Throughout our lives, we begin journeys of various kinds; be they the physical kind, or the journey that occurs on a deeper level. However, one thing that should come up in conversation with fellow anime fans on a frequent basis is the subject of the Gateway Anime – the shows which kickstart a total noob’s journey to Otakudom. These are shows which people employ to “convert” the common masses. As sinister as that may seem; however, we are merely introducing people to a medium that is misunderstood and sending them on the same path that we find ourselves traversing – that of the anime fan. This is beautiful, it means that anime can begin to become a more prevalent medium of entertainment, but it also has the added satisfaction of watching another individual experience the same surreal experiences you had when you first watched certain shows. In that spirit, we have decided to put together a list of the anime that just so happen to ignite the anime flame within people, the ones we remember fondly for being the one that held our hand. Let’s get started then, Top 10 Starter Anime!
10. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi – Spirited Away
- Episodes: 1 (movie)
- Aired: July 2001
When 10-year-old Ogino Chihiro and her parents find an abandoned amusement park on their way to their new house, Chihiro finds her patience wearing thin. However, she soon realises that there is something off about the place when, at dusk, strange things begin happening. Weird ghosts begin to appear and her parents are turned into pigs by food they ate; however, things get worse as Chihiro learns that she has crossed over into the spirit world. In order to save her parents and return home, Chihiro must work amongst spirits, with the help of her mysterious new friend, Haku.
Spirited Away – need we say more? From a purely economic perspective, the film is the highest grossing in Japanese history, and the most successful film to debut from Japan – basically, if any anime were great at first impressions, it’d be this one. Chihiro’s journey through an unknown world is enthralling and even scary at times and the characters she meets along the way are incredibly interesting. Many anime fans at present can note Spirited Away as the anime that started it all for them and as such, we can be sure that it can do the same for many others.
9. Shokugeki no Souma – Food Wars!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
Since his childhood, 15-year-old Yukihira Souma has assisted in his father’s diner by working as the sous chef. Throughout the years, Souma developed a passion for cooking and looked forward to the day he could take over operations at Yukihira, the family restaurant. However, when his dad suddenly decides to shut-up shop in order to travel and cook around the world, Souma is sent to Tootsuki Culinary Academy, one of the most elite cooking schools in Japan where only 10 percent of entrants graduate. Tootsuki is famous for its trademark – the “Shokugeki”, a contest where students face-off in high-stakes cooking showdowns. Souma must now prove his worth by graduating from the institution – but can he stomach the challenges Tootsuki will be dishing out?
One of the best debutants from 2015 is this gem of an anime. Shokugeki no Souma is perhaps one of the most exciting titles on this list – the intensity of the show’s characters is evident and this gives it a deep, entrancing flavour. Souma serves to be a cool, traditional Shounen main character, but one with seemingly unending intelligence and the prospect of seeing what he will do next is frankly, addictive. Thus, Shokugeki no Souma is an integral ingredient in building a list of anime that will have a total new kid barricading themselves in a room all night, binging on the pure delicacy that is anime.
8. Kimi no Na Wa – Your Name
- Episodes: 1 (movie)
- Aired: August 2016
Miyamizu Mitsuha is a high school girl who wishes to live the life of a boy in Tokyo, a life completely different to the one she lives in the countryside. In the city, Tachibana Maki is a busy high schooler who has to juggle his part-time job and his hopes of becoming an architect in future. One day, Mitsuha wakes up in a room she does not recognize and she realises that she’s living her dream life in Tokyo! Back in the countryside, Maki finds himself living Mitsuha’s life. In order to find an answer for the strange things that have been happening, the two search for each other.
Kimi no Na Wa broke out in 2016 with immense acclaim and popularity following its release. The film is beautiful in story and animation and it is quite a unique tale which is sure to cause a few tears to form. The main reason why it is a considerable gateway anime is due to the fact that it is vastly different to the anime movies the average neutral would have been exposed to, such as Ghibli movies. A perfect choice for the perfect first-time anime experience.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2008 – March 2009
Takasu Ryuuji is a gentle high schooler who enjoys doing chores. Unfortunately for him, he has an incredibly intimidating face which earns him the label of “delinquent”. One of Ryuuji’s classmate is Aisaka Taiga, a small, doll-like girl who is incredibly feisty, tough and violent. With her wooden katana in tow, Taiga is known across the school as the “Palmtop Tiger”. One day, in an embarrassing incident, Ryuuji and Taiga meet and Ryuuji comes to learn of the gentler parts of Taiga’s personality, as she has a crush on Ryuuji’s best friend, Kitamura Yuuji. Things couldn’t be better for Ryuuji as it turns out that he has a crush on Taiga’s best friend, Kushieda Minori! The two then set out to help each other achieve their crushes, but perhaps what they want right now might not be what is best…
Toradora! is quite a ride as a romantic comedy due to the fact that it is packed with intense, gut-wrenching drama and characters who are very lovable despite their flaws. The series is incredibly popular and the story isn’t too different from what one could expect from Western cinema, which makes it very palatable to first-time anime viewers who would otherwise be too shocked to understand the value in what they have just seen.
6. Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2012 – December 2012
In the year 2022, technology has developed immensely and now the field of virtual reality has become akin to real life as the Role-Playing Game called Sword Art Online (SAO), together with a device called a “NerveGear”, allows players to control their in-game avatars with nothing but their thoughts. Kirigaya Kazuto is one of the few people who got the first shipment of the game and he excitedly logs in, but that excitement turns into horror as he and the 10 000 other players realise that they are unable to log out of the medieval world of Aincrad as the game’s creator has decided to trap them in the game until they clear all 100 levels. However, it isn’t that simple, as death in Aincrad means death in real life. Thus, Kirito and the other players must come together to clear the 100 and free themselves from virtual reality.
