Anime Introduction Guide

During my last visit to KC one of the many conversations that sprouted amongst people there was about anime. I love the fact that I have friends from so many backgrounds and with awesome hobbies. I was an anime freak at some point, and even thought I still follow one religiously (I watch it about an hour after it is released in Japan sometimes) I don’t participate in the community as much as I used to. I was at one time the Anime Society of Kansas City webmaster… but I was a horrible webmaster after I moved to Chicago so my friend Tim took the job over.

During the conversation my BFF asked what he should watch… and well, that is like asking a librarian what is her favorite book. But I promised to take on the task of putting together a little introduction to anime for those that don’t even know where to start. So this will be half introduction to anime, half pissing off anime fans because not only are they out there, they will think I am so wrong for recommending X or Y… you will see.

Before we get into recommendations lets talk a little about anime. Animation in Japan is a little different than in the rest of the world. Anime and Manga(comics) are consumed beyond the youth and into adulthood. While most kids stop reading comics at one point or another in their lives, Japanese animation continue well beyond that. That brings us to something you need to stay away from which is Hentai. A first time anime watcher can be discouraged from watching further anime because they encounter a movie that is geared towards adults with their own fetish. So basically people might expect skinemax level of entertainment and they end up with a very specific animated snuff film. It is like asking a person getting back into reading for pleasure to read Dante’s Inferno. When you are starting out on anime, don’t try to explore the adult world of animation first. I think you should learn a little more about the medium before you are grossed out by some monster with many many tentacles.

Now that we got out of the way, since most anime is geared towards an adult audience, it does not mean that all anime is XXX either. There are animated things for children, a lot of them will have adult themes. Furthermore there are animation geared towards boys or girls. That is probably one of the biggest differences we see, because even though a lot of comic fans continue into adolescence, there is really not much of a market for girls here in the U.S.

I could post a lot more about this subject, but I just wanted to give a little background as to what I was going to present. I am also going to cheat quite a bit and leave out anything that you would have to consume subbed. Not too long ago it was very challenging to get some series dubbed, and to purist it is almost sacrilege to present anime to someone in a dubbed form. Eventually if you fall in love with some anime I do recommend it watching it with the original voice acting, but to start out I think only looking at dubbed is fine. *Disclaimer* most of the ones I will recommend are my personal favorites. If you have better options, just leave a comment, don’t discredit my choices, just give yours :P

I am also picking films or series that are easy to find on streaming services or rental.

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Ghost in the Shell – Action – Sci-Fi

This film can be consumed in one afternoon. While I already loved anime before watching this, this one really cemented anime in my brain as entertainment beyond kid stuff. It showed me that animated films could have not just depth, but also deal with adult themes. A fun fact is that The Matrix owes a lot of its style and visual feel to the film.

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Rurouni Kenshin – Samurai

This is a series that will captivate you from beginning to end. The cool part about this anime is that even though it is turn of the century and very serious at times, it also gets goofy from time to time. There is a movie series associated with it called Samurai X which is a little drier than the anime, but still excellent. Its turn of the century Japan and the adventures of a Samurai that does not want to kill anymore. Along with it is a love story and tons of interesting characters. I find it to be a great introduction to anime because while not completely formulaic you can start to see the themes that are often used for a series.

Full+Metal+Alchemist[1]
Full Metal Alchemist – Fantasy

I know that “brotherhood is out” however I love the original. The story of two brothers is told through their adventures as they deal with an ever changing world. Lots of mystery and fantasy mixed with loyalty and love for family. A great series that is not as long as Kenshin, but just as enjoyable.

Last but not least is, addict the special woman in your life to anime.

fruits2
Fruits Basket – Romance

While the series is a very girly series, it still has its moments of action. The story is good around a girl in distress and the Chinese zodiac curse. Lovable characters, easy to watch. I don’t like to talk about it much because it is so much more fun to discover things as you watch it.

