Anime can be confusing to those who haven’t experienced much of it, with its tropes and terminology. If you’re interested in anime but, don’t know where to start, we at AniTAY have made this Beginner’s Guide to Anime, trying to provide a one-stop shop to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs, vocabulary, and genres of anime to try to explain what anime is like.

What is Anime?

Anime — pronounced “ah-knee-may” — is an abbreviation of the word animation. In Japan, the word’s used to refer to all animation, but outside of Japan, it’s become the catch-all term for animation from Japan, due to the differences Anime has with other shows. From the flashy colors to differences in storytelling, it’s rather unique, and that uniqueness draws many people in. Also, Anime consists of mostly TV shows, with a handful of notable films.

What Is Ani-TAY?

For those of you visiting for the first time (or not, like we know) and wondering just what exactly you’re looking at right now, here’s a document explaining our blog and wonderful community.

Why should I care?

Anime is a vast medium, with all the genres that you’re innately familiar with, plus a bunch more unique to Japan. Even a brief dive into it can show you that there’s a lot more to see than just cute girls and gallons of blood. Due to japan’s unique structure in regards to planning shows and general creativity, anime can be a great watch. Anime is concise, usually consisting of 13-26 episode shows, meaning that they are more focused in comparison to American TV shows, leading to engaging stories. Because anime is not real life they can be much more creative with how things look, pushing the boundaries in motion pictures like any of Satoshi Kon’s movies. Anime, due to it’s popularity and quality, can be rather influential, so if you wanted to see the inspiration for some great movies like the Matrix, anime is the place to look.

How can I Watch Anime?

In the past, being able to watch anime was an issue due to the media at the time and how niche the medium was as a whole. Thanks to improvements in technology, the rising popularity of anime, and internet streaming coming into mainstream awareness, there are many ways to now conveniently and legally view anime. There are many streaming platforms you can use to easily watch anime for free; here are the most commonly used streaming platforms for anime:

North America: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, Netflix, Daisuki,

EU: Crunchyroll, Netflix (UK), Daisuki, Viewster (UK)

If you live in a different region, you’ll have a much harder time trying to get legal content, as Daisuki is the only major non-region locked player. You can use proxies/VPNs to get content from one of the supported regions, but you’re on your own there.

If you want to obtain anime physically, the easiest way would be to go to the publisher’s site itself, or at retailers like Amazon and Rightstuf. Finally, there’s always some shows and films that never make it over here and/or run out of print, such as the second half of Higurashi or Evangelion, so if you can’t find them anywhere legally, don’t feel too bad about using “other” sources. There is almost always multiple other ways you can support something if you feel obligated to pay in some fashion for all the hard work that was put into it.

Terms used in Anime Talk

Main Terms:

  • Anime - In Japan, it’s anything and everything animated, no matter its origin; within the fandom however, it’s mostly used to refer to Japanese animation in particular.
  • Manga - The Japanese equivalent of Comics and Graphic Novels.
  • Light Novel - A style of Japanese Novel that is often serialized in short volumes, and often contain some illustrations. Usually written for the Young Adult audience.
  • Visual Novel - A style of literature “played” on computers and video game consoles. They use graphics, text, and sound to tell a story. Outside of dialogue choices, they generally feature minimal to no gameplay. Similar to “Chose your own Adventure” type games.
  • OVA - (Original Video Animation) Content that is usually extra material for a show after it’s done, or a one off show that isn’t released theatrically or on TV.
  • ONA - (Original Net Animation) Content that is usually a short-form series; experimentation is seen much more often than in regular length shows
  • AMV/MAD - (Anime Music Video/Music Anime Douga) Music Videos showcasing scenes of one or multiple shows with music in the backdrop.
  • Sub - The subtitle track of an anime, though watching the show subbed refers to watching it with the original (usually japanese) audio along with (insert language here) subtitles.
  • Dub - The audio track of an anime, though watching the show dubbed refers to watching it with alternate (usually English) audio.
  • Fansub - A subtitling effort made by an individual or group that is not associated with the company that made the show or their overseas licensing company (if one exists in the first place).
  • OP - The opening credits of a show, sometimes referring to the song that is playing during it.
  • ED - The ending credits of a show, sometimes referring to the song that is playing during it.
  • All Drawn - An anime that uses entirely hand-drawn frames (ex. The Rose of Versailles)
  • All CG - An anime that uses entirely computer generated animation (ex. Appleseed)
  • Mix- Anime that uses a combination of hand-drawn and CG frames. You’ll find this in most shows post-1990s

Time Related Terms:

  • Season (time period) - Anime viewing seasons are the generally accepted timeframe when an anime originally airs on TV in Japan. There are 4 seasons and they correspond to the actual seasons (ie. the “winter season” of anime airs from January through March).
  • Season (of a show) - The season of a show is the marking of one continuous production cycle of a show, and is, generally speaking, marked by a stop in the airing of a show.
  • Cours - A cour is a length of anime equal to that of a viewing season (roughly 11-13 episodes). Therefore a show which runs in both Winter and Spring would be considered to have run for two cours.
  • Split Cour - A newer development in anime where shows conceived of as two cour shows are aired with a one cour length gap between the first and second cours.
  • Examples: 1) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood doesn’t have any seasons per say, but it is made up of 5 cours; 2) Code Geass is split into two 24 episode seasons, and each season has two cours; 3) Tokyo Ghoul was a split cour show, with the first season airing in summer with the second in the following winter.

