With thousands already produced and new ones debuting every year, it could be difficult to narrow which anime series is a must watch. In this article, I’m going to cover anime from different genres like romance and comedies or action and mecha so that you’ll have the ultimate bucket list of anime to choose from and work through no matter what your taste is. Some of them only have a handful of episodes while others are much longer. The anime television shows that eventually made the list are ones that I consider must be watched at least once in a lifetime – in fact, I’ve watched several of these multiple times. All of these have had massive popularity and have interesting characters and a captivating storyline; so if you’re unsure of what anime to watch, having this list of anime TV series which are rated highly by other viewers will prove to be helpful.
Samurai Champloo has samurais, action scenes, and modern hip hop, and if that combination doesn’t scream the perfect anime television series, then move on to the next. The anime follows the adventures of three misfit characters whose lives become intertwined after an inadvertent incident. You can tag along as they find themselves in neverending oddball situations that they get out of by working together.
Most of the episodes are standalone adventures so you don’t have to really follow the storyline in order but can watch an episode here and there whenever you have time. There is an underlying quest that spans throughout the entire series which gives the storyline a bit of structure. You’ll also get to know the characters and their histories as things unfold. All in all, Samurai Champloo has proven to be very popular with otakus and should be on any list of must-watch anime TV series.
Follow the story of Light Yagami, a teenage boy who finds a mysterious notebook that will kill anyone whose name is written within its pages. As criminals around the world start dropping dead from heart attacks and other random accidents and ailments, the media runs wild with the stories, naming the supposed killer ‘Kira’. As things progress, Interpol intercedes and viewers get introduced to L – a consulting detective who eventually pinpoints who is behind it all.
This anime television series will have you questioning your own morality and wondering which side of the line you’d stand on if put in a similar situation. It’s a battle between right and wrong, good and bad, and kindness and evil, and the fight doesn’t stop until the very end.
Violet Evergarden is the touching and captivating story of an android, or “war doll”, that was created for the purpose of serving others and eventually wound up in the navy. After the war is over, Violet finds herself searching for a new purpose and begins to develop feelings. This is enhanced when she starts ghostwriting letters for a postal company and has to talk to and understand her clients so that she can relay their emotions in the writing.
I’m going to warn you right now that this anime TV show will most likely make you before the 13 episodes are done. It covers everything from the horrors of war and facing your emotions to therapeutic releases and the search for closure. Grab your box of tissues and settle in for a one-on-one therapy session with Violet Evergarden.
Hunter x Hunter is one of the smartest, most thought-provoking animes to ever be produced. You’ll be taken along Gon’s journey to becoming a Hunter; this is someone who is given a license and the title of Hunter after passing a number of rigorous tasks and examinations that test a person’s skill, smarts, strength, endurance, and fighting ability. Hunters are considered elite, have access to opportunities and places that others do not, and are capable of tracking down individuals, rare beasts, and secret treasures. Gon quickly realizes that there’s more to the world than being a Hunter and takes viewers through his ups and downs, trials and tribulations.
I fell in love with Gon and all of the other characters I met throughout the series and I’m sure you will too. Hunter c Hunter has been recognized as a classic by anime lovers all over the world; both the series and the characters are constantly evolving and developing throughout the progression of the TV show.
I’ve watched a couple of sports anime and it’s always a high-intensity ride from beginning to end that leaves me wired and exhausted as if I was a participant myself. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiri, or Run with the Wind, is a different type of sports anime altogether. I mean, long-distance track racing is somewhat exciting, but it’s amazing how glued to the show you will be.
In Run with the Wind, you’ll meet Kakeru – a star runner who leaves his running team and loses his friends because of a misunderstanding. He gives up on his dream of running track while in university when he’s suddenly sought out by another student, Haiji Kiyose to join a dorm. Turns out Kiyose has an alternative motive for bringing together Kakeru as well as the other members of the dorm – to participate in the most prestigious university relay race in the country. You’ll see the young men become transformed from involuntary skeptics, through training, and eventually to the race. You’ll get to know them along the way, learning about their personal issues, and getting to know them one on one.
