I Tried To Start Watching Anime In The Worst Way Possible
It's been years since I've really tried to watch anime, so I dove in head first. I should have asked for help instead.
When I was a kid, Japanese anime wasn't prevalent like it is now, but there were still entry points into this world. From Robotech, Thundercats, and other series invading Saturday morning cartoons, the '80s gave us a glimpse into the growing popularity of anime in Japan. While I've dabbled with anime in the '90s and '00s, I never really got into it and didn't know how to find it. Considering how immensely popular anime has become--and how widely available it is--I figured now is probably a good time to start watching.
On this journey to discover new anime, I decided to try and find things I've never heard of before. I've watched Death Note, got eight episodes into One Piece before deciding I don't have the time to watch all of it, and even tried my hand at Attack on Titan at one point. However, I haven't found that one show that really speaks to me, and considering how broad a medium anime is, there has to be something for me, right?
Through the magic of Funimation's large catalog, I decided to go on a journey to find an anime I could get into that was brand-new to me. How did I do this? Did I ask a friend who loves anime anime for recommendations or find something I vaguely knew about? No. I did this the way that I would quickly find is the worst way to pick out an anime: by the title alone.
Please, save your laughs, for I did not know what I was doing. Upon this journey to find an anime that I connected with, I found out one thing about modern-anime that I didn't know: a lot of it is super horny. This was documented the one day I was tweeting about this, before taking my journey private.
Apparently, trying to find shows that aren't horny at all is tough.— McCoy Illinois (@ImMatElfring) August 12, 2021
Looking back, my criteria for finding a new anime on Funimation was a poor choice: find a series with an amusing name or cover art that catches your eye, and dive right in. At first, I didn't even read the details for the show I was planning on checking out. I regret this decision.
Stumbling upon Prison School
My first discovery with ill-conceived plan was Prison School. The anti-establishment punk rocker from 1999 in me gravitated towards this title. "Yeah, school is like a prison. I bet this will really speak to me." I couldn't have been more wrong. Mat Elfring in 1999 and Mat Elfring in 2021 have very little in common, aside from the fact we both like ska and hip hop. While the intro music was radical--I came to find most theme songs for anime were straight fire--Prison School wasn't what I was looking for in an anime by any means.
I'm not going to sit here and shame what people like and want in anime. You like what you like, and that's cool. However, Prison School is exactly what I personally don't want from a series. It takes place in a high school and starts with a group of very horny teenage boys trying to spy on girls in the shower, much like the movie Porky's--which is where I decided to hit the stop button. These are the only boys in the school, as it's strictly an academy for girls, that lets in one male student for every 1,000 females. From there, it gets into some BDSM stuff featuring the boys getting punished.
Upon telling some of my anime-watching friends that I started this journey with Prison School, I received messages akin to "Oh god, you really dived in there!" There were also some laughs as well.
Look, I know I can jump into Demon Slayer, and I'll probably love it. It is one of the most popular anime to date--Japan even used the show's theme song during this year's Olympics, and that's probably the coolest thing I saw/heard during the games.
Next stop: Space Dandy
Without looking back at Prison School, I found Space Dandy. I liked the title. The star of the show had a cool pompadour. This time around, I read the details for it, and nothing seemed alarming. Also, it was only two seasons, so this is something I could watch without feeling bogged down by the weight of hundreds of episodes.
Space Dandy follows the titular Dandy, a bounty hunter who travels through space, searching for aliens. Of course, he's being pursued by Dr. Gel.
Once again, Space Dandy's theme music was right up my alley and got me pumped for the show. Very quickly--but not as outlandishly as Prison School--I found out that Space Dandy was also a pretty horny series, especially when the first major stop for the titular character was a space restaurant named "Boobies."
Finding a much better, less horny groove
At this point, I questioned what I was looking for in an anime. Did I want comedy or did I want something serious? Did I want an action-packed adventure or more of a slice of life story? Anime is so incredibly broad, that I had to narrow my focus. This eventually led me to Cells at Work! CODE BLACK--which I later found out was actually a spinoff.
Cells at Work! CODE BLACK featured anthropomorphic white and red blood cells, attempting to maintain the human body. Even though this show was a continuation of the original, I never felt alienated from it. CODE BLACK did a fine job at explaining the world to someone who has no idea what's going on, and the show was exciting and interesting.
That being said, it didn't excite me. It wasn't something I got pumped to watch, and that's what I wanted to find. I want to find an anime that I want to talk to everyone about--one that will unite me with other anime fans in the gigantic community. I tried Psycho-Pass and All Out!! next, and I stared at the titles for Hensuki: Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She's a Cutie and Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Senpai--wondering who came up with those bizarre titles.
On the right track
It was at this point that I felt that this wasn't going to work for me. Then, it happened. I found a show that gripped me past episode one: Sk8: The Infinity. The show revolves around a skateboarder trying to beat others in downhill races. He befriends a Canadian now living in Japan and finds his new friend is great at skateboarding--mainly because he is a snowboarder.
It's a mildly comedic The Fast and the Furious (the first movie) on skateboards. The villains are way over-the-top, including Hiromi Higa--a metalhead who wears clown makeup and throws firecrackers at opposing skaters--and Ainosuke Shindo--a masked skater who essentially dances with his opponents while racing them. Side note: I am super-into Shindo. He's so weird and wonderful.
What I find so gripping about Sk8: The Infinity is that it's comedic without being cheesy or too silly, and it somehow makes downhill skating action-packed and interesting. For the first time, I found something that wasn't even the tiniest bit horny with a story I found to be engaging. This felt like a big win.
The journey was a bit longer than I would have thought--as I also checked in with a few other random anime series as well that weren't mentioned in this piece that I found to be a tad bland. But as I very quickly realized, anime has become such a large and unstoppable force, that it's a medium that's expanded to have multiple sub-genres. Anime is no longer just "anime." It's comparable to saying "I want to get into American one-hour dramas" and just diving right in--and very quickly landing on one of Dick Wolf's shows about police officers doing police things.
The lesson to be learned here is that when people give you advice for what to watch, when you're dipping your toes into the world of anime for the first time, you should take it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't venture out on your own and try to find something new, but why not start with something that's already beloved?
But for now, I'll continue trying to venture out and find things that appeal to me. What do I have to lose? Do you have recommendations for me? Let me know below.
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