Anime is amazing. There I said it. The story telling and themes tackled in a lot of the popular series are great and definitely worthy of recognition but for a particular novice and an uniformed one at that, there can be a big barrier to entry. Where does one start? Isn't it just like cartoons? Isn't Anime just animated Japanese porn? (I hate this last one by the way). Well let me give you a helping hand with five of my favourite series so far, a small collection of titles you really shouldn't miss as long as you can overlook the rare moment of overacting and ever so slightly clunky dialogue. I have only recently, within the last year, gotten into Anime myself.
Before I decided to jump in my only real experience was with Dragon Ball Z growing up but my god if you think that is all there is you are sorely missing out! All Anime is based on Manga, the Japanese form of comics, so if you are the type who prefers to read the source material first then definitely check these out also. In almost every case the Manga for a series has finished or is years ahead of the Anime so be cautious of spoilers! Anime can either be watched with Japanese audio and English subtitles (English Sub is what the video streaming service Crunchy Roll specialises in) or if you are a slow reader like me you should instead opt for English voiceover (known as English Dub and can be found in abundance on the Funimation Streaming Service). Without further ado, please find my list of kickass Anime below and if at least one of these doesn't persuade you to give the medium a go then all hope is lost
Sword Art Online was the first series I started watching when I decided to jump into the world of Anime. The premise was what immediately caught my eye.
In 2022, a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online (SAO) is released. With the NerveGear, a helmet that stimulates the user's five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds. Both the game and the NerveGear was created by Akihiko Kayaba. On November 6, 10,000 players log into the SAO's mainframe cyberspace for the first time, only to discover that they are unable to log out. Kayaba appears and tells the players that they must beat all 100 floors of Aincrad, a steel castle which is the setting of SAO, if they wish to be free. Those who suffer in-game deaths or forcibly remove the NerveGear out-of-game will suffer real-life deaths. One of the players, named Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya, is one of 1,000 testers in the game's previous closed beta. With the advantage of previous VR gaming experience and a drive to protect other beta testers from discrimination, he isolates himself from the greater group and plays the game alone, bearing the mantle of "beater", a portmanteau of "beta tester" and "cheater".
Anime based in VR game worlds or heavily featuring video games has quickly become one of my favourite types and SAO was a strong start to that love affair. We follow Kirito as he tries to survive in a violent digital world. He works alone but despite this is likeable and relatable. He develops a group of friends, a love interest and we begin to will him onto the final boss on floor 100. There is several twists and turns, including a pretty interesting plot twist. You can check Season 1 out on Netflix now but you'll have to sign up to Crunchy Roll if you want to see more after that. All the characters are strong, the story and dialogue is well written and you can tell the staff on these are HUGE gaming nerds. One of us, one of us!
Psycho Pass is one of the more adult Anime I have seen and its gore and interesting social commentary on surveillance and what it means to be guilty really add to its appeal.
Psycho-Pass is set in a futuristic era in Japan where the Sibyl System, a powerful network of psychometric scanners, actively measures the minds and mentalities of civilised populations using a "cymatic scan" of the brain. The resulting assessment is called a Psycho-Pass. When the calculated likelihood of an individual committing a crime, measured by the Crime Coefficient index, exceeds an accepted threshold, he or she is pursued, apprehended, and killed if necessary by police forces. Elite officers labelled "Enforcers" are equipped with large handguns called "Dominators"—special weapons that only activate when aimed at suspects with higher-than-acceptable Crime Coefficients. Enforcers are themselves selected for innately high Crime Coefficients, marking them as "latent criminals"; they are overseen by police Inspectors, who have the jurisdiction to shoot them with their Dominators should they pose a danger to the public.
When I read the setting of Psycho Pass I was immediately drawn in. It reminded me of Minority Report, the story set in a future where people are sentenced for crimes they have not yet but could commit. It's a scary premise and the theme is handled well by Psycho Pass. It is one of the more accessable Animes if you are already into dystopian storytelling and have enjoyed Blade Runner, V For Vendetta, 1984, Children of Men or Judge Dredd. The characters are flawed but likeable and the stakes are always high. You can now watch all the available episodes of Psycho Pass on Funimation.
