A while a ago at a family gathering one of my uncles asked me if I could explain anime. When I tried to I found it was difficult to explain to an outsider the all the various complexities of anime. I realized that it was just too broad a subject to sum up in a few words. It would be like asking someone to explain books or other expansive art form. However any ignorance about anime can be easily solved by following a simple three step process
Step #1 Watch some anime. It is as simple as that. I donít feel anyone can explain it well enough that it could replace experiencing anime. That and anyone qualified to try to explain it probably has some on hand.
Step #2 Ask questions. Itís ok, you just watched something you probably donít fully understand and the best way to remedy that is to ask someone more knowledgeable. Good places to find answers would be the person that showed you the anime if there was one, an on-line forum, or a self styled guru like myself. Most people will be happy to answer your questions.
Step #3 Repeat from the beginning. You may have learned something and hopefully had a good time but havenít learned all there is to know. Heck even after years I donít know everything about anime.
But where to start? There is no easy answer because the best answer changes from person to person. The big reason behind this and why anime is so hard to explain is that there is several genres in anime and each person is going to have their own opinion on each of them. Also if you are trying to introduce someone to anime they may have some preconceptions. Also even though many veterans swear by it I would suggest that for people that are just beginning to watch anime English dubbing is the way to go. Also since new viewers are generally ignorant of Japanese culture you probably want to start with a show that is light on the cultural symbolism. All that being said here are some of my recommendations for beginning viewers.
Dragon ball The quintessential anime for young boys around the late elementary to middle school age. I know that there is better stuff but this makes a great starting point. Any anime with a lot of action is generally a favorite of that age group and anime often have relaxed standards on violence with is guaranteed to make them a hit. Yuyu Hakusho, Slayers or anything with a good deal of fighting would make a good substitute.
Sailor Moon In many ways the shojo equivalent to Dragon ball. Magic knight Rayearth would be another good suggestion. If the prospective viewer is old enough to watch serious romantic movies the field broadens a bit. Fushigi Yugi and Escaflowne are good recommendations in this case.
Almost anything by Miyazaki Little kids will watch anything animated and people often have to baby-sit them. Princess Monoke aside Miyazaki films are perfect for children and less annoying for those who have to watch movies with them than most over comcerialized childrenís movies.
Akira Princess Monoke Ghost in the Shell Anime has a bunch of good movies but these I think are the cream of the crop, especially for adult viewers, since the movies do clearly show that animated movies can be more mature than your usual Disney movie.
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