This is a two-part series and a quick guide into anime. For part two click here
Anime – it’s that thing your friend watches, but you don’t know why. You might have heard the name Goku or Naruto, but you couldn’t tell them apart if your life depended on it. And maybe you’ve been interested in anime, but don’ t know where to start. Luckily for you, I’m here to guide you on your journey into the world of anime. So let’s get started!
Myth – Only Boys watch Anime
I want to get this out of the way first. Women watch anime. More specifically, black women watch anime. This is not a ‘boys only’ thing. You can be a woman and watch anime. You’re not some lone crazy person, there is an entire community ready to welcome you with open arms. So if you don’t think this is for you, you’re wrong. It is definitely for you!
What The Hell is Anime Anyway?
Okay so let’s start first with the question you’ve probably asked a million times. “What the hell is anime?” In a nutshell, anime merely is animated shows from Japan. They are Japanese cartoons. Of course, it’s a little more nuanced than that, but for our purposes, we’re going to keep it simple.
Shonen Anime – The Most Popular
The most popular shows here in the states are usually Shonen anime. Shonen, an anime genre, is geared towards young boys and it often features a young man on a hero’s journey. The typical motive is to get stronger to defeat some villain that has or will wreak havoc in the place the hero lives. It’s a lot of fighting, power-ups, and a weird cast of characters. This genre is home to shows like Naruto, Dragonball Z, and Bleach.
Why Are Grown Folks Watching This?
Unlike traditional American cartoons, Anime comes in different flavors for different audiences. In Japan, animations aren’t just something for children, it’s for all ages. Not only that, but anime will often tackle subjects that you would see in a more ‘mature’ show here in the states. It’s not uncommon for characters to die or deal with some type of tragedy. But it’s not just death. Some shows will discuss politics, philosophy, love, religion…whatever you’re into there’s a show for it.
So why do we watch it? I’ll speak solely for me at this moment. I watch anime because I grew up on it. It was this weird fringe thing that was different than what was on tv. And as I grew up, so did the shows I watched. It’s a way for me to connect to the kid in me without having to dumb down the content I watch.
What To Watch
Okay, let’s say you’ve heard all these great things about various anime series and you want to dip your toe in the anime waters. Great, below are a list of shows that will help you get started. But first, a few details about the shows listed below.
- I am assuming you are somewhere in your 20s or early 30s
- If you were about to sit down and eat in front of the TV anime would be the last thing you would turn on.
- You want the best experience in the shortest time possible.
Consider these shows your gateway drug. These shows don’t span hundreds of episodes. There isn’t some wild plot or discussions on the abstract nature of the human brain, and they’re as close to the regular television as you can get. If you can watch Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or any show with a dose of fantasy mixed in you can view these as well.
Cowboy Bebop (Available on Hulu, Funimation)
Considered one of the best shows ever created, Cowboy Bebop is my go-to choice for getting people into anime. Well written with a great cast of voice actors, this is the show that you should start with first. Like Game of Thrones, Bebop does a great job of blending multiple themes into one cohesive package. Cowboy Bebop has a more mature tone than some of the more popular shows mentioned in part two of this post.
Samurai Champloo (Available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Crunchyroll and YouTube)
Like Bebop, Champloo makes the list for its ability to blend 90s hip-hop culture in a story about two wandering samurais (sounds crazy no?). Like Bebop, Champloo is able to craft a narrative that would be similar to something you would typically watch TV or Netflix.
Attack on Titan (Available on Netflix or Crunchyroll)
Okay, let’ just say you’re of those people who like to start new hobbies or adventures on level 10. If that’s, you just watch Attack on Titan. It’s the closest experience I get you to mimic how I was introduced to anime. It’s sad, violent, and will probably make you feel…confused. But it’s a wild ride and if it hooks you just stay with it.
Subbed vs. Dub
I almost forgot! On your journey, you’ll often see ‘dubbed’ or ‘subbed’ next to a series. Dubbed is when American voice actors replace the original Japanese voice actors. Subbed, is when the show keeps the original voice actors and adds subtitles. While there are many forum wars on which is better, I always tell people it really boils down to personal preference. Of course, if you want the “correct” answer, it’s subbed. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. The two shows I listed above. They can be watched dubbed or subbed.
Remember how I said Attack on Titan was the closet you could get to my original experience? Well if you want to follow the same path I did jump on Hulu and check out Ninja Scroll. That movie changed my life. Probably because I was way too young to watch it and understand what I was getting myself into.