The Best First Anime Episodes
Some series take time to get into. Steins;Gate, the #4 ranked anime on MAL, has a notoriously slow start before blossoming into an absolute masterpiece. Not these ones. Don't get us wrong, we're not saying that all of the anime featured in this list are amazing anime, only that they have explosive, intriguing first episodes. You'll have no trouble making the decision to watch the next episode with these anime; whether you'll want to continue further beyond that is up in the air.
15. Haibane Renmei
Episode 1: Cocoon — Dream of Falling from the Sky — Old Home
Haibane Renmei opens with a rather interesting dream: the then-nameless main character is gently falling through the sky while a crow tries to save her. Sounds intriguing enough. But there's so much more.
The true surprise comes after her dream ends; she finds herself inside a cocoon -- a disturbing place for anyone. After breaking out, she meets some very peculiar people, all with especially strange traits, suggesting that she might not even be alive anymore. This shroud of mystery and overall confusion are what make this episode so captivating.
14. Druaga no Tou
Episode 1: The Aegis of Uruk: "Doruāga no Kyotō
Druaga no Tou's very cartoon-y and over-the-top debut tells the history of the Tower of Druaga along with Jil's quest to defeat the evil deity Druaga with his "Merry Men." So many strange and hilarious things happen throughout the course of this episode that it's practically a "full anime season."
But right at the end of the episode, it becomes clear that everything we just saw might not be what it seemed. This shift in tone could catch anyone by surprise.
Episode 1: Croquettes, Helicopters, Underground Boxing and I
Futakoi Alternative begins with immediate action: two adorable twins in mini skirts armed with pistols fighting a giant, white blob on a plane. The scene is filled with many adult-themed innuendos, too. What could be better?
But it turns out that these cute little fighters aren't even the main focus of the episode. After their plane crashes, we're introduced to a plethora of characters, Rentarō Futaba and the members of his detective agency, who are all involved in random happenings. The scenarios that follow are so ridiculous and crammed with even more action and hilariousness that you really can't expect what's going to happen next. It's just impossible to stop watching.
12. Cross Game
Episode 1: Yotsuba no Kurōbā
The season debut of Cross Game revolves around an adorable friendship between fifth-grader Kou Kitamura and Wakaba Tsukishima, both born in the same hospital and on the same day. The two are shown living out their lives together in various cute scenes. The cutest of them takes place during their 11th birthday when Wakaba gives Kou the sweetest gift in the world: a schedule of birthday presents he has to give her until their 20th birthday.
But there's a sudden shift near the end of the episode, suggesting that the world isn't just filled with sunshine and rainbows (and baseball games). Here, reality comes tumbling down upon Kou in the form of complete and utter tragedy. It's heart-wrenching.
Episode 1: Saikai
Sometimes it's all about subtlety. X begins with dreary post-apocalyptic images that culminate to a group of hooded figures on top of what looks to be the Eiffel Tower, almost completely buried in sand. Who are these people? And what happened?
This bleak opening is followed by quick, successive scenes introducing various characters, "The Seven Seals." There's a sense of escalating anticipation throughout as we discover they're all part of a prophecy that's finally coming to pass.
But as this "Oh, something is going to happen!" feeling continues to intensify, we're met with a number of brief, yet thrilling fight scenes. All of them involve a boy named Kamui. His mysteriousness only leaves the viewer more intrigued, creating a sense that this already exciting "prophecy" might be more intricate and involved than we originally thought.
Episode 1: The Ginga Bishonen
We're made to believe that the most intense moment occurs at the beginning of Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto when Takuto Tsunashi washes up on shore but is saved by Wako Agemaki. When Takuto awakens, there's immediate, non-stop humor, including all the things you would expect to see from what appears to be a school-life story.
But then a whirlwind of events take place, complete with wonderfully choreographed fights. Heck, there are even full-blown mecha battles ... in another dimension! This episode is not what anybody would ever expect, and deserves to be in the top 10.
Episode 1: Kakusei no Kodō
Senki Zesshou Symphogear's story begins with Miku Kohinata and Hibiki Tachibana attending the performance of famous vocal unit, ZweiWing. There are little moments of drama. Miku's grandmother gets into an accident, leaving Hibiki behind. Meanwhile, one of the members of ZweiWing, Tsubasa Kazanari, is nervous about the performance.
But everything is okay! Tsubasa was able to perform despite her nervousness and Hibiki had a great time. Yay!
Then everything goes to hell. Here, the viewer is exposed to certain horrific events that surpass even the many surprises in "Star Driver." A startling mass slaughter ensues that's not only unexpected, but is filled with even more twists and turns.
Episode 1: Oda Nobunaga
Nobunagun opens with a dream sequence that's weird for two reasons. One, it takes place in Feudal Japan and, two, the main character who's dreaming it, Shio Ogura, is a girl. This is strange because, one, the show takes place in the present day and, two, Shio dreams she's a man named Oda Nobunaga. That's not even mentioning the fact that Oda gets stabbed in the stomach during it. Already, this dream sequence leaves the other ones on this list wanting.
When Shio wakes, everything is light-hearted and funny. But like "Symphogear" and "Star Driver," this "feel-good" atmosphere is immediately destroyed (literally). But, here, the violence fills the metaphorical "blood bath" with even more blood and gore. Heck, this bath is overflowing.
Plus, when Shio gets a certain "gift," she uses it in a way that makes her look like a complete and total psychopath. What's not captivating about that?
