Nothing is more exciting than introducing a friend to one of your favorite anime, especially if they end up loving it as much as you do. But what about when the show isn’t exactly amazing right out of the gate? Even though you know it’s fantastic after a few episodes (or seasons), new viewers have a hard time soldiering through the beginning. If only you could convince them that it’s all worth it in the end!
We’re here today to compile 10 of the best anime that take some time to reach their peak. Whether you’re searching out recognition for your diehard favorites or just looking for something to rescue from your MAL dropped list, Honey’s Anime has you covered. Let’s take a look at the top 10 slow-paced anime that are worth the wait!
10. Senki Zesshou Symphogear G (Symphogear G)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 2013 – Sep 2013
G introduces fan favorite characters Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe; normal girls who’ve been forced to bond with symphogear armor and fight against our heroes. The animation also takes a huge leap forward, finally giving us the highly choreographed and glitzy battles we wanted to see all along. Immerse yourself in the world of Symphogear with the first season, but know that you’re in for a treat when G comes along.
The first season of Symphogear is far from bad – it expertly shows how the main characters power their weaponized armor by singing while they’re fighting, and lays the groundwork for the series’ signature dark tone and mysterious atmosphere. However, this anime only starts to become special around the second season, when the studio received a massive increase in budget.
9. Suisei no Gargantia (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2013 – Jun 2013
This futuristic anime focuses on Ledo, a child soldier of a galactic peacekeeping organization, and his sentient mecha, Chamber. They crash-land on the watery remains of Earth, where humans live on giant tanker ships and the concept of “land” is mere myth to them. Can this battle-hardened foreigner adapt to the easygoing culture of the Earth-dwellers without arousing too much suspicion?
...Wait, Gen Urobuchi wrote this? Then where’s the gore? Or the tragic plot twist that casts a twisted shadow over what we thought we knew about the world? Is this really just a relaxing anime about two opposing cultures learning to live together? Not even close. Although Gargantia takes longer to show its nihilistic side than other Urobuchi works like Psycho-Pass or Saya no Uta, it certainly gets there. And once you realize what this futuristic anime has up its sleeve, you’ll see that all the slice-of-life setup was worth the wait.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 2007 – Sep 2007
Lucky Star isn’t called “the anime version of Seinfeld” for nothing. It’s well known now for its irreverent humor and countless memes, but actually sitting down to watch it from the beginning can be a bit of a chore. Right away in the first episode, four characters sit in a coffee shop and chat about how they like to eat chocolate cornets and various other foods... for six straight minutes. When do we get to the wacky hijinks!?
After a few episodes, the director was replaced and Lucky Star’s pace picked up significantly. It added more references to Haruhi Suzumiya and other KyoAni properties, the cast started going on fun trips, and more characters were introduced. It’s still a show about nothing, but now viewers don’t have to sit through painfully inane conversations about snack food. Although, considering that this is the same studio that brought us the Endless Eight, it could’ve just been one big prank all along.
7. Princess Tutu
- Episodes: 38
- Aired: Aug 2002 – May 2003
Here’s an anime that takes nearly a season’s worth of patience to understand why fans love it so much. It starts out as a sort of monster-of-the-week magical girl show with a ballet theme, starring a love-struck duck who gains the power to turn into a ballet dancer to restore her prince’s fractured heart. But when she realizes that a mysterious storyteller is trying to spin her life into the perfect tragedy, she vows to change her fate.
It takes a long time to get to Princess Tutu’s postmodern exploration of traditional storytelling, but experiencing the characters’ lives as the evil Drosselmeyer intended makes their eventual rebellion all the more satisfying. In the meantime, enjoy the classical ballet soundtrack and the anthropomorphic anteater dancing with the prince. Yes, that’s a thing that happens.
6. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2011 – Apr 2011
No list like this would be complete without Madoka Magica – a gothic, but seemingly innocent-enough magical girl anime that takes a sharp turn into cosmic horror when it murders a main character in its third episode. Luckily, the first two episodes are still well made and sow the seeds for much of the show’s later mysteries, but it isn’t until a certain someone loses their head that the show really gets going.
Madoka Magica actually achieved a phenomenal level of popularity thanks to the internet encouraging new viewers to give it a chance. Its bold deconstruction of magical girl stereotypes would go on to inspire other anime like Symphogear to try their hand at something similar, while adding their own new twists to keep the idea fresh. If there’s one thing to learn from this anime, it’s to not judge a book of eldritch horror by its glittery pink cover.
