The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
"The Girl Who Leapt Through the Time" Production Committee 2006

Best anime for beginners

If you're looking to get into anime, these films and TV series make for a good introduction to the genre. By George Art Baker

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Want to get into Japanese anime but have no idea where to start? From thrilling fantasy to heart-warming love stories, we've rounded up our top picks of classic anime movies and TV series for newcomers to check out.

Films like 'Spirited Away' and 'Ghost in the Shell' are regularly featured on many anime lists as these hit shows are a necessary introduction into this vibrant and varied genre. However, we have also included some off-beat and under-the-radar classics that are widely celebrated for their contribution to the anime industry. So put these films on a playlist and get yourself acquainted with Japanese anime in no time.

Start with these

Spirited Away (movie)
Photo: IMDb – Studio Ghibli (2001)

Spirited Away (movie)

Genre: fantasy, family

The plot
This 2001 movie tells the story of Chihiro, a young girl who loses sight of her family on a road trip, and ends up wandering into a colourful, magical world.

Why it's good
Writer and director Hayao Miyazaki uses hand-drawn animation, imbuing every scene with a humanity and craftsmanship that is unparalleled. A 2003 Oscar winner, ‘Spirited Away’ deftly weaves themes of youthfulness and self-esteem into a fun, family adventure. Studio Ghibli has made so many amazing anime, so if you enjoy this movie, go watch all of them.

Ghost In The Shell (movie)
Photo: IMDb – Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost In The Shell (movie)

Genre: Sci-fi, futuristic, thriller

The plot 
In a future where cybernetic augmentation is commonplace, police assault team leader Motoko ‘The Major’ Kusanagi accidentally uncovers a political assassination plot by a terrorist calling themselves the Puppet Master.

Why it's good
Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 sci-fi classic still feels so vibrant some 23 years later, such is the quality of the art, animation and its philosophical exploration of human identity. He hacks into our sensory networks, granting us multiple perspectives on a given scene in a way that displaces our sense of time. The soundtrack, with its ancient Bulgarian choral stylings and sparse taiko drums, further deepens this sensation. A truly monumental anime, the shockwaves of which are still felt in fiction today.

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Revolutionary Girl Utena (TV series)
BeaPass · Saito Chiho / Shogakukan · Small Leather Commission · TV Tokyo

Revolutionary Girl Utena (TV series)

Genre: Shoujo (anime originally written for girls), comedy, drama

The plot 
Utena Tenjo is a teenage girl who has visions of meeting a handsome prince. She enrols in a new school and befriends a shy girl, but soon discovers that life at Otori Academy is no fairy tale...

Why it's good
From the slender character designs to the lavish amounts of blossoming flowers, this 1997 TV series seduces with its intelligence, layered storytelling and ‘charged’ atmosphere. Utena Tenjo is a kick-ass protagonist bucking gender expectations as quickly as she does authority figures and while her motives are simple, she’s never one-dimensional. One can’t say enough about the mysterious, magical side of this show without going into spoilers, but it is exceptional. Flamboyant direction by Kunihiko Ikuhara (who worked on ‘Sailor Moon’) ensures this 39-episode anime is worth sticking with until the very end.

Your Name (movie)
Photo: IMDb – Your Name (2016)

Your Name (movie)

Genre: Romance, drama

The plot 
One day, a rural girl named Mitsuha and a Tokyo boy named Taki magically find their souls inhibiting each others’ bodies. This becomes a routine occurrence and so they begin communicating however they can.

Why it's good
Makoto Shinkai’s 2017 runaway hit won hearts with its mystical, cosmic take on romance. Shinkai’s fascination with characters finding intimacy amid world-upturning events has been a feature of his work since his first short film ‘Voices Of A Distant Star’ (2002). Gorgeous colours and immensely detailed artwork create a luscious setting for our two fatefully intertwined characters. The comedic, intimate moments of this anime really make it hold up to repeat viewings. Outstanding.

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Mushishi (TV series)
Yuki Urushihara / Kodansha · Aniplex

Mushishi (TV series)

Genre: Mystery

The plot
A lone doctor wanders across Japan, helping to heal people afflicted by magical, spirit- like bugs called mushi.

Why it's good
Yuki Urushibara’s manga takes inspiration from Japanese folklore to create a TV series of episodic stories (2005-2006). It’sa lovely series to dip in and out of thanks to the artwork’s focus on natural blues and greens, plus an ambient soundtrack that blends synths with more traditional instrumentation. We learn a lot about our protagonist Ginko just by watching him, and the absence of giant story arcs or bellowing narrators make this anime’s subtle storytelling all the more unique.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (movie)
"The Girl Who Leapt Through the Time" Production Committee 2006

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (movie)

Genre: Sci-fi, romance 

The plot
One day Makoto finds a mysterious message on the blackboard at school. Upon cycling home she’s involved in a collision which catapults her back in time.

