I got into the game late. So I’ve been playing catch-up.
And I think I’ve binge-watched enough to be able to recommend a list of 5 easy-watching series for the beginner.
So here are some of my favourite anime series, in descending order…
1. Natsume’s Book of Friends
To think that one of my most-loved anime is about a high school boy, his cat and their friends from the spiritual realm. There is no romance, no heart-throbs, no smart-looking mecha, no well-choreographed fight scenes.
But this was the one that got me started. So, Natsume tops my list.
Natsume is an anime focused on relationships. Relationships between humans, between yokai, between humans and yokai, all through the eyes of Natsume the boy. The yokai are supernatural beings which can be spirits, demons, monsters or demi-gods. Initially the boy gets chased around by the yokai who all wanted something in his possession – a book he inherited from his late grandmother which contains the names of yokai whom she had bested while she herself was still a high schooler. If the yokai request it, the boy returns the names. Gradually, with the help/protection of his cat, Nyanko Sensei, (who is actually a powerful dog demon), Natsume begins to form relationships with the people and yokai around him.
Each episode is a stand-alone story which makes it very watchable. and those songs – don’t miss the songs.
There are 6 seasons altogether. Season 6 just finished airing in Summer 2017.
2. Nodame Cantabile
I can watch this one again and again and again. It is funny and very instructive especially about classical music. In fact, Nodame is a fun way to get introduced to classical and I can bet you the music will stay with you for a long time. In a nutshell, Nodame is about the lives of a group of classical music students struggling to find their path in music and in life.
The central character, Nodame, is a somewhat klutzy girl who has a unique way of playing the piano (hence cantabile). She is plain, disorganised, disregards hygiene but is funny, optimistic, persistent and big-hearted. She goes to Tokyo to study piano. There, she comes face-to-face with Chiaki, a talented musician, who aspires to be a world-famous conductor. Boy meets girl. Boy gets irritated with girl. Girl becomes besotted with boy and boy becomes besotted with girl’s music. Finally boy falls in love with girl.
Through the various trials and tribulations, they grow up, their talents get acknowledged and they start to expand their horizons overseas. There are kooky characters galore, outlandish situations and most importantly beautiful classical music. All those music are great for the soul.
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 radar because because it was repeated ad nauseam on Aniplus channel. And it was always the same episode. Out of curiosity? Frustration? Irritation? Resignation? I decided the watch the series properly. So glad I did.
Set in the late 1960s, it is about 3 young people from pretty disparate backgrounds bonding over Jazz. Boy moves to a new school in a new town. He meets girl who introduces him to the class bad boy. Boy has a crush on girl. But girl likes the bad boy. Boy and bad boy become BFFs through their common love for Jazz. Years later, they would meet again, to reminisce about the good old times.
I’m at the age where I am starting to reminise about the good old times with friends. So this anime speaks to me. Plus, the narrative is engaging, the animation is top-notch and all that Jazz is really really good.
4. Silver Spoon
This is one of those ‘slice of life’ series. But a very interesting one.
City boy uproots from Sapporo, moves to an agricultural high school in a remote part of Hokkaido. It is part an act of rebellion and part a surrender to self despair (wanting to run away from something). There, he meets his classmates who are completely different from his peers in the city: different mindsets, different priorities, different concerns.
Expect lots of hilarious initiation rites as the city boy adapts to life and lifeforms in the school-farm. Slowly, the boy begins to appreciate his classmates and comes to terms with himself. Watching the anime gives you the heads up about farming, minus the smell and the filth. You realise how much effort, pride and love the farmers put into cultivating the food that eventually gets served on our dining table.
Discussing this makes me hungry already.
5. Moribito – Guardian of The Spirit
Moribito is based on the Moribito fantasy series written for kids by Nahoko Uehashi.
I didn’t know it of course, until I watched this. I was impressed by how much this reminds me of Ghibli’s fantasy films such as princess Mononoke. And I’m happy that this time the protagonist is a 30-year old female bodyguard. Hurray for feminists!
The second Prince of the kingdom, a 12-year old boy, is the target of an assassination plot (directed by the King, no less). The second Queen, the mother of the boy, entreats the lady to take the boy away from the palace and to protect him. The boy harbours the egg of a malignant spirit in his body which is said to bring forth a calamitous drought.Kill the boy to kill the spirit – this is what they thought. But the lady seeks another way, a way where the egg can be safely removed from the boy’s body and the true nature of the spirit unveiled. With the help of friends, the pair journey to the edge of the kingdom, to unravel the mystery.
I finished all 26 episodes of it in 3 days which says something about the narrative and the pace. And of course, it is rare for an anime to feature a strong, mature female as the lead character.
So, there you have it. Welcome to anime.