Demographic Terms used for Anime/Manga:

  • Kodomo - Anime/Manga aimed towards young children
  • Shounen - Anime/Manga aimed towards male teens
  • Seinen - Anime/Manga aimed towards mature males
  • Shoujo - Anime/Manga aimed towards female teens
  • Josei - Anime/Manga aimed towards mature females

Commonly used Honorifics and Titles:

  • Sensei - Commonly used to refer to teachers, but can also be used for doctors or anyone the speaker considers a deeply respected mentor.
  • Hakase - Professor, or someone with a high degree of academic expertise.
  • Senpai - Used by a junior student, colleague, or member of a group to address their senior.
  • Kōhai - Used by a senior student, colleague, or member of a group to address their junior.
  • Onii-san/Nii-san/Ani/Aniki - All words for older brothers or older brother figures. In anime, you hear this a lot when a young character is addressing an older friend, asibling’s friend, or young man that is older than the speaker.
  • Onee-san/Nee-san/Ane - Words to refer to an older sister or sister figure. Also used for people like nurses.
  • Otouto - Younger brother. There is no shortened version so you will usually just hear characters address their little brothers/brother figures as “(name)-kun”.
  • Imouto - Younger sister; This term gets a lot more mileage than otouto, though it also has no shortened version and younger sisters will often be referred to by “(name)-chan”. You will also hear it used to refer to a character type: the adorable younger girl who can easily fit into a sisterly role.
  • Otousan/Tou-san/Chichi/Chichioya - Words to refer to a father. The last two are only used to refer to one’s own father.
  • Okaa-san/Kaa-san/Haha/Gahaoya - Words to refer to a mother. The last two are only used to refer to one’s own mother.
  • -chan - A diminutive suffix most commonly used with young girls and women, though you sometimes hear characters use it with close male (especially younger) friends.
  • -kun - A basic honorific for people of junior status (like a boss to his employee); also used commonly among friends. You’re most likely to hear this used on young, male characters.
  • -san - Your basic honorific, roughly equivalent to “Mr./Ms.” When you don’t have a close relationship with someone or they have no formal title, this is the way to go.
  • -dono/tono - An honorific meaning roughly “milord/milady.” It does not indicate a formal title and is often used in a joking manner or by a character with speech affectations.
  • -sama - The most respectful of the basic honorifics, used for people of extremely high status, lords, deities, etc. Sometimes used sarcastically to mock an arrogant person.

Common Character Archetypes:

  • Deredere - Someone that is openly loving and caring of others.
  • Tsundere - Someone that is usually seen as aggressive, but also has a loving side.
  • Kuudere - Someone that is usually seen as emotionless, but also has a loving side.
  • Dandere - Someone that is usually seen as shy, but will open up under the right circumstances.
  • Yandere - Someone that is so loving that they are willing to resort to violence to keep their beloved from others.


  • Waifu/Husbando - A female or male character that an anime fan is emotionally attached to above other characters. It usually implies more of a crush relationship (whether joking or serious) than simply having a favorite character. Just remember: more than one waifu will destroy your laifu.
  • Moe - A term you will hear a lot in the anime community. Oftentimes, it’s not given a satisfying explanation, but we have a pretty comprehensive one here:
  • (n) An emotion or experience of finding something overwhelmingly cute, pathetic, or touching, usually in a way that sparks an intense, protective urge. This commonly refers to cute female characters but can extend to animals, elderly characters, real people, or anything that triggers the emotional response.(adj.) a character, person, thing, or behavior that triggers the moe feeling. Note: many people think moe refers to an art style that is created with the aim to cause said emotional response, but this is a common misconception. While cutely stylized character designs can certainly be moe, moe is not in and of itself an art style.
  • Otaku - A Japanese term for someone with an obsessive special interest (e.g.. military otaku), but mostly used to describe anime and manga fans and the subculture associated with them. The current usage can be traced to a 1983 essay by Akio Nakamori. The term used to, and to a degree still is, quite derogatory in Japan, though Western fans embrace the label more positively. Etymologically speaking, otaku (お宅)was originally an honorific term for someone’s household. Thus, it’s very possible that it was chosen as a word for obsessive people because of the connotation of being “inside,” or shut in. Because anime and manga fans would sometimes use this obsolete word, indicating social awkwardness, Nakamori used it to label the subculture of people. Nevertheless, it’s a useful and distinctive term for the community of fans like you who are interested in anime, manga, visual novels, and more. One should still be aware that the term has negative stigma attached to it in Japan, and this nuance is hard to translate. To understand the stigma in English terms, think of an amalgamation of “hardcore nerd” and “awkward shut-in.”
  • Harem - A trope characterized by a protagonist surrounded by three or more members of the opposite sex who are usually love interests. Harem usually refers to a male protagonist with female love interests, while stuff with females with male love interests are referred to as reverse harems. Occurs in manga, VNs, and LNs as well.
  • Kawaii - The short version: it’s Japanese for “cute”. The long version: the word “kawaii” comes from an older Japanese term that meant “pathetic” or “poor thing,” so this history distinguished the modern word from our Western idea of “cute”. The idea of kawaii is closely related to moe, but it’s sort of a square-rectangle situation. Most moe things happen to be kawaii, but not all kawaii things are moe. Kawaii is also more widely applicable and not expressly associated with an emotional reaction.
  • Genki - A Japanese word that means healthy, lively, in good spirits, etc. In anime lingo, it usually refers to a character who is hyper and whose main characteristic is over-the-top enthusiasm.
  • Baka - A Japanese insult and favorite of temperamental female characters that means idiot, stupid, dolt, etc.
  • Chibi/Super-deformed - A stylistic term referring to characters with small but exaggerated proportions - usually with smaller bodies, large heads and eyes, and an overall “mini” look. It can refer to overall character design or just the style of one episode, scene, etc.
  • Loli - A preadolescent female character. A “lolicon” (from Lolita Complex) refers to a person or character with an attraction to these preadolescent girls. Also refers to a genre of media depicting young characters with erotic undertones.
  • Shota - The male equivalent of Loli.

