The Most Difficult Question

“What anime/manga would you recommend?”

At some point this went from being a fairly simple question to being an incredibly complex one that leaves me puzzled for long periods of time. As I absorbed more and more shows and comics into my being, as I began to expose myself to more and more types of fans and non-fans, the number of variables just kept increasing.

How long has this person been watching anime, if at all? What titles do I think are good? Out of those, which do I think the person asking me would like? What non-anime genres is he or she already into? How open is he or she to new genres? Different visual styles? How familiar is the person with digital downloads, bittorent, etc?

I know in a previous post that I recommended Slayers, but that is more of a generalist approach. The difficulty arises when I try to tailor my response to that individual. Everyone is unique, and I can’t rely on my own taste to sell a show to another.

An equally difficult question is “Which shows do you like?”

How familiar is this person with anime? If I say a title, will they understand what it is? How open are they to explanation?

And it’s not like I’ll lie or anything. I just prefer to pick an answer that will most accurately describe what I like in anime as efficiently as possible to the person in particular who’s askng.

Or I can just say “Rose of Versailles” and see what happens.

12 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Question

  1. I think there are certain titles that really always work for me. I wouldn’t recommend things to anybody, and when I do I actually make sure to know a few things about the person’s preferences. Here’s a small list of titles that people I have been talking to have always liked:
    – Mushishi (anime)
    – Last Exile (anime)
    – Eden – It’s an Endless World (manga)
    – Historie (manga)
    I’d only recommend Rose of Versailles to people who want to get themselves familiar with the history of anime/manga and their influence in japanese society. It’s not really a title people I like, I think.


  2. Depends on the person; slice of life can be boring but satisfying, although comedies work well on a general basis. Some action or mecha shows ditto… but ultimately, recommendations come based on who I’m talking to and what their likes are.


  3. When introducing anime to a no-fan I stick to these important rules:

    – avoid all fantasy stuff if possible. Most people don’t care if the story is amazing but it’s full of stuff like magical girls. They just won’t take it seriously. (unless they like fantasy then half the problem is solved)

    – Avoid series full of blatant fan-service. It will re-inforce their prejudice that all anime is p0rn (made the mistake of showing Utena the movie to me conservative female cousin, I surely gave her lesbian nightmares)

    – Find an anime equivalent of what they like. (for example I showed a cousin the first four episodes of karekano and she loved it)

    But when all it’s said and done, their prejudice over anime will be their downfall. Some people I showed anime to, no matter how fun or good they didn’t watch it because “cartoons are for kids”.

    That’s like saying you’ll only stick with the missionary position because it’s the most universally accepted one. Sigh… missing the whole fun….


  4. I think the same things whenever I’m asked the question, and either I ask them questions in term to try and specify what they might be interested in, or I stall and am unable to answer. Either way, I feel like I think too much about it. :P


  5. You’re incredibly right about this question being so difficult. Every single Internet anime discussion forum without fail has at least one thread where this question is asked, and the replies in every single one of them–EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.–consist primarily of people simply listing what shows they personally enjoy, completely independent of what the original poster stated as their criteria. Many a complete and utter Wapanese douche has been born by other people showing them Evangelion as an introduction to anime.

    Still, many times people just pose the question without any conditional qualifiers. In those cases, I tend to just recommend the Studio Ghibli films since they’re generally “safe” picks. Sad that we live in a world where more people like Last Friggin’ Exile over Rose of Versailles, though given Gonzo’s dismal track record it’s kind of telling that Last Exile just might be one of their best shows along with the highly divisive Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo.

    It stands repeating that genuine otaku wouldn’t know anything about “missing the whole fun by only sticking with the missionary position,” as they’re too dedicated to their interest to actually form any sort of relationship by which they would attain any such position. I suppose they could hire prostitutes like the one guy in Paranoia Agent, who’s one of the most true depictions of otaku in all media.


  6. My usual “gateway anime” suggestion is the Read or Die OVA – I’ve had one person say they were disturbed by the Japanese love of clumsy girls but in general anyone who likes Hollywood action movies will enjoy it.

    (This question is definitely worth getting right – worst example was my partner, who was told that Heavy Metal was “anime” and thus avoided all anime until we met and I was able to expose her to Kenshin and Slayers.)


  7. When asked the “recommendation” question, I try to get at the asker’s personal tastes as best I can, and make a recommendation independent of whether or not I like (or even have seen) the series they list, or the one I recommend. It’s the old Reader’s Advisory schtick.

    When asked “what are your favorite anime series,” that is where my brain seizes up and I very literally cannot think of any anime series, as they all flutter out of my brain and I kind of go slack-jawed for a moment.


  8. When I recommend an anime to someone, I take into account their personal tastes.

    Most of the time I’m around people with similar tastes in anime as me, like romantic-comedy and such.

    I don’t think of myself as an anime snob; I enjoyed watching just about every anime that I’ve seen. I do get bored with some series after awhile, but I pick them back up eventually.

    For people starting out watching anime, I would recommend the mainstream shonen anime like Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball & DBZ, etc. The reason being is that they’re easily accessible, you can discuss them with a wider fanbase, and they’re usually pretty good.



  9. I actually enjoy recommending stuff to people, since I’ve watched a lot I feel like I have a chance to get someone to watch something they might not have known about. When I worked in a bookstore I took great pleasure in being asked what someone might like. It was a fun challenge. Though if someone’s taste is vastly from yours then it can be a bit harder.

    There are very few things I would just flat out recommend without knowing anything about the person. The Ghibli movies come to mind. Cowboy Bebop does as well but if I was asked about a 9-year-old girl who loves ballet I would have to withdrawal it. I know what I wouldn’t recommend for “beginners”: Evangelion, Utena, most things otaku related, anything moe.

    We (Reverse Thieves) have run a panel at a few conventions and will be running it at upcoming NYAF (Anime Recruitment, Friday 8PM, shameless plug!) about what series are good for different people you know and how to bring them into the hobby you love so much. It usually goes over well and we get lots of questions.


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

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