The idea behind this flowchart was my habit of watching anime with alternating mood: something entertaining followed by something ambitious, and never two "heavy" series in a row. Since software development is what I study, I am more than familiar with the idea of flowcharts, and I made a quick sketch of two questions "Do you want something ambitious?" and "Does it have to be good?" (as there are many series that hook you with an interesting premise, but aren't all that satisfying in the end).
Originally, the flowchart was one giant monstrosity with the "entertaining/ambitious" sections branching endlessly. It got WAY more traction that I ever could have expected, climbing to top #1 /r/anime posts of all time - but once the thousands of comments rolled in, people started picking up the details I've missed, like mislabelled series, typos, inconsistency, imbalance between the blue and pink frame (before purple frame was a thing), the whole thing being too confusing with the long drops (arrows that go way too far down), etc.
That's why I've decided to give the thing a few public iterations and make something that I could publish and not feel embarrassed about five minutes afterwards.
I've made it with three groups of newcomers in mind: teenagers too young to remember DBZ or Sailor Moon airing, adults who grew up on the fore mentioned series, and folks who like the Studio Ghibli movies and want something similar. Examples of people in the groups: first is the class I teach, second is me, third is my sister. For all of them, series like FMA:B and Attack on Titan will be something interesting, but there are also some more precise shots, like Mushishi for the Ghibli crowd, Magi for the young Avatar fans and Toradora as the introduction to romance.
All three comedies are more than just that because the anime comedy antics are difficult to get used to (think how distracting was the overused chibi joke in FMA:B) and the picked trio has something else going on for them. Maou-sama and Angel Beats are straight out action comedies that should take a grip on a newbie with just the action, and Toradora is an example of "come for the comedy, stay for the drama" that however imperfect (let's be real, some people will hate Taiga's abusiveness) can open up the whole rom-com genre to many people. Alternative for Toradora here would be Nisekoi but come on I'm not that cruel.
All the series in the beginner section are attractive for both genders (Magi, Psycho-Pass and AoT are even considered "fujobait"), because I did not want to make any excessive notes about demographics and series with overblown fan service tend to be off putting for beginners anyway.
Main problem of the old layout was bundling "cute girls doing cute things" under "feels", which were considered "ambitious". After breaking down "entertaining/ambitious" into Action, Comedy, Drama and Thriller, I've realized I need the fifth category for emotionally-focused series, under the Slice of Life flag. This division isn't perfect, but the main blocks are more or less the same size.
Action-adventure is bundled together because of the huge overlap in the demand, the demographics, and the designation of particular series into one of the two genres. It would be an uneasy task to split hybrid action-adventure series into one of the two categories, and using three branches (action, adventure, hybrid) seems like excessive compartmentalization. Pretty much all of the series in that category are action-packed, and the select few non-action adventure series have been moved to "Slice of life" (Mushishi, Spice & Wolf, Kino). Differentiating between finished and unfinished action series is something that was needed because this genre is the worst offender in that regard. "Anime as a LN advertisement" is a plague, and the un/finished separation allowed me to build a perfect group for binge-watching that excluded many popular ongoing series.
The "Pure Fun" branch is a mix of action comedies and "guilty pleasure" series I've personally enjoyed in their entirety (plus JoJo). This category exists for two purposes: separating non-violent action comedies (NGNL, Shokugeki) from the rest and showcasing a few "guilty pleasure" series that would otherwise raise eyebrows - why are those next to critically acclaimed series, why were the better ones left out, why weren't similar/ecchi series included. I don't expect anyone to have the exact same taste as me, but there is no objective way to assess trainwrecks in their value, so I went full subjective on that one. Keep in mind the whole thing is tainted with my subjective opinion on what objectivity is :)
One big disservice this chart makes is to the sports genre. Aside of few romances (Cross Game, Touch) that have been placed in a more appropriate manner, all the other sports series are bundled together in a subbranch of "Action" even though many of them don't have any action whatsoever, or labelling them as such is missing the point completely (One Outs, Chihayafuru). I've gotta admit, this whole section is just made in consultation with people who are fans of the sports anime (folks over at IRC), because I haven't watched any. And even though it became apparent to me some good time ago, it's an error that's been made far too early in the design phase to have an easy way to fix it.
Comedy is divided quite simply - "normal" work/school comedy, romance comedy and parodies. Having parodies in a separate category allowed for an all-branch disclaimer: "you need to know what it's a parody of". Why isn't romance a separate big category? Well, popular romance series tend to be comedies or tragedies (or both), and in some stories the romance doesn't necessarily drive the plot. I've decided then to use Comedy and Drama as main genres, and overall limit the number of main genres. So same goes for things like sci-fi, mecha, magical girls, sports. Byproduct of the design choice.
Drama is designed with adult audiences in mind. This is by far the worst section when it comes to "what the author of the chart watched" ratio. Half of these is my PTW list - I'm a young adult and have lots of catching up to do. There are few designs choices I'll still stand by, which is bundling the groups of mindfuck sci-fi, ambitious romances, and Ikuhara shows.
Thrillers and horrors are self-explanatory. Note that my favourite horror (Shinsekai yori) is in the Drama section.
CHOICE OF SERIES
Why did I list so many new series? Three reasons. First, the footnote at the very bottom says "important", not "best". Popular new series are important because they exist in the anime fandom's minds, cosplays, comments and gif reactions. This chart is meant to be a guide to the anime as it is at a very specific point in time. I expect it to outdated in a few years (unless I update it at least annually). Second - the "Seinfeld is Unfunny" syndrome. Some series have used or even invented the tropes that since then have been reused, recycled, mirrored, parodied and reforged to a point where the original seems repetitive and cliched to a newcomer. Third - the old (let's define old as 4:3 and new as 16:9) animation is often uneasy on the eyes of those who come with the expectations of something similar to Avatar, Batman and Teen Titans. Sure, old anime often has better production values, but times change and tastes change with them. We the '90s kids who grew up on DBZ, Sailor Moon and Pokemon are in out mid-20s now and the new generation, even though eager to hear what we have to say, doesn't necessarily see the appeal of what we enjoyed (source: I teach kids 10 years younger than me, some of which are getting into anime). Still, this flowchart has TONS of old classics from all vintages.
Credit : lukeatlook