In addition to the “Three Big Ones” in anime (One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach), here are the top five animes I recommend.
Death Note – If you are an intellectual, I can not recommend Death Note enough. If you enjoy philosophy or ethics, watch Death Note. If you enjoy Russian literature, Rand or Tolstoy, watch Death Note! Death Note! Death Note! Death Note! In Japanese with subtitles. You will not be disappointed and will leave your head spinning for weeks!
Highly philosophical with multiple WTF moments that leave you questioning your own ethics. Not to mention Death Note has some of the best animation in all of anime. Ethics are questioned when a top honor student, kid genius, and son of the chief of police, Yagami, finds a Death Note and suddenly has the ability to kill anyone he wants without consequence. All he has to do is write their name in the Death Note. Yagami invents a method to ensure he only kills “bad” people, but the power soon corrupts him and launches a manhunt between Yagami and the genius, “L.” These two intellects come together in a fantastic mind game that encompasses the ultimate chess match and you have no idea how it will all end. Ethical/Philosophy 16+
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Trigun. At first, Trigun is silly and kind of…odd. It is an older anime, so it lacks the pretty shine seen with Naruto Shippuden or Death Note, but the story is epic. Trigun is only 26 episodes long. But KEEP WATCHING! At some point, and I’m not sure when, the story stops being silly and starts being jaw dropping serious that leaves you messed in the head. To this day, I still look at the ending and can NOT believe it is the same anime from the beginning.
The main character is Vash the Stampede. A wanted man whose bounty is 60,000,000,000 $$ (that’s double dollars). But what you see is a goofy pacifist with a secret. That secret led to his astronomical bounty. The anime is the discovery to the question why the large bounty and the answer will leave you pulling your jaw off the floor. Watch to the end because the writers literally withhold information until the very last episode of the anime.
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Full Metal Alchemist – Full Metal is complicated. There are two parts, but does not contain a part one and part two. There are simply two “Part Ones”. Full Metal Alchemist is the anime. Full Metal Brotherhood is the anime retold to appease the manga fans because the first anime strayed so far off the manga path that many fans were upset. Both stories and endings are completely different. Most fans, I for one, walked away saying, I love them both. Both are good. Both have awesome moments that make both equally excellent. Don’t make me choose between them. There are also two movies. Each movie is a conclusion for each anime, which leaves you hanging.
Two brothers, barely ten years old, use a forbidden alchemy “spell” to revive their dead mother and it goes horribly wrong. One can not access the “gates of exchange” without a price. The transaction costs Edward’s leg while Alphonse’s entire body is taken. Edward manages to recover Al’s soul and seals it in a suit of armor in exchange for his arm. To regain their bodies, Edward and Alphonse require a philosopher’s stone. Full Metal Alchemist is the hunt for that stone. But the hunt uncovers a plethora of lies and government secrets that Edward and Alphonse get involved in. Christian viewers should be aware, Full Metal Alchemist touches on heavy controversial religious topics that may offend. Post-apocalyptic/futuristic 13+
Warning! Full Metal Alchemist is graphic, disturbing, and laden with gore. But if you can get through the blood and disturbing mental images, well… I watched the first two minutes of FMA and turned it off. My husband asked what I was doing and I answered, “I’m buying this and we’re watching it on DVD. This is too good to watch any other way.”
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Cowboy Beebop. Okay…anime lovers, don’t hate me…I have never watched Cowboy Beebop. *dodges the screaming protests* I know! It’s on my list to watch! Why am I recommending it if I haven’t watched it? Because, like Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto, if ever you look at anime stats Cowboy Beebop isn’t just up there, it is number #1. Every. Time. Spike (the main character) is always listed as Number #1 in all lists like “coolest character,” “best character,” “most bad ass character.” Despite my ignorance, it demands recognition, so I recommend it to you (and me).
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Final Fantasy the movie. This was what turned me on to anime. The animation is so good it looks like live action. The story is beautiful. The acting is stunning. It will leave you emotionally moved and hungry for more. That is CGI people! CGI at its finest!
Still not convinced? Check out Studio Ghibli who partnered with Disney. I recommend Ponyo: a Japanese version of The Little Mermaid. Gorgeous art work, beautiful and sweet story. After Luffy and Final Fantasy, it was one of the first to win my heart over. It’s rated G and has a “dubbed” option.