If there’s any that we missed and you want to learn about, Anime News Network’s Encyclopedia of Lexicon should have it, or make a comment below and we’ll update the article.

Starter Recommendations

Now here we are at the meat of this guide. We have quite a few recommendations broken into genres, so just scroll to the ones you are interested in, or read them all if you’re so inclined. We will be giving out one main recommendation per genre, along with some extra recommendations below if you’re looking for more.

Shounen - Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood & ‘03

Plot Summary: Edward and Alphonse Elric were both young boys when their father left without a word one night, and when their mother fell ill and died shortly afterward. Driven by grief, the boys turn to alchemy, a magical art which allows one to create or destroy given that as much energy is put in as is put out. After a few months of training, they attempt to resurrect her, only to end with horrific results. A dark void opens and takes Edward’s left leg, and Alphonse whole. Horrified by the loss, Ed quickly sacrifices his right arm for his brother’s soul, and binds it to a large suit of armor. Now three years later Ed (now with a mechanical leg and arm) and Al have joined the State Alchemists sect of the army in order to conduct searches for the Philosopher’s Stone to restore their bodies.


Why this Rocks: While it’s our second largest main recommendation on this guide at 64 episodes and 4 OVA side-stories, FMA:B (as it’s shorthanded) is a very engaging nonstop-ride all the way with great music, visuals, and themes. Other than the first episode, which is more of a teaser than anything, there is no filler to be seen here. Even the OVAs, which normally amount to nothing in other shows, do a great job here in fleshing out the characters and should be seen sometime during rather than after the series. As of its relation to FMA ‘03, Brotherhood follows the source material much closer than ‘03 as it came out right at the tail end of the manga’s release. ‘03 came out very early during the release of the manga, so it spends more time adapting the initial volumes until it threads its own path around 20 episodes in. It’s still worth watching however. It manages to do some interesting and darker things that Brotherhood doesn’t, but it trips over itself in the end. The movie finale feeling like a compacted third season doesn’t help. All in all, Fullmetal Alchemist, be it ‘03 or Brotherhood, is an enduring fantasy coming of age tale that can be enjoyed no matter your age or gender.

Also Recommended: Soul Eater, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter (2011), Fairy Tail, One Punch Man

Seinen - Black Lagoon

Plot Summary: Rokuro Okajima is an average salaryman until he is taken hostage aboard a boat in the South China Sea by the Lagoon Delivery Company for the disk in his possession. Events ensue that involve his own company hiring a mercenary company to kill him, a drinking competition followed immediately by a shootout, being affectionately renamed as “Rock” by his captors, and destroying a helicopter WITH A TORPEDO… All on the first few days in what would become his new career as a “Courier.”


Why this Rocks: If you are looking for an action series that holds no punches then you need not look further than Black Lagoon. The story arcs are usually between 2 to 3 episodes, which allows for the plot to stay fresh, but also contain an overarching storyline between the various factions and characters to tell a cohesive narrative. Because the main cast is only a group of 4, each of them to get enough character development throughout its full run, although the majority of this is still placed on Rock and his foil, Revy. The action scenes are dramatic and intense, but when also backed up a great soundtrack, these scenes become the standouts of the series and are always fun to watch. It’s not all guns and blood however. Black Lagoon also does a tremendous job in presenting all of the characters (especially the females) as morally ambiguous, but ultimately human deep inside; a feat few shows have pulled off to its level. Just know this show isn’t for the weak at heart. For Black Lagoon truly understands what it means to be dark and gritty.

Also Recommended: Fate/Zero, Darker than Black, Jormungand, Hellsing Ultimate, Death Note, Tokyo Ghoul, Baccano!, Monster, Shigurui, Death Parade, Gangsta, Basilisk, Paranoia Agent, Parasyte: The Maxim, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Shoujo - Revolutionary Girl Utena

Plot Summary: When Utena Tenjou was a little girl, she lost her parents in an accident. In her despair, a beautiful and kind prince appeared to her and told her to never lose her strength and nobility, giving her a ring to remember him by. Utena was so impressed by the prince that she decided to become a prince herself. Now, as a student at the huge and mysterious Ohtori Academy, Utena is a free thinking and brave girl who plays by her own rules. When she notices a fellow student, the demure Anthy Himemiya, in an abusive relationship, Utena decides to make a stand. Her actions thrust her into a strange underground world where she must fight in duels to save Anthy. What does it mean to be a duelist, why do her opponents have the same ring she received as a child, and what secrets lurk behind Anthy’s calm demeanor?


Why this Rocks: If that plot summary doesn’t give you a clear picture of what Revolutionary Girl Utena is, it’s because that’s a nigh impossible task. Utena is a masterpiece from an infamously weird anime director, Kunihiko Ikuhara, who earned his shoujo cred working on Sailor Moon. This is a show that offers a bit of everything: romance, character archetype subversion, swordfighting action, and even a surprising amount of comedy. Utena and Anthy are the “main” characters, but the show boasts an entire cast of interesting and flawed people with complex and deeply explored motivations. Utena is one of those shows that, within the anime community, has a huge reputation for being 3deep5me because of its avant-garde nature and heavy symbolism. Like most shows with that raport, though, it’s not as hard to understand as it’s made out to be. Artistic flair aside, it’s primarily a story about coming of age and coming into your own. It’s a good show for beginners to Shoujo in part because it really is an anime that’s best going into without any preconceived notions.

