The Beginner’s Anime

If people ask me what they should show to others to introduce them to anime, Slayers is usually one of my first recommendations. It was one of the first anime I was proud to own, albeit in bootleg VHS fansub form. It was Slayers, specifically Slayers Gorgeous, that I believe got me into anime fandom in a major way. Sure, I loved Voltron as a kid, and I got into Dragon Ball Z as early as 4th or 5th grade, but it was Slayers that told me that Anime is Different when I walked into my high school’s anime club. Slayers was the type of thing you could show to a large crowd and get them all into the moment no matter how much anime they’d watched, which has made me always think of Slayers as a  good Beginner’s Anime. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other titles, like Cowboy Bebop, Robotech, or Naruto.

Actually, I don’t even know if anyone else besides me uses the term “Beginner’s Anime.” Pushing aside that fact, as well as the fact that people are different from one another and that there is clearly no universally acceptable standard for introducing anime to others, the term “Beginner’s Anime” implies that there are anime out there which may be too much for initial viewers, that there is a sort of conditioning or familiarizing that must occur before a fledgling anime fan can be introduced to the Good Stuff, distributed by some shady-looking guys in trenchcoats (hands up, you know who you are) in dark areas. Is it the way stories are structured? Is it the cultural differences and symbolism, the most prominent and perhaps infamous examples being the sweatdrop and the nosebleed? Is it a matter of attention span? This could go on forever and I doubt there’s an answer.

When I examine myself, I am not the anime fan I used to be. Sure, there’s a lot of factors both inside and outside the realm of anime which have influenced me and my watching habits, not least of which are the increase in availability of anime itself and the fact that I’ve simply gotten older, but I have to wonder what could have been. What about the time period I was in? I mean, the president of the anime club at the time was so proud of owning all of Cowboy Bebop that he could not wait to show it to us. It was the very beginning of the digisub age, when Napster was picking up steam and of course buying bootleg vhs fansubs was still a viable process. What about the fact that this was an anime club, a relatively social experience? Anime clubs are a dying breed today, and having a good social experience through anime may become less and less of a requirement. I even remember that when I took over this anime club a year later after the previous president had graduated, I noticed a sudden increase in the number of girls in the anime club. And then I tried to show them Serial Experiments Lain. As it  turns out, Lain is not a very good Beginner’s Anime, at least not as a social experience.

It’d be all too easy to say that every anime is a potential Beginner’s Anime. I mean, there’s a grain of truth to it all, but that sort of open-ended statement reduces the significance of all of the factors  outside of the anime-fan-to-be and the anime being watched. There are clearly some titles that succeed more than others at bringing in new fans, and I think it deserves research.

You’ll probably be seeing this topic again.

16 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Anime

  1. Besides SLAYERS, I strongly recommend SABER MARIONETTE J as another “beginner’s anime”. Both shows are colorful, entertaining, with addictively catchy music and likeable characters.

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  2. I usually refer to them as “gateway anime” since it sometimes seems like an addiction and is somewhat illicit. For the comedy side, I started on Ranma 1/2 and still feel it’s a good intro to many anime themes such as japanese style slapstick, harem structure, and many character stereotypes – plus it’s easy to understand. For action/drama Escaflowne was what drew me in, with it’s coherent, consistent development, a mainstream style with both action and romance, lack of a lot of overt japanese cultural traits, while utilizing common themes (war is horrible, fight fate, etc). I think these two are proper gateway anime since they don’t toss new viewers into japanese culture very jarringly (ranma has it overshadowed by crazy hijinks, and esca takes place in a semi-high fantasy world) while introducing them to common themes and character types.

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  3. I have not seen the original Slayers, but few episode of the new season have done little to spark my interest. Anime, like any medium, has very few works that are worth watching. In order to properly proselytize someone to anime, their age and taste should be considered. Ghibli films are good beginner’s anime candidates because they can be appealing to a wide audience.

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  4. It’s kind of pleasant and nostalgic talking about the things that first got us into anime. The channels were so limited that everybody in North America had some kind of early “what is this amazing thing on my TV” formative experience, the way I did with Robot Carnival on Sci-Fi when I was very young. But then it exploded! The current generation of fans could really have started on anything (which is obviously nothing but a good thing for the hobby).

    The “where do I start” and “how do I get my friend into this” (guys this doesn’t work) questions have been around since people started talking about anime, and I think it’s becoming less and less important as people’s experience with anime and its availability become wider and wider. What anime you like is a lot less important than what genre you like. If someone told me they liked anime with robots I’d give them a whole other list of recommendations than a person who tells me they liked a fight anime.

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  5. I think Evangelion might not be a good beginner anime. It can be a bit more for someone new to anime. And besides the fact that there are not alot of anime like Eva so we don’t want people to think all anime is similar to it.

    I hope to hear more on this subject. It is a bit interesting not to see just what would be considered an “beginner anime” but also to see what series got people introduced people to anime.

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  6. Hmm, maybe something like Rurouni Kenshin or Naruto might make good starter animes. After all they’re animes that introduce the viewers to some sort of japanese culture, regardless of how shallow they really are. Or if they’re looking for the light hearted stuff, maybe school rumble could do the job. It has both culture, characters that are easy to relate too, and that undeniable charm. xD

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  7. i remember watching bleach and naruto and was starting to get bored but then a friend showed me “Elfen Lied” fueled my anime fandom

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  8. Ranma 1/2 is a really, really good starter anime. Doesn’t have so much “OMG SO RANDUM xD!” shit.

    Naruto is not a good starter anime. Nothing gets done, it’s a bunch of talking and analyzing, the characters are, ultimately hack, and the drawing stinks, plus it’s reputation preceeds it. A good start anime is obscure, like Azumanga Daioh, or Cromartie High School, certainly not Naruto.

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    • I have read your opinion, and respectfully suggest that you write it out on an iron spike, and shove it up your ass.
      You couldn’t be more wrong, Naruto is actually a decent anime, and the first one that I watched and was aware that it was an anime. (The first anime I ever watched was probably Pokemon, and I wasn’t aware that it was and anime, nor did I know what anime was at the time)
      In terms of starter anime, I would say Dragon Ball Z for guys, and Sailor Moon for girls (maybe? I have no idea)
      But being obscure? It can be, but it hardly needs to be.

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  9. Cowboy Bebop was a big deal for me, and probably appealed more than something like Naruto because it feels kind of “classy” and grown up. I reckon that the most important thing is that the show is different from what you’d get on regular TV – that it can convince you that anime can take you places nothing else can.

    Personally I got into anime via the internet community, that’s where I got advice on what was good or bad, so I’m really from a different generation. Thing is, because we remember what got us into anime in general, certain shows get passed on as “beginner” shows – so my picking up Cowboy Bebop was a hangover from an earlier era in the fandom. Perhaps as Western TV/film changes, what we seek in our esoteric foreign TV series will change and the beginners canon will have to be revised.

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  10. Kitsune:

    See, I have to wonder to what extent watching in a group made Slayers a good beginner or gateway anime, as well as the fact that this was high school and almost everyone in the club was under 18.

    Also keep in mind that you’re approaching Slayers many years after its heyday from the perspective of someone who’s seen a lot of anime.

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  11. Pingback: The Most Difficult Question « OGIUE MANIAX

  12. A good beginner’s anime in opinion would definitely be Inuyasha….nice storyline…in the first few episodes that is…well-developed characters….

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  13. Pingback: If Your Mother Knew You Didn’t Like Giant Robots, It Would KILL Her! « OGIUE MANIAX

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