Anime for Dummies: What Starters Should Watch
So, you want to start watching anime but you don’t know where to start? Few can blame you. Anime is a rising medium in the entertainment industry. In fact, it’s so widespread, chances are you’ve been exposed to anime without realizing it. Many kids in the 90’s watched Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon without knowing it was anime they were watching. Pokemon served as a very common gateway as well and it shows how much anime can seep into someone’s life without them realizing it. So, what you want to do is start watching anime to the extent that hardcore fans watch, watch anime knowing it is anime, and watch anime being able to compare and contrast it to American animation or other animated shows of its type.
What is Anime
First off: What is anime? Anime is, put simply, Japanese animation. It is when a Japanese artist animates things into a storyline, basically like any other cartoon movie but Japanese style. Don’t go calling anime cartoon though. Cartoon has become synonymous with American animation and anime is too distinct to be called a cartoon. Strictly speaking, and to please fans, the two are different. As said, without knowing, you may have been exposed to such animation a while ago. You know popular games like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. If you are familiar with and have played these games, you have definitely been exposed to anime, at least to a limited extent.
Now we’ve established that you have been exposed to anime, we can continue. Anime is split between different types. What happens is there are different target audiences for anime and then there are different genres. The target audiences are Kodomo, Shonen, Shojou, and Seinen. What does this mean? Well, Kodomo is for young kids, Seinen is anime for older people, Shojou is anime for teenage girls and Shonen is anime for teenage boys and is the most widely loved anime among its audience and dominates the anime industry. Doesn’t this all mean that most anime is for kids, then? No! Because unlike most other mediums of entertainment, the demographic is then split between different genres, some of which are more widely accepted, and there lies the reason why anime is so popular.
What are genres? Genres are actually universally used terms to refer to what kind of story you’re about to get into: Adventure, romance, angst, sports, tragedy, drama, comedy, family, crime, etc… are all genres. Harry Potter is of the fantasy genre, Twilight is romance, Gulliver’s Travels is Adventure, and CSI is crime. Anime is included in this as well as games and any other form of entertainment. This is where you start trying to decide which anime to get into, which anime to follow and which fandom to get involved in. In the anime community, there are widely accepted ‘gateway anime’ to introduce to people just starting out. We won’t go into all that, though. Gateway Anime are generally the popular ones like Naruto and One Piece. Since we just established that different genres are for different people, someone may not necessarily like those two.
Another natural part of Anime people need to remember is that it is naturally Japanese. Being Japanese, most Anime are Japanese spoken and many times, one will have to rely on subtitles. This is where the distinction between subs and dubs come in. Dubs are Anime that were given an English dub, meaning it is spoken in English. Subs are Anime that are Japanese spoken with English subtitles. Subs vs. dubs are a factor in choosing Anime, because many people simply prefer laying back and watching and listening without relying on reading subtitles. However, for a starter, this guide recommends going into dubs but be open to going subbed eventually or the choices are limited.
If you’re in the mood for an adventure with different themes like maturation, characterization, and bits of tragedy, Naruto and One Piece is for you. If you prefer a lighter science fiction adventure, Cowboy Bebop is a nice anime to get into. Forget space, maybe you want a light adventure on land where each episode is a self-contained story, maybe Kino’s Journey is the best choice. Or, perhaps you’re more of a dark fantasy type with major elements of tragedy, in which case Attack on Titan is perfect. Do you like the drama of philosophy, war and conspiracy? Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is for you by far, and Code Geass for those who want a war of smarts and attrition at once. Maybe you hate adventure. What if you prefer the serious stuff like crime and investigation? Death Note is the better choice. Or perhaps you want Thriller, in which case Another is the perfect anime to start with. Perhaps someone doesn’t want any serious stuff and they prefer romance. Well, Chuunibyou, Love and Other Delusions is a good romantic anime to start with. Or perhaps you prefer Historical fiction in which case Black Butler is the way to go. Or maybe you just want comedy, and prefer watching Ouran High School Host Club which has comedic themes ranging from romance and sexuality to regular high school drama.
