Beginner’s guide to anime: How to choose a show

As different shows gain mainstream traction and larger audiences, anime is becoming more and more popular. With so many options, it can be hard to know where to start.


With dozens of different genres, subgenres, plotlines and art styles, pretty much anyone can find an anime that they enjoy.
However, so many choices can be overwhelming without a little direction.
Over the past two years or so, I have slowly been getting into the anime scene. I’ve watched a few different shows and have found some true favorites, but I still find it difficult to find something new to watch when I’m bombarded with such a vast amount of choices.
The first step in finding something you may like is narrowing down your options.
A great way to do this is by looking at genre.
While there are dozens of different genres and subgenres, the main four that we’re going to focus on are shōnen, shōjo, seinen and josei.
Shōnen, which translates to “boy” or “youth,” is a category of anime that is marketed toward young boys.
These anime will typically feature a male lead, many times with a special skill or ability, and include a lot of action and martial arts.
Examples of shōnen anime include: “Naruto,” “Attack on Titan” and “ONE PIECE.”
While these are marketed to a younger, male audience, fanbases of these shows range all ages and genders.
Shōjo translates to “young woman” and defines a category of anime that is marketed to this demographic.
Typically, anime that falls into this category will feature a young, female lead and themes that young women can relate to, such as experiencing first love, finding oneself and navigating our relationships with those around us.
A few examples of shōjo anime are “Sailor Moon,” “Ouran High School Host Club,” “Fruits Basket” and “Banana Fish.”
While shows in this category are typically presented to be more “feminine,” that does not mean that they are all about love and relationships.
Just as shōnen anime can appeal to a wide variety of people, shōjo anime are extremely popular and have a diverse fanbase.
Seinen is similar to shōnen when it comes to the subject matter and the fact that anime in this category are more marketed toward a male audience.
The only difference is the fact that, while shōnen is geared towards a younger male audience, seinen is targeted towards adult men, ages 18+.
Anime in this category may not be necessarily graphic or vulgar but may involve elements of horror, science fiction or plotlines that may be too mature for a younger audience.
Some examples of seinen anime include “Tokyo Ghoul,” “One Punch Man” and “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.” Josei would be the feminine equivalent of seinen.
While shōjo anime is marketed towards younger girls, aged elementary through high school, josei anime is marketed towards adult women.
These stories include many of the same themes as those present in shōjo (romance, friendship, self-growth), but tend to be more realistic and show more serious plotlines, rather than fantastical.
Examples of this category include “Paradise Kiss” and “Ristorante Paradiso.”
With the four main genres in mind, it may be a good idea to choose which one interests you the most and look for popular titles in that genre.
Additionally, it may be helpful to start out with a “dubbed” anime, rather than one that is “subbed,” meaning the audio has been rerecorded in English, rather than just having English subtitles with the original Japanese audio.
As far as greeted starter titles, I would recommend choosing an anime with a digestible or light-hearted plotline.
The trick is to find a show that matches a mood that you can get into. “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K,” “Komi Can’t Communicate” and “Ouran High School Host Club” are great options if you’re looking for a light-hearted, fast-paced storyline with fun and wacky characters to follow.
While their American origins spark debates on whether or not they should be classified as anime, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and its sequel series “The Legend of Korra” are also fantastic options for something more action-packed.
Another fun show to watch is “Haikyuu!!,” which follows a high school volleyball team, as they work to regain the status their school once held.
For a more in-depth look at this show, you can check out Sports Editor Dekai Averett’s column in The Arrowhead’s October 2021 issue.
Finally, if you’re looking for a good story that’s going to make you think, “Death Note” is a phenomenal choice.
This anime (which was actually the first that I had seen) follows a teenage mastermind as he’s given the immense power of controlling the balance of life and death.
As a whole, anime is a vast world of entertainment where anyone can find something to enjoy.
While it may take some trial and error to find a series that you can really sink your teeth into, it’s well worth it when you find that one special show.