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On Anime: An If/Then Guide to What You Should Be Watching

On Anime: An If/Then Guide to What You Should Be Watching (photo)

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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.

04032009_gurrenlagann2.jpgIf 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

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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