Anime can be off putting for many, especially when the unfortunate few stumble a little too early into the weird and perverted usually associated with Japanese animation. But this list will hopefully guide potential viewers into an expansive medium, teeming with great animation, characters, stories, and music.

Miyazaki Films

Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of the animation studio Studio Ghibli, is famous for his movies and his storytelling, so much so that Disney went on to produce all of Hayao Miyzaki’s films. And with Disney backing the movies, that means there’s a large budget, one that allows for big stars like Sir Patrick Stewart, Matt Damon, Jean Simmons, and Gillian Anderson (among a ton of others) to lend their talents to these timeless classics.

Miyazaki immerses the audience in magical worlds, pairing each of them with relatable characters that give each movie a sense of realism that grounds the fantastical creatures and settings into something that’s wholeheartedly satisfying that its no wonder that his movies have received so many accolades over the years.

‘Eden of the East’

This series is a cross between boy-meets-girl and Bourne Identity and is a really good start to anime due of its short season, tame facial expressions, and steady pacing. It’s a great transition into the art form that is noted for its animation and characters.

The series follows the two main character’s 11-day adventure through the 11 episodes of the series, with the addition of two movies afterwards, so this is a great one to try for those with busy schedules.

‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’

This one is for the sci-fi/fantasy fans. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a fantastic series that is based around the medieval science of alchemy, turning it into both the backbone of the world as well as using it as an avenue to present the various mature and philosophical themes of the show. Unfortunately for some, this one is more of a commitment — the series runs for 64 episodes — but it’s well worth the time to delve into a world of great characters and music that fluidly shifts moods and sends the heart on an exhausting, but very fulfilling journey by the end.

‘Steins;Gate’

This one is a time-travel drama that is heartwarming and mysterious, with its slice-of-life happenings settling into the complex plot in such a way that makes the entirety of the series both engaging and endearing. The characters and their relationships could’ve easily been overshadowed by the layered timelines, but their interactions are just as significant as the time-travel, giving this anime great balance.

‘Mushi-Shi’

This is an enticing collection of vignettes that detail the encounters of the mysterious beings known as “mushi” in 19th century Japan. This one is great for watching one episode at a time, especially because its very subdued and meditative, always leaving a satisfying calm in the wake of each arch. Definitely good for introspective or existential moods.

‘Cowboy Bebop’

In fan’s and critic’s top ten, this anime blends different genres into one fluid, funny, and confident series that is still as popular now as it was when it came out in 1998. Think of this as a mix of noir, western, and sci-fi with an accompanying jazz soundtrack, and that may sound like a horrible combination, but the fusion is flawless.

The characters are fun and charming, and, if nothing else, there’s a stellar theme song that is incredibly catchy.

‘Gargantia on the Verduous Planet’

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is very much in the genre of science fiction, and it may be a little on the strange side with squid-like aliens battling humans that are inside big robots, but the incredible world-building in this series allows for those oddities to become so inclusive that the audience doesn’t question them in this colorful what-if scenario about humanity in the way distant future.

‘Samurai Champloo’

This is a strange crossover with Edo Period Japan (1603-1868) and hip-hop, but it somehow totally works. The blending of the two makes for some pretty funny and outrageous scenarios, as well as creating a setting where the dramatic and over-the-top fights almost seem like choreographed dance.

With humor, bloody fights, and a colorful cast that is journeying across Japan to find the samurai that “smells of sunflowers,” this is a quirky keeper for anyone that likes action, comedy, and cool music.

‘Death Note’

This one may be familiar to some if they stepped into Hot Topic while it was airing, but if not, it’s a captivating psychological thriller that explores morality, justice, and the corruption of power. It has clean, detailed animation and a great story that will keep viewers enthralled until the end. Its very binge-worthy; fans of cat-and-mouse stories should definitely check this one out.

Hopefully these options will spawn new interest in a sometimes misunderstood medium. There are plenty of more options to explore, but these should be a good start in the right direction.