A Beginner's Guide to Anime

For many people, everything about anime is simply absurd. Japanese animation is just too weird, too silly, and too juvenile to be worth watching. Of course, anyone who has ever seen a good anime would disagree with that assumption. But it's hard to convince someone to take the plunge and give anime a shot. That's where this article comes in. I aim to proclaim the virtues of this often overlooked genre, including this tightly kept secret only known by the anime viewing community.

Even now, during television's golden era, a lot of the biggest and best shows are anime.

Programs like BoJack Horseman, Archer, The Simpsons, and South Park have demonstrated that audiences are hungry for animated shows. But these comedies are nothing compared to the powerful and emotionally charged stories anime portray. The best anime can rival the feels of a classic Disney movie and surpass the sophisticated complexities of House of Cards. How do they do it?

Anime is such a rich combination of storytelling and art that its quality often exceeds even the best "ordinary" television shows.

If you truly consider yourself a fan of television, it is time you gave the anime genre a chance. And here are some suggestions for how to start.

If you like Dexter, try Death Note

Serial killer who kills bad guys? Check. Murderer hiding in plain sight while he works with the police? Check. Satisfying conclusions? Well... while Dexter's ending (and the last few seasons) left some fans disappointed, Death Note is consistently entertaining. Watching as main character Light Yagami uses his "Death Note" to murder evil-doers and create a new world is as addictive as it is fascinating. If you like your television shows smart and dark, Death Note is the perfect anime for you.

If you like Game of Thrones, try Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Both of these shows have the familial backstabbing, political warfare, grand battles, and desperate fight for the throne that you crave. In Code Geass, an outcasted prince of Britannia fights against his father's empire to seize control of Japan and the world. This brilliant anime has just the right mix of action, humor, and intellectual depth to sustain you while you wait for winter to finally come. By the time you're done watching Code Geass, you'll be more obsessed with Zero and the Black Knights than you ever were with Westeros.

If you like Top Chef, try Food Wars (Shokugeki no Soma)

There's a reason why cooking shows are so popular nowadays. "Food porn" (a phrase I am wholly uncomfortable with) is super fun to watch. Seeing delicious-looking food get prepared and learning how to cook it at home has universal appeal. Somehow, Food Wars elevates this art to an entirely new level. Watching as aspiring chef Yukihira Soma cooks mouth-watering dishes and battles other talented chefs combines all of food porn's appeal into one appetizing show. Not only do you learn about amazing high-end cooking techniques, this show features more exquisite international dishes than you'd see spending a whole day watching the Food Network.

If you like The Walking Dead, try Attack on Titan

The Walking Dead and Attack on Titan have the same premise. The few people still alive after a global catastrophe band together to fight off human-eating monsters in an attempt to kill them all! In The Walking Dead, Rick and the gang just have to kill some plain old zombies. In Attack on Titan, Eren and his friends have to kill giant naked people-eating monsters called titans that have destroyed most of humanity. Both of these shows are exciting, action-packed, and often depressing. But not only is Attack on Titan faster-paced and more interesting, it actually offers up the hope that humanity can defeat these monsters. If that midseason premiere left you hating life or you've been off the TWD train for a while now, try Attack on Titan. It's just as hyped as The Walking Dead, but much more deservedly so.

If you like American Horror Story, try Another

Nothing is as thrilling as a terrifying mystery. While AHS runs the gamut of mildly scary to just plain weird, Another is a show that's guaranteed to scare the pants off of you. Kouichi Sakakibara is a new student at his school. In his class there is a mysterious girl who everyone else seems to ignore for some reason. As his classmates begin to die in strange accidents, the mystery surrounding this girl and these deaths only grows. If you enjoy a satisfying and scary mystery, Another is an anime worth checking out.

If you like Supernatural, try Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is considered by many to be the greatest anime ever made. It is centered around the Elric brothers, who, after the unfortunate death of their mother, try to use the power of alchemy to bring her back to life. Edward (who lost an arm and a leg trying to bring his mom back) and Alphonse (who lost his whole body) journey out into the world desperate to find a way to get their original bodies back. Like the Winchesters, they battle against demons called homunculi, all while trying to overcome an incredible loss. If you only view one show mentioned in this article, this is the one you should see. It is a truly moving tale of sacrifice, human nature, and the innate goodness inside of all of us.

While not exactly comparable to television shows currently on the air, there are many other anime shows that beginners to this genre should consider checking out:

Durarara!!, Madoka Magica, Steins;Gate, and Naruto are all fantastic anime to start with.

If you think I'm a jerk for leaving out your favorite, you have a question about a show I recommended, or you have a recommendation of your own, leave a comment below!

Comments

18 comments

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scotwotContributor
Jan 25, 2017 1:00PM EST

Well,you have me sold!!! I am a complete newbie to anime yet have wanted to try it for so long- but I didn't think I'd understand it, I thought it was for a completely different audience than me. Obviously not! Thanks so much!

Now that I know more about the genre(your descriptions of each show are great), especially that there are shows similar to the ones I love - I can't wait to find 'Attack on Titan,' 'Another' and 'Full Metal Alchemist' to watch and enjoy. I'm really looking forward to this because despite all the great TV around right now I'm kinda bored with it all and only watching 2-3 shows consistently. Call it the January blues, call it the time when I discovered anime.

