Anime for Virgins

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Imagine that you, an anime fan, have a friend who you’ve been expounding passionately to about your hobby for the past few weeks/months/years. They finally cave and ask you borrow a title or two from your collection. But discounting that time they were catching Sailor Moon or Samurai Pizza Cats in the mornings before school, they’ve never really sat down to watch an anime before. They ask you for your recommendation. What do you give them?

This has happened to me several times now, and if you’ve been into anime yourself for a while, chances are it’s probably happened to you as well. Imagine my horror when I heard that an acquaintance of mine had given Azumanga Daioh and Angel Beats to one of her friends for their first anime viewing. Said friend had settled down in the evening after work, popped in some DVDs, and promptly been scared away from anime for the next foreseeable while.

While these titles are perfectly fine – in fact, I’d happily pop both of them on my top 20 list – they’re never what I would give someone as an introduction to the medium. In part, this is because they’re a little genre-specific; I wouldn’t recommend either of these to someone who’d been watching anime for decades if they didn’t enjoy slice-of-life comedy or moe-style characters, for instance. More importantly though, it’s pretty difficult to get into anime as a whole when the first examples you’re given are full of unfamiliar visual cuesand references to a culture that you have zero knowledge of.

In this post I’d like to talk a bit about the two titles you should be handing out to your friends – old hat to fans perhaps, but perfect for anyone just starting out. Both have something in them for everyone regardless of genre preference, they’re aging well, and they’re some of the most stylish anime I’ve seen to date. I’m talking, of course, about Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop, both directed by the now-legendary Watanabe Shinichirō.

The former title is about young woman named Fuu who inadvertently ends up meeting a wandering vagabond called Mugen and a masterless samurai, Jin. She convinces the two men to accompany her on a search for a “samurai who smells of sunflowers”, and the anime follows their journeyacross Edoperiod Japan. You’d think that a period title incorporating hip-hop music and culture into the story at nearly every turn would be off-puttingto say the least, but nothing could be further from the truth.

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The second anime is a space western in which cowboys roam the galaxy – bounty hunters who live day-to-day by catching fugitives and handing them over to the police in exchange for cash. The tale focuses on one such crew, made up of the easygoing Spike, a former cop named Jet, an aggressively sexual woman called Faye, a teenage hacker calling herself Edward, and their pet Welsh Corgi. Like Samurai Champloo, the music and counterculture, this time primarily jazz, is an integral part of the show’s artistry.

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I won’t give anything else about these two titles away. If you haven’t seen them already, you should. Don’t look them up on Wikipedia first – the most important thing about both of these anime is the journey of the characters themselves, which takes precedent over plot. Here are five good reasons as to why they make for an excellent first anime:

1. They’re both 26 episodes long.

26 is a good number for an anime and a standard of the medium. A shorter series (usually 12 or 13 episodes) can be very fast-paced, and anything longer (shounen anime in particular like Naruto and Bleach can go into the hundreds) tend to drag. For someone new to anime, it’s important that a series is long enough to tell a well fleshed-out story, but not so long that the viewer gets impatient or fidgety. My yardstick for this is that if I start to want to check my emails halfway through an episode, there’s something wrong with the pacing – which can often be traced back to episode count.

2. They’re both episodic.

The good thing about a well-done episodic series is that you can make the anime match your preferred pace and not the other way around. If you like to marathon a show, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo can accommodate. If you prefer to take things slow and watch just an episode or two per week or even month, that’s also do-able. There’s certainly an overarching plot for both of these anime titles, but said plot is built up gradually, and the majority of episodes can be thought of as small self-contained stories in their own right.

3. The overarching stories are easy to follow.

By no means is either Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop unintelligent. On the contrary, I still find them thought-provoking after a dozen re-watches. But you won’t find any overly complex plot lines to follow, nor any ultra-witty, rapid-pace dialogue. Best of all, there are no characters who are secretly bad guys but then suddenly switch sides before you discover that they’re actually another character’s long-lost sister’s wife’s cousin. There’s an excellent story to be told here, but it’s told succinctly and without undue fuss.

