Despite the fact that anime is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world, it can be incredibly difficult for potential fans of the genre to actually start watching. This is largely due to the fact that the most popular anime tend to be incredibly long, with some even being made up of over a thousand episodes, and they often run concurrently to extensive manga stories.
Consequently, a good starter anime should be relatively short, allowing for potential fans to easily catch up with the plot without the daunting task of watching over a thousand episodes like with some extremely popular series like Pokémon, One Piece or Dragon Ball. Below is a selection of starter anime to whet your appetite, with 50 or less episodes.
Genre: Romance, Slice-of-Life, Tragedy
Length: 47 Eps.
If you’re into live-action drama shows like Grey’s Anatomy and My Mister, you can’t miss Clannad – one of the most tragic and emotional anime ever made. It follows Tomoya Okazaki’s life from adolescence to adulthood, as he goes from being labelled a delinquent to finding a group of tight friends and – eventually – love. Of course, life is more than triumph and happiness.
Clannad is a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’ll show you the depths of despair – especially its second season, Clannad: After Story.
2. Ouran Highschool Host Club
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Reverse Harem
Length: 26 Eps.
We’ve all seen a couple of harem shows where a single male character is chased by tons of hot girls – but have you ever seen the opposite? Ouran Highschool Host Club follows Haruhi – a working-class student in a fancy elite school. After accidentally breaking a priceless vase, she’s forced to pretend she’s a boy and join the school’s Host Club – a group of dreamy male students who help female students relax and enjoy themselves.
Rather than the sticky kind of romance Shoujo anime is known for, OHHC offers viewers a light-hearted comedy anyone can enjoy.
Length: 37 Eps.
Where anime tends to cater to an all-male audience with plenty of “wardrobe malfunctions”, the anime Free! flips the script by following a group of dreamy, well-trained swimmers. The cast mostly focuses on the aloof Haruka, the dependable Makoto, and the cheerful Nagisa.
But it’s not all about shapely triceps and chiselled abs. At its heart, Free! is a show about rivalries and friendships – as well as following your dreams with everything you’ve got.
4. One Punch Man
Genre: Super-hero Fantasy, Comedy, Action
Length: 24 Eps.
You thought Superman was overpowered? Well think again. One Punch Man revolves around Saitama – a super-hero that can defeat any enemy with a single punch, which has made him profoundly bored. While Saitama himself isn’t the most interesting individual, the characters surrounding the undefeated hero are the soul of One Punch Man.
5. Kill la Kill
Genre: Action, Comedy, Magical Girl
Length: 24 Eps.
After her father is murdered by a mysterious figure, young Ryuko Matoi chances upon a talking high school uniform that grants her insane combat prowess. With her newfound powers and oddly revealing “magical girl” outfit, Ryuko will challenge the powerful Honnouji Academy and its leader – Kiryuin Satsuki – to find the truth about her father’s death.
The show has a colourful cast, epic music arrangements, and a lot of personality. Keep in mind it also has a ton of fanservice, in case that’s something you’re not crazy about (or in case it’s something you might be into).
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice-of-Life
Length: 25 Eps.
If action, adventure, and mystery are not your thing – perhaps a light-hearted romantic comedy is the way to go. After finding out they’re in love with each other’s best friends, classmates Ryuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka make a pact to help each other with their romantic pursuits.
Each episode is fun and easy to digest. And while romance is at the core of the show, it doesn’t overdo it with the gooey lovey-dovey stuff. Instead it’s a tale of friendship and how people grow to understand each other.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Length: 12 Eps.
Not everyone enjoys anime about battles or romance. But most people will find it hard to take their eyes off a mystery thriller as good as Erased.
This dark story follows Satoru, a 27-year-old who can automatically rewind time whenever a tragedy is about to occur, allowing him to stop it. One day, he wakes up 18 years in the past and must use his present-day knowledge to save an old friend from being murdered.
Intense heart-wrenching moments are a dime a dozen in Erased.
8. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Genre: Mecha, Military, Thriller
Length: 50 Eps.
Giant robot anime used to be one of the most popular genres around. But older series like Mazinger Z and Robotech are a far cry from what Code Geass has to offer.
It follows Lelouch vi Brittania – an exiled prince who uses his tactical genius and a mind-controlling power known as a “Geass” to lead a paramilitary force against the Holy Britannian Empire. This mature show features political intrigue, moral dilemmas, and heart-wrenching moments punctuated by exciting mecha battles and epic struggles where Lelouch’s intellect is put to the test.
9. Cowboy Bebop
Genre: Neo-noir, Space Western, Sci-Fi
Length: 26 Eps.
Suppose you’re looking for a series that’ll appeal to an older audience with relatable adult characters, rather than the usual teenagers and high school students. In that case, Cowboy Bebop is the way to go.
This sci-fi classic takes place in a dark and gritty future where humanity has colonized the galaxy – but everywhere you go, you’ll find the same old struggles such as poverty, crime, and violence. Each character has their own set of complex personal issues and moral dilemmas that ultimately make them who they are. They’re all explored in-depth, tackling some intense themes and giving you a lot to chew on after just a couple of episodes.
10. Death Note
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural
Length: 37 Eps.
Death Note is a compelling thriller following high school student Light Yagami after stumbling upon a “Death Note” dropped by a bored grim reaper by the name of Ryuk. This notebook from hell has the power to kill anyone whose name is written on its pages, and Light decides to use this power to cleanse the world.
As “Kira”, he’ll reform society through vigilante justice, unless the gifted but eccentric detective known as “L” stops him first.
11. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Adventure
Length: 26 Eps.
After most of his family is murdered by bloodthirsty demons, young Tanjiro begins a journey to protect others from suffering the same fate. The show is full of lovable characters and a setting that draws you further in the more you watch it – but the anime’s most remarkable achievement has to be its visual effects.
The special techniques wielded by demons and those who hunt them are out-of-this-world. Along with Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer is one of the most effective methods to turn people into anime enthusiasts. Absolutely a must-try if this premise sounds enticing at all. You’ll know if you like it from the first episode.
12. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Adventure, Steampunk
Length: 64 Eps.
I know we said 50 or less episodes, but if you want to get someone hooked on anime, you can’t go wrong with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
It follows brothers Ed and Al Elric. After a failed attempt at bringing their mother back to life through alchemy backfires, costing Ed an arm and a leg, it also leaves Al a body-less soul chained to a set of armour. Sounds crazy right?
Well, now they’ll travel the world learning more about alchemy and hunting down the Philosopher’s Stone – a magical artefact with enough power to bring back their lost bodies. This show will satisfy all kinds of viewers thanks to its emotional themes, intriguing world-building, and fantastic battles.
There’s also some mystery and political intrigue thrown in for good measure. Just a great anime hands-down, and certainly great for beginners looking into the genre.
How many of these have you seen? Are there any others you’d love to recommend? Share your views in the comments below.