfriend and friends, and Nana Osaki, who heads to Tokyo with the goal to become a famous singer with her band. As time goes on we see the two girls become incredibly close, with Osaki becoming increasingly more protective of Komatsu, who she begin to call Pachi. The story follows the two Nanas as they live their lives as one seeks Fame and the other seeks love and happiness. The story can get very deep and emotional at points and even though the story may not be complete, the journey that we have so far is worth the watch.
Black Lagoon is a bad-ass story of the Lagoon Company, a group of mercenaries in the fictional city of crime and debauchery Roanapur of Southeast Asia. Those of Lagoon Company do business with all the crime groups of the city, but are friendliest with Hotel Moscow, a Russian crime syndicate. This series is basically the equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie in anime form. The cast of characters is diverse and filled with characters in and out of the Lagoon Company that are enjoyable. Black Lagoon is a bit of a mix between Hellsing and Cowboy Bebop, depending on the arc and story.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is probably the most iconic and well-known series within the anime community, and it has a lineage that many series couldn’t rival. This series is a post-apocalyptic deconstruction of the mecha genre and one of the most polarizing series of anime we have out there. I feel that Evangelion is one of the few anime that doesn’t need any fluffing up, it is justt one of those series that should be watched solely to have an opinion of it.
Eureka Seven is a beautiful coming of age story with a tale of acceptance at its core, all wrapped up with a bow of mecha battles. The story follows Renton Thurston and Eureka in a Sci-Fi world. As the story progresses, we see the two grow up around each other. The main characters are parts of an anti-government militia called the Gekko State. The series is a bit of a long one though, and drags a bit in the middle, but overall the series is a fantastic story of love, acceptance, and gorgeous looking mecha fights. It also has a movie that takes place in an alternate universe and sequel, but those aren’t essential to enjoying the original series.
Hajime no Ippo
Hajime no Ippo is the quintessential sports anime, in my opinion. It is a boxing manga that is the perfect blend of what makes sports anime so enjoyable. It mixes together the hype of a series like Haikyuu!! and a little bit of suspension of disbelief that a series like Kuroko no Basket needs. The series follows a pretty simple pattern to a near perfect level and is able to balance the more lighthearted parts of the series with the matches. We follow our protagonist Ippo Makunouchi as he grows from a kid that gets bullied at school into a talented boxer, and those around him at his gym, Kamogawa Boxing Gym.
Watching the growth of Ippo through the fights and relationship he makes with his gym mates and rivals is one of the most enjoyable parts of the series. The cast of the series is full of unique characters from top to bottom and really feels alive. Now to get to the likely the most important thing about the series, it is a long series and is by far the longest series on this list with almost 130 episodes, a T.V. movie, and an O.V.A, and that barely even touches the massive manga with over 1100 chapter and still ongoing. The series is great from start to finish and packed with quality comedy and some of the best fights in anime and manga, but it is also one of the biggest commitments to get into. If you’re willing to start a long and hard journey of a series, I would stay definitely give this a shot over other long-running series.
The iconic “cute girls doing cute things” show, K-On! is so much more than that. It’s a wonderful story about friendship. K-On! is one those series that came from average roots of a 4-koma manga with a lot of yuri baiting and less substance than the anime gave. Thankfully Kyoto Animation got the rights to produce the anime and began the trend of enhancing source material into something greater. We follow the four members of the Sakuragaoka High School light music club, later joined by a fifth, in their day to day activities, which most of the time doesn’t include actually practicing. We see the group grow into some of the best friends in anime. This series is easily one of the best in the slice of life genre, as you go through the 40ish episode and movie story you see the group all grow together. It is a fun story about friendship and never fails to put a smile on my face.
Nagi no Asukara
Nagi no Asukara, also known as Nagiasu, is one of the best series of the last 5 years, but many people likely ignored the series as it came out alongside the smash hit Kill la Kill, and the main character is a little off-putting at first. This series is fantastic where we see the cast grow up, both mentally and physically.
The story is about how human civilization had lived on the ocean floor until many moved to the surface, creating a separation between the two. After their school closes down, four 14-year-old middle school students from the sea village, Shioshishio, have to attend Mihama Middle School on the surface. What follows is their struggles to adjust to a new environment and the relationships between the sea and land people, along with the emotions and changes that come with the end of their childhood. The story is another great coming of age story about the main cast that includes the four transfers student and a few others from the town. The series is gorgeously animated and includes a beautiful soundtrack, which can help get through the first few episodes. At only 26 episodes, the series is an easier watch than some of the series I have placed on the list, but is easily one of my top recommendations.
Those are the seven series I think most people should give at least a chance, whether you are the fan of the genre or not. While these recommendations may not be right for everyone, many of the series are pretty fantastically received, and all of them are some of the best I have watched.