I’ve written comedic posts about forcing everyone you know to watch anime. In real life, I no longer try to introduce my friends to the medium. If they don’t come to it independently, I simply won’t mention it. However, it has happened a few times that people without any anime knowledge showed an interest in the medium and asked me to essentially ease them into it.

This is an exciting opportunity to make someone I like, discover something I love. My priorities may be a bit screwy… It’s always an exhilarating occasiona and would potentially yield someone I could discuss anime with, in real life. A huge reward indeed! Let me tell you, I have cherished each of those opportunities and bungled pretty much all of them!

Dear friends, please learn from my mistakes!

Fafnir at comiket convention
might as well be a selfie

5. Conventions

First and very important, a convention is not the way to go for a first experience with anime. It’s simply not an accurate representation. Either the experience will be an exhausting sensory overload for your poor friend, and they will likely be put off the medium for some time. Or they will fall in love with the convention experience and be disappointed that actually watching and chatting about anime is very different. Both things have happened to me and it was the only two times I had gone to anime conventions with people new to the medium. In the latter case, the person still goes to conventions (more often than me) but doesn’t really watch/like anime.

NGNL fanservice
it takes some getting used to

4. Fanservice

I actually wrote about this not long ago on Karandi’s blog. Fact is, no matter how you think people *should* react to fanservice, most western audiences are used to reacting a certain way to overt sexualization of underage characters. Also underage can be anywhere between under 13 to under 25… It’s a clash in cultural biases that hasn’t quite been smoothed out yet.

For long-time fans, it can become so common that it’s background noise but when you aren’t used to it yet, it’s occasionally jarring. For example, I finally convinced a friend after a year and a half of nagging, to play Steins;Gate. Actually, I didn’t, their brother played it and said it was great so that’s when they tried… Long story medium length, they adored the game except for the few very sexualized scenes that they thought felt out of place and creepy. Another friend had a similar reaction to the anime, to the point of actually not enjoying that much. The scary thing is, I didn’t even notice it myself. 

Violence is common enough in all entertainment that audiences are pretty desensitized to it but sexualization remains taboo. And rather than sexualization per see, or all forms of it, each audience has their own cultural hang-ups to deal with. And these can be a barrier for new viewers. I failed to properly recognize that and may have scared some people off.

anime trope
hmmm, two points in one

3. Tropucopia

Anime is a particularly trope-heavy medium. I personally love that about it! There are tons of conventions, expressions and visual shorthand thrown around. Not to mention baffling character traits and reactions that have more to do with the history and conventions of anime than the narrative in which they exist. There’s essentially a learning curve to the enjoyment of anime. This is true up to a certain point for any form of entertainment, but in my experience, it’s even more true for anime.

For experienced viewers, it can be fun. You pick up on little things you’ve seen before or make the connections to the greater meaning. It’s a secret language only you, *real* anime fan can understand. But for new viewers, it can be very confusing and a little boring. In fact, I still stumble across new tropes I have to learn and occasionally, it can still be a little confusing.

I’ve noticed that anime that are considered most accessible, or often suggested as a good place to start watching anime, tend to do away with most standard tropes or have enough exposition to actually explain them in the show itself.

Un-Go is a frequently beautiful anime

2. Production value is relative

I think that most anime fans do like the appearance of anime. That is a plus in itself for them. But that isn’t always the case for new fans. Although they probably don’t openly dislike it, simply seeing a show or movie because it is “beautiful” or an incredible production is difficult to appreciate when you don’t have much to compare it to.

I have more than once gushed over how technically amazing a series was just to have someone tersely respond that it “wasn’t their style”, or they didn’t notice the camera angles, or “you’re kind of weird about colours, is that like a serial killer thing?”. It’s NOT. Colours are just awesome!!

Point being, if you’re trying to convince someone to give anime a chance, you should start out with a series that has a solid story and/or characters rather than a visually impressive show.


1. Fandoms

In desperation, I have introduced some people to specific fandoms which I thought would suit them. Let someone else do the work! Who better to share the passion of the medium than the most passionate among us. BIG mistake. I am just not smurt.

I was probably unlucky, but this girl had shown an interest in Yuri on Ice. So, I pointed her to a few online places where she could talk with die-hard fans and get her giggles on. I liked Yuri on Ice but I’m not exactly a die-hard fan. Also, what I really loved about it was the clothes physics. The way the looser training clothes would fold and stretch during routines which were very different from the tighter performance outfits. It was a small visual detail but it spoke volumes and I really loved it. No one else cares. I already know that. Back to my story.

So I send my beautiful, innocent Bambie friend into the wild digital forest and they tore her to shreds! I mean she was downright uncomfortable. She told me people made fun of her for even the most innocuous comments or started raging arguments over elements she hadn’t even realized one *could* argue about. The girl still loved the show but the experience was genuinely upsetting and definitely cooled her enthusiasm for any future show and moreso any future anime discussion.

Booh  I’m a bad anime tour guide.

You have been warned now! You can do better than me! Let’s face it, it would be difficult to do worse!

Do you have any blunders to share when trying to introduce friends to anime? Please let me know. Your failures will make me feel better!

