This article contains opinion.
It’s only fitting that my last article while serving as copy editor for The Penn is about anime.
This has been a hell of a semester. So sit back, relax and let me take you on a guided meditation through the topsy-turvy world of Japanese animation. This article is set up so the first shows I mention are better for beginners, and the later shows are best left to veterans.
Hear me out; “Death Note” was my first real anime.
The show follows Light Yagami, a high school student that comes across a notebook that allows the user to kill anyone whose name is written in it. Light uses this power to rid the world of dangerous criminals while trying to fend off the Japanese police and mysterious detective, L.
This makes a really good introduction to anime because it’s a fairly Western-style show. It plays out like a lot of detective dramas while having minimal supernatural elements. At only 37 episodes, it’s also a breeze to get through.
So, if you’re into drama and complex morals, give “Death Note” a chance. It’s as popular as it is for a reason. But do not, I repeat, do NOT, watch the live-action remake on Netflix. I refuse to watch it because I have heard only terrible things. It’s also pretty unsettling that Light was played by a white actor, considering Light’s motivation was to kill the world’s prison populations.
Oh, and a helpful hint: almost all the characters are thoroughly unlikeable.
“Ouran High School Host Club”
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum lies “Ouran,” a parody of the stereotypical anime.
This show actually does a great job of explaining a lot of anime tropes while also telling a great story about friends. The plot follows Haruhi Fujioka, a smart but poor student who gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious private academy. Haruhi struggles to fit in at first, while Haruhi’s new friends struggle to understand what life for “normal” people is like.
“Ouran” tragically has only 25 episodes, so it’s even easier to watch than “Death Note.” And while the show is actually pretty progressive, the manga was written in the early 2000s, and the anime adaptation came out not too much later, so some of the vocabulary used… is not the best. Just keep that in mind and acknowledge that it was pretty groundbreaking for its time.
The queen of beginner anime, “Fullmetal” is as close to perfection as it gets. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, young brothers that are state alchemists. The first few episodes drag on, but when the Elrics start digging into the imperialist actions of their employers, that’s when it gets real good.
Though this show is typically considered a “beginner” anime, it’s still pretty brutal at times. You’ll know what I mean when you get to Sad Dog territory.
I can’t say much more without completely spoiling the show, so just trust me on this: “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever consumed.
A word of warning: make sure you look specifically for “Brotherhood.” The original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime started when the manga was still being written, so the plot changes after a certain point. And, like with “Death Note,” do not bother with any live-action remakes.
“One Punch Man”
Time to come clean: I never actually finished this show. Not because I didn’t like it; I just got busy and distracted.
This is another show that’s sort of a parody of anime (superhero anime in particular), so it’s easy to watch if you’re still fairly new to anime. The story follows Saitama, a man that trained so hard that he can defeat any monster with just one punch. It’s good, I swear.
“Hunter x Hunter”
The other day, Netflix tried to tell me that this was a “goofy show.” Netflix was lying. (Also Netflix has only the first four arcs, so keep that in mind if you want to watch it.)
This is a 148-episode emotional rollercoaster. I highly recommend finding a sort of a sherpa to guide you through because it can be a lot to handle without a veteran holding your hand.
The story follows Gon Freecss, a 12-year-old boy who is far too rowdy for his own good, as he searches far and wide for his absentee father and universally hated person, Ging.
But it’s so much more than that.
Whatever you think “Hunter x Hunter” is about, I guarantee that it’s wrong. Hell, I’m on my second full watch-through and couldn’t tell you what kind of show it is. So, I’m just gonna give a no-context spoiler for each major story arc.
“Saw” before it was cool, beyblades, bardic inspiration, Yu-Gi-Oh, math, turbo teen.
There are two vital pieces of information you need before you embark on the “Hunter x Hunter” journey: 1) Killua has done nothing wrong and 2) Bungee Gum has the properties of both rubber and gum.
“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”
The granddaddy of all veteran anime, “Jojo” was “Dragonball” before “Dragonball.”
As implied by the title, it’s a truly bizarre show. There are gigantic men that magically turn into twinks (lookin’ at you, Jotaro), vampires, psychic fencing, and that’s just the first four parts.
It started as a manga way back in the ‘80s, so don’t expect any useful women until the fourth part. There is also a lot of violence and “yikes” moments.
The fun thing about “Jojo” is that the creator, Hirohiko Araki, loves Western music. So, almost every character and special ability is named after an artist or song. In fact, the big bad for the first few parts is named after Ronnie James Dio. This has led to a lot of copyright strikes, so the subtitles have to come up with clever workarounds. My personal favorite is “Boys Men Men,” though “Spicy Lady” has a special place in my heart.
If you think you’re up for it, “Jojo” is a really fun ride. I will warn y’all that the “Jojo” fandom has the best memes to worst discourse ratio I’ve ever encountered, so keep that in mind when seeking out fan content.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure serving as your copy editor. Stay safe, stay sane, watch some anime.
This too shall pass.