Going into these particular romances like Ouran and Chuunibyou leads you to the Slice of Life category. A Slice of Life is exactly what it sounds like, a bit of ordinary life. Most Slice of Life anime follows the mold of the aforementioned anime. Most of them take place in High school since, let’s face it, who wants a Slice off an ordinary working man’s life? It’s so much less interesting than the romantically fueled High School setting, not to mention it would bore the teenage target audience to death. Deciding what anime to get into can be difficult. The gateway makes or breaks a person’s interest most of the time because first impressions mean almost everything.
It is because of this a lot of anime fans think up “Gateway Anime” to use in their missionary work to convert so many others outside their fandom. Anime just has that charm to it, an appeal in its Animation only animation experts can truly pinpoint. Since not all of us are experts with every genre of anime out there, we look for universal gateways, gateways most people would like. That is naturally the easiest path. From there, things start getting interesting and passionate all at once. This is where the major anime series, let alone movies, start coming in. What’s this? Aren’t movies for more hardcore anime fans? Nope. Some anime movies, namely Hayao Miyazaki movies, are the best movies to start your anime watching experience. For some, they are exactly what you need to start. Like Disney is what started your animation experience as a child, Hayao Miyazaki is exactly like that.
Anyways, what was the point of naming a bunch of anime and not going into them? Why the heck would anyone trust a stranger online over what anime is good or bad? Much better to trust your friends, right? Well, this is why it is prudent to go through each and every anime mentioned, explain the plot and why it is a good gateway into the wider anime world. This guide will name specific gateways into a specific genre, and it will name some generally accepted universal gateways that everyone can enjoy.
A long time ago, back in the nineties, anime like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Cowboy Bebop took the west by storm. They broke out of their original country of Japan and appealed to western audiences. Dragonball started as a series before developing into Dragonball Z, and that set the stage for the formula that Shonen is known for in shows like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail, and Cardcaptor Sakura alcheas well as Shaman King. Shows like Dragonball and Naruto are originally manga, (Japanese comic) and were serialized as such in magazines before being adapted. If you’re more of a comic reader, choosing a manga might be a better start than going straight into visual Anime.
Anime is part of Japanese culture now, and being part of Japanese culture, it is not unusual for just about anyone to watch it. Some Anime try to appeal directly to a western audience. In fact, looking at how some main characters like Naruto from Naruto look western in look is a direct example of how it may try to appeal to an outside audience. All these anime are now regarded as nostalgic pieces of history. The way a nineties Disney fan would view The Little Mermaid, the same holds true to an anime lover who looks back and knows how it all began. Such an extensive history of anime will only continue to grow and expand. So, without further ado, here goes the anime guide. Please note that the following Anime caters specifically to different genres. Those who are not interested in a particular genre can skip the section corresponding to it and the recommended Anime.
Introduction: Naruto is for the type that craves for an epic adventure, a long series, and a journey of growth, maturation, and discovery of characterizations and back stories on them. Naruto is one of what is commonly known as The Big Three. The Big Three is a group of- well- three Anime that are incredibly popular and consists of One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto. This section speaks of Naruto since its author is not as familiar with One Piece and Bleach as he would like to be. To be honest, all three has major themes of adventure but in different ways. Naruto focuses on character development, One Piece focuses on world building which compliments adventure. These three owe their existence to Dragonball Z which gave rise to exactly this style.
Plotline: Naruto starts the epic story of a twelve year-old boy who dreams of being acknowledged. He relates to a lot of kids who feel left out because he himself starts as a loner. Naruto starts this way because he previously had a demon fox sealed inside him as a baby to save the village from attack. The villagers extend their dislike of the fox to its host. Naruto is a story that takes place in a Feudal Japan-inspired world of ninja. It is more complicated than kids being ninjas because this time the world of ninjas has a touch of magical fantasy to it. Ninja are generally able to perform hand signs in very quick motion to release elemental damage (fire, earth, water, wind and lightning.) Each nation of ninja has its own hidden ninja village ruled by someone called a Kage, who is the most powerful of that village and is tasked with protecting it. Naruto’s dream is to become the Kage of his village, which is called the Hidden Leaf Village.
