What is the first anime a newbie should watch?
With so many titles, genres and an incredibly rich history, it’s hard to describe all that anime has to offer in just a few words. Where to start and what to try can be fairly intimidating, especially when trying to invite a friend along for the ride.
With all that in mind we’ve compiled a starter pack of titles meant for anyone who wants to know what all the fuss is about. It ranges from timeless classics to more niche productions, each a showcase of the power of Japanese anime, while satisfying what a beginner should be looking for. In no particular order, this is not a list of the best animes of all time, but it’s pretty close.
A Silent Voice. This coming of age work of art is engrossing and genuinely heartwarming. Building on the power of anime to beautifully deal with difficult social issues, A Silent Voice is an excellent (albeit quite sad) first anime to watch. Like Castelvania and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (also great in their own ways) this movie is widely available on Netflix and has something for most people. If a family friendly romantic drama is what you are into, this is a great place to begin appreciating anime.
The Animatrix. Not a masterpiece but easy to bite into and with plenty of good flavour. Being based on the famous Matrix franchise this well-produced series of shorts offers a variety of styles from different directors, ideal for new-comers as a sampler appetizer. While it greatly expands the mythos of the original movies, it’s plot stands alone, and is a good stepping stone for any newcomer, especially fans of well choreographed action.
Any Hayao Miyazaki film (or for that matter any Studio Ghibli film). Without a doubt, we’re talking about a master of a generation. If putting your best foot forward is the idea, this is where to start. 2001’s Spirited Away is a fan favourite and arguably one of the greatest adventure movies of all time. The movie is an emotional orgasm and near impossible to dislike. Throw in that it won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature 2003 and you can’t go wrong recommending this film to any fan of the fantasy genre.
While it’s probably true that the best way to enjoy any of the films here, it’s in their original audio with subtitles. But if it has to be dubbed to help with the first times, the western release of Princess Mononoke features a-listers like Billy Bob Thornton, Clair Daines and Jada Pinket Smith. Set in the 14th Century, this captivating story steeped in Japanese lore is a great place for any fan of swords and sorcery and fantasy in general to make the leap into anime.
Akira. One of the most seminal and inspirational movies ever made and a turning point for anime globally. With a record breaking budget at its release in 1988, this adrenaline infused masterpiece, set in a dystopian post apocalyptic future (2019!) features psychic abilities, government conspiracies, bikers and a whole lot of cyberpunk badassery. Not the kind of film to watch on a first date but in the genre of bloody beautiful, this is the ultimate example and now remastered in 4K. Most would argue the entire industry owes a debt of gratitude to Akira, for showing the world the powerful potential of Anime, and earning it the global audience it has today.
One Punch Man. One of the most fun and original anime series of recent years, with a clever plot and great performances, season one is both approachable and rewarding. Set in a world of battling superheroes this clever anime subverts expectations and delivers an all round easy to watch and simply fun experience for newcomers. As with all series there’s some world building to get through at the start but here it’s done in an easy to swallow way. There are later seasons also, but to truly welcome a newcomer to anime, we recommend focusing on the first.
Yuri On Ice. With superbly choreographed ice skating scenes and extremely relatable characters, this sports romance anime has been a fan favourite since it’s release in 2016. While the main draw of the show is arguably the blossoming relationship between the two male leads, the witty and fun tone of the series in general has kept fans begging for a season 2 ever since.
So Many More… There is no bottom to this basket, no style that isn’t catered to and no type without it’s own masterpiece. We hope this list serves as a starting point for anyone who is yet to know first hand, what makes Japanese Anime the international sensation that it is.