November 23, 2015

MANGA MONDAYS | Gateway Drugs

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To everyone guessing that this post is about G.A.T.E., please give me some credit. I promise I can make jokes besides cheap puns … sometimes. Anyways, the actual topic for this week:

What anime would you recommend to someone who knows nothing about anime? Perhaps more importantly, what kind of anime would you show to the sort of person who thinks anime is just some bizarre portion of Japanese culture? I think this is an important question to consider because there’s a lot anime has to offer, even for people who aren’t generally fans of Japanese pop culture. However, it seems to me that a lot of those people seem to think that stuff like High School DxD and High School of the Dead are representative of the entire medium. So how should we point them in the right direction?

One of the most common strategies here is to choose something that completely avoids common anime tropes. In other words, something without the high school drama, harems and  moeblobs we all secretly enjoy without telling our friends (and yes, you know you have a secret guilty pleasure, don’t try to deny it). One of my personal favorite examples here is Eden of the East. Admittedly, it’s mostly about social issues in Japan, but its approach to storytelling and character development reminds me much more of Western styles. It’s also short, which is another important quality of this sort of recommendation. Granted, I’m predisposed to dislike longer anime as it is, but there’s definitely something to be said for not intimidating newcomers with the idea of catching up on a few hundred episodes. Better to get their feet wet before dropping them headfirst into One Piece.

If runtime isn’t a barrier to entry, though, you can’t do much better for this sort of recommendation than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The fact of the matter is that you don’t get to be the top rated anime on My Anime List without just generally being extremely good in just about everyone’s opinion. It’s an especially good introductory anime because there are traces of normal anime tropes and character archetypes throughout the show (with the main difference from other anime being the flawless execution, of course). This means that it’s easy for many people to pick out parts of the series that they like and search for them in other anime if they’re interested.

Another approach to finding a starter anime for someone is to find something that takes anime stereotypes and uses them perfectly. This can be a good idea because it might show someone that the stereotypes they’ve heard about anime aren’t really as scary, perverse or twisted as many people make them out to be. My favorite recommendation in this category is probably Clannad. Yes, it’s a harem anime. But its attention to developing all of the girls surrounding Tomoya and also his ability to actually choose one make the show a great option. The inevitable tears don’t hurt its chances either.

Of course in the end, it depends on the tastes of whoever you’re trying to introduce to anime. For instance, I didn’t mention my own first anime SAO as an example here because I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. However, there are certainly people out there, especially gamers, that I’d suggest it to in a heartbeat. Similarly, I would recommend Evangelion or Serial Experiments Lain exclusively to people that I know like being a little creeped out, and enjoy a little (or a lot) of symbolism. What about you? What are your main recommendations for friends new to anime? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email!

Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at [email protected]. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.