Also Recommended: Ao Haru Ride, Ore Monogatari, The World is Still Beautiful, Kaichou wa maid-sama!, Kimi ni Todoke, The Rose of Versailles, Ouran Highschool Host Club, Yona of the Dawn, Hakuouki, The Vision of Escaflowne

Josei - Nana

Plot Summary: Two young women, both named Nana, move to Tokyo to follow their dreams, get away from their past, and make a new lives for themselves. Nana “Hachi” Komatsu is an energetic, kind, and sometimes naive girl who needs to sort through her guy problems. Nana Ozaki is a punk singer who wants to make it big, and get out of the shadow of her ex-boyfriend who is now a famous rocker. When coincidence (or fate) keeps bringing both Nana’s together, they form a bond that will carry them through jobs, romance, and the ups and downs of life in your early 20’s.


Why this Rocks: There are a few truly excellent offerings in Josei anime, but Nana is the crown jewel of what Josei is at its best: an honest and relatable look at the lives of adult women. Through the eyes of the Nana’s and their equally lovable friends, the show deals with concerns large and small that many young people have or will find themselves dealing with - the confusion and excitement of finding who you are, break-ups and new crushes, job and financial woes, and more. Other than perhaps Nana O.’s struggles in the music industry, none of the issues faced by the characters are things that couldn’t also happen to us. Nana is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. It’s an often bittersweet anime, but ultimately a beautiful story about the unconditional love of a true friendship.

Also Recommended: Princess Jellyfish, Kids on the Slope, Paradise Kiss, Honey and Clover, Hataraki Man

Slice of Life - Silver Spoon

Plot Summary: Having lost his direction in life after failing his High School entrance exams, Yuugo Hachiken enrols at Ooezo Agricultural High School just to get away from home. But as a city boy without a hint of agricultural knowledge, he soon finds himself in a strange new world of farming and food production. Surrounded by new friends who all are purposely pursuing their own dreams, Hachiken must learn what it means to be successful in a world where academics is not the only metric, and must face the real consequences of how the food he loves so much is made.


Why this Rocks: Silver Spoon is one of those shows that is laid back, funny, and poignant all at once. Its ability to make characters you care for and enjoy to watch is only matched by the seriousness it approaches the ethics of meat production, the fairness of life, and how to live your dreams. It’s a show which is surprisingly grounded, even amongst other slice of life shows. However, its focus on larger themes and its education of the viewers and Hachiken in rural life and work makes Silver Spoon truly stand out from its brethren.

Also Recommended: Non Non Biyori, Barakamon, Hanasaku Iroha, Working!!, Haibane Renmei

Comedy - Nichijou

Plot Summary: Welcome to class one 1-Q, where odd is normal, and no one seems to realize that. From a mad scientist kindergartener and her human robot, to the trio of regular girls occasionally doing and thinking crazy things, there’s hardly a dull moment. Even if you’re forced to stand in the hallway because you didn’t do your work...


Why this rocks: Nichijou is weird, and that’s an understatement. Following the typical slice-of-life set-up where there’s little, if any, progression and no overarching plot line; Nichijou takes the notion of screwball comedies and ramps it up to 11. Don’t believe us? Just look up gifs of this show and try to make heads or tails of them. Deer wrestling, talking animals, pointless body modifications, and teachers failing to communicate with their students to ridiculous ends; anything and everything that you can and can’t think of is in this show and will leave you laughing and with one thought by the time you finish: What the heck did I just watch?

Also Recommended: Working!!, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, Tonari no seki-kun, Gintama, D-Frag, Assassination Classroom, Kawai Complex, Seitokai Yakuindomo, Baka & Test, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

Romance - My Love Story!

Plot Summary: In any other romance series, protagonist Takeo Gouda would be the high school bully or the dopey best friend of the main character. He’s big, strong, and more than a little dense. Fortunately, he has his best friend Sunakawa to help him out as he discovers love with the absurdly kind and sweet Rinko Yamato. Together, Takeo and Rinko experience the highs and lows of high school dating, overcome obstacles that would tear most anime relationships apart, and still have enough time to eat some homemade cake faster than you can say “I love her!”


Why this Rocks: My Love Story! takes a bunch of romantic comedy cliches and then sets them on fire with the flames of love. Remember all those times in romantic comedies where the couple has an awkward standoff and then they don’t speak for half the show? Here, characters talk things through and resolve problems in the same episode. Someone tries to make a move on Rinko? Takeo ain’t going to take that sitting down. This show is hilarious, clever, energetic, and adorable as you get to see romantic progression occur throughout the series without the weight of tedious melodrama.

Also Recommended: Clannad, Kanon, Toradora, Your Lie in April, Snow White with the Red Hair, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, ef: A Tale of Memories, Inari Konkon Koi Iroha, Kimi no Todoke

Drama - Golden Time

Plot Summary: Tada Banri’s first day of law school did not unfold the way he was expecting it to. Unfamiliar with Tokyo, Banri struggled to find his way to freshman orientation until he stumbles into fellow student Yanagisawa Mitsuo. Becoming fast friends, the pair soon run across perhaps the most memorable person that Banri will meet, Kaga Kouko. Banri’s first days of law school end up introducing him to a cast of characters who will all join him in the drama of college life.


