In 2012, I fell into the rabbit hole that is anime, and I have yet to come back out.
I don’t remember why I decided to spend a few hours one night watching English-dubbed Sailor Moon episodes from the ’90s. I do know that magical blonde high-schooler lured me into a story-telling art form that I have since fallen deeply in love with. The story arcs, the relationships, the character development, the magic, the grit, the color, the fan art… anime lights my story-loving/comic-nut fire.
So while I’m still fairly new to anime and am definitely not an expert, I’m trying to get more well-rounded in my knowledge. Feel free to follow my breadcrumb trail, Offbeat Homies, and lose yourself to this world forever.
What if I’m intimidated?
Anime has some hurdles to overcome, no doubt. The art takes some getting used to (“god, they must love slo-mo”), the dubs can be really bad, the fan service can be worse (“does every shoujo manga have to have a beach scene?”), and there’s enough of a culture barrier that Westerners can feel a bit lost sometimes (“why is he pissed she called him –chan instead of –kun?”). Combine that with the vastness of the anime canon itself, and finding a story you’re really into can seem like work.
But how do I know what I’d even like?
Like I said, Sailor Moon was my gateway drug. It’s a well-known example of shoujo, or stories for high-school girls. These shows tend to be light, funny, kind of innocent, and a little romantic. Other common genres are shounen (aimed at young boys with sports, action, and so on), hentai (porn), harem (romance with one boy and multiple girls — expect a lot of fan service), reverse harem (romance with one girl, multiple boys — not as common as harem), yaoi (boy on boy love, but more innocent than hentai), and the less common yuri (girl on girl love, again more innocent than hentai).
Okay, so how do I find it?
Google is your best friend, but I’m sure you already know this. After I finished Sailor Moon (or so I thought), I learned there were episodes that never got released in the U.S. (the Western world being a tad prickly about gender bending). Once I finished those, I wanted MOAR and found r/Animesuggest. Search for a title you’ve enjoyed, and I guarantee you that some angelic redditor has found at least five other shows they think are similar.
Tumblr is for fandoms. It’s a great resource for learning what else the fans of your shows watch, and oh my stars, the fan art can be beautiful.
Now where do I watch it?
I started out watching English-dubbed episodes on YouTube and quickly realized there had to be a better way. There so is! Crunchyroll has some shows for free but I recommend the subscription service, and AnimeFreakTV lets you watch decent quality in exchange for sitting through a few long ads.
Most of the shows on these channels are subtitled, not dubbed, but that’s absolutely a good thing. You won’t learn Japanese by reading subtitles, but you’ll pick up a few words here and there (the first one will be baka, I guarantee it), and you’ll probably get an ear for pronunciation, food names, and honorifics.
So… what are your favorites?
So glad you asked! I still gravitate toward shoujo, but I love me some shounen too:
- Attack on Titan. This dystopian shounen has got a Game of Thrones approach to character development — it’s all about the layers, man, and I still have mixed feelings about some of my favorites. Everyone has a likeable quality, but everyone seems to have a demon, too.
- Durarara! What we have here are some great theme songs, beautiful, gritty, urban art, and multi-layered characters in a very bizarre criminal underworld.
- Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. This show began life as an advertisement for Kyoto Animation in early 2013. Tumblr went nuts for the 30-second promo, ‘shipping the characters left and right before anything much was known about the show. A year later, we have a legitimate season, and it is chockfull of the sort of fan service you’d expect in a story about swimming. Helps that it’s funny as hell, too.
- Fruits Basket. This late ’90s manga has a relatively stiff artistic feel, but the loveliness of finding your own family still makes me cry. Def watch the anime if you’re not into long reads.
- Hozuki no Reitetsu. If Adventure Time were made in Japan, this is what it would be. Don’t try to make sense of this hell-as-a-government-office arc. Just enjoy the randomness. Start with episode two, if you’re unsure.
- Noragami. Shounen, oddly enough. I probably would have guessed shoujo. A god of calamity accidentally half-kills a girl and tries to make it up to her. And fails a lot. Fucking beautiful artwork.
So what’d I miss, Homies? Where have you gone in the anime world, and what should I see next?