4. The artwork and animation is pretty top notch.

It’s not necessarily the most important thing about any given anime, but if I’m about to introduce someone I care about to the medium then I want them to be impressed – particularly if they’re expecting the more conventional large-eyed characters with gravity-defying hair. While the characters of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo don’t look like real people, you won’t find any chibi designs or people with bug eyes running around here. The animation is relatively smooth as well and easy on the eyes. Cowboy Bebop in particular has aged very nicely.

5. The voice acting is excellent in both languages.

While I do like to encourage people to view anime in its original language if they’re okay with subtitles (romance/drama shows especially can be notoriously bad in English dub), Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop are not only serviceable in English but are downright excellent. The voice actors obviously have a good grasp of their respective characters, there’s no blindingly obvious lip flapping, and not having to read subtitles means having that much more attention to spare to give the visuals and overall narrative.

Personally speaking, I think Samurai Champloo has a slight edge over Cowboy Bebop in terms of anime for newcomers, in that it has a bit more of a contemporary feel and isn’t quite as dramatic. That said, Cowboy Bebop just keeps getting better every time I watch it and is more likely to be considered a true classic. In any case, both shows mix comedy, drama and action incredibly well, and provide some solid groundwork for anyone just getting into anime. My key advice to anyone watching either of these for the first time is simply this: don’t over-think things. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and enjoy the ride. Meanwhile, for those of you looking out for other beginner-friendly anime, either for yourself or to suggest to friends, I thoroughly recommend Eden of the East, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Death Note, Wolf’s Rain, and Read or Die.

Question of the post: What was the first anime you were ever recommended by a friend? Was it a good way to start off, or do you wish you had first tried something different?

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52 thoughts on “Anime for Virgins

  1. The first anime I technically was ever recommended by a friend was CardCaptor Sakura…when I was in middle school.
    Oh, so you’ve also recommended Death Note to beginners! Death Note is what I really consider my first introduction to anime, and it’s what got me hooked on it in the first place.
    Unfortunately, while I do like Death Note and I have recommended it to beginners, I don’t think it’s a great anime to recommend to everyone. The dark content of the story may end up driving away people instead. I got really lucky with the people I recommended it to, and they enjoyed the story. But I know lots of my friends who would be terrified of the anime.
    Another really good anime that I could recommend for beginners is Baccano. It’s witty, brilliantly plotted, and while it’s got only thirteen episodes, I never felt it was rushed. And it could be recommended for almost anyone.


    1. That’s true, Death Note is rather dark and perhaps not for the squeamish. That said, it’s not particularly graphic and is probably perfect for anyone looking for a more serious ride.

      I can’t say I agree about Baccano – I think the pacing for that anime is way off. Or rather, the story is – it’s a good one, but the way it’s actually told is all over the place. It also involves a lot of anime-specific conventions that I think newcomers to the medium would be hard put to recognise. This is exactly the same reason why I wouldn’t recommend Durarara, even though that title is to my mind a far superior show to Baccano and one of my all-time favourites. It’s just not all that beginner-friendly.


  2. Yep…I agree with everything you said. Right on. My first recommendation is always Cowboy Bebop, although upon further thought, I think Samurai Champloo is as good or better for newcomers. Additionally, I’d add Studio Ghibli titles to the list, if we’re including films.

    I can’t answer your question, because I stumbled into anime on my own!


    1. If it’s a matter of personal preference I place Cowboy Bebop above Samurai Champloo, but I think as far as newcomer recommendations go, Champloo probably has a slight edge over Bebop just because it has that more contemporary feel to it.
      Good point about Ghibli films. I suppose I didn’t add them mostly because they’re already fairly well-known compared to anime TV shows – a lot of people who don’t have any idea of what anime is have still at least heard of Spirited Away or Ponyo for example, and they can be rented or bought out of pretty much any DVD shop.


  3. Personally, I always start people off with the Studio Ghibli films. It shows how an animated film can appeal to grown-ups rather than just children, while not asking for too much of a person’s time. A lot of the people I have shown anime to have been quite fond of action shows, so the first volume of Bleach was a good start for them. I feel the first season is very strong.

    While having not yet seen either of the shows you recommend (shocking as it is), I understand both are well regarded and complete in one season, I can understand why that are good starting points.


    1. I agree, many Ghibli films would also make excellent anime starting points. The only reason I didn’t include them somewhere in the article is because compared to anime TV shows, they’re quite well known the world over and can be easily rented or bought out of most DVD shops. Even many people who don’t know what anime is have still at least heard of the likes of Spirited Away or Ponyo (and quite rightly so).

