in 38 years, i think i watched maybe, 5 anime.
in the 39th year, i sat down to a very good one and have been hooked ever since. that makes me an over-age otaku rookie but as the adage goes, “better late than never”.
to spread the love and so that no one gets as lost as me for as long as i did, here are 5 of the best, easy-watching anime series for the beginner.
in descending order…
1. natsume’s book of friends
this was the one that rekindled the spark and turned it into a fire. so, yes, natsume tops my list.
this anime pits a high school boy against yokai (supernatural beings such as spirits, demons, monsters). the boy gets chased around by yokai who all wanted something in his possession but he couldn’t know why. apparently, a book he inherited from his grandmother contains the names of these yokai which she obtained after besting them while she herself was still a high schooler. the boy then sets out to return the names to these yokai. together with his mentor-sidekick, nyanko sensei, a maneki cat whose true form is a dog demon, natsume’s book of friends is about a boy and a cat and their encounters with the spirited kind.
although there are yokais and monsters galore, this anime feels honobono (heartwarming). each episode is a stand-alone story which makes it very watchable. and those songs – don’t miss the songs.
there are 4 seasons. the 5th season is in the works and will debut this autumn.
2. nodame cantabile
i can watch this one again and again and again. it is funny, it is instructive; it is about a bunch of kids getting very serious about classical music to hilarious effect. (unfortunately this anime is 10 years old so i couldn’t find a decent pv.)
this anime faces off 2 very different personalities: a talented musician, son of a world-famous pianist, scion of a rich family clan, a perfectionist, someone who dreams of becoming a conductor; and an oddball aspiring pianist, a small town girl, prone to messiness, almost a clod, has a big heart, and wants to be a kindergarten teacher. her playing catches his ear. his intensity besotted her.
there are gags, outlandish situations, kooky characters, beautiful classical music, and loads of growing up to do. while you watch it, you feel like you are growing with them too.
there are 3 seasons: nodame cantabile, nodame cantabile paris hen, nodame cantabile finale.
3. kids on the slope (sakamichi no appollon)
this one pried itself into my consciousness because it was repeated ad nauseam on aniplus channel. and it was always the same episode. out of curiosity? frustration? irritation? i checked out the rest of the series. so glad i did.
set in the late 1960s, it is about 3 young people who bonded over jazz. boy moves to a new school in a new town. he meets girl who introduces him to the class bad boy. personality wise, the boys are like heaven and earth who will normally not have anything to do with each other. through the girl though, they discovers their common love for jazz and this in turn elevates their friendship to the bff level.
there’s something nostalgic about an era that preceded ours. plus, the narrative is engaging and all that jazz is really really good.
4. silver spoon
this one is what reviewers will tag as a ‘slice of life’ series. well, yes but more.
city boy uproots from sapporo, moves to an agricultural high school in a remote part of hokkaido. it was part an act of rebellion and part a surrender to self despair. there, he meets a bunch of folks who are very different from his peers in the city: nonchalant about grades, the tempo, the attitude, the priorities are different from where he came from.
expect lots of hilarious initiation rites as the city boy reacts to life and lifeforms in the school-farm, learns life lessons and comes to terms with himself. watching the anime gives you the heads up about farming, minus the smell and the filth. and you realise how much effort, pride and love goes into cultivating the food that eventually gets served on our dining table.
discussing this makes me hungry already.
5. moribito – guardian of the spirit
this one is based on the moribito fantasy series written for kids, by well known author nahoko uehashi.
it is reminiscent of ghibli’s fantasy films such as princess mononoke, only the protagonist is a 30-year old female bodyguard instead of a 13 year old girl.
so, said lady has been entrusted to protect a young prince, who harbours the egg of a malignant spirit in his body. the king has ordered the prince to be killed, in order to exterminate the spirit which is said will bring forth a calamitous drought. said lady escapes from the palace with the prince, travells incognito and with the help of friends, tries to unravel the mystery behind the spirit while fending off more assassins along the way.
i finished all 26 episodes of it in 3 days which says something about the narrative and the pace. plus, it is rare for an anime to showcase a mature female as the lead character.
so, there you have it. welcome to anime.