There are so, so many good shows out there, so many of which are animated. Most of us are here because we think anime is the best incarnation of it. Still, there are several other animated series that are not Japanese anime. Let’s take some time out here to count down some of the best of ‘em.
This list will consist of series that are intended for the adult or young adult demographic. There are plenty of “kids’ shows” that are great, but they’ll eventually get a list of their own.
#5 Johnny Bravo
Hey, baby. We’re gonna get this party started with the man, the legend, Johnny Bravo. Here’s a show about a muscular, dim-witted guy and his unsuccessful attempts to court women. Our main cast consists of Johnny, his mom, and his neighbor Little Suzy. They live in fictional Aron City (inside Joke for Elvis fans). Each episode typically involves Johnny trying to impress a woman, and ending up in a strange and harmful predicament because of it. This show was part of the more adult cartoon block on Cartoon Network in the days prior to Adult Swim. It’s not really violent or overtly sexual, but it is sexually suggestive, and includes many pop-culture references presented in a much less formulaic manner than something like Family Guy.
#4 Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty is one of the most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the dumbest. Adapted from a short film that parodied Back to the Future, this sci-fi adventure comedy series centers primarily on the misadventures of an alcoholic mad-scientist, and his friendly but awkward grandson. It consists of everything from deep philosophical commentary on the meaninglessness of life, to crude jokes involving fecal matter. We’re treated to surprisingly well thought-out reoccuring themes that clearly took some amount of preplanning and scripting, but also episodes that appear almost entirely improvised (and honestly kind of stupid in comparison).
Still, the two approaches are balanced well enough to provide a show that feels genuinely unique, and the overarching duel between cynicism and idealism is relatable.
Oh! Also, Co-Creator Justin Roiland voices both Rick and Morty; It’s pretty impressive.
RWBY follows an ensemble cast of young adults who attend an academy that trains people to fight the dangerous “Creatures of Grimm” inhabiting the world.
There’s a quite a bit of controversy surrounding RWBY. The debate isn’t over whether or not it’s obscene or insensitive or anything like that. Rather, it’s about whether or not the series counts as an “anime”. It was billed as a “Western Anime”, if there is such a thing. There are certain thematic elements in common with what we generally understand as anime, but it was developed in the United States.
Truth is, IT DOESN’T FAQUING MATTER. It’s a great animated series regardless, and one of few American animated shows that has achieved international success aside from the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks flicks.
It started as a small, independent project that will be entering its 6th season now come Fall. The original creator, Monty Oum, actually died sometime during the 3rd season, but Rooster Teeth Animation (Red vs Blue) has continued to grow the franchise, through improved animation, a couple spin-offs, and even a videogame.
Hermit Odysseus has a more in-depth piece on why you should watch RWBY.
#2 King of the Hill
I have a soft spot for the slice-of-life genre, and if there ever was an American animated series that truly captured slice-of-life, it was King of the Hill. This series is the most realistic on the list. It revolves around propane seller Hank Hill, his family, and his friends. That’s pretty much it. The plot and humor are both derived from things that can that happen living a normal, everyday life. Viewers were gifted a glimpse of rural, blue-collar life for 13 season before the show was cancelled.
KotH may have had a longer run were it not for the explosive popularity of Seth MacFarlane pop-culture focused sitcoms like Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show. While that style of humor is more entertaining in the short term, it doesn’t age particularly well, and the shows fail to connect viewers with the characters in a way that makes them likable or worth rooting for. I genuinely wanted Hank and friends to overcome their problems. Peter and the gang? Not so much.
A majority of nerds familiar with animated series will probably tell you that Futurama is one of the greatest American animated series of all time. I’m going to tell you that it’s THE greatest that I’ve seen. The series is the brainchild of Matt Groening (The Simpsons). It initially follows a young man named Philip J. Fry, who accidentally ends up in the 31st century, but then expands to more ensemble kind of cast. Picture this one as an episodic sci-fi slice-of-life type comedy with occasional injections of serious storytelling. It has science jokes. It has dark comedy. It has satire. It has just about everything a nerd could ever want in a show.
Samurai Jack follows one samurai’s quest through time to defeat the demon Aku. The original series was great. There’s a relatively new one that came out last year and supposedly concluded the storyline, but I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll refrain from further comment.
Total Drama Island
This is a Canadian series that parodies the whole “Survivor” type reality TV show. Like some of the others on this list, you could call it a “kid’s show”, but as the above image might suggest, I contest that much of the humor and other content would go unappreciated by a younger audience. One interesting thing I learned long after I initially watched the series is that there are actually alternate endings to the finale episode; the winner and runner-up actually change based on the country you’re viewing the show in.
Regular Show had a good run, all things considered. It aired on Cartoon Network in the time either right before or right after Adventure Time (I forget which) and, in my opinion, was actually better. The show revolves around two twenty-something year old guys who work as groundskeepers at large park. It received fairly positive reception, including several award nominations, but never quite captured the public eye like Adventure Time did.
This slice-of-life comedy occupies a space similar to King of the Hill. Instead of rural America, though, The Simpsons gives us a glimpse into working-class suburban America. The series is a little more absurdist than KotH, but not so much so that the characters and storylines feel completely unrealistic. The Simpsons is the longest-running American animated sitcom of all time.
Check out the podcast to hear Shawn’s submissions for best non-anime animated series.
Let me know what you think of the list. Am I missing anything here?
The Weeabros don’t own any of the music or images used in this post, bro. They belong to their respective creators, licensors, and distributors. Please support the official releases.