Why this Rocks: Golden Time is one of the best examples of anime drama in that it does not only deliver relationship melodrama, it presents a broad range of dramatic elements to the viewer. From characters dealing with personal psychological or neurological damage, love pentangles, stalking, family conflict, bromance/brotrayal, peer pressure, club activity anxiety, college drinking, possible supernatural interference, cults, and crossdressing nightclubs - Golden Time does not lack for opportunities to create drama. In many respects it is very similar to a daytime soap opera as it will throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. The extended cast is very memorable and really contributes to how entertaining the show is. Beyond the drama and romance, the show is also very funny and could easily be listed under the recommendations for comedy as well as romance. Above all, the show is enjoyable and it puts the audience on a roller coaster episode after episode. If you give Golden Time a shot, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you’ll want to see what happens next.

Also Recommended: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Death Note, Welcome to the N.H.K, Anohana, White Album 2, Kids on the Slope, Nagi no Asukara, Kokoro Connect

Mecha - Code Geass

Plot Summary: In an alternative timeline, the world has fallen mostly under the control of the Holy Empire of Britannia thanks to powerful mechs dubbed “Knightmare Frames”. One of the few areas left unconquered, Japan finds itself quickly crushed and redesignated as Area 11; forced to supply Britannia at the loss of the general population.


Some time later, Lelouch, the hiding exiled prince of Britannia, finds himself entangled in a revolutionary plot. By chance and runs upon the mysteriously immortal C.C. who gives him “Geass”, the power of the king. With the newfound ability to sway anyone with a simple suggestion, he dons a mask and takes control of the revolutionary movement to take Britannia back from his mad King and Father.

Why this Rocks: With a well thought out alternate timeline, a thrilling way of storytelling, great characters, solid themes, a fabulous main character, amazing mechs with awesome fight scenes, elegant handling of geopolitics, and more, Code Geass is a show that throws the whole kitchen sink at you and never ceases to provide an enjoyable and engaging experience. One that has made it one of the most memorable and loved series in anime. It can be pretty hammy at times, and some of the scenes are just ridiculous, but it does them all well, making a great experience that turns these negatives into a positive, leaving you with a show that is engaging, enjoyable and easy to watch. All in all, it’s a great starter show into one of the most beloved and recognizable genres in the anime medium.

Also Recommended: Valvrave the Liberator, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bokurano, Gundam, Knights of Sidonia, Full Metal Panic, Gurren Lagann, Eureka 7, Martian Successor Nadesico, Macross, Buddy Complex, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse

Sci-Fi - Steins;Gate

Plot Summary: Okabe spends his days hanging out in a rented apartment above a CRT Television store along with his friends Daru and Mayuri, occasionally attempting to create gadgets of the future. For the most part going nowhere with these inventions, Okabe and Daru one day unknowingly create a microwave controlled by phone that’s capable of sending texts back in time and alter the future. However, Okabe soon learns that the smallest of changes can have major consequences, and that sometimes that the only way forward is to move back.


Why this Rocks: There’s nothing better than a good Sci-Fi, and there’s so much done right with Steins;Gate that it’s hard to say no to this show. Steins;Gate is the story about time travel, a work that actually looks at the mechanics of it in a pseudo-intellectual way. Along with the interesting focus and premise, the way that everything is executed is just so great. This is a work that really attaches you to the main character extremely well, using a connection to make you feel a wide gamut of emotions, and once the story picks up, it has a thrilling pace that keeps you engaged throughout. The characters are well fleshed-out, the soundtrack is superb, and the way that this show handles it’s Sci-Fi is better than most others. Steins;Gate is one of the best stories we’ve ever had the chance to experience, and it’s definitely worthwhile.

Also Recommended: Shin Sekai Yori, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Serial Experiments Lain, Psycho-Pass, Ergo Proxy, Planetes, Mardock Scramble

Magical Girl - Princess Tutu

Plot Summary: A duck, a prince, and a crow walk into a ballet school. Ahem. This fairy tale inspired magical girl show follows the adventures of Ahiru, a duck (Ahiru is Japanese for duck whaddayaknow) who has been transformed into a human girl by Drosselmeyer, a mysterious storyteller who seems to know everything that goes on in the show’s world - a storybook town. Ahiru gets drawn into magic and intrigue when she learns that there is darkness and mystery surrounding her crush, Mytho. Mytho is actually a legendary prince who is missing pieces of his heart! To recover the missing shards of Mytho’s heart, Ahiru must become Princess Tutu, an elegant ballerina whose dances can soothe the soul and save others from pain and heartache. Joined by Fakir and Rue, two older students who have their own feelings and secrets regarding Mytho and the heart shards, Ahiru must fight to challenge fate and find a happy ending.


Why this Rocks: Princess Tutu is a treat not only for magical girl fans, but for a wide audience. Its director was heavily involved with Sailor Moon and worked under Utena’s Ikuhara. The world is enchanting, the characters are lovable, and the set and sound design stand out wonderfully. Ahiru is one of the cutest anime leads around and she’s a great role model for younger viewers, and the rest of the main cast are very compelling and fully fleshed out as well. The story, which may appear to be a sweet fairy tale at first, takes surprising and sometimes dark turns to get to its touching conclusion. Top it all off with a soundtrack that employs some of ballet’s most beautiful classical music, and you’ve got a memorable, lovingly crafted anime.

