Recently my old friend Ben McGraw, make a post request that we felt was a brilliant idea for the site. He wanted a list of anime that he could watch as someone who loved Cowboy Bebop but had not watched anime since. Regular readers of the blog may have seen most if not all of these shows. That is because this list is not directly for you. This is a list for your friends, family, and coworkers. We picked 10 newer shows that will appeal to fans who have either fallen out of anime fandom or were never that into it in the first place. Everything on this list is licensed, has a dub, and is easy to obtain so there is no major obstacles to overcome when watching any of the shows below.
I know I certainly have friends who aren’t in on the anime scene anymore, so this list is something that runs perfectly along those lines. They are probably never going to stay up on what’s new each season or even want to spend enough time digging through all the new shows to find the ones for them. While this list is of course not the only shows that we would recommend, they all are good, most even great, and have enough to make the impact on fans who have been down and out for a while. It’s not a bad idea to remind people why they started watching anime in the first place.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
The original Ghost in the Shell movie is an anime title that pretty much anyone who once watched anime is going to know. So the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series is a good place to get back into anime. With storylines that tackle serious social and technological issues plus adds a good deal of character and world building. Motoko Kusanagi is more fleshed out and her team adds a lot to the story. The production budget is high so everything looks wonderful and modern. There is also a well done compilation movie that cuts out all the stand alone stories and just tells the main Laughing Man story. Plus fun tanks!
Paprika has spectacular visual storytelling and a directorial vision that can only be achieved with animation. It is a great film for reminding fans why anime was so intriguing in the first place. The dreamscapes displayed in the movie are breathtakingly gorgeous as is the play of reality vs. the realm of the mind. The story is filled with suspense and intrigue while maintaining a sense of whimsy at points as well. Satoshi Kon was unparalleled at creating story lines that were artistic enough that you feel you are watching something substantial but accessible enough to avoid being alienating.
For anyone who likes the work of Satoshi Kon but wants something a bit longer, try Paranoia Agent. As one of his darker works it has a storyline for adults in a way that speaks to the viewers maturity more than just being gratuitously adult. Each of the episodes feels very stand alone as if it could be its own piece while weaving an interconnected group of people effected by the brutal mystery of the series. It is a highly symbolic work that can be picked apart for hours or simply enjoyed as a thrilling supernatural mystery.
Eden of the East
Eden of the East was an unexpectedly innovate show. The show opens with an Oasis song that sets a perfect tone. We start in Washington D.C. as two people have a fateful, and humorous, meeting but things are already full of mystery and chilling events. Marvelous and complex characters plus a mysterious plot involving global conspiratorial games and deadly cat and mouse puzzles create a suspenseful ride.You have the added bonus of a solid romantic story that doesn’t get buried nor overshadows the deep and insightful look at modern Japanese culture that forms the center for the story.
Le Chevalier d’Eon
Le Chevalier d’Eon is a historical drama with intrigue, adventure, and zombies. Set in pre-revolutionary France the series mixes spy film and secret history fiction seamlessly for a story that is greater than the sum of its parts. Le Chevalier boasts impressive production value and truly excels at every thing it takes on including: intense and expertly put together sword fights; characters who are engaging and unexpected; and a dark, mysterious plot with more twists that can be guessed at. Great fun as they play with many recognizable historical characters and events portrayed in the series.
Baccano! has an American 1930s prohibition-era setting that requires absolutely no Japanese cultural knowledge to sit down and enjoy. Baccano! feels like a Guy Ritchie film made into an anime with a cast of vibrant quirky crazy characters whose seemingly unrelated stories intersect to slowly tell a greater story. The vibrant style hooks you in from the get go and displays its energy in everything from gritty actions scenes to madcap capers. Expect a deliberate pacing that pays off in a myriad of ways and never fails to keep you guessing.
Fullmetal Alchemist (or Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood) is a show almost every modern anime fan has seen but for good reason. It has a mixture of a pseudo-European setting, magic, comedy, mystery, adventure, and great characterization that make it perfect for a casual audience. At the same time it has the willingness to delve deeply into subjects like war, politics, and morality in a way that makes it a timeless classic. The characters of the series (both heroes and villains) are amazingly charming and complex right off the bat and only grow as the series progresses. Either series is a solid pick for older fans to get into and watching one often leads to the need to see the other.
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone can capitalize on pure crystalline nostalgia but if somehow in your late 90’s fandom you missed out on Evangelion, you can still enjoy this film. It takes one of the most well-known anime of robots, action, conspiracy, coming-of-age, and psychology updating the visuals to take full advantage of modern animation techniques and a theatrical budget. In this reimagining there are scenes and high-points from the original TV series but with a new polish plus a decade of reflection. It also eases the old-time fan into the second movie which changes all the rules of the game and goes off in its own path.
Rideback has unique mecha design and a character study that begins as an examination of a college motorcycle racing club then reveals itself to be a political story of rebellion. Everything in the show feels fresh from the former ballet dancer main character to the relationships and politics of the world. Rin combines strength and vulnerability making her both relatable and at the same time admirable. The best part of the series without a doubt is that any scene with a Rideback in it; whether in a race or in combat the machines look graceful, powerful, and believable enough making you want one of your very own.
Sword of the Stranger
Many an anime fan (Narutaki included) was introduced to the world of Japanese animation by a friend with a copy of Ninja Scroll. In this decade, Sword of the Stranger has the same pulse pounding action without all the awkward sexuality. Its well choreographed fights that are brutal enough to get your blood pumping but (for better or worse) none of the gore is gratuitously over the top. Sword of the Stranger’s story can be overly complex at times, but it is nice to see a fairly well put together plot and not just a story that links the fight scenes. Bonus: Narutaki approved cool dog action!