Tuesday, 15 September 2015

7 Anime That Are Good For Beginners

Everyone has things they are passionate about that they want to share with everyone they know. Be it a sport, TV show, film series or something else we want people to talk, agree and disagree with on our favourite aspects of what we love. Generally it’s somewhat easy to justify our passion enough to convince our friends to dip a toe in. If someone hates sports but you yourself have a passion for squash, you’d likely be able to convince them to give a match a watch. If they’re not fond of horror movies but you really want them to give your favourite horror trilogy a crack, you’d probably be able to get them to try the first hour.

But some passions are a bit harder to justify, and alas I am a fan of two such passions…wrestling and the one I’m going to try and convince you the read to give a go….anime. Anime can be difficult to justify because…well…to put it bluntly the perviness. When a lot of people think of anime they think of tentacles doing bad things to girls. The good news is this rarely happens in anime and if it does it’s usually an X-rated anime specifically for fans of tentacle filth. But some other fetishes do crop up a lot, specifically loli characters and little sisters who are a bit too fond of their older brothers. Nearly every anime has some sort of loli character who looks in their early teens, and this can be a bit uncomfortable for people new to anime. Of course the reason for this is in part because the age of consent is 13 in Japan. That’s not an attempt to justify it, it’s just how things are and to become a fan of anime you’ll have to deal with it. The incest stuff…well that’s a bit trickier. It is said that the Japanese are more honest about fetishes and that incest isn’t more common there, they’re just more open about the fact that siblings may go through patches where they’re attracted to each other, but doing any psychological/sociological experiments to prove this would be very difficult.

Still the point of this list is to introduce you to anime by avoiding the more difficult to accept aspects of anime. These anime generally avoid perviness, don’t go overboard on the violence and don’t have lots of references to aspects of Japanese culture that would go over most Westerners heads. Hope you find something you like (assuming you’re new to the genre).

Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop tells the story of 4 bounty hunters and their pet dog flying round the galaxy and trying to make a bit of cash for food. The group includes Spike, the cool one who can handle himself against pretty much all opponents, Jet the Captain and a man with a lot of connections, Faye who has memory loss and buckets of sexuality, Ed who’s actually a girl and Ein the dog, who might just be the smartest of the bunch.

Cowboy Bebop manages to be achingly cool with its Jazz soundtrack, but never forces things, the coolness comes naturally. It also manages to do a good job of balancing having story aspects that flow over the whole series and having one shot episodes. It’s also very funny, a personal favourite is the blacksploitation episode, complete with magic mushrooms and a chat between a cow and a dog.
Cowboy Bebop was an important milestone and one of the most well-known anime, but manages to be very accessible at the same time. A very good starting point that has a little bit of everything, but doesn’t go over-board with anime tropes and stereotypes.

Eden of the East
Eden of the East starts off on a very strong foot. Saki is on holiday in the USA from Japan, she wants to throw a coin into the fountain outside the white house, however her throw ends up waking a young man, butt naked, with a cell phone in one hand and a gun in the other, oh and he’s lost his memories. Takizawa (the naked guy) and Saki soon find out the phone is part of a complex game to decide Japan’s future. He has 10 million yen, the ability to phone an operator up and make any request he likes (within the possible) and that several other people are trying to do the same. Reaching 0 yen will result in something bad happening.

Eden of the east is one of the best beginner anime as its very grounded in reality, it could easily be turned into a TV show. Pretty much no perviness or cultural specific themes make it easy to get into. The only real negatives are that it never makes good on its strong start and although there is some edginess early on, the show chickens out later on (aka people who seemed dead get better).

Spice and Wolf
There aren’t many anime’s that include regular lessons on the working of ye olden days currency and trading practices, but not only does Spice and Wolf tell you about how the metals in coins used to vary and devalue them, but it does it with wit and charm galore.

Lawrence is a traveling merchant who encounters a wolf and harvest goddess called Holo. The two of them start to travel together and have various little adventures as Lawrence tries to gain enough money to settle in one place.
Spice and Wolf is quite a gentle anime that relies heavily on witty conversation between the two characters. This softness means that when something dramatic does happen it seems to have a lot more impact than you’d think. This coupled with beautiful environments and great music (including one of the best opening themes ever) makes Spice and Wolf a very atmospheric anime that’s a little bit different for the rest. Other than some slight nudity with Holo (but you don’t really see anything) Spice and Wolf avoids the weird traits of anime and will even educate you a little bit, what more can you ask for. The only real downside is it’s one of many ‘unfinished’ anime.