Cons: Some problems with this anime are that it is filled with fillers and unneeded episodes and the world you are introduced to is generally the world you’ll stay in. World building is not as important as character building. Once you get into the second part of the anime called Naruto: Shippuden, it becomes a little predictable. Fans generally like the predictability though, because when something unexpected happens (and make no mistake, Shippuden is the time when major reveals are made). Eventually, a point would come where things just die down and the same thing happens, ultimately building up to a bigger same thing. Some people can also get the impression that some aspects were definitely come up with on the spot. A part of this can be attributed to the fact that as Naruto (and many other Anime) are serialized as manga, editors push for it to be lengthened as a series if it is popular.
Pros: What makes Naruto a good anime is that there is something for everyone. It is enormously inspired off an anime that came before it called Dragonball Z. Naruto follows that trope in the sense that its characters increase their power levels to untold proportions, and fight evil characters that intend to misuse their power. Basically, ninja against ninja. It may be boring at parts but at those same parts, the story is progressing. As long as the water avoids filler, you are always getting closer to understanding something. Character building is done pretty well in this anime too, as many characters have different stories and back stories that make the audience question their motives, their allegiance, even their philosophy and their personalities. This anime is not without tension and is certainly no fairy tale. Characters die, but it is not as heavy a theme as in Harry Potter. When a character does die though, it hits and it hits hard.
How Many to Watch: For this anime, the general rule is this: Watch the first five episodes. If the world looks good, continue to the first arc titled The Land of Waves arc. If that arc does it, you’ll like it. If it fails, you won’t like it.
Science Fiction- Cowboy Bebop
Introduction: Cowboy Bebop is an anime that is immensely popular. In some ways, this anime was groundbreaking. It did things anime before it did not do before. For one thing, it’s one of the very few anime that can be classified as a science fiction space opera. This does not mean it’s like Star Wars though. Going into Cowboy Bebop expecting something big and epic is a big mistake. What the anime has going for it are its characters, its different settings, and of course, its soundtrack which is a heavy sort of jazz style that fits the general mood of the anime.
Plotline: Cowboy Bebop is a space opera adventure. It follows a band of bounty hunters travelling around the Solar System and its humanized colonies to catch different criminals with bounties on their heads. It starts with your two main characters, Spike and Jet. They continuously attempt to score large bounties in a series where each episode is a self-contained story. However, early on, two more join their team of bounty hunters including Miss Valentine and the female child hacker Radical Edward, giving the crew an even split between genders. While each episode is a self contained story, the character arc of Spike, the main character, is not and certainly has its conclusion as satisfying as any overarching storyline.
Cons: Even the most popular anime have downsides, however. Cowboy Bebop is not to be watched with high expectations. No matter how much people hype the show up, it is based purely on nostalgia and memories. Cowboy Bebop has a style that is not welcomed by just anyone. Some people prefer an overarching storyline and continuously seeing the crew attempt to chase bounties down can get boring at times. It starts getting more interesting halfway through, and the movie chronologically takes place before the final five episodes which means it is best watched after Episode 19. In the end, all the anime is really, is an adventure through space, through good times and bad. The characters themselves, who make the story what it is, may not appeal to everyone and that is exactly what the anime has going against it. Is what it has going against it enough?
Pros: Not necessarily, at least, not in terms of characters. This anime has the strength of having a diverse set of recurring characters among the crew. There is the young and wild young girl Radical Edward, the badass Captain of the ship Jet, the mysterious main character with a mysterious past called Spike, and the sexually active Miss Valentine who too has a mysterious past. Add to this the presence of their constant animal companion, a dog, and the cast of characters feels complete. For those who do not like self-contained episodes in anime and prefer an overarching storyline, the characters of Cowboy Bebop have arcs that are revealed gradually, making it essential that each episode is watched in order, right up to the final few episodes which conclude the characters arcs of each crew member
How Many to Watch: The show is popular, that cannot be denied. As said, do not watch with high expectations. Watch for the sake of an adventure through space, and watch with the willingness to meet many different kinds of characters. Seven episodes should be enough of a chance. For those who have not grown into it, the choice is theirs: Continue on until after Episode 10 in hopes it gets more interesting, or quit.
