Getting into anime is like getting into K-dramas, Bollywood films, or live-action shows on HBO in that it’s really not that special. It’s easier if you grow up with it, but it’s really just something you do because you feel like watching the stuff. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve seen a lot of people ask questions about what’s the best way to get into anime, and the answers I’ve seen are honestly a load of baloney that would not have helped me. And even if they help the majority of people, they also idolize/encourage some traits that would get you involved in the annoying side of anime fandom that you’re better off having minimal contact with (aka making pointless arguments online).
As such, I’ve composed a series of present-day guidelines that I think new anime fans should at least consider when trying to get into the stuff. You obviously don’t have to follow what I say, but at least promise me you’re not going to start shit online unless you’re just into that for whatever reason.
First thing you need to take into account with anime is how you’re going to be able to watch the anime in the first place. Will you pay for a streaming service or will you use one of the many illegal methods to watch the show? You could watch a blu-ray, but let’s be honest, you’re very unlikely to do that these days since physical media is dying and anime is so fucking expensive to purchase as is, so why take the risk on something you’re not guaranteed to like? In this current age of streaming, you’d think paying for a legal streaming service would be the most obvious choice (unless you’re a kid who doesn’t have much money, in which case you’re either going to pick the second option or watch on whatever your parents pay for), but the problem is that despite the growing popularity, we don’t have really good options for anime streaming right now.
Admittedly, I don’t know much AnimeLab or BiliBili or whatever Japan uses outside of Netflix, but in the States, we don’t really have an anime streaming service in the vein of, say, Disney Plus (which is far from perfect as is). There’s a lack of competition between the places you can stream anime, which is one of the many reasons why watching anime on Funimation is still as garbage today as it was six years ago with its constant crashing, language settings being shit, and just overall poor quality. Crunchyroll is the most popular one, but most people watch anime on there because it’s available on there.
It’s okay, but it’s far behind any of the major streaming services of today, including Amazon, which is a pretty low bar as far as I’m concerned. At least Amazon has that thing where if you pause the video, you can see which actor plays which character. The only thing Crunchyroll is good for is providing anime in a timely manner with shaky translations that are never corrected. It’s about as basic bitch a streaming service as you can get.
That said, if you don’t mind basic, then that shouldn’t be a problem. There is technically an option to watch anime for free on Crunchyroll, but you’re not going to use it, because the ads are not worth the trouble. Hidive is honestly not unique enough to give much attention aside from the fact that you need it for Sentai shows, and at the end of the day, you can watch anime however you want. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, as it’s your life. If you do use a pirate site, be careful as they also vary in quality. A lot of them have server issues and their own ad problems. Also, if anyone wants to point me to a pirate site that supports Chromecast decently, I’m open to suggestions.
Another thing about anime you should be aware of is asking for recommendations. Simply put, try to find a way to watch anime without relying on these, or have your own personal recommendation system. Because the problem with recommendations is that most anime fans just bombard you with a ton of titles that you won’t have the time to watch unless you just have nothing else to do in your life. And they always always recommend the same basic shit every time because anime fandom tends to be recency biased and the latest trends are shonen and isekai right now.
It’s very unlikely you’re going to find someone who recommends something like Kaiba or Natsume’s Book of Friends or an anime on Netflix or Rose of Versailles. Instead, it’s going to be Attack on Titan, Re: Zero, Konosuba, Vinland Saga, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and all the popular stuff that you most likely already know if you have a passing interest in anime, which makes the recommendation useless. In that same vein, don’t watch Youtube for recommendations. Anime Youtube is fundamentally flawed when it comes to interesting opinions because they have to talk about the popular shows to get people interested in watching their videos in the first place since SEO is not going to favor something that people have never heard of.
On the off-chance someone recommends something based on nostalgia, it’s highly unlikely they’ve checked to see if the anime still holds up by modern standards. There’s a lot of things we take for granted now that wasn’t really all that popular back then, and that causes a lot of shows to not age well. Even incredibly revolutionary anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Fist of the North Star can attract a lot of hate today because they were made during a time when standards were different and we didn’t have the big-budget action of, say, Attack on Titan to properly showcase those set pieces.
Simply put, try to avoid being one of those anime fans who have to “know” about certain series to be an anime fan. Because that number you “have” to know keeps fucking increasing every year to the point that the medium has gotten incredibly oversaturated and all the recommendations are just “those” shows. And they make it seem like you have to watch “those” shows right now, when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Don’t worry about watching shows like Code Geass or Made in Abyss right away, even if they’ll end up becoming your favorite anime of all-time. They’re not going anywhere and when you’re ready to watch them, then you’ll watch them. And if you end up never watching them, then it’s not the end of the world. Everyone has their own priorities, like how I haven’t played Final Fantasy X after so many years of owning the damn game on multiple platforms. I love Final Fantasy VII, but that doesn’t mean I have to be in a hurry to play every Final Fantasy game ever.
