Ten Must-See Anime Series according to the MHJH Anime Club

Brianna Ifland, Editor/Reporter

Warning: This article may contain slight spoilers for multiple television series. 

Anime has formed a relatively niche but intense following in the States, the first wave beginning in the 1960s and eventually hitting mainstream media in the 1990s. 

But from mech to romance, shounen to shoujo, it’s hard to know where to start when getting into anime or manga. Here are ten must-see series according to the MHJH Anime Club. 

1. The Promised Neverland (2019, TV-14)

Set in the year 2045, this thriller series revolves around Emma, Norman, and Ray, who learn the horrific truth of their home– the Grace Field House.

“My all time favorite anime is The Promised Neverland,” says 8th grader Pixie Bolick. “It is a horror-type anime about these farms that [feed] children to demons and they are trying to escape.” 

Awarded both Best Fantasy (February 2020) and Top 100 best animes of the 2010s by Crunchyroll, The Promised Neverland is a wonderfully paced and fleshed-out story despite being just twelve episodes. The main ensemble of children are intelligent (which is explained through their situation and background) and don’t rely on a slew of Deus Ex Machinas to get out of seemingly impossible situations. The show doesn’t confuse the watcher, nor patronize them by explaining every step of the plan. 

Season two aired earlier this year, and episodes can be found on Netflix. 

2. Blue Exorcist (2011, TV-14)

This series balances a contemporary “regular world” with fantastical elements of demons, spirits, and other supernatural creatures and forces. Rin Okumura learns he is the son of Satan and, to avenge his adoptive father and prevent his demonic fate, becomes a student exorcist under the teaching of his twin brother, Yukio. 

The chronological order of the episodes are a little convoluted– as the second season takes place in the middle of the first– but we watch Rin hone both his powers and relationships throughout the series as a whole. 

3. Toradora! (2008, TV-14)

Volume 1 Toradora! Poster

Although most iconic series are action-based, Toradora is a staple romance that revolves around the developing relationship between high school students Taiga and Ryuji. Taiga, despite her small stature, is very loud and stubborn. Ryuji, though he’s cursed with his father’s mean appearance, is quiet and enjoys cooking, cleaning, and other hobbies that contradict his reputation. 

The dichotomy between the two’s personalities introduces an interesting dynamic and prevents them from being completely honest about their feelings– both to one another and themselves. 

4. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K (2016, TV-14)

Though less plot-driven than the other series, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K is a supernatural comedy within a contemporary setting. It revolves around the titular character and teenage psychic, Saiki Kusuo, and his eccentric schoolmates. 

Sarah Sheppard says, “Saiki K is more recognizable [in fandom spaces… and it’s] just a good watch.”

Saiki is a strait-laced boy (leading him to play the comedic straight man) who wants to be normal but is a magnet for wacky, out-of-this-world characters: his friend, Kaido, is an occult fanatic who is obsessed with a nonexistent organization called Dark Reunion. Kokomi Teruhashi is the most popular girl in the school, with whom every guy falls for, and is obsessed with supposedly plain Saiki, who has no interest in her whatsoever.

It may seem a little quick-paced at times, but it never borders into a confusing farce. From other psychics such as Aiura Mikoto and Reita Toritsuka, to regular high school archetypes such as bad-boy-turned-stoic-student Aren Kobuyasu and jock Kinesi Hairo, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K is a slice-of-life comedy with character development, but not so much that it mandates the viewer to pay complete attention while watching. Despite that, it will keep your eye with its well-written comedy and lovable characters. 

5. My Hero Academia (2016, TV-14)

My Hero Academia takes place in the near future, with one key difference: superheroes— and villains— exist. They’re called quirks, and the Japanese government approves licenses for certain citizens to work as professional heroes.

My Hero Academia: Season one, episode four (Funimation)

Our protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is quirkless, like 20% of the population. Through a twist of fate, he meets his idol— All Might— and becomes the successor of his power, One for All.  

Izuku is accepted to UA, the most prestigious hero school in Japan, and has to adjust to his newfound abilities and uncover the more sinister side of the hero business. 

“Most people who like anime has watched MHA,” says Honis Green. “Everything about it is really good. [I like the scene] when villain Himiko Toga and the [League of Villains] had to fight people.” 

6. Attack on Titan (2013, TV-MA)

Protagonist Eren Yeager against the Colossal Titan (Attack on Titan, Funimation)

Arguably one of the most iconic series of recent years, Attack on Titan has served as a starter series for many anime fans. All of humankind lives within three circular walls— Maria, Rose, and Sina. 

“[The protagonist] Eren Yeager is determined to help save humanity when Titans [humanoid giants] reappear and begin to feast on human flesh,” says Aspen Birdwell. 