If Cowboy Bebop is not your style, however, I would still suggest an anime of its type. Kino’s Journey is the same thing except in takes place on land, each episode is self-contained, bounty hunters are not a central theme and the main character is a girl with a talking motorcycle. Or, of course, neither will adhere to your tastes.
Dark Fantasy- Attack on Titan
Introduction: Maybe a colorful adventure full of fluff and light-hearted moments don’t do it for you. Maybe you want something darker, but still fantasy. In that case, look at Attack on Titan. Also known by its Japanese name Shingeki no Kyojin, this anime is not some anime that aired in the nineties and is still inexplicably going strong, it’s not like Naruto and Dragonball Z. This one is recent and is already immensely popular. So popular, the creator was touched by fans’ love for the series and elected to change the original ending he had planned for it. Whether that is good or bad, no one can deny how strong the series has become.
Plotline: Attack on Titan is an anime following the life of a boy named Eren Jaeger in a post apocalyptic world. In this world set far into the future, the last of humanity is hidden behind huge walls that protect them from humanoid man-eating giants called Titans. Eren and his adopted sister Mikasa and their best friend Armin Arlert are forced into military service against the Titans when the outer wall is penetrated and the populace on the outer-most human reservation are either wiped out or evacuated. Dreaming of getting into the Recon Corps which do the bul of the world against the Titans, eren and his friends meet a host of new characters who too dream of fighting the Titans that threaten their lives.
Cons: The one thing wrong about this anime is that it really is too dark. Despite it being a Shonen anime, which means its targeted specifically towards boys younger than fifteen, mentions of abuse and famine are not foreign to this world. The only other thing that may be wrong is that the creator had admitted previously that he intended for the series to be much shorter, culminating in a tragic ending to betray the fans. The presence of these fans made him rethink this entirely. This may suggest that the creator does not know where he’s going with this any longer, and where writer’s don’t know where they’re going with a story, it falls apart. Unless the creator has something in mind, Attack on Titan is in danger of doing just that.
Pros: All of that may be meaningless though. The creator emphasizes by saying he know what he wants to do, he’s just not sure how to do it. That is a new level entirely. In the case of Attack on Titan, the ending is not nearly as important as the reveals that take place. In this world, there are so many things the audience does not know that at the beginning, while you may be aware of the state humanity is in, you are not aware of the finer details. These reveals are very well thought out and scheduled carefully, so the story itself is on good ground. The high tension t creates is perfect for people who are in the dark fantasy genre, predictability is very low (to the point you truly do not know whether the good guys will win in the end) and that is what makes a tense story
How Many to Watch: Because of the way the anime is done, Attack on Titan does not need five episodes like Naruto or seven episodes like Cowboy Bebop. Some may argue quite well that Attack on Titan can attract with a single episode so one may very well be enough. Still, to be fair, give it three. All it needs is three episodes. If you do not like it within those three episodes, you won’t like it in five.
Philosophy and War- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Introduction: Perhaps the sort of anime you’re looking for is an anime on philosophy, ideology, conspiracy and war. No shame, no shame. Fullmetal Alchemist is another popular anime and a great gateway that even adults might like it. Many newcomers confuse this for being the sequel to the original series Fullmetal Alchemist. This is not the case. This is a reboot and it follows the original Manga more faithfully than its counterpart. It is for that reason this anime is recommended. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is clearer in its representation, rendering the original obsolete.
Plotline: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a touching story about two boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who lose their mother. They defy a taboo against human creation and not only fail to bring their mother back from the dead, but they lose a lot in the process. Edward loses an arm and a leg and Alphonse loses his body, forcing his brother to entrap his soul in a suit of armor in an attempt to save him from death. The two go on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which is rumored to be able to defy that taboo and create anything at will. In this journey, they join the military’s branch of State Alchemists and work for the Colonel Roy Mustang and by extension the Fuhrer President King Bradley. In this story, they find themselves in a battle against seven different villains, each one a Homunculus and each one named after a different deadly sin.
Cons: This show touches a lot on philosophy and religion, military and war, and even genocides. The downside to this is that a lot of the time, just when things seem to be getting serious, the characters get all childish and wavy in a very cartoon way to lighten the mood. Keep in mind, the main characters are kids, teenagers at the oldest, and so a lot of their mentalities cannot fully be appreciated by an older audience. This attempt to remain light-hearted and easy feels very forced and it can get on a lot of nerves, especially if an adult happens to be watching it. Just when you really get into it, it’s interrupted by the characters digressing into kids land. Due to its nature, it also takes more than a few episodes to get into.
