- PsychoPass – to my mind the best modern sci-fi for its psychological exploration and implied-guilt approach to ethics.
- This is a full examination of a belief system where criminal profiling is the law; with excellent animation and a very intelligent script.
- Black Lagoon – this has a Hollywood feel to it, about the tropical criminal underworld with engaging main and side characters, plus plenty of explosions. The main character Rock arcs from hostage to Stockholm Syndrome to Breaking Bad over time. It doesn’t require any adaptation to anime tropes such as super deformed faces or terrible writing in cashcow franchises.
- Baccano – my test subject liked 1930s New York gangsters, so I delivered. If they’re immortal, that’s a bonus.
- Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood – there are few shows with as much human pathos or as integrated a ‘magic’ system as FMA. Two brothers journey to undo the wrongs they have committed, but joining the military in order to seek a Philosopher’s Stone puts them in the centre of an unholy war. Brotherhood is the second anime adaptation that is completely accurate to the manga progression.
- Ergo Proxy – for those who like philosophy, conspiracies and post apocalyptic mindscrew, this is a uniquely bleak and mysterious offering. I have watched it several times and still connect new dots with each rewatch. Be a Good Citizen. Consume. And unlike Serial Experiments Lain, this has aged well.
- Attack on Titan – survival gore with a rappelling, jet-propelled military. This is a grand epic detailing humanity’s last attempts to stop the mindless and voracious Titans from eating every last man in their walled city. The strategies, the twists and the animation are all consistently excellent through three long seasons. (Ongoing)
- Sword of the Stranger – an Edo-period movie with beautiful fight choreography, circling the grudging friendship between a boy on the run and a sword-for-hire. And a dog.
- Tekkon Kinkreet – this movie is animation pushed to its limit. It is experimental, eerie and evocative. It bursts with colour and casual violence. Two young kids scrape by in a cluttered city full of competing gangs. When their town is threatened by ruthless redevelopers, the older brother goes way off the deep end to prove he’s in charge.
- Paprika – a Satoshi Kon film. Suffice to say it is Inception with rainbows. A cutting edge therapeutic treatment goes haywire when someone learns how to hack into people’s dreams.
- Mushishi – a complete change of pace to everything else on this list. This is the story of a travelling doctor who heals ailments caused by ghostly microscopic organisms formed from the primordial, spiritual soup. It has two seasons of standalone episodes that range between relaxing nature documentary and body horror, thus I like to refer to it as ‘if David Attenborough did anime’. This series showcases anime’s ability to carry a completely novel concept.
There are a lot of classic anime not on this list, but I am of the opinion that if you want someone completely new to anime to like it, you should start with the best high definition shows then move back into the series that made the genre once they are used to some of the styles and themes. If you started with the old shows out of nostalgia they might be put off by the age of it.
There’s also a point that all bar one of the above list is completed. Long running shows with hundreds of episodes and no compulsion to move their plot forwards are not a good way to dip a toe.
My first test subject had a penchant for gritty shows with competent villains. I will follow this up with a list of lighter shows, because of course, Your Name exists. 😭😭😭😭😭😭😍