8 Great Anime Series For People Who Don't Like Anime

Screenshot: Madhouse, Kotaku

A lot of people love anime... this article isn’t for them. No, it’s specifically for those people in your life who claim to have no interest in anime as a genre. But the thing is, anime isn’t really a genre: It’s an entire medium, full of many genres and specific styles.

I’ve loved anime and manga most of my life, and I’ve had plenty of friends and partners who just weren’t into it. It’s for this (unhappy and unfulfilled, I imagine) crowd that I’ve compiled this list of anime that should appeal to a wider swathe of folks than just the grizzled, Pocky-scarred vets of Otakon ‘97.

My studies have shown that a good gateway anime is both impressive to behold and culturally accessible to the uninitiated. Series like FLCL, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Madoka Magica are masterpieces, but appreciating them relies heavily on familiarity with the tropes of the Japanese genres they subvert and pay homage to. That can be a pretty hard sell for newcomers. And to be real, a lot of folks are just tired of you screaming that they need to watch Cowboy Bebop. They get it, it’s good (I mean, yeah it is).

I also try to tailor my picks to their personal interests and keep in mind what shows or movies they might already like. So while we are all stuck inside, here are some anime series that you can (maybe, hopefully) binge-watch with your (kicking, screaming) normie friends.


Screenshot: Production I.G, Kotaku

Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass takes place in a dystopic future Japan where a program known as the Sibyl System functions as the country’s judicial system, regularly scanning the mental state of all citizens and quantitatively measuring the likelihood of them committing a crime. If someone’s “Crime Coefficient” shoots above the system’s accepted value they get branded as a latent criminal (regardless of if they’ve done anything) open to arrest or extermination by members of The Crime Investigation Department of the Public Safety Bureau.

The series follows rookie CID Inspector Akane Tsunemori and her enforcer (an investigator who is themself a latent criminal) Shinya Kogami as they dive into the criminal psyche and uncover the secret forces that drive the broken justice system they serve. Also, there are a lot of serial killers. Like, a lot.

Serving as Production I.G’s spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass is one of the best anime series of the last decade. The pilot does an exceptional job at establishing its world’s core concepts and terminology while still offering the audience compelling drama and characters with distinct point-of-view. In a world where moral grays are not recognised and mental health is nothing but a statistic, the protagonists frequently face ethically compromising situations.

Psycho-Pass’ cast have vibrant personalities and strong ideologies which help to brighten a thriller that can at times be a bit unrelenting in its darkness and carnage (the CID’s special guns may make criminals explode just a smidge). Underneath all the cyberpunk trappings and gorey splatter, Psycho-Pass is a noir drama looking at a mangled criminal justice system and the many ways society fails at treating mental health.

For fans of: Criminal Minds, True Detective, Minority Report, the occasional exploding creep

Available on: YouTube or Google Play


Screenshot: Madhouse, Kotaku

Black Lagoon

While on a business trip, Rokuro Okajima, a Japanese office worker, is kidnapped by a woman named Revy, a hyper-aggressive, dual pistol-toting mercenary and modern-day pirate working for the Lagoon Trading Company. When his employer cuts him loose and sends a hit squad after him as well as the kidnappers, Rock finds his loyalties shifting and soon enough becomes a full-fledged member of the Lagoon Company, based in the seedy Thai port town of Roanapur.

Full of morally dubious characters and shoot ‘em up violence, Black Lagoon plays like many classic American and Hong Kong action films. The writing manages to be organic, rowdy, and sharp with more than a few surprising moments of depth and introspection. Where it differs from those films that influence it is that when Rock joins the Lagoon crew, he’s never made out to be an action star. The guy can’t even fight, but he clearly grows as a character and an outlaw as he works with Revy and further embeds himself in a world of loveable scumbags.

For fans of: Quentin Tarantino, John Wick, The Sopranos, watching pirates shoot nazis

Available on: Netflix


Screenshot: Orange, Kotaku

Beastars

Yes, Beastars is that horny furry anime you may have spotted while scrolling through Netflix, but it’s also so much more. In Beastars, anthropomorphic animals stand-in for human beings and have built a society where carnivores and herbivores live together in harmony. But when a carnivore at the prestigious Cherryton Academy devours a fellow student (this world’s greatest taboo), tensions between carnivores and herbivores begin to escalate.

