This is for those people who go “Wait, you like those cartoons, right? Recommend me some!” to their anime-lover friends. I’m glad that we, as regular consumers of animation, have finally reached a consensus that getting into anime with Naruto, Bleach or One Piece is not “it”. It took us some time, but better late than never. I always get anxious when I’m asked this question because in an age where time is valuable, I somehow feel responsibe towards these people who may take up my recommendation to heart and end up wasting their time. If I somehow know their preferences in other types of media, or I can get some answers to what they are looking for specifically (length, genre, subject, style or platform) coming up with a title gets easier. I prepared today’s list with people who are a blank page in terms of anime or what they want in mind. No spoilers ahead, however if you’re here just for general info you can check the pros/cons and MyAnimeList pages I added at the end. Hopefully, it will be of help!
I have such a soft spot for this show! It is also one of the series I have first written about when I started blogging. Just to sum it up, Barakamon is about a young calligrapher Handa Seishuu, who has such a tremendous amount of trust in his work that he ends up, let’s say, misbehaving in a very arrogant way and is sent to a rural village as a punishment by his father. There, through the people he meets in village, his opinions on his work ethic transforms. Although in my other post I talked about the danger of the “young and arrogant genius is saved by the normal people” trope, each and every character is so lovable and the plot is very light-hearted. The pace is rather slow since it’s slice-of-life, so -statistically speaking- action packed series manage to grab our attention more quickly. However, I think Barakamon is a good choice in its comedy and drama, good and varied characterisation and very, very pretty animation.
Pros: good animation, adorable setting and characters, there’s Naru even when all else fails
Cons: the lousy trope I mentioned above, may come off as slow or ‘uneventful’, not on the most common streaming services (anime streaming services not included)
4. DEATH PARADE
With its funky OP theme song, bright colors, interesting theme and philosophical questions you ask yourself along the characters, Death Parade is a must! “The series is about a bar where people get to play certain games and slowly recover their memory,” is as spoiler-less as I can put it. It’s a nice course to have episodic events to set the mood and introduce the characters first and get into the inner workings of the theme later on when there’s more complicated concepts than usual and I personally enjoyed how the production team handled it all. One aspect that annoyed me was the ending, with such an intriguing concept, I thought the show deserved better. Still, it has good action, just enough gore, poses compelling questions on life and I came to find it enjoyable, overall.
Pros: very intriguing story, nice pace, charming characters, quite emotional at times
Cons: ending wasn’t that satisfying, might come as a bit blood-y to some, not on the most common streaming services
My current go-to anime recommendation, none other than the great Dorohedoro! Two separate worlds: sorcerers’ realm and The Hole, a district where sorcerers frequent to practice their magic on its residents. Nikaido, a gyoza restaurant owner, befriends Caiman, a man whose memories are wiped up after being practised on and head turned into a lizard’s. Throughout the show I asked myself “Am I supposed to like the villain side this much??” because both the individual characters and their interactions are so engaging and they were fleshed out skillfully. The animation style is quite retro, looks a little ‘glitchy’ with muted colors all over, a great mixture of cute and creepy. Dorohedoro balances comedy and carnage, feel-good moments and suspense expertly, keeps your attention on the show at all times. Can’t wait for the second season!
Pros: different than the usual “anime visual style”, great female characters and varied body type representation, on Netflix, there’s Noi and Shin??, makes you want to try your hand at making gyoza from scratch
Cons: might come as a bit blood-y to some, I can’t even think of a reason not to like Dorohedoro
2. GEKKAN SHOUJO NOZAKI-KUN
One of my all time favorite comedy show, the one and only manga artist who owns my heart, Nozaki-kun! GSNK is a rom-com with multiple and cute twists, being adapted from a gag manga makes the show easy to watch in between, it’s also captivating enough to binge the whole in one sitting. The comedy is gold, romantic aspect is not too heavy and smothering, I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t like a romance show that has occasional funny moments. Creation of a shoujo manga and Nozaki’s character helps us enjoy the shoujo tropes in a new light. Overall the show has a very good balance in blending humor, love and the not-so-ordinary high school life of these 7 friends. Such a good show and was quite popular too, I wonder why we never got any continuation…..
Pros: very laid back and fun, suitable to binge or to watch individually, on Hulu and Tubi, who can say no to some info on how to apply screen tones in manga production?
Cons: if one’s too much of a stranger to tropes of anime/manga or gaming there’s a possibility of confusion (though, it wouldn’t dampen the experience in my opinion), doesn’t have a very linear and continuous plot
1. SAMURAI CHAMPLOO
Fascination of Japan usually starts with samurai. Even if we know nothing about Japan, we know about their samurai, the honorable warrios class, no matter how romanticised and aestethicized the representation is. We also love watching well-synchronised fights and strangers that are very different from each other going on a long journey together. This is the very basis of Samurai Champloo: a young girl who is looking for a “samurai who smells of sunflowers” hires a vagrant swordsman who ran away from a colonial island and a stoic rōnin as bodyguards after saving them from execution. The setting is Edō period, although there are a lot of elements such as piercings, rapping, breakdancing and graffities all over. The soundtrack supports this anachronistic vibe of the series pretty well, so we can safely say that the show isn’t strictly historical and very serious; on the contrary the pace flows really smoothly without being overly dramatic and heavy. I also think 26 episodes is a very appropriate length to tell a story with substance; not too short or long. In the end, whenever I’m asked this question, Samurai Champloo is the very first anime that pops in my head!
Pros: everything about this show is a pro, compelling and engaging story without many characters and events to introduce, nothing confusing, an OST so good that you’ll download it on your phone, cool sword fights, on Hulu
Cons: investing in a 26-episode long show might seem a lot, what else might put someone off I have no idea
Is it even a list if you don’t squeeze in more items than required? It’s always a struggle to rank very different shows, and to limit them to a certain number. Without going into too much detail my honorable mentions would be Violet Evergarden and The Great Pretender. Both are on Netflix; exceptional animation quality, fascinating and emotional stories, lots of characters to fall in love with (especially TGP).
I’m curious about your thoughts on my list or how would you pick your own recommendations for beginners! If you’d like, please leave a comment below. Until my next post, hope you stay healthy and see you around!
[Header image is taken from Gugure! Kokkuri-san.]