Every so often, you meet an anime obsessed friend who can’t stop raving about the latest show. If you are reading this, that friend is mostly me. This guide will help you show adequate interest during such conversations.
I’m an avid TV show addict. Back in 2013, right after a couple of marathon sessions of watching Breaking Bad and Wire, I found myself desperately looking for shows that could fill my need. This is when i chanced upon Monster, while looking for anime similar to Death Note ( a crowd favourite suggestion for the first anime you should watch). I never stopped. When I started out myself, I found the world of anime quite a difficult one to navigate. I hope this guide helps anyone in the same situation.
Lets start by demystifying some terms you hear often in the world of anime/manga:
- Manga: Most anime is derived from a running print comic strip. These comic strips are known as manga. So basically, manga is Japanese comic strips. Manga usually appears in weekly instalments in magazines like Shonen Jump, and is generally black & white, although exceptions exist.
- Anime: Animated manga. Enough said.
- Arc: The main running storyline at any point in a show is called an Arc. Longer shows usually comprise of multiple arcs, with one overall storyline that strings all the smaller arcs together. An example is in order. The show One Piece, is about a boy pirate Luffy, who aspires to be the King of Pirates. While his journey to become king is the overall story, the show comprises of multiple arcs, each dealing with one adventure on his journey.
- Filler: While the title is self evident, it’s interesting to know what parts of a show are called fillers. As I mentioned before, most anime is derived from manga. In a lot of occasions, production of anime episodes starts catching up pace with the publishing of the manga that it derives from. Shows are known to put in special video-only parts, which were not originally in the Manga, when the storylines start catching up to each other. Pro Tip: Anime shows can be long. You can often find a site listing filler episodes of shows. you can skip filler episodes and not miss a beat in the story
- OVA: OVA stands for original video animation. These are usually stand alone episodes/movies that were not in the manga. These are often released in between seasons of the show.
The world of anime is vast and as an art medium, deals with thousands of topics beyond the usual sphere of imagination. Let’s take a walk down a list of my favourite shows (Warning: This is a highly opinionated list. Anime/Manga covers a large spectrum. Suggestions for how to find new shows later in this article).
The big shows
For this part, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous/popular anime shows. You have probable heard some if not all the shows I talk about below. These shows comprise the mainstay of Japanese anime, and the themes in them are quite popular in a lot of shows. Elements you will almost surely find in these shows:
- Epic fights
- Overzealous / Idealist protagonist
- People taking the concept of friendship too far (Friend=Nakama a word you’ll hear often)
- Perverted old man (I’m not sure why this is such a common thing)
- References to panties
Here are the biggest anime shows(in no particular order):
Arguably the first anime you ever heard of/watched. Dragon Ball Z is set in futuristic earth, where exist, 9 dragon balls. Anyone who can collect all 9 can summon a dragon which grants one wish. It also includes hordes of planet destroying alien warriors. Also the franchise has multiple shows spanning >700 episodes in total.
Watch it for: Legacy / Nostalgia value. Only finds a spot on this list because it’s the most well known show. Extremely lame for an adult.
Nothing I say about this show can do justice to it’s pure brilliance. Humans have lost a century of history, the planet is now controlled by a repressive World Government and it is the age of pirates. Luffy, the protagonist, is a rubber man. He can do things with his body as if it were rubber. Kinda like Mister Fantastic. As a side effect of this power, he cannot swim. His dream however, is to be the pirate king. The story follows him from setting off to be a pirate alone in a cask.
Watch it for: Great characters, slap stick humour, a storyline that does not lose freshness in over 700 episodes and the sheer brilliance of Echiro Oda, the creator, who creates a fantastical universe that stays flawlessly consistent.
Naruto doesn’t need much introduction. Set in the ancient Japan in a wold of ninja’s, the show follows Naruto Uzumaki, a “cursed” orphan. Character development on the show is astounding and don’t be surprised if you find yourself pining for the hero. Idealistic / optimistic heroes are a usual theme in mainstream anime and Naruto Shippuden(the second instalment of the show) is the best example of this genre.
Watch it for: Enjoyable storyline, great fights that don’t drag on forever, a protagonist you can always get behind, and an intense soundtrack
15-year-old Kurosaki Ichigo is not your everyday high school student. He has from as far he can remember always had the ability to see ghosts and spirits. A fateful day arrives as Ichigo encounters the shinigami Kuchiki Rukia, who saves him and his family from a Hollow at the cost of injuring herself. During this encounter, with Rukia unable to defeat the hollow she transfers her shinigami powers into Ichigo. In the aftermath, unable to continue with her job, Rukia allows Ichigo to take on the role of a shinigami in her place as they together defeat the Hollows plaguing Ichigo’s town.
Watch it for: Awesome swords, small tight story arcs, great voice acting(Japanese)
A Hunter is one who travels the world doing all sorts of dangerous tasks. From capturing criminals to searching deep within uncharted lands for any lost treasures. Gon is a young boy whose father disappeared long ago, being a Hunter. He believes if he could also follow his father’s path, he could one day reunite with him.
After becoming 12, Gon leaves his home and takes on the task of entering the Hunter exam, notorious for its low success rate and high probability of death to become an official Hunter. He befriends the revenge-driven Kurapika, the doctor-to-be Leorio and the rebellious ex-assassin Killua in the exam, with their friendship prevailing throughout the many trials and threats they come upon taking on the dangerous career of a Hunter. Based on the manga by Togashi Yoshihiro.
Watch it for: Well crafted fantasy world of hunters, a fucked up family of assassins
In the world where the taste and texture of food are very important there is Toriko, a hunter of precious foods regularly hired by restaurants and the rich. A man with inhuman skills to capture the ferocious, evasive and rare animals to complete his ultimate dinner course and then the chef Komatsu, his current accomplice: a weak timid person who was inspired by Toriko’s greatness and accompanies him on all his journeys on his quest for the course of his life.
Watch it for: Food and lots of it. Watch this show for a rare yet completely fulfilling mix of action, adventure and gourmet food.
The Elric brothers’ mother is dead and their father has long since abandoned them. Deciding to perform a forbidden human transmutation to bring their mother back, they end up losing their bodies. Now Edward must join the military in order to gain certain alchemical privileges, with his one goal being to restore his brother to his original state. But with war on the horizon it’s only a matter of time before they are both forced to question their morals and ultimately decide the value of human life.
Watch it for: Non idealist protagonists, fantastical magic and witty strategies
Discovery and Streaming
If I’ve managed to sell you on the idea of watching anime, you must be wondering where to start. My personal suggestion is to start out at https://kissanime.to . All shows mentioned in this article are hyperlinked to their pages on KissAnime. So you can jump right into a show that interests you.
Next up, we’ll take a look at a few more not-so-famous shows, which in my opinion, are the real gems that made me fall in love with this medium.