Everyone remembers the first anime they watched, either a childhood memory of Saturday morning Pokemon or delving deep into the medium as a teenager with shows like Full Metal Alchemist or Dragonball Z. First impressions are the most important factor when trying something different and watching a sub-par show can leave a poor taste in your mouth and turn you away from anime forever. Or you can be like me and enjoy watching terrible shows because you know nobody else will. Regardless, I’ve put together a list of shows that I think are perfect for newcomers to anime.
Obligatory Mentions so I don’t get murdered
Attack on Titan
Often given the title of “most famous anime of our time”, it’s a no brainer that people would choose Attack on Titan as their first show. While it certainly demonstrates an effective action shounen, I feel I have better examples that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Known best as a fan favourite, Death Note is also one of the biggest shows. While I personally dislike the show, I understand why people would disagree. I’m certain that other sites will recommend this show and I can’t fault them for that, just not to my tastes.
Boku no Hero Acadamia
Powerful storytelling, detailed visuals and cool powers
13 Episodes | Action, Super Power | Aired Spring 2016 | Produced by Bones
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll be aware of the current storm that is Superhero Movies. Triple A studios pumping out their shared universes faster than critics can give them unfair reviews, pretty much every comic book hero (and villain) has some sort of feature length to their name. So why am I telling you all of this? Well you see, they’re successful for a reason. This concept that humans have the potential to be more than we can already achieve, saving the generic public like us sparks a childish sense of wonder in a large majority of people. But the interesting part is, I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies.
Boku no Hero Acadamia (My Hero Academia) revitalised that spark for me, never before have I felt so connected to a “Super-Human” archetype which is absolutely huge. The reason I recommend this show to newcomers of the medium is its heavily western influences and gripping storytelling. Boring and non-engaging plotlines are possibly the biggest reason consumers will lose interest in completing a show and that’s fair across all media. However, this is so prominent with anime as western viewers will more than likely be reading subtitles in order to follow the show, providing an extra layer of attention required to thoroughly enjoy what the story has to offer. To give my personal experience, I planned to work on another article at the time of watching this show but ended up delaying it due to the powerful enthralment Hero Acadamia has. Accompanying this with cliffhangers that hit every time, an absolutely flawless soundtrack and a wide variety of “Quirks” that massively influence character personalities, this show is not only one of the strongest of 2016, but a fantastic method of showcasing the potential of its art form.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
An enthralling story conveyed through never-ending war
In the not so distant future of 2010, (The show was made in 2006) Japan is under siege defending its nation from the powerful military nation of The Holy Empire of Britannia. In a swift defeat to their superior enemy, Japan is re-branded as “Area 11”, but strong resistance of its proud and honourable people prove that the fight is far from over. Wielding mechanised war-frames capable of immense destruction, there must be one to lead this band of rebels, Lelouche Lamperouge.
Reaching a middle ground between being too short it disappoints and too long that it’s overwhelming, (Stop thinking about that) comes Code Geass. Spanning two seasons with a total of 50 episodes, I can honestly say that this show earns every minute of that run time. Code Geass is a series that is difficult to define within a few genres, showcasing clever and unpredictable writing, breath-taking battle sequences and exquisite sound design, it’s one of the most memorable stories I’ve experienced. Each character crafted and developed at a perfect pace and in such a brutal and unforgiving world, nobody is safe. This show will toy with your emotions and throw so many twists at you that with every life-threatening situation you’ll be on the edge of your seat praying that your favourite character has what it takes to best the seemingly unstoppable force of Britannia.
Hilarious comedy bundled with flawless animation
13 Episodes | Comedy, Sci-Fi, Space | Aired Winter 2014 | Produced by Bones
Here to prove that anime is definitely not just for children, Space☆Dandy utilises adult themes to create excellent comedy. Following who is quite possible the universe’s worst bounty hunter, Dandy is a cocky yet proud character looking to get rich and famous by snagging a never before registered alien life form. Unfortunately for him, his confidence vastly exceeds his abilities and with a lacklustre crew of a small repair droid named QT and a cowardly alien nicknamed Meow, their rate of success leaves a lot to be desired.
