Welcome, welcome! There are many anime series that I consider good or interesting which have escaped the notice of most of the anime community. I came up with 32 of them total, but whittled them down to 10 for a post of reasonable length. These are not all masterpieces by any means, but they can be highly enjoyable!
1. Dennou Coil (Cyber Coil)
Yuuko Okonogi is just one of many kids around her age living in an augmented reality where special glasses let her see the cyberworld overlaying our own. Even her pet dog is a cyber-pet who can’t be seen except in augmented reality. Dennou Coil focuses on the stories of and drama between Yuuko Okonogi and her aloof acquaintance Yuuko Amasawa. It’s a great pick for a family show, and can be a bit of a tearjerker. Genres: Drama, Mystery, Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi. Made in 2007 by studio Madhouse. I give it 9/10.
2. Shigofumi (Letters from The Dead)
Fumika and Kanaka work as a team to deliver letters from people who have recently died to people they knew in the living world. The story gradually shifts focus from episodic cases of humans recieving their letters to the history and true identity of Fumika. It’s a psychological tale with themes of loss, abuse, remorse, identity, and self-acceptance. If you don’t think of it as psychological character piece, instead expecting a lively adventure show, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you go into it with an open mind, though, you’re sure to enjoy it. This anime was made in 2008 by the J.C. Staff studio. Genres include Mystery, Psychological, and Supernatural. My rating is 8/10.
3. Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Sacred Spirit)
Balsa the woman warrior agrees to take care of the young prince Chagum, becoming his trainer, bodyguard, and surrogate mother. Unknowingly, she is also guarding the sacred spirit resting in Chagum’s body, waiting to hatch and change the world. Not only is this a fascinating fantasy tale; it’s also an emotional drama with well-written and developed characters. Plus, there are some awesome fight scenes, and the animation quality is top-notch for its day! Genres: Fantasy, Supernatural, Drama, Action, Historical. Made in 2007 by Production I.G. It’s an 8/10 anime for me.
4. Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feather Federation)
Rakka wakes up in a strange world with a small population of Haibane, creatures that look like humans but with pale gray angel wings and halos. They all seem to be people who were reincarnated into some kind of afterlife. Rakka resolves to remember who she was before, what her purpose is now, and why there are so many strict rules imposed on the Haibane. Genres: Fantasy, Slice-of-Life, Drama, Mystery, Psychological. Made in 2002 by Radix studio. 9/10.
Note: a good number of people now know of this show thanks mostly to anime reviewers recommending it on YouTube. Still, as long as there’s a chance people haven’t heard of it, I will always want to include Haibane Renmei. It’s something everyone should see.
5. Aoi Bungaku (Evergreen Literature)
This unique show presents in anime form six stories from classic Japanese Literature. There are 12 episodes, so each story gets about 2 episodes, with some variability. The first of the stories is Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human, which follows the life of a young man who struggles with depression and substance abuse. That may sound a little dull, but Aoi Bungaku is surprisingly thrilling in execution. Genres: Seinen, Historical, Drama, Psychological. Made in 2009 by Madhouse studio. I give it 8/10.
6. Princess Tutu
Ahiru is just a humble young female duck, but she has a dream. She wants to be a princess who can win the love of Myuuto, the handsome but apathetic prince from the catsle-town. After gaining the power to transform into a human form, Ahiru starts ballet class with Myuuto. Soon she discovers that she is the only one who can become the hero “Princess Tutu” and put back all the pieces of the prince’s shattered heart.
This all may sound a bit silly, but that’s because I don’t want to give spoilers about the really interesting stuff that happens in the later parts of the anime. If you’ve ever written stories or told stories through another venue (such as drawing comics), you’ll appreciate this show’s discussion on the concept of stories, the roles of characters, and the power of the author. There are also interesting questions rasied about free will. All that aside, though, the world of Ahiru and Myuuto is charming, cute, funny, and addicting.
Princess Tutu aired from 2002 to 2003 and was animated by Hal Film Maker Studio. Genres include Shoujo, Fantasy, Drama, Comedy, and Romance. I think this show earns a solid 8/10.
7. Witch Hunter Robin
Robin is a quiet, aloof young woman using her magic crafts to hunt witches for the organization called STN. Here, “witches” are those with out-of-control psychic powers. Robin and her crew in the STN Japan Division set out to capture witches alive instead of killing them right away. The goal is to find out the truth behind their existence. It seems that STN-J may be hiding important truths. Genres: Fantasy, Action, Drama, Mystery, Police. Made in 2002 by studio Sunrise. My rating is 7/10.
8. Jyu Oh Sei (Planet of the Beast King)
Looking for a short, sci-fi Shounen with a main character who has grit and brains but isn’t ridiculously overpowered? Do you like survivalist themes, a bright color pallet, and old-fasioned anime aesthetics? If so, Jyu Oh Sei was made for you. In a world where Earth is only for the elite and priveleged class, other humans must live on other planets with harsher conditions. Central character Thor and his twin brother are sent to the deadly planet Chimaera. The only way to get back to civilized society is to become the strongest person on the planet, the Jyu Oh or Beast King. Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Drama, Shounen. Made in 2006 by studio Bones. I give it 7/10.
Funny, Slice-of-life anime series with all girl casts are popular right now, so you’d expect Yuyushiki to be more widely known. It’s comparable to shows like Yuru Yuri and Gochuman wa Usagi Desuka? It’s not quite as funny as those, but it’s not far behind. Main characters Yuzoku, Yukari, and Yui are certain to make you laugh with their comedic antics and discussions of random topics. Genres are Slice-of-Life, School, and Comedy. Some consider Yuyushiki and similar shows Seinen, because older anime fans tend to enjoy them, but there is no adult-level sexuality or violence, so I think calling it Seinen is inaccurate. This anime was made in 2013 by Kinema Citrus. I rate it 7/10.
10. Kaleido Star
A talented gymnast since kindergarten, Sora’s dream is to join the world-famous acrobat organization/troupe called Kaleido Star. The story focuses on Sora’s journey to improve her abilities and become one of the greatest acrobats and entertainers of all time. This is a shoujo anime, but it feels like a shounen because of the way it’s put into arcs and the way Sora continues to grow stronger and more skilled. Even if you’re not particularly interesed in gymnastics or acrobatics, this show captures viewers with its pacing, suspence, comedy, appealing characters, and great music. Genres include Shoujo, Sports, Drama, Comedy, and just a little touch of Fanatsy. Kaledido star aired from 2003 to 2004 and was animated by Gonzo and Production I.G. My rating is 7/10.
That’s about it for today! I have 20-some other obscure anime series that I’d love to write about in later posts. If you liked this list, please join me in the future for more recommendations. Of the series listed above, I think the best ones are the first five, but my taste is weird. I suspect that 6 through 10 will be better enjoyed by normal fans, because these entries are more direct and traditional in narrative.