I Want to Give Anime a Try. Where do I Start?
Hi. My name is Overlord and I have an anime problem. Throughout my childhood, I was pretty indifferent to anime. I can honestly credit my friend, Antonio, for really igniting the flame of love for anime (and Jackie Chan). In the year 1997, Antonio brought over his collection of Ranma 1/2 and I fell in love.
I lurk quite a bit in various Twitch chats and the topic of anime often comes up.
Random Chat: Hey strimmer. I’ve never watched anime before. What do you suggest?
Strimmer: Oh, I’d start with X.
Other Random Chat People: X is trash. You need to start with Y.
I always cringe internally, because everybody starts listing their favorite anime without even considering whether or not that genre would be a fit for the anime-curious.
Stemming from that same issue:
Person 1: Yeah, I tried to get into anime and just couldn’t.
Person 2: What did you watch?
Person 1: Well, a lot of people told me I HAD to watch Sailor Moon, but I really don’t like magic.
This is the usually the product of a prior conversation where the anime-curious was given suggestions of popular anime without even considering their interests.
Consider this my attempt to help anyone out there that is curious about anime and needs a bit of assistance navigating the vast pool of content out there.
Let’s talk genres. If there is a subject matter, there is an anime genre for it. Like watching girls band together to fight evil using their magic? There is an anime for that. Want to see an innocent boy slowly turn into a ghoul? There is an anime for that. Want to see some post-apocalyptic shit with huge robots? I am sure that there is an anime for that.
In order for you to experience anime in a positive light, you need to find what genre speaks to you. Below is a list of what I consider the most common genres/sub-genres of anime. Keep in mind that anime can often fall into multiple genres. Most categories are self-explanatory, but for the ones that needed more details, I have included a very brief description:
- Harem – Male protagonist surrounded by a group of females who adore him and/or fight for his attention.
- Hentai – Translates to “pervert” in Japanese. Mature content with high nudity and explicit content.
- Isekai – Translates to “another world” in Japanese. The protagonist is somehow transported to a different world.
- Magical Girls
- Mecha – Robots
- Reverse Harem – Female protagonist surrounded by multiple males who are all potential love interests.
- Seinen – Demographically targeted for males 18-40. Contains more mature subject matter such as gore, sex, and violence.
- Shoujou – Demographically targeted for young girls 10-18. The protagonist is typically female with romance and personal growth.
- Shoujou-ai – “Girls Love”. Young female characters showing interest and affection for each other. Focuses on budding feelings and not intimacy.
- Shounen – Demographically targeted for young males 10-18. Combination of action and adventure.
- Shounen-ai – “Boys Love”. Male characters showing affection for each other focusing on the developing romance.
- Slice of Life – Stories depicting realistic, ordinary life.
- Yaoi – More sexually explicit than shounen-ai.
- Yuri – More sexually explicit than shoujou-ai.
It would take me days to compile a list for each genre, and frankly, there are many genres that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Below, I listed my top pick for that specific genre with a small summary of what the show is about.
HUNTER X HUNTER
If you like martial arts, action, and adventure, I recommend Hunter X Hunter. The story follows protagonist, Gon, on his quest to become a hunter like his father before him. Gon encounters many friends and many foes in his travels. This long-running series will keep you entertained. It is one of my favorite action animes.
SWORD ART ONLINE – If you are unfamiliar with the harem genre, this is a good place to start. Sword Art is probably more accurately categorized as action/adventure BUT it is also a harem situation. Generally, a harem consists of a male protagonist with an all-female support cast. Generally, the members of the harem have a romantic interest in the protagonist, but not always. I chose to list Sword Art as a harem, because it is a safe entry point to determine if you want to even explore the harem genre. Keep in mind that harems can get heavy on the fan service. Don’t know what fan service is? In a nutshell, some shows will sexualize the female characters to appeal to their fans. The story follows Kirito who gets trapped in a full-dive virtual reality system. Think virtual reality where all of your senses are fully immersed in the game. In a terrorist act, the players are trapped in the game. The only way the players would be released is if they beat all 100 floors of the castle, Aincrad. Unfortunately, if the player dies in the game, the player dies in real life as well. There is a mixture of romance, action, and suspense. It is one of my favorite shows.
Yuki is a cheerful high school student that loves her friends and her after-school club, but something isn’t completely right…That is all I am willing to share on School-Live. To give any more context will give away what made the show great. This anime has some good twists and turns. It is a good entry-level horror with a bit of slice of life mixed in. I highly recommend.
