Best Shows To Get You Into Animation!

Are you trying to get into animated shows but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone! Here’s a list of animated shows of various genres that can act as a gateway to your journey into animation.

Animation can be intimidating for the uninitiated, whether you’re an adult who didn’t watch a lot of cartoons growing up, or if you’re a kid who doesn’t know if they’ll connect with a show with no “real people” in it. I, the writer of this article, can relate as I too didn’t get into animation until I was an adult. Live-action shows can be more familiar, but animated shows can widen the realm of storytelling possibility and artistic ability. So for people who may not know where to start with their animation journey, here’s a short list of shows that I think will act as good gateways into different genres of animation. This isn’t all-encompassing, but it’s a start!

BoJack Horseman

If you enjoy a satirical dark comedy with more adult themes, BoJack Horseman is for you. Deeply hilarious and emotional, BoJack Horseman follows a washed-up former sitcom star as he tries to get back to his former glory. The show features some serious themes about morality and mental health through both humans and anthropomorphic animal characters. That may seem intimidating to people who are not used to that sort of thing, but the fact that they’re animals honestly helps when dealing with the dark themes the show explores, helping take the edge off a little bit and allowing the topics to be silly at times. This show also features some notable live-action stars whose voices you may recognize, such as Will Arnett in the titular role, Aaron Paul, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, and Lisa Kudrow. Overall, this show is excellent, and you’ll be invested before you know it. You can watch BoJack Horseman exclusively on Netflix.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Possibly one of the best animated shows of our time, Avatar: The Last Airbender is a must watch for anyone venturing into animation. A family-friendly option, Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world divided into four nations named after each of the four elements. People can control these elements, they’re called benders, but only one can harness them all: the Avatar… but he’s nowhere to be found. After the Fire Nation attacked and conquered the world, the Avatar is discovered to be the long-lost Aang who must now liberate the world from the clutches of the Firelord Ozai. Avatar is a legendary show with amazing themes about responsibility, redemption, imperialism, and female empowerment. For a show made for all ages, including kids, it handles these themes with grace, humor, and weight when appropriate. The world feels full and compelling with characters that feel real and is animated in a style reminiscent of Japanese animation, so if you’re not used to anime either this could be a good stepping stone into that genre as well. Avatar is the perfect example of how animation can elevate storytelling and is available on Netflix and Paramount+ to watch today.

The Legend of Vox Machina

If you love Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy, and raunchy humor, The Legend of Vox Machina is a perfect watch. Adapted from the first campaign of Critical Role, a popular D&D vodcast and podcast, TLOVM follows a rag-tag mercenary group, Vox Machina, as they find themselves having to save the realm of Exandria from sinister, dark forces of evil. With a prolific cast of voice actors, including Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Matthew Mercer, David Tennant, Grey DeLisle, and Dominic Monaghan, the performances are off-the-charts amazing. For any fan of Critical Role who may not be as into animation as they’d like, this is the perfect place to start; and for any person who may want to get into Critical Role but is intimidated by their lengthy backlog of episodes, TLOVM is a great way to get up to speed. Exploring themes of friendship, found family, heroism, the ethics of vengeance, and faith, this series has a lot to show for it, and since it was confirmed for another two seasons, this is a show you can get into for the long haul. You can watch it now on Amazon Prime Video.

Death Note

Anime is a hard genre to break into for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be! Death Note is the perfect show to get started with, whether you want to watch it with subtitles or dubbed English voice-over. Death Note is a mystery thriller with fantastical elements that follows the story of a teenager discovering a magical notebook, the Death Note, that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written inside. The show features an incredible cat-and-mouse game, not so dissimilar from Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, between mysterious detective, L, and the owner of the Death Note and wannabe God, Light. This is quite possibly one of the most interesting elements of the show, and one that viewers will get so sucked into they’ll forget it’s all animated. The moral and ethical questions brought up in the show are as interesting as they are relevant, using both supernatural and psychological elements to tell a compelling story about who should and shouldn’t decide who lives or dies. Death Note is the perfect gateway to anime, as it is one of the most famous, well-beloved, and well-written. With only 37 episodes about 22 minutes each, you can fly through this series on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Funimation, and/or Crunchyroll. 

Bob’s Burgers

If you want something more light-hearted and slice-of-life, Bob’s Burgers is a wonderful option. This animated sitcom follows Bob Belcher, owner of Bob’s Burgers restaurant, and the Belcher family as they try to run this restaurant, compete with the pasta joint across the street, evade harassing health inspectors, and experiment with different kooky creations. Funny and unintimidating, Bob’s Burgers is a great show for comfort viewing. Its “go with the flow” attitude can be therapeutic for many, and helps affirm to many people that no matter what life throws at you, you can keep on going. With characters easy to latch onto and a plot that’s not hard to follow, Bob’s Burgers is a great show to sit back, relax, and enjoy some extremely funny writing and fun animation. You can stream Bob’s Burgers on Hulu and Fox.

