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Anime Shows Every American Fan Grew Up Watching

Anime Shows Every American Fan Grew Up Watching January 8, 2018

anime shows americans love

What cartoons did you watch growing up? Were they primarily homegrown affairs? Or did you get into some anime shows Americans love? Because in our increasingly global world, you may not even realize the Kids' WB or Toonami shows you were into were actually anime classic. And in fact your childhood pop-culture nostalgia likely draws a lot from Japanese pop culture. So here are several anime shows Americans love. See you, Space Cowboy.

Astro Boy

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Retrotvmemories
Set in the future, the year 2000, Astro Boy is an allegorical meditation on grief, life after death, and the atrocities committed to the Japanese during World War II. It’s also wildly stylized, bursting at the seams with imaginatory imagery, and served as many Americans’ introduction to anime.

Speed Racer

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: TheaterByte
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] Like the Mach 5, Speed Racer moves fast! It’s a racing melodrama about our plucky titular hero, his loving family, the mysterious Racer X, and yes, a pet chimpanzee. Hugely influential, it inspired a polarizing Wachowski Siblings adaptation. Sorry for getting the theme song stuck in your head.

Lupin The Third

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Lupin III Wiki - Fandom
Forever immortalized by Lupe Fiasco, Lupin The Third is like if James Bond had a few too many martinis and still tried to stumble his way through missions. It’s snarky and silly, yet still effortlessly cool. If you don’t have the theme song stuck in your head, rectify immediately.

Dragon Ball Z

anime shows americans love
For many, the pinnacle of the American perception of anime, forever embedded into our cultural consciousness like so many senzu beans. If you ever want to hear an impassioned, semi-coherent theory about why Vegeta is a better protagonist than Goku, buy me, like, three hard ciders.

Yu Yu Hakusho

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Wikipedia
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] What if The X-Files were investigated by an actual supernatural entity? Then you might have something like Yu Yu Hakusho, in which recently killed Yusuke Urameshi becomes an “Underworld Detective,” solving spooky, supernatural crimes. You didn’t watch this series unless you watched it “uncut.”

Sailor Moon

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Anime News Network
Another contender for “catchiest anime theme,” Sailor Moon is the story of some badass planetary middle school girls who fight all matter of evil villains while dealing with, you know, being middle school girls. The biggest question: Would you date Tuxedo Mask or kick him to the curb?

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Anime News Network
Kind of like Sailor Moon meets Yu Yu Hakusho, the Tenchi Muyo universe is both light and frothy, yet mysterious and confusing. Come for the fantasy action, stay for the teenage slapstick silliness. Who knew being a space pirate would be so stressful?

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

anime shows americans love
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[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] What if Power Rangers had less “dopey American teens do high school stuff” and more “people piloting robots fighting other people piloting robots”? You’d get Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, a rollicking, action-packed sci-fi series. Although, for real, would you trust a teenage boy with those robots?


anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Twitter
What else is there to say about this cultural phenomenon? I’ll put it this way: Pokemon is the only anime series that made me cry so much I lied to my mom that I was sick to stay home from school (“Bye Bye Butterfree” is the episode, if you want to feel everything).


anime shows americans love
If Pokemon cards are top 40 pop, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are intricate prog-rock concept albums. The Yu-Gi-Oh! Universe (Yu-Gi-Ohniverse?) is surprisingly dark, violent, and emotionally intense. Plus, you don’t need to look far into the heart of the cards to appreciate Yugi’s dope haircut.

Cowboy Bebop

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Crunchyroll
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] If you look up “cool” in the Anime Dictionary, you’ll likely see an image from this postmodern masterpiece (Also, what’s an “Anime Dictionary”? Can I borrow it?). Spike and his crew are bounty hunters in a series of jazz-scored adventures that culminate in a poignant ending.


anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Trigun Wiki - Fandom
Vash The Stampede, arguably the dopest named fictional character, centers this samurai-mythology-meets-gunslinger-mythology series. While Vash himself doesn’t believe in killing (despite his, um, trigun), it doesn’t stop the series from boasting outlandishly stylish action setpieces.

