Anime is part of mainstream culture nowadays and there is no avoiding it. Some people will continue to look down on it, but most people have embraced it and accepted it as a normal thing to watch in addition to other shows. Anime teaches us about the importance of friendship and hard work and can range from lighthearted and funny to deathly serious, tackling some really intense social issues within their story arcs. Here I will be listing the five anime that I think everyone should watch, whether seasoned anime fan or tentative beginner to round out their anime education.
1. Death Note
I think this anime is important to watch for several reasons. First and foremost, it dispels the notion that anime is childish and meant solely for kids. If an elementary schooler could understand the gravity of morality, the balance of life and death, and follow the insane thought processes of two high functioning psychopaths duking it out then I would be extremely impressed. The anime follows college student, Light Yagami, as he discovers a notebook dropped by a Shinagami, a god of death, and discovers he can kill people by simpling writing their name down in it. His journey continues as he is challenged by renowned detective, L, who is intent on discovering his identity and bringing him to justice. Death note is an extremely dark and intellectual piece that strays away from many anime tropes and tackles deep and dark questions about our own humanity.
2. Sword Art Onine
This choice I know will be controversial. There seems to be a stigma against this anime within the anime community and it is almost seen as cool by more serious anime fans to hate this one, but I simply don't agree. It follows the story of Kirito, a young teenage boy that gets stuck in a Virtual Reality MMO where dying in the game means dying in real life. The story continues after this and features smaller but important stakes in future seasons and story arcs. This anime has done an excellent job of saying a lot in a short amount of time. Seasons are incredibly short and every episode has an impact. Well crafted and diverse characters help give this anime life and will leave you smiling and crying in the same episode. This anime also tackles extremely serious subject matter within its episodes such as what living life actually is: suicide, rape, PTSD, and terminal diseases. Death is always a close companion to the intimate set pieces in this anime and I suggest a box of tissues for this one.
3. Food Wars! (Shokugeki No Soma)
This is a fairly new anime and one that I absolutely adore. It combines two of my favorite things, cooking and anime, and makes it absolutely ridiculous but also compelling. Food Wars is about a teenager who has been working in his dad's diner and he suddenly gets sent to a prestigious cooking school where graduating is extremely difficult but guarantees a successful culinary career. It's an anime that doesn't take itself too seriously and even though it gets serious and emotional at times, for the most part its making fun of its mainstream anime counterparts. It parodies the excessive violence and sexuality of some anime by actually turning it up a notch and making it exclusively about cooking food. I can tell you that there are few things more hilarious than seeing an overly embellished iron chef cutting onions like he was fighting a horde of monsters. This anime is not for the faint of heart or new anime fans however. If you are not aware of these anime tropes or sensitive to overt sexuality than I could not suggest this anime to you.
4. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The longest anime on this list so far, it is also one of the most completely fleshed out on this list. You will spend dozens of hours getting attached to these characters through their adventures and this one has some of the best character development and plot twists of any anime I have seen. The anime is about two brothers who practice alchemy (kind of like magic but with scientific roots) as they go about their lives and work to find a way to restore the younger brother's real body (Currently he's a soul in a suit of armor) after it was lost in a botched alchemy experiment. This pursuit is set by the wayside as the kingdom is thrown into turmoil and they must battle against the physical embodiment of the seven deadly sins to save the world. The lore, soundtrack, and fight scenes are beautifully crafted and will keep you captivated from start to finish. As with SAO, better have a box of tissues handy. It's a tear jerker.
5. Naruto: Shippuden
This anime is actually a continuation of the original series, simply called Naruto. Seeing the previous series is not required however as the second series does a good job of explaining events that transpired in the first series that are crucial to the second, but the first series is a decent anime in its own right. I know some of you reading this might have cringed at seeing Sword Art Online and now you see Naruto and completely consider my opinion meaningless and void, but please just take a second and hear me out. For those of you that don't know, Naruto is about a boy who has a demon trapped inside of him and has been ostracized since birth because of this. The anime follows him as he grows up, becomes a ninja, overcomes these obstacles and wins the respect and friendship of everyone around him. It's an action packed anime filled with cliff-hangers and plot twists that will leave you speechless. This anime is here for a different reason though, it is about the lessons that it teaches you. Not to judge a book by its cover, the power of forgiveness, that hard work and determination can get you anything in life, and most importantly the importance of relying on the bonds you forge with others to get through life. An emotional roller coaster from start to finish, this anime is definitely worth a watch if you got some time to kill.
This is my personal list of anime that I think everyone should watch. All of these anime impacted me and emotionally moved me. Their tight story weaving, great characters, and moving soundtracks kept me glued to the screen for hours on end as I binged them. I tried to include anime across the spectrum and couldn't include all the anime I love, but I'd like to hear from you. What anime do you think I missed? I'd love to hear which ones and why in the comments down below!