As I mentioned before, this show is hilarious and I’ve yet to find anything like it since. With obvious jokes like the crew’s favourite hangout spot being an intergalactic restaurant chain called BooBies, the show often leans towards more built up and structured humour poking fun at the cast’s misfortune. Surprisingly however, Space☆Dandy has its fair share of more toned down episodes where the humour is used to break up serious situations which is a testament to the intelligence of the staff. Speaking of staff, one of the main reasons I recommend this show to newcomers is that the dub of this show is fantastic. For a lot of viewers coming into anime, having to pay attention to subtitles while the interesting part is the animation can hinder their enjoyment. Thankfully, the English voice actors are spot on meaning that all audiences can enjoy the show and really focus on the perfect animation prominent in every episode. There’s a reason that the studio Bones is featured twice on this list, their animation capabilities are out of this world and set an example for a large majority of animation studios.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
(God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World)
Living in a Video game universe with a focus on comedy
10 Episodes | Fantasy | Aired Winter 2016 | Produced by Studio Deen
The fastest way to learn about the anime community is to have the lead protagonist be a giant anime fanatic. Venturing to the outside world to buy a special edition game, shut-in high school student Kazuma falls victim to a deadly and laughable death. Now absolutely dead, Kazuma is approached by a goddess and given two options: to continue onto heaven or be resurrected into a fantasy video game world with any one item of his choice. With limitless possibilities and endless options, our future hero decides to take along, Aqua the goddess who stood before him. Unfortunately for him, his genius plan resulted in an utterly useless companion. Now homeless, broke and talent-less, the two must complete quests as adventurers to find their place in this new and wonderful world.
The video game fantasy world concept is an over saturated and often poorly executed one in recent seasons yet Kono Suba exceeds in performing well as a gag comedy. As a gag comedy, it’s expected that jokes are used multiple times with slight variation but in no way does this feel repetitive or lazy. Each character has very specific personality traits and being so distinctly different while under the same team is perfect for creating effective comedy. I recommend this show as it not only gives an insight into how to correctly convey one of the most overused trope in anime but also as a good example of gag comedy which is rather different to many western forms of comedy.
Clannad & Clannad After Story
Heart-wrenching slice of life with a beautiful story
23 & 24 Episodes | Aired Fall 2007, Fall 2008 | Produced by Kyoto Animation
For anyone who knows me, it was inevitable that this show would come along sooner or later. First of all, this show is not as girly as the image above may lead you to believe. Clannad follows the life of Tomoya, a high school student who has no ambition in life, wastes his high school days away with fellow delinquent Sunohara and generally just finds life dull. However, when encountering a strange girl who catches his attention, he opens the door to a whole new perspective on time, flow and change.
One reason why Clannad does an amazing job as an anime is the fact that it has a great balance between drama, comedy, romance and slice of life but also fantasy. If you read any article on this show the phrase “will hit you in the feels” will crop up almost indefinitely, referring to the show’s power to evoke sadness and crush the emotions of the viewer. However, people often don’t mention the balance Clannad strikes; how all of the sadness, drama and ‘feels’ are accompanied by some of the happiest scenes in anime – always resolving the sadness in a realistic and justified way. Key is notorious for their excellent combinations of fantasy elements within slice of life narratives but Clannad’s execution of such a grounded and realistic romance story (whilst the fantasy element is always present) is a true testament to the animating and writing prowess of the studio.
Everything in this show is justified and for two seasons of 20+ episodes to not include a element that felt cheap is incredible. The story doesn’t only focus on the good sides of life, but actually deals with a lot of the issues life throws at you that you wouldn’t expect to see. The meaning of friendship, the importance of family, what love truly is, dealing with a painful past, learning to live with all the painful things in life and staying strong. Just to name a few, this show really has it all. Clannad changes lives, mine included, and if this article can get just one more person to experience what I consider a masterpiece then my mission has been accomplished.
I’d like to take this moment to thank my lovely twitter friend @ for helping me out with the Clannad section of this article. A lot of the phrasing originated from her so it would be incredibly rude to not give her credit. We both have so much to say that her thoughts on the show helped me keep the section concise and to the point so thanks a bunch!
This piece was brought to you by Corkin. Founder of TrulyTrashMedia and consumer of terrible shows, he shows no shame in his obsession with Clannad and defending the Slice of Life genre. Just don't ask him about tables.