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Beginner's Guide to Anime watch

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    Beginner's Guide to Anime

    This thread is intended to provide an introduction on Japanese animation (commonly known as anime, which simply means 'animation' in Japanese). I'll attempt to explain its origins, the terminology and conventions used, and recommended material to watch from each respective genre. Whether you're completely new to anime and you're curious to see what all the fuss is about or a seasoned viewer stemming years, I hope this thread will prove useful.

    If you would like to view my own history of watching anime, you can find this on my Anime-Planet account here.

    What is Anime?
    The definition of what anime is can be confusing since this varies from the western world and Japan. In the west, anime is animation produced in Japan, specifically in the style of manga (Japanese comic books), with similarly drawn characters and themes. However, in Japan anything that is animated is called anime, including western animation. In essence, anime has evolved into a medium of its own outside Japan and should be considered separate from the animation you may have watched when you were younger (i.e. from Disney). This is because western animation, often referred to as 'cartoons', tend to be for children, and thus have family friendly story lines, whereas conversely, anime is tailored for all ages, ranging from children to adults. Like in Hollywood films, every genre is covered (see recommended material) and the animation style, depending on the artist and/or studio responsible, can vary incredibly, even though similarity, largely due to familiarity and popularity, can typically be employed and identified across all anime.

    It's worth acknowledging that unlike western animation, anime (and by extension, manga) has never been targeted for the export market. Essentially, it's Japan talking directly to itself, reinforcing its cultural myths and preferred modes of behaviour. However, whether there is any dissonance between anime and reality is debatable and a discussion I will put aside in fear of digressing.

    The wide majority of anime, although certainly not all, is aimed at the more astute viewer. As they did with automobiles, the Japanese have taken an American creation and re-imagined it into something far beyond what its creators had intended. However, virtue should be recognised in that without western animation, anime wouldn't have existed. Most notably, Max and Dave Fleischer with their animated adaptations of Superman, Popeye and Betty Boop and, of course, the highly influential and revered Walt Disney who remains undoubtably one of, if not the most innovative animator of all time, with his first production in 1937 of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, the latter's prominence and preference of treating animation as a children and/or family medium has in some way sanitised the perception of animation in the west overall.

    Nonetheless, Walt Disney's influence served as an inspiration for all would be Japanese animators of the time and this was made evident by the theatrical shorts and feature films that made way in the late 50s such as The Tale of the White Serpent by studio Toei Animation. It wasn't until the late Osamu Tezuka, an unlikely individual who was studying medicine at the time, decided to indulge in his love of manga, shaping the form and content in the process. His subsequent forty years as an artist and animator has had a huge influence in the way that manga, and indeed anime, has evolved. His greatest creation, comparable to that of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, would be Tetsuwan Atomu (more commonly known in the west as Astroboy), who featured in what is widely considered to be the most significant animated television series in Japan that aired in 1963. It paved the way for anime becoming its own medium, which was later enforced, a few decades later, with the arrival of Toei's adaptation of manga artist Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball and Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon in 1986 and 1992 respectively.

    Since then, anime has foreseen significant growth, both domestically and internationally, with many other franchises and individuals further advancing the medium (recognition should go to the visionary Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, often compared and credited alongside Osamu Tezuka as the Walt Disney of Japan, and of whom has won numerous awards including an Oscar for his film Spirited Away). Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the Ghost in the Shell franchise were instrumental in providing exposure in the west, with the latter serving as the primary source of inspiration for The Matrix, later spawning the Animatrix in acknowledgement of this. The Dragon Ball (particularly the sequel Z), Gundam and Pokemon metaseries have collectively garnered huge interest in the west as well.

    Here is a list of the most common terminology used. For more information, refer to the Anime News Network's lexicon here.

    Shorthand for Japanese animation, often considered to mean any animation produced in or originating from Japan.