Legoshi is a grey wolf and a friend of the deceased herbivore, whose submissive personality finds him at odds with the expectations put on him as a meat eater. He soon becomes horrified at what his own nature may contain when he falls for a small white rabbit named Haru, whom he had nearly killed in a suddenwild manifestation of latent instincts. As he and Haru get to know each other, Legoshi’s world is thrown into uncertainty. Are his feelings for Haru romantic or something far more carnal and savage? Beyond that, can love between carnivores and herbivores ever be viable?

To put it in the clearest possible terms, Beastars is Zootopia, but if Zootopia fucked and read a lot of books on moral philosophy. Under the characters’ fur and feathers are real emotions fuelling the narrative and presenting valuable ideas that relate to us as people. The dynamics between carnivores and herbivores serve as a means to explore how we relate to shame, sexuality, and power. The way the saucy furry drama conveys all the discomfort and realities that come with desire makes Beastars a surprisingly fresh coming-of-age story, and one of the most original new anime to come out this year.

For fans of: Riverdale, Gossip Girl, copious homoerotic subtext

Available on: Netflix


Screenshot: Manglobe, Kotaku

Samurai Champloo

From the same creator of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo follows Mugen, a chaotic violence-loving vagabond, and Jin, a stoic wandering samurai, as they journey with a girl named Fuu on her quest to find a mysterious “samurai who smells of sunflowers.” What differentiates Champloo from a typical samurai story are the heavy strokes of anachronistic flair with which it paints its narrative. The show has an iconic style that integrates elements of modern hip-hop culture into a 17th century tale, with stuff like slang, breakdancing, and tagging seamlessly incorporated into its world.

Hip-hop music itself makes up the show’s entire score, with a spectacular soundtrack by late, great producer and lo-fi hip-hop pioneer Nujabes backing the wholly kinetic, one-of-a-kind fight scenes. And though the series emphasises style, it doesn’t lack in substance, frequently weaving themes of xenophobia, imperialism, and cultural grief throughout its journey. While it often live in the shadow of its landmark predecessor Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is a story all its own managing a masterful balance of both riveting period drama and joyously anachronistic misadventures.

For fans of: Hip-hop, watching stuff that’s truly unique

Available on: YouTube


Screenshot: Madhouse, Kotaku

Nana

Nana O. is a headstrong punk vocalist moving to Tokyo to establish herself in the music industry. Nana K. (who goes by the nickname Hachi) is an anxious, boy-crazy mess moving to Tokyo for love. These two very different women share nothing but a name in common until they meet by chance on a train ride, leading them to become roommates and eventually best friends. As their two lives become intertwined, each woman sees things in the other they want for themselves, with Nana wishing she could more easily swallow her pride and accept love into her life and Hachi admiring the way Nana has her own ambitions and doesn’t look for happiness in others.

Nana is rare among anime romance stories for focusing on the love lives of adults rather than highschoolers. The show’s drama is mature and the emotions of each character feel fully realised and painfully relatable. While the music careers of Nana O. and her band Blast take centre stage for much of the series, Nana is a story first and foremost about relationships, particularly friendship. The show’s many love triangles and band rivalries do make for soapy drama, but the heart of the series is the strong, realistic bond between these women and how they support each other through all the chaos that comes with following their dreams.

For fans of: Insecure, Gilmore Girls, the non-action parts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, yearning

Available on: YouTube


Screenshot: Bones

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

As children, prodigious alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric committed the ultimate alchemical taboo by trying to bring their mother back from the dead. The brothers paid a steep price for it, with Edward losing his right arm and left leg while Al was reduced to a disembodied soul Ed had to bond to a suit of armour. Now, Edward is employed as an alchemist of the state and the Elric brothers travel the world in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, in hopes it can restore their bodies.

Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those series that has always been very popular among anime fans, and the reason for that is simply that it’s incredible. It’s an epic full of more characters than I can easily count, but still feels remarkably tight and easily keeps you interested in each character’s current thread. I’m currently rewatching Brotherhood while I introduce my girlfriend to it (unlike me, she is not a Woman of Weeb Experience), and as I’m reacquainting myself with its multitudinous cast spread out among its many locales, I can only think, “Wow, this must be what Game of Thrones was trying to do.”