Also Recommended: Yuki Yuna is a Hero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

Fantasy - Berserk

Plot Summary: In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control; even over his own will.”


Berserk begins with these words and the audience witnesses as the destinies of the young swordsman Guts, and the ambitious commander Griffiths, entwine and unfold. Set against a traditional medieval backdrop, the series follows the mercenary group, the Band of the Hawk, as they look to find their fortunes on the battlefield. As their reputation increases, the band is drawn deeper into political intrigues while supernatural horrors lurk in the periphery.

Why this Rocks: Berserk is not set in a world of conventional high fantasy, but the series does contain many medieval trappings, along with the creator’s own unique vision of western knights and armies. Have no doubt though, as the series progresses, it reveals itself to be very much a horrific and mature fantasy setting. The keys to this series’ staying power are its memorable characters, Shakespearean drama, and the series’ unforgettable conclusion. Even though the original show is 18 years old at this point, the dated animation quickly fades to the background as the series draws the audience in. Berserk is an absolute must watch for any anime viewer who wishes to see a milestone of fantasy anime for adult audiences.

Also Recommended: GARO: The Animation, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, Chaika the Coffin Princess, Spice and Wolf, Durarara, Little Witch Academia, The Record of Lodoss War, Mushi-shi, Magi

Sports - Haikyu

Plot Summary: Shouyou Hinata and Tobio Kageyama become rivals after their first meeting in their final Jr. High volleyball tournament. With dreams of becoming top tier players, both Hinata and Kageyama wind up enrolling at Karasuno High - whose previous championship successes have been fading into the past - and must now learn to work together if they want to stay on the team. With each of their unique talents, Karasuno may have a shot at becoming a top tier team again, but can these former rivals learn to put aside their differences and learn to fly together?


Why this Rocks: Haikyu is a standout of the anime sports genre, an excellent show where every character is important, and is fun to watch. It is also one of the best paced sports series out there, by not only delivering heartstopping great action, but also emotional punches every episode. Haikyu also manages to keep the plot going, and in the span of 25 episodes does as much as some other mainline anime sports series take upwards of 50 to get to. So if you want a fun show that will get you genuinely excited every time it plays, Haikyu is for you.

Also Recommended: Ace of Diamonds, Chihayafuru, Ping Pong, Kuroko no Basket, Hajime no Ippo, Prince of Tennis, Baby Steps, Ping Pong, Yowamushi Pedal, Taisho Baseball Girls, Cross Game

Idol - Wake Up, Girls!

Plot Summary: On the verge of failing, the tiny Green Leaves production company attempts to turn its fortunes around by assembling its own idol group. Can a handful of strangers including a shamed former idol, a fading child star, a musical prodigy, a small time celebrity, an outgoing waitress, and a pair of amateurs of varying enthusiasm make it in the large and competitive landscape of idol groups? There is way more to succeeding than just smiling, singing, and dancing, as this group of hopefuls will find out.


Why this Rocks: More than any other idol show, Wake Up, Girls! is the only series that adequately illustrates the potentially realistic workings of the idol industry in Japan. This makes the show a perfect introduction to the genre, as the viewer can come in without any prior knowledge of idol culture and not be lost. It is very stereotypical in its premise, but does manage to execute good drama and realistic characterization while shining a fairly critical light on the idol industry and culture. Wake Up, Girls! will appeal to fans of sports shows, movies like “Bring it On”, or anyone who wants to learn more about the Idol culture who does not wish to be overly pandered to. The 53 minute “Wake Up, Girls! - Seven Idols” movie is the essential starting point before moving on to the rest of the 12 episode series. A second movie is planned for release in December.

Also Recommended: Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls, Love-Live, AKB0048

Horror - Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Plot Summary: Summer, 1983. Transfer student Maebara Keiichi moves to the quiet and secluded rural Hinamizawa. He quickly befriends a group of girls at the all-ages, one classroom school. Shortly afterwards he stumbles upon the dark history of Hinamizawa, and his new friends don’t seem very inclined about talking about it. In fact, it seems they rather have him forget about it completely. If not willingly, then by fear and paranoia.


Why this Rocks: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, otherwise known as When the Cicadas Cry, is an odd entry into the horror genre. Starting with a boy brutally beating his some girls to death in a bedroom and then immediately jumping back in time to where he’s walking to school with those same girls, right off the bat Higurashi tells you that you’re in for one heck of a whiplash inducing ride. While most anything horror nowadays relies on physical monstrosities, here, madness is the unspeakable evil. Every arc of this show ends with one or more of the characters slowly going completely insane, and it’s never really explained why until the second half of the second season. Instead you’re left to question what the hell is going on, all the while red herrings are being thrown at your face relentlessly with an occasional truth mingled in. If you’re going into this show, put your tinfoil caps on, dim the lights, and check your food before you eat it. You never know if some’s out to brutally maim you...

Also Recommended: Another, Shiki, Hell Girl, Blood +, Corpse Party, School-Live!

Ecchi - The Monogatari Series

Plot Summary: Apparitions: supernatural entities or phenomena that are largely invisible or ignored by humanity, but are inexorably linked to human thought and emotion. High school student Koyomi Araragi’s encounter with an apparition caused him to be cursed with, then cured of, vampirism. It is after this encounter that the first series, Bakemonogatari, begins. While the overall story structure of the Monogatari franchise is quite complex, at its roots the show is about Araragi meeting other characters who have also been entangled with an apparition and trying to help resolve the situation. In its own characteristic way, the Monogatari series is as much about how the story is told as it is about the events and characters themselves.


