Sword Art Online (2012) –Imagine logging in a virtual reality massive multiplayer online role-playing game, only to be unable to log out. In the year 2020, virtual reality has advanced far past the imagination. Akihiko Kayaba, the genius creator of SAO, and the virtual reality immersion system suddenly appears. He tells the 10,000 logged in players that they must conquer 100 floors of Aincrad, the setting of SAO. They must conquer these floors in order to be free. Oh, and there is a catch, if you reach a game over you die in real life.
Overview: SAO has gotten a lot of criticism for its pacing, simplicity and clichéd white knight narrative. The writing staff all but flawlessly juggles several genres at once while keeping the overall tone entertaining. You get fun action sequences, a love story, and explorative themes of virtual realities, and psychological effect on the mind all in one episode. All in all, SAO is an entertaining anime to start off with.
Death Note (2006)- Shinigami, a Japanese God of Death, and grim reaper of sorts, can take the life of anyone--granted they see their victim's face and write their victim's name in a notebook called the Death Note. Now what ensues when Ryuk, a Shinigami, proclaims his lifestyle is too monotonous and decides to release the Death Note into the human world to shake things up a bit. Light Yagami, a high school genius, stumbles upon this notebook, and with the state of the world being “rotten” he decides to purge the Earth of criminals. But soon after the authorities quickly discover that a serial killer is targeting criminals and consequently try to apprehend the culprit. To do this the police enlist the help of the world's greatest detective, L. What ensues is a psychological game of cat and mouse.
Overview: Death Note has a unique story with an uncanny ability to bring suspense and make the viewer question their own morality. The unprecedented psychological battle between the two main characters was a breath of fresh air, especially back in a time when over the top action was the forefront of anime. With themes of justice and morality, the show makes the viewer choose sides and decide between what is just or unjust. The show's amazing character development, lets the viewer witness Light transitioning from a calm and collected personality to slowly unraveling into madness and carelessness. The scenes in this anime do a great job of overlaying the suspense, and there’s always a sense of how the main characters are always one or two steps away from discovering the truth about the other. You will not be disappointed, and I'll go as far as to say you'll binge through the first 10 episodes.
Cowboy Bebop- Set in the year 2071, where the Earth is now an uninhabitable rock, much of the human race has colonized planets and outer lying moons. During this time, crime is at an all-time high, so the ISSP (Inter Solar System Police) have implemented a registered contract system where bounty hunters (cowboys) can apprehend criminals for reward. The series follows the crew along the spaceship bebop, who along the way hunt rewards, all the while coming to terms with their pasts.
Overview: Comical dialogue, a detective caper, action sci-fi-thriller, western themes, all wrapped together in a film noir. Arguably the greatest anime of all time, Cowboy Bebop flawlessly straddles a number of genres to the point of having its own. It explores numerous existential themes, and asks how the past effects the present. But the most notable attribute of the show is its score. The show composer Yoko Kanno specifically formed the band Seatbelts to perform the music for the series. In a 2005 panel she reveals the music was one of the first aspects of the series to begin production, before most of the characters, story or animation had been finalized. The genres she used for its composition were western, opera and jazz which reflect well with the shows versatility.