Anime as a medium offers a vast range of genres, stories, and experiences. As the genre continues to expand, it can be a challenge to filter through the noise and find the truly exceptional series. For those looking for recommendations or simply curious about what’s making waves, here’s our curated list of the best anime series you should be watching right now.
The best anime series you should be watching, according to The Cultured Nerd
Here are our top ten anime picks of the year, showcased in no particular order because each one is uniquely brilliant in its own right. Dive in and discover your next obsession.
In a bold move, the iconic series Trigun gets a CGI reboot with Trigun Stampede. While fans initially had reservations about this adaptation, the anime has undoubtedly garnered praise for its fresh yet faithful take on the original. The renowned Studio Orange, with projects like Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex and Beasters under its belt, is the force behind this revival. The studio’s innovative use of CGI is a testament to their adaptability and growth, transforming the narrative into a visually mesmerizing Western sci-fi masterpiece reminiscent of Blade Runner.
A standout feature is the restructuring of the story. Instead of saving crucial plot details for later episodes as in the original, Trigun Stampede delves straight into the heart of the narrative, reintroducing fans to the legend of Vash the Stampede right from the start. The series, however, doesn’t just rely on nostalgia. It showcases a perfect balance, ensuring new and returning viewers are engaged. Plus, the return of Johnny Young Bosch to voice Vash in the English dub preserves some of the essence of the original. This CGI reimagining is not just a trip down memory lane but a rejuvenation of a classic, earning its rightful place in any anime enthusiast’s must-watch list.
Nier Automata Ver 1.1a
Delving deep into the interconnected worlds of video games and anime, Nier Automata Ver 1.1a is a captivating addition to the extensive Nier series. The story paints a dystopian picture of the year 11945, where Earth has been forsaken by humanity due to an alien invasion that commandeered Earth’s machines. These rogue robots now lay claim to the planet. Central to the tale are androids, 2B and 9S, Earth’s defenders, while the remainder of humanity finds refuge on the moon. A unique feature of these androids is their capability to re-upload their consciousness into new shells, enabling a swift return to action post-destruction.
The anime offers more than just action; it plunges into existential dilemmas. With each episode, viewers are taken on a whirlwind exploration of questions surrounding existence, reality, and purpose. The series masterfully blends high-octane sequences reminiscent of its video game origin with contemplative moments, offering viewers a layered experience. For those captivated by tales of science fiction, robot-driven narratives, or philosophical quandaries, Nier Automata Ver 1.1a is a must-watch. And for those left yearning for more, the video games promise an equally immersive experience.
Venturing into the intricate mesh of psychological horror and action, Summertime Rendering emerges as an unexpected powerhouse. This thrilling anime, acquired by Disney and aired as a Hulu original, immediately grabs attention with its intriguing premise. It’s the harrowing tale of a young man with striking heterochromia who returns to his hometown upon hearing of his best friend’s mysterious death by drowning. What unravels next is an intense journey into the island’s age-old legends about “shadow sickness” — where doppelgangers mercilessly eliminate and replace their original counterparts.
However, the plot takes an even darker twist. After being fatally shot by one such copy, the protagonist discovers his ability to rewind time, a power stemming from his mismatched eye. This relentless loop constantly shortens with each resurrection, pressuring him to resolve the mystery before time runs out. Drawing parallels with cinematic masterpieces like Twin Peaks, Memento, and the time-looping concept from Groundhog’s Day, the show masterfully balances the terror of horror with the dynamic pace of action. The carefully thought-out narrative intricacies, like the ingenious use of nail guns to pin the sinister shadows to the ground, elevate the anime even further. Summertime Rendering manages to envelop viewers in its suspenseful grip, culminating in a genuinely satisfying ending.
Demon Slayer has become an undeniable sensation in the anime realm, offering a fresh take on samurai tales set in a world where demons bear striking resemblances to vampires. Its captivating narrative boasts an impressive blend of character evolution and action-packed animation, with Aniplex, known for its work in Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler, driving visual excellence.
What sets this anime apart is its consistency; every episode and movie is canon, ensuring an uninterrupted story arc that continually ups the stakes. Beyond the top-tier animation, the show’s strategic use of traditional anime tropes ensures characters that start as mere clichés evolve into beloved figures. With a staggering revenue of around nine billion dollars within just two years, Demon Slayer stands shoulder to shoulder with anime giants like Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z. For those yet to embark on this journey, Demon Slayer promises a thrilling viewing experience, making it a must-watch for both seasoned anime lovers and newcomers alike.
