Disclaimer: Everything written here is based on my own perspective and opinion. Take it with a pinch of salt, or more if you so desire.
Part 1: Points to look out for when picking up a series to watch. Genres not included because each person has their own cup of tea.
- Plot, or the lack of thereof
This is arguably the most important point. Every anime needs to have a setting and a premise. This is what separates the unique to the interesting to the regularly recycled. Do note that Slice-of-life genres on the other hand, contain little plot (ie lack of a main progressive goal) and focus more on character interactions/character development.
- Character Design
As superficial as it may sound, I certainly do not want to watch an anime and cringe at why this dude looks so awful at the same time for the entire episode. While there are exceptions (such as artists’ art style) and that people’s taste differ, an anime must be aesthetically pleasing to the eye before other less important factors come into play.
- Production Values
For the more dedicated, there are several sub points which fall under this category.
In layman terms, how the anime looks in general. Are the characters well proportioned? How detailed is the background/off-focus objects?
- Seiyuu/Voice acting
This might take some time to get and pay attention to. Similar to your actor and actresses in Hollywood/local drama scene, there are the more famous and well-known seiyuu in the industry. While an all-star studded seiyuu cast signifies how stacked an anime is, it is also important to remember to give newbies a shot because they just might be up and coming, or that some of them are simply a treat to listen to.
- Production Crew
Personally I don’t pay much attention to these, but I know others do. The animation studio is important as over the years each animation studio has a sort of reputation and perhaps ranking even when it comes down to producing anime. Each studio also has their own style and specialty on the works that they do. Directors and their resume also take into account how successful an anime might be based on their past works.
- Adaptation (or not)
An anime that is adapted (from LN; VN; manga, games) usually means that the original has a certain level of popularity in order for it to be adapted. This can go either way, some adaptions stick to their source material while others might include anime original elements or endings / reshuffling of event orders. It is hard to say which of the two methods is preferred as it really depends on the individual anime itself. On the other hand, don’t count out anime that are original works. These can range from being totally mind blowing to utter garbage. OK, maybe not utter garbage but just downright puzzling.
Often overlooked and under-appreciated, music is not just limited to the openings and endings (OP/ED) of a series, but also background music and themes as well. Knowing the composer and their past works is something to note down as well. Having established artistes and idol unit do an OP/ED never hurts too. Personally I always give every OP/ED at least a try, or a couple of tries.
I know I’m going to be in the minority camp when I say this but I really feel that in general people stereotype those who watch anime as nerds or otaku far too much. I can’t blame these generalizations because there are indeed otakus and that some anime are designed specifically to cater to them. I just don’t understand why people tend to focus on the negative aspect of things when more often than not there is always two sides to a coin. Take away the usual suspects people are quick to push the negativity on, is anime truly inferior to American TV shows, Korean dramas, idol dramas and other forms of popular TV media around the world? I would say no, because honestly there are some; few and rare; really unique titles that have been produced in the past and present. Where exactly did anime get such a “bad” reputation from?
- Is it because anime is simply portrayed as 2D instead of 3D, fictional instead of reality? I have to say though certain animes are more realistic and feel less “forced” than dramas out there for sure.
- Is it because anime is generally targeted at kids and teenagers and older audiences should move on from it? This sounds so ridiculous that I’m not going to even bother going against the point.
- Is it because anime is a form of negative influence due to the various themes deemed unsuitable for the young? Possibly, the same goes for real-life shows though. Take movies for example, each movie has their own advisory rating and animes are no different from that. There will always be the more family-friendly types and others more suited for a mature audience.
- Is it because anime is enjoyed by a small minority, and in this world what is popular is king? And therefore often misunderstood? Maybe, I found out that people tend to jump to conclusions and also quickly dismiss what they don’t like or can’t swallow down.
I’m not going on a rant here, I just don’t like it when people point fingers and judge instead of taking at least a neutral stance against watching anime. Heck, I don’t watch Korean drama for example, but the bare minimum I can do is to not go around bashing them just because I don’t support it.
While I realized over time I have slowly gained “experience” in watching anime, (ie paying attention to seiyuu, production crew, watching a broader range and at times mediocre shows), I still consider myself fairly mid-level, since I’m not so much of a casual watcher anymore. I hardly spend any money on anime-related goods, more importantly I will still prioritize real life events over watching anime as well as having other hobbies besides gaming and watching anime.
Watching anime has influenced my life, for better or worse it’s not for me to say. But thus far it has allowed me to appreciate and further understand Japanese culture, and the language itself, which over the years I’ve become slightly accustomed to hearing. In fact my understanding of Japanese exceeds my ability to read Japanese characters at this point of writing. Not all animes are the generic run-of-the-mill type that solely exists to provide entertainment, some of them contain hidden messages, ideals, ideas that are otherwise too difficult to express in real life.
To be honest the whole point of this section is not to convince people to start watching anime, but rather to shed some clarity from an insider’s point of view. Many people, myself included are afraid to step out of the closet because for fear that they are going to get branded and labeled as bad apples of society, but today I am going to take the first step in letting the world know that watching anime isn’t that all of a bad thing and nothing to be ashamed of.
As with all things in life there is always a hidden side to it and what I have just said is merely the tip of an iceberg. I might not make a difference in changing the world’s opinion but for every opinion that I have managed to sway, it makes a difference for that person, and that to me is more than enough.
Last updated 4/4/12