One thing you should always keep in mind is that while anime is special, said specialness comes with its own drawbacks. For example, don’t go into anime expecting writing quality on the level of what Hollywood has put out in its prime, or trying to find a show with the same amount of craft as The Sopranos. With the exception of mecha and magical girls, every genre that you see in anime has been done better by American films and TV alone, and that’s not even getting into stuff like French cartoons, German TV, or the Korean movie industry. Anime is not really capable of creating something like Breaking Bad because of cultural differences as well as all the drama surrounding its very production from the underpaid workers to how a lot of shows are just expensive advertisements for the source material.
But in exchange, anime is one of the best mediums when it comes to telling stories visually. There’s a lot of visual feelings in animation that you can’t accomplish in live-action, which is part of the reason why anime fandom is so much bigger than manga fandom. Good writing is important to a product, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the “end all be all” of entertainment, especially anime. No one is going to consider a beloved harem series like Monster Musume to be a comedic masterpiece on the level of Caddyshack. Isn’t going to stop a lot of anime fans from enjoying the show though.
Also, never forget that you’re an anime fan because you like anime first and foremost. Being an anime fan doesn’t necessarily mean you like manga, want to study Japanese, watch Vtubers, or even have a waifu. Maybe you’re just an anime fan because you like watching anime and don’t care about all of the culture surrounding it. Kind of like how I enjoy watching Korean movies, but I’ve never cared much about visiting Korea or watching their dramas. And I watch Mori Calliope’s Omori streams, but that’s because I care about Omori. I don’t necessarily care to watch Mori’s other streams, nor do I want to be recommended every other Hololive V-tuber out there.
Basically, just remember that anime is one thing and anime culture is another. Interact with it because you want to. Not because it’s required to be an anime fan. You don’t have to cosplay while you’re at a convention or even go to a convention if you don’t want to. Although if you want to interact with other anime fans, I highly recommend it…once we’re allowed to have conventions again, I mean.
The final step to getting into anime is finding something you can personally enjoy. Because of individual taste, this can be very hard to accurately summarize beyond finding something that interests you and hoping you’ll like it. I know some people who want “anime for women” for example, which can be hard to find when everyone is promoting shonen and isekai nonstop to the point that you don’t notice Wonder Egg Priority or Sk8 The Infinity also getting a similar amount of hype (in other words, get better at listening/filtering if you have this problem). The best way I can help you with this is to try to find something popular that appeals to your first and foremost.
While popularity does not translate to quality, it’s safe to watch something that common consensus can agree is good at the things you look for. Like movies, most anime suck and you’re not going to like every critically acclaimed/fan-favorite thing out there. However, while there are good under-appreciated works in the world, they are rarer than finding a popular thing that you will like.
One look at my favorites list will see that almost all of my favorites are anime that aren’t the epitome of popularity unless it’s a Studio Ghibli or a Makoto Shinkai movie. Some of them like Eden of the East may have been popular back when it first came out, but it’s definitely not popular now. And a lot of people hate Scum’s Wish, which is my favorite anime of all-time. But while they are my favorites, they’re not the only anime I like. They’re just the anime I like the most. And it’s not like I would have lost much by not watching these anime. I just happened to watch Scum’s Wish and I thought it was amazing to the point that I now keep an eye on Mengo Yokoyari’s works, which led to me reading Aka Akasaka’s (the Kaguya-sama author) new manga, Oshi no Ko, that is also pretty good.
And that’s my final guideline when it comes to getting into anime: don’t be so keen on trying to find something you’ll think is amazing. Just find something you want to watch first, and if you find it amazing, well then good for you. It’s one thing if you’re one of those people who keep demanding something new all the time because you’re fed up with how stale the medium you’re enjoying has gotten, like how I’m tired of Sony making games that aim for safe blockbuster appeal without bringing anything new or innovative to the table. But anime is a hobby at the end of the day. It’s something that very few people can base their life around, and a lot of the jobs that do have anime based around them are honestly not recommended.
Simply put, you shouldn’t rely on anime to make you happy the same way you shouldn’t make sex too much of a priority in a relationship. They are good, but they have their bad points and you shouldn’t indulge in them too much.