The Best Anime: Mecha and Ninjas and Cat Girls–Oh My!
Picking your first (or 211th) anime to watch is like standing at a crossroads at night.
The road you choose could lead you to safety, warmth, and happiness…or to your doom (one day, when the non-disclosure agreement expires, I shall share the tale of how an Anime Czar was scarred by that which she loves.) So how do you make that all important choice?
The options are endless, so this is where genres come into play. Like Jelly Belly jelly beans, anime comes in all sorts of interesting (and sometimes disturbing) flavors. All you have to is pick whatever is most fun for you to watch. Keep in mind that anime is just as complex as the people that watch. A single show can, and often does, cross multiple genres.
Seriously, if you can think of it, there most certainly an anime based on that premise. Don’t believe me? If you are interested in something supernatural, set at boarding school, where students master a curriculum based on the seven deadly sins and are pitted against each other by their headmasters in a battle for control of one young man, at the center of a harem, who is trying to save his cousin from an evil entity that has taken control of her body, there is an anime for that. It’s called Trinity Seven.
Since I am a benevolent Anime Czar working on deification, I’ll take you through a few genres and give you some great recommendations to start.
Up first is the juggernaut known as Action/Adventure. Fast-paced and equal parts fascinating and frustrating, most shows tend to fall into this category. If it punches, kicks, swings a sword, casts a spell, or shoots a gun, you will find it with this tag.
Examples: Dragon Ball, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), Trigun, Nobunaga the Fool
Under the tarp of Action/Adventure is the Mecha sub-genre. Often coupled with military themes, this genre features robots with human pilots in large-scale battles and action sequences. Mecha components are often the height of fictional technological prowess, a bevy of high-powered weapons as well as full range mobility and flight capabilities. The giant robots can fly. By Jove, they fly.
Examples: Mobile Suit Gundam, Code Geass, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, ALDNOAH.ZERO
Over the river and through the woods to outer space we go. Shows in the Science-fiction/Space category can range from pure science fiction all the way to space opera. Some themes include brain-computer interfacing, cloning, cyberpunk, galactic empires, mechas, and post-apocalyptic story lines.
Examples: Cowboy Bebop, Sword Art Online, Ghost in the Shell, Space Dandy
The Psychological genre focuses on the inner workings of characters. States of mind and motivations are more important than the actions themselves. This genre has the distinction of being born in Japan with the 11th century masterpiece, The Tale of the Genji, considered by most to be the first psychological novel. Within this genre, we find horror, supernatural, mystery, as well as conventional suspense and thrillers.
Examples: Vampire Princess Miyu, Elfen Lied, Death Note, Welcome to the NHK
One thing that anime does well is delving into the past. Whether you like your Historical anime to be factually accurate, mythology-based, slightly anachronistic, or any combination of those, you can find something to your liking. Common settings are Chinese books such as “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” or Japanese history such as the Warring States period and the Edo period. If Asian history is not your cup of tea, there are series based on foreign countries.
Examples: Gintama, Le Chavelier D’Eon, Rurouni Kenshin, Hetalia: Axis Powers
Slice-of-life is a feel good genre. There are no giant robots, aliens, mystical magical scepters or talking cats. It tends to be more realistic – just regular people with regular problems. These shows revolve around coming of age, school experiences or the tribulations of everyday life. Sometimes it can feel like there isn’t a coherent plot or major conflict. Fret not. The lack of conflict serves as a mechanism for escapism and allows for viewers to better understand the characters.
Examples: Ouran High School Host Club, Paradise Kiss, I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying, Nisekoi
There is no way this Deadly Diva would be able to leave without mentioning the genre that started it all – Magical Girl. If 1953’s Princess Knight is considered the godmother of this genre, then Sailor Moon is the current empress. This genre features girls (and boys) that use magic. Pretty simple, huh? The allure of the magical girl sub-genre is that seemingly unremarkable people find themselves gifted (or cursed) with transformational powers to save the world.
Examples: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, CardCaptor Sakura, D.N. Angel, Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!)
This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of anime genres, nor was it intended to be. However, this Deadly Diva hopes that the anime averse among us was inspired to give at least one (or five) of these series a try.
Seasoned veterans, what genres and shows do you recommend to friends just getting into anime?
Diva’s note: No matter what, do not watch the unmarked anime DVD your cousin skittishly handed you under the table at the last family gathering. I repeat – DO. NOT. WATCH. Nothing but shock, shame, and non-disclosure agreements await you. This Deadly Diva has warned you.