    Japanese comics - is also used to refer to the general style of both anime and manga (i.e. large eyes, elaborate hair styles and long limbs). Commonly adapted into anime. The term 'mangaka' refers to a manga artist/author.

    Light novel
    Light novels (or ranobe), as the name implies, are easier to read than a conventional novel and are shorter in length. Commonly adapted into anime, although to a lesser extent than manga.

    Anime that is targered for the young male demographic (middle/primary to high/secondary school age), but is frequently watched by all, shounen is a style of anime that can also be considered a genre. Many long-running anime such as One Piece, Detective Conan and Naruto would fall into this category. Although action is the predominant genre of shounen, romance can also feature, either exclusively or in tandem with comedy and generally less dramatic than its shoujo counterpart (young female demographic).

    Anime that is targeted for the young female demographic. Romance is generally the primary genre of shoujo and almost always has a female protagonist. Notable anime of shoujo include Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Cardcaptor Sakura.

    Anime that is targeted for the late teen to adult male demographic, ranging from 18 upwards. Typically covers maturer themes than its shounen counterpart. Notable anime of seinen include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Akira and Berserk.

    Anime that is targeted for the late teen to adult female demographic. Similarly covers maturer themes than its shoujo counterpart. Nodame Cantabile and Paradise Kiss could fall under this demographic, although could be considered shoujo as well.

    Literally translated as 'perverted', the term is used by the west to refer to sexually explicit or pornographic anime. In Japan, the term is used less frequently in favour of 'poruno' or 'ero'.

    Self-published/fan-made manga, novels, fan guides, art collections, music and video games. Largely produced by amateurs, professionals have participated in order to publish material outside the regular/mainstream industry. The media is typically distributed online but can be sold at conventions throughout Japan and abroad, the most notable being Comiket (short for 'Comic Market)', which is held in Tokyo's Big Sight. An alternative term for novels/prose written by fans is 'fan fiction'.

    An abbreviation for fan subtitles/subtitled. Essentially, anime that has been unofficially translated and subtitled into another language by fans for fans. Alternatively, fandubs are also offered, although to a considerably lesser extent (availability and partiality to the original Japanese voice cast is largely accountable for this). Official subtitling and dubbing by licensed organisations such as Crunchyroll and Funimation are not considered a fan-sub/dub.

    Below is a list of recommended anime, categorised by genre. I have chosen these partly due to their critical review, popularity and influence, but also from my own personal preference. I have deliberately chosen anime that was broadcasted on television, averagely comprising 13 to 26 episodes. A selection of movies will be included in its own category.

    Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
    Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    Black Lagoon
    Attack on Titan
    Macross Frontier
    My Hero Academia
    Arslan Senki

    Great Teacher Onizuka
    Skip Beat!
    Welcome to the NHK!
    History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi
    Detroit Metal City
    Azumanga Daioh
    Yakitate!! Japan

    Kanon (2006)
    Lovely Complex
    Kimi ni Todoke
    ef - a tale of memories
    Princess Tutu
    Ouran High School Host Club
    Scum's Wish
    My Love Story!!

    Death Note
    Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
    Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
    Fantastic Children
    Red Garden
    Rokka no Yuusha

    Kino's Journey
    Vision of Escaflowne
    Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
    Kemono no Souja Erin
    Now and Then, Here and There
    Little Witch Academia TV
    Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
    Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

    Science fiction
    Knights of Sidonia
    Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
    Plastic Memories
    KADO: The Right Answer
    Cowboy Bebop
    Last Exile
    Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
    Neon Genesis Evangelion
    Outlaw Star

    TSR Societies
    Be assured to join and participate in the Anime and Studio Ghibli societies with fellow fans.

    Anime News Network
    The latest news for the anime and manga industry

    A convenient place to document what anime you've seen and to receive recommendations




    Funimation Now
    Legal streaming of the latest anime

    Any questions?
    If you have any further questions regarding anime, do not hesitate to ask in the Anime Society's on-topic thread.
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