by Daniel Pugeda
Are you currently caught up with every Western TV show and looking for the next great series to binge? Try anime! At first glance, getting into anime may seem overwhelming. With so many different shows coming out every season, it can be hard to find a place to start. Luckily, Daniel Pugeda curated this list of must-watch shows that caters to any seasoned or beginner anime watcher!
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance, Drama, School
Total Episodes: 26
If you are currently looking for a generic high school slice of life rom-com anime, then keep looking. “My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU,” better known as “Oregairu,” follows the story of Hikigaya Hachiman, a 2nd-year student at Sobu High School. Growing up, Hachiman tried to fit in with others around him, however, despite his best efforts, he finds himself a victim of constant bullying for much of his early life. As a result of being ostracized, Hachiman adopts a pessimistic loner personality and intentionally isolates himself from others. He claims that joyful youth and most high school relationships are superficial, and people who claim otherwise are just lying to themselves. After writing an essay that ridicules modern social relationships, Hachiman is forced to join the Service Club, a volunteering club that helps fellow students with everyday problems whether it be relationship issues, physical labor, or emotional support. Through this experience Hachiman is exposed to the trials and tribulations of everyday high school life, but his ideals, developed from past trauma, slow him from forming relationships with other members of the Service Club. While the romance in the show is present, it is written in a more subtle way. This elevates the realism and helps to avoid cliche tropes that many rom-coms fall into. One of Oregairu’s greatest strengths lies in the character interactions. I love how this anime handles “popularity,” superficial high school relationships, and the fear of changing the status quo, i.e. confessing feelings for each other. I find that some characters in the show mirror real people in terms of being two-faced, afraid, and one-dimensional. As the story progresses, viewers understand different motivations, emotions, and perspectives that blend together and create a story that highlights humanity. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to add Oregairu to your watch list.
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Thriller, Psychological
Total Episodes: 13* Director’s Cut Edition
Natsuki Subaru is a teenage shut-in who does nothing but play video games, read light novels, and watch anime. After making a routine trip to the convenience store, he’s hit by a car, sent to the afterlife, and wakes up in a fantasy world full of knights, monsters, magic, and spirits. Upon initial inspection “Re:Zero” seems to be another generic fantasy anime, however looks can be deceiving. Instead of getting a protagonist who is charming, considerate, and overpowered, Subaru is borderline useless, emotional, and in over his head more often than not. The biggest element of the show is Subaru’s ability called “Return by Death,” where he comes back to life after dying. However Subaru doesn’t immediately come back to life from the point where he died. He gets sent back to certain checkpoints in the past and still carries the knowledge of his previous lives, but he is restricted from sharing that information. From the “restart point” he can redo the decisions he’s made in hopes of creating a timeline where everything works out. Viewers may see this as a broken mechanic that helps Subaru cheat his way through the fantasy world, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I believe this mechanic highlights Subaru’s growth as a character because his decisions are rooted in his ideologies. Every time he returns from death, Subaru realizes that his way of doing things doesn’t work. He understands that he must force himself to change in order to find the perfect timeline, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially during those times where his different decisions weren’t enough, Subaru faces death agonizing over what he’s done wrong. “The only thing worse than dying once is having to die again.” Re:Zero season two will start airing in July, so what better time to binge the series than right now!
March Comes in Like a Lion
Genre: Drama, Game, Slice of Life, Seinen
Total Episodes: 44
While being at the metaphorical top is a coveted position by many, those who have reached that level never disclose how lonely it can be. Rei Kiriyama is a 17-year old high school student, but he’s also a professional shogi player. Though Rei celebrates the titles and accolades he has gained, he also deals with unrelenting pressure from his adoptive family and the shogi community. In order to ease these burdens, Rei moves to Tokyo so he can gain a sense of independence and focus on shogi. However, he takes very poor care of himself and finds that life on your own isn’t all that it is made out to be. Luckily Rei meets a kind trio of Kawamoto sisters who look after him, provide very generous hospitality: and treat him as one of their own. They offer him something that his previous family couldn’t, vulnerability and emotional support. As Rei gradually becomes integrated into the Kawamoto family and progresses through the Shogi ranks, he struggles to understand new relationship dynamics, complex emotions, and etc. One of my favorite elements about March Comes in Like a Lion would be the competition. This show does a really good job of painting Rei’s rivals in terms of their backstories, goals, and motivations. If you’ve ever been competitive in any sport or activity, you will definitely appreciate the details and intricacies this show puts into both Rei and his competition. If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out this show.