Over the last few decades anime has exploded in popularity in the West. The genre is comprised of any form of animation that is created in Japan, and has influenced countless remakes, reboots and adaptations. So, I’ve decided to create a hand-curated list of the best anime movies & shows, including Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Hopefully this list will help newcomers get their feet wet with the genre, in addition to highlighting some under-the-radar picks for anime veterans.
Check out some of my favorites below:
What is any self respecting anime list without Cowboy Bebop? The genre-bending series from Shinichirō Watanabe is often hailed as one of the best anime shows of all time. Cowboy Bebop follows bounty hunter Spike Spiegel as he jet sets across the stars in search of dangerous criminals. The series is known for its inventive use of music, serialized structure and impressive animation. While there’s only a handful of episodes (and a movie), it’s a must watch for any anime fan. Watch Cowboy Bebop on Hulu or Funimation with a subscription right now. For those of you looking for a free option be sure to check out Adult Swim or Tubi.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion is another short, yet impactful anime. While the original series runs just 26 episodes (the same amount as Cowboy Bebop) the franchise has gone on to include a number of spin-offs, movies and manga tie-ins. This iconic anime offers viewers a unique spin on the mecha genre (giant robots fighting one another). The series follows a group of mecha pilots who defend whats left of earth from ‘angels’ who cause cataclysmic events. It’s a fantastic, yet short watch. Plus, there’s a ton of extra content to choose from if you liked the show. Watch Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix, where it’s streaming right now.
How about a movie entry? Studio Ghibli is widely considered to be one of the best Japanese animation studios in the business. Thanks to Hayao Miyazaki’s careful direction the studio has put out a number of incredible films over the years. Porco Rosso follows a man-turned pig who fearlessly takes on sky-bandits and ne’er-do-wells while protecting a wealthy cruise ship. Aside from the beautiful animation, Porco Rosso is a heartfelt adventure with plenty of high-flying aeronautics to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Watch Porco Rosso on HBOMax, where it’s streaming right now.
Trigun is one of the more comedic entries into this list. This futuristic anime takes place on a desolated planet and stars Vash the Stampede, a renown gunfighter. As Vash attempts to confront the demons of his past, he must also dodge the $60,000,000,000 double dollar bounty on his head. Trigun is relatively short and can be watched on Hulu or Funimation right now.
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a 1999 dystopian thriller that hits on action, political intrigue and the senselessness of war. It’s a powerful film to be sure. Director
Hiroyuki Okiura built an incredibly tense, yet delicate atmosphere with breathtaking animation and gorgeous set pieces throughout Jin-Roh. To avoid spoilers I won’t dive too deep into the plot. Basically, a special forces member navigates the trauma of seeing a child detonate an IED in front of his own eyes. Check out Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade on Peacock, Hoopla or Kanopy right now. For those of you looking for a free option, Jin-Roh is also streaming on Vudu and Tubi without a subscription.
These are just a few of my favorite anime movies and shows. Looking for more? Check out the full hand-curated list of Anime Essentials on Reelgood.