Why it's good
It’s a lovely time-travel adventure, written loosely as a sequel to Yasutaka Tsutsui’s original 1967 novel of the same name. This dynamic 2006 movie screenplay is sensitively handled by director Mamoru Hosoda. Down-to-earth character designs and real-life locations grant the movie a kind of realism that makes it stand out from the anime pack. A love for this film is cemented if one ever takes a walk along the Arakawa river, where Makoto cycles during the film.

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Naruto (TV series)
Photo: IMDb – Naruto (2002)

Naruto (TV series)

Genre: Shounen (anime originally written for boys), action, comedy

The plot
Uzamaki Naruto is an orphaned boy who lives in a ninja village. A terrible monster was sealed within his body when he was born, so he is shunned and resented by the villagers.

Why it's good 
This children’s show, which premiered on TV in 2002, garnered an impressive following of children and adults alike. Naruto is refreshingly colourful and features a rich, well-thought-out world complete with its own political system and history. It’s also plenty of fun, and the way it boldly tackles issues like bullying and lack of self-esteem with such positivity make it well worth your time.

Death Note (TV series)
© Tsugumi Ôba, Takeshi Obata / Shueisha / Nippon TV / Madhouse

Death Note (TV series)

Genre: Detective drama, thriller, horror

The plot
Yagami Light is a teenage boy who comes across a magical book that bestows death upon anyone whose name is written in it. Feeling that in broader society justice is not being served, he begins to mete it out himself.

Why it's good
It’s an ingeniously clever, supernatural thriller with a novel choice of protagonist. This 2006 anime adaptation based on the successful manga series of the same name by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata clocks in at 37 episodes. Featuring perhaps the coolest detective in anime history, it’s an unmissable exercise in suspense.

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Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV series)
Khara/Project Eva.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV series)

Genre: Sci-fi, drama

The plot 
Shinji Ikari is an awkwardly shy 14-year-old boy who is summoned to Tokyo by his estranged father. Once he arrives, it becomes clear that Shinji’s fatherismoreinterestedinhis son piloting a super-weapon than patching things up.

Why it's good
We just had to include this anime (1995-1996) because it’s so bizarre. The characters are so strong and it has such an interesting range of moods and features everything from a deadpan penguin to an irate German girl in a giant mecha (robot in anime terminology). It’s one of the highest-grossing anime franchises of all time. More recently, the series has been remade into a collection of short films, but in our opinion the original series followed by the original movies ‘Evangelion: Death True 2’ and ‘The End of Evangelion’ are still the best introduction to this beloved franchise.

Shirobako (TV series)
Photo: IMDb – Shirobako (2014)

Shirobako (TV series)

Genre: Slice of life, comedy, cute

The plot
Aoi Miyamori is part of the school anime club and longs to work in anime. But will the reality meet her expectations?

Why it's good
It’s a fun, cutesy anime (2014-2015) which is also genuinely informative about the inner workings of the anime industry. The show has a nice range of emotions and one can’t help but root for Aoi and her friends as they try to make it in an infamously tough work environment. A refreshingly different anime, cleverly written.

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Captain Tsubasa (TV series)
Yoichi Takahashi / Shueisha · 2018 Captain Tsubaki Production Committee

Captain Tsubasa (TV series)

Genre: Sports drama, shonen (anime aimed at boys)

The plot
Tsubasa is a young boy who, ever since he was a toddler, has had only one thing on his mind – football! Join Tsubasa as he follows his passion for football, wherever it may lead.

Why it's good
It’s a breezy, fun sports show with a fittingly energetic soundtrack. Tsubasa has been a beloved character since the original manga was first published in the weekly boys’ magazine Shonen Jump back in 1981. This 2018 show is just so much fun, with the over-the-top action scenes and simple concept making for a rewarding viewing experience. Even if you don’t have a penchant for football, the gorgeous visuals and light- hearted atmosphere will likely entertain you thoroughly.

Boku No Hero Academia (TV show)
Photo: IMDb – Boku No Hero Academia (2016)

Boku No Hero Academia (TV show)

Genre: Superhero, comedy

The plot
Izuku Midoriya is a boy who is serious about becoming a superhero, despite not actually possessing any superpowers of his own.

Why it's good
‘Boku No Hero Academia’ is currently airing its third season and has garnered an impressive online following worldwide. The show is a wonderful mix of classic comic book era heroism and the kinds of insecurities and awkwardness most of us face growing up. Action-packed and full of heart, this is one of the most successful anime in recent years and well-deserving of its praise.

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Bookable tickets

  • Art
  • Kichijoji

The Ghibli Museum is dedicated to Hayao Miyazaki’s studio, which produced some of Japan’s most popular and complex animation classics, from My Neighbour Totoro to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

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