We get it, we get it. New year, new you. You can tell yourself every morning that you can just choose to do things better. But there’s a new year energy whenever the calendar turns over. We know deep down we’re in danger of losing motivation on big ideas, but for that first week, we want to try. And if that sounds like you — because it sounds like us — we’ve found some of the best anime to keep that motivation going.
And we’re not talking about shonen anime. Though, yeah, we do have one on our list. It’s a great go-to when you need to see someone doing their most. But motivation isn’t just about hustle. In fact, it can be about the exact opposite. So, give these a go:
GaoGaiGar: A Non-Zero Change Is Still a Chance
Counted as one of the best anime period in mecha fan circles, GaoGaiGar: The King of Braves is a wild being. It’s the capstone of Sunrise’s yuusha franchise, made to sell Transformers one-offs. But it’s also geared to an older audience. It’s got the hot blood of the 1970s super robots, and the human drama of 1980s real robot anime. It’s plot-twisty, overclocked, and takes some major suspension of disbelief. But its red ranger mentality is super inspiring.
Guy Shishio and the rest of GGG work on shoestring odds as they protect Earth from alien forces. But, as each episode reminds us, a slim chance is still a chance. Our goals may seem unlikely, but the fact that you’re trying increases those odds.
Naruto: Succeed in Your Own Way
Naruto does feel like a no-brainer for this list: it’s one of the best anime to watch if you love an underdog story. It’s everyone’s favorite brand of shonen success story, complete with an “impossible” dream and a gutsy star. And while that’s great, it’s not why we’ve put it on this list. Because it reminds us constantly that sometimes, success is a matter of reinventing things to work for us.
The series talks a lot about people finding their own “Way of the Ninja.” Sometimes that’s a matter of philosophy and ethics. Other times it’s much more literal — like Naruto using shadow clones to form a Rasengan, or Rock Lee focusing on taijutsu. They leaned into what they could do to fill in the blanks of what they couldn’t do. And sometimes that’s the missing step. If you can’t do things the “normal” way, find your way.
K-ON!: It’s Okay to Relax
Of all the titles on this list, we personally think this is the best anime for building motivation… which may seem odd. K-ON! is a show about high school girls starting a band, sure. And they do improve, yes. But they spend a lot of their time not rehearsing, to the point that fifth member Azusa actually brings it up. So why is an anime about a lack of hustle motivating? Because it’s about a lack of hustle.
When we want to improve at things, or meet goals, we can overstress ourselves. If we’re not spending tons of time on something, or improving quickly, it feels like we’re not doing “enough.” But the harder we push, the harder it gets. The girls of Ho-kago Tea Time practice and perform, but they also understand the importance of having fun and taking breaks. In the end they’re not only happier and having a much better time, but also much more likely to make the most of their actual practice.
Let’s do this!