Written by Aidan McCallion
With the current state of the world keeping us (hopefully) locked inside practising social distancing, people are currently in need of a lot more entertainment to while away the days and keep boredom at bay.
Luckily for us all, Japan has given us decades of quality anime for us to binge through during these difficult times. These are my recommendations for five shows that will help pass the long days and weeks.
No. 5 My Hero Academia
I’ll start this with a show that is currently still running as of April 2020. My Hero Academia is Japan’s answer to the American superhero genre and something that I can easily recommend to both experienced anime fans and to those who are new to it.
The premise is as follows: In a world where 80% of people are born with some kind of superpower (called quirks), our main character Izuku Midoriya is both ‘quirkless’ and desperate to become a hero. After a chance encounter with his hero All Might, Izuku inherits All Might’s powers and joins UA, the world greatest superhero school.
This show’s strength comes in the form of its characters, which are some of the most well written and likeable characters in anime. Teachers like All Might and Eraserhead are definite standouts of the first series and as you learn the names, personalities, and quirks of Class 1A’s 30 students each one comes into their own.
A show for people who want fun characters and epic moments.
No. 4 Attack on Titan
I’ll always remember how Attack on Titan was described to me when I was first recommended it: ‘Imagine if Game of Thrones had even less care for the safety and wellbeing of its characters’ and I can’t say I disagree.
Attack on Titan is set in a world where giant, grotesque man-eating humanoids have driven humanity to extinction. Those that remain live within a 100 ft walled region that they have managed to reclaim. The territory within the walls is separated into three concentric circles and the closer you get to the centre, the richer and more powerful people tend to be.
Our protagonist Eren Yeager lives in a small town on the outermost wall when one day, the wall gets breached and his life is left in total ruin. He joins the military and begins to learn how to fight the titans.
This show is beautifully animated and scored and is one of the most addictive shows that I have ever watched. The main character Eren’s terrifying levels of resolve and his utter hatred for titans is the lynchpin for the early episodes of season one.
A show for people that want compelling world-building and storytelling. Note there’s quite a lot of violence and gore so be warned.
No. 3 Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z/Dragon Ball Super
This is where I get nostalgic and recommend the shows that got me started watching anime in the first place.
Dragon Ball is a long-running series created by Akira Toriyama and one of the most popular and influential series of all time.
The story of Dragon Ball follows Goku from his time as a child orphan to a master of martial arts who fight demons and saves the earth. In Dragon Ball Z we see Goku as an adult, and after the arrival of his alien brother, he learns of his alien heritage as a Saiyan and how he must become exponentially stronger to keep the Earth safe.
Meeting more powerful enemies and allies (sometimes enemies that become allies), Goku finds new ways of becoming stronger until his powers rival that of gods. Also, Vegeta, Goku’s rival and the only other living full-bred Saiyan is in my opinion, The greatest character in animation history (disagreements on a postcard!)
All of this might sound serious and gloomy, but Dragon Ball is never that. It’s a charming show with fun characters and some great design thanks to the creative sensibilities of Akira Toriyama who creates a colourful world that I just love going back to all these years later.
A show for people who want something a bit old school or who want to see important, influential anime.
No 2. Hunter X Hunter
Even if we weren’t in quarantine, this is the one anime that I would recommend anyway to everyone because I think it’s a masterpiece.
Hunter X Hunter takes place in a world in which the Hunters exist, a licensed professional of adventurers and masters of their craft. Our hero Gon wants to follow in his fathers’ footsteps, take the Hunter Exam, and achieve his Hunter’s Licence.
Hunter X Hunter is a show that seems like every anime you’ve ever watched until it takes some HARD-left turns as people delve deeper into the secretive world of the hunter society.
I’ll level with you; this show is very important to me personally and it’s the only tv show/anime/movie that I’ve ever openly wept at. My favourite episode of anything ever made is episode 135 of Hunter X Hunter. I was left emotionally destroyed after watching it and had to go to bed, at 7.30. I couldn’t cope, I had to try and turn my brain off. It left me shattered.
This is for people that are looking for some quality storytelling and to have their expectations shattered.
No.1 One Piece
There has never been a better time to start the 900+ episode of one piece than right now.
One Piece is an anime about pirates from the mind of Eiichiro Oda that started as a manga in 1997 and is one of the most popular media brands that Japan has to offer. The One Piece manga is the 3rd highest selling comic of all time, behind Batman and Superman, both of which are at least 75 years old and if One Piece sales keep up for another few years, they are going to overtake Batman. It’s an absolute juggernaut.
The story is one of Monkey D. Luffy, the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates as he sails the world on the search for the One Piece, a mysterious treasure left behind by the previous king of the pirates after his execution. Every pirate crew in the world is searching for it because the one that finds it will become the new king of the pirates. The journey takes them to some of the most creative and well-designed environments in the history of animation, with every island they land on having its unique ruling system, ecology, customs and beliefs.
This along with the Devil Fruits, mysterious fruits that grant those that eat them with fantastical powers at the cost of their ability to swim, goes far into making One Piece feel like this ever-evolving world with discoveries behind every door that deserves its 900+ episodes and over 20 years at the top of the anime and manga charts.
This anime is for people who love a sense of discovery and adventure and also for people who have way too much time on their hands.
If you would like to hear me talk more about anime, you can find me and a few mates of mine on the ShowOwenEn podcast, with new episodes every Friday. We are dragging our reluctant friend into the world of anime, one show at a time.