Pros: All those cons hardly matter when it really comes down to it though. The cartoony aspect seldom happens and it does not take from the more serious matters that we won’t go into right now. The characters may be kids but their superiors are all adult and they are, more often than not, treated as adults. These may be kids but these are kids who were forced to grow up too fast. One lost two limbs, the other lost his body and is merely an empty shell of a soul, and their mother is dead. Their father is another story entirely. In spite of childish moments, war and death are very real here and some of the cast are killed off as the story reaches its climax. The fandom is general can’t bring itself to acknowledge one in particular due to its painful subject
How Many to Watch: If the first few minutes of the first episode does not get you (it will, don’t worry about that) the next four will. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime that touches on adult subjects and therefore, it takes a while to get into. If the first few minutes and even the first five episodes don’t do it, give it two more. If, by the fifth episode you are not hooked, give it up.
Crime- Death Note
Introduction: What? You don’t like adventure? You want crime and investigation and you prefer sticking with CSI than some childish anime you think will mess the genre up. Well, you know what? I don’t like your tone. I bring Death Note to the table. This anime is about an anti-hero facing off against an anti-villain not through physical means but mental, all centered around a killer notebook. Both are geniuses, one committed a crime and the other is trying to find him out, while the other conceals himself to whatever end. Ok, so the introduction is crummy. What is it about? The anime starts with a bunch of Shinigami, otherwise known as Gods of Death, in their realm. One drops a notebook into the human world.
Plotline: Death Note follows the life of a brilliant High school honor student Light Yagami who finds a notebook that claims that whoever’s name is written in it will die. Light initially disbelieves this claim but tries it anyway on a criminal who was holding hostages (including children), he discovered that it does work. Light is visited by a God of Death named Ryuk, who explains the notebook’s power and reveal that he is now Light’s companion until Light’s eventual, inevitable death. Light’s mind slowly begins to justify the murder and starts routinely killing criminals, hoping to make the world a better place. Eventually, the deaths of criminals get noticed. Light’s fans start calling him Kira, but the police frown on this. They get the help of the world’s greatest detective, known only as L. L challenges Light on live television and the show becomes a face-off between two unknown men, neither of whom now the identity of the other.
Cons: Death Note is a very popular anime, no one can deny that, but it does have a few things going against it. One of the main things people like to complain about is the second season. Without spoiling things, we can’t go too much into it but it’s quite controversial. Some love the second season and others hate it. In fact, some claim that Death Note was originally supposed to end with its first season. This serves further to claim that the show is simply one of those that had a good run and ultimately killed itself. However, this is for the fans to decide and many disagree intensely with this perception.
Pros: The second season nonetheless continues the story and it does have a satisfying conclusion right up to the end. In fact, many novelizations and short mangas are spun off with the second season in mind. Death Note is also really good because it challenges people to think. As harsh as it is, killing criminals, even the petty ones, does have an effect on the crime rate. It is portrayed as a harsh but viable method of erasing crime. Throughout the anime, even the second season, the audience is left to decide whose side they are on. The detective L is introduced, and he even a quirks that make the audience identify with him, thus making him a very popular character. In fact, both character, L and Light are incredibly popular amongst fans and it’s not hard to see why.
How Many to Watch: Since this show is primarily about crime and investigation, you cannot expect more than what you’re given in the first few episodes. Most anime need a few episodes to get into. Where Naruto probably demands twenty episodes, Death Note only needs three if not two. If by the third episode you have not gotten into it, you never will.
Introduction: You want the Thriller genre? Wait- you want a good one? Like, an original storyline falling into the Thriller genre? You do realize how rare that is right? Well, I’ve got the perfect one. Another is a fairly good anime falling into exactly that. It is filled with murder, suspense, and mystery and all taking place in High School. No, no, I’m not talking about your typical High school setting where one character kills another or they have an evil teacher or something, it’ nothing like The Gallows, nor is it all about romance in the end. No, I’m talking actual thriller. It’s not predictable. You’ll think you’ll know the end but you really won’t.