Fullmetal Alchemist’s story feels both mature and approachable without attempting to be too gritty. The heartbreaking story and textured characters make for a tearjerker of a show that can hit you with so much pathos it knocks you on your arse, but much like the Elric brothers, the series’ most defining characteristic is hope.

For fans of: Game of Thrones, Avatar: The Last Airbender, just absolutely crying your brains out

Available on: Crunchyroll


Screenshot: Madhouse, Kotaku

Paranoia Agent

Tsukiko Sagi is a character designer responsible for creating massively popular cartoon mascot Maromi and is under immense pressure to come up with her next great character, when suddenly she is attacked on her way home one night. Though the police think she’s lying, soon a string of seemingly random assaults are occurring all around town. The assailant? An elementary school student wearing inline skates and carrying a golden baseball bat who seems to only attack people who are in moments of crisis. The public dubs him “Lil Slugger” and becomes fascinated with his crimes. But who or what is Lil Slugger? And why does he do what he does?

It’s hard to describe Paranoia Agent. The only television series by the late Satoshi Kon, a filmmaker whose work has been cribbed by Hollywood for years now (Inception and Black Swan respectively owe a lot to Paprika and Perfect Blue), Paranoia Agent utilises Kon’s signature mind-warping visual style to obscure the line between reality and hysteria. Kon created the series as a means to explore multiple themes that seemed ill-suited for a film, and thus the show functions as a pseudo-anthology series looking at a society captivated by anxiety and delirium, with every episode following a different person in crisis. Overall, Paranoia Agent is an anime unlike any other and a wildly surreal experience unto itself.

For fans of: Twin Peaks, Black Mirror, Maniac, doubting your own reality

Available on: Funimation


Screenshot: Madhouse, Kotaku

Monster

When Dr. Kenzo Tenma, an unparalleled Japanese surgeon living in Germany, becomes fed up with the bias and politics of his hospital and re-embraces his hippocratic oath, he goes against his superiors to save the life of a young boy instead of an influential politician and quickly finds his career in jeopardy. Years later, he becomes reacquainted with the boy he saved, Johan Liebert, only to find himself staring down a cold emotionless serial killer only known as “the monster.” Is Dr. Tenma willing to go against everything he stands for and take a life in order to stop the madness he feels responsible for?

Much has been written here at Kotaku about the greatness of Monster, a masterful shot-for-shot adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s manga of the same name. For me, my love of the series spurred by the way it reminded me of NBC’s Hannibal, another ruthless killer who functions less as a person and more as an embodiment of the devil himself. The show is one long, slow burn as we learn more about Johan’s past, what he’s after, and what lengths Dr. Tenma is willing to go to stop him. Beyond all this, one of the most compelling reasons for watching Monster is it lacks any of the tropes typical to modern anime. Naoki Urasawa’s Monster is, simply put, a masterfully crafted and gripping psychological thriller that just happens to be animated.

For fans of: Hannibal, creepy boys

Available on: YouTube


What about you? What series (of the non-Bebop variety) have you used to finally win people in your life over to watching anime?

Chingy Nea is a writer, comedian, and critically acclaimed ex-girlfriend based out of Oakland and Los Angeles.


Comments

    I love Anime but the people I know that dont, really dont. And its simply because they are animation. Have tried showing them soo many different shows including ones on this list and its always nope, its animation. So no, for some people that dont like Anime there is no show now, or likely ever, that will get them to like it.

    tldr; everyone I know either likes Anime or doesnt, no middle ground.

      There are some who will read comics or watch other cartoons but not anime too though. I've found sometimes they just needed to get over the 'anime tropes' such as high-pitched voices and over-exaggerated body language. Eng dub version really helps with this.

      And as the article says, anime is just a medium, there are many types and variations. Some more grounded than others. It can be easier to introduce someone to it when it isn't as different to what they've seen before.

      Have had some friends get into anime from this slower approach. Gradually.

      But of course some stubborn ones who just don't want to try as well haha.

      My Wife hates anime not because its animation but mainly because of a lot of tropes rub her the wrong way and she doesnt like the over acted "UAGGHHHAAAH" type noises they do or Chibi stuff.