Let me start by saying that Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World is not for the faint-hearted. For those who are unfamiliar with the isekai genre, it’s a storyline that involves the character(s) being transported to another virtual world, fantasy world, or even a parallel universe. In Re:Zero, you’ll meet the hero Natsuki Subaru who I found very obnoxious in the beginning but eventually ended up liking him. You’ll see his struggles as he tries to thrive in the darker version of life and to control his newfound power.
Viewers enjoy getting to know Natsuki and exploring and learning about the lore of the world with him. I don’t want to give a lot away but be warned there are some moments filled with pure terror. If you can, get through the gritty parts because it will be worth it in the end.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a really basic storyline and though the plot is very simple, they’ve managed to pack so much feeling and emotion into it that you start to connect with the characters and what they’re going through – even though you can’t really relate. I have no clue how they managed to make me feel so in tune with the main character, Tanjiro Kamado – a young man whose entire family is killed by demons and whose sister becomes a demon herself. Kamado ends up on a quest for a cure to help his sister and the sibling bond that you witness between them is just so pure.
If you like sports anime but also a compelling plot that will keep you hooked, then Haikyu!! is the perfect anime for you. Haikyu!! is a very popular anime focused on volleyball and how the protagonist Shoyo Hinata starts off getting introduced to the sport all the way up to playing at a national level. Along the way, you’ll meet other characters, have some unexpected plot twists, and even get pulled into a tournament or two.
It’s the perfect combination of a thrilling sports anime along with the emotional coming of age story of a young man growing into his own. You’ll find yourself rooting for him and his accomplishments at every turn.
When I first started watching Steins;Gate I thought it was a slice-of-life comedy anime with its klutzy and obnoxious characters and time-travel based storyline. As the story progressed, I was infatuated and gobbled up each episode greedily. The plot slowly morphed into a psychological thriller – one that will have you gripping the edge of your seat and trying to figure out where things will end up.
The compelling story follows three friends who accidentally invent a machine that can send messages back in time, making it a different type of time travel story. The main of them being Rintaro Okabe, a mad scientist, you’ll become wrapped up in the band of misfit friends and their adventures while delving into their dark pasts and coming face to face with what haunts each of them. If you haven’t watched it already, Steins;Gate will surely rise to the top of your favorites list.
Your Lie in April is what I watch (and rewatch) every time I find myself basking in a seasonally depressive rut and want to get out of it. The anime is a highly emotional story about Kosei Arima who gives up his passion for playing the piano after his mother dies. He ends up meeting a violinist, Kaori Miyazono, and as their friendship grows, he slowly comes out of his depressive state. But Kaori has her own set of problems and as they both give and take to complete their emotional needs, you see how their relationship blossoms.
Your Lie in April is a story about love (maternal and with a partner), relationships, illness, death, depression, regret, and forgiveness. The series portrays emotional trauma impeccably and is a gut-wrenching tear jerker of an anime that you have to watch.
Ask any otaku who loves action anime about their favorite anime series that they have on a must watch list and nine times out of ten they’ll mention Mob Psycho 100. In my opinion, it is one of the best action series to be released in the last five years.
The protagonist, Mob, is a middle schooler who has extraordinary psychic powers which he fights to keep in control every second of the day. He does use them to fight other psychics in these awesome battles, but he doesn’t want it to overtake him nor does he want to take advantage of his gift. You’ll learn that the character is gentle, caring, and deep and has so many other complex aspects to his personality. He also has a mentor, a conman and self-proclaimed psychic Reigen Arataka, and together it is one comedic moment after the other.
The general summary of The Promised Neverland is that it’s a story of three kids who live in a picturesque orphanage and it starts out heartwarming, fun, and full of events that will make you smile. The story suddenly turns into a psychological thriller in the middle of the first episode when the three oldest kids began plotting their escape.
The tension is sky high by the end of the episode and you’ll find yourself gripping your seat, mouth wide open, in shock at the turn of events. There are so many plot twists and the shock appeal is one of the main reasons why I think The Promised Neverland is an anime series you have to watch. Be warned that it’ll be hard not to devour the entire series in one sitting because you just have to see what happens next. Clear your calendar, stock your snacks, and prepare yourself for this nail-biting anime series.
