This entries are more fit for people who have seen a bit of anime and want to dive deeper into the medium.
The mecha (giant robot) genre is one virtually synonymous with anime, and few mecha franchises are better known than Gundam. Unfortunately, a lot of Gundam is buried under decades of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, making it hard to find a good entry point beyond the horribly dated-looking original. This is where Iron Blooded Orphans comes in. Unlike many of its fellows, IBO is set in a completely different universe from any other Gundam, making it one of the most accessible entries in the franchise. The concept of “people piloting giant robots in space” might take a bit of getting used to for people unfamiliar with mecha, but the story itself is pretty accessible. It provides a good mix of political drama and giant robot fights, making it a good gateway for fans of that particular brand of sci-fi, or for anyone curious about the mecha genre.
Fullmetal Alchemist and its remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, have served as gateway shows to countless fans over the years. Their initial premise of two brothers working to undo a terrible mistake and fix their bodies is an incredibly strong hook, and both versions make good use of it. The reason I’m including both is because both versions are excellent shows (although I recommend starting with the original and then watching Brotherhood afterwards) that tell radically different stories after they diverge early on. Fullmetal Alchemist is more of a fantasy drama with a tight focus on exploring human nature through its main characters’ journey, while Brotherhood explores similar themes through its fast-paced action oriented plot and massive scope. Best of all, both versions are accessible thanks to their strong hooks and compelling casts, held back only by some more anime-styled humor. Fullmetal Alchemist has so much going for it that it’s almost guaranteed to have something for everybody, making it another perfect gateway anime.
While its initial premise may seem off-putting, don’t be fooled; The Ancient Magus’ Bride is actually a heartfelt story about two broken people finding comfort in each other, surrounded by a world of magic reminiscent of Harry Potter. In spite of the rather unusual start, Chise and Elias’ relationship becomes one of the best parts of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. One of the anime’s biggest draws is watching both of them grow thanks to their relationship, Chise learning to find value in herself and Elias learning how to be human. Supplementing all of that is a general sense of wonder as Chise learns more about magic and the various creatures that inhabit the world of magic. Most of the show’s fantasy world takes influence from European stories, particularly fairy tales and Celtic mythology, making it feel more familiar to a western audience compared to most fantasy anime. If Celtic-themed fantasy and fairy tales are your cup of tea, you won’t go wrong with The Ancient Magus’ Bride.
Monster is the sort of story that could be told in any medium, not just anime/manga. It’s a dark drama that delves into Cold War conspiracies, murder mysteries, and ruminations on human nature. It’s a story that would be just as at home as a live action drama on HBO as it would be as an anime. The early murder mysteries serve as a strong hook to get you invested in the story as it gradually pulls you deeper and deeper into conspiracies and questions about who Johan Liebert really is. The main thing keeping it from being in the beginner tier is its length; Monster clocks in at 74 episodes, quite time commitment for most people. Still, if you’re willing to commit to a longer series, Monster won’t disappoint.
Steins;Gate’s exposition heavy and methodically paced first half gives it a bit more of a barrier to entry than some other shows on this list, but its still an excellent gateway for fans of sci-fi thrillers. It alternates between humor, time travel theory, character drama, and intense twists, allowing it to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. As long as you don’t mind its gradual pace early on, Steins;Gate is virtually guaranteed to satisfy anyone who likes their sci-fi with a brain and a heart behind the cool gadgets.
If Black Lagoon is the anime equivalent of an 80s action movie, then Baccano is the anime equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s a 1930s gangster movie featuring an ensemble of crazy rogues, heavy violence, and an out of order timeline to top things off. Baccano has such a large and diverse cast that you’re all but guaranteed to have a favorite character among them, and it maintains such a brisk pace that you’ll never be bored watching it. It’s the sort of show that has one goal: to entertain. It doesn’t say anything particularly deep, but doesn’t need to since it’s so much fun. The one thing holding it back from being a beginner show is the convoluted timeline, which can be confusing the first time through. If you don’t mind that, though, it’s an excellent starter anime, especially for Tarantino fans.
For anyone who liked Ghost in the Shell and wants something in a similar vein, Psycho-Pass is the perfect show to check out. The dystopic cyberpunk setting is heavily reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner, but still feels like a unique world in its own right. Psycho-Pass’s insightful social commentary will appeal to people looking for more meat to their story, while its sci-fi/police procedural elements and bursts of action keep it from falling into too much philosophizing. Like many other entries on this list, Psycho-Pass is the sort of story that could be done just as easily in live action as in animation, making it one of the more accessible anime out there. It’s not quite beginner material-it can get pretty bloody at times and occasionally overindulges in literary references-but it still works as an excellent gateway for fans of cyberpunk and sci-fi mysteries.