Anime for Beginners

So, you’re interested in anime. Great! While anime gets a faux bad rep, especially when you’re in middle or high school, there are some truly great shows out there that everyone should watch at least once. Whether you’re ready to jump all in or you’re still testing the waters, here are some great beginner anime shows you should try. 


Classics

Naruto / Naruto Shippuden

TW: Graphic violence, intense action scenes, death

Based off of the popular manga, Naruto is the 4th highest selling manga series in history. Both series follow Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who aspires to be Hokage of his village. This show balances action, drama and comedy through hundreds of episodes. If you’re looking for something to binge in a weekend, this show is definitely not for you at a total of 500 episodes. But if you want to watch a few episodes at a time and really experience the story, then check it out! 

Differences between Naruto and Naruto Shippuden – Naruto is the very beginning of the storyline, while Naruto Shippuden takes place around 2.5 years after the original. The characters are seemingly more mature making the show a little more palatable to older audiences.


Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra

TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Formerly a Nickelodeon show in the early 2000’s, A:TLA and LoK have seen a resurgence in popularity since landing on streaming giant, Netflix. Each show is broken up into four books – or chapters – while the avatar navigates through their objectives. A:TLA follows Aang, the first avatar in 100 years as he battles the Fire Nation, while LoK follows Korra, the next Avatar, nearly 70 years after A:TLA as she modernizes a nation.

While connected, these are two separate shows and each deserve a watch – with A:TLA at 61 episodes and LoK at 51, it’s fairly easy to binge through. Personally, I feel like LoK is a little easier to watch since it follows a more mature character Korra (aged 17) compared to Aang (technically aged 112 – but 100 of those years, he was frozen). 


*Fullmetal Alchemist / Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

TW: Graphic violence, gore, intense action scenes, death, alchemy/magic, war, genocide

This is, and has always been, one of my favorite shows. I originally watched FMA on AdultSwim, eventually rewatching FMA:B when it was released on Netflix. FMA follows the Elric brothers, Alphonse and Edward, as they learn alchemy and try to become State Alchemists. FMA is a steampunk, post-European industrial revolution dream – full of common themes like the seven deadly sins, social discrimination and ultimately, family and brotherhood. Spurring the storylines along is Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange – to create, something of equal value must be lost.

Differences between FMA and FMA:B – They are the same storyline, however FMA diverges from the original manga storyline while FMA:B follows it completely. The animation in FMA:B is also better since it was created five years after the original. 


Action

One-Punch Man
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

As the name depicts, One-Punch Man follows the story of superhero Saitama, who grows bored of his ridiculous strength, striving to find a worthy opponent. Set in a super-Earth, overrun by heroes and villains, Saitama has his work cut out for him. Popularized thanks to fun animation and emotive styles of the protagonist, OPM is a fun action packed anime series that functions as a parody to traditional superhero lore; specifically Superman.  


Soul Eater
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Soul Eater follows a team at the Death Weapon Meister Academy as they try to become a death scythe to be used by the ruler of the school, Shinigami a.k.a. Death. Primary characters, Maka and humanoid-weapon, Soul, battle other meisters as well as the organization Arachnophobia to save themselves and the DWMA. While this is an action heavy show, there is a heavy dose of comedy, often brought by secondary character Death the Kid and his pistol partners, Liz and Patty Thompson.


Fairy Tail
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Another popular anime, Fairy Tail, follows Natsu Dragneel and other members from the Fairy Tail guild as they embark on adventures and missions throughout Earth-land. This comedic fantasy show spans over 300 episodes, running for nearly a decade. Although the storyline can be a little light in comparison to other shows, Fairy Tail has been a fan favorite across all age groups for the last few years.


Horror 

Parasyte: The Maxim

TW: Graphic violence, body gore, intense action scenes, death

High schooler, Shinichi Izumi, is inhabited by an alien parasite named Migi whose goal was to enter the human’s brain to control the body – however, the plan didn’t work out fully. This horror anime has elements of dark comedy, which make it a little easier to suffer through. The alien race that Migi is a part of is trying to colonize the Earth, by assuming and devouring their hosts bodies. At 24 episodes, this anime is fairly quick to binge, but it can be a little heavy and dark. 


Elfen Lied

TW: Graphic violence, abuse, psychological torture, genocide, nudity    

An absolute favorite of mine, Elfen Lied was also the inspiration behind Eleven/El from Stranger Things. This gripping 13-episode, horror anime explores the idea of social isolation and division and treatment amongst humans.

A graphic depiction of an attempted hostile takeover, Elfen Lied also has a warmth and love imbued into the storyline as well. Following Lucy/Nyu, a member of the newly mutated Diclonius species, Elfen Lied explores the effects of imprisonment, abuse and the darkness within human nature. Hands down, this is equally one of the most beautiful yet disturbing animes I’ve seen. 


Attack on Titan

TW: Gore, graphic violence, cannibalism

After colossal humanoids, called Titans, breach the walls of town, Eren Yeager and friends decide to protect humanity from these monstrosities by becoming a part of the Scout Regiment. This action heavy, dark fantasy anime has a little bit of something for everyone. While there is surely a high amount of death and destruction (and cannibalism thanks to the Titans), this is a very interesting watch. With 59 episodes and 8 additional releases, AoT will take some time to work through. 


Whether you catch episodes late night on AdultSwim, Toonami or CrunchyRoll there is an anime for everyone.