8 Responses to Anime Introduction Guide

  1. I… I just don’t even know where to start…

  2. I love you! :)

    I knew that is exactly what was going to happen LMAO!

    But, I did think of you when I wrote it and well, if you want to take it another direction, you can.

  3. While each of the titles you recommended have a great many adherents, I’m not sure they’re exactly best-of-breed. Ruroni Kenshin is an excellent step into anime for people who are already eager to wade hip-deep into japan-love. Ghost in the Shell I’have several issues with that I won’t get into other than to say that it suffers from many of the problems that Superman stories do: Major Kusanagi is faster, stronger, smarter, and just better than everybody else but doesn’t have the benefit of an interesting personality to go with it.

    For samurai stuff, go with Samurai Champloo. Wandering swordsman stories with a hip-hop sensibility. Awwww yeah.

    For occult horror material I’d recommend Ghost Hunt, a short run series from 2006. Excellent production values, interesting stories, some truly creepy stuff without resorting to shock and gore. Good stuff.

    For Sci-Fi I’d currently recommend Steins;Gate, a recent series about a self-described mad scientist that thinks a global conspiracy is trying to stop him from developing time travel. Also Cowboy Bebop or Interlude.

    For over-the-top action, look to Gurren Lagann. It may not be the best introduction to anime, though, as its sheer awesomeness will leave the viewer disappointed in other, inferior fare.

    For romance I’d recommend Assate no Houkou. It’s a twelve-episode series about two girls that envy each other’s relationship to the same guy (one is his younger sister, another is his ex-girlfriend). They end up switching ages, and interesting situations result.

    For giant robot action, look no further than Giant Robo, a seven-episode series from the 1990s about a boy and his giant robot saving the world from an evil global conspiracy. I measure other action series against this and nearly always find the newer stuff wanting (Gurren Lagann being a notable exception).

    Going down memory lane, I also have to recommend Ultimate Teacher if you can find it. It’s a one-hour movie about a school full of juvenile delinquents that rise up against their evil principle. It’s from 1988, so the character designs and production quality are a bit dated. Oh well.

    Oh, and no introduction to anime is complete without Bible Black, right?

  4. My first exposures were Speed Racer, Star Blazers and Robotech. While all were enjoyable to the younger me and have well earned places in my nostalgia ridden heart, I don’t think they are on the same level as some newer productions.

    I always recomend people check out Akira. That’s the movie where I realized anime could be an adult oriented art form. If you are in KC and can’t find it online or in th rental store let me know, you can come watch at my place.

    As a side note, I was the “anime guy” at the video store I worked at when I firt moved here. One of my tasks was taking home all new anime and reviewing before it cold go on the shelf. This was a result of a customer not realizing what they had rented and their kids b-day party being introduced to “tentacle rape”.

  5. Well played Burro, well played.

  6. @Nuke,

    I almost wanted to include Akira as the one I recommended first, but I think ghost in a shell is easiest to digest for most people. What Burro said about the whole superman thing is something a lot of people enjoy and relate to. Akira can get a little strange towards the end, but I did hear that the most recent voice acting redo did a lot to help it overall. I will have to see the latest version of it.

    The whole tentacle rape thing came up not too long ago in conversation. The latest raid in WoW seems to be the ultimate tentacle fest… There are just tentacles everywhere… lol

    Anime is awesome because there are so many ways you can go about it, and eventually you will find something that you enjoy and want to dig deeper into it. I know once Burro discovered Bible Black his life was changed forever. I think he missed the point that this was more geared towards stuff you could easily stream on Netflix or Hulu… I am actually impressed at how much is available now. I mean even Naruto Shippuden is available a week after aired in Japan in hulu (subbed)… that is kind of amazing.

  7. I’ve been supplying my niece and nephew with Miyazaki films since they were old enough to follow a plotline. I’ll have to branch out now that they’re getting older.

  8. Well Hell Michelle

    I’ll have to check these out. I remember watching Ghost in the Shell during a science fiction class in college. It was my first real exposure to anime, and I really enjoyed it.

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