If you have never watched an anime before, it might seem like something out of your comfort zone. It might even feel daunting to start watching the shows because the anime community is massive. You might feel like it’s just not your cup of tea, but there’s so much to discover in the world of anime — there are plenty of genres, and one of those genres might just be right up your alley.
So fret not! You will not be shunned from the anime community, even if you’re not ready to be a super hardcore fan or if you’re just testing the waters. In fact, most fans probably would welcome you happily and give you a great recommendations.
Long-time anime watchers Hannah France and Elliott Johnson are among those kind fans that are happy to give you recommendations and guidance in figuring out what sorts of anime works best for you.
Before you get into recommendations, you need to know where you can stream anime series. Personally, I use Crunchyroll because it pretty much has everything and is a very well-established platform. You can stream shows for free, but if you pay for premium, you get to watch new episodes faster, without ads and with higher quality. Johnson also recommends it for the same reasons.
Funimation is also similar to Crunchyroll, where it’s completely dedicated to anime, but you have to pay in order to watch anything. It’s hard to determine whether a show is available there, so I won’t be looking at whether a show is streaming on Funimation unless it’s the only platform.
To sub or to dub
Ah, the age-old discussion of whether to watch a show in a foreign language with subtitles or to watch it once it has been dubbed with your native tongue.
“I’m on team dub all the way,” France admits. “I can’t read and watch TV at the same time. I will if I have to, but it takes away from the experience.”
For France, shows that have quippy banters are better enjoyed dubbed because you get to enjoy the comedy just as it is without having to pay a lot of attention to the text.
On the other hand, Johnson swears by subtitles. “I feel like there’s more passion in the voices when you watch it subbed,” he said.
The conclusion is that it’s subjective. At the end of the day, you’re a fan of the same story and the same characters whether you watch a show subbed or dubbed. There are no wrong ways, but pick wisely.
Spring 2020 anime shows
New anime shows get released all the time, usually during the spring or fall. This means there’s plenty of exciting new shows streaming right now that you can enjoy. Bombarded by too many recommendations? Here’s a curated list and synopsis (spoiler-free!) of some highly anticipated shows.
Food Wars! is France’s guilty pleasure, and it makes sense why. It’s definitely a little kooky and bizarre, but the best anime shows are. Long story short, it’s a show about cooking. Imagine MasterChef, except mostly everyone competing is a student. The protagonist, Yukihira Soma, starts with humble beginnings as a diner owner’s son, but it appears he is a genius in cooking, just like his dad. He begins to attend a prestigious culinary school where he makes new friends and enemies. The “Food Wars” (or Shokugeki) is a tradition at this school, where anyone can challenge another person to a battle using their culinary prowess.
It’s a lighthearted show with a wholesome message of friendship and bravery. The characters are all very endearing and you’ll end up rooting for literally every student. If you’re looking for something realistic and serious, this one won’t suit your tastes, but it’s definitely a fun, easy to swallow (Get it?) show. There’s already four completed seasons, which means you can binge all the earlier episodes while season five is underway.
Stream this show on Crunchyroll and Hulu.
The first season of Fruits Basket from 2019 is actually a remake of a 2001 version, but I have to admit, the new adaptation is definitely visually better, and the same nostalgic and wholesome feeling can still be felt. Because of that, season two, streaming right now, is one of my picks if you’re looking for something sweet and lovely with romance and coming-of-age themes.
The show also has an element of fantasy or mythology depending on how you see it. Basically, twelve members of a family the female protagonist befriends are possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and even though it’s a generational secret, they like the girl enough to keep her in the loop.
Stream Fruits Basket on Crunchyroll.
A look at any anime forum will tell you Tower of God is one of the most anticipated anime shows, even though it’s not an adaptation of a Japanese manga but instead a South Korean manhwa. Tower of God has a distinctive art style and a unique fantasy-based plot about a boy called “Twenty-Fith Bam” who was trapped alone beneath a mysterious Tower, with only a girl, Rachel, as a friend. Rachel somehow enters the Tower, and Bam follows suit. He then realizes he has to face challenges at each floor as he tries to find Rachel again.
Tower of God is definitely a darker, more serious anime, so if you like drama and adventure genres, this should be your go-to.
Stream this show on Crunchyroll.
The first season of Kaguya-Sama Love is War was well-received, and alas, season two is now streaming on Funimation. Admittedly, neither France nor Johnson (nor I) have watched the first season, but we’ve all heard good things. And we’re not making baseless assumptions, because at the 2020 Crunchyroll Anime Awards, the show won multiple categories including Best Comedy.
Kaguya-Sama Love is War follows student council president Miyuki Shirogane and vice-president Kaguya Shinomiya. The two appear to be a lovely, perfect couple, but turns out, although they like each other, they’re both too proud to confess their love, believing that whoever caves in first will be the loser. The anime show follows their antics and schemes as they try to make the other confess their love. It’s definitely a funny, lighthearted plot, but judging from the first episode that I’ve watched, the style of the anime makes it feel like the two are very serious about their supposed “war,” making it even funnier.
Stream Kaguya-Sama Love is War on Funimation.
Classics and Favorites
Don’t want to be waiting on a new season to finish streaming so you can binge all of it in one breath? Being fans of anime shows for a long time now, France and Johnson have some recommendations on classic and all-time favorite shows too.
This one isn’t exactly a “classic,” but both France and Johnson thinks it has the potential to become one. I would have to agree. My Hero Academia is a perfect show for new anime watchers to binge, especially because season four just finished. If you’re a fan of superheroes and Marvel movies, My Hero Academia will be your new favorite.
In this anime show, our main protagonist is a superhero fanboy who was born without any “quirks” (or superpowers), unlike 80% of other individuals in this futuristic world. He is determined to become a hero anyway, despite having been teased and bullied for being “quirkless.” The whole anime follows his adventures with his friends. It’s a giant origin story that has elements of school life, comedy and action. You’ll quickly learn to love all the various characters and their idiosyncrasies.
Binge My Hero Academia on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and AnimeLab.
“I wouldn’t start on this,” Johnson says. “Death Note is a masterpiece. You have to build up for it.”
You’ve probably heard of this one since it’s become a pop culture staple. Basically, it’s about a boy who finds a notebook where you can write a person’s name and have them killed, as long as you know their name and their face. Our main protagonist, Light, starts to have a God complex and decides he would “cleanse” the world by killing all criminals.
Death Note is dark and it evolves to include a lot of different moving parts, but the theme and the core concept remains the same. If you’re looking for a psychologically thrilling mystery with some elements of the supernatural, Death Note is for you.
Watch it on Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll.
Kamisama Kiss is one of France’s favorite rom-com animes and it’s not just because the characters are cute. Kamisama Kiss follows Nanami Momozono, who wishes to be an average student despite her father’s debt, which led to her homelessness. Somehow, Nanami still remains pure and kind of heart, which is why she was chosen to be a new Earth Deity at an abandoned shrine. France enjoys this anime because it also shines a light on the culture in Japan.
“It incorporates a lot of Japanese Shinto, religion and yokai stuff.” France says. “And also, rom-com.”
You can stream Kamisama Kiss on Hulu.