Though I’m not exactly a connoisseur, I do enjoy watching an anime series from time to time. Sometimes I find a series (or a series finds me?) that is riveting and worth a sleepless night, or is mindlessly enjoyable and good as background noise.
With everyone encouraged to stay at home, you might be running out of shows to queue on screen. Or you might be venturing into anime for the first time. Whatever the case, please enjoy these anime recs!
Here are nine anime series I’ve truly enjoyed, their genre and premise, what I liked best about them, and the number of episodes.
(Embedded photos are not mine).
1. Yu Yu Hakusho (1992)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Supernatural, Martial arts
In one long sentence: A teenage delinquent gets killed by a car while attempting to save a child’s life, only to be resurrected by the powers-that-be to become a Spirit Detective, tasked to fight evil demons (because in this show, there are good demons!) through successively more difficult battles.
What I love about this series: An all-time favorite! Without any exaggeration, I’ve watched all four seasons of this anime at least 5 times, start to finish. I’ve also watched the movies and read the manga. I first watched this when it was aired on TV with really inaccurate Tagalog dub. Love that nostalgia.
YYH is also firmly in the category of mindless entertainment for me; the English dub was available on YouTube when I was in college, so this served as my study music, haha! The iconic opening song still randomly plays inside my head sometimes.
The main thing I love about Yu Yu Hakusho is how uncomplicated it is. The series sometimes hints at deeper themes like ambiguous morality, teenage rebellion, child abuse, the EVIL OF CAPITALISM, and actual death, but it could easily be enjoyed as a simple martial arts/friendship anime with lots of bravado.
As in most superpower or fantasy series, it’s a pleasure to watch all the characters grow more powerful through each arc. But it’s really the strength and development of character that you have to appreciate. Plus, no brain cells required to love the protagonists!
Number of episodes: 112 satisfying episodes over 4 seasons, all of which are on Netflix!
2. Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
Genre: Martial arts, Historical, Magic realism, Adventure, Family
In one long sentence: Wandering swordsman Himura Kenshin carries a reverse-blade katana as part of his vow to protect instead of kill, fights his legacy as the legendary war assassin Battousai, and ultimately finds family along the way.
What I love about this series: The poster above is clearly not from the anime, but from the live adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin. Hands down, this is the BEST live action manga adaptation in the world. I say this with my whole chest even though I haven’t watched a lot of feature films in that niche…
Actually, just open a new tab right now and watch the live action Rurouni Kenshin film series!!! You will not regret that beautiful masterpiece of intense sword fights, family feels, and intrigue. Come back after several hours of watching the trilogy. :) Apparently, 2013 Jari rated the first live action film as 4.9/5 in this review blog post.
Much like the live action version, the best things about the 1996 anime are plot-driven action, character development, and found family. It’s a well-written and complex redemption story. I also can’t resist a dash of that historical Meiji-era fantasy aesthetic.
Number of episodes: 95 episodes, which are unfortunately not on Netflix.
3. Samurai Champloo (2004)
Genre: Martial arts, Comedy, Adventure
In one long sentence: Down on luck 15-year-old Fuu, a former waitress, enlists two antagonistic yet skilled swordsmen (rogue antihero Mugen and straight-laced wanderer Jin) on a quest to find “the samurai who smells of sunflowers”.
What I love about this series: The music! The stylization! There’s something about brilliantly animated scenes set to hiphop beats that just gets me. The animation itself is also incredibly fluid and on beat.
I actually can’t remember 99% of the plot, but I did revisit a fight scene compilation while writing this post. God I loved frenemies Jin and Mugen just breakdancing around.
Number of episodes: 26! Super easy.
4. Ouran High School Host Club (2006)
Genre: Comedy, Romantic comedy, Slice-of-life, Reverse harem (???)
In one long sentence: Haruhi Fujioka gets a scholarship into the prestigious Ouran Academy, and, through a series of absolutely reasonable events, tumbles into crossdressing in an after-school hosting club with a bunch of obscenely rich and hilarious pretty boys.
What I love about this series: Whenever I see OHSHC memes or clips on my timeline, I always stop to absorb the boost of serotonin. Ouran High School Host Club is hilarious and incredible (literally requiring credulity), with great interactions between all characters.
One of my favorite episodes would still be when the host club first visited Haruhi in her apartment. The idiot rich boys just didn’t know what to do or what anything was; I’m screaming. I will also forever stan Haruhi for her street smarts, scholarship-level intelligence, oblivious practicality, and ability to get a reverse harem.
Number of episodes: 26 :) But OHSHC is timeless and feels endless for some reason.
5. Darker than Black (2007)
Genre: Action, Science fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
In one long sentence: In a dystopic future where people possess special abilities in exchange for an involuntary compulsion or ‘obeisance’, a Chinese spy-assassin codenamed Hei is unique for having powers without the price, and he is out to uncover both a deadly plot and the truth behind his abilities.
What I love about the series: Who doesn’t like a tall, dark and vaguely handsome protagonist? I had a big crush on Hei over the series; I think it was also my competency kink at play. He just kept kicking ass at the right amounts.
The action was incredible, the plot was somewhat a new and dark take on this supernatural trope, and the world-building was exciting for my young teenager self. I remember thinking that the fighting was always creative and suspenseful. The ending must have been ambiguous or unremarkable, though, because I can barely remember how this series ended.
I watched a few clips while writing this post and I remembered that Hei had a whole Clark Kent persona. I think his civilian name is Li. LOL. Lots of close calls and also incredulous will-they-find-out moments with the detective hunting him down.