Plotline: Another is an anime about a new High school student who moves into a classroom. There, he is treated as if he does not exist. This may be typical for any new High school student but this is taken to the next level. The students have to stop acknowledging him because he dared to acknowledge another student who is treated as if she does not exist. The stakes: Their very lives. The class can only have a certain amount of people, if it goes above that amount, people in that class, their relatives, even their friends, are at risk of death. By acting like an extra student does not exist, the curse may be parried. Not broken but parried. The reason for this cruelty is because it is believed that one, unknown student in that class is actually dead and is the core of the curse.
Cons: Another is quite the thriller but it also means it can get quite gory at times. It’s not pretty to look at. More than that, when deaths are being built up to, it is not hard to predict who is going to die more than it is to predict who is dead. The core is not predictable but the action is. It’s the typical horror show where each and every death can be seen coming from a mile away. The anime is also one of the shorter ones out there. Where most anime run at around twenty-two or even twenty-five episodes, this one runs at twelve. That means the adventure is shorter than some would like. For some people this is no problem but for others, it is. The typical High school setting may also serve to repel some people.
Pros: What Another has going for it is so much more. So it’s easy to see who might die later, big deal. It’s not easy at all to know who the dead student is in the classroom. There are red herrings and the legend and curse affect the characters on a psychological level, almost makes them paranoid. Some just want to break the curse, others want to make sure it cannot affect them, all just want to be left alone. The anime may be short, but it’s quality over quantity and it is not every day a thriller of this type is made with enough heart to really earn the audience’s interest. It has all the requirements a thriller needs and more, and it executes things almost brilliantly.
How Many to Watch: Since Another is very short, it only really needs a couple of episodes. Two should do it. If it did not hook you by the first or second episode, it simply won’t do it. If it does, go for it but be prepared. It’s not for kids. Thrillers rarely are.
Romance- Chuunibyou, Love and Other Delusions
Introduction: Romance, huh? You like that sappy stuff? Don’t worry, if it’s done right, everybody does. What you’re looking for is a romantic storyline that is actually done right. You don’t want sappy, or you want sappy but you want good sappy. In other words, you want to be able to root for the main couple. This is rather difficult to pin down, of course, because the main couple would need something unique that sets them apart from all other romantic couples you know. What romance you already know, anyone can only guess. Chuunibyou is a romantic anime set in High school and I would argue it’s the best one out there.
Plotline: Chuunibyou is named for the Japanese term chuunibyou. Chuunibyou basically refers to the phase in adolescence, around eighth grade, where you or anyone else starts acting like something they simply are not. The boy who tried to start drinking coffee before he even acquired a taste, the girl who started speaking Japanese even though she isn’t Japanese at all, or even acting like you are a super-powered evil Lord of Darkness. All of that is chuuibyou and is the basis for this anime. The anime follows a boy who is trying to put his rather extreme chuunibyou past behind him until he meets and even falls in love with a girl his age whose chuunibyou side has completely taken over.
Cons: If the anime has anything going against it, it’s not the mushy stuff but the slow-moving plot. The plot is inherently romantic and for an older person, having it set in High school might not do much. In fact, it could repel a lot of romance lovers out there. These characters make no effort to let the audience forget the setting is High school either based on how immature some of them can be. That’s the core of the negativity. Immaturity. A lot of the characters are immature and the anime, is anything, glorifies that immaturity. For some people, that’s just a turn-off. It is a shame too because romance is always immature or overly mature, especially the popular ones. So, why watch it?
Pros: Because, the story does not focus inherently on their lovey-dovey side nor is immaturity a vice in this case. Chuunibyou challenges the idea that immaturity is a vice. It focuses on those around them, their relationships and builds up to it little by little. It doesn’t just swoop in out of nowhere. The romantic relationship takes time, and it takes patience. It’s real that way. And this realness makes itself known when, slowly, the audience is introduced to the characters, their past, who they are and what makes them that way. If you don’t like immaturity, you’ll like the main character. If you love immaturity, you’ll like the love interest. Why? Because it’s imaginative. The love interest acts frequently like she is a dark person with evil powers and it shows when the scene skips into her own imagination and lets you see what she sees. Funnily, these imagination sequences make this one of most epic romantic anime told (even more so than Sword Art Online. That’s not saying much though.)
