25 Essential Anime Shows You Must Watch

Anime has a ton of great shows to watch. If you're a beginner you will find it a daunting task to try to figure out where to start. After re-watching my collection and shows online I have finally come up with a list. These shows come from all genre's and some are obvious choices and others are sleeper hits. Here is the "25 Essential Anime Shows You Must Watch." As always leave a comment and tell me your list in the comment section.

25. Tenchi Muyo
If you're looking for action romantic comedy then look no further than Tenchi Muyo. This anime is packed with some of the most unique female anime characters put in anime. Each girl has their own layers and dimensions. If you're looking to get into anime this is a great way to kick it off.

Synopsis -  "Tenchi Masaki is a hapless school boy who suddenly finds himself in the midst of a bunch of women from outer space - among them, space pirate Ryoko, princess Ayeka and her little sister Sasami, scientific genius Washu, ditzy space cop Mihoshi, and the adorable little "cabbit"(part cat, part rabbit), Ryo-ohki. This sets the scene for a hilarious romantic farce as the girls fight for Tenchi's affection, while he fights off various galactic threats and discovers that his family is also connected to the outer space world."

24. Eureka Seven

Eureka Seven is one of my personal favorites. It's actually my favorite of the new generation anime. The great thing about Eureka Seven is the love story between the two protagonist. It reminds me of the innocent high school love back in the days. But this anime is now all about a boy and girl. This anime has a lot of heart, great characterization with proper pacing and screentime for each character. The antagonist is not just a one dimensional villian but a character with a goal and layers. The action is great and the music by Naoki Sato is top notch.

Synopsis - "Renton Thurston, the fourteen-year-old son of Adrock Thurston, a military researcher who died saving the world. He lives what he considers a boring life with his grandfather in a boring town. He loves lifting, a sport similar to surfing but with trapar, a substance abundant throughout the air, as the medium. He dreams of joining the renegade group Gekkostate, led by his idol Holland, a legendary lifter."

23. You're Under Arrest

You're Under Arrest is a comedy centered around two female protagonist as they go through their daily job as police officers. What I love about You're Under Arrest is the comedy. This is a legitimately funny show with some really quirky, off beat characters. Another plus for the show is this one of the animes with strong female cast. The most funniest character to me is Aoi Futaba the crossdressing cop.

Synopsis- "The story revolves around Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, two female members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the protagonists of the show as they are stationed at the fictional Bokuto Police Precinct located at Sumida, Tokyo. The series is largely episodic, and much of it focuses on the interaction between the main characters and the humorous supporting cast."

22. Boys Be...

What I really like about Boys Be... is that it's a romantic anime from the guys point of view. Boys Be... shows how guys feel, the insecurities and even dealing with heartbreak. It has some really interesting male protagonist, you have the jock, the pervert and the nice guy. All three central characters are looking for that special someone.

Synopsis - "Six students struggle to find the perfect partner and their adolescent limitations. While several characters are taken from stories in the manga, the story of the anime is unrelated to the manga. Each episode begins and ends with a philosophical quote which sums up the episode's content.The anime, while centered on Kyoichi and Chiharu, revolves around seven or eight main characters and their love lives."

21. Elfen Lied

Part horror, part drama, part psychological Elfen Lied truly has it all when it comes to story. The characters are compelling, emotional invested and I must say this anime is violent. There is torture, a high body count so this is not for your kids. Look past the violence and you find a moving story about acceptance, a theme on discrimination and forgiveness.

Synopsis - "Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura, Japan, and focuses on the "Diclonius", a newly evolved species. Their appearance is similar to humans, albeit with several differences, namely horn-like protrusions on the forehead and the presence of telekinetic invisble arms called "Vectors". One such Diclonius, Lucy, is the main character of the series: Initially held in a facility built for experimentation, located off the coast of Kamakura, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu."

20. FullMetal Alchemist

Two brothers in search of a stone to revive their mother back to life. Heartwarming, funny as heck and has some really great action. The animation is great and the relationship between the brothers is a must see.

Synopsis - "Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemist brothers searching for the legendary catalyst called the philosopher's stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies. The brothers were born in a village called Resembool in the country of Amestris (アメストリス Amesutorisu?), where they lived with their mother Trisha Elric. Their father, Von Hohenheim, left home for unknown reasons and years later, Trisha died of a terminal illness."

19. Monster

Monster is an anime that truly lives up to it's title. This anime is about suspense and an all around thriller. The story and characters are so good you will forget that this is an anime. Suspense will keep you invested in this anime till the end. Warning this anime is graphic and not for kiddies, it is about a serial killer after all.

