At the constant behest of one David Forrister, he of the excellent 5 Starter Anime Shows article, I finally started delving into the world of anime. For those not in the know or unaware, anime is a term commonly utilized for Japanese animation and can range from shows for young children to adult themed shows and even animated movies related to series. Such movies have their own term, OVA for Original Video Animation. Often times, anime are based off of Manga, the Japanese term for Graphic Novels/Comics. These too are varied in age ranges with Light Novels often encompassing a much younger age group, much like the term Young Adult for Western countries.
If interested, you can see my progress here: David’s Anime Viewing List. Given how new I am to anime and the multitude of series and OVAs and such, I consider it a minor feat to have viewed as much as I have in the span of roughly two calendar years having started earnestly watching in March of 2013.
So without further adieu, here are my 5 initial expectations as I started watching without knowing what I was really getting into.
Number 5: Sifting Through the Pile Would Not Be Overwhelming
Starting out, I was aware that there were a lot of great anime much like any thing a person gets into whether it be movies, television, music, or books. With that foreknowledge, I thought that just getting a very general handle on what was laid out in front of me would help me not only whittle down the list of what to possibly seek out but also give me the advantage of knowing ahead of time what I wanted to watch to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff out there. It didn’t really work. As I made my way through such series as Watamote courtesy of Crunchy Roll and Joshi Kousei: Girl’s High also courtesy of Crunchy Roll, I started to realize that I was also putting off much more popular series that I’d eventually have to try and digest down the road. Instead of looking at this favorably, I ended up starting to get overwhelmed by the knowledge that I wasn’t watching these anime classics from the outset (like I felt like I should have been doing in the first place) and the fact that I had a butt-load of episodes to work through just to complete a series such as Death Note courtesy of Hulu.com. While somewhat paltry at 37 episodes total, at the time I was used to series going 12 and maybe 24 episodes total. Manageable given my living in the United States and the factor that most American animation tended to fulfill a season with anywhere from 14-22 episodes such as Disney’s Kim Possible which had seasons of 21, 30, 14, and 22 episodes.
This led to my next expectation and subsequent realization.
Number 4: An Anime Rated as Classic or Top Tier Would Be Instantly Watchable For Me
I like to go into situations with a plan and I have been known by family and friends to study my ass off in preparation before involving myself with anything. I had a friend in high school and he convinced me to check out a little show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer after being a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar thanks to movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, and Cruel Intentions which had come out in 1999. Unfortunately, they were up to Season 5. So I ended up watching Season 5 in full and literally spent the entire summer “working” my way back through Season 1 through Season 4. I spoiled myself, I rented VHS tapes of the first 4 episodes in the series from a local Video Signals store, and taped the aired episodes on FX because I was taking Driver’s Ed during their airings.
I mention that little anecdote precisely to portray to you all exactly what I put myself through. As such, I scoured the internet for as many Top 10 lists as I could assemble and tried to figure out commonalities. I tried to pin down certain series that had reputations such as Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I also culled over Best Heroes and Best Villains lists as a way to try and further delve into Anime and get myself prepared.
Credit to Twitchfilm.com
I partly was in over my head when I tried to watch Death Note and Monster. I understood they were good, even recognized their greatness at times, but I was also cognizant of the fact that they were both a bit beyond me at the time I tried to watch them. The closest parallel I can compare it to is watching Citizen Kane or The Godfather after you have just started getting into American films and started out watching titles such as The Matrix and Boyz In the Hood. There is a bit of a departure factor in terms of the style transition but there’s also this understanding that just because something is a classic does not mean it’s immediately accessible whether it be due to lack of sheer knowledge of the genres involved (which may explain my ‘low’ score for the series Puella Magi Madoka Magic) or the simple fact that it’s too intense for me to handle conceptually. With that said, I plan to revisit Death Note and Monster as I get more series under my belt and I feel that being able to get through “lengthy” series such as Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Fairy Tail (which I’m watching at the moment) should help the re-visitation.
Number 3: Diving In Randomly Would Be Okay
Yeah, remember how I said I like to plan things out and try to set up a pathway to follow when tackling new things? This seemingly does not apply to television shows at all in the history of my viewing lifetime. I seem to have this innate ability to randomly watch an episode or two and decided, most often upon the enjoyment of a singular character or two, whether to continue pursuant of said television show. I’ve randomly watched episodes of: Firefly (“Safe”), Kim Possible (S2’s “Sick Day” and S1’s “October 31st”), and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (S1’s “Green Isn’t Your Color” and S1’s “Dragonshy”).
As such, I found myself swayed by all sorts of things when it came to picking out which anime to watch next as I started out. Sometimes it was recommendations from a colleague such as David Forrister recommending “Watamote” and sometimes it was simply seeing the cover art of the Manga such as Fairy Tail.
