Entering The World Of Anime
New to Anime? Here's a list of my favourite ones to ease you into this magical genre.
I was relatively late to the anime scene. I didn’t really know what it was growing up. In later years, I was introduced to anime by cosplayers and devotees to the culture. It was jarring and wildly fascinating. I mean, I didn’t dress up like DeeDee from Dexter’s Laboratory or one of the Powerpuff Girls, it was just a show to me, not a culture. I didn’t understand.
Eventually, my best friend sat me down in front of a series and told me to join her as she embarked on a new journey into the world of anime – “something we could enjoy together” I believe was the phrase used. This series was “FullMetal Alchemist – Brotherhood.” This is NOT a beginner introduction, (to her credit she hadn’t seen the series yet herself so she couldn’t have known) the fourth episode has haunted me ever since. I still highly recommend it though, as it is a fantastic story. I guess that’s a hidden ‘twelfth’ recommendation!
My traumatising introduction meant my love for anime would be a slow bloomer. Fear of the unknown and understanding that they didn’t always have the happy endings I had become accustomed to, made me apprehensive to continue the journey. Nevertheless, I was hooked. I wish I had been exposed to the beauty of this genre earlier in my life. Watching an anime movie or series can be an experience, sometimes an incredibly cathartic one. It is worth exploring if it is something you have been wondering about for some time.
In a bid to aid you on your way, I have compiled a list of anime series/movies (in no particular order) that I think will ease you into the magical, beautiful, often melancholy world of anime.
“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” 2013
If you have never watched anime before or are wondering what the big deal is, start here. This is a Studio Ghibli documentary. The film follows the routines of Studio Ghibli filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki and other employees as they work to release two films simultaneously, The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. The beauty of what they do, why they do it and how it all comes together is truly wonderful watching and will ease you into the genre with open curiosity.
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” – 2013
After watching the above documentary, you might have already assumed this was on the list. This movie holds a special place in my heart and moves me to tears with each watch. Based on a 10th century Japanese literary tale, The Bamboo cutter, this movie has so many layers and creeps up on you. Beautiful.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” – 2004
A gorgeous animated fantasy. A surreal story following Sophie, an ordinary girl working in a hat shop and Howl, a powerful wizard who lives in a magical moving castle, powered by a fire demon. This is a magical adventure with just the right amount of romance and action. Sophie, cursed by a witch, seeks Howl’s help. Studio Ghibli are currently building a 16-meter-tall castle in one of the five uniquely themed zones across the park in the Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park near Nagoya.
“Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” 2000 (Action/Gore Warning)
This is one for my psychopaths, the ones who want the violence. Mixing an array of genres including fantasy, western, steampunk, Victorian romance, occult and horror, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. The English voice over acting is slightly cringey – but that was the early 2000’s voice acting pool – so if you don’t mind subtitles, I recommend listening to the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
“Aggretsuko” (3 seasons 2016-2018 –recently renewed by the Netflix Gods.)
An insightful portrayal of feminine rage. Living the life she dreamed of, cute, agreeable Aggretsuko is filled with a deep anger she lets loose privately after hours at a karaoke bar. It’s a relatable concept for anybody, we’ve all worked in a job we might not like with a boss that might not be great and we smile and nod. Yet, deep within us we feel the anger! Fun and easy watching
“Cowboy Bebop” (1 season) 1998-1999
A Classic, space action/adventure with a memorable upbeat, jazz and blues soundtrack. A group of bounty hunters on the run from their pasts as they hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals. . It’s a wild ride but we’re in it for a good time. There are hints at Spike Spiegel’s tragic past and the other main characters that you can’t help but wonder how the story might have developed had the series not been cancelled. Which leads me to…
“Cowboy Bebop – The Movie” 2001
At this point if you’re watching the movie you’re a fan, so I won’t spoil it for you. It’s exciting and mind bending. Watch it now, as reports are their filming a live-action version and if history is anything to go by we know how this ends…
“Fruits Basket” (1 season –ongoing) 2019
A slice of life, wrapped in a little fantasy. Based on a popular manga series, the story follows unfortunate Tohru Honda as she meets the ‘mysterious’ Sohma family and embarks on a new life. It’s a heart-warming show, with many messages with themes of the Chinese zodiac.
“Little Witch Academia” (2 seasons) 2017
This is a fun, fantasy that features your not so typical ‘magical girls.’ We follow ‘Akko’ who, inspired by witch Shiny Chariot, enrolls at Luna Nova Magical Academy to become a witch. Although Akko is non-magical and struggling, everything changes when she discovers the Shiny Rod, a powerful magic relic left behind by Chariot.
“Space Dandy” (1 season) 2014
Okay, this one is a wild ride. It’s an experience for sure. Dandy is a space explorer on the hunt to discover new alien species. For each species he finds he gets a substantial reward, but he’s not the only one out there hunting down the aliens! A whacky, sci-fi comedy that feels like a parody of itself.
“Wolf Children” (2012)
Another movie that I hold incredibly close to my heart. There’s a bittersweet theme that follows this story from start to finish, but is beautifully written and invites you to think about the relationships between parents and children. Again, one that has me reaching for the tissues with each watch.
There are so many amazing movies and series. I invite you to find them as you delve into this genre for the first time. How exciting it will be for you to discover “Akira” and learn about the influence it had on western music and movies. How mind-blowing it will be when you watch “Ghost in the Shell”. The original version from 1995, not the Scarlett Johansson version we are all trying to block out.
This list is by no means a list of the “all-time best” anime movies/series to watch, that would be impossible as our tastes are subjective. This is merely a soft guide to introduce you to this magical and beautiful world. The rest dear reader, is your adventure to have.