5. Fate/Zero Season 2
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2012 – Jun 2012
As a prequel to the legendary Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero had a lot to live up to. It spent much of its first season developing its many characters and setting up the Holy Grail War, but didn’t feature many of the franchise’s signature action-packed battles that fans had been waiting for. But once season 2 rolled around, it was all action, all the time.
Thanks to earlier episodes already having established every character’s motivations and conflicts, the battles here are all the more gripping and fun to watch. We wish the pacing had been a bit more balanced so that it wasn’t one season full of setup and the next back-to-back payoff, but we can’t argue with the results. Fate/Zero’s second season is well worth the time spent to get there, no matter how long it took.
4. Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2017 – Dec 2017
Land of the Lustrous has a plot, but it’s hard to describe in any kind of coherent way. At its core, it’s about how tragic experiences change you as a person. Our main character Phosphophyllite is a useless slag of a gem, spending much of his time goofing off or complaining. He desperately wants to be a strong fighter so the others will admire him, but his flighty attitude just makes him a burden to everyone else.
The episodic story only starts to make sense as a whole once Phos get in over his head and begins to lose important parts of himself. He gradually drifts farther and farther away from the coward he used to be, but the change isn’t entirely a good thing. If you can stick with this gorgeous CG anime and trust that its meandering plot will eventually lead to interesting revelations later on, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Clannad ~After Story~
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2008 – Mar 2009
There’s a reason why this show routinely ranks on “best anime ever” lists, and it’s not because of its first season. While the original Clannad still stands up as a quality slice of life romance, its sequel After Story is known for being one of the most tragically beautiful tales ever told in anime. How did that big of a jump even happen?
After Story reunites the audience with main character Tomoya and his lady love Nagisa after they’ve graduated from high school and had a daughter together. They try to live a happy life, but both Nagisa and her daughter are struck by an illness that threatens to steal them away from Tomoya. You don’t necessarily need to watch the first season of Clannad to understand this one, but taking the time to learn more about these characters’ early lives makes After Story that much more effective at crushing your heart into pieces.
2. Katekyo Hitman Reborn! (Reborn!)
- Episodes: 203
- Aired: Oct 2006 – Sep 2010
Do you want to watch hot anime guys in suits use magical flame powers and rad weapons to beat down evil? Here, have a slice of life comedy for 20 episodes before the first real story arc kicks in. Reborn is a fantastic anime with unique characters and a surprisingly deep storyline, but even diehard fans admit that it has a steep barrier to entry for new viewers who just want to get to the meat of the action.
Due to the way the original manga evolved over time, the anime starts off as a relatively peaceful comedy that takes its time to develop the main cast and drop hints about the nature of the Vongola mafia family. Whether or not this frontloaded approach is a good thing is a topic of heated debate, but the end result is that we understand everyone’s motivations and relationships before the first serious shounen arc catches them (and us) completely off guard. Watch it with some friends who know the series and don’t give up – the payoff is well worth the time spent watching Tsuna run around in his underwear.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 2011 – Sep 2011
Wasn’t this supposed to be a time travel anime? So what’s this about three nerds in a dilapidated building bickering and turning bananas into lime jello? Well, even though it takes about nine episodes for mad scientist Okabe and his buddies to get themselves swept up in the series’ signature time travel plot, it’s absolutely worth the wait to get there. Steins;Gate is one of the most beloved sci-fi anime ever, and it all starts with a ramshackle microwave that can somehow send text messages to the past.
Like Reborn and some of the other anime on this list, the main cast is highly developed and likeable because of the time spent getting to know them early on. If you can put up with the slow meandering of the first several episodes, you’ll enjoy the later fast-paced time travelling intrigue all the more. We still wish it hadn’t taken so long to get there, but the glowing reviews and countless accolades speak for themselves.
Great anime doesn’t always start off with a bang. Even if the beginning is entertaining or possibly essential for understanding its characters, its lack of substance can put off viewers who would’ve loved the later content. But we still love these anime, warts and all.
What did you think of our list? Did we include your favorite slow-paced anime? Let us know in the comments which anime you think are worth the wait, and thanks so much for reading!