Do you always have that friend that's always begging you to watch anime? No matter what you talk about, no matter how hard you try, it always circles back to how My Hero Academia or Death Note is going to change your life. While we all know that friend is unbearably annoying, it may be time for you to start listening to them. Anime is quickly becoming part of the American mainstream. Billie Eilish is a Jojo stan, Lil Uzi Vert's Lamborghini is decked out head to toe with anime characters, and even Zac Efron is reading Death Note. While it can be intimidating and confusing to hop into a completely new genre, we're here to help. This is your beginners guide to anime.
Ease Your Way In
Should you decide to begin your expedition into the world of anime, you'll want to start small. There countless one or two season shows you can knock out on a lazy Sunday. Here are a few to get you started:
One Punch Man
One Punch Man is the story of Saitama, who flips the hero complex right on its head. There is a superhero arc you and I are quite familiar with: the hero is strong, the hero meets stronger bad guy, the hero must become stronger to beat the bad guy, the hero beats the bad guy, the hero saves the day and the movie ends with a nice kiss that pans out to credits. The hook of One Punch Man, however, comes from the boredom and monotony Saitama faces from being the most powerful being on Earth. He actively seeks out anyone who could be stronger than him, only to grow frustrated when he realizes there isn't a single being on an Earth filled with superheroes who he can't completely disintegrate with a single punch. Saitama is nothing like your typical superhero. Superman is chiseled and handsome. Saitama looks like Caillou grew up and decided to punch holes into mountains. There is no tragic backstory, no love interest, no mutation. In a world of anime and superhero tropes alike, Saitama's calm, even bored demeanor turns all their gloating and monologuing into satire. This show is compelling, hysterical, brilliant, and well worth your time.
One of the most critically acclaimed and successful animes of all time, Cowboy Bebop is the story of Spike, a bounty hunter who travels the solar system running from his past, in search of money and morality, and finding very little of both. With a classic animation style that holds up to this day despite it's debut in the 1980s, Cowboy Bebop is the gold standard to which the rest of the genre is compared against. This show is thought provoking, emotional, layered, and captivating. See you later, Space Cowboy.
Death Note has gained massive popularity as a Netflix original, becoming one of their featured series on the platform. Currently on its third season, it is the story of a boy who finds a notebook, and anyone whose name he writes in the notebook dies immediately. He is haunted by the demon possessing the notebook, who questions his morality as he attempts to purge the world of sin and crime. This show also has one of the best English dubs available, which is a luxury for a genre known to be ruined by English translators.
Assassination Classroom is what's known as a "slice of life" anime, essentially a show about life lessons, societal issues, and human decency. This slice of life tells the story of "the end class", a class of rejects and misfits. They are forgotten by teachers, their futures deemed hopeless, attending class in a building far from the main campus. But their new teacher changes everything. He inspires the students to be better people, giving them hope and inspiration to be more than their school has resigned them to. Every single student in the classroom finds a friend and companion in Koro-sensei on their journey to murder him. Oh, sorry, did I not mention the teacher is an alien? Who punched a giant hole in the moon, can travel at Mach-20, and threatens to destroy the earth if this random classroom of children can't manage to kill him? Oops.
The Big Shows
So let's say you've ventured into the starters, and you just can't get enough anime. You're hooked. The next logical step for you is to pick one of the big shows, the ones everyone on Twitter is obsessing over while you read along confused. I should warn you though, all these shows have rabid, devoted fan bases, who, for reasons I can't quite figure out, all hate each other. But, don't let that deter you, because these are all amazing shows, well worth your time.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is an anthology (not by episode, by season), that follows different members of the Joestar family lineage, all of them different variations of the name Jojo (Joseph, Josuke, Jotaro, Jolyn, Johnathan). Every part of Jojo is its own unique, artistic, captivating story. A show that has the unique ability to engulf you with the feeling of absolute hopelessness only for you to realize the hero has been winning the entire time, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is a series of thrilling, inexplicable, incredible adventures that are well worth your time and your rising blood pressure at the end of Part Three.
Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter is the story of Gon, a boy who has dreams of finding his father, the greatest Hunter who ever lived, but has inexplicably disappeared off the face of the Earth. Watch as Gon becomes stronger as a person and a fighter, enduring hardship, trial, and struggle with a hope and resilience impossible to not find endearing. This show has some of the best characters and fight scenes of any anime out there.
My Hero Academia
Admittedly my least favorite of the three but still an excellent show, My Hero Academia is the story of Izuku Midoriya, an outcast and reject with the spirit of a fighter who inherits powers beyond his wildest dreams. Basically Sky High with graphic violence, this show has gained a devoted cult and mainstream following since its debut in 2016, success that lead to two cinematic releases based on the show. It is quickly becoming the next Naruto in terms of appeal to American audiences and commercial success, and that didn't come out of thin air. The show is outstanding.
Some Movies, Because Why Not
Can't devote yourself to television? That's ok, I get it, a multi-season TV show is a big commitment. No judgement here, if you want something that'll take up less of your time, here are some movies to check out:
Akira is not just one of the best foreign films ever, or one of the best anime films ever, or one of the best animated films ever. It is one of the best films ever, period. Everyone should watch this movie. I don't even want to summarize it, because I don't want to ruin a thing for you. It's on Hulu, just go, experience it in a vacuum. And, fun fact, the bear on the cover of Kanye West's classic Graduation is a reference to Akira.
Spirited Away is one of the best animated movies ever made. The New York Times named this one of the best films of the 21st century, and I can't agree more. The story of a ten year old girl trying to rescue her parents and herself from the spirit world after they are turned into pigs, Spirited Away is one of the most inspiring, well made films ever created. The films melancholy tone and unique approach to the concept of monsters was groundbreaking to American audiences, giving it a win in basically every award imaginable, including an Oscar.