      That said so far

      Attack on Titan
      Perfect Blue
      Full Metal Alchemist : Brotherhood
      Parasyte: the maxim

      have all been good enough story and/or character driven peices that she liked those despite them being anime. Next one i want to try on her is Re:zero

        Hah, what a coincidence. I have to say that although my partner is not super averse to anime (although she, too, dislikes the voices and stuff), I really never would have expected that she would be interested in something so out there as Parasyte, but then I noticed her laughing when I didn't even know that she had been watching. She ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

    I've had success showing Mushishi to people who hate anime. It also happens to be my favourite.

    The problem with these lists is always that the people who write them LOVE anime, so they just don't get all the different aspects that put people off, so they throw all these different examples and none of them really stick.

    (I mean, seriously, Beastars? That's not even getting into the actual quality of these, I got one episode into Pyscho-Pass and dropped it.)

      Have to agree on Psyhco-Pass. I know it gets a lot of love but I couldn't get into it.

        I'd have to agree with you guys, I've tried on 3 different occasions to watch psycho pass and i can't get into it.

      My non-anime fan partner got into it quite a bit. The thing is that these are not blanket suggestions of "anime that are so good that nobody can help but love them", but rather, helpful steps for fans of the genres in question.

    My partner refused to watch anime until eventually relenting and letting me show her Eyeshield 21. (On the grounds that it was firstly about sports, and secondly educational.) Turned her into a huge fan of the rom-coms and feelgood comedies.

      Came looking for a Hulu comment. Struck gold because I love Eyeshield! Too bad it didn't keep on going with the story in the manga

    Available on Hulu... Yeah thats great for us Aussie's hey...

      Came here looking for this. Have my upvote

      A lot of Hulu content ends up on Amazon Prime.

      The other option is to sail the seven seas and see what you find along the way.

    Psycho Pass casually rolls out a rape scene in its first episode. I dare say that's going to fall into a lot of peoples' "reasons to hate anime".

    The chattery low FPS animation of Beastars made it pretty much unwatchable for me. That's a more of a personal thing, but I can't be the only person who finds it hard to watch

    Ghibli. Anything Ghibli usually.

      Right? How is that not the single answer?

        No idea. If you then want something after that, well you need to find something that may appeal to them.
        Ghibli is the Disney of anime.
        Bofuri is pretty great though.

        I think because the list is only including series, not movies. I’m not sure Ghibli’s only series, Ronja the Robber's Daughter, stands as a particularly good recommendation.

        That said, I don’t think the series format is the best way to introduce someone to anime. I think movies are a better way to test the waters. So yes, films by Studio Ghibli, Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai and so on, would be the softest introduction in my opinion.

          I think movies are the way to go. Then try a standalone series. Quite a few people I know quite enjoyed Another. Even my mother did.

        Probably comes down to how you classify ‘don’t like anime’.

        Someone whose media-watching preferences skew towards popular ‘grown up TV’ like Westworld, GoT, Black Mirror, Handmaid’s Tale etc aren’t going to find much but saccharine and fantasies mostly geared towards kids in the Ghibli catalog and it won’t scratch that darker/more mature itch.

        Because Ghibli films have the strongest anime foothold in the mainstream west outside of Dragonball, when someone who isn’t plugged in to the medium says they ‘don’t like anime’, there’s a really good bet they’re probably saying they don’t like Japanese Disney, buff dudes screaming at each other, and probably high school harems. The only ‘anime’ they’ve likely been casually exposed to.

        I’d say that’s why most of the article’s list is geared to that darker bent.

          Maybe so. If I knew them personally, I would recommend something geared towards their interests.

          If they want dark just sit them in front of Grave of the Fireflies. :P

            Well, that's not so much, 'sexy' dark as much as 'curl into a ball, try not to cry, cry a lot' dark. :P

      In fairness Ghibli is the answer to everything so maybe they thought that was just a given. :P

      Disagree somewhat. Some things from Ghibli's catalog are too niche (Pom Poko) or way too childish (Ponyo) to be a guaranteed success with absolutely everybody. Even with something as universally good as Ghibli, it's better to try to pick something that is more relevant to the tastes and interests of the person in question.

        I have said a few times that if I know the person I would suggest something geared towards their interests.

    Cowboy Bebop did it for me, honestly I haven’t found anything that’s come close yet either.

