People get into anime in all sorts of ways, from the old ways of stumbling upon localizations in video stories to growing up watching Toonami. Whenever people get into anime nowadays, the biggest question is where they should start, but there’s rarely an easy answer.
The medium has grown so large and acquired such an international audience that anime is being picked up on most major streaming services. It’s never been easier to become an anime fan, yet when welcoming new fans, the community jumps to recommend good beginner shows. Strangely, the metric for what makes a good starter pack isn’t clearly defined, as recommending stories from an entire medium means the inevitable exclusion of many. Beginner anime can be classics, niche eclectic gems, or stuff considered to be divisive or arguably bad.
“Please Ask Me What Anime To Watch”
The above quote feels like what every person excited to answer the question of starter anime is thinking. Everyone has that feeling; the sense of excitement getting to share that thing they love so much with someone seemingly resigning themselves to a new thing.
As such, the first instinct for some is to recommend their all-time favorite shows, since after all, if they think those shows are perfect and worth watching, why not? But anime is weird – in a good way – and one’s favorite anime is sometimes hyper-specific to their interests because the medium appeals to a lot of niches.
Sure, not everyone’s favorite anime is something cult and otherworldly as Serial Experiments Lain, but even some classics can be daunting. Recommendation Evangelion just because it’s a classic feels like throwing a newbie off into the deep end.
Obviously, it depends on the person because someone might be a fan of the works of David Lynch or Stanely Kubrick, and Evangelion might be right up their alley. Fans of western noir and classic films might perfectly gel with Cowboy Bebop but notice that there is a consideration for the new viewer’s prior interest in media.
The New Craze (Just Like The Old Craze)
A lot of times people will recommend a show that they used to like or that they watched when they were starting out, by virtue of it being how they started. Depending on the person and their generation, those shows will be completely different. For instance, People who became weebs around 2013 all watched Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan.
Half of them likely went on to hate the former once they passed season 1 and a good chunk of them probably ditched Titan in the three years between seasons 1 and 2. The weebs from 2016 watched One Punch Man and My Hero Academia. The ones from 2019 watched Demon Slayeretc.
Something “Entry level”
Entry-level has an almost condescending connotation to it because it implies that the show is like training wheels. When the recommendations get hyper-specific and niche, recommending something entry-level is a gross overcorrection that belittles the new viewer’s media literacy.
It goes back to what shows the recommender watched when they started out, and they might recommend something they hate just because they used to like it at the time they started. But this assumes a new viewer won’t be perturbed by the flaws. Is being disappointed by Black Butler season 2 or some other old Tumblr craze supposed to strengthen them as an anime viewer?
The recommendations are either hyper-specific to the interests of the recommender or disconnected willingly from the recommender’s tastes to play it safe. In the latter case, the anime might just be the most popular shonen at the time because it happens to be the most-watched.
There’s nothing wrong with suggesting shonen or popular shows of the time, but an invitation to recommend shows is to an anime fan what the blaring siren in Silent Hill means to the people living there. The suggestions should be anime that the recommender thinks are good and that they think the person would enjoy.
A Better Way
This might sound like over 600 words essentially saying “consider the tastes of the person asking for recommendations” but there’s actually a better way than even that. Just tell them to watch whatever stands out. Forgo recommendations entirely and just watch what looks appealing.
Speaking personally, no one told me to watch Attack on Titan when I became an anime fan. I just watched it and then browsed the Crunchyroll app at the time to see what stood out to me and watched some really popular stuff and then some super niche stuff.
Some shows people watch at the start of anime fandom are going to be looked back on with a more skeptical eye, but teenage viewers will see their tastes change anyhow. The age at which someone gets into the medium matters as well because more can be inferred about their media literacy.
If the person getting into anime is doing it of their own volition, they already have an inherent interest in the medium and will find their own way towards being an anime fan. They’ll probably watch some really popular stuff and maybe even some niche seasonal fluff that will wither into the realm of shows people forgot existed.
Regardless, the best path for getting into anime is to just watch whatever looks interesting and not second-guess yourself. Try new things, love some, hate others, and figure out what you’re into. Anime is a medium, not a genre. there is a lot to watch.
MORE: A Beginner’s Guide to Studio Ghibli