How Many to Watch: This anime is based off a light novel series in Japan and so it has two seasons and a bunch of shorts. Three is the treasure. If the first three episodes do not hook you, it probably won’t hook you at all. Do not watch those three episodes expecting a blossoming romance. Again, it takes time and patience. Watch them knowing who is likely to be the love interest and expect things to go from there. If ever there is a romantic storyline someone could get into, it’s this.
Historical Fiction- Black Butler
Introduction: Anime also has a hand in historical fiction. One of the most popular historical settings is none other than Victorian England. Setting itself after the industrial revolution, a time where poverty was rampant, and a time when feminism was on the rise with the most powerful monarch in the world being a woman, Victorian England is a popular point of history to write about. So much so, even anime which is based on an island archipelago nation of Japan way down south has touched upon this era of human history as well. Thus, Black Butler comes into being.
Plotline: Black Butler is an anime about a twelve year-old Earl named Ciel Phantomhive making a contract with a demon named Sebastian Michaelis. Sebastian is to act as the boy’s butler and loyal servant until Ciel has taken revenge on those who killed his parents. At that point, Sebastian would be allowed to consume Ciel’s soul forever. The anime follows exactly this. It soon turns out there are more characters than just Ciel and Sebastian, including Ciel’s fiancée Elizabeth Midford, their three clumsy servants, and the Indians Agni and Soma as well as Grim Reapers who hunt demons. Ciel tirelessly chases after his parents’ killers, all the while doing jobs for the Queen as her loyal Watchdog of the British Underworld.
Cons: Like all anime, Black Butler has its shortcomings. As interesting a premise as this anime has, it has a reputation for giving in to pure fan service. Fan service is when the author detracts from the story, even takes from it or changes it, to give fans what they want. This mostly comes at the cost of the story itself. The fandom of this anime is not helping matters. The fans want romantic scenes between Ciel and Sebastian (no kidding, pedophilia and demon-on-child) and while the anime can’t show this outright due to its type, it does a good job of implying it. The unforgivable con of this anime is the second season. If you don’t like this type of fan service, don’t watch it. Those who have watched it regret it.
Pros: Nonetheless, the first season was actually pretty decent. If one watches it as a first season and ignores the second, it can actually stand pretty well. There were moments when one might have the impression they meant to go one way before changing their minds and going another but it all came to a conclusion in the end and it can be explained by the anime catching up with the original manga and having to go their own way afterwards. There has since been a new arc retconning half the first season and staying true to the Manga so even disregarding this, the anime itself is a very decent one to consider.
How Many to Watch: Black Butler should hook you by the first episode. Dare I say this? Give the first episode a try. If it doesn’t work, it never will. Keep in mind, however, the different arcs as you watch. The first season can be watched as a standalone, or you can watch the first half and go on to the Book of Murder OVA series and the Noah’s Ark Circus series that retcons the next half of the first season and the entire second season (especially the second season.) Always remember, first and foremost: This is a historical fiction.
Comedy- Ouran High School Host Club
Introduction: Ah, classic comedy. Comedy is borne from tragedy, and tragedy stems from sad situations. There are anime that are comedic in nature but as comedy is rather diverse with different people having diverse senses of humor, what constitutes as comedy may be difficult to pinpoint for a single person. In other words, what’s funny to me may not be funny to you. It is for this reason I bring Ouran High School Host Club up. This anime is suggested half-heartedly but it will be explained almost definitely. The first thing to know about this anime is it is a reverse harem. A harem is an anime with a boy surrounded by females all competing for his affections so a reverse harem is the opposite. It is when a female character is surrounded by males all competing for her affections in one way or another.
Plotline: Ouran High School Host Club is about a girl named Haruhi who, upon breaking a priceless vase, is forced to become part of a club that flirts with young women out of boredom. The Host Club is a club of teenage boys and funnily, Haruhi looks very much like a boy. The anime is basically a story of just that, Haruhi being forced to be part of their club, and act as a boy though she is a girl, to pay off her debt. Considering the club’s various activities and the fact that their members are generally very rich, this proves to be quite difficult. The episodes are not exactly self-contained but there is no real overarching plotline beyond the basis either. Most ventures by the Host Club take a single episode, some take two or three.