One Piece, a longstanding giant in the anime and manga world, may initially come off as Japan’s answer to the pirate craze of the early 2000s, but it offers much more than swashbuckling adventure. It stands out for its perfect blend of humor and action. Characters are well-developed, consistently opting for a laugh amidst even the direst of situations. As they sail from one island to the next, they face various challenges, expand their crew, and display an array of fascinating abilities. The plot is a testament to camaraderie and growth as the characters become mightier with time.
From a technical standpoint, the anime has undergone several transformations. While there were hiccups in the animation quality in its early days, the current art style, post a pivotal time skip, is commendable. The series has a staggering legacy, starting its manga journey in 1997. With over 1,070 episodes, 106 manga volumes, and numerous OVAs, TV specials, and movies, it’s an epic that continues to grow.
For those intrigued by seafaring adventures, magic, absurdly powerful battles, and strong character dynamics, One Piece is a treasure chest waiting to be unlocked. While adaptations, like the anticipated Netflix version, may offer a fresh perspective, the original material remains a gem that provides a deeper understanding of this vast world. Dive in, and let yourself be swept away by the grand tide of One Piece.
The Gundam franchise, an enduring pillar of anime since the 70s, introduces a refreshing entry with Gundam: The Witch From Mercury. Limited to two complete seasons, this show provides a concise yet impactful journey, culminating in a climactic ending after around 24 episodes. Unlike its predecessors, TWFM champions a female lead piloting the iconic Gundam mech, offering a unique perspective on the familiar life-and-death stakes inherent in the Gundam series.
This narrative starts gently, luring viewers into a sense of safety before it dives headfirst into its darker elements. The unpredictable nature of the show ensures that the audience is constantly on edge, met with shocking twists at every turn. The design, storytelling, and overall execution of this series make it stand out, especially when considering the broader Gundam franchise. Fans eagerly anticipate if a movie adaptation might be on the horizon, though the show’s finale leaves one wondering if there’s more story to tell or if it’s the perfect closing note.
For enthusiasts of the mech genre or anyone yet to delve into the Gundam world, The Witch From Mercury is a compelling starting point or a refreshing new chapter. Dive in for a roller coaster ride that’s both thrilling and deeply emotional.
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is Japan’s answer to X-Men, drawing parallels to the beloved Western superhero narrative while providing its distinct twist. This show offers a deep dive into team dynamics and individual character growth. It poses intriguing questions: How does society cope with the rise and fall of an iconic figure akin to Superman, and what’s it like to exist in that shadow?
The series is set in a world where 80% of humanity possesses a “quirk,” a unique superpower, positioning them as the majority against the non-powered minority. Our protagonist, a quirkless boy named Deku, stands out due to his relentless optimism and determination to become a hero like his idol, All Might, despite his lack of powers. His dreams come closer to reality when All Might recognizes Deku’s true heroic nature and chooses him as the heir to his power, “One For All,” which is a culmination of multiple quirks passed down through generations.
However, harnessing these powers comes at a cost. Every time Deku invokes them, his body is subjected to immense strain, resulting in visible scars and injuries. Despite these setbacks, Deku’s journey from a hopeful rookie to a powerful hero weaves themes of hope, sacrifice, and resilience into its narrative.
Now in its sixth season, with a potential end in sight, My Hero Academia is a testament to the seamless blend of Eastern storytelling with superhero conventions. For fans of either realm, it’s a must-watch, offering a fresh perspective on the superhero genre.
Jujutsu Kaisen takes a bold step into the realm of dark sorcery and mystical adventures reminiscent of classics like Yu Yu Hakusho. At its core, it’s a tale of a seemingly ordinary protagonist diving into a world filled with curses and magic. Yet, this isn’t just another magical school story. Beyond its Harry Potter-esque academy setting, it delves deep into themes of demonic archetypes and the consequences of wielding such power.
The show’s storytelling stands out, intertwining different timelines to paint a comprehensive picture of its world. From the events leading up to the protagonist’s entrance to integrating a movie seamlessly within the storyline, Jujutsu Kaisen keeps viewers engaged and invested. The beautiful animation complements the narrative, crafted perfectly by intense battles and character interactions.
