At Two Beard Gaming, we understand that your free time is at a premium, and we’re here to help. No more shall you spend your evenings endlessly browsing Crunchyroll, Funimation, or the many questionably legal streaming sites online trying to sort between the thousands of available titles. To help you maximize the efficiency of your anime watching time, we’ve compiled our top 30 that are absolute must-sees!
The titles that follow are varied in age and genre. Some you will already know, but hopefully a few might surprise you. And the one thing they all have in common? They carry the TBG seal of quality.
So find a comfy chair and your favourite snack. Here are the 30 Anime You Absolutely Must Watch Before You Die, the Complete List:
30. Ghost Hound (2007)
A lesser-known work by Masamune Shirow (of Ghost in the Shell fame), this one is about three boys who band together to search out the source behind their shared childhood trauma, and in doing so, tap into a mysterious and dangerous spirit world.
29. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
This film (which is based off Hayao Miyazaki’s manga) actually pre-dates Studio Ghibli. In a post-apocalyptic world, a girl must try to make peace between kingdoms to prevent the use of a powerful weapon.
28. Flip Flappers (2016)
Two girls are recruited by a mysterious organisation to travel through alternate dimensions collecting magical fragments. This is a fun, colourful romp in which every episode is something different. Sure to put a smile on your face.
27. Wolf’s Rain (2003)
With a soundtrack by the legendary Yoko Kanno and an ending that will rip your heart out, this anime is unforgettable. In a world on the verge of apocalypse, four wolves join together in the search for a promised Paradise.
26. Future Diary (2011)
Twelve people must compete in a battle royale, and the last one left alive will become God. While not a horror anime by any means, this has some genuinely disturbing moments. What would you do with unlimited power?
25. Sweetness & Lightning (2016)
Although it has a simple premise (a widower learns to cook for his young daughter), this anime is so cute and so touching. At its core, it’s about lonely people who come together to make their own family.
24. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
One of the most well-known of Miyazaki’s works, this film tells the story of two sisters who move to the country to be near their ill mother and discover a world of friendly spirits.
23. Attack on Titan (2013)
In a post-apocalyptic world, the last of humanity fights for survival against giant man-eating titans. There’s a ton of death, so this one can be hard to view, but you’ll love the characters so much that you’ll have to keep watching.
22. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Forget the live-action movie with ScarJo. Based on Masamune Shirow’s manga, this is about the elite operatives of Section 9 as they hunt down the terrorist the Laughing Man. Soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is to die for.
21. Haikyu!! (2014)
Karasuno High used to be a power school in boys’ volleyball, but has since fallen from grace. Two new first years look to change all that. If you love sports anime, Haikyu!! is one of the best.
20. Perfect Blue (1997)
A psychological masterpiece by the master Satoshi Kon, this disturbing, disorienting film tells the story of a pop idol who quits singing to pursue an acting career and loses her grip on reality when she’s pursued by a mysterious stalker.
19. Barakamon (2014)
After an embarrassing public incident, a disgraced calligrapher is sent from Tokyo to rural Gotō Island to discover his own style of calligraphy. So cute and so, so funny! Naru will steal your heart.
18. Princess Mononoke (1997)
A prince searches for a way to lift a curse and finds himself caught in a battle between humans and spirits over natural resources. A wonderfully grey story without black and white morality.
17. Samurai Champloo (2004)
Director Shinichirō Watanabe’s follow up to Cowboy Bebop, this is a genre-blending, hip hop romp through an alternate Edo-era Japan. The story follows a waitress who recruits two swordsmen to help her find a samurai who smells of sunflowers.
16. Death Note (2006)
Don’t understand the backlash against Netflix’s live-action adaptation? Check out the original anime about a student who is given a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written inside. This story is a cat ‘n mouse game between two brilliant minds.
15. Darker Than Black (2007)
Individuals called contractors gain super abilities but must pay a price each time they use them. The show follows one contractor as he searches for his missing sister. Yet another killer soundtrack by Yoko Kanno.
14. Kino’s Journey – The Beautiful World (2017)
This show is based on the light novel series by Keiichi Sigsawa. In each episode, Kino travels to a different country, and the experiences are sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrifying.
13. The Promised Neverland (2019)
Grace Field House is an idyllic, loving home for orphans up to age twelve. Everything changes when the kids learn the truth. This show is a master of the cliffhanger. An engaging, emotional battle of wits.
12. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)
If you think this is typical cutesy, fluffy magi-girl anime, think again. Middle school girls must decide whether to have a wish granted and gain magical powers (along with all the consequences). This is deep, dark anime at its best.
11. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2007)
This anime adapts the first book in Nahoko Uehashi’s fantasy series. Wandering warrior Balsa is tasked with protecting a prince who hides a mysterious secret. No crazy superpowers here, just excellent storytelling.
10. Another (2012)
Based on the novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, the story follows a cursed middle school class that experiences an annual calamity: people die in gruesome ways until someone can solve the mystery of the curse. This is a fantastic, slow-burn type of horror.
9. Erased (2016)
Satoru Fujinuma possesses the ability to go back in time to change key events. When a serial killer plagues his elementary school, will he be able to save his friends? Tragic and suspenseful. We barely breathed through all twelve episodes of this show.
8. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) & FMA Brotherhood (2009)
Okay, this is a double entry. Sue us. These anime are two different paths of the same story, and while you will often hear Brotherhood touted as the better, both are equally worthwhile. After an attempt to bring their mother back from the dead turns disastrous, two brothers embark on a quest for restoration.
7. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Based on the incredible book by Diana Wynne Jones, this film is everything you love about Studio Ghibli. When Sophie is cursed with old age, she goes on the hunt for a cure and comes face to face with the mysterious Wizard Howl.
6. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
You have to see this stunning film to understand just how influential it’s been in the last 20+ years. It explores themes of identity and reality as Motoko Kusanagi and the Section 9 team hunt down the hacker known as the Puppet Master.
5. Akira (1988)
Set in the dystopian city of Neo-Tokyo, this cult masterpiece (about two best friends caught up in a secret, drug-fueled experiment to create psychic powers) is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And if you get a chance, read the fantastic manga. Seriously, read it.
4. Paprika (2006)
There aren’t many movies that make us laugh out loud for the joy of what we’re watching; this is one. Master filmmaker Satoshi Kon’s final title, this is about therapists who use a dream-sharing device to help their patients… until it falls into the wrong hands.
3. Spirited Away (2001)
The most successful film in Japanese history at the time, and it’s clear why. This story always makes us feel like we’re ten years old again and following alongside Chihiro as she tries to rescue her parents from the spirit world. Miyazaki’s best.
2. Gintama (2006)
Thirteen years running, and we just can’t quit you, Gintama. The story follows Gintoki and company through many a crazy shenanigan, but don’t let the comedy fool you. This is a smart, sometimes even heartbreaking, show wrapped up in clever parody.
1. Cowboy Bebop (1998)
We were always destined to end up here. What more can be said about Shinichirō Watanabe’s legendary multi-genre anime about a crew of bounty hunters? Existential themes, film noir storytelling, and unforgettable music. See you, Space Cowboy.
Thank you so much for following along on our epic anime journey, and we hope you found a few new favourites along the way! Stay tuned to Two Beard Gaming for more awesome anime content, and don’t forget to let us know: What anime would you put on your bucket list?