I’ve always had a guilty pleasure for anime. Growing up with Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop and Ronin Warriors I developed an affinity for it, but anime is still in many ways considered to be the elephant graveyard of nerdom. Once you go there – once you dive completely into the deep end – there is no coming back.
Regardless whether you have completely submerged yourself into the world of anime or not there are a ton of good series currently out there, especially on Crunchyroll. No disrespect to Netflix’s selection which bodes some gems (I’m looking at you Knights of Sedonia) Crunchyroll is prime real estate for your anime fix.
Now keep in mind (if my initial anime listings haven’t given it away) I’m partial to action-adventure series, so this list is going to reflect that. I am also excluding any anime that is available on both Netflix and Crunchyroll (i.e. Attack on Titan and Hunter x Hunter) along with highly popular shows like Bleach and Naruto Shippuden. I’m making a list of my ten Crunchyroll recommendations currently streaming or have recently finished their seasons within the year.
**Note the first five are currently airing mid-season the rest have recently finished their first seasons within the last year**
Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World
Won’t lie this one is a bit trippy at first. The main character Subaru Natsuki is mysteriously transported to a Feudal Aged world filled with magic, cults, royal knights and of course demonic creatures. The twist comes in when Subaru realizes every time he dies he’s brought back to life and forced to make amends for his disastrous decision making which has more than just a few ripple effects on the story. The barbaric death scenes will likely make you cringe as you try to figure out what exactly is the end game to Subaru’s torturous butterfly effect?
Biggest Flaw – Subaru – The main character is the show’s weak link. His selfish decision making and lack of strength can sometimes be agonizing to watch.
Biggest Draw – Suspense – Despite the protagonist’s shortcomings the show will keep you on edge largely because each episode is completely different. Despite reoccurring themes and obstacles each episode introduces a brand new twist that keeps you hooked.
Twin Star Exorcists
This one took a little warming up too. The story focuses on two 14-year-old exorcists (Rokuro and Benio) who are chosen to become the fabled ‘Twin Stars,’ a couple whose child will bring about the end of a century old battle against ‘Kegare’ (demons/incubi). While the arranged marriage between the two is odd considering their age the show still has a good rhythm to it between action, comedy and of a slow-building plot. I don’t consider Twin Star’s to be a knockout by any means, but it is surprisingly entertaining. It does a great job creating suspense and in many ways is an intriguing take on a romantic coming-of-age tale.
Biggest Flaw – Initial episode structure – The first half dozen episodes or so are entertaining but until they start introducing the larger portion of the plot each episode is essentially the same: Opening scene, introduction of new character/obstacle and ends with a battle against a Kegare.
Biggest Draw – The antagonist – I’ve always believed the villain makes the hero. Without a great villain the hero/story isn’t as strong. Once the show finally revels who the real threat is in the series and why there is so much Kegare corruption you’ll want to stick around to find out how it ends.
The show’s gorey no-holds bar approach is just what you’d want from a show about demons, warlords and a corrupt militant authority hiding behind a delusional sense of divine right. The animation may turn a few fans off, but if you need a little excessive violence in your life than Berserk is just what the doctor ordered.
Biggest Flaw – It might be the animation for some, but for me it is the lack of backstory. I enjoy the action and the fact they throw the audience right into the thick of things, but to really enjoy this anime you’ll need to read some of the magna or at least watch the movie prequels (available on Netflix/YouTube).
Biggest Draw – Unsolicited action and violence.
I’ll keep this short and sweet, 91 Days is essentially Coppola’s The Godfather as an anime. If you love old-school mobster movies you’ll love 91 days. The animation, the story’s pacing and the music manifest into one of the best anime I’ve watched this year. By far and away my favorite anime on Crunchyroll right now.
Biggest Flaw – Predictability – There are quite a few twists and turns, but if you are a mobster movie aficionado you might see a few coming.
Biggest Draw – Story structure – This anime is a perfectly done vendetta story, which plays to its mafia-centered theme strengths.
Like Berserk this is another ruthlessly violent anime, but one that reminds me a bit of Darker Than Black. Characters in the show yield tattoos that give them unique powers rather similar to DTB’s ‘contractors.’ The main character Seigi is forced into a battle between the ‘Kingdom’ and America over control of these tattoos and the four sources that they’ve been derived from. Taboo’s greatest asset isn’t so much the insanity of some of its action sequences but its lack of fear towards killing off characters. It combines the best qualities of two of my favorite animes – DTB and Akame Ga Kill – it’s a fantastic recipe for success.
Biggest Flaw – Lack of continuity – The most recent episode withstanding (episode 8: Creator) the show doesn’t fully explain each characters powers’ origin nor does it explain why they have that particular ability. It can be a big frustrating especially when it comes to understanding the entirety of the show’s story arch.
Biggest Draw – Action – Not just action but this show’s ability to create first-class action sequences in each of its episodes. It is a high octane anime that will keep you interested despite a few (current) plot holes.