Why this Rocks: The designation of ecchi is analogous to the smutty or racy humor of the Benny Hill Show or National Lampoon movies in western media. Surprisingly, “ecchi” is actually a fairly expansive genre. While the minimum criterion for ecchi is a prevalence of visual content that is sexually humorous or titillating, beyond that, ecchi shows can be quite varied. As the Monogatari franchise really stretches how ecchi content can be incorporated within a show. While typical ecchi elements include accidental groping and wardrobe malfunctions, Monogatari eschews these gags for unconventionally suggestive imagery intercut over a scene of witty repartee. While the ecchi elements of this series are not quite overt, they are not at all subtle either. This series is the very embodiment of studio SHAFT’s unique visual style, so you are not likely to watch anything else quite like it. The fascinating visuals help to counterbalance the series unusual pacing and its massive amount of dialog. The show’s lengthy conversions are in many ways the shows strongest element. It is this dialog, coupled with the show’s use of non-linear storytelling, that make this sort of the anime equivalent to Pulp Fiction. Still, unless one is somewhat knowledgeable in various things Japanese, this series presents a large amount of subtitle reading and Japanese-specific wordplay to surmount. For those that are willing to undertake it, the Monogatari franchise rewards the viewer with its surprising narrative, subversive themes, and a multi-layered plot.

Also Recommended: Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars, Punchline, Infinite Stratos, Highschool DxD, Maria the Virgin Witch, Golden Boy, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Must-See Classics

Cowboy Bebop

Plot Summary: Being a bounty hunter is no easy living. It’s dangerous and hard work, but nothing if not exciting. It’s a job ex-hitman Spike Spiegel and his ex-cop partner Jet Black know all too well as new-age cowboys on their spaceship the Bebop. Together with femme fatale gambler Faye Valentine, hacker wizard Ed and their welsh corgi Ein, the crew of the Bebop face a number of wild adventures against crooks, gangs, terrorists, conspiracies, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and their own pasts as they search for their next big break.


Why this Rocks: Cowboy Bebop is one of those defining tentpole anime for 90’s anime fans, particularly in the West. It’s a genre mashup of everything from comedy to film noir, action movies to detective fiction, and it still holds up great today. It’s a thematically poignant show that is able to be both incredibly dark and genuinely lighthearted, made possible by some excellent cell animation and a killer soundtrack that’s as fluid as the show’s visual stylings. It’s a show that has held up excellently since its release in the late 90s. Bebop is also recognised as one of the defining, bar setting anime when it comes to English dubbing thanks to a dub that has even subtitle-only viewers watching it. So if you like cool action, deep characters, western film, or jazzy music, there’s no reason you shouldn’t giving this classic a shot.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Plot Summary: Welcome to the future, where brains have been cybernized and many people are cyborgs to varying degrees. As a result, crime has become increasingly complex and dangerous, leading the Japanes government to create Section 9, an independent and highly skilled police task force. Lead by the genius Aramaki and full-body cyborg Mokoto Kusanagi, Section 9 has been for the most part very successful. However, when an unpredictable and powerful hacker only known as “The Laughing Man” steps into the scene, Section 9 finds themselves facing an opponent unlike any history has seen before.


Why this Rocks: Originally released over ten years ago, Stand Alone Complex almost looks as if it hasn’t not aged a day (unless you count the weird CGI opening of season 1). The characters of the series are all intriguing, from Chief Aramaki to the sometimes playful, always awesome Batou. However, the best character in the show is hands-down Major Motoko Kusanagi, one of the most developed, badass female characters in all of anime. If you are looking for great action, Stand Alone Complex has it. Great animation? SAC has it too. A sci-fi anime that makes you think without going too preachy? Well, ok, SAC does get a bit preachy at times, but it’s still worth a watch all the same. With a soundtrack by the legendary Yoko Kanno to back it, prepare to be dazzled from all fronts as this series is truly a labor of love.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Plot Summary: In the DISTANT POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE of 2015 (so far away), 14 year old Shinji Ikari is suddenly called to the metropolis of Tokyo-03 by his estranged father, Gendo Ikari, and his organization, NERV. Shinji soon learns that he is needed to because he’s suitable to pilot an Eva, a mysterious and powerful humanoid mech. The Eva units are the only weapons that can fight Angels, entities even more mysterious than the robots. Along with his commander and guardian, Misato, and the other Eva pilots, Rei and Asuka, Shinji must look inside himself to fight the Angels and struggle through the questions of his family, his past, and his own existence.


Why this Rocks: To get it out of the way - the mech and action in Evangelion are cool and the design and movement of the Eva units has influenced many mecha anime that came after. More importantly, the (at the time) game-changing decision to depict heroes of an mecha anime as deeply flawed, damaged, and unflinchingly human characters had a profound impact on not only mecha, but anime in general. Evangelion has become a cross-cultural phenomenon for many reasons, but what holds up to this day is the power these characters and story have to tap into our very real fears, anxieties, and emotions. Anyone looking to get into anime owes it to themselves to give it a try.

Also Recommended: Trigun, Serial Experiments Lain, Great Teacher Onizuka, Sailor Moon, Astro Boy, Gundam, Dragonball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho

Hidden Gems - Now and Then, Here and There

Plot Summary: On the return home from kendo practice, Shu has an encounter with a strange young girl named Lala Ru. During their conversation, two strange machines appear from another world and attack the pair easily brushing off Shu and abducting Lala Ru. During this fight, Shu is also transported to the other world which appears as nothing more than a vast desert planet, with no water and only the worst of humanity that has survived the new harsh reality that appears before him.


