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29+ Gateway Drug Anime That Attract New Fans Consistently

Gateway drug anime, or “gateway anime” series are the types to keep pulling anime fans back. Or especially to introduce new anime fans to the scene and industry, nonstop.

The term is taken from a gateway drug, which is a type of drug that most people are introduced to before experimenting with other drugs, going down the rabbit hole.

Let’s talk about these types of anime regardless.

Genres include:

  • Shounen.
  • Fantasy.
  • Supernatural.
  • Sci-fi.
  • Action.
  • Slice of life.
  • Comedy.
  • Romance.

And others that are relevant.

 

Best gateway anime shows:

 

1. Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z nimbus cloud goku adult

No matter the hate for this anime, decades later (from fanboys or trolls), this classic still brings new fans to the business on a daily basis. And that’s thanks to the DB Super series and other continuations.

There are also the video games which have been successful.

Without DBZ, there is no western anime market. And especially no shounen like we’re seeing in 2023 and beyond.

 

2. My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia school outfit

Another anime that’s been getting hate since it first aired, despite the overwhelming amount of support it receives. With its 6th season airing, which is dominating, a lot of trolls have been silenced.

The anime is evolved into a bit of a powerhouse, and more importantly, this anime is responsible for being a gateway drug in the shounen space. More so for NEW shounen series compared to older classics.

 

3. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Jojos Bizarre Adventure franchise characters

There aren’t too many anime shows that have as many memes as JOJO, and especially memes that are iconic, have been remixed, and more.

The anime started in the 1980s and even though it never reached the mainstream level like the big 3 shounen, its been just as influential behind the scenes and continues to introduce new people to the anime industry.

 

4. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon sailor scouts

Iconic opening theme song, music, and at the time, characters who represented women and girls worldwide in a way anime hadn’t done it before.

The sailor scouts are a diverse bunch. Some straight, others who swing a different way, and the personalities are diverse as well

It might not be the flashiest anime series and it’s not meant to be anyway, but its stamp on history is official and so is its appeal to new audiences.

 

5. Black Clover

Black Clover cover anime

Even to this day, it feels like some trolls and elitists continue to hate this anime, but at this stage, the point is proven. Black Clover is here to stay, and is successful enough that it attracts new fans to the industry.

Asta is still a big-mouth protagonist, but that changes nothing.

 

6. Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter franchise

I call this the underdog of Shounen. It obviously gets a lot of shine and respect, but it never reached the levels of Bleach and the obvious shounen that are comparable.

It’s a certified underground classic, and that’s regardless of whether the anime has a future at this point or not because of the delays and inconsistencies of its author.

 

7. Berserk

Berserk franchise

Berserk was a certified series before the author sadly passed, but despite that, the franchise continues to live on and has new work planned.

It’s consistently seen as one of the most vile, brutal, savage stories which also offers a good story, relevant aspects that connect to real life, many life lessons, and a ton more.

It’s too certified to dismiss as not being a gateway drug anime.

 

8. Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail smile lucy and the gang

Fairy Tail is a mixed bag, even to this day. Some complain about its fanservice which ramps up later down the line as opposed to the early stages. And others complain about its “power of friendship” cliche.

At the end of the day though Fairy Tail is a respected series, and one that’s easy to like and enjoy because of the warm vibes you get from it and its characters.

The franchise is the 29th best-selling light novel of all time as well.

 

9. Maid Sama

Maid Sama shoujo romance e1678298826482

Might be considered the biggest Shoujo series out there. The main female mc starts off as a right b*tch, it has to be said. Man-hating, literally. But that changes through growth and personal development.

The dynamic between Misaki Ayuzawa and Usui, the troll of the series is entertaining, with even quite a bit to take away from the anime.

Few shoujo can claim to be gateway anime the way Maid Sama is.

 

10. Toradora

Toradora comedy e1678299033662

Another anime made by J.C. Staff like Maid Sama. It’s also one of the biggest romance series of all time in the anime space.

