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Getting Started in Anime, part two

Monkey D. Luffy (red vest, center left) is a classic example of a shounen hero

Welcome back!! This is part two of a beginning viewer’s guide to getting started in anime. Part one has a more complete explanation and shoujo recommendations. Part two will cover shounen and movies. Just as shoujo is aimed at girls, shounen is aimed at boys. There are a wide variety of sub-genres, but many regardless of sub-genre will focus on a boy who by struggling against increasingly daunting opponents or difficult challenges becomes stronger and learns important lessons. Titles are italicized and some have links for online viewing. The movie suggestions below are nearly all available in America, but streaming options will almost always feature dubbed audio. Look for [HR] notations for highly recommended titles

  • “The Big Three”: namely Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece (though there are other groupings that include Dragon Ball Z) these three titles together represent over 1300 episodes, scores of movies and specials, and (I’m sure) millions in merchandising. Each features a strong boy who gathers a group of friends (many of whom are strong in their own right) to whom he is very very loyal. If you were to try one of them I would recommend One Piece [HR] as it takes itself the least seriously; it features the adventures of Luffy the boy trying to become the Pirate King. There is a very similar show with shorter arcs called Fairy Tail about a guild of magicians.
  • Sengoku Basara was developed from a fighting video game (think Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat) and features characters drawn from Japan’s Warring States period. I’ve included it as an example of battle anime which features big fights, giant weapons, and outlandish choreography.
  • Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is said to be a more faithful telling of the manga than was the first series (I haven’t read it so I couldn’t comment). Ed and Al Elric are alchemists who seek to undo a terrible mistake of their youth.
  • Harem: this sub-genre features multiple female characters in relationship with a single male character, and I usually avoid them like the plague because of the vapidness that is characteristic of the girls featured. Steins;Gate is a different. It features a self-appointed Mad Scientist and time travel.
  • Tough guy with a heart of gold is a well-mined trope that keeps on giving

  • Delinquents: This sub-genre glorifies those who defy the rules of society while poking fun at them as well. Examples are Beelzebub where a delinquent is asked to be human parent to the devil’s child, Cromartie High School features the one “normal” student at a school filled with delinquents, and Slam Dunk where a delinquent attempts to change his ways by joining the basketball team.
  • Sports: Athletic competition is well suited to the growth through struggle model common to shounen titles. I’m recommending three titles, but it bears mention that they are not the traditionally recognized classics of this sub-genre. Giant Killing tells the story of the struggling East Tokyo United soccer team and their new head coach’s nontraditional method’s. Over Drive features the challenges of a novice cyclist, and Ookiku Furikabutte [HR](licensed as Big Windup) is about a newly formed high school baseball team’s quest to become national champions.
  • Yakitate! Japan takes the shounen tournament to its ridiculous conclusions as it tells the story of baker Kazuma’s quest to make the perfect Japanese bread.
  • Level E takes a look at a couple of different sub-genres through the exploits of an alien prince come to earth.

Movies: though many anime prefer to tell their stories in 25 minute increments over a longer period of time, others favor the more compact time frame of a movie. Here are a handful:

  • Movies of Kon Satoshi: Tokyo Godfathers is the Christmas tale of a baby who is found by three homeless people who attempt to get the baby back to its parents. Paprika When therapists going into their patient’s dreams, the result is a trippy colorful masterpiece.
  • Colorful a newly deceased person is given another chance to learn and grow after being returned to earth.
  • Paprika is a movie that lives up to its poster art

  • The films of Studio Ghibli: most of these have been released by Disney for American audiences. This is not an exhaustive list, but more than enough to see what the Ghibli style is and why they are considered master filmmakers. Princese Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Howl’s Moving Castle [HR] are some of their outright fantasy titles. While Whisper of the Heart, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away [HR] show how their storytellers work with fantastic elements along side realistic groundings.
  • Summer Wars [HR] interlaces story lines as a family gathers to celebrate a matriarch’s 90th birthday. This is a visually stunning movie. I’d put two “highly recommended”s if it would help people to see this movie.

So, is this helping? Did I miss the boat entirely? Am I being unfair to harem titles? Let me (and others) know in the comments section below. Part three will wrap us up with seinen and josei titles along with some shows that don’t fit nicely into these categories.

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