Ushio & Tora
Ushio & Tora is a hell of a roller coaster ride. It will have you laughing on minute then tearing up the next. The story centers on Ushio Aotsuki who stumbles upon a tiger-like demon named Tora, who just happens to be pinned against the wall Ushio’s cellar courtesy of this mystical ‘Beast Spear.’ After Ushio removes the spear and frees Tora the two realize that fate has pulled them together. The two form an unlikely partnership to fight against the most ferocious demon Japan has ever seen – Hakumen no Mono. The show does a phenomenal job building up the suspense throughout the show about Hakukmen’s sinister power; constantly reminding the audience how powerful Hakumen is and the fact the end of the world is unavoidable if the demonic monster isn’t stopped.
Biggest Flaw – Filler episodes – The show is fantastic, but sometimes the show can drag with a slight abundance of ‘filler’ episodes en route to the anime’s grand finale (aka the final battle against Hakumen no Mono).
Biggest Draw – Ushio & Tora – This show will pull at your heart strings. It blends action, comedy, and character development beautifully with the two protagonists at its center. Watching the relationship between human (Ushio) and demon (Tora) unfold and mature is easily the best part of this show.
**Note fan-made trailer**
The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water
This show reminded me a lot of Sword Art Online with its animation and its main character being a bit OP out of the gates. However, unlike SAO (which despite the haters I absolutely love) the show does introduce a limiter on its main character, Ayato Amagiri’s powers. The show focuses on the ‘Phoenix Festa’ battle which pits rival academies against each other in a battle royale where the winner is essentially granted any wish they want. The show does a fine job avoiding the redundant ‘school versus school’ theme trap we’ve seen in many amine. Instead, it uses the ‘Festa’ battles to introduce new characters and uncover a much larger plot towards the end of the season.
Biggest Flaw – OP characters –Ayato is not the only character who suffers from a mild case of excessive power. There are a few characters that are introduced who seem completely unstoppable. This can be slightly annoying and lead to less than stellar battle sequences.
Biggest Draw – The intricate storyline – At face value this is a run-of-the-mill battle royale anime. However, as the anime progresses the audience learns each character has their own agenda. The nature of character powers’ are introduced and it breaks away from the mundane academy differences and migrates itself into a larger global plot giving importance to large and small characters alike.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Enjoy a good thriller? Rokka’s got you covered. Six ‘Braves’ are chosen by the Goddess of Fate to defeat the Demon God who was banished centuries ago. Seems simple enough, but as the story unfolds you realize that seven heroes/heroines appear meaning one of the six chosen warriors is a fraud. The show initially focuses on vigilante Adlet Mayer but it is tough to call him the sole protagonist. Rokka is wonderfully animated and its plot is fantastically designed. The show constantly keeps you guessing on who’s the real threat in the show.
Biggest Flaw – The characters never actually fight the Demon God. Instead, the show is focused on discovering who the ‘fake’ amidst the group is. Albeit it works it can be a bit off-putting in the grand scheme of things (especially since the second season isn’t confirmed yet).
Biggest Draw – Plot twists – Unlike many of the animes I have on this list Rokka doesn’t have all that much action. Instead it constantly flips the script with subtle uses of dialogue, facial expressions and the occasional chase scene. It is a show that keeps you on your toes and most of all it keeps you enthralled.
The show’s CGI animation might turn a few fans off, but this is a show that was created based on a video game after all. And make no mistake God Eater is superbly entertaining. The show’s comprised of great action, a noble hero and an impressive supporting cast of characters who are all fighting for the survival of humanity before all humans are eradicated by monsters known as ‘Aragami.’ Only soldiers who wield weapons known as ‘God Eaters’ can stop the Aragami epidemic. However, the curious case of these Aragami’s evolution is the true heart of the show.
Biggest Flaw – Short season – The first season is only thirteen episodes and left the audience with a major cliffhanger. If the second season does arrive be forewarned new episodes can take up to 10-12 days before their release. The lack of weekly content is arguably the show’s biggest drawback.
Biggest Draw – Aragami origin – You might get invested with some of the cast considering each one has an intriguing backstory, but once the show reveals the entire backstory of the anime’s main antagonist you’ll be completely invested.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
If the show’s name wasn’t enough of an attention-grabber then the actual anime most certainly is. In a world inhabited by Gods and Goddess people can pledge allegiances to a particular deity then enter the town’s Labyrinth where they battle orcs, minotaurs and numerous other creatures. The interesting part is warriors who enter the dungeon’s Labyrinth level up and gain new powers the farther they advance. The show combines Greek mythology with the premise of a RPG/action-adventure game in the most entertaining way possible.
Bigget Flaw – Cast size – Even though Bell and his Goddess Hestia are the two main characters the show has a pretty large cast of characters which can make certain elements of the show mildly confusing.
Biggest Draw – Production – The show blends comedy, action and the idea of being a ‘gamer’ (in a non-gaming world) seamlessly. It has just the right amount of each turning the show into a must-watch rather than just an anime for niche tastes.