For the time being, you may as well consider this section as Anime 101. Meaning, if you’ve been watching anime for years, then feel free to check my list of suggested viewing and make a recommendation or two. However, if you honestly think that anime is limited to Dragonball Z, One Piece and Naruto, then you are indeed sorely mistaken. This section exists for people who know little or nothing at all about anime, but are open-minded and interested in it enough to find out more about it.
The easiest way that I can answer the question, “What’s good?” or “What should I watch?” is to say that more than anything, you should dig into the enormous, delicious cake that is anime by watching what you think you would like. For most people, it’s not always as easy as saying, “If you hate horror movies, then don’t watch something that’s quite obviously a horror movie.” In fact, everyone is different and has different interests. Everyone’s tastes will vary from being rather similar (as with two fans of the same baseball team), to being radically different (as with a vegetarian and a professional poacher).
However, if you’re at a complete loss, you may as well start with Akira and/or Spirited Away. Both have won numerous awards and international acclaim, and both are incredibly easy to get a hold of compared to other more obscure titles. Keep in mind that this is just barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the great stuff you can pick and choose from. More importantly, these are an easily accessible example of what anime is capable of compared to the garbage that further muddles anime’s tarnished reputation in America.
These two are easily some of the better choices that I could give you, and vary greatly in story, style, presentation, and more. However, they are both tied together in that they are both great examples of what would be far more difficult or impossible to do in a solely live action production.
Trailer for Akira
Trailer for Spirited Away
Why should you watch anime at all? Because when watching live action (not animated) movies and TV shows you are limited to what the people involved in each project can produce. “Who cares?” is the general reaction from friends I’ve gotten ever since I became genuinely interested in anime. Much like scores of other visual arts, anime is limited only to the ideas that the artist or artists can translate to a blank sheet of paper. In contrast to a live action production, there is so much more than can be done to present or tell a story, or even at the most basic level, ideas. I am in no way aiming to discount the efforts of those involved with live action productions and their works, for there are of course incredible productions the world over that contain absolutely no animation. I feel however, that most fans of anime enjoy it because it so often chooses to exist outside the bounds of reality. From extraordinary space epics that would make George Lucas envious to horrific films that any make-up artist praised in the pages of Fangoria would kill to work on, anime prides itself on being what live action productions cannot.
How can you find out what’s good? Word of mouth is easily the best way to find out about more anime that you have yet to see. Of course, if you’re short on friends who like anime (like I am), it isn’t going to be as easy. A tried and true method of finding out about anything new is to check out other works by the same people that were involved in something you like, or to check out those that influenced something that you like. To be less vague, it’s just like listening to other bands that have members of a band that you really like. This way you can find an anime that’s new to you with a director or character designer that you like and it’s a simple way to become more acquainted with their personal style. Similarly, just like how you can listen to the same bands that influenced your favorite bands, you can watch the anime that influenced a particular anime that you like (though this might take a bit of effort, it’s worth it).
Though like I said, if you really need a place to start, you may as well start here. These are only some of the titles that I’ve seen and can wholeheartedly recommend due to their overall quality. I request that you keep in mind that I have about admiration for “ridiculous” fare as much as I do for works of depth that are (in my opinion) inarguably extraordinary. I also admit that I have an affinity for mecha (giant robot) anime, and classic anime. If you hate the old stuff, I still recommend watching at least some of it so you can get an idea of where anime has been so you can understand where it’s going; just like you would for art, music, literature, and so on. I’m sure I’ll think of more later, so check back every once in awhile to see if I’ve added anything.
(currently available in North America):
TV and OVA:
Armored Trooper Votoms
Mobile Suit Gundam (original series)
Dominion: Tank Police
Patlabor: The Movie
Ghost In The Shell
Castle In The Sky
My Neighbor Totoro
Vampire Hunter D
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
(currently unavailable in North America):
TV and OVA:
Galaxy Express 999
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