Why this Rocks: Now and Then, Here and There is a really well done show, but it’s more than that. Throwing a shounen protagonist into a world of destruction with a story inspired by the Rwandan Genocide, Now and Then, Here and There is an anime not enough people have seen. With one of the best developed villains in anime in the form of an insane dictator, this show grabs you, throws you around, and shows you a spectrum of emotions that a truly great show has to offer. It’s near perfect in almost every way, handling it’s story beautifully in its 13 episode time period. It’s well rounded and keeps you engaged throughout, creating a world that is absolutely phenomenal. Too bad not many people haven’t heard about it...

Also Recommended: Shin Sekai Yori, Aoi Bungaku, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Humanity has Declined, Moryo no Hako, GOSICK, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, Katanagatari, Bokurano, Spice & Wolf, Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei

Popular Shows - Death Note

Plot Summary: Light Yagami is a brilliant teen. However, come his final days at High School, he finds himself extremely bored from the lack of challenge school life presents him. One day though, a mysterious journal falls out of the sky titled, “Death Note”, apparently bearing the ability to kill anyone given you know their name. Light quickly finds out that it’s more than a bad prank, and ends up in a wild game of cat and mouse with the equally brilliant “L” after killing one too many criminals with the notebook. How will L possibly be able to capture a seemingly faceless and god-like mass murderer, and how long can Light can keep killing criminals before he slips up and gets himself caught? Not even the gods seem to know...


Why this Rocks: Out of all of all the smash hit anime within the past decade, Death Note is one of the best. Presenting one of the best games of cat and mouse in any medium, it flips the main perspective to the culprit rather than investigator, and makes you question whether Light is justified in his killing spree of criminals. The soundtrack is also extremely well interwoven in the show, giving memorable and fitting tracks to each of the main characters, and goes suitably bombastic during the more high strung scenes. Death Note was extremely popular for a reason, and it shows all throughout its run.

Also Recommended: Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, Akame ga Kill, Sword Art Online, Kill la Kill, Code Geass

Movies - Akira

Plot Summary: In 1988, a nuclear explosion occurs in Tokyo triggers the onset of World War III. Thirty One years later in the slums of the rebuilt Neo-Tokyo, Kaneda’s gang of bikers begin an attack against the Clowns, another biker gang. In the ensuing chase, Tetsuo, Kaneda’s second-in-command and best friend, collides with a child who, as a result of his psychic powers, causes Tetsuo’s motorcycle to explode. Afterwards Tetsuo is detained by the Special Defence Force and the esper is returned to their custody. In an effort to recover his missing friend, Kaneda begins to discover the truth behind the espers, the terrorist group trying to free them, and will ultimately come to know what really caused World War III and how it relates to the mysterious Akira.


Why this Rocks: Akira at its core is a sci-fi mystery, but it also has themes to do with war and the consequences of a nuclear attack. Combined with the political elements, and themes of substance abuse and violence, Akira hits a lot of themes and tones, but manages to integrate them seamlessly into a single story; leaving something for everyone in this anime. The animation featured is outstanding, and makes the action scenes stand-out all the more against the background of night-time Neo-Tokyo. Akira is simply a classic in not only sci-fi as a genre, but in anime as a whole. And despite being 27 years old at the time of writing, is still an incredible must watch.

Also Recommended: Anything Studio Ghibli, Kara no Kyoukai/Garden of Sinners, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Wolf Children, Patema Inverted, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Summer Wars, Fist of the North Star, Arcadia of My Youth, Ghost in the Shell

Also check out Kotaku’s Ghibli list and Rockmandash’s Top 10 non-Ghibli anime movie list!

Shorts - Inferno Cop

Plot Summary: From the depths of Hell, Inferno Cop patrols the crime infested Jack Knife Edge Town to do what normal police officers can’t do. Being the only one capable of opposing the criminal organization Southern Cross, he embarks on an insane and emotional(???) adventure to stop them at all costs before they can take over the Earth.


Why this Rocks: Do you like shows with sensible plot-lines, beautiful visuals, and meaningful themes? Then go elsewhere, because none of that exists here. Inferno Cop is a series of 13, 3 minute episode of pure batshit insanity and overdone drama that will make you question why you watch anything else. While most low budget things try to stretch each dollar as much as they possibly can, Studio Trigger seemingly decided to simply make some concept art, give it to the animators, and tell them to do the rest in their own time off hours. And what gloriousness became of that project. Inferno Cop watches like a paper-cut-out puppet show with stock digital effects added in, along with only a few guys voicing all the characters, even the girls with hilarious results. Go watch it now! We guarantee that it will be the best 40 minutes you’ll spend today. (It has been put on Youtube for free as well by its publisher Anime Bancho.)

Also Recommended: Tonari no Seki Kun, Miss Monochrome, Yami Shibai, I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying, Time of Eve, Ninja Slayer

And that’s a wrap! Let us know in the comments down below if you have any questions, and remember kids: Anime at your own risk. It’s not our fault if we supposedly left something out, or you don’t like our opinions... Baka. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ That aside, here’s another comprehensive guide to anime if you’re so inclined.


A big thanks to Jonuiuc, Shade, Rockmandash, Krakken, Morie, EvenSteven, and WyvernZero for bring this project to life. Also, as always, thanks Unimplied for the awesome header gif.

You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. Click here to check us out.