      I could never in good conscience recommend Bleach to anyone though. With one or two exceptions, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood being one of them, I tend to have an intense dislike of anime shows that run over about 50 episodes. The animation quality is always relatively poor as a result, not to mention the copious amounts of filler and awful pacing what with ‘action’ fight scenes that stretch out for weeks on end. I’ll readily admit to being very biased though – I don’t like Naruto, Bleach, Fairy Tail, One Piece, or pretty much any other long-running shows, so I’m predisposed to slamming a lot of shounen titles.


  4. Usually, I find stuff like Fullmetal Alchemist(Either the original or Brotherhood), Cowboy Bebop as mentioned, Death Note, or Trigun to be pretty easy to recommend to newbies. They’re all not too reliant on people being familiar with typical anime conventions, are great stories, and are all pretty solid. Trigun, I’ve recommended, and got a friend into anime. Strangely enough, I got another friend into anime by recommending him Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I’m not sure if its a title one would normally recommend to non-anime fans.


    1. Trigun’s an interesting case I think – I can come up with reasons why it would be good for newcomers (good length, a fun but easy to follow story, probably not too many anime-specific visual cues) and also reasons why it wouldn’t (not too great animation, a really big and sudden shift in tone between the first and second half). I guess on the whole it balances itself out.

      It’s a bit ironic that I definitely wouldn’t consider Evangelion a good series to recommend to newcomers considering that it was my first anime – or at least, the first anime that I watched with an understanding of what it actually was. It’s still one my favourite shows to date though.


  5. For me, it was a co-worker who lent me copies of three shows: Battle Programmer Shirase (which I enjoyed), Initial D (which I couldn’t get to play on my computer) and, of all things, Genshiken. The latter was a great influence because it not only gave me an education on otaku culture, but was (and still is) a witty show with great characters.

    Also early on I gave Azumanga a try, but I was in a more receptive mood, I guess, because I fell in love with it.


  6. If we’re going way back, the first anime I ever watched was Pokemon. The first one a friend recommended was Yu-Gi-Oh! when we were kids.
    I think the first real, adult anime I really sat down and watched wholly was Elfen Leid, which is amazing, but ridiculously violent and sexual, so take that to heart. No one recommended me anything, other than the usual Bleach/Naruto/etc, but those who recommended anime were always the “weird” fans. You know, think they’re actually living in an anime, don’t speak in any form of real English, overly excitable, all that.
    For an anime virgin, I might recommend Clannad because it’s simple, funny, and always leaves on a good hook. For action-lovers, I’d say Fate Zero. It’s only 20-something episodes, explains itself well, and it’s one of the most exciting action shows I’ve ever seen.


    1. I have mixed feelings about Elfen Lied. It has some good elements there, and with its weird mixture of harem and super dark violence it could have been a revolutionary show. I think they went a little overboard though, and it ended up being, as you say, actually ridiculous.


  7. I recced Darker Than Black and Witch Hunter Robin to anyone who listened, but I’ve now seen the error of my ways. Apparently DBK was incomprehensible and WHR was incomprehensible and SLOW. They are still among my favorite titles, and the list has expanded to gargantuan proportions now, but I still don’t do any more recs because I hate hearing my favorites get slammed. Also, I took an instant dislike to Samurai Champloo’s visual style and never finished it, and I’m interested now that you say you’d stick it right up there with Cowboy Bepop. If I were to start reccing again, I’d be tempted to put Captain Harlock (the recent OVA, not the 1978 anime) or an Inuyasha movie in the mix, but I may just be playing favorites. My friends prefer straight-forward, fast moving plots with clear protagonists, which is why my first suggestions tanked, I think. Going with that idea, most have taken to Inuyasha like ducks to water. 🙂 But I haven’t been able to find anything similar. As you said, any mentions of Naruto and Bleach are cringed at.


