A Guide To ANIME For Beginners: Everything You Wanted To Know, But Were Afraid To Ask
The world of Anime may seem inaccessible and dense. So here at Comic Years we’ve gone ahead and made a handy-dandy Anime Guide as your introduction to the world of Anime. I’ll be discussing Anime’s origin story and contextualizing its appeal and rise to the mainstream. Not to mention a compile a great list of some of the best Anime you can jump into without knowing anything about the genre.
This Anime Guide is everything you ever wanted to know but were too afraid to ask.
What Exactly Is Anime And Manga?
Anime is the form of animation that originates from Japan. Anime is the term used to refer to any form of an animated cartoon in Japan. Roughly translating into ‘animation’ in Japanese, it’s evolved into something entirely different outside of the country. In the West, Anime has become synonymous with a very specific style of animation. Anime can even be considered an entirely different genre of animated content.
Anime has become most well known for its representation of vibrant, outrageous and unique characters in mostly fantasy-themed stories. Studio Ghibli’s stories are emotionally moving, intricately detailed or just ridiculously bonkers in the best possible way.
And similar to the landscape of mainstream entertainment in America, And most Anime originate from Manga; basically Japanese graphic novels or comic books.
Anime’s Rise To The Mainstream From A Niche Hobby
Anime was originally a niche genre. Fans only had access to old VHS recordings of the classics. (More on those later). However, just like the mainstreaming of nerd culture these days, the popularization of Japanese Anime in the western zeitgeist has been rapid and aggressive. Some studios like Funimation began to import Anime shows into North America, and worldwide.
Originally, Anime content was only available as subbed or dubbed. Subbing means having a show with English Subtitles while the original Japanese voice actors were retained in the audio. Dubbed refers to the dubbing over of the Japanese vocals using English speaking voice actors. However, most dubbed shows never retained the emotion or intention of the original dialogues, losing something in the translation.
As Anime grew more popular in the West, many Studios, such as Toei Animation, began re-releasing remastered and newly dubbed versions of popular shows such as Dragon Ball Z, strictly for the English speaking demographic. They also continue this with new shows as well.
While you may not be into Anime yourself, I’m sure you’ve heard of some Anime, or the mainstream Hollywood adaptations of it, in some form or other.
Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow, the Wachowski siblings’ Speed Racer, and even the most recent Ghost In The Shell were all based on popular Japanese Manga and Anime stories.
The Appeal Of Anime On A Universal Level
Anime allows the storytellers limitless ways to create worlds and characters and combine them with fantastical and unreal abilities to tell any kind of story they want. Despite the kind of sub-genre of the Anime (fantasy, action, romance, comedy) the stories can be imbibed with elements that live-action is lacking in. And while Animated films in the American culture have largely been aimed at family-friendly audiences or children, most Anime is adult-themed.
Anime tells violent action stories without the effort or budget of large scale live-action productions, but stylized that much more. Decades before Transformers movies started making a Billion dollars each at the box office, Gundam Wing, an Anime about robot fighters created an entire worldwide media franchise. Before the brutality and action of Mortal Kombat took the gaming world by storm, Dragon Ball Z stunned audiences with their innovative fighting sequences.
How Anime Influenced American Culture
Anime inspired many classic film and television content of North American culture.
Anime influences can be seen in works such as the DC Animated Universe classics like Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman and Teen Titans. Even renowned animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s creations such as Dexter’s Laboratory has been heavily inspired by the Anime genre.
Toei Animation has even collaborated with American studios to create versions of The Transformers TV series. Voltron was another show by Toei Animation. Voltron was completely rebooted as an American mocha robot series with American writers and artists, who still used a technique similar to Anime.
Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the most successful American Anime, is completely, both in story and animation style, inspired by Anime and various Asian cultures as a whole, despite being created by Americans. And this is not even counting the hundreds, if not thousands of filmmakers, animators, designers, and creators who have been directly or indirectly influenced by Anime.
Which Anime To Start With As A Beginner
Anime has been around for so long, and there are so many types of anime, that it may be daunting and intimidating to try to jump into it cold. So I’ve gone ahead and compiled an easy list of some of the biggest and most accessible anime to get into if you’re a beginner to the genre.
Dragon Ball Z
One of the best fighting Anime ever, Dragon Ball Z is an action television series featuring a massive cast of characters. The story revolves around one man, Goku, as well as his extended family and friends, all of whom are expert fighters with various powers. The premise involves magical orbs known as Dragon Balls, that grant the finder one wish. But the allure of which brings various threats to Earth, and the galaxy, which Goku and friends have to thwart.
Sailor Moon is a superhero romantic comedy. The story is about a teenage girl, who discovers that she is a princess-soldier destined to save the world. The show features a group of girls kicking monster butt while dealing with the stresses of teenage life and relationships.
Characters in Mech suits fight against one another in larger than life aerial combat. The setting for the show is in a world at war. This Anime television series features a futuristic world with technology that inspired many real-life developments as well.
Death Note is a story about a boy who finds a mysterious book, which gives him the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it. This embarks him on a journey of attempting to rid the world of evil, and the moral dilemmas of becoming a killer himself. The series is incredibly intense and features a supernatural bent to it that audiences have come to love.
Attack On Titan
In a world occupied by giants known as Titans, a young boy vows revenge and to rid the world of these monsters. Together with a group of others, they join the fight to preserve their world and take on the giants, in what looks to be a hopeless fight.
Any Movie From Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio and can be considered to be universally beloved all over the world. The studio’s films have gone on to be the highest-grossing Anime films of Japan. Many of its films have even received Academy Award nominations in Hollywood. Critically, the films are some of the best received, in both Anime and live-action categories. The studio is renowned for heartwarming stories that are relatable and moving.
Some of the biggest works from Studio Ghibli are Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro.
Ghost In The Shell
Ghost In The Shell inspired the failed live-action movie but remains one of the best Anime movies ever. The film is set in a cyberpunk future. The story sees a technologically augmented officer of, their version of the law, hunting down a hacker. While she does this, her sense of identity and reality come into question. The movie deals with such philosophical themes, amidst a backdrop of mind-numbing action.
The Ghost In The Shell is responsible for inspiring such mainstream and blockbuster film franchises like The Matrix.
Akira has been a project that has been in development to become to a live-action Hollywood film for years now. The story is set in a dystopian future and has the cyberpunk style of animation. Set in a future Tokyo the story is about the leader of a biker gang. The adventure begins when he attempts to save his friend with psychic powers. The film unfolds with breakneck speed and an action-packed story. Akira has been the inspiration of many Hollywood projects, and one of the most critically acclaimed anime movies ever.
Your Name. is comparable to that of a teen romantic drama. The story sees a boy and a girl switch bodies with one another. The beautiful story has the character desperately yearning for a different life. So when an unexplained fantastical event causes them to switch bodies, they begin to care for one another. The sweetness of the film and style of innovative animation made the movie one of Japan’s biggest commercial successes.
An Anime that’s a psychological thriller is unique, but Perfect Blue is a perfect example of it. The main character is a singer, whose desire to be an actress causes her to lose her grip on reality. As murders occur around her, she must maintain her mind, while figuring out what’s happening to her.
Perfect Blue has been the inspiration for many high-profile Hollywood films such as Black Swan and Inception.
Be sure to comment below about which Anime you started watching first. Or if you’re considering any Anime as your first, and I’ll chime in with my thoughts.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.