My Reccommendations for introducing someone to Anime

If you’re reading this, either you’re looking for a good first Anime or you’re looking to introduce a friend  or potential love interest to the world of Anime. Here are a couple choices I reccommend depending on the age and possible interest of whoever you’re trying to introduce to Anime. Speaking of age, I’m referring to adults 18+. Now if we’re talking about introducing kids to decient Anime, I will touch on that at the end of this post =O

Now, this post assumes you and/or the person you’re introducing to Anime are native English speakers. In this case, you’re going to want to go with English Dubs. You can get into the whole Dubs vs. Subs thing after you’ve brought your friend on board.

Alright, so for this there will be three tiers of introduction: Rookie, Intermediate and Advanced. I will explain why I placed each Anime in each group as we go. Also this is just a partial list but anyway here we go:

 

Rookie

The legendary Hayato Miyazaki has been working with Studio Ghibli, which is a sub-division of Disney over the last 11 years to open up Anime to non-Anime consumers in the United States. Spirited Away was the first of his movies (released in Japan a few years earlier) to come on the big screen a bit over 10 years ago. The movie tells the story of Chihiro, a girl whose family wanders into the spirit world and must find the strength and courage to save her parents, who were turned into pigs.

The award-winning movie is visually stunning. I saw this for the first time 11 years ago while I was working for City Year. It blew me away given at the time, I knew I was the only one in the room who even knew the difference between Anime and American Cartoons. This movie is a great entry-level choice for those who’ve never seen an anime and don’t want to commit to seeing a full season just yet.

I first saw this Anime on Netflix four years ago. I’ve since bought the DVD set at Anime Boston 2012. Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple, or History’s Mightiest Disicple Kenichi in Japan (Just gonna Call it KTMD for short lol) has a couple themes most folks should be familiar with: Spineless kid is picked on, kid meets hot transfer student who also happens to be an expert in the martial arts. Spineless Kid goes to martial arts dojo to train, rivals and friends come his way. KTMD is one of those Anime that’s both straightforward but also easy to follow for entry-level Anime fans. You could skip around the episode order and still get the gist of what’s going on.

Around the time I got the box set I learned KTMD, like many other Manga-turned-Anime is continued in the Manga (which is Japan only unfortunately). The Anime references the next arc, which is continued in the Manga. Even so, this is a great entry-level choice and is available on both Netflix and Hulu Plus.

 

Intermediate

I’m sure many of you have at least heard of this Anime. Until a few weeks ago, Inuyasha enjoyed a nearly 20-year run on Cartoon Network. Many Anime fans worldwide consider Inuyasha to be one of the greatest Anime of all time. Its run spanned three decades (late 1990s to 2014) and at least two generations grew up watching it. While on the one hand yes, this Anime has a huge female fanbase it has universal appeal. The Anime tells the story of Kagome, a high school student from present-day Japan who travels back in time to the Feudal Era. There she meets Inuyasha, a half human half dog demon and goes on a quest with him to find all of the pieces of the Skikon Jewel. They are joined on their adventure by the womanizing monk Miroku, the fox demon Shippo and the Demon Hunter Sango.

Along the way they have several encounters with Inuyasha’s full-demon brother Sesshomaru, who views his half-human brother as inferior to him. When they’re not fighting each other, Inuyasha and Sesshomaru are forced to work together to deal with a common enemy. It goes without saying this Anime’s fandom is HUGE. The characters are multidimensional and over the course of the Anime’s nine seasons (seven regular seasons plus the final two titled Inuyasha: The Final Act) you come to love ’em.

While yes this Anime spans Nine Seasons, unlike say, Dragonball Z each episode helps tell the story. Inuyasha is also in Manga form and one can argue this is the reason even 20 years after it was first published, Inuyasha is one of the most popular Manga of all time in Japan. The Manga is also available in America in case you’re wondering. Before I forget, this Anime got four movies: Affections Touching Across Time, The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass, Swords of an Honorable Ruler and Fire on the Mystic Island. Like all movies based on an Anime/Manga in syndication, the movies are non-canon to the existing storyline but they provide a means making an original story using existing characters.