    1. I like both Darker Than Black and Witch Hunter Robin, but yeah, I guess I probably wouldn’t recommend either to first-timers (although you could also do much, much worse than those). It’s an interesting point – some people don’t rec because they don’t want to have their favourites slammed, especially by their friends. I think personally I’ve become a bit more immune to that over the years. I’ve been watching anime for long enough and know so many people with different tastes that it can be all but impossible to find something that absolutely all of us like. For that reason, when I rec things now I don’t do it out of love for the title exactly, so much as I do out of respect. Typically I both love and respect something, but sometimes the two aren’t necessarily intertwined.


  8. Digimon was what got me started, but as soon as I announced I like anime, my otaku aunties took over. There was a very fateful night when I was 13 when they showed me and my sister Slayers, Kare Kano, Ranma 1/2, and the only episode they could find of Kenshin (the series–they turned off the OVA right away once they remembered more about it, deeming it appropriate for a few years later). They were also introducing us to Inu-yasha and Card Captor Sakura over the rest of that visit. I don’t think I would have liked Cowboy Bebop as a young teen, but I also don’t think I could get into Slayers now. Age appropriateness is a big question.

    How about suggestions for the people who don’t really like action and violence physiological character development? For instance, a friend was shown Evangelion, and now she hates anime because it made her feel so uncomfortable. Any suggestions for adults who just like feel-good entertainment?

    If films count as introductions, I would throw in Satoshi Kon’s “Millennium Actress” or “Tokyo Godfathers”. As an adult, I find them a little more mentally engaging than Ghibli films. As far as series are concerned, I agree with your standards and criteria!


    1. That’s true, age counts for a big part in introductory anime, and I guess it would be impossible to come up with the perfect anime that would fit absolutely anyone regardless of age and personal taste.

      For the more feel-good and less serious adult fare, I’d probably consider recommending something like Sakamichi no Apollon, Usagi Drop, or Natsume Yuujinchou to beginners. They’re all great anime in their own right, but I think they also each cover most of what I covered in the post’s standards and criteria. They’re all fairly children-friendly as well, in that violence and sexuality doesn’t play a major part in the storylines.


  9. I go with Cowboy Bebop as a default for new people, because it just makes sense to do so. I sometimes rec something different if I know their interests a little better, though it still has to be something generally well-made. I’ve had success recommending Visions of Escaflowne (final fantasy nut), Giant Killing (sports nerd), and Tiger and Bunny (comics nerd) as starter shows for people with corresponding interests.


    1. Yeah, things are definitely a lot easier if you have an idea of a person’s interests before you rec things. Tiger & Bunny is another really good one actually – I hadn’t thought of that as a potential anime for newcomers, but now that you mention it I see that it could work extremely well in a lot of cases.


  10. Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are always my go to recommendations. I’ve also gotten one friend into anime through Wolf’s Rain and a few others through Durarara! I find Durarara hits a lot of the right notes for the right people. It’s got excellent animation, interesting characters, several different feeling stories that all come together well and dose of the supernatural. For people that tend to like something lighter, I’ve also had great success with Haruhi Suzumiya.


    1. I honestly can’t decide whether Durarara would make a good first anime or not. I personally love the series and would happily put it on my top 10 list, but there are also a lot of in-jokes there that I think people not already familiar with anime and/or Japanese pop culture would definitely miss.


  11. I really like your approach and the reasons why you picked Champloo and Bebop as recs to first-time anime watchers. Every time a casual acquaintance asks me for anime recommendations, I feel like I have to put them through at least a ten-point questionnaire to figure out their tastes, ’cause I don’t want to rec a show that would then turn them off all anime forever.

    It is also interesting when we, as seasoned anime fans, recall what our first series are and what hooked us in the first place and how we may not recommend this to somebody just coming into anime for their first time. It really takes all kinds, and that’s really why I can’t leave it: there’s just so much interesting anime to watch and there’s always more coming out.


    1. So much anime, so little time! I agree though, that’s the beauty of the medium – there’s just so much to watch and so much variety that I don’t think it would even be possible to watch absolutely everything if I tried. And of course, personal taste differs wildly, so it can be difficult to know if what you rec will really hit home or not. The best we can do is try. 🙂


  12. Slightly LTTP here. An old school anime that I watched as a kid that I’d recommend to someone is Iria: Zeiram. There’s no moe character, the main character is a strong female lead, animation quality is overall well done, and there’s a very unique style and bad guy with a decent plot. Plus, it’s only a few episodes long. I’ve gone as far to watch the live action movies (they’re so bad they’re funny. I don’t recommend them to anyone but the hardcore) since I enjoyed the anime so much (the anime is vastly superior).


