Ever had a friend or family member ask for you anime recommendations? Ideally, you know what kind of shows they like already — which makes recs easier. But sometimes, there’s not a lot to go on. So what kind of starter anime do you hand off to them?
If you want to give someone a taste of good anime but don’t know where to start, try one of these five titles. If you can’t reach for something in a genre you know they’ll like, you can at least start them on a proven crowd-pleaser!
Probably the most obvious starter anime these days, Cowboy Bebop never fails to please. It has a 20+ year reputation, a global style, and a sweet soundtrack. This one is especially good for anyone who’s put off by “anime-looking” anime. (Which is a whole other discussion for a whole other time.)
Considering the upcoming John Cho-led remake for Netflix, Bebop would also be an easy sell. Call it “pregaming” for the new series.
If your friends are fans of Black Swan or Inception, the films of Satoshi Kon would make good starter anime. But what if they want something a little more grounded? Rolling in with excellent timing and a brand new dub is Tokyo Godfathers.
Kon’s tale of three homeless people caring for a lost baby on Christmas Eve is surprisingly grounded compared to many of his other films. But it still has a fair dose of magic, as well as the director’s thoughtful storytelling and philosophical undertones. And if your friend enjoys it, it makes a great springboard to his other films.
A good starter anime or manga, Azumanga Daioh is the cream of the crop when it comes to slice-of-life series. The chill vibe and variety of characters means pretty much everyone will find something to love. Whether it’s Osaka’s flights of fancy or Sakaki just wanting to pet a cat without getting bitten.
This is also a great choice for households with young kids. The show is consistently upbeat with a smattering of silly visuals (Chiyo’s dad, anyone?), so it’s entertaining just to look at. And a good localization means complete newbies can enjoy it all without having to worry about not knowing Japanese culture.
This is probably one of the easiest sells on the list. It’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a notable anime creator even in mainstream entertainment. It got rave reviews from big names in Western entertainment. It’s a heist, and we all love heists. And it’s a gateway not only into anime, but also one of anime’s most enduring franchises.
Cagliostro also has a lot more fantasy and fairy tale elements than other Lupin films: a princess trapped in a tower, an evil ruler bent on marrying her, and a kingdom in peril. Even as a stand-alone film, it’s a gem, and opens several pathways to further viewing.
Huge in its time but slightly more slept on now, The Vision of Escaflowne is a surprisingly strong starter anime. The isekai/fantasy/romance/mecha mash-up has everything going for it, from beautiful animation to a stunning Yoko Kanno score. It has a little something for everyone — especially sci-fi and fantasy fans.
Escaflowne is also a great way to immerse potential viewers in more anime-centric tropes and subgenres. You know, like those robots we mentioned. The magical armor might inspire a new viewer to look into other giant robot anime, for example.
Of course, the best starter anime is always something you decide on together. The chance to introduce someone to a new series is always exciting, but it should be exciting for them, too. Got a friend who likes their entertainment weird? Throw ’em in at the deep end with Sarazanmai, see what happens. (And, uh, let us know how that goes.)
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