Cons: Like most comedies, this anime has a lot going against it. It is a reverse harem. This may be funny to some but it will be typical, cliché and bland to others, if not borderline offensive. The first episode appears almost like it was directly primarily towards girls with sexual fantasies. It just does not appear like boys would be interested (unless they were not only gay, but fit the stereotype for such.) The female lead is surrounded by love-struck, teenage boys including twins who are literally all over each other, (borderline incest.) The show is a comedy based entirely on sexual, gender-based jokes. It also tends to throw in characters who look like one gender… but they are the opposite. Meaning before long, you’ll think one character is a boy, only for it to be a girl later. And vice versa.
Pros: So, what do people see in this anime? Ouran High School Host Club is entirely character-based. It is driven by the characters and their relationships and as the anime goes on, you learn the history and personality of each character. While the first episode may be a repellent, the next few are far from it. The purpose of this anime is to just be funny. Not only, if ever something comes up that needs to be taken seriously, the anime does not go off on an unacceptable humorous tangent, but allows the audience to take it seriously. The right emotions and mood are struck in a variety of situations: If the main character is scared of something, if another character is in a fight, or if another just needs her brother with her. It does not ignore emotions. Also, though the cast may appear like inconsiderate philanderers, they’re not. They may be flirtatious, but they have a guiding principle: To bring girls happiness. Their main driving force: They are all friends.
How Many to Watch: That said, this anime is not to be watched as a shipper, meaning don’t watch this expecting to know without a shadow of a doubt which couple will be canon. This anime needs not only three to five episodes to get into, but an open mind. The jokes can really be anything and most of them are gender-based. Because of its nature, even if the comedy fails and it’s not funny to someone, it can still be generally enjoyed. Still, the words of caution should not be forgotten.
The anime listed are not the only ones you should get into or consider. In fact, some might have a better gateway in mind. In the end, the one who knows his or her own tastes better is the person in question. In the case of crime or military warfare, Code Geass might be a better gateway. Many have started with Sword Art Online and One Piece. These days, with the era of the Big Three coming to an end, many are getting into their inspirations Fairy Tail and Boku no Hero Academia. A particular popular comedy is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya which is fantastical at best and should definitely be watched expecting just about anything no matter how unreal it may be.
It depends where the entertainment tastes of the person goes. anime is a diverse medium and it might just raise your interest for a genre you never knew you liked. Anime that have been very successful in converting non-anime watchers to the medium are Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Regardless of someone’s interest in philosophy or crime, these anime might just capture their interests because of a variety of other themes. This is something no other medium has. Most stories are driven primarily by their own themes but anime uses everything it has. Anime’s main purpose is to appeal to its audience and beyond, and a perfect representation of this are the aforementioned Hayao Miyazaki movies.
Where to go from here
Well, there you have it. Recommendations are set, a clear pathway charted. Where the road takes you is up to you. Anime can go to a bunch of different places, in some cases, from the beginning, you’d never guess where an anime’s storyline can take you and you’ll never guess where your anime journey can take you. There are many other gateway out there, some well-known and some not so much. If you want to like anime, you will rest assured of that, especially if you begin safe with your own tastes before venturing into unknown territory. Don’t go thinking all anime is good either. Some are atrocious. One can only pray that your first anime is not one of those atrocious types that repel you from all others.
The cool thing about anime is it has something in its style of animation that appeals to everyone. The animators of Japan give it heart. More time goes into hand-drawn animation and so, animators prefer to spend that time doing something they genuinely enjoy rather than something to make big bucks. This leads to something many different types can enjoy. Even a cynical adult can enjoy Death Note because of its type of storyline. Once you’ve watched your first anime adhering to your own tastes, you are ready to go down a specific path, a path of your choosing. Don’t let a single bad anime discourage you but be careful. Read reviews and recommendations and synopses before watching and soon enough, anime will be another medium to get entertainment from.
What do you think? Leave a comment.