Last semester, the hardest thing in the world for me was trying to keep up with all my favorite TV shows. I love TV, but between my homework, extracurriculars, and social life, I struggled to stay on top of my TV shows. 

The shows I watch on Netflix are arguably easier to follow during the semester than shows airing live. Since they’re streaming, you can just come back to them whenever you have time. The thing is, lots of live action shows are extremely plot heavy. If you get slammed with homework for three weeks and then try to go back to your intricate, detailed, flashback-reliant show, it’s super easy to get lost when you start watching again. Here’s where cartoons come in.

Animated shows tend to have an overarching theme rather than an overarching plot. This makes it easy to leave it for weeks or months at a time while you focus on your other responsibilities. You can stop and keep watching whenever you have time, and you won’t restart feeling lost and confused. Here are some to get you started:

1. “Bob’s Burgers”

Adult Swim

“Bob’s Burgers” can be a little off-putting to some people because of the unique art style, but I promise it’s worth it. “Bob’s Burgers” is one of the best animated shows of the last few years, hands down. It centers around Bob Belcher, the owner of a burger restaurant, and his family: his wife Linda and his children Tina, Gene, and Louise. The show is laugh out loud funny but never makes jokes at other people’s expense, unlike similarly grouped “adult cartoons” like “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” This family genuinely loves each other, and this show is genuinely hilarious.

2. “Adventure Time”

Cartoon Network

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: “Adventure Time” is not really a kid’s show. It’s marketed toward children, but many of the plot lines and themes are more mature. The story focuses on a boy named Finn, supposedly the last human on Earth, and his magic dog named Jake, and takes place sometime after the apocalypse. The way gender is treated in “Adventure Time” is fantastic compared to other shows; the show features genderless and genderfluid characters and has a lot of queer and transgender subtext. Even though many aspects of the series are serious, everything is dealt with in a fun way. “Adventure Time” is one of my favorite shows and I highly recommend it to everyone.

3. “BoJack Horseman”


The eponymous BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) was once the star of a ‘90s sitcom called “Horsin’ Around.” Now, he’s a washed up celebrity attempting to gain relevance with a tell-all autobiography. Don’t let the humor fool you: “BoJack Horseman” effortlessly deals with serious topics like depression and alcoholism. It’s also super meta by satirizing the entertainment industry while being a part of it, and featuring celebrity characters, either as themselves or as animal version of themselves (for example, Lance Bass appears as a bass fish). The first half of the first season isn’t great, but the show eventually comes into its own and is a great watch.

4. “Steven Universe”

Cartoon Network

While “Steven Universe” is technically a children’s show, it’s gained a massive cult following of adults and teenagers. The show focuses on a young boy named Steven who lives with three female aliens known as the Crystal Gems. Steven and the Gems use their powers to help save the world from destruction, and Steven also spends time with his father and his friend Connie. Make no mistake, this is a magical girl show. Steven embodies all the feminine qualities of a magical girl heroine while still maintaining his masculinity; he’s never criticized for his femininity by other characters, and his strong feminine and masculine sides are embraced and celebrated. The show subverts gender roles, celebrates diversity, and manages to be a fun sci-fi story for audiences of all ages.

5. “Sailor Moon”

VIZ Media

Speaking of magical girl shows, go back to the show that revived the magical girl genre: “Sailor Moon!” A Japanese anime, the series follows a young schoolgirl who can transform into the “pretty guardian of love and justice” Sailor Moon. She and the other Sailor Scouts must search for a princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal to protect the Earth from villains set on destroying the solar system. Both the subtitled Japanese version and the English dubbed versions are available online (the North American dubbed version is heavily censored; any aspect of nudity or bathing, violence, and homosexuality is censored, so I recommend the original Japanese subtitled series). If you watched “Sailor Moon” on Cartoon Network when you were little, you can also check out the reboot, “Sailor Moon Crystal.”

6. “Young Justice”

Cartoon Network

This show was tragically cancelled at the end of its second season, which is stupid because it’s one of the best superhero cartoons I’ve ever watched. “Young Justice” focuses on a team of teenage superhero proteges: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis. The team also receives help from Zatanna, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Rocket, plus the superheroes that mentor them. The group must balance training with the Justice League, saving the day, and dealing with adolescent issues. Think “Teen Titans,” but better. Rumor has it that the show was cancelled due to too many girls watching, but the show’s creator claimed on Twitter that this isn’t true. Either way, “Young Justice” is a fantastic show for comic book fans that deserved more seasons. If enough of us watch it, maybe we can demand a reboot!

7. “Rick and Morty”

Adult Swim

An alcoholic genius grandpa takes his distressed grandson on adventures between universes? Sign me up! Honestly, that’s the plot of “Rick and Morty” in one sentence. Rick Sanchez, grandfather of 14 year old Morty, is an alcoholic scientist who moves in with his daughter. He takes Morty on misadventures throughout the galaxy and parallel universes, and eventually Morty’s older sister joins them. This is another show that balances serious themes against humor; “Rick and Morty” is very existentialist. Additionally, “Rick and Morty” doesn’t follow traditional continuity, making it one of the easiest shows to leave and return to throughout the semester.

8. “Ultimate Spider-Man”

Cartoon Network

If you love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Ultimate Spider-Man” is for you! Though it doesn’t have continuity with the live-action films, this incarnation of Peter Parker and Co. features characters from the MCU and comic book universes. “Ultimate Spider-Man” centers around teenage Peter Parker, who has been Spider-Man for about one year at the series’ start. When Nick Fury offers him the chance to become the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Peter joins S.H.I.E.L.D. and begins working with other teenage superheroes Nova, White Tiger, Power Man, and Iron Fist. Agent Phil Coulson works undercover as Peter’s school principal. Other MCU and comic book characters are featured, including the Avengers, Star Lord, Ant-Man, JARVIS, Gamora, and Arnim Zola, as are Agents Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” And, like all Marvel media, there’s a cameo from Stan Lee. “Ultimate Spider-Man” is a funny take on the uber-serious Marvel Universe and will have you freaking out about all the appearances of beloved superheroes from outside the traditional Spider-Man universe.

9. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

Cartoon Network

Have you been swept up in the “Star Wars” craze lately? Me too. If you can’t get enough of the iconic sci-fi world, “The Clone Wars” is a great place to start getting into the expanded canon universe. The show takes place between Episode II: “Attack of the Clones” and Episode III: “Revenge of the Sith,” about 20 years prior to the events in Episode IV: “A New Hope” (that puts it about 50-60 years before “The Force Awakens”). The show focuses on the characters from the prequel trilogy, making it perfect for fans of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, with introductions of new characters, like a Torgruta Jedi Padawan named Ashoka. Don’t worry, this isn’t “Baby’s First Star Wars;” George Lucas aimed at creating a cartoon for fans of all ages.

The best part? These are all available to stream on Netflix or for free on Hulu. Streaming animated shows is a college student’s best friend; give at least one of these a go this semester!

Lead Image Credit: Adult Swim