Rick and Morty

With interdimensional travel, sci-fi silliness, and existentialist adult humor, Rick and Morty is one of the most acclaimed and famous animated sitcoms of today. The show follows an alcoholic mad scientist, Rick Sanchez, as he drags his teenage grandson, Morty, on several crazy adventures through space and different realities. Inspired by live-action properties like Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this is the perfect watch for fans of those shows who want to be in stitches laughing. As much as it is a wacky sci-fi adventure, it’s in equal parts a family drama that explores the dynamics of Rick and Morty’s family and how their exploits may affect them–especially Rick’s pessimism and sociopathic behavior. Rick and Morty is perfect for people just starting in animation as it gives the viewer a true picture of how animation can blend with different genres, like sci-fi and comedy, and lift them up to greater heights. You can watch Rick and Morty on Hulu and HBO Max.

Fruits Basket

The second anime show on this list, Fruits Basket (the 2019 reboot, not the original, however, the original is also good) is a slice-of-life romantic comedy that has much more emotional depth than at first glance. It follows an orphaned teenager, Tohru Honda, as she’s taken in by a few members of the Soma family, a large, reclusive, and well-off local family that can all turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac when hugged by the opposite sex. It sounds out there, but this element is meant to highlight one of the major themes of familial abuse and trauma the Somas suffer, isolating them from the outside world. Tohru means to lift the curse and help bring the Soma’s peace, and in doing so helps the Soma family heal, and they do the same for her. Exploring themes of vulnerability, mental health, and trauma, this show is delightfully funny as much as it is emotionally compelling with characters that you can’t help but adore. It’s a perfect gateway into another side of anime that’s much less gritty and more about life and relationships. Optimistic, but not overly saccharine, Fruits Basket is the perfect viewing experience for those wishing to step into anime for the first time. You can watch it on Hulu and Funimation.


Based on the League of Legends video game, Arcane is an action-adventure drama that follows two sisters on opposite sides of a growing conflict between the utopian city of Piltover and its impoverished, oppressed undercity, Zaun. With an incredibly unique animation style and star-studded voice cast of Hailee Steinfeld, Ella Purnell, Katie Leung, Kevin Alejandro, and more, this series has taken the world by storm. Plus, with voices you’ll recognize, positive LGBTQ+ representation, and characters you can root for no matter what side they’re on, Arcane is accessible to both fans of the video game and strangers to it, as well as fans of and strangers to animation. You don’t need any prior knowledge of the game going into the show, as it’s meant to stand on its own. Arcane is a story about the duality of life, exploring class division, what is good and what is bad, and the conflict between sticking to tradition and starting something new. It’s a fantastic and well-made show that will have you glued to the screen. You can watch it now exclusively on Netflix.

Harley Quinn

If you loved The Suicide Squad or Birds of Prey, or if you really love DC movies and comics, this show is for you. Harley Quinn is an adult dark comedy that follows, well, Harley Quinn after her breakup with the Joker as she tries to establish herself as a villain and criminal queenpin in her own right. Another show with fantastic LGBTQ+ representation and a voice cast to die for, including Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, and Ron Funches, this show is perfect for superhero fans that just want some more villainesses in their lives. Not only is it perfect as a gateway into animation, but it is also a gateway into the other DC animated shows as well, such as Batman: The Animated Series, Young Justice, Teen Titans, and more! It’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s empowering, and you can watch it on HBO Max.

Over The Garden Wall

The only miniseries on this list, Over The Garden Wall, is a bite-sized dark fantasy adventure series that is perfect for a Halloween viewing. Praised by audiences and critics alike, Over The Garden Wall follows two brothers, Wirt and Greg, as they get lost in the Unknown, a timeless forest filled with fantastical mystery. Another show with a voice cast like no other, including Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, Fred Stoller, and Melanie Lynskey, Over The Garden Wall is eerie and poignant. The show covers a multitude of heavy themes such as prejudice, death, self-acceptance, and determination, and it handles them with a poise that is almost rare. It’s good for beginners because it’s not long, but it is artistic and meaningful, and any hesitancy about animation as a genre will simply disappear as the medium allows the show to be both weird and beautiful. It’s one of those shows that reaches perfection effortlessly, and you’re not going to want to miss it. You can watch the series now on HBO Max.

About the Author

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Daryn Snijdewind

Daryn Snijdewind is a media arts production major at Emerson College and an intern at AfterBuzz TV and Better Together with Maria Menounos. She loves movies and TV, and hopes to have a career in the entertainment industry one day.