Starting Nine is the method a lineup nerd uses to rank his personal favorites. These are not necessarily the nine all-time best entries of the subject being covered. It’s an exercise in finding the entries that best fit the profile for each spot in the batting order.
I’m a lineup traditionalist: I like dependable table-setters in the 1 and 2 spots, world-beating franchise powerhouses 3rd and 4th, potent sluggers 5th and 6th, hard-nosed role players 7th and 8th, and an underrated, dirt-dog workhorse in the 9-hole.
I know what you’re thinking, WHAT A NERD! Yes, yes I am. I have loved anime since I set my eyes on Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon in the mid 90s when I was a kid. It consumed me. I craved more and more of it, but I had to hide it so I could still be “cool” at school. Being an athlete and the class comedian, my cred around the halls would have plummeted if they had found out I went home after practice to fire up some anime that I found on the interne or stay up late at night to watch the gems on Adult Swim.
As I got older, I found that more people outside of my small circle of friends really enjoyed it as well. We always talk about which ones we like, which ones we dislike, which ones are great and which ones are just good. So for today, I’m taking over Luke’s Starting Nine to give the starting nine for my favorite anime to recommend to someone who has never really seen anime before!
1 – Death Note
Talk about table-setting, this is my go-to anime when someone says “I want to get into anime, but I don’t want something completely ridiculous.” Death Note is a 37-episode series that has an element of the supernatural, but at its core is a psychological thriller. If you enjoy a cat-and-mouse game between two sides, both sides constantly trying to outsmart and eventually catch each other in a trap, this is the show for you. It’s the story of a boy that obtains a magical notebook that can kill anyone if you write their name down. While numerous people are dying, a task force is created to find the killer, and this is where the chase begins. Who will win, the killer? Or the detectives trying to catch him?
2 – Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop might be the most solid anime I’ve ever seen. It’s one I recommend quite often, as it’s an extremely easy watch. It’s combination of sci-fi, western, and noir films all mashed together with a jazz soundtrack; such a wild combination that it shouldn’t go together, yet creates a masterpiece. Its 26 episodes are shot in an episodic nature, so there is an underlying core storyline for the main character, Spike. However, each episode is still it’s own, so there is no need to completely invest in the overall story arc. I frequently find myself watching this anime over and over again, almost annually. It’s also probably the “coolest” anime without being extremely nerdy, so maybe start here.
3 – FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
This may be the greatest story I’ve ever been able to experience. FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is such a powerhouse that is highly regarded by anime fans. It has a strong cast of characters, an extremely strong plot, and just the right amount of the supernatural so it’s not completely overwhelming. I think what I like most about it is that every character is well thought out and serves a purpose to the plot. FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood also deals with a lot of adult themes and philosophy in a very digestible manner. Enjoy this epic adventure of two brothers as they face lessons in loss and sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption, and facism and oppression.
4 – Attack on Titan
Holy f***ing $h**. This show hits hard. This hits home runs for me. From the animation, to the overall premise of the show, to the suspense and thrill I get from this anime, it’s just a beast of a show. I remember watching this week-to-week as new episodes were coming out. Each episode would end on such a cliffhanger leaving you wanting more and more, but you had to wait a week or months … or yes, even years before seeing the next episode. If you’re looking for something with amazing action sequences paired with some great suspense that will leave you guessing what will happen next, Attack on Titan is for you.
5 – My Hero Academia
Let me start by saying that this show has climbed the charts on my personal favorites list so fast that I probably have some bias for this anime, but I really do think there is a lot to it. My Hero Academia is an anime based on super heroes fighting super villains, no surprise here. I find most, if not close to all of the characters really interesting and likable. I think that My Hero Academia is a great intro to some of the heavy hitters like One Piece, Dragon Ball, Naruto and Bleach. It’s got a very simple plot, but the show is based around character development and some pretty awesome fight scenes. If you want to watch something with awesome action, some cool superpowers, and characters that want to become heroes, this is the show for you.
6 – Haikyuu!!
Volleyball. I know what you’re thinking. “Why is Barnes recommending a volleyball anime?” Well, it’s probably the best sports anime I’ve ever seen. Here at Bleacher Brawls, we are the home of the greatest rivalry in sports, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Now there is no real rivalry in this show, as it covers a team and how they progress through their school tournaments and their ambition to get to nationals. However, this anime has everything you want in a sports-themed type of media. You’ve got great plays, characters that are putting everything on the line, and yes, it’s all volleyball. Going into this anime, I found myself saying, “I like playing volleyball with my friends, but how the hell are they going to make a volleyball anime that will hold my attention?” Well, this is the only anime that I have seen make my good friend Jodi go from laying down to standing up in an instant yelling, “Yosha!” Which is similar to being pumped up and yelling “Alright!” You might find yourself joining a rec volleyball league near you soon after watching this.
7 – Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
All credit to me seeing this anime goes to my friend Mike, who fanboys over it hard and understandably so. He got me to watch it and boy oh boy, did I love it. I’m a huge fan of the art style and the music. At first glance, it’s about people piloting giant robots and fighting other giant robots, but it is actually about a boy’s journey to manhood and standing up for what he believes in. I know what you’re thinking: “It’s number seven in the starting nine.” Look, I recommend this show frequently. It’s just not as heavy a hitter as the others. But it always comes through when you don’t expect it, and when you find someone else who is a fan of the show, you often just feel like brothers right away. Also, this is the only anime I’ve seen that had a point of complete and utter awesomeness, did the subtitles move on the screen.
8 – Steins:Gate
Steins:Gate is an anime about time travel…Did I not get your attention there? The time machine was created accidentally from a combination of a microwave and a cell phone. Did I still not get your attention? Tough crowd. I suppose that’s why I have it listed in the eight spot. Anyway, I really do love this anime. Its main character, Rintarou Okabe, is a self proclaimed “mad scientist,” but I think of him as the Gilligan of mad scientists. There are plenty of twists and turns in Steins:Gate, and if you enjoy some “what the hell just happened???” moments, this is for you. Have an open mind as they handle the topic of time travel, as all logic in anime, and even in real life, aren’t fully fleshed out. But Steins:Gate is quite enjoyable, and maybe you’ll find yourself rethinking mushy bananas and what they actually are!
9 – Baccano!
First things first: open up youtube and watch the opening. If you don’t get a sense of excitement from it, you must really enjoy watching paint dry. Baccano! Is a short anime, and it almost feels like a Tarantino movie. The plot is, well, not so simple. At times it’s hard to keep track of the story due to the fact that it covers three different time periods in a nonlinear fashion, which I personally really enjoyed! Some people may get caught off guard and need to watch it a second time to help keep track of certain characters and events, and understandably so. It takes place in a 1920s or 1930s America as you’ll kind of see, which I find sometimes helps people that are new to anime get adjusted to a setting they can somewhat relate to a bit better. Baccano! also features one of my favorite characters, Ladd Russo, who I would say is “an enthusiastic murderer.” He’s just a bundle of fun, and I found myself laughing out loud whenever he came on screen. Enjoy this at times sporadic, but very comical and fun watch.
So there it is, my starting nine for anime I would recommend to people who are new to the genre and don’t really know where to start. If you like anime, or wind up trying some of these because you’re new, let me know on twitter (@barnesbbs) and we can talk about it. If you’re looking for new suggestions, I am always available to point you in the right direction.