Attack on Titan is one of the most well known Animes. It's a heavy hitter and because of that you might have seen it in passing or at least eyeballed some art at some point. Because of its size it can take a while to commit to watching it and I myself was hesitant to watch it at all. The first episode doesn't help its case as I don't know what it was but I took me three attempts to finish it. Once I got three quarters of the way through the first episode though I was hooked and watched the remaining episodes back to back. The series is currently due to air Season 3 this March.
Over 100 years before the beginning of the story on an alternate world, giant humanoid creatures called Titans suddenly appeared and nearly wiped out humanity, devouring them without remorse or reason and only targeting them; they completely ignore other wildlife. What remains of humanity now resides within three enormous curtain walls: the outermost is Wall Maria; the middle wall is Wall Rose and the innermost is Wall Sheena. Inside these walls, humanity has lived in uneasy peace for one hundred years, many people growing up without ever having seen a Titan. This all changes when one day, a giant 60-meter (200 ft)-tall Colossus Titan mysteriously appears after a strike of lightning and breaches the outer wall (which is 50 meters tall) of the Shiganshina district, a town at Wall Maria, allowing the smaller Titans to invade the district. An Armored Titan smashes clean through the gate in Wall Maria, forcing humankind to abandon the land between Wall Maria and Wall Rose, evacuating the remaining population into the inner districts. The sudden influx of population causes turmoil and famine.
The story follows a group of young adults as they are hastily trained as new cadets by the military to combat the titan threat. Popular voice actor Bryce Papenbrook plays protagonist Eren Jaeger in the English Dub, he is also the voice of Kirito from Sword Art Online so that familiarity was nice in the primary character. Attack on Titan can at times be frustrating in it's preference for raising more questions than it answers but is definitely worth a watch due to its vibrant world and well developed characters (just as long as you can ignore the pacing issues). You can watch this via Funimation and Crunchy Roll.
The second Anime I watch set in a video game world. Okay, I have a problem, don't judge me. Recovery of An MMO Junkie is currently airing on Funimation via simul-cast which means new episodes come out every week just 24 hours after they air in Japan. This series has a high production value and some of the best art style you'll come across.
Moriko Morioka is a 30-year-old successful career woman who decides to quit her taxing corporate job and become an elite NEET and find a more fulfilling life. She joins an online MMORPG Fruits de Mer and creates a male character named Hayashi as her avatar. In game Hayashi meets another character Lilly, a high level player who helps him learn the game. Hayashi and Lilly becomes close friends and Hayashi joins Lilly's guild, @HomeParty. Meanwhile, in the real world, Moriko has a chance encounter with a good-looking elite company employee, Yuta Sakurai, who may have ties with her online life.
The story's main focus is the relationship between Moriko and Sakurai and how people create characters in MMOs to escape their own identity to get lost and fully immersed into a fantasy world which I think most of us can seriously relate to. The story is well told, if a little on the nose, but the written dialogue is convincing and delivered well by all involved.
I can't believe I am owning up to this on but here goes. I actually really enjoyed And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online despite how stereotypical it is in its approach to Anime and the female characters in particular. I'd implore you not to watch this series first. The animators on this are overenthusiastic when it comes to the female anatomy and at times this can get tiresome but the story and themes underneath are actually really interesting.
Teenager Hideki Nishimura plays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Legendary Age (LA), but one day he proposes online to a girl who tells him she is really a man, so he swears off online marriages. Two years later, he has been involved with a guild and eventually accepts an in-game marriage offer from his persistent guildmate, Ako. When the guild has their first-ever real-life meeting, Hideki is shocked to discover that his teammates are not only all girl gamers, but they also attend his school. The story follows their adventures as they form a school club to play the game while Hideki tries to help Ako, who is infatuated with Hideki as his game character, try to separate fantasy from reality.
The story propels the idea of the 'girl gamer' which in my eyes is a positive, especially recently when the controversy of a big lack of representation for the gender in esports is a hot topic. It doesn't help its case with the art direction which in my opinion is really not needed when the girls in this story, with the exception of Ako, are kick ass. Segawa was my particular favourite as she is one of the popular kids who tries to hide her nerdy leanings. So if you can ignore the the often in your face lewdness and the clunky title I would definitely give this a watch via the Funimation platform.
That concludes my top five current animes for beginners! I hope at least one of these will inspire you to give the genre a chance. If I have missed your favourite or one worth talking about please let me know in the comments or share your thoughts with us @ghoulishent, You might just make it into an updated list in the future!