First, what genres are you generally interested in?
Second, one must admire the Japanese for creating the most interesting stories out of even the weirdest and ludicrous premises. "Better than it sounds" is something like an unspoken rule. And yes, I'm looking at you Onani Master Kurosawa
and Bobobobo Bobobo
However, anime is such a broad field that even I who has seen over a hundred series has only scratched the surface.
Animes are for the most part categorized into four vague groups which are named after the main demographies:
Directed at male teenagers.
: Mostly the story of a young teenager who wants to become the greatest $sport player of all time. Expect over-the-top duels, lots of never-give-up speeches and a farewell to physics. Can be dangerous for dinosaurs.:
Prince of Tennis
Hikaru no Go
(Go - it's really better than it sounds)
(top spins - it's really worse than it sounds. Being a complete masochist, I watched all seasons)
Mostly the story of a young teenager who wants to become the greatest $noun of all time. Expect over-the-top duels, lots of never-give-up speeches and a farewell to physics and common sense. However, while there can be supernatural elements in sports anime as well, they are much more prevalent in fighting anime or it even takes place in a fantasy world.
Fist of the North Star
(the primal father and trope maker)
(came after FotNS but was overall more influential and the animation was groundbreaking for its time. However, it's really lengthy with lots of fillers. Still insanely popular)
Yu Yu Hakusho
(often called a Dragonball-ripoff but they actually aired at the same time and personally I think it's the superior anime... better characters, better villains and much cleverer; famous for utilizing the concept of hoe yay to attract more female viewers)
(yuck! And it's still running!)
(like Pokemon but with making sense)
(followed mostly the rules that Dragonball established... WITH SHAMANISM! Fukyo worships it for some reason >.>)
(I love this show simply because it doesn't follow the established rules, a must-see. There are actually two animes, one that is finished and one is currently running but they are both two different continuities. Awesomely enough, they both are great)
Katekyo Hitman Reborn
(like Dragonball... WITH MAFIA!)
(like Dragonball... WITH GRIM REAPERS!)
(like Dragonball... WITH NINJAS! Wait, that's actually a bit unfair. Naruto is except for some flaws (Sasuke....) a really good manga/anime but has quite a bad reputation because of its fans (called 'Narutards'). However, it's clearly influenced by Dragonball and Yu Yu Hakusho but has enough creativity and original ideas. Most popular anime in the USA)
(like Dragonball... WITH PIRATES! No, wait! Again, One Piece is the logical conclusion of Dragonball but makes everything better. To put it simply, I love this show. It's completely insane and full with originality that would be enough for a full dozen of anime. It's the best fighting shounen you can watch. Tv tropes says it's the show with the highest Holy Shit Quotient in existence, I say they are right)
(like Yu Yu Hakusho... WITH... uhm... actually it's just Yu Yu Hakusho with extra. I don't really like it but there are enough people who do)
Hunter X Hunter
(from the same creator who did Yu Yu Hakusho. Most likely the most intelligent shounen fighting anime/mang in existence)
(like Dragonball... WITH MAGIC! Well, this one just began to air in Japan and it seems to become the next big thing)
(set in a historical setting, it differs a lot from traditional shounen. Features the most sympathetic shounen protagonist ever. One of my all-time favourites!
(uhm, heroes from all time gather to fight for the holy grail)
Record of Lodoss War
(another genre classic. This anime is based on an actual Dungeons & Dungeons campaign)
Think of detective novels in the tradition of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie mixed with modern thriller elements for good measure.
(contrary to popular opinion, it's not seinen but shounen. Well, it is certainly one of the best anime of the last years and very popular amongst N-types because of its intelliegnt and complex story. Unfortunately, ending fatigue approaches!)
(long runner, a junior detective finds himself shrunken to the size of a elementary school kid and uncovers all kinds of crimes. I like it.
Kindaichi Case Files
(complex with classic whoddunit and locked room murders. For some reason it's rather obscure)
(features the deeds of a lovable master thief)
There is even an anime with the name Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple
, however I didn't watch it so far but it seems interesting.
The reason why we love anime. Giant robots fight each other while the pilots debate about philosophical questions. Throw physics out of the window!
(what's to say about Gundam? It launched the whole genre and to this point there are so many series, OVAs and movies that it takes weeks just to watch them all. You better check out the wikipedia entry)
Super Dimension Fortress Macross
(almost as influential as Gundam. Also, lots of series and spin-offs!)
(another genre classic)
Neon Genesis Evangelion
(the ultimate deconstruction of the otherwise optimistic and shiny mecha genre. Invented mind rape!
Every character is completely broken and the whole series is extremely depressing. A must see. Famous for its legendary mindscrew ending)
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
(the anti-NGE from the same studio. It's hard to describe it with mere words but 'It's actually more like an experiment to see how awesome an anime can be'. I love it. For great effect, watch this anime directly after NGE, the best therapy one can get)
(the Death Note of the mecha genre. A modern classic)
Girls with guns:
Exactly what it says. If that's not awesome, nothing is. Expect lots of angst.
El Cazador De La Bruja
Phantom of Inferno (all four by Beetrain. They sure have a fetish there)
Directed at female teenagers.
Magical Girl: Girls with superpowers fight evil.
(THE genre classic. It's what Dragonball is for fighting shounen.
Magic Knight Rayearth
(mixes magical girl genre with mecha. Awesome)
Revolutionary Girl Utena
(what NGE is for mecha. Magical girl meets feminism, gnosticism and Jungian psychology. Awesome soundtrack)
Card Captor Sakura
(yet another genre classic by CLAMP)
Futari Wa Pretty Cure
(magical girl meets post-modernism. Lovely)
(magical girl meets even
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
(magical girl series targeted at seinen audience. Hilarity ensues)
Slice of Life
: Life itself is examined. Insanely popular in anime and tons of series are about this genre that is actually not a genre. Often directed at both genders.
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi
(as post-modern as anime can get. Personally, I find it overrated)
("Like Seinfeld on crack" - agreed)
("Like Peanuts on LSD" - agreed)
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
(suicidal depression has never been funnier!)
Directed at male adults
(what Firefly ripped off. Also, Tank!)
(a cute girl takes bloody revenge... or so. Gorn)
(Pulp Fiction meets alchemy in the USA of the 1930's. Gorn)
(Guts seeks for his former friend Griffith to take revenge. The manga is better though. Legendary downer ending. Gorn)
Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni
(slice of life meets murder mystery. Gorn)
Umineko No Naku Koro Ni
(murder mystery meets mindscrew. Gorn)
(Romeo and Juliet... WITH NINJAS! Better than it sounds)
(probably the most mature and complex story to find in anime)
(actually reminds of a more serious Rurouni Kenshin... but as western)
(like Trigun... WITH MECHA!)
(what if Pokemon was about killing people?)
(The Count of Monte Christo... ON LSD!)
(vampire hunting... with lots of gorn)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
(a cyberpunk classic)
(monster hunting with mindscrew and tons of gorn... the second season is a disaster)
(Dr. House as anime but as over-the-top as possible. Epic surgeries ensue)
(impossible to describe... it's everything... and nothing)
Claymore (demon hunting... with lots of gorn)
Serial Experiment Lain
(also cyberpunk with extra deconstruction sauce)
Directed at female adults. Aka the genre you have never heard of
. The problem is that Josei manga get rarely an anime adaption and so I watched only one anime from this genre and that only because my ex-girlfriend liked it.
(at first glance it looks like a typical shoujo wish-fulfillment slice of life but it turns out to be a realistic deconstruction of said genre)
I'm aware that some classifications are debatable but that's not really the point here I think.