    1. All comments are very welcome, late or otherwise. 🙂 I haven’t seen Iria yet, although I’ve seen the name tossed around online a few times. When I have the time to do so I’ll definitely check it out, cheers.


  13. This is almost an origins story for me. So much of my experience around anime has revolved around this “gateway anime” issue. And at first it was truly a disaster. Early in high school my friend showed me the 12 Dragonball Z movie, and I hated it! It was a video tape with no subtitles, and I didn’t get any of what was going on. Hell, I could hardly get past Goku’s high pitched voice. It took Toonami to save my future in anime.

    I think what makes a great gateway anime is a combination of viewer taste and the anime’s accessibility. I’ve found comedy to be a great barrier breaker, too. Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu has proven to be a very accessible series. You don’t need to know anything about its source material or the anime before it. The slapstick comedy is so strong, so clear and fast and accessible to Americans that I always seems to be in the conversation. Plus, I have to admit that what ADV did with the dub is just outstanding.

    Any of the anime from the famous 90’s “cowboy trio” ( which of course includes Bebop) is an excellent choice for a gateway series. They all have excellent dubs, last for 20+ episodes and don’t require extensive knowledge of the source county’s culture.

    And I think Durarara as others have mentioned fits in with the tone and accessibility of the cowboy trio, too. Though I’ve never experienced the dub.


    1. It sounds like anime had a very rocky start for you! That’s a good point about comedy generally being quite accessible to American tastes as in the likes of Fumoffu – and you’re right, I think ADV did a fantastic job with the dub there.
      While I prefer the sub, Durarara has a pretty decent dub too (although I admit to trying it out only because I have a thing for Crispin Freeman).


  14. I’m shocking in that the first anime I ever saw was Legend of the Overfiend followed by Wicked City. Then the first series I saw was Neon Genesis: Evangelion. It’s kind of amazing that I am a fan really!


    1. Same here – the first anime I watched (other than in the early days before I knew what anime was) included films like Akira and Perfect Blue, and the Evangelion series. They’re good, but I’d never recommend them to first-timers!


  15. With a typical Westerner, I would recommend something like PlanetES.

    If the audience is very impatient, something like Perfect Blue or Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle might work.

    There are many, many good shows. Ouran High School Host Club and Nerima Daaikon Brothers are good for a wide array of audiences.

    Some version of Ghost in the Shell might be good. There are so many versions now that I hardly know where to tell other people to begin watching.

    Some anime shows don’t appeal to me but would charm many audiences. For example, if I were asked by a feminist who wanted girl-power characters, I would recommend Arakawa Under the Bridge, but I don’t watch that show, because it’s very much a female fantasy.


    1. As much as I adore Ouran High School Host Club, I would never in a million years recommend it to someone new to the anime medium – there’s just way too many codes, conventions and in-jokes that are only funny or understandable to people who are already familiar with anime/Japanese culture there. I agree though, Studio Ghibli movies tend to be quite good for first-timers since unlike a lot of TV anime shows, they don’t tend to involve nearly as many anime or Japanese pop culture references, and can easily be enjoyed by people of all ages and either gender. I’m not sure at all about Arakawa Under the Bridge being a female fantasy, however. If anything, I’d say that title is aimed more at males than a female audience.


      1. Hmm. On second thought, Ouran High School Host Club has a lot of Japanese-culture references like blood types and stuff, so yeah, it’s not ideal.

        As for Arakawa, I really do see it as a modern woman’s fantasy.

        The main female lead doesn’t have to do anything. She just has to be be, and the men around her swoon and bend over backwards to please her. The rock star provides some love triangle tension, without which the main male character would be too boring.

        Sawashiro Miyuki’s character is the hardcore feminist who lays down the law of female supremacy. The violent guy in nun clothes is the subversion of male macho attitudes.

        This may seem off the wall, but I seriously see Arakawa Under the Bridge as a female fantasy, not a male fantasy. I haven’t watched it since the first season, so I don’t have a lot of details in mind, but I think this idea will stand up to examination.