Sword Art Online’s basic premise is by no means unique; however, it is one of the better perspectives on the “trapped in a game” trope. Sword Art Online’s high stakes and the determination of the main characters to escape make it a very potent starter anime, especially given how exciting a single episode can be. The action is widespread and intense and the premise memorable, best believe Sword Art Online is one of the best at drawing new people into anime.
5. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
Kaname Madoka and Miki Sayaka were two regular middle schoolers until they met Kyuubey, a cat-like magical familiar, and the new girl, Homura Akemi. Kyuubey offers the girl a proposition: he will grant any one of their wishes provided that they offer their services as magical girls. However, being a magical girl herself already, Homura Akemi warns Madoka and Sayaka not to accept Kyuubey’s proposition; however, they choose to learn the truth of what it means to be a magical girl firsthand.
A show which deconstructed its entire genre, Madoka Magica takes the cuteness and aesthetic quality synonymous with the magical girl genre and gives it much darker undertones, a contrast which proves to be memorable, addictive and game-changing. Madoka Magica’s plot, characters and development make it a top-notch anime for anyone keen for something with real bite; however, it is the perfect intensely-flavoured anime which will hook any newcomers with so much ease, you’d think it’s magic.
4. Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Tokyo has become dangerous due to the presence of “Ghouls”, vicious creatures which exist alongside humans and devour human flesh. They are extremely bloodthirsty and to make things worse, they are perfectly capable of blending in with society. 18-year-old Kaneki Ken is a shy college student who is attracted to the beautiful Kamishiro Rize. The two meet and go on an enjoyable date; however, things take a dark turn when the date meets its end. This triggers a chain of events which result in Kaneki Ken living with a half-ghoul, half-human body. With his life changed forever, Kaneki has no choice but to try his hand at assimilating into both worlds.
2014 was a blessed year for anime for it spawned several great titles; however, not many stood out quite like the adaptation of Ishida Sui’s manga series, Tokyo Ghoul. The reason why Tokyo Ghoul is a brilliant example of a gateway anime is because of its intense, gripping atmosphere which is very addictive. Another major reason is the fact that it stands to clarify certain misconceptions a non-anime fan may have about the medium. It is an intricate story with various dark themes that will continue to create legions of new anime fans.
3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 – July 2010
The Law of Equivalent Exchange of alchemy states that in order for something to be obtained, something of equal value must be lost. Unfortunately for Edward and Alphonse Elric, they had to learn this the hard way as they attempted a taboo of alchemy: human transmutation. Their crime had severe consequences – Edward lost his left leg and Alphonse, his entire body. Desperate to save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm in order to affix Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armour. In hopes that they can one day return to their original bodies, Edward receives metal limbs known as “automail” and become a State Alchemist – the Fullmetal Alchemist. While in pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone, a relic which allows one to overcome the Law of Equivalent Exchange, the two meet several characters and uncover several dark secrets about the stone itself, as well as their country, Amestris.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the reboot of the original 2004 series; however, it follows the story from the manga much more closely. In short, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (FMAB) is a brilliant story and it is for this reason that it stands in the top 3 on our list. With brilliant story, art and characters, there is no way this wouldn’t be the perfect gateway anime.
2. One-Punch Man
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
Saitama is an unassuming gentleman with a strange hobby: heroism. In order to become a hero, Saitama put himself through a gruelling three-year long workout plan which cost him all the hair on his head. However, what Saitama gained proved to be of greater importance than Saitama’s bouncy locks – he is now incredibly powerful, capable of defeating any enemy with a single punch! This gave rise to Saitama’s current misery: his incredible strength has taken the fun out of battle. However, when the 19-year-old cyborg Genos appears, asking to become Saitama’s disciple, everything changes as they join the Hero Association. Will Saitama find that one opponent who will bring the flavour back to battle?
One-Punch Man’s immense popularity with people who generally do not watch anime is astronomical. The show’s reputation has yielded a vast number of fans who after experiencing the action, comedy and the storytelling value of One-Punch Man, decide to stay for more than just Saitama’s One-Punch action. Being relatively new to the anime world, One-Punch Man still has more to do and further to go; however, even with its relative youth, the show manages to create several new anime fans each time.
1. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
Shinigami – the Japanese Gods of Death, can kill anyone by writing their name down in a book called the “Death Note”, provided they can see the victim’s face. When a Shinigami called Ryuk deliberately drops his Death Note in order to relieve his boredom, high school student Yagami Light discovers it at school. Unhappy with the current state of the world, Light decides to use the Death Note’s powers to rid the world of criminals in order to build a world where crime does not exist. However, police have caught onto the fact that there is someone targeting criminals and, unsurprisingly, they are working hard to find the culprit. In order to do this, who else would the police trust but the best detective in the world?
Death Note tops the list for being a gateway anime due to one basic fact: Death Note is one of the titles which caused major change in the anime and manga consumption in the West. It blew up completely in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world. For most, it was the introduction of Death Note to local television which opened the door to anime fandom to them. With such a hefty reputation both inside and outside the anime community, as well as the immense quality of the show itself, it should be no surprise that we think any non-anime fan who watches Death Note stands a high chance of heading down a path all of us can say is one of the best things we ever had the fortune to experience.
Before we do anything, we test the waters. We try new things in order to see if we’ll like them or not. Sometimes it’s on a whim, other times it’s after much coaxing, persuading and goading. Whatever the case may be, everybody starts somewhere before growing into the anime encyclopaedias that they become – hence it is important to learn which shows make the journey into anime easier for the average citizen. Are there other starter anime which we have left out? Drop a comment below and tell us all about them!