The wide world of sci-fi anime has something for just about everyone, no matter what kind of stories you're looking for. If you're totally unsure of where you should start, you need only decide one thing. Are you Team Star Trek Discovery or Team Orville right now? There's no wrong answer! It's totally fine to enjoy both.
But deciding which currently-airing science fiction series you prefer will help determine what kind of anime you might enjoy more. Star Trek Discovery aims for a more cerebral, takes-itself-seriously route while The Orville features more humorous episodic adventures with a more lighthearted air. Take a moment, figure it out, and then consult this guide for a few suggestions on where you should start. Some massively popular choices like Cowboy Bebop have been omitted to make room for a few lesser-known options, so give these suggestions a try, if you'd be so kind.
Team Orville: Outlaw Star
This blast from the past is all about a ragtag bunch, including central protagonist Gene Starwind and his younger business associate Jim Hawking as they make a bid to locate the "Galactic Leyline." Supposedly there's a cache of knowledge, treasure, and power there beyond all compare. As the bunch travel through space fighting off bounty hunters, meeting up with lifelike androids, and fighting off and making friends with catgirls and contract killers, they become one big happy family. Their ship the Outlaw Star is piloted by a sentient computer, and navigator Melfina is an android looking for life's purpose. You wouldn't expect this motley crew to get along, but they do exceedingly well, and their adventures are never dull. Looking for crew comedy and dynamics like The Orville's? Look no further than Outlaw Star.
Team Orville: Steins;Gate
This anime adaptation of a wildly popular video game belongs to an entire universe of interconnectd properties. You'll want to start with Steins;Gate, which follows one "mad scientist" named Rintaro Okabe. Okabe is the head of his own "Future Gadget Laboratory," which is actually just an apartment he lives in with friends Mayuri and Daru. After Okabe happens upon a way to send text messages known as D-mails back and forth in time, he creates a time travel device that ends up spawning a complicated mess of timelines. It's not without its share of kooky situations, wacky personalities, and hilarity, however. It's got a healthy dose of serious sci-fi sprinkled with the same kind of silliness you've come to enjoy with The Orville, and you might even learn a thing or two when it draws to a close.
Team Orville: Space Dandy
You've never seen a space opera/sci-fi adventure as wacky as Space Dandy, but The Orville nails some of the surreal humor in several episodes. Space Dandy follows, well, Dandy, an alien hunter who's looking for undiscovered and rare aliens in the outer reaches of the universe. There's also a restaurant called "BooBies" and a whole lot of dancing. Every episode featurs Dandy meeting up with some bizarre type of alien, whether it's a cat-like alien named Meow or a gorilla scientist. It's a way trippier time than The Orville has ever dared, but that's what makes it such a memorable and strange journey. You'll never forget Space Dandy, that's for sure.
Team Star Trek Discovery: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is as close as you can get to the original anime opus, Ghost in the Shell. No, I certainly don't mean the dumpster fire that was the live-action Hollywood remake. I mean the 2002 series that followed law enforcement unit Section 9 and its cybernetically enhanced members Motoko "Major" Kusanagi and the rest of her squad. The first season of the show, each a "stand alone" episode unless otherwise marked as "complex" (multi-episodes), followed the group taking down a hacker and terrorist known as The Laughing Man. There's little room for humor, though there are a few laugh-worthy moments. The Major is all business, and the team is pragmatic. These are harder sci-fi vignettes that should please Star Trek fans.
Team Star Trek Discovery: Ergo Proxy
In the future, a city called Romdeau has been built to keep the people who live inside safe from the after-effects of a disaster that previously plagued civilization. Humans live alongside androids known as AutoReivs, until certain robots and AutoReivs start murdering humans. They've been infected with a virus called Cogito, and rather than doing something typical like "corrupting" them, it makes the mechanical entities become self-aware. Things can't continue as is, so an inspector from the Citizen Intelligence Bureau is dispatched to investigate. Re-l Mayer (pronounced "real") works with her partner Vincent Law to get to the bottom of the virus that's infected the AutoReivs. It's an intriguing and darker adventure that asks many similar questions about human nature, much like Star Trek Discovery has attempted. Need a slice of darker sci-fi? Ergo Proxy's for you.
Team Star Trek Discovery: Planetes
Planetes is a popular slice of hard sci-fi that features realistic space travel, space, and the dangers of all that those things entail. Even the show's opening is reminiscent of Star Trek Discovery, and failing that, Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew of the DS-12 "Toy Box" ship is tasked with helping prevent the destruction of space stations, other spacecrafts, and satellites from colliding with space junk out in the expanses of space. There's a whole lot more to it than that, however. Realistic, living and breathing characters with their own agendas, shortcomings, and pitfalls intermingle with each other while trying to accomplish a common goal. It's a touching and intimate portrayal of life in space that's not afraid to explore themes that other sci-fi series just haven't bothered to touch. In this, it's certainly kin to Star Trek Discovery.