Your friendly neighborhood slacker. Former film student, turned culinarian, turned ugly capitalist, CC likes to write about stuff.
Chances are, if you subscribe to a streaming app, visit Instagram, or have a heartbeat, you've encountered anime. But if you're like most people, you don't know where to start.
You may be thinking that anime is all over the top action or high fantasy, but you'd be surprised at the wide variety available. Here is a list of five anime series that may help introduce you to the genre.
Shin Chan is a long-running comedy series that has been in production since 1990. It follows a wise-cracking five-year-old that lives with his family in a medium-sized Japanese suburb where normally unremarkable situations tend to go hilariously awry.
It's a familiar concept for Western audiences. Like South Park (1997-), The Boondocks (2005-2014), or the recent Netflix hit, Big Mouth (2017-), Shin Chan derives most of its humor from the absurdity of the young character's intellect and behavior. The protagonist, Shin, takes every opportunity to challenge his parents with disarming whit and a sharp tongue, with many episodes cramming in slapstick jokes rather than weaving a demanding, intricate story.
Despite having such a large backlog of available episodes, Shin Chan is an especially accessible show to a new viewer, since it has no overarching narrative, and allows new viewers to start whenever, or hop around to different episodes.
Mushishi (2005-2006) is a short-lived low fantasy series that takes place in a fictionalized version of 19th century Japan. An anthology of sorts, it loosely follows Ginko, a man with the ability to see and interact with mushi, or ethereal, ghost-like creatures.
Over the 26 episode series, Ginko travels from village to village, witnessing the effect mushi have on the people, land, and animals of those places, helping here and there.
Mushishi is a great introduction for new anime fans because it does not demand the sort of commitment of a longer series. In fact, while it is helpful, it is not necessary to watch the series in chronological order, since each narrative introduces new characters and new challenges.
3. Little Witch Academia
If you have fond memories of waiting in line at the Harry Potter midnight release parties, or running to check the mailbox for your Hogwarts acceptance letter, chances are you will like Little Witch Academia (2017).
The undeniably referential series follows Akko and her classmates as they combat the regular catastrophes that plague their academy for witches in training.
It balances an adventurous storyline, which never stalls along its 25-episode run with its stunning animation. Though quirky, and not shy to indulge in the surrealist tropes of its genre, its visual style feels fresh and unexhausted.
A great entry point into the genre, its laughs, drama, melancholia, and action can give a new viewer a taste of the most prominent themes and moods in anime without overloading them with any one of them.
4. Death Note
Speaking of moody anime, let me introduce you to Death Note (2006-2007). This series has seen a real resurgence in popular culture with the release of the complete series on Netflix, and Netflix adapting the show to a feature length, live-action film of the same title in 2017.
The story follows a teenager who takes possession of a notebook that gives him the ability to end anybody's life. Emboldened with a God complex, he sets out to kill any and all wrongdoers, only to discover that not everybody agrees with his view on morality.
Another series with a manageable length (37 episodes), Death Note is a great introduction to those people who would love to try out an anime, but want something slower and more challenging than what is offered in the sword and sorcery or fight and shoot subgenres. Its commanding storyline will take hold of your life for however long it takes you to binge every episode.
5. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
5. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
This slice of life series, with a small supernatural twist, follows Jinta, a teenager who is being followed by the ghost of his childhood friend. After coming to terms with the fact that he isn't hallucinating, Jinta must help his friend's spirit move on by reuniting his past friends, who scattered in the aftermath of her death.
You won't find any magic spells, inhuman bad guys, or throwing stars in Anohana (2011). Its slow story building is an excellent foray into the slice of life anime genre, and won't scare off less experienced fans with the overly dramatic subplots common in other teen-centric shows.
In fact, the series has little time for detours from the central plot since the story only runs for 11 episodes. The well conceived narrative remains the central focus of the show, making it easy to maintain interest for folks who are just looking to give the genre a shot.
Liza from USA on April 21, 2020:
Shin-Chan is one of my favorites from your list. I remember watching this when I was studying at university. This anime was so huge in Malaysia.