It’s hard to ignore the influence that anime has had on the 2000s. For the average American, our first introduction to anime was through Cartoon Network, which featured simpler shows like the Dragon Ball series and Pokemon. As a big fan of those shows myself, I always yearned for more epic battles and character building that developed in shows like DBZ. I also loved the fantasy and heroic themes of Pokemon, which were followed by historic Nintendo games. Overall, anime has made a mark in my life, allowing me to venture off from typical Western structures and appreciate Eastern storytelling. As a result, this is a list of my top 5 must-see anime series.
(Warning! There are a couple of historically classic shows that will not be on this list. Whether because of story structure, character development, or filler episodes, those shows did not make my cut. Although I respect them and their place in the pantheon of anime series, I judge anime shows off of strong beginnings and consistent entertainment.)
Netflix has been doing a great job of providing classic anime shows, such as Deathnote, Hunter x Hunter, and Bleach, on their platform, but nothing tops their Netflix Original Series, The Seven Deadly Sins. Contrary to the seven vices from Christian teachings, The Seven Deadly Sins stand as a group of heroes fighting in a medieval fantasy world. Parasyte, another great show from start to finish, focuses on the life of a high schooler who’s body has been occupied by a powerful parasite.
One-Punch Man is a personal favorite for anime fans across the world and also for people who are new to the genre. The graphics are captivating, the fighting keeps you on edge and there’s also a comic aspect that seals the deal. Dr. Stone, released in 2019, has an offbeat feel. The concept veers off from the typical fighting and superhero themes of most anime series, but instead Dr. Stone follows the life of a scientist bringing the world back to the 21st century. Finally, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, which similar to Dr. Stone has a science aspect to it but does not lack in action. Though a personal favorite to many, the story drags out a bit too long for me to place this anywhere above number 10 on my list. However, as mentioned in the warning, many shows will be left off.
Now, for Tye’s Top 5 Anime Series.
5. MY HERO ACADEMIA
As a newer anime series, starting in 2016, My Hero Academia has captivated fans all over the globe. In a world of superheroes with various quirks, Deku, the main character of the series, goes from a nerdy high-school kid to inheriting the powers of the greatest hero of all time: All Might. With All Might at his side, Deku carries the burden of leading the next generation of superheroes, many of whom are already his classmates.
A big chunk of the series is surrounded by the importance of teaching budding students how to effectively utilize their powers in society. Class 1-A , Deku’s class, features many powerful allies, but none bigger than frenemy Bakugo. Similar to the frenemy theme seen in Naruto, Deku and Bakugo are the strongest heroes in their class, but their desire to be better than each other interferes with their ability to succeed together. Maybe it’s this relationship that keeps the show so interesting? Maybe it’s the feeling that we can relate to the perils of high school kids? Either way, My Hero Academia has risen to become one of the most popular anime series of all time, and definitely a favorite of mine.
4. ATTACK ON TITAN
Even for one of the anime's biggest fans, it’s hard to explain the importance of Attack On Titan without sitting someone down and saying “watch this!”. Now, as a mainstay on Netflix, Attack On Titan, is receiving the praise it deserves. The concept of Titans may rise from Greek mythology, but you’ve never seen anything like this. Eren, the main character of the show, experiences the ultimate task of gaining revenge against a damn near unstoppable army of weird creatures. He tackles this alongside two of his best friends and a special task force sworn to protect the world that they live in.
Attack On Titan is must see TV. The character development is intense and though Eren is seen as the main character, it’s easy to see him as a background figure in the overarching themes of the series. To me, this show is an anime version of Game Of Thrones with the gory deaths we love, mixed with the unexpected plot twists that leave us floored. Attack On Titan is my personal favorite on this list, since it veers off from the traditional themes seen in many anime. All I can say is watch the first episode!
3. ONE PIECE
What can I say? Now available on Netflix, this cult classic has been airing since 1999 and has only gotten better. With more than 900 episodes, creators are saying that we’re not even halfway through the series. That being said let me lightly dive into why I think those 900 episodes are worth the watch, and also why I know I’ll be watching this show well into my 40s.
One Piece is Japan’s best selling manga, and one of the most popular anime series on the planet. Luffy, the main character, is on a mission to get a sacred treasure called the “One Piece”, which deems the holder the “King Of The Pirates”. On a race against time, this Pirate has to assemble a crew of heavy hitters and cross deathly territory in pursuit of his dream. The fighting is epic, with powers acquired from devil fruits, similar to the apple that Eve ate in Christianity. The storyline is entertaining and through all 929 episodes (so far), I can say that there has not been one boring moment in the whole series. Though filler episodes are a must for any anime, even those are entertaining and add to the story in their own way. So, what can I say? If you have not watched One Piece yet, this will easily become a favorite of yours. It was hard not placing it above the next two series because this would definitely be my number 1, but I understand how intimidating 900 episodes is for most viewers. If you are willing to dive into it, you’ll immediately become addicted and a devout member of Luffy’s crew.
2. DRAGON BALL
The Dragon Ball series stands as many American anime fans' first exposure to the genre. From Dragon Ball to Super, the series has gone through many transitions, but our Z Warriors have always been there to save Earth. Goku! Goku! Goku! There is no better anime character than Goku. Starting as a baby we see Goku rise into a Grandfather and still be the strongest man on the planet. Many may not know this, but during it’s transition into Dragon Ball Z, Akira Tonyama planned on Gohan becoming the main character and inheriting Goku’s spot as number one. However, as we all know, Goku’s popularity and power were too much for anyone to become his successor.
What makes Dragon Ball so special? The pure passion to become great! We see this across the board from many of the main characters in the series. Many are willing to risk their lives while fighting against evil. We even see evil characters like Piccolo, Vegeta, and Kid Buu, converted into good characters that join Goku and the other Z fighters in protecting earth. The TV Show, video games, and collectables, have sold at an all-time high and Dragon Ball has definitely made its mark on the anime world.
Personally, Naruto is the greatest anime series of all time. From Shonen Jump to Shippuden, this series is hands down the most popular anime series of all time. Getting it’s rise in America through Cartoon Network, Naruto has become anime fans bestfriend. Uniquely, I think there is something about the title also being the name of the protagonist, that creates an intimate feeling when referencing the series. It’s amazing to think that from Naruto to now Boruto, this cult following has stood strong and determined to see more from their favorite characters.
The ninja theme is classic. Naruto covers chakras, spirituality, and the will to overcome mistakes from the past. It also fully brought to light the theme of frenemies between Naruto and Sauske. We saw this theme lightly touched in Akira and also in the DragonBall Series with Goku and Vegeta, but no show had elaborated on the pain of two friends other than Naruto. Throughout the show there are a lot of emotions and life lessons that we learn along with the characters that are unforgettable. Some of the most memorable fights and arcs of all time are embedded in this series and it’s a must watch if you have not already.
Anime has slowly become my go to genre for TV shows. As a newcomer to the anime world, I'm just starting to really dive into series that are deemed classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, and Gurren Lagann. Overall, hope you guys enjoyed my Top 5 List, and hope you'll all peep at least the first episode of these shows. If not I won't be able to catch you up later on!