You have Taiga, the little Tsundere and one of the original 4 Tsundere wonders. Along with Ryuji, the male romance interest, and other characters like Minori who’s one of the funniest characters going.

 

11. Naruto

Naruto kid victory pose

Naruto can’t be ignored on a list like this. It’s the anime that started the big 3, or at least one of them. To this day it has a cultural impact unlike many anime can ever claim.

Arguments and controversies are still ongoing because of the new Boruto series, but the original still brings in new fans all the time.

 

12. Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer special move

When the pandemic hit, so many anime got delayed and some were even cancelled. Bleach was one of those anime that came later because of it.

Demon Slayer was a relatively new anime in 2019 before the pandemic, but the pandemic is when the Mugen Train movie was released, becoming the best-selling anime movie of all time.

That solidified Demon Slayer’s spot as a gateway drug anime, and that’s regardless of whether you believe it’s overrated or worthy of that achievement.

 

13. Madoka Magica

Madoka Magica dark magical girl

The first magical girl series to bring dark energy to the space. I should say the first to TRICK the audience into thinking it will be a cute series, only for a darker side to the magical girl’s life to be revealed.

Many more tried to copy it and failed, and this “innovation” is the reason Madoka Magica is still revered and respected to this day.

It gets recommended among anime that lean towards the darker side, all the time.

 

14. Haikyuu

Haikyuu franchise

One of the few sports anime to become a big thing in ways other sports anime just never do (Kuroko No Basket is an exception or Blue Lock).

Haikyuu is a shounen with volleyball sports as its main theme. Hinata, the orange-haired character is the MC and the cheerful cliche type. With his introverted friend with a more sinister-ish vibe.

This chemistry among the other characters is what’s made Haikyuu a genuine mainstream series that attracts fans of both genders to a degree not many other anime have done.

 

15. Gintama

Gintama season 5

You could call Gintama the king of parody anime for how old-school and classic it is today. It played a role in the 2000s, among other anime like My Bride Is A Mermaid in setting the standard for parody/comedy anime series.

Not to mention the tropes, cliches (funny ones), and gags that have been used and abused years later.

A guaranteed gateway drug anime.

 

16. Pretty Cure

Pretty Cure cover

The funny thing about this anime is some won’t recognize it, and yet behind the scenes, it has a lot of cultural impact in the magical girl space, and as an anime that continues to bring in new fans to the industry.

It’s the longest-running magical girl series, comparable to a shounen like Naruto or OP in length, and it has a solid fanbase. And still has content coming out.

It’s an OG.

 

17. Attack On Titan

Attack On Titan eren titan mode

Since the first season, this anime was set to dominate for years because of the impact it had, and how big the anime became. It feels like a horror, but it’s actually a Shounen/action series.

The sheer brutality is what drove the anime forward, and the feels that came with it. But then later it got smarter with some of its characters and the anime has become more than just bloodthirsty titans.

Only a fool would deny this anime’s impact on the culture.

 

18. Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online recollection

Hate it or love it, but Sword Art Online (SAO) is the reason the Isekai genre took off and became so popular down the line. It wasn’t the first to do what it does, but it did it better than any other.

The survival aspect of the game, trapped inside VR, was a new concept and it gave Isekai the wings it needed to reach the levels it has years later.

No Game No Life is another Isekai that deserves a mention in this category.

 

19. Tensei Slime

Tensei Slime blue hair rimuru

Even though it hasn’t been out as long as other anime, it has become one of the top selling light novels and the most appreciated Isekai anime series.

RImuru Tempest starts out as a slime and evolves. This evolution is why the anime has become what it is, why it attracts new audiences, and why the anime is respected in the Isekai space.

The world-building and momentum slowly builds and has become something more than just a cliche series.

 

20. One Piece

One Piece gang

One Piece goes without saying. The anime has been running for years without stopping. Not many anime can say that with the level of popularity of One Piece (being a big 3 anime as well).

Its consistency is unmatched, and it sells even more than a lot of American comics.

