I’m of the opinion that there’s an anime out there for everyone. The only problem is, with so much incredible anime floating around, it’s a little hard to know where to get started.
Anime is labelled respective to the target demographic.
This means each sect contains themes and subject matter that the creators think are most likely to attract the niche they’re aiming for.
There are five main terms used when describing anime and manga, and while this might be basic to fans who’ve been around a while, knowing how to filter your comics and shows is super helpful for newcomers.
This type of anime is geared towards children, and can range from toddler friendly to pre-teen adventure style, though that definitely doesn’t keep older fans from enjoying them!
What to watch:
- Doraemon: Follows the story of a young boy called Nobito, and his robot-cat pal Doraemon on their crazy adventures.
- Youkai Watch: The protagonist Keita gets roped into collecting Youkai ( Japanese spirits), that take some hilarious forms with some disastrous consequences for our hero.
- Shirokuma Cafe: The show focuses on a cafe run by a polar bear, and frequented by all kinds of zoological customers.
- Ponyo: This Ghibli movie tells the story of a goldfish princess who desperately wishes to be human, and the boy who’s friendship helps her to do just that, with some spills along the way.
- Case Closed/ Detective Conan: Tells the story of an amateur detective with a series of mysteries. The catch is, when forced to drink poison by some enemies, Conan is transformed into a child.
Shonen anime is aimed at a young audience, primarily boys in elementary and high school. This type of anime usually contain loads of action ( and amazingly named attacks) , a lovable young hero, and plenty of wacky comedy. These tend to be quite long running, and are a bit of a time investment if you want to see your hero finally make that dream come true.
What to watch:
- Naruto: The escapades of a 13 year old ninja who wants to become a village leader and the strongest of them all.
- Blue Exorcist: Rin Okumura has his world shattered when he finds out not only that demons exist, but that his real father is Satan himself.
- Hunter x Hunter: On a quest to find his father, the MC adventures as a hunter- chasing criminals, finding rare items and making great friends along the way.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Two brothers decide to bring back their deceased mother with alchemy, and ruin their bodies in the failed attempt. This leads to a search for the fabled Philosopher’s stone.
- My Hero Academia: In world where super-powers become the norm, the one kid with no powers proves that a good heart and determination are much more important.
- Soul Eater: The main characters are Meisters who study at the Shinigami Weaponry school. They must collect 99 evil human souls, and one evil witch soul in order to get their weapons to Death Scythe leve.
Literally translated, Shoujo means ‘young woman’ or ‘girl’. Shoujo manga are most likely filled with romance and drama, and tend to be rooted in light hearted slice of life or school themed anime. Other popular themes in Shojou are ‘Magical girl’ and androgynous characters.
What to watch:
- Orange: When the protagonist receives a mysterious letter from her future self telling her to watch out for the new handsome new transfer student, and keep him from disappearing in the future.
- Ao Haru Ride: A sweet love story that tells the time old tale of a first love coming back into your life, and turning your world upside down all over again.
- Lovely Complex: Featuring a tall girl/short guy couple, Lovely Complex has the usual funny romance exchanges while also dealing with themes of being physically non-conventional.
- Ore Monotagari: The male MC is nothing like your average slim and handsome Shoujo love interest, and features the thoughts of an insecure boy with a heart of gold for a change.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena: After meeting a gentlemanly prince as a young girl, Utena decides to become a prince herself. Dueling and Magical Girl themes feature.
Seinen is targeted toward males between 15–25, and generally contains gory, violent, and sexual themes. Seinen ranges widely and can be anything from psychological thrillers and sci-fi mysteries to comedic battle themes. Seinen set in the every day world often explore dark, dysfunctional relationships.
What to watch:
- Monster: A Japanese immigrant surgeon in Germany gets his life shattered into pieces after one of his former patients turns out to be a murdering psychopath.
- One Punch Man: An action comedy where the main character can literally beat any enemy with, you guessed it, one punch.
- Parasyte: When Earth is invaded by worm-like parasites, a young man manages to prevent one from entering his brain, and instead gets his arm taken over. The parasite then becomes his companion as he fights other parasites.
- Tokyo Ghoul: A young man is almost killed by a ghoul, a flesh-eating monster. He survives the encounter but turns into a ghoul-human hybrid himself, and struggles to cope with the aftermath.
- Psycho Pass: In a world where a hive-mind controls Japanese law enforcement, the series focuses on a young detective and the grey area between the law and what is actually good.
Much like Seinen, Josei is aimed at an older audience, but this time at females. Josei often tackles more realistic romance, and often has an adult woman as the main character. Josei covers darker themes like abuse and trauma as well as graphic or sexual material.
What to watch:
- Kugarehime: Centers around an unlikely friendship between a nerdy young woman and a gorgeous, flashy, designer that stems from the rescue of an abused jellyfish.
- Usagi Droppu: A young man becomes the guardian of his grandfather’s illegitimate kid daughter, after no other family member will willingly do so.
- Michiko to Hatchin: Convict and ‘free-willed diva’ Michiko escapes prison for the fourth time, and picks up and cares for Hatchin, a young runaway from an abusive foster family.
- Chihiyafuru: A girl who was consistently overshadowed by her model sister takes up Karuta, a Japanese card game. The story focuses on the friendships and rivalries she forms because of this.
- Kids on the Slope: An aloof, classical piano player meets a delinquent who introduces him to jazz, and immediately falls in love with it.
And there you have it! Your guide to getting started with your very own anime adventures.
Author: Khadijah Al-Harthi
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.