Anywho, that’s all I’m going to say about Inuyasha for now XD

East meets West in this Hip Hop-Infused Anime. I think I might have talked about Samurai Champloo in one of my early blog posts but anyway, the visual representation in this Anime makes it clear to me this was made to appeal to a young non-Anime audience. It did its job nicely: It’s my older brother’s favorite Anime. The Anime takes place during Japan’s late Edo Period (a few decades before Japan’s isolation from the world ended) and follows the adventures of three unlikely traveling companions: The orphaned teenager Fuu, The disgraced Ronin Jin and the free-spirited samurai Mugen.

One thing that should be said about Japan is like the U.S., it glorifies its past in media. Samurai Champloo is a fantastic thrill ride with a little bit of everything. The Edo Period can be considered the no-man’s land between the Feudal Era and the start of Japan’s Industrial Revolution in the 1880s. There were three constants during this time: The Shogun’s brutal crackdown on the underground Christian Movement, non-Dutch outsiders (Gaijin) banned from having diplomatic relations with Japan and unemployed Samurai. This Anime does an amazing job of highlighting all three.

Samurai Champloo can still be found on Netflix and it’s a great choice for the history fans out there.

 

Advanced

I think I touched on this when I reviewed this Anime but the difference between FMA:B and FMA is FMA:B is a faithful retelling of the Manga while FMA is not. FMA:B is much darker and has a much better story compared to the original FMA. Anyway, FMA:B is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, who broke Alchemy’s only rule and performed human transmutation. The cost was steep: Alphonse lost his entire body while Ed lost his right leg. Ed then used alchemy to bond Al’s soul to a suit of armor, losing his right arm in change for getting Al back. The Anime is the story of their quest to find a way to get their original bodies back.

Of course, this Anime is reccommended for Advanced viewers due to the overt athiestic overtones some may take offense to. Here’s an example: Amestris’s ruler Furher King Bradley (by the way, Fuhrer is German for “Leader”) states during a flashback episode “God is nothing but a construct created by man to inspire fear and promote order.” The irony is something the Anime’s main antagonist, the Dwarf in the Flask says in regards to those who break Alchemy’s one and only sin: “Humans who would dare to play God must pay a steep price for their arrogance.” This is is rich coming from a being who himself seeks to gain the power of God for himself and views humans as nothing but a means to that end.

FMA:B does have a movie: The Sacred Star of Minos. It takes place in the Creta Region southeast of Amestris where Ed and Al journey after hearing rumors of a Philosipher’s Stone being there. That aside, this Anime is very deep and while it is on the mainstream, it is one of the better ones out there. The tagline in both FMA and FMA:B on Alchemy is this: In order to gain something, something of equal value must be given. Alchemy 101. Alchemy 102 is One is All and All is One. FMA/FMA:B is also the Anime that made Vic Magnogna (Edward Elric’s English voice actor) and Caitlin Glass (Winry Rockbell’s English voice actress) famous so…yeah.

Death Note is, for all intents and purposes one of those Anime that blurs the line between good and evil. As the title of the Manga turned Anime implies, a Death Note is a book from the Shinigami World (Shinigami being Japanese for “Death God” or “God of Death”). Its purpose is simple: “The Human whose name is written in this Notebook shall die.” Click the link for the complete rules but yeah. This Anime centers around Light Yagami, who uses the Death Note to purge the world of criminals and L, the world famous detective who risks everything to stop Kira (Japanese for “Killer”, it’s what everyone refers to Light as), the man who has been killing criminals worldwide.

Most Death Note fans fit into one of two camps: Those who support Kira and those who side with L.  Those who side with Kira believe all who do evil should be punished no matter what while those who side with L believe only those who are guilty beyond reasonable doubt should be punished. By this logic, L views Kira as the ultimate evil. The first half of the series is a cat-and-mouse game as Light and L try to learn the other’s identity before they’re found out: Light to kill and L to capture.