Synopsis - "Dr. Kenzō Tenma is a young Japanese doctor, working at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf in 1986. An accomplished brain surgeon, he seems to have everything: a promotion in the offing; the favor of the hospital's director, Udo Heinemann; and Heinemann's daughter Eva as his fiancée. However, Tenma is increasingly dissatisfied with the political bias of the hospital in treating patients, and seizes the chance to change things after a massacre brings fraternal twins Johan and Anna Liebert into the hospital."

18. Death Note

A book where you write anybody's name and they perish. The concept alone is worth checking out. Death Note is a very story driven show and at times will keep you in the dark until the final moment.

Synopsis - "Light Yagami is a bored young genius who resents all things evil. His life undergoes a drastic change when he discovers the "Death Note", a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. After experimenting with the notebook, Light confirms its authenticity and is joined by an unexpected house guest - the notebook's previous owner, a shinigami called Ryuk. Light tells Ryuk of his plan to exterminate all the criminals in the world, until only people whom he has judged to be honest and kind remain. Once he finishes creating this utopia, he means to rule over it as what he calls "the god of the new world."

17. Ouran High School Host Club

Kiss Kiss fall in love is the first thing you hear from the theme song of Ouran High School Host Club. Why should you watch Ouran? Mainly because it is a very unique fish out of water story. A poor girl who manages to get into a rich establishment, but has to pose as a boy. Not to the mention the characters are off beat, quirky characters and the show stealer's are the twins.

Synopsis -Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran Academy, a fictitious high school located in Bunkyo, Tokyo. Looking for a quiet place to study, Haruhi stumbles upon the Third Music Room, a place where the Ouran Academy Host Club, a group of six male students, gathers to entertain female "clients." During their initial encounter, Haruhi accidentally knocks over and breaks an antique vase valued at ¥8,000,000 (US$80,000 in the U.S. English manga) and is told to repay the cost in service to the club as an errand boy. Haruhi's short hair, slouching attire and gender-ambiguous face cause her to be mistaken by the hosts for a male student. After a brief run as such, the Hosts soon realize that she's a "natural" in entertaining girls and promote her to full-Host status. She agrees since Hosting will help her pay off her debt more quickly. The members of the club discover her true gender one by one, but they keep this fact a secret.

16. Gunslinger Girl

Hitmen but unlike any other. These hitmen little girls. Another anime that pushes kids into adult situations. This anime is not for the weak at heart and not for kids either. It's dark, gritty and some of the stories from the girls are heartbreaking. However this is an anime that you can't afford to miss.

Synopsis- "Set in Italy, Gunslinger Girl follows the exploits of the Social Welfare Agency (often referred to as simply "the Agency"), ostensibly a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government. While the Agency professes to aid the rehabilitation of the physically injured, it is actually a military organization specializing in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. It is composed of two independent branches: Public Safety, its surveillance and intelligence-gathering division, and Special Ops, the anti-terrorist division. Special Ops is itself divided into Sections 1 and 2, the latter of which employs young girls who have experienced traumatic and near-death experiences fitted with cybernetic implants as agents."

15. Yu Yu Hakusho

Probably one of the best fighting anime's of all time beside DBZ. Yu Yu Hakusho has it all when it comes to fighting anime's. I can't tell you how great the main lead Yusuke Urameshi is. He's a loud mouth, smart ass that backs it up. But beyond that tough guy image lies a heart of a lamb. This is one anime you have to check out. The highlight is the Dark Tournament Saga.  

Synopsis - Yusuke Urameshi, a street-brawling delinquent who, in an uncharacteristic act of altruism, is hit by a car and killed in an attempt to save a young boy by pushing him out of the way. His ghost is greeted by Botan, a woman who introduces herself as the pilot of the River Styx, who ferries souls to the "Underworld" or Spirit World (霊界 Reikai?) where they may be judged for the afterlife. Botan informs Yusuke that his act had caught even the Underworld by surprise and that there was not yet a place made for him in either heaven or hell. Thus Koenma, son of the Underworld's ruler King Enma, offers Yusuke a chance to return to his body through a series of tests.

14. Rurouni Kenshin

Assassin's, epic battles and one hell of a story. That's all you need to know watch this anime as soon as possible.

