Thousands of anime series exist out there, and more new ones debut every season. With so much available, it can be hard to know which series to choose. That’s why it’s great to have a bucket list – must-see anime everyone should familiarize themselves with at some point in their lives.
Bucket list anime falls under any genre, from philosophically inclined mecha anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion to tragic romance like Your Lie in April. They can be short; the excellent FLCL only clocks in at six episodes if you don’t count the sequels. Or, they can be so long that completing them is literally a lifetime goal; One Piece boasts over 800 episodes.
Whatever your taste, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with these popular, high-quality titles, some of which are considered the best anime of all time. This will not only give you a good grounding in series that other people have rated highly, it will also help you establish your own tastes. That way, you can come up with a bucket list tailored to your own personal preferences.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
If you’re an anime fan, chances are high that you’ve already seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but if you haven’t, this anime about the power of alchemy is well worth your time. Whether you’re into political intrigue, family drama, or just want a good laugh, FMA has it all.
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is one of the newer additions to the shonen genre and has since become one of the coolest. It follows Izuku Midoriya and his classmates as they learn how to use their superpowers, like Hogwarts but for Marvel/DC-types. In fact, this show often feels like watching an anime version of a Marvel comic, which makes it a must-watch show for Western fans.
A teenage boy named Light Yagami finds a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written inside, and decides to use that power to eliminate crime from the world. This dark story forces viewers to confront hard questions about morality, while still providing a thrilling battle of wits that lasts up until the series’s finale.
Hunter x Hunter
Hunter X Hunter starts off with Gon Freecss’ journey to become a Hunter, a person who isn’t bound by normal societal rules and may take on life-threatening tasks. He quickly realizes there’s more to being a Hunter, and more to the world around him, than he ever imagined. This anime stands as one of the smartest shows in its genre, so don’t be deterred by its length.
Naruto is a long-running shonen anime, which means it’s been a huge influence on anime as a whole. Initially focusing on the title character’s goal to become the hokage, it quickly branches off to focus on political intrigue, warfare, and some of the most desperately sad villains in all of anime. You can skip some of the filler, but Naruto should be on every anime fan’s to-watch list.
Every anime fan needs to add at least one sports anime to their repertoire, simply because real-life sports could never compare. Haikyuu!!, a highly rated volleyball anime, is a great choice because it combines compelling character development with thrilling action scenes, rather than leaning too hard in one direction or the other.
Code Geass not only features character designs by the legendary manga circle CLAMP, it also boasts a complex plot involving an attempt to free a country from colonial rule. Watching Lelouch Lamperouge become increasingly corrupt as he tries to achieve a laudable goal is fascinating and well worth any anime fan’s time.
Cowboy Bebop follows a small team of bounty hunters traveling through space. Despite its simple premise, Cowboy Bebop becomes something extraordinary through finely developed characters, stellar musical influences, and an engaging storyline. It’s why even decades later people still hail it as one of the finest anime series of all time.
Time travel occurs every so often in anime, and the highly rated Steins;Gate attacks it head-on with a compelling story about three friends who accidentally invent a machine that sends emails back in time.
Your Lie In April
If you want a side of emotional trauma with your anime, Your Lie In April is an absolute must-watch. Kousei Arima stops playing the piano after his mother’s death, but his friendship with violinist Kaori Miyazono brings him back in touch with music and his emotions. Sadly, Kaori carries a heartbreaking secret of her own.
With an episode count in the hundreds, One Piece may become a life-long project if you decide to pick it up. For non-fans, this might seem onerous, but Luffy’s quest to become king of the pirates is an exciting adventure well worth your time.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Sooner or later, every anime fan must watch Neon Genesis Evangelion; sorry, those are the rules. Don’t worry – this philosophical mecha series about a teenage boy whose estranged father forces him to pilot a robot will be nothing you expect, and everything you want. Even when you finish the series, you can experience it again through End of Evangelion.
Gintama expertly combines serious storylines about intergalactic warfare with utterly ridiculous concepts, like a dude named Elizabeth who walks around wearing a duck suit. Few anime truly give viewers anything they could possibly want, but Gintama can.
Mushi-shi is a gorgeous, atmospheric anime that follows protagonist Ginko as he helps people deal with problems caused by mushi, elemental life forms that put humans in danger, but also give them profound and beautiful experiences. This phenomenal series stays with you long after you watch it.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex depicts a world where humans can fully transplant their minds into the cybernetic world. This opens up possibilities for new kinds of crime, which is where Motoko Kusanagi and her fellow Section 9 investigators come in. This gripping show will certainly leave you wanting more.
If you haven’t seen the bizarre, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that is FLCL, cancel your plans for the rest of the day and do it now. In no other anime will you witness someone pull giant robots out of a kid’s forehead – unless, of course, they’re trying to imitate FLCL.
Against the wishes of his superiors, Dr. Kenzo Tenma performs brain surgery on a young boy named Johan Liebert who grows up to be a serial killer. Monster explores the bloody connection between the two men and questions the true nature of personal responsibility.
CLANNAD remains one of the most renowned romance anime of all time, and for good reason. On the surface, this show is a light-hearted harem show, but in the second series, After Story, things get serious for Nagisa and Tomoya.
March Comes In Like A Lion
While action-based anime can be amazing, sometimes you need a break from all the epic fight scenes and want something more cerebral. March Comes In Like A Lion follows the emotional development of Rei Kiriyama, a shogi prodigy who struggles with depression and finds it difficult to connect with other people on a deep level.
Don’t worry, it’s not totally bleak – there are also some truly adorable kitties who brighten up the show.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
If you want to learn about traditional Japanese culture, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, which takes place from the 1940s to the ’70s, is a great way to do so. This high-quality saga focuses on Kikuhiko, a rakugo performer, as he masters his craft and battles a barrage of emotional and social problems.