For fans looking for a modern successor to Yu Yu Hakusho or anyone craving a fresh take on the dark sorcery genre, Jujutsu Kaisen delivers on all fronts.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners, despite its video game origins, stands as an enticing anime that might even redeem the controversial reception of its video game counterpart, Cyberpunk 2077. Netflix produced it in collaboration with a Japanese studio, Studio Trigger, renowned for their unabashedly unique animation styles in works like Kill la Kill and Promare.
Set as a prequel to Cyberpunk 2099, the show doesn’t shy away from darker themes, pairing them with a pulsating punkish soundtrack that crescendos with Franz Ferdinand’s This Fire. However, beneath its music video-esque exterior lies a deeply emotional core. Viewers are taken on an intense roller-coaster, witnessing its characters’ thrilling highs and devastating lows. It’s not for the faint of heart, as it boasts a mature content palette from violent sequences to explicit scenes. Still, empathy for the characters becomes inevitable by the season’s midpoint, culminating in a gut-wrenching finale that resonates deeply.
Lastly, a notable mention must be made of the show’s villain, voiced by the exceptional Giancarlo Esposito, who adds an extra layer of magnetism to the series. His performance embodies his character’s creepy, captivating essence, further elevating the show’s appeal. In sum, Cyberpunk Edgerunners establishes its legacy and offers fans a new lens to appreciate the world of Cyberpunk 2077.
Zom 100 Bucket List of the Dead
Zom 100 Bucket List of the Dead is an eccentric twist on the over-saturated zombie apocalypse narrative, offering viewers a refreshing blend of existential exploration and vibrant visuals. The anime doesn’t come from conventional studios. Instead, it’s a product of Viz Media, impressively available across Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll for streaming.
The story unfolds around Akira Tendo, a 24-year-old media production employee. Previously a college rugby player, Akira’s life spirals into disillusionment once he starts his ‘dream job.’ He’s quickly submerged into a work culture demanding excessive unpaid overtime, leaving him mentally drained and contemplating severe escapism. However, an unexpected zombie apocalypse gives him newfound freedom and euphoria. Where life once seemed monochrome, the zombie-filled world bursts into color, illustrated by the unique choice of multi-colored blood hues. Akira’s renewed zest pushes him to create a bucket list of 100 things he desires to accomplish before his inevitable transformation into a zombie.
Contrasting Akira’s approach is the survival-driven Shazika. Her list centers on preventing the zombie transformation, leading to compelling dynamics between the two protagonists. While Akira chases fulfillment, Shazika fights for longevity. This anime promises an intriguing blend of despair, hope, and unconventional adventures. And with its early episodes just released, now is the perfect time to dive into this colorful apocalyptic world.
Our main list was just the tip of the iceberg! There’s so much more anime and anime-inspired goodness out there. Here are a few gems that might not be at the top but still have some serious kick.
- Tokyo Revengers: Ready for a unique time-travel narrative? When the protagonist learns of his high school girlfriend’s tragic end and undergoes a near-death experience, he discovers his ability to leap between the past and the future. As he navigates this complex temporal landscape, every action he takes in the past leaves ripples in the future. With deep-rooted themes and an intricate plot, viewers are left eagerly anticipating each episode’s unraveling mysteries.
- Invincible: Based on the Image Comics series of the same name created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker, the show delves into the life of Mark Grayson, a regular teenager, except for the fact that his father, Nolan, is the most powerful superhero on the planet. As Mark begins to develop his own powers, he discovers the complexities and challenges of becoming a hero, as well as some darker secrets surrounding his family and the superhero world at large. The series is known for its mature themes, complex characters, and notably graphic action sequences. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
- Heavenly Delusion (Tengoku Daimiko on Hulu): This is a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating anime. Splitting its focus between two intertwined narratives, viewers witness a harrowing post-apocalyptic realm plagued by monstrous man-eaters while simultaneously exploring the enigmatic “heaven”—a school designed for exceptionally gifted children. As these tales inexorably merge, the series presents a hauntingly dark and contemplative journey that raises intriguing questions about the nature of paradise and hell.
- My Adventures with Superman: This new series offers a refreshing take on the iconic Superman saga. Here, Lois Lane, portrayed by Alice Lee as a Korean-American, astutely deduces Clark Kent’s superheroic alter-ego in short order. With nods to anime conventions, including a memorable transformation sequence evoking Sailor Moon, this animated series brings to life the early days of the Daily Planet’s young interns, all vying for that big scoop to secure their places as full-time reporters. Showcased on platforms like Toonami and HBO Max, this retelling brings youthful zeal and cross-cultural charm to the Superman legacy.