This is inspired by two things - a comment made to me on Pinterest, and the fact that last night NyQuil stopped making me sleep and started preventing me from sleeping, and my mind needed something to occupy itself while I finally did fall back to sleep. So, here you go. If you've never really delved into anime other than Pokemon, and maybe being forced to watch Ponyo by an overenthusiastic preschooler, but you'd like to become familiar with it, this thread is for you.
BTW - hey fellow otaku, feel free to contribute your own knowledge or recommendations! I have pretty specified tastes, and I'm not too up on the most current stuff.
Here are the three things you should know before getting into anime. Two are essential, one is more so you don't get chewed out by hardcore otaku (that's what an anime fan is called):
There are ALL KINDS of anime, something for every taste. Honest. Animation isn't just for kids in Japan, and they make animated series' for everyone.
Now, in America, chances are we see anime made for kids (Pokemon), edited for kid consumption (Sailor Moon), or are downloaded in private and watched with Rosy Palm and her five daughters (the stuff with schoolgirls and tentacles).
The stuff with squeaky, obnoxious girl heroines and sparkly, pretty boy heroes is called "shoujo," which means "girls" in Japanese. It's made for tween/teen girls. There are some really stellar series' in the shoujo category (Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, and Princess Tutu are three definitely worth watching at some point), but if you think that all anime is whiny and girly, this isn't what you should start with. If your life revolves around Twilight, however, please watch Fruits Basket and see how teen paranormal romance should be done.
There's also a subgenre called "shounen," or "boys," that we see pretty frequently on Cartoon Network and the like. That's the action-heavy stuff with tropes like ninjas and robots (not that EVERY anime series with ninjas and robots is made for boys, nor does every shounen series have ninjas and/or robots). If that's not your thing either, that's okay, we can set you up with something else.
The stuff with tentacles and schoolgirls is called "hentai" in Japanese. It means "pervert." 'Nuff said. It's a SMALL, SMALL percentage of anime. It shouldn't scare you off the non-porn stuff if it's not your thing.
If this sounds really confusing, keep in mind that American tv has comedy/sitcoms, drama (with sub-genres - crime dramas, primetime soaps, etc), science fiction/fantasy, kid tv, tween/teen tv, etc. We're just using Japanese terms for things you're familiar with.
Some anime is total crap. This stuff is churned out. Not all of it is gold. But if you happen on a steaming pile of crap, please don't judge the entire genre on it, there's some gold, too - just keep looking, take recommendations, etc. You will find at least one series you can totally get into and enjoy.
Anime does not refer to a certain animation style. It refers to animation from Japan. This will get you chewed out of otaku conversations. Stuff like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teen Titans may be drawn to resemble anime, but they're made in America, which means they're NOT anime. Even if the theme song is sometimes sung in Japanese. This isn't a quality judgement. Both are fantastic shows. I've seen every episode of both. But they're American animation, and otaku will fight you on this issue of terms.
The exception? The American show PowerPuff Girls was remade in Japan as a series called PowerPuff Girls Z. The original is American animation. The remake is anime.
ON TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS!
Back in the day my city had a boutique anime and manga shop. I still stay in touch with a few of the people I met there, many of whom womanned the store's register. I spent a LOT of time hanging out in the shop with my friends. And when a total novice came in and asked what they should start with, if they were over the age of 16, they were directed to Cowboy Bebop. Why? Most American TV is episodic. Japanese tv is often more storyline based, with lots of "cliffhanger" ending episodes, which can drive you mad if you're impatient. Except Cowboy Bebop. Not only is it a great story, but its style is accessible to American audiences.
This is a trailer for the movie that was made after the TV show, but you get the idea/feel of the franchise:
It's about intergalactic bounty hunters. If you think Firefly was the best thing that ever happened to TV, and you still cry over its cancellation, you'll eat Cowboy Bebop up with a spoon. Notice the female lead is not squeaky or helpless.
On the theme of sci-fi with strong woman characters, here's Ghost in the Shell.
There are three movies (the third being more of a tv tie-in), and two tv series' (and I mean that in the British way). Watch the trailer for the synopsis, it explains it better than I can. The general gist of the show is philosophical cyberpunk detective fiction. The movies are heavier on the philosophy aspect that the tv show is. This series is smart and intricately plotted, and Kusanagi is one of the best female characters ever written.
More detective stories!
Death Note. Imagine if Dexter found a way to kill supernaturally. The only evidence is a notebook with his victims' names written in it, and he keeps this notebook very close. Also, this power turns him into a meglomaniac douche. Now imagine that the government calls in BBC's Sherlock to catch the serial killer. You have the general idea of Death Note. Yes, this show has a squeaky girl heroine, who turns into a tragic badass, think Caroline from The Vampire Diaries.
This is the full first episode:
Game of Thrones is super hot right now, right? Kentaro Miura did it first with Berserk.
Pseudo-Medieval politics! A heroine who wields a sword as well as the heroes! Bromance! Tons of nudity! Monsters! Swordfights! Honestly, it's something to take the edge off the cravings while waiting for Martin to finally release his next novel.
And finally, vampires. Are you sick of them sparkling? Having more sex than bloodlust? Want to see them be scary again? But still want them to be heroes to cheer for? Hellsing, yo.
(yeah, the dub accents are awful. You can watch it in Japanese with subtitles if it bothers you)
There are two series', Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate. Hellsing mixes in some quirk and comedy. Hellsing Ultimate is just unapologetically brutal. So, if you don't want the quirk, just skip ahead to Ultimate.
Edited by Iceheart, 31 October 2012 - 11:50 AM.