Welcome to today’s lecture, students! This is truly a rare event, as all of your Anime Academy Deans and Professors are here to share their recommendations for our students new to anime. If you’ve never watched anime, seen one or two titles and eager to see more but in need of some direction or are a more experienced student in need of a refresher of the basics, you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to take notes as the staff assigns each of you the suggested viewing for all students here at the Academy.
With impressive action scenes, a splash of romance and some of the most exceptional music ever to accompany an animated story, Macross Plus has the best of what anime has to offer. No matter what suits your tastes, be it mecha, sci-fi, romance or music, you will find it in this 4-episode OVA. Rather than begin with a lengthy series with too many episodes that may lose your interest, this is the perfect time investment for one of your first forays into the world of anime. If you have never listened to an anime soundtrack before, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Once the haunting melody of Voices reaches your ears, you will be struck by the music for the duration of the anime… and long after. The soundtrack sets the tone perfectly for each scene, adding an eerie yet captivating feeling to Sharon Apple’s concerts. Combined with aerial acrobatics, mecha dogfights and a story any sci-fi fan will love, this anime has it all. Make this one of the first steps in your path to true anime fandom.
This movie is one of the best anime ever created, a masterpiece of work brought to life by the legendary Miyazaki Hayao. It showcases lavish visuals for the time and one of the most recognized characters in all of Japanese culture. The anime’s brilliant lineage and creative genius surprisingly isn’t the strongest reason of why this is a good introductory anime. No, the primary reason that Castle of Cagliostro is such a brilliant entry to the world of anime is its sense of familiarity. A damsel in distress, cars driving up walls, zany action sequences, an ending sequence that was copied and used in a Disney production; the simple fact is there’s nothing hugely foreign here that might confuse or unsettle someone new. This fact, taken with the hilarious comedy, visuals and action leave the viewer wanting to dig deeper into the medium, the intended goal of any introduction.
This anime should top any newbie’s must-see list simply because of its track record. Many an anime fan over the years were introduced to this wondrous art form by Ranma ½, and with good reason; it showcases a well-balanced complement of comedy, romance, action and the typically eccentric Takahashi Rumiko cast of characters/caricatures. She also sprinkles in just enough simple Japanese references hither and thither to arouse the curiosity of new fans without confusing them with obscurity. At 161 episodes, this isn’t a short series, but any concerns over losing a viewer’s interest for the long haul is abated by Ranma ½’s situation comedy format. After the first 50 or so episodes when all of the main characters are introduced, the story doesn’t follow any sort of linear sequence of events, allowing the viewer, at his or her discretion, to stop and continue with the excellent movies and OVA sequels.
This anime is for the slightly more daring newbie who wants something that exhibits the incredible amount of story and character depth that anime can offer without the risk of feeling bored, confused or overwhelmed. What’s more, in addition to a thought provoking story, this anime showcases fast-paced action and an astonishing, yet believable, imaginary world that sucks the viewer in and makes it difficult not to watch all thirteen episodes in one sitting. Aside from brilliant soundtrack by Iwasaki Taku (a name that any Anime Academy graduate is more than familiar with), it may not be the best example of the aesthetic side of anime. However, Now and Then, Here and There is a great demonstration of the complex characters and meaningful storyline one can come across in anime but not in American cartoons.
When you’re a new kid on the block, what’s more welcoming than seeing something familiar? With an Americana style and a masterful combination of jazz and blues, Cowboy Bebop welcomes anyone with arms wide open. It doesn’t try to send any complex messages. Although 26 episodes may sound like a lot, this show is episodic, so you can watch it at your leisure without worrying about forgetting important plot elements. Yet the reason why this is a sound beginner’s choice is because of the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. With Spike, Jet, Faye, Edward and Ein at the helm of this anime, there’s plenty of action and comedy to enjoy (and even a little romance on the side). Flawed yet entertaining, the crew of the Bebop will give you an enthralling ride to enjoy. And even if you just want to look at pretty pictures, there’s no shortage of them here. So sit back, relax and be prepared for Cowboy Bebop to take you on a fun ride.
There is certainly no shortage of fantasy anime, but there is one series that stands above the rest in a league of its own. Enthralling from start to finish, Vision of Escaflowne combines intense action and drama with touching romance to create an anime that has something to offer all audiences. Action buffs will find no shortage of sword fights and mecha battles, while drama fans will discover an amazing world full of endearing and memorable characters. It serves as a great introduction to anime thanks to its fast pacing and captivating story. Additionally, Escaflowne is a treat for the senses. Visually it features vibrant colors, crisp animation and beautiful designs (as long as pointy noses don’t bother you). The soundtrack ranks up there as one of the great anime scores written by famed composer Kanno Yoko. All of these elements come together perfectly making Vision of Escaflowne the quintessential fantasy anime and a must-see for any anime fan.