Credit to Amazon.com
Initially I just dove in headfirst without really knowing what the hell I was doing, let alone what the genres were for individual shows. As an example, I managed to bounce around from watching Yami no Matsuei aka Descendents of Darkness thanks to watching Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi aka A Dark Rabbit Has Seven Lives courtesy of Crunchy Roll and basically ping-ponged my way through various series without much of a care. This worked at times as I greatly enjoyed some series whereas other series failed to leave as much of an impact compared to if I maybe had watched them later in my Anime viewing history. The downfalls also were that I was more prone to screwing up as a result of trying to figure out the translation factor from Japan to English and as such, I accidentally watched the 2nd Season of a series titled, “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai” rather than the 1st Season titled, “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.” Notable as I still haven’t managed to watch the 1st Season despite greatly enjoying the 2nd Season on a blind watch as if it wasn’t obvious that I chose it blindly. In doing research for this article, I’ve also now discovered that there’s a 3rd Season titled, “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei,” as well which I had absolutely no idea existed. Welcome to my raw newbie style. This also managed to bite me in the butt when I completed the series, “School Rumble,” only to learn that there was also a 2nd Season too (which I’ve put on hold as I dash my way through Fairy Tail).
Number 2: I’d Be Able to Handle a Wide Range of Genres
Partly tying into expectation number 3, I thought diving in randomly would help toughen me and give me a much broader spectrum of which to watch anime and it’s varied genres. I was willing to try near any genre from torture porn (I’m looking at you, Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi) to darker material such as Elfen Lied courtesy of Hulu.com to even Yuri aka Girls Love aka Lesbian such as “Strawberry Panic.”
A lot of the Western shows and cartoons I love (ignoring the paranormal investigative stuff) heavily rely on the following: Friendship/Friends as Surrogate Family, Teamwork Involving Action, Snark or Sarcasm, and Strong Females in general. In the end I started finding myself gravitating towards those concepts in the various Anime I was watching as well ranging from shows such as Soul Eater to Kill la Kill courtesy of Hulu.com and Angel Beats! courtesy of Crunchy Roll.
Credit to pcmaniac88 at Deviant Art
As such, I’ve started catering my viewing more towards shows that rely on ensemble casts and have found myself greatly enjoying them as a result. Soul Eater and Fairy Tail are both reliant on a large cast of characters, which works for me as I tend to enjoy some more than others yet often find myself warming up to the ‘lesser’ characters as the show continues. As such, I’ve also found myself enjoying shows that I probably would not have in the past such as “School Rumble” as that is far more comedic in tone and a fairly far cry from what I’ve watched prior but having gotten used to how Japan does its comedy (see expectation 4), I’ve enjoyed that show’s style of comedy because I’m able to understand and expect certain scenarios and situations. I equate it to getting into American comedies and transitioning into movies that are more straight comedies such as “Trading Places” after watching movies that mixed genres well like “Ghostbusters” or “Gremlins 2.”
Number 1: I Wouldn’t Enjoy It Due to the Culture Shift
This is not so much a knock on Japan but rather an expectation that I wouldn’t enjoy it because I simply didn’t know what to expect. I enjoy wrestling from Japan and Mexico but my preference is towards Characters and Storylines, so I tend to relate to the “American” style of wrestling better and still prefer it as such. This sounds stupid in retrospect but in reading those Top 10 lists and such, I got this overwhelming sense that Anime was almost overwhelmingly ‘smart’ compared to the “simple” Western animation. Having gotten into Anime and having watched a wide variety of series and episodes, Japan’s style is far more reliant on packing a lot into a little in contrast to America. I now understand where fans of Anime come from in their stance, although I’m reluctant to say Anime is necessarily superior to Western animation.
Wearing hearing aids, I was used to reading subtitles so that change I didn’t see as a challenge at all but I was curious how the sub vs. dub factor would weigh in. I’ve found I prefer subtitles although I also tend to prefer watching movies in their original languages such as “Let the Right One In” or “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series. With that said, I’m constantly surprised in a good way at how forceful, expressive, and unique Japan’s voice actors are and find them on par to any American voice actor. Many a time, despite the language barrier, I’ve been able to pick up on subtle changes in attitude/vibe with a single character just from the change in tonal range courtesy of the character’s voice actor which helps pull me into the story and show further.
The more I’ve watched, the more fun I’ve had relating to characters and even being ‘in the know’ related to watching very modern series such as Kill la Kill or Attack on Titan courtesy of Hulu.com. At work and online I’ve discovered this new realm of entertainment I can discuss with co-workers and friends that I ordinarily would have been out of the loop on because I was tentative to try it out and a bit intimidated at where to start and what to start with.
So there you have it. Five expectations from somebody who was entering Anime without necessarily knowing what he was possibly getting himself into. So far it’s been an interesting read with some valleys but a lot of peaks. I won’t say I’m a hardcore fan in the slightest sense but I can definitely say that I’ve turned a corner into terms of being a fan of Anime overall.
Credit to Twitch Film for feature image