Outlaw Star

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Believe In Bristol
If Cowboy Bebop didn’t give you your “cowboys in space” fix, Outlaw Star did the trick. It centers on Gene Starwind and his crew of misfits aboard the XGP15A-II (or the much catchier Outlaw Star) as they try to find galactic treasure, getting into adventures along the way.

The Big O

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Comic Vine - Gamespot
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] Paradigm City is a unique city, in that an event occurred years ago wiping its inhabitants of their memories. With the help of a robot, a butler, and a way bigger robot, negotiator Roger Smith helps residents come to terms with unearthed memories and fights the city-controlling corporation.

One Piece

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Kotaku
If you eat a Devil Fruit, your body absorbs the elastic capabilities of rubber. With me so far? Then you remember the spastic pleasures of One Piece, a series following the Straw Hat Pirates’ journey to find the titular treasure. This show makes Jack Sparrow look like a responsible middle manager.

Digimon Adventure

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Samehadaku
OK -- Pokemon is pop, Yu-Gi-Oh! is prog. This would make Digimon Adventure… maybe synth-driven industrial rock? The metaphor may escape me, but the memories of this technological-creature driven series are here to stay. “Digimon are the CHAMPIONS!”


anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Geek and Sundry
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] What is FLCL (pronounced “fooly-cooly”) about? That’s a reasonable question that no one who has watched FLCL can reasonably answer. It’s best just to give in to the short series’ candy-coated, bass guitar-driven charms, influenced by the quick-cut aesthetic of Japanese commercials.


anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: The Hamtaro Wiki - Fandom
If you’re going to watch one cute AF anime show about hamsters… well, this is kind of your only choice.


anime shows americans love
It’s a story any adolescent can relate to -- a teenager who desperately wants to be taken seriously by his community. This one just happens to be about a ninja who attends to his emotional journey by engaging in physical combat with other ninjas and fantastical creatures.

Fullmetal Alchemist

anime shows americans love
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[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] Not gonna lie, being an alchemist seems pretty dope. You can use magic to create anything you desire -- except for humans and gold. When our heroes attempt this very thing, their bodies become fused with metal, and they use their new powers to find the elusive Philosopher’s Stone.


anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: OtakuKart
What do you think becoming a Soul Reaper does to your skin? If you’re Ichigo Kurosaki, it basically turns your face into a terrifying skull, to match the terrifying tasks of a Soul Reaper. This series dives headfirst into demonic and even religious imagery, with shocking results.

Samurai Champloo

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Impact 89FM
From the creator of Cowboy Bebop comes another “dope film genre influenced by dope music genre” series. Samurai plus hip hop equals “hell yes and more, please.” The show cleverly blends ancient Japanese culture with contemporary Western culture in a way that would make Tarantino jealous.

Death Note

anime shows americans love
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[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] Is your only exposure to Death Note the horrible, whitewashed 2017 Netflix adaptation? Boy, do I have a delight for you. This anime series, based on the irresistible mythology of a book that kills whoever you write in it, tackles Light Yagami’s demons (metaphorical and literal) with visceral aplomb.

Afro Samurai

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Zerochan
How can you make the American experience of watching anime even cooler? Casting Samuel L. Jackson as the lead role is a good start. In some ways this show is the spiritual sequel to Samurai Champloo, with the RZA providing an authentic hip-hop soundtrack to the samurai-revenge narrative.

Attack On Titan

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Red Carpet Refs
The premise of this show is something out of a body horror movie: Giant, grotesque humanoids are consuming regular humans, including the hero Eren Yeager’s mother. The seemingly simple narrative (stop the Titans!) becomes more intriguingly complicated as the show goes on.

One-Punch Man

anime shows americans love
IMAGE BY: Don't Hate The Geek
[dx_custom_adunit desktop_id="RTK_K67O" mobile_id="RTK_5yk0"] If a show about a person who can kill people with literally one punch doesn’t appeal to you, then it looks like our friendship is blasting off again.