If anime were opera, Giant Robo would be The Ring Cycle. An epic beyond epics, this 7-episode OVA showcases some of the widest lengths of imagination that anime can go. This is one of the best mixes of drama, comedy, action, adventure, romance and revenge, with just the right amount of “colossal” tossed into a blender. Speaking of mixes, this is a nice combination of old-school sensibilities from the golden-era of anime with new-school animation that can rival most of today’s movies. Serving as a cherry to this wonderful anime treat is a glorious soundtrack conducted by Amano Masamichi and the Warsaw Philharmonic. This is just one of those series that shows just how wild and over-the-top you can go with a style as unique as anime, while connecting you with its lovable cast and story. This is an anime for everyone who has ever dreamed, or has ever wanted to dream.
When suggesting features to soon-to-be anime fans, I usually go with a title that cannot miss its mark whatever the expectations might be. Read or Die is not too big of a plunge for someone who isn’t used to lengthy series, outrageousness or mind-tripping storylines. This action-based anime is only three half-hour episodes but has a dose of everything. And yes, that includes superpowers. Not only is it a great anime in and of itself, but with its originality, it opens one’s mind to the immense array of possibilities that anime could offer. The only thing you need to remember is that there is not much room for improvement in the technical aspect. Not all anime have this one’s outstanding quality of images and music, but I believe it is important that the first few steps into the anime world be made on very solid ground. Once you experiment a bit more you eventually understand that, in anime, animation is not necessarily proportional to enjoyment.
If you ever felt the need to show anyone everything that Anime is all about, and you were only allowed to use one title, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is perhaps the best choice. Whether you want to see pretty illustrations, loli, moe, mysterious characters or a quirky story, this jewel made by Kyoto Animation has it all. With a great balance of comedy, romance, mystery and even sci-fi all tied together in one neat package, this is one popular show that lived up to its own hype.
P.S. You are advised to watch the ending credits at least once. Even those are quite original.
New to anime? What better place to start than with a Ghibli film, and if you’re starting with Ghibli, what better one to pick than its most famous? With a slew of awards and a fair bit of notoriety under its belt, Spirited Away is perhaps one of the least intimidating anime a newbie can start off with. Its meticulous artwork and animation and its incredible soundtrack make the world of Spirited Away a joy to behold. For someone who hasn’t seen all that many anime films, it will no doubt leave mouths gaping in amazement. It’s not just aurally and visually rich either. The coming-of-age theme will no doubt resonate with every viewer and the characters, despite the fantasy setting, are charming and believable. I speak mainly from personal experience. Spirited Away was one of the first anime films I ever saw and it opened my eyes to just how far animation can be taken as a means to tell a story. The best part is, once you’re hooked, there’s a plethora of other Ghibli films to explore!
What really sets anime apart from “normal” animated movies is splendid storytelling, and there’s hardly a series that incorporates the storytelling aspect as well as Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World. A seemingly simple plot about a traveller and her motorbike offers many revelations about the nature of humanity, and without intrusive moralism, mankind is shown at its best… and worst. Based on a series of Japanese novels, this thirteen-episode series is a great start for everybody who demands more from animation than just flashy visuals and overblown drama. There’s not much of a culture shock as most of the plot takes place in a pseudo-European setting, and the wonderfully dreamy mood will draw you in easily. If there’s one thing about Kino’s Journey that’s not to like, it’s its shortness. After it’s over, you’ll definitely wish for more.
If giant robots and explosive gunfights aren’t your thing, then Fruits Basket may be exactly what you’re looking for to see what a great anime is all about. What really makes this anime superb is the well rounded, often quirky, characters. Flawlessly transitioning between manic hilarity and heart wrenching drama, this is one anime that will keep you hooked from the first episode all the way to the end. With vibrant art, a great soundtrack, and just a hint of fantasy, Fruits Basket is a fantastic choice to get your girlfriend, little sister, or even yourself hooked on anime.
For the older generation of anime fans, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex may have just what you’re looking for. With a vibrant world and an intense story, it sometimes feels more like a Hollywood suspense film, mixed in with just enough Cyberpunk to keep you on your toes. The animation itself is remarkable; Production IG pulled no stops in the creation of this gem. And if the eye candy weren’t enough, Stand Alone Complex is a treat for the ears as well, with gorgeous music composed by none other than the famous Kanno Yoko, and well-done voice acting both in the original Japanese and the English Dub. At 26 episodes, this anime is short enough to pick up on a whim, and when you find yourself hooked, the sequel, Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, is considered by many to be just as good as the original, if not better.
This short OVA series plays on the classic stereotypes of mecha anime that even novice anime watchers out there will be able pick up on. Comedy? Check. Action? Check. Drama? Check. Gunbuster plays all the right cards to suck you into the show, and trust me, you will not want to stop watching until you’ve seen it all. With only 6 episodes in it’s repertoire, Gunbuster comes at you like a whirlwind combining these aspects into something surprisingly epic. What originally felt like a pure parody from the get-go slowly transforms into one of the most memorable shows I have had the pleasure of seeing. It’s main focus and theme is one often repeated in anime: that with hard work and by believing in yourself, you can accomplish anything. With tense action scenes and an ending with dramatic flair, It has inadvertently set the standard for mecha shows to come. Even the newest of anime series in Japan will throw a reference and nod here and there to this OVA. Gunbuster is a stop on on the Anime roadmap that you will not want to pass up on your viewing career.