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.