These days, there’s more content out there vying for your undivided attention than ever before. It’s overwhelming to think about your backlog of media to get to, and with more and more anime being released each season, it’s never been easier to start an anime and just never finish it. So without further ado, here’s a handy list of the top 50 anime to start and then never finish.
#1 — Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
Now hold on, hold on, don’t grab your pitchforks and torches just yet. This series meant a lot to me growing up, I watched the new episodes on Adult Swim each and every week. But nowadays, there is a closer-to-the-manga adaptation out there with a story that, quite frankly, blows this version out of the water. It still has its merits, but let’s face it: you’re not going to watch the same show twice even if they are pretty different.
#2 — Fire Force
Soul Eater sure was great, wasn’t it? This series is by the same creator and has a very interesting premise: it’s a world full of magic users, but everyone uses different types of fire magic specifically. Never seen that before! But my god, the cringe… so much cringe. Watching a few episodes of this will make you wonder if maybe you’ve just grown out of anime entirely.
#3 — Gundam
“Gundam? Uhhh, which one?” All of them. Just, all of them. I asked a friend once for advice on where to start for Gundam and I had to take notes just to get it all down. When you get home from work and want to chill out and watch something, it can feel a bit alienating and daunting to not be able to just click on episode 1 and begin from there.
#4 — Pokémon
“Dude, it’s actually getting pretty good! Ash won the Pokémon League finally.” Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap.
#5 — Naruto
Here’s two words that will ruin any anime fan’s day: Filler. Arc. And Naruto’s full of em. The constant flashbacks to things that literally just happened are also going to be a bit of a deterrent to get through, so unless you find some online guide to skipping all of the filler, let’s face it, you’re dropping this one hard.
#6 — Clannad
People say this is really good, but like, the art style, and just… maybe this isn’t your kind of thing, okay? That’s fine!
#7 — Slam Dunk
Maybe you’re here because you like sports. You really love basketball, and you catch every game you can. Don’t be fooled, though: Slam Dunk is about as anime as anime gets, just with free throws instead of Kamehamehas. If that’s not your thing, just turn around and walk away right now.
#8 — Highschool of the Dead
All of the fanservice will have you looking over your shoulder hoping that nobody can see you watching this, for fear that you might die of embarrassment. It’s gonna be hard to get through this show if you have to do that the whole time.
#9 — Assassination Classroom
This might be kind of hard to stomach in this day and age given the tone deaf, albeit comedically over-the-top premise. Trying to tell someone you’re watching a show called Assassination Classroom in 2023 is maybe not the best water cooler banter.
#10 — Fruits Basket
Some cultural barriers with things surrounding “cousin romance” and the like may prove to be too great of an issue to continue watching this show if you start it.
#11 — One-Punch Man
Man, they really dropped the ball with that second season. You’ll feel spoiled at first, and then completely starved by the absolute level of “mid”. It’s a real cruel bait-and-switch.
#12 — Haikyu!!
Again, if you come into this as a sports fan first and not an anime fan, you are going to be left extremely disoriented and scared.
#13 — All of the FLCL Spin-Offs
FLCL was an air-tight perfect 6-episode OVA series. It was exactly what it needed to be. Maybe you’ll start up one of the four(!) spin-offs out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia, but you’ll quickly be thinking “why does this exist?” and turn it off. Well hey, at least there’s that Pillows soundtrack.
#14 — My Hero Academia
In a world that’s flooded with superhero media, TV shows, and movies, do you really need it in your anime too?
#15 — Bleach
The same people who dropped the manga because the story got stale are insisting that the new anime is really good, despite following the exact same plot line. If you can make it this far past the numerous filler arcs of the original series, you deserve a medal.
#16 — Detective Conan
It’s really long, and it’s generally pretty episodic. The lack of large sweeping story arcs that tie everything together is going to make this tough to swallow for over 1,000 episodes.
#17 — Gintama
I’m really trying not to make any enemies with this list, I swear. I just find certain series needlessly confusing to get into. I’m sure Gintama is funny, I’m sure it’s subversive just like people say, but if you finish a season and don’t know where to go next, well you’re probably just going to watch something else.
#18 — Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life
Man I was scrolling on Crunchyroll for anime to write about for this list, but what the fuck is this? My guess is that you clicked on this show out of morbid curiosity, but there’s no way in hell you’re getting past the first five minutes.
#19 — Berserk
One of many tragedies where a great manga has received less than stellar anime adaptations. The ’97 series is really “aesthetic” but cuts out a lot of crucial plot elements, the movie trilogy is “pretty good”, and the other series we just don’t talk about. It could not be more confusing or alienating to follow without a friend telling you exactly what order to watch it in, “if you really must watch it.”
#20 — Lupin the 3rd
I want to get into this series. I really do. And hey, if you can help me out let me know in the comments below. But something about the segmented parts that are seemingly only vaguely connected, has always been confusing to me. I loved Castle of Cagliostro, and I loved the handful of episodes I saw growing up on TV. This is the one you want to start, but never quite know how, so you never finish it. Though can you even “finish” watching Lupin?
#21 — Trigun Stampede
The original series holds a special place in your heart, but watching the remake isn’t exactly the same as reliving your youth.
#22 — The Promised Neverland
Similar to what happened with One-Punch Man, The Promised Neverland’s second season was botched in a way that is completely irreparable. The first season will hook you, the second season will slap you in the face and pull your pants down in front of everyone.
#23 — Yu-Gi-Oh!
Maybe you are feeling a little nostalgic for this one and want to come back to see what’s happened over the years. Well, there are numerous sequels and spin-offs that become increasingly more confusing to follow or even pronounce. No thanks.
#24 — Claymore
One of those anime that was really good, but just never got a second season or any kind of conclusion. That’s gonna hurt, and you know it, so you’re probably just not gonna bother even finishing it.
#25 — Dragon Ball Z
Let’s be honest with ourselves: we don’t have the time we did as kids to watch each and every episode of this series that is padded out to high heaven. Thankfully there are a couple of abridged versions out there (not just comedic parody ones) that can help save some time if you really need it, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty old, and times have changed a lot. We’ve been spoiled by too many great seasonal adaptations.