Angel beats
Put simply angel beats is one of the best anime ever created and if any anime is going to make you cry, it’s this one. The story is set in a sort of purgatory, which of course takes the form of a high school. The various people living here all have some form of regret, something they feel they didn’t do or some reason to be angry with God, and because of this they try and prevent themselves from passing over properly by refusing to live a normal school life. However they can’t disrupt things too much as a girl called Tenchi (who may or may not be an angel) will punish them.

Angel beats biggest strength is the back stories of each of the characters, be it the group leader Nakamara’s tale of tragedy, Yui’s soft tale of sadness and struggle or Hinita’s moment of regret. But it’s the story of main character Otonashi that really hit’s home…in nearly all anime my fav character will be female but Otonashi’s backstory is so amazing and powerful that I couldn’t help but become a fan of his. Angel beats is full of powerful and tearful moments, including an amazing final twist that’s so emotional it may have actually saved lives (yes really). In fact that’s the very reason you should watch angel beats, it contains no perviness and only a bit of violence, but its story could lead you to making a very important and positive choice in your life…that’s got to be a good reason to give it a go, right?

Steins gate
When most forms of entertainment deal with time travel they nearly always focus on people travelling back in time, however steins gate’s world of time travel starts off with something simpler…a relatively short phone text. Okarin is a self-proclaimed mad scientist, who isn’t quite as mad as he’d like people to believe. He leads a small group called future gadget lab who operate in his dingy flat above a junk shop to create amazing machines…but they haven’t had much luck so far.

Stein’s gate is essentially an anime of two halves, a light hearted first half as the team work to figure out how to make time travel work and evolve. Then a huge twist happens as Okarin’s paranoid beliefs about secret organisations turns out to be a bit more real than anyone would have thought. This twist really changes things and the episode following it is one of the best single episodes of anime I’ve ever seen as a mostly comical character tries to fight time itself. Stein gates somewhat grounded approach to time travel is one of the main reasons it’s a more accessible anime than most, plus its characters and the paths they take are a bit different from what you’d expect. The only real issue with the series is that the first half drags a little…but once ‘that’ twist happens things really do step up a gear. A thought provoking classic.

Fruits basket
Like spice and wolf, fruits basket is another very gentle anime. Tohru Honda is a young girl who ends up having to camp out in the woods for a little while due to a change in her living arrangements. However this leads to her meeting three members of the Sohma family, a family that has a unique curse…when any member is hugged by the opposite sex they transform into one of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

Fruits Baskets biggest strength is Tohru herself, one of the gentlest and kind natured anime characters ever who does everything she can to understand others in spite of having her own tragedies that weigh down on her. The series is very gentle and sedate with a strange warm feeling that some slightly older anime seem to have. It’s this gentle and strangely relaxing vibe that lends itself to people only just starting out in the world of anime, although out of all the anime on this list it’s probably the least accessible due to having the most connections to Japanese and Chinese legends, mythologies and culture.

Pretty much any Miyazaki film
This one feels like a bit of a cheat, but Miyazaki’s films are likely most people’s first taste of anime, and that’s certainly a good thing. He has made films that have as much charm as any Disney films…and in many cases more charm. The most well-known film is of course the Oscar winning Spirited Away which in spite of being rich in Japanese religion and myths is very accessible. His second most well-known film being Princess Mononoke which I’d argue is one of the more inaccessible Miyazaki films due to some unexpected violence.

Other Miyazaki films that are good for first timers include Howl’s Moving Castle, which is similar in spirit to Spirited Away (if you’ll excuse the pun) the gentle and endearing Laputa, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and loveable My Neighbour Totoro. Miyazaki’s films often have connections to Japanese beliefs and culture, but he has always kept his films accessible and full of charm.

So that’s it for my list of anime that I feel would make good choices for people exploring anime for the first time, you can follow me on twitter @tired_hippo and I’m hoping to do a list of horror anime worth a watch next month, anything you think could go on that list? 

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