Synopsis - "In the early Meiji era, after participating in the Bakumatsu war as
the assassin "Hitokiri Battōsai", Himura Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed. When arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who is in the middle of a fight with a murderer - who claims to be the Hitokiri Battōsai - tarnishing the name of the swordsmanship school that she teaches. Kenshin decides to help her and defeats the fake Battōsai. After discovering that Kenshin is the real infamous assassin, Kaoru offers him a place to stay at her dojo noting that he is peace-loving and not cold-hearted, as his reputation implies."

13. FLCL

One word to describe FLCL is unique. This anime is probably one of the most original anime I've seen. The character of Naota and his supporting cast are hilarious. It's a show you have to watch more times than one to really see the brilliance. Also there is tons of easter eggs from other anime shows.

Synopsis - "FLCL revolves around Naota Nandaba, a 12-year-old, working class boy living with his widower father and grandfather. His life in the city of Mabase is interrupted by the arrival of Haruko Haruhara, who runs over Naota with her yellow Vespa 180 SS scooter, gives him CPR, then hits him on the head with a blue vintage Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar."

12. Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2 is truly a classic anime with great characters and a great concept.

Synopsis- "On a training journey in the Bayankala Mountain Range in the Qinghai Province of China, Ranma Saotome and his father Genma fell into the cursed springs at Jusenkyo. When someone falls into a cursed spring, they take the physical form of whatever drowned there hundreds or thousands of years ago whenever they come into contact with cold water. The curse will revert when exposed to hot water until their next cold water exposure. Genma fell into the Spring of the Drowned Panda while Ranma fell into the Spring of the Drowned Girl."

11. Serial Experiments Lain

And maybe you will understand. The first few words from the opening theme really sets the tone of the show. One of the most catchy theme songs in anime. Lain can be describe in one word and that is complex. To really understand Lain and it's true meaning it will take multiple watches. This anime is smart and very brilliant.  

Synopsis - "Follow along as fourteen year old Lain – driven by the abrupt suicide of a classmate – logs on to the Wired and promptly loses herself in a twisted mass of hallucinations, memories, and interconnected-psyches. Close the World. Open the Next. It’s as simple as the flip of a switch."

10.Pokemon (First Few Seasons)

I will probably get a lot of heat for this choice, especially since it's in the top ten. However you can't deny the impact Pokemon has had over the decades it's been here. Yes it's has the same episode and formula over and over, but damn it at the time it was release in the states it was a phenomna. The impact it had alone is worthy of the top ten spot. Very creative, very fun and it made you want to live in that world.

Synopsis - "Meet our hero, Ash, in his hometown of Pallet Town where boys and girls are encouraged to begin their Pokemon journeys. Join the Indigo League."

9. Inuyasha

Time travel, fun characters and a romance that you'll be screaming to the characters to go for it. The highlight of this anime is the relationship between Kagome and Inuyasha. My favorite episode is Sota Brave Confession of Love.

Synopsis- Kagome Higurashi an average ninth grader gets pulled into an ancient well by a demon bringing her 500 years in the past to the feudal era. There she meets Inuyasha a half-demon who seeks the Shikon Jewel to make himself a full-fledged demon. With Inuyasha and new friends Kagome's search for the Jewel of Four Souls begins...

8. Dragonball Z

Arguably the greatest action fighting anime of all time. Dragonball Z raise the bar and is still going. DBZ is not great when it comes to plot and themes, but it makes up it for with action and great characters. The characters you will fall in love with from Goku to the villain Freiza. The highlights of the show is the Freiza and Cell saga's.

Synopsis - "Dragon Ball Z picks up five years after the end of the Dragon Ball anime, with Goku as a young adult and father to his son Gohan. A humanoid alien named Raditz arrives on Earth in a spacecraft and tracks down Goku, revealing to him that he is his long-lost big brother and that they are members of a nearly extinct extraterrestrial race called the Saiyans."

7. Lupin The 3rd

The greatest anime thief of all time is Lupin The 3rd. A smooth talking, wise cracking, women loving type of guy. Lupin The 3rd has some many fun moments, great adventures and the real drawn in is the heist. The heist and the attempts make it all worth while.

Synopsis - "Arsène Lupin III, the grandson of the fictional gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin, is considered the world's greatest thief, known for announcing his intentions to steal valuable objects by sending a calling card to the owners of his desired items. His right-hand man and closest ally is Daisuke Jigen, an expert marksman who can accurately shoot a target in 0.3 seconds."

6. Sailor Moon

An all female cast, female team and you what even the boys loved it. Sailor Moon was one of kind. It was an anime girls can identify with, it didn't put the female characters into stereotypical roles and it was fun.