I kind of want to rewatch this now!
Number of episodes: 25
6. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)
Genre: Adventure, Dark fantasy, Action, Coming of age (I guess)
In one long sentence: Underage alchemy geniuses and brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric look for a Philosopher’s Stone to restore their bodies after attempting the ultimate alchemical taboo; at the same time, they unravel a genocidal plot deep in the heart of their country’s military government.
What I love about the series: That one-sentence summary barely made any sense. In contrast, FMA:B is a scriptwriter’s dream! It’s a well-thought out story with interconnected arcs and charismatic characters. I love how mature this show is, in terms of the complexity of intrigue and the thematic narratives, which included genocide, death, truth, identity, and even scientific ethics.
And of course it had a very healthy dose of humour and action. The animation and script are topnotch. I think several of the series’ iconic fight scenes still rack up millions of views on YouTube.
I actually watched this one thanks to the (very convincing, extremely insistent) recommendations by friends on Twitter. Please go check this one out.
Number of episodes: 64 over 5 seasons, which are all on Netflix.
7. Boku no Hero Academia (2015)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Superhero, Coming of age
In one long sentence: Bullied and discriminated for being quirkless in a world filled with special powers, high schooler (and professional crybaby) Midoriya Izuku finds a way to still become the world’s greatest hero like his idol All Might, with the help of a generations-old secret and the power of friendship.
What I love about this series: When people recommended this series to me, I really had zero expectations. I thought it would be another run-of-the-mill hero series with an underdog protagonist and a global evil. The blurb sounded too cheesy. Something like that. But it exceeded all expectations!!!
I think the charm of this series is its characters. You can’t help but fall in love with every character that gets at least 5 minutes of screen time. They’re charismatic and flawed; they also get beautifully highlighted by the cinematography and select action scenes.
The plot isn’t overly complicated or intriguing; there are a lot of world building holes if you squint. But it was definitely exciting enough to get me binge-watching! Even the filler episodes were a joy. There are also some interesting twists down the road in the manga. I’m really excited to watch the next season.
Where to watch: 88 episodes over 4 seasons; Netflix has the first 3. Still ongoing!
8. One Punch Man (2015)
Genre: Adventure, Superhero, Comedy, Action
In one long sentence: Saitama, an unlikely superhero who can defeat any opponent with a single punch, struggles to find meaning and excitement in his life as he navigates the next supermarket sale and the bureaucracies of a hero career with the earnest support of the cyborg Genos.
What I love about this series: The premise alone cracks me up. The reason why I love One Punch Man is similar to why I love BNHA: it’s technically a superhero series, but it doesn’t quite fit the mold. For one thing, One Punch Man isn’t a journey to becoming the strongest –he’s already the strongest! It has a lot of the same tropes that dominate the genre, like big capitalist hero organisations, but OPM pokes a lot of fun instead.
What follows is an action-comedy anime about a “hero just for fun”; he doesn’t have strong feelings about justice or defeating villains. He just wants to make it to the next supermarket sale and read manga. Finding a worthy opponent or way to make things exciting is a bonus. The moments that best entertain me are the “slice-of-life” bits, where he inevitably trashes some epic villain and then proceeds to cook dinner (while Genos is cleaning the toilet, sometimes).
Number of episodes: 24 episodes, still ongoing! The webcomic is kind of going to weird places but as long as I have Saitama and Genos, I’m fine.
9. Yuri!!! On Ice (2016)
Genre: Sports, Romantic comedy
In one long sentence: Top Japanese figure skater and anxiety-filled human being Yuri Katsuki was planning to retire after a crushing defeat in the Grand Prix Final when his idol, figure skating legend Victor Nikiforov, offered to coach him through the season, starting a journey of inner strength and love.
What I love about this series: First of all, this series introduced me to the beauty of figure skating as a sport. I never really thought about figure skating before this anime, but the gorgeous soundtrack, the fluid animations, and the intensity of the athletes’ mindsets all prompted me to check the real thing out. The anime also inspired me to try out more Japanese food (specifically Katsudon). Somehow, I even blogged about it here!
And of course, YOI just happens to be gay. Like, this post is now 100% more queer-friendly than it used to be. It’s not even subtext; they literally wear rings at the end of the show, and have an unrealistic duet on ice just for the feels. It doesn’t feel fetishized either; the romantic subplot serves to forward character growth.
Number of episodes: 12 episodes; there may or or may not be a movie on the way
First of all, I totally forgot about Kyou Kara Maou while writing this post. I am so sorry! It was a perfectly lovely lighthearted anime. I don’t remember why or when I watched it, but I did. I think I also completed Black Butler, but I can’t really recall any of the plot points now. Also Flame of Recca.
Non-anime animes that I’ve also watched include Avatar: the Last Airbender and most of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and also Castlevania. I’m also waiting for the next season of Mo Dao Zu Shi, which is a donghua, not an anime.
And second, the journey doesn’t end there! Currently on my watch list is Haikyu!! I’ve heard really good reviews about this anime, and I also keep seeing it on my timeline.
People have also recommended Cowboy Bebop, Carole and Tuesday, Death Parade, Kakegurui, Mob Psycho 100, Shingeki no Kyojin etc., but I’m not sure if they’ll make it to this list in the future.
Finally, I need to watch more anime with female leads. There is way too much testosterone in this blog post.
What else should I watch next? You tell me!