From the CoH forums.

It's the third time in recent memory on the City of Heroes official boards that I've come across a "recommend an anime to me" thread, and once again I find myself stumped.

There's a sort of balance one has to achieve when recommending an anime to someone who's not quite convinced that they should be spending their Copious Free Time watching it. Too enthusiastic, and we may well end up putting them off. Too many caveats, and it'll sound like we're asking them to watch something we're not even sure is good.

And for someone like me, who has been in Deep Fandom for over a dozen years, there is always the risk of alienating the supplicant by sheer unsolicited geekiness. I may wax eloquent on the virtues of the meganekko, and how the twintails on a character marks her as a tsundere with a propensity for zettai ryouiki, while the nekomimi dojikko speaking in kansai-ben is clearly quite moe, because snorfle garumphagus rethornicum, for all the sense I appear to be making to someone unfamiliar with the terms.

Were I to describe the appeal of Pani Poni Dash to the Casual Fan, I will effectively be speaking in gibbering infernal tongues that drive mere mortals mad. Or in C++, which amounts to the same thing.

There are always the "safe" anime to recommend, which seem to have a wide appeal. Cowboy Bebop is bandied about often. Evangelion, Elfen Lied, Ghost in the Shell. The field appears dominated by Fighting Action or Deep Serious Contemplation, which strikes me somewhat as an attempt to introduce anime as something that is Mature and For Thinking People. And not just for people who can Think, but people who can Think and look impressive while doing so. Something you can write a thesis about, possibly.

On the other side, we have the Shounen Action approach: Rurouni Kenshin and Trigun for the classics (making me feel at least a little old), Bleach and Naruto (admittedly, most of the Naruto recommendations specifically mention Shippuden or something) for the more recent series. There's probably a reason why these shows are particularly popular, but I haven't found the common factor yet. (For example, I like Rurouni Kenshin, but dislike Bleach. So it goes.)

And I am left with a stupendous list of anime which I'd like to recommend, but which I am painfully aware are considered at least somewhat niche. I could hold up Card Captor Sakura as my all-time favourite, but I then have to admit that it is technically aimed at little girls, albeit with a sizeable bonus for older viewers. (Also, it's out of print.) I could mention The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, except that to really appreciate the humour, one has to be passingly familiar with certain anime tropes, or the reason Haruhi forcibly recruits Mikuru into the SOS Brigade might turn out to be incomprehensible. And if one isn't really interested in romantic dramas, then KyoAni's Key adaptations oeuvre is pretty much out of the running.

Gods forbid I even think about Lucky Star or, as mentioned, Pani Poni Dash. I suppose Dokkoida isn't that obscure to the average viewer, or perhaps Sgt. Frog (aka Keroro Gunsou), but the element of risk remains.

I should probably compile a list of "safe" anime to recommend whenever the topic comes up. Obviously only titles licenced in R1 are valid, since not everyone is willing to deal with all the issues inherent in fansubs. (And for the most part, R2s probably won't be of much help.) Despite what I mentioned earlier, I'd still throw in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya into the pile, since one can look at the pretty animation, if nothing else. And then there's Read or Die for the superheroic feel, this being the City of Heroes forums. Card Captor Sakura gets mentioned for those looking for something kid-friendly, which leads to Princess Tutu. If they're interested in slightly more action of the tournament variety, Angelic Layer might be a good bet. For something magical girl but with a little more bite, Lyrical Nanoha (as I'm told Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is being marketed in R1). Fantasy-wise, Slayers (specifically Slayers NEXT) is almost always welcome. Soft science fiction would suggest Stellvia, slice of life brings up Azumanga Daioh.

And if they express even the tiniest hint of interest in high school romantic comedies, oh, what fun we shall have.

About the point I would have to bow out of the discussion is if it turns to talk of dark (invariably with the additions of "bloody" and "gory") anime, or of Mecha. My interest in such may be measured with negative scientific notation, much less my experience and knowledge.

Nevertheless, the recommendation of anime to another sentient being remains, as always, a black art, based largely on gut feeling, and mechanically quantum: after all, despite known tastes and suspicions, nobody knows if they'll love or loathe an anime, until they actually watch it.

6 Responses to “Hey, Watch This”
  1. Akira says:

    Yeah, you'd have to be pretty sadistic to recomend Lucky Star or Pani Poni Dash to new or returning fans.

    When I think about it, you can't really expect to pick out perfect 'first' anime for people. Everyone has fond memories of the first few that they picked up (Dubbed versions of CCS and Digimon for me). I suppose it depends on if you want them to enjoy watching anime or not :)

  2. Kikaifan says:

    Yeah I always start with pretentious thinky stuff like Haibane Renmei and Kino no Tabi or Miyazaki and then sink them down to more comedic stuff once they're used to the usual anime weirdness to some degree.

  3. Immir says:

    How about Noein, Kanon, Mai Hime, or Noir?

    I am trying to think of more mainstream titles, not my more obscure favorites like Ef or Sola.

  4. DKellis says:

    Noein I haven't watched more than the first episode, so I can't recommend or un-recommend it.

    Kanon 2006 version falls under the "KyoAni Key adaptations oeuvre" clause, 2002 version falls under the general romantic drama clause.

    Mai HiME is not really suitable for a first-time or returning anime watcher, considering the second half of the series. After they've gotten some anime under their belt, then I might bring it up with the appropriate caveats.

    Noir I have my own problems with, chief of which is the blatant overuse of some BGM tracks for no apparent reason.

  5. Lysander says:

    I always try to stick to the basics for this one. It took me a long time to fully realize that the sense of exhilaration I felt when watching a particularly beautiful anime wasn't a feeling that was going to 'transfered' to others in close proximity. "Don't you feel that? Your pulse racing, that familiar electricity down your spine, the heat that crawls up your cheeks when you watch this AMAZING scene here?" "Uhhh, no, I don't- and by the way, you're a freak."

    I agree with a lot of the titles you mentioned, Azu, Stellvia, CCS, RoD, etc… I've actually had a bit of experience introducing anime to people here in my city lately, and I have to say that my personal favourites don't really fly as first titles to watch. For instance, when I got back into Indianapolis for the first time in a year, the only anime I brought with me was my Beyond the Clouds movie. Tell you what, don't show that one to newcomers ^_~. Noein is much too odd as well, simple titles that have some comedy thrown in are best IMO. Cowboy Bebop always works as a great intro to anime because it doesn't lack anything- there's comedic moments, serious moments, odd moments- the characters are all unique and interesting, Spike has a 'coolness' factor you just can't ignore, the animation, art, and voice acting in both languages are wonderful. It's not in my top 10 all the same, but that's what's necessary to appeal to the broadest audiences and to be the best introductory anime out there. That's just my take on it though.

  6. Rakuen says:

    hey.. I loved Pani Poni Dash… Even my friends who are not those hard core otakus were hooked to it… It's the fun watching it that counts… and Fanservice ones too appealed to most of my classmates, most of which were girls…