I won’t spoil how their contest ends here but almost 10 years after it premiered in the U.S. on Toonami, Death Note is still very popular. It’s a great anime to watch with a group of people and talk about the legal and moral implications of each side. Death Note was so popular it spawned three live-action movies, the first two of which are based on the Anime/Manga series .

I could name more in each category but I think these are fine for now. So your friend has soon Anime from each tier and they’re ready for more? Now I’d say they’re ready for what’s  easily my favorite Anime of all time:

…Bring a box of tissue for your friend when ready =O

Now, I have been asked at Anime Boston both this year and last year when it would be a good time to introduce thier boyfriend/girlfriend to Clannad specifically. Clannad speaks for itself prettymuch so the best answer I can come up with is when you think you’re ready, go for it!

 

Had your fill of Toonami’s Weekly Lineup? Looking for More Anime? Here’s a few places to start looking!

I’m at that age where I’m old enough to remember watching Gundam Wing, Dragonball and Sailor Moon in the early 1990s, Dragonball Z a few years later, Fullmetal Alchemist, Code geass and Death Note about twelve years ago and more recently, the likes of Soul Eater, Blue Exorcist, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Bleach. What all of these Anime have in common is at one time or another they all aired on Cartoon Network and/or its anime block, Toonami.

Back in the day, you only really had Toonami and 4Kids to get your Anime fix. Things are very different now. As an added incetive, outside TV and Hulu there are no commercial interruptions so…yeah. Here’s two places I reccommend to get started:

This should come as no surprise given I reviewed it in January. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s basically Netflix but just Anime and Korean Dramas. Like Netflix, programming is on demand but like Hulu, new episodes are made available right after they’ve aired on TV in Japan.  Even though I’m a Dub Man and the Anime CR provides is all Subbed, no other provider comes close to the sheer volume of Anime they have to offer.

Crunchyroll can be streamed through both Microsoft and Sony Consoles as well as the Vita, iOS/Android devices and of course, your computer’s browser. CR is 100% free to watch on your computer but if you want to stream it, it’ll cost you $7 a month which is a buck less than Netflix for prettymuch just Anime.  The original content is easily worth the monthly subscription in my book.

 

As the first streaming service I ever used and as much as I hate to admit it, Netflix has its usefulness in regards to Anime. While the streaming giant has been quietly making original content in recent months (Orange is the New Black and House of Cards), it has also been acquiring exclusive licensing deals with various media providers. One such deal brought the entire Pokemon series to Netflix. At the moment, The Indigo League and The Unova Saga as well as the Reshiram and Zekrom movies are the only Pokemon-related stuff they have so far but those ALONE will easily take a few weeks to go through. The rest are set to be added over the coming months.

Moving on, almost all of the Anime I now own I saw for the first time on Netflix: Clannad, School Rumble, Ouran High School Host Club and Samurai Champloo to name a few. The small but respectable selection of Anime they have is a great place for folks to cut their teeth on Dubs without having to deal with the Ads on Hulu. Netflix also has Attack on Titan Subbed, which recently started airing on Toonami.

Like Crunchyroll, Netflix streams on both Sony and Microsoft consoles as well as the Vita and the 3DS family handhelds and all the rest. It’s $8 a month which isn’t bad. I actually have both CR and Netflix so…yeah. As a reminder: When streaming both CR and Netflix there are NO ADS =D

 

That’s just to whet your appitite.

So now you wanna buy some Anime but not ready for the DVD/Blu-Ray sets yet? That’s ok. I know a few providers that can help you get your Anime fix and the prices are obscenely cheap:

 

 

These were the first places I bought Anime from starting about seven years ago with Xbox Live’s PC Client Zune. The first Anime I bought was Ah! My Goddess! Unsurprisingly, I went on to own both seasons, the movie and two thirds of the Manga volumes (LOL!). This brings up the all-important question of cost. It really depends on which route you go. If you wand Standard Definition (SD) it’s $2 per episode across the board and $3 for High Definition (HD) episodes. While yes, HD is better quality the files are also MUCH bigger and in the cases of the consoles they can really eat up your storage if you’re not careful. For movies, the cost is $8-$10 though with those that have HD versions available it’s $12 or $15.