Episode 1: Hajimari
Gakkougurashi!'s gigantic-plot-alerting event basically occurs in the final moments of the episode. For those first 20-plus minutes of normalcy, we're introduced to Yuki Takeya, a cheerful high school girl who lives at school and goes on "adventures" with the various members of the School Living Club.
The anime is so cheerful and innocent, and the characters' little voices are so high-pitched and cute that you just want to yell "KAWAII!" throughout the seemingly endless adorable scenes. However, when "it" happens, the immediate transition will make your jaw hit the floor. Hard.
Episode 1: Obieru Shikabane
Even though there are no cute chicks (read: no pantie shots) fighting off zombies like in "High School of the Dead," there's immediate blood-pumping action in the debut episode of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.
The episode begins with a fast-moving, armored train, the Kōtetsujō, that careens into the bodies of zombie-like creatures called Kabene. While many are run over, a few of these "monsters" board the powered vehicle. What a great way to start off a season. However, the violence that follows becomes highly intense that goes beyond typical bloodshed. At one point, a Kabane grabs a clump of hair from one of the characters and starts ripping it from her scalp. Meanwhile, another is bitten and forced to kill himself honorably by using a "suicide bag."
After the blood-splattered train arrives at Aragane Station safely (for the most part), more chaos erupts on the scene. During this time, Ikoma is forced to strap himself to a machine and does something startling and rather strange.
Episode 1: Sunpujō gozen jiai
It's Feudal Japan. We're in the presence of a tyrant. A man named Torii-domo bows before this corrupt lord, imploring him to reconsider his decision of having samurai fight in a tournament with real katanas. While an intense subject, there's something off about Torii. He's shaking violently. Sweat drips from his pale face. He also tries to keep back the need to vomit up blood, some of it trickling down the side of his trembling lips.
Then we find out what's wrong with Torii. Let's just say, when you discover what it is, the answer definitely warrants a "Wow!" type of response. That moment alone could make the opener of Shigurui appear in any top 5 list for the mere shock factor.
But there's more to come. Obviously, the tyrant isn't swayed. The tournament will continue. Not long afterwards, we're introduced to the first two contestants of the tournament: one is a man missing an arm and another is a blind cripple. Huh? That scenario just begs the question: "How the heck are these two guys going to fight?" Turns out, we might have to wait longer to find out.
4. Elfen Lied
Episode 1: Kaikō
Elfen Lied is essentially the exact opposite of "Gakkougurashi!" in that all of the insanity happens at the very beginning rather than the end. And what a hell of an opening it is!
What sets "Elfen Lied" so high on this list is the rather explicitly horrific ways the main character, a diclonius named "Lucy," slaughters guards while escaping from an experimental laboratory. They're not just highly graphic; her methods of killing are morbidly creative. The scene opens with a twitching, dismembered arm on the floor. A guard's head later explodes. Another guard is even killed with a pen.
After the mass slaughter, the tone of the story makes a rather abrupt shift after Lucy forgets who she is. Soon, she forms an innocent, almost child-like split personality, "Nyu," before becoming entangled in the normal lives of Kohta and Yuka. "Elfen Lied" contains, essentially, a plot twist that's ... not twisted?
3. Juuni Kokuki
Episode 1: Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi Isshou
Juuni Kokuki is yet another tale of how the main character, in this case, Yoko Nakajima, ends up becoming someone so much more than we originally thought. But, here, both the foreboding atmosphere of the anime and Yoko's initial fear of change make this episode so much more resonant than most.
As we watch Yoko trying to sustain an image of perfection in a normal world, this facade is sprinkled with creepy dreams. There's a nightmare where Yoko sees a fellow classmate slowly approaching, dragging an overly massive sword behind her with a creepy grin on her face. In another, Yoko finds herself holding a bloodied sword as she stands over the mutilated carcass of some strange, unidentifiable beast.
When Yoko has to make the initial plunge into her new life, she is forced to not only witness horrific things occur but do horrific things herself. It's the combination of Yoko's trepidation and the insanity of her situation that makes this episode "top-three worthy."
Episode 1: Atarashii Asa ga Kita
Enter self-centered, apathetic teenager Kei Kurono. How is he self-centered and apathetic? For starters, he doesn't help a store clerk catch a thief (for the third time) and purposely gives the wrong advice to an old woman. He even yells at this elderly lady when she asks him again for help. What really stands out and what immediately makes the episode so captivating is that we can hear his horrible, grotesque thoughts as well as the thoughts of random people, giving Gantz a rather dark, satirical view of humanity.
As these horrific thoughts continue to saturate the episode, a homeless man falls onto the tracks of a subway station in a drunken stupor. Let the "fun" begin! And, boy, does it get messed up real quick. What happens next is so twisted and abnormal that "Gantz" just had to make it in at least the top two of this list.
Episode 1: The Black Swordsman"/"Kuroi Kenshi
The atmosphere of this intensely oppressive opener is shrouded in darkness. A man, known mysteriously as the Black Swordsman, slowly approaches a castle as rain pours over a dreary landscape. A horse-drawn cart passes him by with forlorn-looking children, huddled in the back, suggesting child slavery or worse.
Within no time, there's immediate blood-pumping action. But the word "action" isn't really an accurate way of describing it because there's so much associated with it. There's torture (more than once), something about a curse, creepy demons and a fight with a Baron who's not quite human. We'll just leave you with this: medieval Mega-Man.
The utter darkness and corruption portrayed in Berserk not only immerses the viewer in a hideously wretched world that's bleaker than most, but leaves so many questions begging to be answered, making the opener of "Berserk" number one.