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:
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.
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.
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!