    Hmm off the top of my head, Astro Boy, Robotech, Ghost in the Shell and Gunsmith Catsare the goto for people who dont like anime

    But the thing is, anime isn’t really a genre: It’s an entire medium, full of many genres and specific styles.Thank you for being one of the few writers who actually understands this. It really irks me when people refer to anime as a genre.

      Anime is a genre. It's just that depending on how much of a nerdgasm you want to indulge in you can continue subdividing and recategorising until you go blue in the face.

      This might be an entirely reasonable thing to do when talking with other fans where your sub-categories might actually serve some meaningful purpose, but they really are entirely meaningless if you just aren't into the genre in the first place.

      Science Fiction is a genre, there's also Cyberpunk, Space Opera, Alternate History, etc. Classical Music is a genre, there is also Chamber Music, Opera, Orchestral, etc.

      If you're not a Science Fiction Fan, or a Classical Music fan, there isn't any particular reason why you might need to pretend that the distinction between Cyberpunk and Steampunk is of any particular use whatsoever.

        I get what you’re saying but I disagree. You’re saying that medium can be genre, and this is true, but I think the point this post was trying to make is that anime isn’t beholden to a thematic or stylistic or narrative genre. “Anime” is better described as a medium, alongside “live action”, “CGI”, “claymation”, “stop motion” etc. There is nothing that unites all anime in a stylistic/thematic/narrative sense.

          There is nothing that unites all anime in a stylistic/thematic/narrative sense.

          There's clearly a stylistic commonality, it's animated. And it's not just any kind of animation, it's not claymation or stop motion, for example. One would be hard pressed to find any anime not using a hand-drawn look with solid single-colour fills, hard black borders and typical set-piece backgrounds.

          Furthermore it's predominantly Japanese animation, with all the associated cultural norms and tropes that implies. A large chunk is set in Japan or a Japanese analogue society. The vast majority is also dubbed or subtitled, for obvious reasons.

          Anime is very easily identified, to the extent that pretty much any average person can see a few stills and identify it immediately.

          I'm sure that there are some exceptions and boundary cases, just like The Handmaid's Tale is both Science Fiction and Literary Fiction. A limited number of exceptions and edge cases, however, don't disprove a general rule.

          It's obviously as much of a genre as Hollywood Action films or Bollywood, for example.

            Strong disagree. To pick two well known examples, there is nothing uniting Pokemon and Monster beyond both being animated and originating in Japan. Their themes, style, narrative genre are completely disparate. It’s like comparing Harry Potter and Silence of the Lambs and saying they belong to the same genre.

            One would be hard pressed to find any anime not using a hand-drawn look with solid single-colour fills, hard black borders and typical set-piece backgrounds.

            This makes me think you haven’t really explored what the medium has to offer.

              You only have to look at every single screenie in the above article, not to mention every image in google image search for "anime" that's not cosplay, but sure, I haven't dug into every rabbit hole for those exceptions and border cases, although nor have you mentioned any either.

                Some anime I’d point to as doing something unique with animation include Bakamonogatari, The Night Is Long Walk On Girl, Mob Psycho 100, Mononoke, Pop Team Epic. They all adhere to the wider signifiers of the anime medium, but they are each radically different from each other in presentation.

                  Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Attack on Titan, Redline, to add a few more to your list.

    Samurai Chamnploo is a good choice, and I think I can see what the intention is with Beastars, but I wouldn't show that one to a newcomer. Same with FMA:B, though that one's much more accessible.

    Psycho Pass though is a hard 'what the hell?'. It's packed full of horrifically violent and almost sadistic scenes that had me stop watching almost as soon as I started. Even worse I picked up a certain proclivity towards sexual or specifically gendered violence that is repulsive. No, I can't understand why it remains popular among anime fans, let alone why it would be appealing to newcomers.

    I think anything that avoids the usual anime tropes works well enough. Erased is quite good, as is Laid Back Camp.

    Would highly recommend Black Lagoon if you liked the old 'Cowboy Beebop' from like 20 years ago.

    Also recommend full metal alchemist

    In my experience the best suggestion is "find something tailored for the person in question". Thankfully, there's basically an anime for anything under the sun. I've successfully introduced or further engaged friends of mine into anime that way: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken for the fan of animation; Hi-Score Girl for the fan of arcades; Death Parade for the fan of psychological dramas; Assassination Classroom for the teacher, and so on.

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