When I was growing up, I was always a little bit embarrassed by my love of anime. Out of my group of friends, I was one of the only ones who watched it, so I never had anyone to talk to about it. Anime has steadily been getting more and more popular, but when I was in school, it was still very much a 'weird' thing to watch. To be honest, I completely understand that. Anime can be ridiculously weird sometimes. Now that I'm older, I don't really care if people know I watch anime. It's fucking cool! There's an incredible amount of variety, so there is bound to be something for everyone. Maybe I want to watch a show about a schoolkid with powerful psychic abilities that are controlled by his emotions (Mob Psycho 100). Maybe I want to watch gigantic, flying robots fire lasers and punch seven shades of hell out of each other (basically any Mecha anime). Perhaps a show about a prestigious culinary school and the determination of the unique characters who attend it will take my fancy (Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma). In the world of anime, anything goes. It's mental.
It can be a dense and overwhelming world to delve into. There's so much variety that it's tough to know where to start. If you've always been curious about anime, but have been struggling to find a good starting point, then this list is for you. Not all anime contains scantily clad women with giant, gravity-defying boobs, I swear! - some of it does though...
The shows & films I started with:
You can, if you want, take the same path I did on the journey to Anime fandom. I still love the shows and films listed below, they introduced me to this amazing world, and I still rewatch them every few months.
Fuck I love this show. It's a jazzy space-western with a sprinkling of blues, an astounding cast of likeable characters, exciting space battles, interesting side-characters, thrilling adventures and heartfelt moments. All wrapped in an incredible soundtrack. It's perfect.
The show follows the adventures of the bounty-hunter crew of the spaceship Bebop as they try to make a living. It's still one of my favourite shows and holds a very special place in my heart.
Ghost in the Shell
If you've read my article - A Word About Ghost in the Shell, then I'm sure you know how much I love this franchise (be warned though, that article contains spoilers). I started with the 'Stand Alone Complex' TV show, but I'd recommend that you start with the original 1995 film (there is a "remastered" version called Ghost in the Shell 2.0, but it isn't as good).
A thought-provoking, action-packed sci-fi film with cyborgs, robots and a lot of cyberpunk imagery. Ghost in the Shell follows the counter-cyberterrorist team 'Public Security Section 9' and their team-leader, Mokoto Kusanagi, as they attempt to stop the mysterious 'Puppet Master'. The film is full of complex philosophy and thought-provoking questions; it can be quite dialogue-heavy at times, but the action scenes are exceptional. Quite rightly regarded as a masterpiece, Ghost in the Shell is a beautifully animated work of art and is a must-watch for any budding anime fan.
Definitely a film for adults, Akira can be a little intense the first time you watch it. Set in the future after a devasting event, a young boy suddenly develops powerful, but unpredictable psychic powers. Akira is very violent, but the story and characters are incredible. The visuals are absolutely stunning, and the dystopian, cyberpunk setting is wonderous. Akira is iconic in the world of anime, and it was very much responsible for the mainstream introduction of anime into the western world. It proved that anime is not just for kids. It also has one of the best openings to any film ever.
A classic 'starter' anime. Naruto is a great show about ninjas! It has a fantastic, and huge, roster of brilliantly written characters, each one brimming with substance and depth. Naruto follows the childhood adventures of the young ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, as he tries to achieve his goal of becoming Hokage - the leader of his village. It's good fun and has tons of great fight scenes. Naruto Shippuden is the 'sequel' series to the original show; Naruto and his friends are a bit older and a lot better. He continues to improve his skills as he slowly becomes the hero of his village, inching closer to his ultimate goal. Although this is a fantastic show, the amount of 'filler' episodes can be a bit too much. The show insists on breaking up the main-story with huge chunks of exposition and background episodes - filling in the backstory and side-adventures of different characters. These tend to be of varying quality, and you can probably skip quite a few of them if you wish.
Be warned - there's like... 1000 episodes of this show (500 episodes of Naruto and 500 of Shippuden, not to mention the various films) so if you get into it, you're in for the long haul!
A film by the world-famous Studio Ghibli animation studio, Princess Mononoke was one of the first anime films I saw. It is phenomenal. A young prince journeys out from his village to heal his corrupted arm, only to become swept up in a war between humans and the Gods of a forest. Everything about this film is beautiful. The animation, the characters, the story, the deeper meaning behind the story, the magic of the forest and the creatures that reside within it. Princess Mononoke will remain firmly in my top five films of all time. If you only watch one thing from this list, watch this.
If nothing on my list piques your interest (although I sincerely hope something does!), then check out some of these other great shows.
One Piece, like Naruto, is another Shonen Jump* show. This one is about pirates! Monkey D. Luffy is a boy whose body gains the attributes of rubber after he accidentally eats a Devil Fruit. He sets out with his crew of pirates to search for the ulitmate treasure - "One Piece" - so he can become the next Pirate King. Admittedly, I haven't seen an awful lot of One Piece but I can tell you it's every bit as mental as it sounds. It's humourous and fun (an accurate description for most Shonen Jump shows) and full of crazy characters with even crazier powers - There's a guy with three swords (he holds one in his mouth... obviously), there's a weird, tiny, reindeer doctor?, a violin playing skeleton, and a knife-wielding clown pirate called Buggy, to name a few. I'm not making this up. This show is absolutely nuts.
*Shonen Jump is a weekly Manga magazine in Japan that mainly targets a young, male audience (although, this show is good fun for every gender).
How could I not mention Sailor Moon. Usagi Tsukino befriends a talking cat and is given a magical brooch, allowing her to transform into Sailor Moon, a solider destined to save the Earth. A major player in the 'Magical Girl' genre (yes, that it is a real thing and it's amazing), Sailor Moon is recognised as one of the most important and popular female superheroes of all time. Don't let it's 'girlish' appearance fool you; Sailor Moon is a great anime for everyone.
K'On!! is a charming, comedic Slice-of-life anime about a group of high school girls who become friends and form a band. It's a story about friendship and music. What more do you need?
Four Japanese schoolgirls come together to save the light-music club at an all-girls school. I guarantee that you will fall in love with these characters and their friendship with each other. A true feel-good show with fantastic music, delightful characters and great moments of innocent humour. This show will take you right back to those high school friendships and remind you of summer holidays spent in the park.
Pretty much any Studio Ghibli film
As I mentioned earlier, Studio Ghibli are a Japanese animation studio. Orignally headed by the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli have produced some of the most well-known and highest grossing anime films made in Japan. Pick any Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki and you can bet on having a great time. Miyazaki is well-known for creating magical worlds full of wonder and beauty. Some good films to start with are My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Studio Ghibli films are fantastic for kids and adults (although, maybe don't show your child Grave of the Fireflies, an incredible film but it's heartbreakingly sad).
There are so many different types of anime that there is bound to be something that interests you. I've tried to include some great shows to start you off on your anime journey. If you don't like the sound of any of them, but still want to give anime a shot, feel free to message me on Twitter - @OutOfOurElement or @MikeOooe.