First up, the wonderful and vast world of anime. Many people who haven't made the jump into this particular form of entertainment often cite time limitations and and unfamiliarity with where to start as their biggest hurdles. Hopefully, this handy primer will clear a few things up, pique some interest, and create some new, self proclaimed weebs by the time we're all interacting in person again.Because of its status in the west as a specialty interest, anime is thought of as kind of a monolithic bloc, but it's more accurate to think of it as a medium, like comic books or video games. There are many more nuanced categorizations within, so liking one particular title is no guarantee that someone will like another. What's important to remember is that there is a series about pretty much anything you can think of.
As difficult as it is to believe, there are, if you look hard enough, certain aspects of our current, collective situation that could be considered a bright side. Perhaps the most important one is the fact that our modern technology remains fully functional, present and accounted for. In other words, you don't have to ride this out with board games and whatever books you have in the house, by candlelight. We are fortunate enough to have access to near limitless entertainment to see us through these days of social distancing and self isolation. With that in mind, now seems like an opportune time to offer some guidance, when it comes to making the most of your screen time. Which is to say watch guides.
BODEGA ANIME WATCH GUIDE
Series for wallowing in isolation and depression: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Let's start with a classic. Although Evangelion is one of the most beloved and influential series of all time, a lot of more recent anime converts have not seen it, on account of it being out of print in North America for over a decade. Then, finally, Netflix acquired the rights, and allowed fans to get back in the robot. At its core, Evangelion is a story about overcoming depression and self loathing, hidden underneath a layer of mystical and religious iconography, inside of a show about giant robots and their teenage pilots battling otherworldly angels, in a near-future, post-apocalyptic Tokyo. An easily digestible original run of 26 episodes, plus The End of Evangelion movie will definitely leave you with the message that it could always be worse, but there's always hope too.
Series that will make you run to your favorite restaurant when this is all over: Food Wars Shokugeki no Soma [crunchyroll, hulu]
Cooking anime that chronicles life inside of an elite Japanese culinary school would be a literally accurate description, but it would also be an undersell. That's because Totsuki Culinary Institute is, to say the least, competitive. Fortunately, protagonist Soma Yukihira has ambition to match the scale of this cooking holy land, as he seeks not just to be one of the handful of students that actually graduates, but to stand alone at the pinnacle of the entire school, all in the name of surpassing his father and becoming worthy of taking over the family diner. Exciting, funny, and inspiring, but the one danger is that you will end up trying to cook something yourself that is way too complicated.
Series that will make you glad that you can't leave the house: Tokyo Ghoul
Crowds, living expenses, relationships and the other challenges of modern urban life aren't the only thing to worry about in Tokyo. There are also creatures visually indistinguishable from humans, that feed on humans, ghouls. When the simple act of asking a cute girl out on a date throws shy, literature loving university student Ken Kaneki headfirst into this world, his life will obviously, never be the same, but neither will anyone else's. Be prepared to never look at simple subtraction the same way ever again.
Series that will rearrange your entire emotional landscape: Hunter x Hunter
[crunchyroll, netflix, hulu]
Even when everything in the world was totally normal, this was a series to binge. It's common to hear people say that they started watching, and found themselves on season 2 two days later. It's just that good. Just be advised, the lighthearted adventure about a precocious 12 year old following in his absent father's footsteps to become a Hunter has several gears worth of tonal shifts. A superbly deep cast of characters, emotional resonance and epic fights have made Hunter x Hunter an all-time favorite for many long time anime fans. You will definitely have new opinions about clowns, and be susceptible to lengthy arguments about which Phantom Troupe member is your favorite after it's all over. You'll also be begging for more episodes.
Series that will make you legitimately miss going to work: Wagnaria!!
Wagnaria!! (Japanese title Working!!) is an ensemble workplace comedy set in a Hokkadio family restaurant. Souta Takanashi, the main character, becomes the newest employee at the Wagnaria restaurant. His obsession for small cute things, is the latest eccentricity in a group that includes a former girl gang leader manager who eats her way through the restaurant's inventory, a floor chief who is never without a katana at her side and a server with such an ingrained fear of men, that she knocks any male she encounters unconscious on sight. Three seasons of interpersonal hilarity make Wagnaria!! one of the more underrated comedy series of the past decade, and definitely worth a watch.
Classic series with hundreds of episodes: Inuyasha
Creator Rumiko Takahashi has multiple classic series under her belt (Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2) but this Japanese fairy tale is the most epic in scale. The story of Kagome, a modern day schoolgirl who is transported to the Warring States feudal era after falling through a well in her family's shrine. In short order she encounters a half-dog demon, Inuyasha and learns that she is the reincarnation of Kikyo, a powerful priestess and the keeper of the magical Shikon Jewel. When a crow demon tries to fly off with the jewel, Kagome destroys it with a sacred arrow, shattering the jewel and sending shards across all of Japan in the process. The years long journey to recover the shards is an all-time classic. Passing the time by becoming engrossed in this journey is definitely one of the better options for being stuck indoors.
Wholesome content series for temporary escapism: Nichijou
Centered around Mio, Yuuko and Mai, a group of high school girls, a genius, 8 year old scientist Hakase, and her android Nano, Nichijou details the goings on among the residents of the average, small town of Tokisadame. Everything from the Italian language names of coffee sizes, mixed up take out lunch orders and the appearance of a deer in the school courtyard is the jumping off point for absurd, hilarious, often heartwarming comedy. Nichijou generally translates to everyday life, and this series focusing on everyday life in a average town is nothing short of life-affirming. (edited)