THE RISING OF THE SHIELD HERO
If you’re interested in a show where the protagonist is whisked away to a different world, isekai is for you. Naofumi is a regular high school kid who is whisked away with three other men to a parallel universe to become the world’s “Legendary Hero”. From the start, Naofumi is at a disadvantage receiving the role of Shield Hero. Unfortunately for Naofumi, it only gets worse. He is betrayed and has his reputation ruined quickly turning Naofumi sour. Shield Hero is absolutely one of my favorites. Naofumi’s supporting cast are all adorable and his path to redemption is pretty satisfying. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
FUTURE DIARY (MIRAI NIKKI)
If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) would be a good starting place. The story follows Yukiteru Amano, a 14-year old loner who lives on his cell phone. In a mysterious turn of events, Yuki is sucked into a game where his phone is capable of predicting the future. The goal of this game is to eliminate the other diary holders. The prize? The winner becomes a god and can prevent an impending apocalypse. During the game, Yuki encounters classmate, Yuno Gasai. She may be a bit unhinged, but no one is more loyal to Yuki than Yuno. There is plenty of action, murder, and mayhem. If you’re in the mood for something a bit darker, this is a good place to start.
OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB
This is a wonderful entry-level reverse harem. A reverse harm typically follows a female protagonist with an all-male support cast. The story follows our protagonist, Haruhi Fujioka. She is a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran Academy. One day she stumbles upon the Third Music Room where six male students gather to entertain female clients with sweets and tea. One costly accident later, Haruhi finds herself indebted to the host club. Due to her gender-ambiguous appearance, she finds herself getting promoted to a host. There is plenty of comedy and romance. This would be a perfect place to introduce yourself to the reverse harem genre.
HI SCORE GIRL
Want something that hits a little closer to home? Consider the romantic comedy Hi Score Girl. We follow the life of cabinet/coin-op gamer, Haruo. This anime takes us through the history of arcade gaming and the emergence of console gaming. Haruo meets Akira Ono, a multi-talented girl who also happens to kick ass at gaming. She hardly talks and somehow, they bond over their mutual love of gaming. It is a cute story of two kids falling in love with a heavy dash of gaming nostalgia.
YOUR LIE IN APRIL
If you are a fan of classical music, you cannot go wrong with Your Lie In April. There is a heavy dose of Chopin played very well. Again, this is one of my favorite shows. This anime probably better fits as a romantic drama, but you can’t ignore the fact that the story revolves around music. We follow piano prodigy protagonist Kosei Arima through a mental breakdown that manifests in a way that he could no longer hear his own playing. After disappearing from musical competition circuit, he meets Kaori Miyazono, a whirlwind of a violinist hell bent on making Kosei her accompanist. It’s a story of tragedy, loss, struggling with mental issues, recovery, and love. There are themes of physical abuse, so be aware of that if this is a trigger for you. It’s a beautiful anime, so make sure you have tissues ready.
SLICE OF LIFE
FOOD WARS! SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA
Slice of life anime depicts everyday life scenarios. In Food Wars, we follow Yukihira Soma, a talented aspiring chef, through his school life at the Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute. Food Wars blends action and comedy to make this one of my favorite shows. Be forewarned that there IS quite a bit of fan service, so if you find the pandering to basic human needs disgusting, this show might not be for you. You will get a healthy dose of jiggly boobs, spontaneously ripping clothes, and foodgasms. If I recall, there might even be some molesting by tentacles. It is pretty heavy in the beginning, but calms down the further you get into the show. Don’t think just because the subject matter is food that the show is boring. The food battles are pretty intense and satisfy that “will he do it?” itch.
Looking for something a little more mature? The seinen genre is geared for a more mature crowd typically featuring more gore, violence, and sexual content. If seinen appeals to you, Goblin Slayer will not disappoint. We begin the story following an innocent priestess and her group on a mission. Her group is quickly wiped out. In her moment of need, she is rescued by the Goblin Slayer. Who is the Goblin Slayer? All we know is he only accepts missions to eradicate goblins with extreme prejudice. And, it is glorious. Be prepared for sexual content, specifically rape, gore, and heavy violence. Goblin Slayer is definitely in my top ten. Sometimes, you just want to watch a badass kill everything.
YURI ON ICE
This anime took my by surprise. YOI is categorized strictly as a sports anime, but it is most definitely shounen-ai as well. The story follows the protagonist, Yuri Katsuki, on his quest to rebuild his skating career after a poor showing in the Grand Prix finals. This anime was hailed for its positive portrayal of a homosexual relationship and its inclusion of mental health issues, specifically, the protagonist’s struggle with anxiety. The budding relationship between Yuri and his coach, Victor, is sweet and done tastefully.
Admittedly, I wanted to go with Vampire Knight, but decided to give Castlevania my vote. After his wife is burned at the stake for being a witch, Dracula declares war on the people of Wallachia. It has gore, blood, and some pretty great voice acting. You won’t be disappointed.
Anyhow, I hope this helps you at least narrow down what type of anime you might be interested. As always, feel free to send me an email for more suggestions!