A beginner’s guide to anime for the holiday binge-watch

So it’s finally the holidays and not all of us are heading down to the beaches or getting our passports stamped. But you still have plenty of free time, so I recommend dropping the TV series and experimenting a with with anime – Japanese animation. Despite what impressions you have of anime, it’s really quite a diverse and multifaceted medium. You’re likely to find some aspect of it that really appeals to you – but it can be difficult to know where to start. So here’s a beginner’s guide into Japanese anime for your holiday binge-watch.

*These are the shows I personally recommend you start with.

The Classics

These are anime that you just have to take people’s word for it and watch. Not because they’re good anime, but because they’ve achieved a status that goes beyond just the medium – they’ve set some kind of standard for animation. Think of it as cultural exposure. But also, these aren’t light watches and some of them – lookin’ at you Evangalion – will possibly leave you troubled and confused for a while.

*Cowboy Bebop
Ghost in the Shell (the anime movie – don’t you DARE go near the ScarJo remake)
Neon Genesis Evangalion
Great Teacher Onizuka

The big-name shounen action series

Shounen anime is literally marketed towards young boys. Below are the series that form the bread and butter of what most fans get addicted to. The charismatic hero (usually a young guy) with latent and trained power, taking part in epic fights and a gradually progressing storyline. Think Dragonball Z but with varying contexts. If you have any friends who are into anime – they’ve likely mentioned some of these.

*The Seven Deadly Sins
One Piece
Hunter x Hunter
Fairy Tale

Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai productions

Technically, Studio Ghibli counts among the classics. But given the amount of films produced, predominantly by their co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, this deserves its own section. Miyazaki is likely the most respected name in anime – some consider him to be Japan’s Walt Disney. I’ve included works by Makoto Shinkai because many are calling him the new Miyazaki. Shinkai’s animation is aesthetically breathtaking and takes you on a journey.

*Mononoke Hime
*Spirited Away
*Howl’s Moving Castle
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
My Neighbour Totoro

*Kimi no Na wa
*The Garden of Words
5 Centimeters per Second
Voices of a Distant Star

Comedy and romance

So a lot of anime has become saturated by romance-comedies that feature a single guy surrounded by attractive women who dote on him for no particular reason. It’s like a staple of every season. Along with this usually goes gratuitous “fan-service” which is pretty much cleavage and underwear shots, which is generally considered to make up for lack of plot and good storytelling. Regardless, there are still many comedy-romance gems that stick out. These are usually a lot more light-hearted and easy to watch.

*Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
*Ouran Highschool Host Club
*The Devil is a Part-Timer
*Arakawa Under the Bridge
*Seto no Hanayome
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
The World God Only Knows
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou
Nodame Cantabile

All the feels

Just accept that you will cry and feel the things that need to be felt.

*Your lie in April
*Grave of the Fireflies
*Cross Game
Clannad After Story
Angel Beats

The Epics

These are larger than life, with complex plots, engaging character progression and storytelling that twists and turns. Go on an adventure in an immersive fantasy world.

*Eureka Seven
*Attack on Titan
*Full Metal Alchemist
Gurren Lagann
Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Re:ZERO Starting Life in Another World

Edgy AF

This stuff gets quite dark and contains a lot of angst and violence, moral relativism and the less palatable side of human nature. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*Tokyo Ghoul
*Death Note
*Future Diary
*Elfen Lied
Darker than Black
Prison School
Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal
Guilty Crown


These could likely fit elsewhere, but I thought it prudent to give them their own category as each of these has achieved something incredibly unique and creative. This may be because the anime has done something new in terms of storytelling, or because it’s mixed genres or stepped outside the box in effective ways.

*The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
*Samurai Champloo
*Steins Gate
*Welcome to NHK
*One Punch Man
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

So there you go. Holidays – and pretty much every free moment from here to next December – sorted.


Featured Image via Flickr