Synopsis - "A middle school student named Usagi Tsukino befriends Luna, a talking cat that gives her a magical brooch enabling her to become Sailor Moon: a "pretty soldier in a sailor suit" destined to save Earth from the forces of evil. Luna and Usagi assemble a team of fellow Sailor Soldiers to find their princess and the "Legendary Silver Crystal." They encounter the studious Ami Mizuno, who awakens as Sailor Mercury, Rei Hino—a local shrine maiden who awakens as Sailor Mars, Makoto Kino—a transfer student who awakens as Sailor Jupiter and Mamoru Chiba—a high school student who assists them as Tuxedo Mask. A young, aspiring idol named Minako Aino, who also operates as Sailor Venus, later joins them accompanied by her feline companion Artemis."

5. Now and Then, Here and There

Out of all the anime's on this list. This is the most emotional, the most powerful and truly the most shocking. Don't let the animation style, and opening scene of this anime fool you. Now and Then, Here and There is DARK!!! This anime has kids killing kids, kids getting rape and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The villain Hamdo is in my top five villain's in anime. He's menancing, scary and brutal. However beyond the tragic story lies a lot of heart and some uplifting inspiration.

Synopsis - "Shuzo "Shu" Matsutani, a rambunctious adolescent kendo student, encounters a mysterious girl named Lala-Ru in an abandoned factory near his home. When she's captured by hostile mecha, Shu is taken with her to another world, to the unfortunately named fortress-ship Hellywood, ruled by the psychotic King Hamdo. The apparently ancient Lala-Ru can produce vast quantities of water, which Hamdo desires."

4. Mobile Suit Gundam

The one that really made a fan of mech anime was Gundam. The original Mobile Suit Gundam is such a classic. It's action packed and filled with a great political undertones and theme. The characterization and pace is spot on and the battles are purely epic.

Synopsis - "In the year 2079 (Universal Century year 0079 according to the Gundam Calendar), the Principality of Zeon has declared independence from the Earth Federation, and subsequently launched a war of independence called the One Year War. The conflict has directly affected every continent on earth, also nearly every space colony and lunar settlement. Zeon, though smaller, has the tactical upper hand through their use of a new type of humanoid weapons called mobile suits. After half of all humanity perishes in the conflict, the war settled into a bitter stalemate lasting over 8 months."

3. Robotech

Hailed as anime's first soap opera. One thing Robotech is filled with drama. However the characters are so flushed out, so well written that you forget you're watching an anime. This anime had a lot of first times. The first time an interracial couple was put in an anime was one of the first groundbreaking moments. It has great characters, great story and very cool unforgettable soundtrack.

Synopsis - "The saga is told through the eyes of characters caught up in a series of wars that erupts when a mysterious spacecraft crashlands on Earth at the turn of the millennium. The secrets of alien knowledge aboard this vessel were unlocked, leading to the development of "Robotechnology" and the creation of a vast arsenal of robotic "mecha" to defend the Earth against the alien threats that would eventually strike to lay claim to the mysterious power source known as "protoculture."

2. Cowboy Bebop

Fun, fun, fun! What can I say about Cowboy Bebop that hasn't been said? The anime is nearly flawless. Great voice work in English and Japanese dub. The characters are walking classic especially Faye Valentine. The soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is some of her best work. The ending is heartbreaking but it is one hell of a ride.

Synopsis - Protagonist Spike Spiegel, an exiled former hitman of the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate, and his partner Jet Black, a former ISSP officer who retired following a mob hit that cost him his arm, as two bounty hunters who travel on Jet's spaceship the Bebop. Through unintended circumstances, the duo are eventually joined by three new members: Ein, a hyper-intelligent genetically-engineered Welsh Corgi dog, Faye Valentine, an amnesiac femme fatale con artist, and Edward, a barefooted preteen female prolific computer hacker.

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion 

Number one on the list is Neon Genesis Evangelion. This anime has it all from romance, drama, psychological elements, slice of life, action and many more. What makes this anime the must watch out of them all is the characters. Each character supporting or major has something you can relate too. Family issues like Shinji and Misato. Death issues like Asuka. Socially awkard like Rei and many more. It also has a great soundtrack which I still listen too till this day.

Synopsis - "The year is 2015, and half of the Earth’s population is dead, victims of the disaster called Second Impact! Answering a summons from his enigmatic father, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari arrives in the rebuilt city of New Tokyo-3 just as a gigantic creature identified as an "Angel" attacks! Forced into the cockpit of a giant bio-mechanical construct known as an Evangelion, Shinji must defend the city from the rampaging Angel or die trying!"

Do you agree with the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.