05/02/2020 10:50 AM IST | Updated 05/02/2020 10:52 AM IST

5 Series That Will Get You Hooked To Anime

A starter-kit for anyone new to anime.

5 animes to watch

The world that hardcore anime-lovers—or otakus, as they are called—paint with their intense discussions on Reddit, obscure memes and GIFs can overwhelm someone mildly curious about it and make them feel like a complete outsider.

The most popular anime tropes that fans swear by aren’t for everybody.

“It all sounds so weird, and hard to keep up with,” my friends often complain.

But since Netflix has actively made Japanese animated shows more mainstream, it’s become harder to ignore, even if it’s just to stay up to date with the latest hashtags.

If you are on the fence but want to dip your toes into this world, this list is for you.

This list deliberately avoids tentpoles of the anime world like One Piece, Dragon Ball Z and Bleach, and ones most recommended like Sword Art Online, Death Note and Attack on Titan. Instead, here are five gateway series to get you started:

1. One-Punch Man

One-Punch Name

What it’s about: One-PunchMan follows Saitama, who aspired to become a hero on a whim. So he perfected his martial arts and can now knock anyone out with a single punch. 

Similar to:Deadpool (or every Hollywood blockbuster ever)

Why you should watch it: We have all been to theatres to watch “event” feature films for some straight-up entertainment. The lack of a good plot hardly gets in the way of enjoying things blow up on the big screen (sometimes in 3D). Now imagine that for every episode of a series, and you get One-Punch Man.

Cliched, predictable AF, where the all-powerful hero always wins. So why watch?

The existential crisis that comes after you’ve achieved your ultimate dream and have nothing to chase after is the central conflict of this show. Suddenly, the superhero isn’t all that different from an office worker who’s so good at his job that everyday life becomes frustratingly boring and meaningless.  

2. Steins; Gate 

Steins; Gate

What it’s about: A self-proclaimed mad scientist, who nobody takes seriously, accidentally builds a time machine that can send text messages to the past. In his moment of euphoria, he messes with time and sets himself upon a frustrating quest to undo his mistake, resulting in even more mistakes.

Similar to:Back To The Future, Looper

Why you should watch it: The show mocks the mad-scientist cliche, played out in fiction so often, with the obnoxious and narcissistic male lead, Rintarou Okabe. This accidental genius is led by emotion rather than reason (and, of course, he vehemently denies it). 

He is juxtaposed with Kurisu Makise, a neuroscience researcher who is recognised by the scientist community. She trusts numbers, goes by theories over instinct. The true scientist. 

Just like every other time-travel series, this one comes with paradoxical loopholes and techno-babble. But what keeps you glued to the story more than the twists and turns are Okabe’s rather unremarkable but intriguing friends, and how fate (or science) overturns their ordinary existence.

Where to watch: Netflix

3. Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket

What it’s about: Fruits Basket is about a high-school orphan meeting two unique boys her age, both of whom fall in love with her. As much as the series is about the journey of figuring out who she ends up with, it’s also about the oddball characters she meets along the way. Why, some of them even turn into animals representing Chinese zodiac signs when hugged by the opposite gender! 

Similar to: Twilight, 13 Reasons Why

Why you should watch it: It might seem like a straightforward rom-com about teenagers and fantasy elements. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find a layered slice-of-life story with well fleshed-out characters. This coming-of-age tale dabbles in mental health issues like body dysmorphia, PTSD and dissociative personality disorder. It offers some refreshing commentary on child abuse, bullying, gender identity crisis and self-harm. 

The Netflix series is a modern adaptation of the 2001 anime, which was in turn adapted from the 1998 manga series of the same name, considered a classic.

Where to watch: Netflix


4. Psycho-Pass


What it’s about: Welcome to the dystopian future where humans (in Japan) live in an almost conflict-free and crime-free society made possible by their Psycho-Pass, a psychometric analysis score that indicates their likelihood to commit a crime. An independent AI network called Sybil maintains this crime-free state by monitoring people’s “crime coefficient”. 

Enter the “heroes”, a bunch of detectives assisted by “enforcers”, who are people with a high crime coefficient. They’re on a mission to bring down their own kind to prevent any possible crime.

Similar to: Minority Report, Black Mirror

Why you should watch it: If you strip away all it’s sci-fi elements and flashy visual effects, at its core, Psycho-Pass is a story about discerning right from wrong when there’s only a very fine line between the two.

It questions a society’s understanding of morality and justice, something human beings have been obsessing over for centuries, and this obsession travels across languages, races, countries and faiths.

Where to watch: Netflix

5. Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon

What it’s about: What happens when a perfectly average Japanese salaryman is captured by a group of pirate-cum-mercenaries on a business trip, and his employers turn their back on him? Well, he joins the gang of smuggling and looting pirates, of course!

Similar to: The Musketeers, Solo, Pirates of the Carribean, Mask Of Zorro

Why you should watch it: Black Lagoon, which takes its name after the pirate group The Lagoon Company, has a very classic western “bandit show” feel to it. Add to that a healthy mix of action, humour and occasional social commentary. 

Part of its appeal is that it’s not strictly set in Japan, but explores most of Southeast Asia and beyond. The cast is diverse for an anime, including a Jewish-American, a Chinese-American, an African-American, and a Japanese character. Each of them is distinct because of how they are drawn and written.

An easy favourite is the pirate-boss Revy, both bold and vulnerable. Badassery personified, she uses wit and sheer brute force to lord over the rest. But with time, you realise she isn’t without flaws. Amid the questionably unrealistic portrayal of girls in action animes that are mostly written for the male gaze, Revy is a stark departure from the norm and quite the icon.

Where to watch: Netflix