Getting Into Anime: Without Watching 500 Episodes
I’ve met many anime fans, and otaku (hardcore anime and manga fans), who found their love of anime through long running Shonen (anime shows targeted at young male teens and adults) anime like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, One Piece and Fairy Tail. There is no problem with that. But many people who want to start watching anime can find these recommendations overwhelming, because of the ongoing and lengthy nature of these series.
The time investment for watching a long running Shonen show can put some potential fans off anime entirely. It is for these reasons that I decided to write about a few select anime that can perhaps ease eager fans into anime, through less intensive options. I have picked five anime series for any fan seeking an introduction into anime. Nearly all these series do not exceed the limit of 64 episodes which is where an anime begins tipping into “long running anime” territory.
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Mecha
At the age of 14 Shinji Ikari is summoned by his father to the city of Neo Tokyo-3 after several years of separation. There he unwillingly accepts the task of becoming the pilot of a giant robot by the name EVA01 and protect the world from the enigmatic invaders known as “angels.” Even though he repeatedly questions why he has accepted this mission from his estranged and cold father, his doing so helps him to gradually accept himself. However, why exactly are the angels attacking and what are his father’s true intentions are yet to be unraveled.
Fully titled Neon Genesis Evangelion, Evangelion was one of the first anime that I watched during my high school years. It is an anime which is both critically acclaimed and well received by the general public. It is often regarded as one of the most prominent anime to popularise the medium during the 1990s, and rightly so. Prior to Evangelion’s release, most Mecha (giant robot) anime had strong male protagonists and a cast of characters who felt alright with killing enemy after enemy, without any psychological repercussions. Evangelion’s cast was as dysfunctional and psychologically troubled as a Freudian nightmare could ever possibly be. The Mecha designs were unique and vastly more organic than the blocky looking Mecha designs of previous anime, such as the famous Gundam series that was popular at the time. Evangelion is an interesting entry in the Mecha and Sci-Fi genre, and if you want your head to explode with pyschological torment then you should give this one a go. It is highly recommended.
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
After losing their mother, Alphonse and Edward Elric attempt to bring her back using the forbidden science of human alchemy. However, alchemy operates on the theory of equivalent trade, and breaking the human alchemy taboo carries a heavy price. Ed loses his leg, and Al loses his body. Ed is able to seal Al’s soul inside of a huge suit of armor, at the cost of his arm. Years later, Ed (now with two mechanical limbs) and Al (still trapped in the armor) leave their childhood home, each brother concerned with the other’s happiness. Ed, who has a natural talent and skill for alchemy, becomes nationally certified and is soon known everywhere as the “Fullmetal Alchemist.” Their true objective is to search for any information on the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, hoping it will allow them to regain their old bodies. All of their hopes rest with this mythical stone, which may not even exist at all. However, the brothers soon learn that they are not the only ones after the powerful stone.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a worthy anime of any fan, and if you don’t give it a try you are sorely missing out. The anime has an amazing and endearing cast of characters, and follows two brothers in their journey for redemption. This show has everything from drama, to riveting battles between all kinds of magically powered alchemists, all wrapped up in a classic fantasy setting. The characters in Fullmetal Alchemist have motivation and depth, and this makes the anime stand out from the rest of the crowd. Another version of the anime, more in line with the manga (comic book) source, was eventually aired in 2009, and was titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It explored much of the same territory as the original anime, but had an ending more in line with that of the manga. Brotherhood was produced in HD, and may be a much better choice if visual quality is of concern.
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
On the first day of high school a beautiful girl named Haruhi Suzumiya introduces herself as having “no interest in ordinary humans”. She asks for any aliens, time travelers, sliders or espers to join her. Watching her weird behaviour is Kyon who sits in front of Haruhi and is the only person who talks to her. When Kyon comments about Haruhi’s joining every club in school and then quitting he unwittingly gives Haruhi an idea to start her own after school club. Thereafter Kyon and several others find themselves dragged, literally, into the Save our world by Overloading it with fun Suzumiya Haruhi’s Brigade (the S.O.S. Brigade for short).
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a unique anime. Right off the bat, the anime takes your assumptions of what the show is about, and proves you wrong at every turn. This uniqueness comes down to the main female character, Haruhi Suzimiya, and her antics with the male lead Kyon. There is time travel, aliens, espers and a whole host of Sci-Fi happenings that occur in their world. It is a fun and light hearted series that doesn’t take itself seriously all the time, and has great dramatic moments interspersed between the more funny ones. It is a great formula that works well for the anime and makes it a very pleasant watch. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya does so much right, and little wrong.
Genre: Western, Sci-Fi
Spike Spiegel, a bounty Hunter with a dark past, lives on bounty to bounty, barely making it each time, or not making it at all. His partners Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed and Ein the dog all help him in his adventures from planet to planet.
Cowboy Bebop is iconic in every sense of the word. It is the Half-Life of anime and resonates with so many fans from across the globe. If there was one anime I would recommend above all else, it would be Cowboy Bebop. The anime is considered by many to be a masterpiece with all of its elements being worthy of praise, and the show still lives on today with a strong legacy and cult following. I remember watching this show and not enjoying it the first time around. I put it down to a matter of taste. But I was very much mistaken. I attempted to watch the show one more time and was instantly hooked. The action set pieces were well choreographed and the music score was audio bliss. I can’t praise this anime enough. You should be watching Cowboy Bebop right now.
Genre: Supernatural, Thriller
Yagami Light is an ace student with great prospects, who’s bored out of his mind. One day he finds the “Death Note”: a notebook from the realm of the Death Gods, with the power to kill people in any way he desires. With the Death Note in hand, Light decides to create his perfect world, without crime or criminals. However, when criminals start dropping dead one by one, the authorites send the legendary detective L to track down the killer, and a battle of wits, deception and logic ensues…
Death Note is a highly popular anime and manga franchise. It has been the subject of many adaptations including a live action film series. There is undoubtedly something enthralling when it comes to watching Death Note, and this is specifically due to the interaction between the main characters which drives the plot of the series into deeper and darker territory than many anime dare to. Personally, Death Note is not one of my favourites. Yet regardless, it deserves a mention as the world and characters are immaculate in design and conception. It has murder, suspense and thriller elements all neatly tied up together in a cacophony of violence, deceit and betrayal. Death Note will have you questioning what is “good” and what is “evil” through the most extraordinary of tales. If you want to be taken for an incredibly thrilling ride Death Note may be what you want.
These five anime series are from a diverse set of genres and themes. For any potential fan, the hope is that this article has helped to introduce you to some noteworthy anime out there. Of course, I cannot promise that all of the series will fit into your tastes. But I do recommend watching a few episodes of each, at least. This could give you a broader sense of what types of anime may appeal to you. From that point, you could explore a whole range of different anime and find where your tastes may lie within the giant anime landscape. There is definitely an anime out there for you.