 

21. High School DxD

High School DxD lewd ecchi

In the more “lewd” space, High School DxD is an anime that always brings in new fans to the industry. It can be considered the king of Ecchi, or one of the few.

Rias Gremory, the red-haired babe of the series is responsible for that as she’s the face of it. And a big part of why the anime is popular.

 

22. Monster Musume

monster musume novel anime

Another follow-up in the Ecchi genre is Monster Musume. It’s newer than many big or classic ecchi, but the anime being the weird series it is has attracted many new fans to the industry.

The anime focuses on snake girls, and other types of “Monster girls” who are drawn to be sexy, attractive, hot, and appealing to the eyes.

You could say it’s responsible for some memes you see in the anime space.

 

23. Bleach

Bleach new series

As part of the big 3, it’s only natural to mention bleach. This series has been brought back to life again, but even before that people were still being introduced to Bleach for the first time, over and over again (gateway drug anime).

Ichigo Kurosaki and the concept of soul reapers and hollows is a big part of that.

 

24. Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen gojo ability

Inspired by Bleach, Jujutsu Kaisen has become its own series with its own unique taste. And if we’re talking about the anime, the fight choreography is unmatched.

It has some of the slickest, sickest fight scenes any Shounen can claim to have as a general rule.

The female characters are solid as well.

 

25. K-On

K On kawaii characters

One of the more original slice of life series from Kyoto Animation, and an anime that pushed the MOE style of anime to the front of the stage.

It has no plot, no focus, just girls being cute, drinking tea, eating cakes, desserts, and making music together for fun. But it’s so entertaining the anime ends up being more than that.

Easily one of the gateway drug anime in the slice of life genre.

 

26. Redo Of Healer

Redo Of Healer harem bed

It has to be said. This is one of those anime most didn’t expect to become a gateway drug anime or an anime that rivals Shounen for its popularity, but that’s the reality of the situation.

The anime is more underground but with a mainstream appeal attached to it (controversy and so on).

The anime’s revenge scene, Keyaru’s rise to power, the lengths he’s willing to go, and the anime’s darker elements all play a role in Redo Of Healer’s popularity and ability to be a politically incorrect gateway drug anime.

 

27. Death Note

Death Note yagami lawliet

Classic series. There will never be another like it. A masterpiece in my eyes.

Light Yagami uses the death note for so-called justice and loses himself in the process of having so much power. But the brilliance, intelligence, strategy, and game of tactics is a mind f*ck.

The suspense is a killer.

 

28. Code Geass

Code Geass lelouch face

Another anime known for its brilliance when talking about strategy, tactics, being multiple steps ahead, battle, and outthinking the enemy.

Lelouch gains the power of geass in the face of death and uses it to get what he wants.

In a way, Lelouch is the more sane version of Light Yagami.

 

29. Akame Ga Kill

Akame Ga Kill series franchise

For whatever reason, a lot of Shounen fanatics dislike this anime because it doesn’t fit the cliche narrative of characters being saved by bullshit, or escaping death in ways which aren’t realistic.

Akame Ga Kill throws those tropes out the window and slices them into pieces. Then gives you the raw, the real, the uncut, and the unforgiving as far as realism goes.

It’s a shounen that’s more true to life than many can claim, and that’s part of its charm. And why the anime became so popular during the 2010s, naturally becoming a gateway anime.

 

30. Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist characters cover protagonist

FMA, whether the remade version or the first one that was released, is a classic series that’s referenced a lot to this day. Especially across social media.

It’s so appreciated and praised, that it always ends up in recommendations or discussions among so-called masterpieces.

All it took is one series, technically, and it’s still doing its thing to this day as a gateway anime.

 

Other Mentions:

  • Re:Zero.
  • Tokyo Ghoul.
  • Samurai Champloo.
  • Cowboy Bebop.
  • Higurashi.
  • Kono Subarashii.
  • Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
  • Black Lagoon.
  • Inuyasha.
  • Gundam.
  • No Game No Life.

 

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