Out of the loop for 15 years - recommendations?

Welcome! :D I find myself in a similar situation to yourself where I have not really purchased anime made later than the early 2000's (I'm 30 - so similar age too). I tried to get into Madoka via Netflix but just find it to be trope filled and also trying too hard. Three episodes was enough!

Hope you find something you enjoy!
 

Smeelia

Thousand Master
I may not be the best at giving recommendations since I tend to like anime with some degree of "cuteness" in it and I often enjoy shows that I'm far from the "intended audience" of.

That said, I do have broad tastes and I did like Summer Wars (haven't watched Paprika yet, it's on my pile). Sticking with films, you could give Only Yesterday a try. I'd say it has similar themes to Summer Wars but Only Yesterday lacks in the action department so if that's why you liked Summer Wars then it might not work so well. I think it's a good one to watch anyway and it is probably more aimed at people who are not quite officially "young" anymore.

Ghibli films in general are quite good, although most are at least "family friendly" so I'm not sure if that'd be to your taste but then they also tend to have some appeal for all ages. I liked From Up On Poppy Hill more than some people seem to, although my favourite is Whisper Of The Heart. I guess both are "coming of age" type stories so I don't know if that's what you're looking for. If you want something for cynical old guys then Porco Rosso might be worth a go. To be honest, it's not so easy to describe the appeal of these films (at least, I find it difficult) but I can at least say there are reasons that they're very popular.

Anything released by All The Anime/Anime Limited is worth a go, partly because they're a great UK company and partly because quite a lot of their catalogue is things that were popular from the late 90s into the 2000s. I assume you've at least seen Cowboy Bebop and if not then you should correct that as soon as possible.

I'd also suggest giving Trigun a go if you haven't seen it. It would probably fit in with the sort of things you used to like. There's a film for it too, although it's more of a tribute for the fans made many years after (I liked it but I don't think it'd be as good to watch before the series).

Things that are streaming: I suggest Polar Bear's Café. Okay, that's a weird one but it has some pretty good moments for people who aren't as young as they used to be and are at that point of having a good deal of nostalgia but also still having a future. Something like that.

I'd also suggest Space Brothers, it has great characters and great stories. It's pretty long and isn't technically finished (I really hope they do finish it some time) but I think it's interesting for being kind of a traditional drama TV show that also happens to be an anime. It's doing something that could be live-action and yet somehow I just don't think it'd work as well if it was. Worth a look, I'd say (also, the main character is about the same age as you so that might help too).

I haven't watched Time of Eve as episodes (and I think you need to have subscribed to Crunchyroll to watch it, though that's true of more things these days) but I enjoyed the film a lot so if you don't want to commit to getting the film then the episodes might be a worthwhile alternative (I don't know how different they are but, as I understand it, the film is basically the episodes stuck together and adjusted slightly for flow).

I'm tempted to suggest Shirobako because it's an anime about making anime and you might like the mixture of references to anime of the past combined with a look at what anime is like today. That said, it might also benefit from having watched more recent anime so you might not find it as interesting until you really feel that you're back "into" anime. Still, it does also work as a show about the issues of working life and it has some interesting characters so that could work for you.

Hmm, this has turned into another long post. Anyway, I think it's best if you try to keep an open mind and just give things a try. I started watching anime a little while ago with Fullmetal Alchemist and for a while I mostly watched the standard action stuff, then I decided to try a bit of everything and I'm really glad that I did. If you'd told me ten years ago that my favourite shows would involve cute girls doing cute things then I might have given you a funny look but I'm glad I was willing to try new things and I don't regret it at all.
 

Rosencrantz

Dragon Knight
I'm not sure I'd of leapt in with Madoka as a starting point, it's very good yes, but it's also something that'd benefit having some knowledge of how that type of show usually goes, good to hear your enjoying it.

Morcombe's list seems to have a very solid line up of good shows. Something like http://myanimelist.net/ or youtube will help you find a review/synopsis that can help you decide if a show is something you might like.
 

IncendiaryLemon

Captain Karen
AUKN Staff
Funnily enough, Madoka was the first anime I watched and I enjoyed it immensely. I actually haven't seen any Magical Girl anime since then, so I have no idea how it would compare.
 

Dan

Thousand Master
I'll apologise for the length of the list but

Berserk TV series*
Full metal Alchemist Brotherhood
Tiger & Bunny
Psycho Pass
Death Note
Noein To Yourself
Darker Than Black Series 1
Vampire Hunter D
Samurai Champloo
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
Monster (if you can find it)
Perfect Blue
Paranoia Agent

*Be warned though Berserk TV has an abrupt ending, rumours are they ran out of money but don't let that put you off. You can watch the 3rd movie to get your ending.

Not sure if you've seen these (guessing you will have seen some) but if you liked anime in the 90's and still like the older stuff like me, here are some recommendations

Cowboy Bebop
Akira
Cyber City Oedo
MegaZone 23
Ninja Scroll
Macros Plus
Riding Bean
 

Smeelia

Thousand Master
On the subject of "older stuff" I'd also recommend Dirty Pair. There's a TV series, OVAs and Movies. There's also Dirty Pair Flash, which is kind of a re-boot and gets mixed reviews (I enjoyed it but I can understand why some didn't). I think I watched the TV series first, then the Movies, the OVAs and finally Flash. I'm not sure what the official order to watch them in is but I thought that worked well.

In general, it's a fun sci-fi(ish) action series with great main characters. It's mostly light-hearted but it does have some more serious moments (especially in the movies). It's mostly episodic so there's not a lot of major ongoing plot (and the movies are basically different continuities in some cases) but that makes it good to watch in-between things. I watched a few episodes of Dirty Pair and then relaxed with some Hidamari Sketch afterwards and that seemed to work surprisingly well.
 
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