Love Rini

23 thoughts

  1. Im very supprised that someone knows about the anime UN-GO and its not very well known or popular, It’s nice to know someone has watched it other than myself ^-^

  2. I was fortunate to become known as the guy to go to for anime in college. This was a film based college, so that was already to my advantage, however I still had plenty of work ahead of me. Everyone knows Ghibli, so I attempted to show some more obscure titles. One evening I showed Red Line and Sword of the Stranger. With Red Line everyone was overstimulated save one individual who really liked it and thought it a marvel, because it is. With Sword of the Stranger a lot of people ogled over the dog in the film and chatted quietly amongst themselves (yes, during the film, how rude) but when it came to the last thirty minutes of the film, suddenly everyone was silent and taken aback by the spectacle of it all. I believe most of them had never watched animation with violence depicted in it. These were college aged individuals. I suppose it shows that anime is still somewhat niche in certain parts of the West and that makes me happy.

  3. Some solid reasoning! I always forget how taboo sexual stuff is in the West these days when concerning certain ideas because of how much anime I have consumed over the years 😂 I always shock my mum if she ever stumbled in on a wrong fanservice moment of my anime viewing 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ When I first started watching anime I was very into trying to convert family and friends into watching it too. At this point I’ve given up and like you don’t say much unless I’m asked. I’ve embraced the fact that it’s my little thing among family and friends 😂

  4. Interestingly it was a convention that actually got my parents to understand anime and except my hobbie. They are big halloween fans and fell in love with the cosplay.

  5. I never made any of those mistakes… because nobody ever’s shown interest in anime in real life. On the rare occasion they ask, they then politely nod, and that’s it. They’re more interested in what I’m doing than in the actual shows.

    I made the fanservice mistake in fandom, though. I seriously and with a straight face said something like “But Ben-to isn’t an ecchi anime.” I got laughed at… by an ecchi fan (in a charming and good-natured way, mind you). My auto-filter works really well. That’s easily a mistake I would make. (Also Tropucopia: that’s related in a way. Why is she running with a baguette in her mouth? The fun thing is when I was new I loved the non-sequiturs and sometimes was disappointed when there actually was an explanation.)

    1. The girl with the baguette is the younger sister in Seitokai Yakuindomo, a show about sexual harassment by women who harass a man. The girl is a total pervert and wants to get into her brothers school because she will be allowed to be very perverted there too. Women sexually harassing and being perverted is the series running joke.

    2. I think my healthy appreciatio for nonsense is what made me survive incomprehensible tropes fr a long tme

  6. I often forget about tropes and the like and even fanservice seems to be something that unless it is really overt and off-putting, I barely notice in a lot of my favourite shows. I only really remember these elements when the person I’ve managed to convince to watch it with me stops the show and demands an explanation as to why something happened. Amazing how so many things just become background noise after you’ve watched a lot of anime.

  7. Pretty concise list.

    One barrier that I feel like most non-anime fans suffers is that they think all anime is what THEY personally saw as children while browsing toonami. There hasn’t been DBZ, Sailor Moon or Inuyasha in years, but they will almost ALWAYS assume all anime is like. That’s what makes it hard to convince people to watch different things with unbiased eyes, such as your Stein;s Gates or Berserks.

      1. I’m guessing every other “messed up” anime you watched going forward as a young’un got e c l i p s e d by that experience.

  8. Those 5 are very legit reasons. Much A Library Archivist, it’s also good pointing out the double standards with Western media and anime to prove that there are cases where it’s not much different.

  9. The toughest thing about anime is they’re all referential to prior anime. So when someone asks what you’re watching, you can tell them but then have to explain you like it because of all the jokes referencing an anime from 25 years ago which only a real fan would get because we cared enough to watch the original. Gundam frequently references earlier Gundam series, which they’ve been making since the 70’s, I think. And transforming mecha anime all reference that and Voltron and GetterRobo. The Voltron remake is excellent, and in English, so might be a good introduction for those with Netflix. For those who are already gushing about Naruto, a show I personally despise as the worst of anime, you have to remind them there are anime in all sorts of genres.
    You also have to take into account their ages. If you even mention an anime with fanservice b00bs bouncing around, their parents will think you’re a pedophile trying to corrupt their precious angels who are already watching murder and mayhem in Naruto before they met you. And like you said, you learn to ignore the fanservice when you come to terms with Japan having very different ideas about what’s appropriate for kids and teenagers in anime they broadcast. We understand because we are adults. A teenager might get very wrong ideas, and their parents even worse impression of the genre. When an adult complains that anime are just cartoons, you can remind them all those superhero movies and the lord of the rings and start wars and harry potter, which they adored as teenagers, are ALSO cartoons, just CGI. Think Star Trek sets were real? Its actors with green screen and lots of computer animation to make it look good. Its higher resolution. Anime are allowed to have more complicated plots, emotions, and complex characters than the cartoons they watched as kids, and the cartoons they didn’t realize were cartoons. And before they go accusing Japan of exploiting children, remind them of Disney doing the same thing, several of them to terms in prison.
    Its complicated, and difficult to recommend an anime to a teenager or friend. I generally ask ‘what sort of movies and tv shows do you like to watch” and suggest a similar genre anime. If they can get past the art style and still enjoy it, great. If the art style puts them off, I know they won’t ask again.

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