There was a time not too long ago when many westerners viewed watching anime as a niche hobby. This was largely due to how inaccessible it was to western audiences; not just in terms of its limited distribution outside of Japan, but also the very nature of its content. Thanks to the recent rise in popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Crunchyroll, it’s never been easier for those living in the west to watch the latest and greatest anime shows, but one of these issues still persists.
Despite how readily available anime has become in the modern age, there are many people who choose not to watch it, as they’re put off by some of the more socially awkward and annoying tropes which feature in a lot of Japanese anime series. Thankfully, however, there are plenty of great anime shows that aren’t reliant on over-the-top antics or questionable depictions of young women, making them far more accessible to those who don’t like stereotypical anime.
10 Full Metal Alchemist
Though there is still the occasional smattering of fan service from time to time, Full Metal Alchemist is a series that was created with a more mature audience in mind. As a result, asinine antics are kept to an absolute minimum, and instances of awkwardness and cringe-inducing moments are few and far between.
The animation on display throughout the series is top-notch too and the action scenes rarely disappoint. The real star of the show, however, is the excellent story, which takes place in a charming steampunk world and tells the story of two alchemist brothers who are attempting to track down the Philosopher’s Stone after a failed attempt to revive their dead mother almost costs them their own lives as well.
9 Samurai Champloo
The hip-hop elements found throughout Samurai Champloo give it an entirely unique feel when compared to some of the more traditional Japanese anime series. Better still, it’s free to watch on YouTube. It also boasts a fantastic English language dub, great characters, and a storyline that’s able to evoke a wide range of emotions from its viewers.
Anybody who has consumed a lot of Japanese media will likely have noticed that certain elements of Japanese humor don’t always land too well in the west, just as those who have spent time in Japan will know that the opposite can also be true. This is rarely an issue in Samurai Champloo, however, with most of the jokes and one-liners adhering strictly to the universal definition of funny.
8 Dragon Ball Z
Few anime series have had quite as big an impact in the west as Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. Though the original series does have its fair share of awkward and inappropriate moments – usually involving either Bulma or Master Roshi – Dragon Ball Z is a lot better in this regard and features plenty of epic and memorable battles.
Some may find the show’s slow pacing and constant stalling – an unfortunate byproduct of Toei Animation having to put out a new episode each and every week – to be a little unbearable, but there is a solution for impatient viewers. Dragon Ball Z Kai cuts out a lot of the filler; condensing the original series’ 291-episode run down to just 167.
7 Cowboy Bepop
Though perhaps the largest, Dragon Ball was far from the only anime series to find success in the west in the pre-2000 era. Cowboy Bepop is a neo-noir anime series set predominantly in space that also incorporates themes and ideas from classic westerns. The latter may make it sound a little like Joss Whedon’s cult-classic series, Firefly, though other than a few loose similarities, it’s difficult to compare the two.
Being more of a classic anime series, Cowboy Bepop is bereft of many of the annoying tropes that have permeated more modern animated shows, making it a great watch for those who are put off by over-the-top antics. Granted, it does still have the occasional lighter moments and is certainly not afraid to poke fun at itself from time to time, but these instances tend to be well-executed and rarely detract from the main storyline.
6 Attack On Titan
Much like the video game-themed anime series, Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan starts strongly; introducing an interesting premise and backing it up with some fantastic visuals and intriguing plotlines. Where it differs, however, is that Attack on Titan manages to maintain these high levels of excellence throughout its first few seasons.
Granted, there are occasions when the plot seems to stall and stumble, but, for the most part, it’s able to catch itself before falling completely flat. Some of the action scenes with the Titans are both epic and terrifying too, while the character development manages to retain a feeling of authenticity and avoids ever going completely over the top.
Some anime purists will argue that Netflix’s Castlevania series shouldn’t be classed as anime on account of it being produced outside of Japan. Whatever one wants to call it though, when it comes to animated shows based on video games, it’s definitely up there with some of the very best and is a must-watch for fans of the Castlevania series.
Being produced predominantly by westerners definitely had its advantages, with many of the most offputting anime tropes nowhere to be found throughout its four seasons. The animation is tight too, the fight scenes are fantastic and the narrative, despite stumbling a little in the middle of the show’s run, provides an epic conclusion that’s as exciting as it is satisfying.
4 Neon Genesis: Evangelion
That first-time viewers will dislike some of the characters in Neon Genesis: Evangelion is something of a given. Thankfully, however, the series features a rich and diverse cast, with just about every conceivable character archetype receiving representation in some capacity. As a result, there’ll also be characters that viewers can relate to, and each receives a satisfying level of development throughout the series’ numerous installments.
The main protagonist, Shinji, also exhibits his fair share of growth, but it’s perhaps his unsuitability for the role – which ultimately allows other characters to shine brighter – that makes the show such a great watch. Well, that and the fantastic narrative, which takes place in a dystopian future in which giant bio-mechs square off against alien beings known as Angels in epic battle scenes.
3 Death Note
Tsugumi Ohba’s Death Note is one of the most popular and most memorable psychological anime series of all time. It tells the story of Light Yagami, a Japanese student who stumbles upon a supernatural notebook that will kill all those whose name’s are written upon its pages, and is filled to the brim with suspense and narrative tension.
Those whose only exposure to Death Note came courtesy of the terrible live-action Netflix adaptation will, quite rightly, think very little of the series. Anybody who takes the time to watch the original 37 episodes, however, will be blown away by its high quality and pulled in by the captivating battle of wits between Light and the man tasked with stopping his killing spree, L.
It took almost half a decade, but the void that was left by Death Note after it went off the air in 2007 was eventually filled by another psychological anime series, Psycho-Pass. Written by Gen Urobuchi and Makoto Fukami, the three-season series incorporates elements from multiple genres, covers some pretty dark themes, and, much like Death Note, poses some interesting questions regarding morality and ethics.
The series is littered with great characters and features plenty of thought-provoking storylines throughout its 41 episodes. An extended edition of the first season was also released ahead of Psycho-Pass 2, allowing potential viewers to choose between shorter, bite-sized episodes or more in-depth deep-dives that are much more in line with the official Psycho-Pass novel.
Alucard just might be one of the coolest anime protagonists of the modern era and is one of the main reasons to sit down and watch Hellsing. The vampiric anti-hero is sworn to protect the heiress to the Hellsing family, Integra, who is a direct descendent of Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s seminal 1897 novel, Dracula.
The series sees Alucard come up against a wide range of other powerful foes, including a battalion of Nazi vampires and a regenerating Vatican priest who is hellbent on bringing the vampire lord down. It can be incredibly violent at times, but, for those who are into that sort of thing, it’s definitely worth a watch. Sadly, however, the same can’t really be said of the follow-up OVA series, Hellsing Ultimate.
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