The series focuses on Yeager and his rising of ranks in the Scout Regiment, a branch of the military that explores beyond the walls in hopes of expansion. The cinematography in the fighting scenes is breathtaking, and not only do you see the characters grow but their understanding of the world around them as well. It keeps you asking, “What else is out there?” 

7. Spirited Away (2001, PG)

“It’s a classic…” says 8th grader Phoebe Manker, “it won an Oscar for [Best Animated Feature].”

Spirited Away is Studio Ghibli’s highest grossing film, and for good reason. 10-year-old Chihiro is en-route to her new home, when her family stumbles upon an abandoned amusement park. Finding fresh and unattended food, her parents feast and are turned into giant pigs. The sun sets, and Chihiro is enraptured in a spirit world, taking place primarily at a bathhouse run by the witch Yubaba. With the help of a mysterious but familiar boy named Haku, Chihiro must navigate this world and work her way to earn her parents’ freedom.

Studio Ghibli is known for its gorgeous art, breathtaking soundtracks, and the overall tranquility and timelessness of its films. Despite most works being aimed at children, young and old audiences alike can appreciate the themes and characters Miyazaki portrays. (However, films such as Grave of the Fireflies may be too gruesome for children.) The worldbuilding maintains a sense of realism and despite its immersive nature, does not ask viewers to remember a daunting number of complex details about the fantasy that surrounds the characters. 

Other pieces, such as Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle, are also representative of Ghibli’s art and shows just why the studio has gained such a cult following. Their films are great gateway pieces of media to get into anime, and are beautiful overall– not just for the genre. 

8. Naruto: Shippuden (2007, TV-PG)

Official Naruto: Shippuden Poster (Jump Shonen)

Being one of the Big Three– referring to the three most popular series during Jump Shonen’s mid-2000s Golden Age– Naruto is arguably the most popular anime series of all time. It was a staple not in just Japanese/anime media, but American television as well. 

Noah Merry describes the series as follows: “Naruto Uzumaki [is] on his journey to becoming Hokage, the greatest ninja in the village. He has to save his friend Sasuke from the evil Orochimaru, learn new Ninjutsu along the way, and control the beast inside him.”

As a staple in fandom spaces, and a series that bled into mainstream American media, it’s hard to come across an anime fan who hasn’t seen Naruto. It’s often referenced in memes, easter eggs, and other posts/discussions close to the community. 

9. Cardcaptor Sakura (1998, TV-Y7-FV)

Cardcaptor Sakura (Netflix, Madhouse)

Though aimed at younger audiences, Cardcaptor Sakura is a charming series about a girl named Sakura who “stumbles upon the book of Clow Cards in a library. Accidentally setting the cards loose, it’s now up to [her] to catch them all with her best friend Tomoyo, and Kerberos, the guardian of the cards” (IMDb).

With the classic 90s art style, this series is full of action (albeit bloodless) and all you could expect from a typical magical girl series. 

Destini Wages says, “Cardcaptor Sakura [has] an old type of art style… I like all the scenes.”

All 22 episodes of the series can be found on Netflix, and the series has a movie and manga (from which it was adapted) as well. 

10. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995, TV-MA)

Being one of the most iconic mech series, Neon Genesis takes place in the oh-so distant future of 2015, in the fortified city of Tokyo-3. Protagonist Shenji is recruited by the paramilitary force known as Nerv to pilot a mecha named Evangelion, and must fight “angels.” If they don’t stop them, more cataclysms will occur and humanity will be as good as dead.

“The anime came out around the mid 90s,” notes sophomore and former president Jada Baker, “and became one of the most influential animes in the anime scene.” 

Although the ending is considered to be abstract by some, Neon Genesis is commonly attributed as the series to mark the rebirth of the anime industry around the 1990s-2000s era. 

The series is on Netflix, including the director’s cuts of episodes 21-24. 

More on the Anime Club

Although the aforementioned series are just short of addictive, MHJH Anime Club does more than watch their favorite series or eat Japanese snacks. 

“There are several kids that will volunteer their time to dress up and pass out candy to the kids for the district Halloween Festival,” says sponsor Mrs. Sandra VanMatre.

The anime club will also be doing a fundraiser to go to Incredible Pizza at the end of the semester. Members will be selling Slice the Price Dominos discount cards that will allow you to buy one pizza and get one free as many times as you want for a year. The cards can be purchased from club members or Mrs. VanMatre at the Junior High for $10. 

“That pays for itself after just one use!” adds VanMatre. 

We hope to see some support for our junior high students, who’ve come together and cultivated a community over a unique and passionately shared interest.