Thanks so much, this was really well written and so well laid out for the likes of me who knows nothing about anime. Ty. : )

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Jan 25, 2017 1:08PM EST

I can't promise anything, but this is definitely the closest I've ever come to giving anime a shot.

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Jan 25, 2017 2:16PM EST

Awesome guide :) Most ppl dont even know how awesome anime can be but ive also noticed some ppl just dont want to start on the long running ones but there are alot of awesome shorter ones too, like some you mentioned :) hopefully you motivated alot of ppl to try it now :D

can you tell me how to get anime added to sidereel btw?

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Jan 25, 2017 2:30PM EST

@Moniie you can get in touch re: what you'd like to see on the site via http://support.sidereel.com/

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Jan 25, 2017 3:27PM EST

I am a fan of kids and adults cartoons and anime.
Your guide is great. Love the comparisons.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to start watching ‘Another’ tonight. Can’t wait.
Thanks, TelevisionFanboy!

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Jan 25, 2017 6:30PM EST

Thanks @T.J :)

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Jan 25, 2017 10:55PM EST

I'm not a fan of all anime, to be sure. A lot of it can be very video-gamey, or teen romancey, to the point that it loses my interest. However I am lucky to have been recommended some anime that I absolutely loved. You mentioned Another, a horror anime, suspenseful & bloody at times, that had me hooked to the very end. I also watched Attack on Titan and found it fairly good, which surprised me. I'm also a fan of the animated movies Ghost in the Shell, and its TV series to a lesser extent. (I will not go see the upcoming live movie, for numerous reasons.)

But to wrap up this comment, saving the best for last: Steins;Gate was the perfect fit for me. Time travely, sciencey; solid characters, solid plot, and much more. (Caveat: some say they are confused the first 1-3 episodes. So was I, a little bit. My advice: just soldier on.)

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TelevisionFanboyContributor
Jan 26, 2017 5:07AM EST

Thanks for all of the positive comments you guys!
@geysha tell me how you like Another!
@moniie I couldn't agree more!
@ArkhamNative I won't be watching the Ghost in the Shell live action movie either. It has none of the appeal of the movies/anime adaptations.

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Jan 26, 2017 6:30AM EST

Nice guide! Finally! My little advice: look up the original series. I'm sorry to say this but the dubbed versions will kill the mood. Like dubbing Eddie Murphy. You need to hear the real one! :)

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Jan 26, 2017 3:25PM EST

Update…. I had to force myself to stop watching Another after episode 3. It is sooo good I wanted to watch it non-stop. The story instantly pulls you in, very intriguing and mysterious. The problem is, and this is from experience, if I watch it all at once I will then spend a few days mourning the show. LOL. So I’m going to try to watch it 3 episodes per day so I can savor it.

It is as good as you said or better, TelevisionFanboy.
I am so glad I pick this one up.

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TelevisionFanboyContributor
Jan 27, 2017 3:04AM EST

@geysha I am so glad that you are enjoying Another! It totally enraptured me too. I am so glad to hear someone else experiences the same anime withdrawal I do, even though the feeling is miserable lol. When a truly remarkable anime ends there is a sweet sadness about it that lingers for days after.

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Jan 28, 2017 5:36PM EST

What a short list! Try adding "If you like Firefly/Sci-Fi, try Cowboy Beebop". And "If you like sports/psychological games, try One Outs".

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Meghan McTiernan
Jan 30, 2017 11:24AM EST

The great thing about anime: There's so much out there! So if for some reason you don't like any of these, keep looking. You WILL find at least one you love. My husband watches Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, and Trigun when it comes to anime, meanwhile eye-rolling the anime I gravitate to (K-On!, Kimi Ni Todoke, Maid Sama, Clannad, Ouran High School Host Club, Ao Haru Ride, Lovely Complex, etc aka girly shows). I must warn though, anime generally (not always!) exists to support the manga it's based on. So some shows typically only last a season or two and can sometimes end abruptly.

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Feb 6, 2017 10:40PM EST

well this is all wrong:
If you like Dexter, try Death Note

If you like Game of Thrones, try Attack on Titan or Full metal alchemist

If you like Top Chef, try Food Wars (Shokugeki no Soma)

If you like The Walking Dead, try Kabaneri

If you like American Horror Story, try Another

If you like Supernatural, try Tokyo ghoul

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Feb 7, 2017 2:13PM EST

Anyone one who wants to get into animé should just watch Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April). It is a beautiful animé for those of you who like a good romance. There is both subbed and dubbed available on the internet and i think it is still on netflix

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scotwotContributor
Feb 8, 2017 11:42AM EST

Well, I cannot thank you enough, TelevisionFanboy, like Geysha said, I loved the comparisons and that helped me pick the first anime show for me to watch. This article has been fabulous for a beginner like me!

I've just finished watching 'Another' (five stars, I loved it!!!) and am about to start watching both Attack on Titan (Love TWD!) and Full Metal Alchemist (it sounds like the brothers go on such an emotional journey).

Your explication of what Anime is and isn't really helped me take that first step into a new world of TV and as a TV junkie I am thrilled!!! Tyvm.

: )

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Sep 11, 2017 10:50AM EDT

i watched death note and Naruto even i loved them

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Sep 13, 2017 10:34PM EDT

I am so happy to see someone promoting anime. I have already watched 4 of the above 6 mentioned. Death-note, Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist all have nice plots. I am eagerly awaiting the third season of Attack on Titan.

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