Both iTunes and Xbox Live/Zune allow you to buy whole seasons if you want. If a season is airing, you can buy a Season Pass which gets you all the episodes of a season in progress so far plus the rest of the episodes made available for download as early as an hour after they’ve aired on TV. You can also just buy all the episodes of a season at a flat rate after all the episodes have aired.

I reccommend one or both personally in regards to Anime. Most Anime seasons are 12 to 13 or 24 to 26 episodes long so…yeah. On average, Buying a whole season on average runs between $18 to $32 on both Xbox Live/Zune and iTunes (the Playstation Network doesn’t currently offer whole season purchases). I wouldn’t pay more than $30 personally for a digital copy of an Anime season or series. The most I paid was $24 each for both seasons of Spice & Wolf, Ah! My Goddess!, and Rosario + Vampire as well as Shuffle! (I bought the DVD set last year at Anime Boston) which I bought on Xbox Live three years ago. Each episode (Standard Definition) was $2 so more often than not, I got a real good deal on a season package. I paid $24 for the Shuffle DVD set in case you’re wondering.

 

…I’ve talked about Xbox Live/Zune almost exclusively but there SEVERAL benefits to buying your Anime on iTunes and The Playstation Network, more so if like me you have quite a few of their portable devices =O

For starters, once you buy anything from iTunes you can download it on all of your devices right away. Cross-buy and cross-download is also possible so for example if you buy Wolf Children on your PS3, you can download it to your Vita or PSP at no extra cost. Don’t wanna wait for it to download? You can stream it while it’s downloading in the case of Xbox Live/Zune and iTunes. In all three cases, you can que multiple downloads simultaneously.

Of course, the smart way to distribute your stuff after you’ve bought and downloaded it to your PC/PS3 is to use a Sync cable so you can get it on Portable device in seconds and not minutes or hours.

Whew…now we’ree getting to the third and final layer. In case it isn’t obvious: I am only providing LEGAL OPTIONS to get your Anime. Of course, there are illegal means but if you wanted to go that route, you probably wouldn’t have read this much (LOL). Support your favorite anime and BUY it!

 

That said, the final layer is of course DVD and/or Blu-Ray. While yes, Digital Purchases are the future there’s nothing wrong with wanting to own a physical copy of your favorite anime and anime movies. I have 14 Anime DVD and Blu-Ray sets (I count multiple seasons as part of a set personally) and 6 Anime movies myself so…yeah. I got most of my Box Sets during Anime Boston and have actually made it a tradition to buy two Anime Box sets at Anime Boston. For example I got Ouran High School Host Club and Fate/ZERO this year and Samurai Champloo and Shuffle! last year.

You really can’t go wrong when you buy your Anime on DVD/Blu-Ray: No DRM, no internet connection, no monthly fees, no ads, nothing but the Anime. The best part is you can decide if you want to watch it with the English Audio (default setting) or the Japanese Audio. With the other layers you’re locked into one or the other.

As for the price, that depends on where you look and how rare the Anime you’re looking to buy is. For example, Code Geass Season 1 goes for $49 while Season 2 costs $72. Persona 4 Blu-Ray is about $27 for each season (they split it in half for the home release presumably to bring the price down and double profits at the same time). Samurai Champloo (complete series) goes for $28 on DVD and $30 on Blu Ray.

Some sets are simply rarer or more common than others. Much of it has to do with licensing and/or the original distributor going under, ending the production of new DVD/Blu-Ray Sets. This is what happened to Code Geass. Those who paid attention will have noticed this Anime never reaired on Cartoon Network/Toonami. The reason for that is the company that held the license went under while the series was wrapping up on Toonami so it was never reaired. It’s also the reason the DVD Sets are so rare and costly XD

 

Ok that’s it for now. Up next, I’ll throw out my reccommended picks for folks who are not fans of Anime =D