Anime for newcomers – is it worthwhile?

Before I started this website, I used to be quite obsessed with finding anime that would be ideal for getting beginners interested in the medium. I used to run a different blog that was eventually taken down, but I remember putting out at least one article in which I talked at great length about how Sword of the Stranger is a perfect example of an anime for newcomers.

My reasoning at the time stemmed from how I got into anime myself. I of course watched the typical long-form series that everybody watched in the 90s, but I became truly interested in anime after watching the 2001 version of Hellsing. Now that was a cool anime, with stylish visuals, lots of violence, and a gritty storyline. It felt mature and I must’ve rewatched the whole show at least a dozen times. When we then got Hellsing Ultimate some years later, I remember being disappointed with it and feeling like I may never have gotten into anime if I’d seen Ultimate first.

While it’s a visually-impressive series on its own, what “ruined” Ultimate for me were its comedy sequences. Lighthearted jokes with colorful animation and chibi characters, which are deliberately made to look jarring when compared with series’ otherwise violent nature. By then I’d seen a fair share of anime and I understood these scenes, but I feared that any newcomers to anime would think they were weird, out-of-tone Japanese nonsense and lose interest in the series, or even anime as a whole.

Also fresh in my memory at the time was the massive success of Death Note, another series that had a cool thriller storyline that didn’t mess around with silly animation or other anime tropes that would be offputting to newcomers. At least, I felt it didn’t; in retrospect Death Note had a lot of weird stuff in it. Death Note brought in a lot of new anime fans, and even today we can see similar shows achieve these results. Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, these series do great at convincing people to try out anime.

I published a lot of advice back in those days. I told people to avoid comedy series or anime that used wacky animations or sudden shifts in artstyle, to stick with anime that were modern so they wouldn’t be turned off by outdated artstyles and lacking animation (God this one hurts to think back on), and to avoid series with esoteric storylines that may confuse casual viewers.

While some of that advice may still be somewhat helpful, I have come to realize that it may be futile to search for such mystical “beginner” series. In reality, people can get into anime for a variety of reasons, including liking its sense of comedy, old artstyles, or the bizarre stories. How many people were brought into anime by Naruto after all? What about Dragon Ball, One Piece, or even Sailor Moon?

A friend of mine was recommended Serial Experiments Lain as his first anime for a joke and he came back asking for more anime recommendations. A colleague of mine was a massive fan of Azumanga Daioh, which was his first anime. Another got into anime because of Blood-C. By trying to win people over by specifically finding anime that are more “normal”, we may be willfully obscuring some of anime’s greatest appeals. And for what purpose? To appeal to people that’d get mad if an anime ever used a trope like a comically-exaggerated sweat drop? I don’t think we have much use winning over people like that.

In retrospect, it may also have been rude to label series and movies as “beginner anime”. You wouldn’t find a professional swimmer in the kiddie pool, but many of the series I mentioned thus far, including Sword of the Stranger, have a lot to offer even for veteran anime fans.

What do you think? Is there value in finding anime for newcomers or does such a thing not even really exist? Additionally, what anime got you into watching more?

4 thoughts on “Anime for newcomers – is it worthwhile?

  1. I never really thought of any anime as beginner anime, it’s just different genre. When someone tells me they want to try out anime and asks what I would recommend, I always ask them what kinds of movies they like or what TV shows are they watching. Then I recommend an anime that’s similar. For some people watching a very violent anime would be a huge turn off and for others watching a kiddy anime would be a no-go, it just depends on the person.

  2. So, it’s interesting to note that Hellsing Ultimate is a lot more true to the original manga then the other Hellsing. I’m not sure which one I like better. I think the non-manga stuff in the original series was a little weak and they really didn’t do anything with Victoria.

    I think Ultimate is messy and doesn’t really try to make sense, and they really don’t do anything with Victoria.

    1. That’s actually interesting to know, because I still got Hellsing on my to-do list. They got it at my manga library, but I am trying to finish Claymore first. Would you recommend the manga over Ultimate?

      1. So, I’m not sure. Ultimate is really taking the manga and just putting it straight onto the screen. If you don’t like Ultimate, I’m not sure if you would like the manga.

        Kohta Hirano was really trying to make something that was stylishly violent. He jokes at the end of the first volume that Alucard has a cosmo gun with no end of bullets. I think that sets the tone for what he was trying to do.

        (Though I just learned that Kohta Hirano is also a character in HIgh School of the Dead?)

        Ultimate was made because the original series was made before the manga was finished. A lot of people at the time felt the original anime diverged too much from the manga.

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