Poster from Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away”, 2001. Studio Ghibli films are often regarded as some of the best work in Japanese animation thus far.
For years, checking out anime seemed like an arduous challenge. Either you bought expensive DVD collections or downloaded them illegally, but thanks to our ubiquitous streaming future, more anime is easily accessible. Even with the prominence of anime reaching mainstream audiences, it still can be a challenge for someone jumping into the genre. These are five of the best introductory anime movies and television for an anime novice.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a classic, but with the series concluding almost a decade ago it is easy for it to get passed by new audiences. The series is set in a world where people have elemental powers like bending fire or water, and the last of the air benders has recently been discovered. From there the airbender, Aang, is joined by two water benders to bring peace to the world. With a unique animation style and lovable characters, “Avatar” is a great first step to getting into anime.
- Netflix’s Castlevania
For most video games’ television or movie adaptations, they either stray too far from the original material or fail to branch out in it’s own way. Netflix’s “Castlevania” entirely bucks that trend by being very faithful to the original games and having its own unique voice. The series follows Simon Belmont as he takes on Dracula and his hoard of demons that have come back to seek revenge. The clash between Dracula and the medieval religion is at focus in the series, with each ideology going at odds for who is really better for people. It also adds an emotional core to Dracula, strengthening his character and motivations from just an evil monster. The show is extremely violent as well, which surprises how far a Netflix production was able to go.
- Studio Ghibli Movies
It is difficult to pick one Studio Ghibli movie to recommend, because each suits a certain person. From a small child that would love the charm of “My Neighbor Totoro” or someone looking for a more dramatic style like in “Princess Mononoke”, Ghibli can truly captivate any audience member. For an older adult, Ghibli movies will probably captivate them the most, especially with their take on serious moments in history. Two movies, “Grave of the Fireflies” and “The Wind Rises” provide a different perspective on World War 2 than is usually popularized in the medium. Ghibli movies were a major introduction to anime for most Americans, and they still have the power to introduce the style of the genre without overwhelming.
Based on the manga, “Akira” follows a leader of a biker gang whose friend discovers he has psychic powers after a motorcycle accident. Released in 1988, “Akira” had the most expensive budget of any anime movie ever released, and one can tell with the amount of effort put into it. It is one of those any time you pause the movie the screen is a work of art type movies. “Akira” is also a hands-down cool movie, with the kind of style that constantly takes your breath away. “Akira” had a major impact on Western attitudes toward anime and is still referenced in media today, so checking it out is a must for anyone.
- Cowboy Bebop
When it comes to style, look no further than “Cowboy Bebop”. This anime focuses on a crew of misfit bounty hunters that travel the solar system. What makes any show stand out comes down to the characters and how they interact with one another, and with “Cowboy Bebop” each character is deeply written and acted. The style of the show will immediately come to the forefront, with a blend of fast-paced jazz and space-faring adventure. A highlight of the show is its brevity, with two seasons and a movie it does not overstay its welcome. “Cowboy Bebop” could work as a live-action production, but the animation style really sells the charm and uniqueness of it.
The prevalence of anime has done wonders to engage audiences with unique stories they otherwise would never have seen. Anime’s popularity is at an all-time high, and by no means slowing down. Streaming services are supporting anime in a major way, either as sections on Hulu or dedicated anime platforms like Crunchyroll. There is more than enough anime to go around. As long as you stay away from the tentacle shows for your first time, you are bound to watch something good.