        1. I personally don’t see Arakawa Under the Bridge as either male fantasy or female fantasy. The major theme always struck me as societal rather than having any specifically to do with gender – what exactly is percieved as right and wrong on a social level and why, how these ideals can and sometimes should be questioned, etc.
          That said, one of the great things about anime is that, just like any other artistic medium, there’s plenty that can be interpreted in multiple ways. 🙂


  16. This is a very good article. I recommended Cowboy Bebop to my brother (a non anime fan), and he really likes it. I always tell my friends who don’t watch anime to take a gander at Princess Mononoke. The first anime that one of my friends recommended to me was When They Cry, because he knows I like like horror movies. I don’t think it was a good recommendation; the show is a little too extreme. The first anime I watched by my own decision was School Rumble. It was a good start.


    1. Yeah, I doubt I’d ever recommend When They Cry to people new to anime, no matter how much they like horror. There’s too many codes and conventions there that are unique to anime and would probably just confuse the hell out of newcomers – which is what happens when an anime mixes horror with moe.and harem. XD


  17. My first anime turned out to be a double whammy between Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei and Lucky Star. I still have no idea how I managed to get sucked into watching anime because of those two.

    I run an anime club on my university campus, and one of the most backbreaking issues during meetings is figuring out an anime schedule that everyone can agree upon. Psycho-Pass has rape in the first episode. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is too violent. Fate/Zero is way too dull. The Tatami Galaxy makes no sense. Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu is outdated. There’s a certain degree of “disregard harlots acquire currency” when it comes to final decisions, though, but it doesn’t make dealing with this any less frustrating. If anything, my experience running the club has taught me that anything has the chance of completely missing the mark with some people.

    My personal recommendation list goes along the lines of Cowboy Bebop, Baccano!, Mushishi, and Gankutsuou, but I always get people to try Xam’d: Lost Memories just because of how accessible it is. It was the first anime series available on the PSN for a reason.


    1. Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei and Lucky Star? I have no words to describe my awe and admiration that you’re still here. While I have no major issue with either title with regard to overall quality, I’m actually struggling to come up with anything worse in terms of beginner-friendly anime.

      I’ve never been a part of an anime club (if there had been one at university I would have joined, but I’m not sure there are many in New Zealand at all, probably due to size), but I can certainly see how you must have problems. Even with only me and 2 friends, we sometimes had trouble deciding what to go with for our weekly viewing parties. I can only imagine that any group over that number must be a bit of a nightmare.


  18. I love both those anime and would happily recommend them to a friend. Personally I always go with Rurouni Kenshin for first time anime exposure. Especially the OVA ‘Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal’. It was the first one I ever saw and it made a big impression on me.


    1. I’m not a huge Kenshin fan, but I agree that the OVAs are pretty good. Not so much the series, which is completely different in tone and is just way too long for me, but I can see how it would appeal to a lot of people.


  19. How curious that you should open with a reference to Azumanga Daioh.

    I was poised to write to you and ask you if you would to devote a column to the best mangaka in the business; Kiyohiko Azuma in particular (if you agree with me) who is so extraordinary by focusing so impeccably on the ordinary. His frames are perfection. His black & white renderings of the domestic and the suburban, and the urbane … well I for one just gaze in wonder.

    (And he created Ayumu Kasuga – Best Character Ever – by being the very opposite of all the usual tropes: *not* genki-girl, no magic, no chest, no focus, no smarts, no sex-appeal … She is genius! )

    Could you? Would you?



    1. I’ll certainly take the suggestion under consideration – I do have quite a fondness for Azumanga. It’ll have to wait for a few weeks at least however, since after my next post I’ll be taking a break until next year.


  20. Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler. The plot line was pretty easy to follow, and I was hooked pretty quickly. I’ve introduced a lot of my friends to anime with this show.


  21. When I received my first anime recommendation from someone I’d been watching anime for a while already. Although it didn’t give me a start-off it was an amazing title: Seirei no Moribito. Interestingly, it falls among the anime that I might recommend to newcomers to the medium as well.

    The shows that got me started off in anime were a few titles from the Macross series – mainly SDF-Macross, which are still remain among my favorite titles today.

    I agree with you on recommending Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo to people fresh to anime, in particular Cowboy Bebop is among the few series that even non-anime fans I’ve met all know about (discounting any ‘big’ names).

