Saki From Genshiken
Saki From Genshiken

The Anime Dabbler

I can still remember the day my childhood friend called me on the telephone during the summer before my sophomore year of high school and said, “I’m really into this show. It’s called Sailor Moon.” She seemed embarrassed, so I assured her I’d check it out for the sake of camaraderie. And check it out I did! Suddenly a whole new world opened up in front of me and I didn’t just tune in idly, oh no. We became somewhat obsessed, adopting aliases and writing fan fiction about our characters. (The good news is that I never posted these on forums or asked other fans to read them. I respected the canon. The bad news? My alias of “Sailor Mystic Moon” will forever be immortalized in my high school class ring.)

But it didn’t stop there. I watched Fushigi Yuugi with interest. My friend Jamie turned me onto Cowboy Bebop. And after three obsessions I fancied myself a genuine bonafide anime-a-holic. Except… I was actually a dabbler. You see, as much as I enjoy(ed) anime, there were thousands of people out there in the universe with more knowledge, more dedication, and more devotion than I have in my pinky finger. And it can be intimidating.

So here are five tips for those just starting out in the realm of anime, from a dabbler who’s been around the Negaverse and back.

1. Ask a friend for recommendations

If you’ve ever walked down the anime section of a store, you know it can be either overwhelming, with heaps of series that aren’t necessarily explained on the back cover of the DVD case. Or it can be totally underwhelming, with a half sorted collection of Transformers DVDs or Naruto action figures. This will not help you. Instead, ask a veteran friend what’s worth spending time on. They’ll ease you into the wide world of anime, one bishie at a time.

2. Trust in Spike Spiegel and Miyazaki

Cowboy Bebop is a great avenue to learn how wonderful anime can be. It’s great because not only is the series visually stimulating, but the story line is substantial. It could just as easily be a live action drama/sci-fi television show. This series will not disappoint.

Similarly, watch Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. These are visually stunning, intelligent, and enchanting. You’ll love them.

3. Attend a Convention- Cosplay not required

My friend who turned me onto Sailor Moon fell into the anime realm head on, blasting me out of the water with her dedication. While I was treading the waters, she was diving right in. So when she discovered ACen, the Midwest’s largest anime con, we went as convention virgins and emerged as… well, I don’t even know what. I felt like I’d been through a rite of passage. I’d been stuck on an elevator with a Chocobo, heard my first Japanese rock band (The Pillows), met my first voice actor (Richard Cox, who signed my friend’s plushie with ‘You’re out of milk’), and learned all about cosplay. I also met a lot of fun people! This was a fantastic way to really get to know the subculture at its finest. The best part is that most attendees are totally happy to teach dabblers such as myself about the latest and hottest series. With the long lines you’ll be standing in, it’s easy to meet people and learn.

4. Respect the Culture; Respect the Fandom

Everyone has hobbies. These hobbies are sacred because they’re a part of you. The same is true of the anime subculture. Don’t spread the stereotypes. Appreciate the dedication to an art form, and admire the outreach of people who share something in common.

5. Sub vs. Dub

It’s a big debate in the anime world. You’ll hear arguments for and against dubbing all the time. It sounds silly that it should be an issue, but I felt a little lame when I first realized the backlash against dubbing. When I first started out, I watched most series in English. And you know what? As a dabbler, you need not worry about it right now. Some anime are just more enjoyable that way. In the case of Cowboy Bebop, I’d rather hear Spike voiced by the American voice actor. Until you’ve made up your own mind, do what feels comfortable.

Above all, remember anime is best enjoyed with a community, so keep visiting for the latest news around Chicago!