I can still remember the day I went to my first anime convention. Stepping inside the hotel, opening my eyes to a room full of cosplayers, people in anime tees, and several people parked along the walls to play some new video game, I realized something: I had found my clan.
But being amongst my people also showed me that, for as large as anime is now, it’s still a small group of nerds who may or may not feel lost in the social cold. Anime is misunderstood often and can be difficult to get into in the first place. There’s so many titles to choose from and so many different niches to run into that it’s hard to get into it or introduce someone to it. For this reason, and to toot the horn of my favorite shows, I present to you my anime starter pack. These shows are to be shown one episode at a time, in order and allowed to sink in.
That moment when your friend asks you what anime is
1.Dragon Ball Z
Martial Artist and Super Saiyan Son Goku fights against evil to save the planet. All the while, he’s helped by his family, closest friends, and even some surprise alliances.
The first thing we have to do is gather all the stereotypes most outsiders have about anime. In this case, all the stereotypes of Shounen: the over-muscular, ridiculous haired man who fights and grunts a lot, I.E Goku, and all his predecessors.
Most people at one point in their life saw Dragon Ball Z on Toonami, that television big-bang that ushered in the anime apocalypse in the west. They probably liked it because of the action, the aliens, or even the tiny ounce of drama it attempted to have. But they probably didn’t realize that they were watching anime.
That above all is why this and the next entry are our starter points. Much like a goldfish you want to ease the little guy/girl into the water, give them a taste of weird they were likely already familiar with.
2. Sailor Moon
Clumsy Crybaby Usagi Tsukino is given magical powers by Luna, a talking cat. Her mission is to find her other sailor soldiers and find the Princess of the Moon.
Next, we move onto Shoujo. Our first entry in should be the show that kickstarted the Magical Girl archetype, and a fresh crop of tropes.
Sailor Moon was the other show that some on when Toonami acquired an anime license, in hopes of drawing as many girls as boys. Both shows are familiar to people who grew up in the early days but, again, they may not have known this was anime. Sailor Moon is radically different from DBZ in terms of style, plot, and characters, and rounds out the traditional anime stereotypes.
3. Death Note
Light Yagami finds a notebook that lets him kill any person with a scribble of their name and an image of their face. Light decides to use his new treasure to create the perfect world, but one private detective is going to give him a hard ride for his life.
So hey, you know that wall of stereotypes and strawmen we’ve built up about anime that’s kept our newcomer from ever getting into it? Time to knock it down like a toddler’s block castle.
I can hardly express the endless sea of affection I have for Death Note. It’s equal parts urban fantasy, horror, and thriller, with one of the most gripping plots I’ve ever seen. But, more importantly, it couldn’t be farther away from the normal stereotypes associated with anime (besides L’s wild hairstyle). It uses the medium to great dramatic effects, sure to impress our newcomer… if Ryuk doesn’t weird them out.
4. Fruits Basket
Tohru Honda’s life changes when she meets the Sohmas, a powerful family with a dark secret. They all change into animals when they get too excited or get hugged by someone of the opposite sex. Not only does Tohru have to keep this twisted secret, she also has to unravel a daisy-chain of family drama.
Time to pull back the theatrics for something the Rom-Com fans should love.
Fruits Basket is a pretty heavy Slice of Life that manages to combine real life-changing drama with huge belly laughs. The anime itself is a gutted version of a much heavier manga, but still retains the same charm and grace. Furthermore, we’ll finally step away from the action to something more bittersweet and complex.
5. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Edward and Alphonse Elric, skilled Alchemists, committed the one sin of their craft: Human Transmutation. When their attempts to revive their mother goes awry, they set out to find the Philosopher’s Stone and undo the damage done to their bodies.
It’s time to step out of Japan and into the land of well-crafted fantasy.
You knew Fullmetal Alchemist would be here at some point because it’s the one anime that anime-haters tend to like. It’s a beast of a different color, well written and well acted, and often the favorite anime of longtime Otaku.
But if you’re going to show them any FMA, for the love of God show them Brotherhood. This is the story as it was meant to be told, with the ridiculous plot holes the first show had.
6. Cowboy Bebop
Spike Spiegel has a simple life: hunt bounties with his partner, Jett Black, collect the money, repeat. That changes when his crew picks up the three things he can’t stand the most: a dog, a child, and a lady with attitude. Now it seems his past is also gearing up to hunt him down and make him pay…
And now, class, we end things in a neat little boy by putting everything we’ve learned together.
Cowboy BeBop was the game-changer for Toonami, for anime, and for sci-fi in general. The visuals are amazing, the action smooth, and the story is award-winning for a good reason. This show is a testament that anime can have all the cliches and still be art. Yes, we have over muscular men, scantily clad women and even some mindless action scenes. But we also have a damn good story, which best illustrates why I love the medium. Yes, it has its repeat players, but there’s no limit to where you can go and just how good you can be.
What would your anime starter pack be? Feel free to comment below! Don’t forget to like and follow if you want more content.
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