    I’d recommend Psycho-Pass to someone new to anime as well – I think it deals with themes that stretch beyond the confines of conventional anime and has a sophistication about it that doesn’t restrict it to common anime tropes.


    1. I think I agree with you about Psycho-Pass. It might be a bit bloody for some, but it’s a very well-executed show that doesn’t seem to really require much (if any) prior knowledge about anime in order to fully appreciate it. I’d also be inclined to agree with you about Moribito as well, although I know a lot of people don’t particularly like the series – I think because they were expecting more action and instead got mostly slow-building, almost slice-of-life material? I personally really liked that aspect of the show, but I know it also got a lot of flak for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. A strange choice, but my first anime was Rurouni Kenshin. I remember watching a few episodes here and there as it was broadcast on a local TV station (albeit late, so it wasn’t always an option for 10 year old me). I probably wouldn’t suggest it to first timers, but for some reason it really captivated me when I rediscovered it years later.

    Ι most definitely agree with Bebop and Samurai Champloo, and would probably add Death Note. I know people who watched DN and got into the genre, and others who didn’t, but nonetheless gained some respect for it, seeing what it can potentially do with a story/art style.


    1. I think Death Note would probably make for a pretty good first anime as well. I remember it hooking me straight away, and while it’s by no means a perfect series, I do think it’s quite a compelling one.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Definitely agree, I wouldn’t say it’s overrated, but I have met fans who hype it too much. But that could be true with any show I suppose.

    Oh, and thanks for checking out my blog. I just set it up so I greatly appreciate it


  24. This post just showed up in my “also recommended” feed. It was a lot of fun to read the post and everyone’s old comments. My formal introduction to anime was the movie Ninja Scroll in 1998, and while that does have the virtue of being relatively free of anime-isms, it’s definitely not one I’d ever recommend as a starting point unless I knew the other person would specifically enjoy that kind of stylized ultraviolence. Which I do not, by the way. I never would have recommended it to my younger self as a starting point, and even less so to my current self.

    Escaflowne used to be a go-to recommendation for me, in part because it gets off to a fast start (unlike so many anime) and in part because it’s got a little of everything, so even if someone couldn’t get into the series as a whole I’d ask them if there was any part they did enjoy, and if they said they liked the romance or the parallel world or the mech battles or whatever, then I could use that to come back with another suggestion they might like better. I don’t make it a first reommendation anymore, though, because even though it’s still a great series it’s also from a totally different era and shows its age in some ways.

    A series that I actually have had a lot of success with even with non-anime fans in recent years is Girls und Panzer, believe it or not. There’ve been about five or six times now where I either loaned my DVDs out to an anime novice or sat and watched it together with them, and so far it’s been a hit every single time (it’s always been a crowd pleaser when I show it in anime club, too). I think that series works for people because it’s a classic rags-to-riches underdog tale so the story beats are immediately familiar, the setting divorces it just enough from reality that it requires minimal knowledge of Japanese culture, and most importantly it’s just plain fun to watch. It’s almost perfectly paced for a 12-episode series, full of hooks and cliffhangers, and often quite funny too. The biggest potential pitfalls IMO: the average-at-best English dub (though amusingly, none of my novice friends who watched in English have ever complained about it, just the veteran anime fans), and the enormous cast of characters. I’ve seen it like six times now and even I still don’t know everyone’s names. So I always warn people that the only girls they actually need to get to know individually are Miho and her four friends – for everyone else it’s good enough just to know which clique or school they belong to.


    1. I know what you mean. Back when I was first discovering what anime was in my earlyish teens, my first exposure to ‘adult’ shows was whatever my local video store had in stock – which was mostly 80s/90s films like Akira, Blood: The Last Vampire, Perfect Blue, and yes, also Ninja Scroll. Arguably pretty good stuff, but not something I’d start anyone out on (unless I knew for sure that they appreciated surrealistic psychological thrillers and/or ultraviolent action content).

      On the other hand, I’m one of those people who didn’t want Escaflowne until quite a bit later into my 20s, by which point I probably didn’t appreciate that title enough. If I’d been exposed to it a little earlier, I’d perhaps have been more into it. Weirdly, despite all the attention it got when it was released back in 2012, I still haven’t seen any of Girls und Panzer. But who knows, maybe I’ll give it a go at some point.



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