Neophytes tend to have the same reaction when they’re about to be introduced to anime or manga: “Is this the tentacle stuff?” It’s amazing how a niche subgenre you’ll likely never run across unless you’re actively seeking it out in the deepest bowels of the Internet has become so notorious. The majority of anime out there exists in the form of TV series that — despite a preponderance of over-endowed ass-kicking ninja women — are far from a lewd free-for-all.
Whether you’re settling down with animation of the Japanese persuasion for the first time, or just looking to get a little deeper than the tried-and-true classic titles that populate the average chain video rental store shelves, the sheer amount of titles now available is daunting. Asking a hardcore fan for help can be akin to looking to “The Simpsons”‘ Comic Book Guy for gentle insight, and current trends in anime are far-reaching and run a wide gamut.
You’ve got the boy-centric shonen formula, under which you could group titles like “Bleach,” “Fist of the North Star” and the ubiquitous “Dragon Ball Z,” narratives in which the hero is on a seemingly unending journey to fight bad guys, get stronger and spend time “powering up” to overcome the current threat. There’s the girly answer to that, the shoujo stories like “Hana Yori Dango” and the also inescapable “Sailor Moon.” Then there are the so-called space operas of the “Gundam” and “Macross/Robotech” series, bleeding off into mecha and futurism, encompassing everything from the raunchy “Space Adventure Cobra” to the drastic realism of “Planetes,” about a group of salvage workers who snag debris floating above the Earth.
Latching onto the type of anime that’s right how you is tough, but that’s why we’re here. In the old-fashioned compare-and-contrast format of recommendation (and inspired by current chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, Armond White), the list below offers fresh alternatives to anime titles you’ve probably heard of to get you started on the path toward fandom expertise.
If you liked “Gundam,” then you should watch…
“Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann”
The space opera that caused an entire legion of people to ask, “Who the hell do you think I am?” before uploading their own countless YouTube tribute videos, this series starts with the usual sci-fi set-up of an apocalyptic wasteland where humans live underground in fear of the surface. Our main foil is Simon, a kid who just wants to be left alone but who’s constantly being dragged into mischief by Kamina, a sword-slinging, tattooed, blue-haired guy who has more motivational speeches than Tony Robbins — and they involve kicking ass, too. From Gainax, the same folks that brought you “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Gurren Lagann” quickly goes past giant robots and mutant beast-men into the sort of show that incorporates the “Hero Myth” perfectly and isn’t afraid to kill off characters to make an overtly dramatic point. In an unexpected side-effect, it inspired countless nerds to start talking about their drills piercing heaven.
If you liked “My Neighbor Totoro,” then you should watch…
“Chi’s Sweet Home”
Tthis short, mini-episode series is about a tiny kitten taken in by a single-child family told through the narration of that little feline. It’s probably the anime equivalent of Cute Overload. It’ll be appearing soon on Crunchyroll.com.