Episodes: 12 (1 season)
What you can expect: Funny, Trippy, Unique, Chaotic, Magic, Fantasy, Mystery, Dystopian, Gritty, Action, Violence, Gore, Fight scenes, it explores the theme of friendship, has excellent world building, and a bunch of weird and interesting complex characters.
What it's about: Dorohedoro follows a man named Caiman who has a lizard for a head and amnesia about how he got it and who he really is. Caiman and his friend Nikaido are on the hunt for the sorcerer who cursed him with the scaly affliction. Living in a city simply called "Hole", Caiman and Nikaido chase down sorcerers who enter Hole using magic that creates a door between Hole and the world of sorcery. Hole has been ravaged by the magic of the sorcerers and has become a true nightmare city to live in and Caiman and Nikaido want to put a stop to it by killing these sorcerers. But before they kill a sorcerer, Caiman chomps down on their head so that the sorcerer can speak to the man living inside Caiman's mouth to determine whether or not the sorcerer is responsible for his curse (yes, there's a man living in his lizard mouth).
It sounds absolutely batshit insane - and it is! It's also incredibly fun, fast paced, goofy, and has a whole bunch of interesting and mysterious characters. There are only 12 episodes so it's an easy binge (whether we can expect a season 2 is still up in the air, so don't expect resolution and a story that wraps up neatly at the end).
Don't watch if you don't like: Violence and an unresolved ending.
TL;DR: A man with a lizard head hunts down the sorcerer that cursed him. It's better than you're expecting. I guarantee that even if you don't laugh, you'll blow hot air out of your nose at least once. Give it a try!
2. Violet Evergarden
Episodes: 13 (1 season)
What you can expect: Emotional, War, Loss, Sincerity, Serious, Trauma, Human connection, Stunning animation, and an exploration of what it means to have a purpose in life.
What it's about: Violet Evergarden is an emotionally stunted former child solider who has spent months recovering from her war injuries in a hospital. She is learning how to use her new robotic hands after losing both of her arms in the war. Upon her discharge, she faces a world where the war has ended, her beloved Major Gilbert is gone, and she struggles with feelings of purposelessness as all she has ever known her whole life is how to be used as a tool of war.
Violet takes a job as a ghostwriter, known as an Auto Memory Doll, transcribing emotional letters to loved ones for people who cannot read or write themselves. Through her job and her new relationships with the people she meets for work, she learns what it means to find new purpose and new connections while dealing with personal trauma and loss. The show is essentially about understanding what it means to navigate feelings of love, loneliness, and grief.
The animation here is really stunning and dream-like but the subject matter is heavy. It takes place in a world not unlike our own (think alternate reality World War I era), which makes the characters and their situations all the more relatable and understandable. The serious emotional subject matter is handled with nuance and care but can be a lot to take in - my recommendation is to take this one slowly by watching 1-2 episodes at at a time instead of binging it. There's also a film on Netflix, "Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll", a special OVA episode, and another film slated for release in September of this year - but start with the original 13 episode anime.
Don't watch if you don't like: Heavy emotional subjects like death, war, and trauma.
TL;DR: You'll cry even if you're dead inside but the gorgeous animation is worth your time and your tears.
3. The Devil is a Part-Timer
Episodes: 13 (1 season)
What you can expect: Comedy, Fantasy, Goofy, Magic, Demons and Heroes, Characters out of place in a new world.
What it's about: Satan and his trusted warrior, Alciel, are under siege in their home realm after waging a war in an attempt to take over the land of humans. In order to escape the attack, Satan opens up a portal to transport him and Alciel to safety, but unwittingly ends up in modern day Tokyo and in the body of a young human man. Because there is no real magic on Earth, Satan finds that his powers are hugely diminished. In order to survive, he must get a job working at a fast-food restaurant until he can figure out a way to get home. For the most part he seems to have things relatively under control...until his arch-nemesis Emilia The Hero shows up to rain on his parade.
"The Devil is a Part-Timer" was clearly created with a young male demographic in mind (Shōnen), and you can certainly tell from the opening scene - a magic battle taking place in some far away kingdom that seems right up the alley of pretty much any 12 year old boy. I am well aware that you, ONTD "readers", are not 12 year old boys (and neither am I) - so bear with me on this one. This one will surprise you even if it's not really meant for you or seems like your cup of tea from the get-go. It's so goofy and genuinely funny that it will win you over in no time. The opening scene isn't the most accurate representation of the pacing of the show - so give it until the moment that Satan and Alciel land in Tokyo to get a sense of the true goofiness that's about to ensue. It's not an overly detailed show - the world building is weak and the characters aren't super complex - this is more of a light watch for a rainy day afternoon.
Don't watch if you don't like: An unfinished story (a second season was apparently in the works but was cancelled and the series has been in limbo ever since), relatively flat characters and weak world-buidling, and an excessive amount of boob jokes. This is not the show for you if you're looking for a complex and compelling plot - think more along the lines of episodic hijinks with a superficial overarching storyline.
TL;DR: The Devil fucks up and accidentally transports himself to modern day Tokyo where his over the top dramatic ass has to get a job working at McDonald's to survive.
4. Monthly Girls' Nozaki Kun
Episodes: 12 (1 season)
What you can expect: Comedy, Romance, Highschool, Goofy, Cute, Charming, Sweet, Playing with romance genre clichés and tropes.
What it's about: 16-year-old Chiyo Sakura has a major crush on her high school classmate, Umetarou Nozaki. When she finally works up the courage to confess her feelings and ask him out, her nerves get the better of her and she flubs it - telling him that she's his fan and wants to be by his side forever. He completely misunderstands and...gives her his autograph. She soon realizes that Nozaki isn't just any normal teenage boy - he's a popular shōjo manga artist whose work runs in a widely circulated monthly girl's magazine.
As an author, he's praised for truly understanding the female heart. This takes Chiyo Sakura by surprise since, through her eyes, Nozaki is blunt, clueless, and totally unromantic. Nevertheless, she starts helping him out with his manga as a way to get closer to him and soon their other friends get involved as well and their absurd adventures and the budding romances between them provide stories for Nozaki's work.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of romance based anime - but this one is super cute and funny. It's a great lighthearted pick-me-up and all the characters are charming in their own way. The show also lightly plays around with gender stereotypes and romance tropes in a pretty entertaining way.
Don't watch if you don't like: Over the top and exaggerated emotions, stories set in high school/teen characters, general silliness, unrequited love, zero character development.
I've purposefully left off more well known shows, multi-season shows (or shows with a large number of episodes), and frequently recommended titles like "Attack on Titan" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" to keep the list a little bit more interesting, especially for those who have tried to get into more widely talked about shows but couldn't connect with them. These recommendations are also based entirely on the subtitled versions of the shows - I have no idea what the quality of the dubbing is like.
Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5