Berserk – Do note that when I say Berserk, I mean the 1990s anime series, and not the three CGI movies that came after that one. Not only does the hand-drawn animation in the series look way better, Berserk tells a story set in a western medieval fantasy world that follows the life and journey of a mercenary named Guts. Berserk has served as partial inspiration for From Software’s Bloodborne, so if you’re interested in a dark and violent anime that pulls no punches when it comes to telling horrific stories, this one’s a great series to start with.
Psycho-Pass – If you’ve found yourself turned off by anime because you’re simply not interested in the ‘fanservicey,’ super dramatic, over the top elements of some of these series, I know exactly how you feel. While the second season is considerably weaker than the first, I can’t recommend Psycho-Pass enough, especially for those interested in sci-fi dystopian settings, and the idea of an entire society being policed by a computer system. Psycho-Pass follows the story of rookie inspector Akane Tsunemori as she gets used to police life and working with Enforcers – latent criminals who are deemed unfit for living in society, and are allowed only to hunt down other scummy criminals like themselves.
Cowboy Bebop – Whether you like anime or not, Cowboy Bebop is a classic series that everyone’s heard of at least once in their lives. And for good reason too. Cowboy Bebop follows the story of a group of misfit bounty hunters traveling through space on their rundown cruiser, and each episode is packed with interesting existentialist debates and of course, really cool and slick action sequences. Cowboy Bebop is a pretty chill show overall, and it’s perfect for anime newcomers who might not really enjoy listening to cartoon characters shout and scream all the time.
Death Note – Death Note delves into the edgy ’emo’ territory a lot, but if you can look past that, this is actually a really entertaining cat-and-mouse battle between two incredibly smart youngsters. Light discovers a notebook that allows him to kill people simply by writing their names down, and the detective L has been tasked with apprehending this seemingly impossible to find culprit. The two leads end up confronting each other in multiple battles of intellect, with each character constantly trying to outwit and outplay the other.
The Devil is a Part-Timer – If you’ve always wondered how Satan would fare working in a fast food restaurant in Tokyo, then… well, you have some really weird thoughts going through your head. Nevertheless, The Devil is a Part-Timer is a hilarious anime series that explores the life of Satan when he is forced to live as a human, and take on humanly jobs. Things take a turn for the comical when he encounters the Hero Emilia, who wanted to take down Satan, in her human form, and the two end up interacting with each other as they face the dilemmas presented by the human world.
Black Lagoon – Rock is just an ordinary Japanese salaryman. However, he one day finds himself kidnapped by the crew of the Black Lagoon and forced into working for this pirate/mercenary group. The Lagoon Company smuggles illegal goods and contraband in and out of Southeast Asia, and occasionally get into firefights and nautical battles during their missions. Rock isn’t a violent person, and instead chooses to rely on his talking and negotiation skills to get himself out of sticky situations.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is widely considered the superior anime adaptation of the manga volumes, and it’s definitely the one you should watch first if you’re planning to get into the series. After Edward and Alphonse lose their mother to a terminal illness, they attempt to bring her back to live with alchemy. Because, y’know, that’s always a good idea. The story kickstarts from there, and follows the lives of the two brothers as they join up with the military, deal with their traumatizing past, and uncover buried secrets about their own parents.
Serial Experiments Lain – This one is a bit of a heavy series, and it’s certainly not for anyone just looking for a laid back series to watch at the end of a long day. Serial Experiments Lain deals with philosophy, computer history, and focuses on a young girl Lain as she gets introduced to the Wired, a network system similar to the internet itself. The Wired is essentially a virtual reality world, and Lain soon finds herself swept up in conspiracy theories, and debates about the human self and its consciousness. The story can be a little hard to follow at times, but Lain’s presentation is superb, and brings up lots of interesting discussions.
Hellsing Ultimate – Here’s a great anime series for fans of vampires and ghouls. Hellsing Ultimate follows the progress of a mysterious organization named Hellsing, as its members struggle to fight against vampires and other supernatural entities that threaten the country. After uncovering a devious plot to create an army of vampires and strike terror into the heart of the country, organization leader Sir Integra works towards bringing this plan to an end, and destroying the evil forces in the land.
One Punch Man – One Punch Man is pretty much the perfect anime for anyone who’s tired of the same old superhero cliches. After working hard towards his goal to becoming a strong superhero, Saitama soon realizes that he’s simply grown too powerful to the point where he is able to decimate his enemies with just one punch. He grows lethargic and starts to feel purposeless, but is rejuvenated when the cyborg Genos shows up, and asks to become his loyal disciple.
Do note that when I say Berserk, I mean the 1990s anime series and not the three CGI movies that came after that one. Not only does the hand-drawn animation in the series look way better, Berserk tells a story set in a western medieval fantasy world that follows the life and journey of a mercenary named Guts. Berserk has served as partial inspiration for From Software's Bloodborne, so if you're interested in a dark and violent anime that pulls no punches when it comes to telling horrific stories, this one's a great series to start with.