Based on an award-winning manga written by Haruko Kumota, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is an anime that artfully portrays traditional Japanese culture. The historical anime takes place between the 1940s and the 1970s and is a highly honored series that has been nominated for many awards.
You’ll meet the main character Kikuhiko as he is released from prison and adapts to life as the apprentice of Yakumo Yurakutei, a famous rakugo performer. Rakugo is a form of Japanese storytelling where the artist sits in one place and depicts stories using nothing more than his voice, a paper fan, and some small paper props if any. The highs and lows of the story are depicted by the turn of the head and the change in pitch or tone. It is a highly regarded art form and you’ll be with Kikuhiko as he masters his craft while facing his own growing number of problems.
In addition to portraying the stories that the rakugo artist tells, the anime series also focuses on the backstories of the other performers and their struggles. The anime series is a great way to learn about Japanese culture and history.
If you’re looking for something cute and lovey-dovey to watch, then turn to Clannad. I mean, there has to be a reason that anime lovers consider it one of the best romance anime of all time. While the show is light-hearted, there are definitely some serious, heart-wrenching moments – especially as things between the two main characters progress.
Tomoya Okazaki is a confused and lonely high school student who is left to fend for himself after his mother dies and his father turns to alcohol. He ends up acting out, often finding himself in the middle of delinquent acts that I believe are his way of getting his father’s attention. Instead, he attracts the attention of Nagisa Furukawa, an older high school student who he starts to hang out with. Life begins to change for the both of them and the story will captivate you with its sudden displays of love and romance.
Gin Tama is an anime series that focuses on an alternate history, one where powerful aliens attack humanity and the military dictators of Japan surrender and agree to an unfair contract with them. The agreement enables the aliens to invade the country, restricts local laws that were already in place, and basically creates an atmosphere where the Japanese military becomes a dummy government while the aliens rule everything. You’ll meet Gintoki, a samurai who does not care for the new rules set by the aliens, and does anything and everything to survive. He eventually bands together with his former comrades to protect the universe from being destroyed.
The serious and interesting intergalactic warfare storyline is balanced with personal stories of the characters and more ridiculous and comedic storylines expertly weaved through.
Mushi-Shi is one of the most unique anime television series I’ve ever watched; watching it is one of those phenomenal experiences that stays with you. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself suggesting it to others after you’re done. One of the things I love about Mushi-Shi, other than its different storylines and amazing animations, is that each episode is an individual, self-contained story and they don’t really connect from one to the next other than having a mostly behind the scenes main character. They’re like little 20-minute-long meditation sessions that you’ll probably watch and rewatch again in the future.
The storyline follows Ginko, a wandering doctor and researcher who isn’t actually the main focus of the series. The doctor has the ability to attract, see, and communicate with paranormal creatures called “mushi” – this is not something everyone can do. And while mushi are not evil and are merely trying to survive, their actions can sometimes affect the humans around them. Sometimes the interactions are profound experiences while other times the mushi can unknown put the human(s) in harm’s way.
The entire series is just beautiful, from the different stories to the artistic way it’s portrayed.
Monster is an anime television series that explores the concepts of man’s true nature, the debate between ‘nature versus nurture’, and the extent of moral responsibility. It is unlike any other anime television series listed in this article and it isn’t hard to see why anime lovers around the world bring it up when suggesting new shows to watch.
Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a brilliant neurosurgeon who risks his career by going against the wishes of his superiors to perform brain surgery on a child named Johan Liebert. The critically wounded boy survives and shows up years later as a charismatic young man who finds himself in the middle of some unusual murders. When it comes to light that the boy has grown up to become an ice-cold serial killer, the doctor is left with a moral dilemma where he questions his own actions so many years ago.
I kept both newcomers and longtime otakus in mind when compiling this list of anime TV series that must be watched at least once in a lifetime. I’d like to hear your suggestions on anime television shows that you believe deserve the ‘must watch’ title. Share your thoughts with me and other anime lovers in the comments below.