Shows to Watch When You’re Feeling Blue

Sometimes it’s hard to get invested into a tv show and sometimes you just need some background noise that occasionally makes you laugh. As chaotic as this year has been, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to watch a show that is loaded with emotionally heavy turmoil and drama, like Game of Thrones. While The Office, Friends and Parks and Recreation are the classic favorites, here’s a list of easy to watch shows that you may not know on streaming services that can keep your spirits lifted while filling the void.


Letterkenny (Hulu)

Letterkenny is hands down one of my favorite tv shows – ever – and that’s saying a lot. It is intensely creative, witty and sometimes the humor is so subtle that you’ll absolutely miss it. This Canadian sitcom was the brainchild of Jared Keeso, first launching ‘Letterkenny Problems’ on YouTube in 2013 before it was picked up by Crave in 2015. Centered around the small town of Letterkenny in rural Canada, the show follows the life and shenanigans of Wayne, Katie, Daryl and Squirrely Dan.


Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

Another Canadian contender, Schitt’s Creek, was recommended by coworkers and I finally caved. The first two seasons are painful to get through – but once it gets going, boy it’s amazing. Synopsis: rich family loses all money aside from a shitty (pun intended) town bought as a joke and now resides there with local, small town folks. Chaos ensues. An easy watch for someone not looking to get attached to characters, also full of subtle humor.


Future Man (Hulu)

This one is completely out of left field. This show features Josh Hutcherson (of the Hunger Games) as a lonely, video game nerd in 2017 who ends up being the savior of humanity – in 2162. With fun time travel mishaps, a crazy crew, endless laughs and an easy to follow storyline, Future Man is a perfect show to just toss on when you don’t know what else to watch. I’m also happy that Hutcherson found something else to do besides Hunger Games!


Great British Bake-Off/
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)

Let’s be honest, this is the most wholesome, satisfying competition show to watch. If watching Chopped or Iron Chef gives you anxiety, try out Great British Bake-Off. Hosted by comedians, there’s a lighthearted air to the competition. Plus, the bakers are always so nice to each other which is exactly what we need more of this year. There are over 10 years worth of this show, plus spin offs so you’ll be able to rely on this cute show for awhile.


Man Down (Netflix)

Greg Davies, a 6’8” British comedian, plays a primary school drama teacher in Man Down. Loosely based off of his own experience as a teacher in his younger years, this show is created for quick laughs. At only 24 minutes long, these episodes are easy to turn on as background noise while occasionally paying attention to the plot line. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Greg Davies and everything that he does – but this show doesn’t require constant attention.


The Good Place (Netflix)

A more popular show, The Good Place, seems to be whimsical and fun on the surface but actually includes an accurate portrayal of philosophical questions. With a fun cast, easy to follow plot and a few twists along the way, The Good Place is a feel good show. Kristen Bell is amazing as showrunner, but let’s face it: Janet is the best character. If you can’t get into it, please just watch season 3, episode 9: Janet(s). Her acting range is stupid.

You Should Watch Orphan Black and Here’s Why

Cult-hit from BBC America, Orphan Black, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, hands down (& I watch a dumb amount of tv). I purchased the first two seasons on a whim at Target one day and binged them the very same weekend. Most importantly, after a five season run, the show ended in a good way, which is a lot to say since most long-running shows usually end in a dumpster fire that pisses off fans and critics alike. I continually return to this show, year after year, to rewatch and fall in love with the characters all over again. It also the first show I recommend and loan to friends looking for something new. Here’s why you should give this sci-fi series a chance (explained without spoilers).

1. Tatiana Maslany is the HBIC

Orphan Black’s lead actress Tatiana Maslany plays a whooping 14 different characters throughout the show, oftentimes appearing in the same scene with multiple versions of herself. Not only that, but the characters will pretend to be other characters in the show which is a major mindf*ck. For example: Sarah will pretend to be Rachel and it’s obvious that it’s Sarah’s character. Thanks to a great continuity coach that assists on every episode to make sure that the movements, speech patterns and overall character vibe is correct, this show is mind blowing. When watching the show, you forget that it’s just one actress playing all of the parts because Tatiana is so unbelievably talented. From accents to voice pitch to style and characteristics, she is hands down one of the best actresses of this century.

MIC DROP.

2. Endless Twists and Turns

This show, while an emotionally heavy investment, has an endless amount of twists and turns. The first episode starts with a bang and that momentum carries all the way through five seasons. Orphan Black is hard to describe because it deals with almost every theme including: cults, religion, science experiments, cloning, infertility, LGBTQ+, familial bonds, body modification, nature vs. nurture, military, drugs, body autonomy and most importantly the idea of a family, created by choice. OB does not shy away from hard topics like rape, abuse, self-harm, substance abuse or miscarriages – which controversially or not – can make this show emotionally hard to watch at times.

3. #Feminism

While there are male characters in the show (S/O Felix, Art and Paul), the show is heavily female led. The protagonist is Sarah Manning with the story following her life as she tries to make amends for her dark past. The main villains also are primarily female, which is an interesting dynamic to see. Sometimes the female villain trope is too played out; too emotional, too vengeful, too easy to understand and defeat. Each of the female characters in the show are unique, strong, defiant and not bound by cursory design.

4. Realistic Characters with Realistic Reactions

So often nowadays, everyone has a super power or extra something to help them through hard situations. This show only has one character that is a little unordinary – Sarah Manning’s daughter Kira. Everyone else for the most part is utterly normal. Allison lives a suburban soccer mom life. Cosima is a scientist attending university. Rachel is a career woman. Sarah is a single mom trying to win back her daughter. Beth was a police officer. Normal people in the face of something absolutely horrendous and abnormal – yet they surpass the circumstances regardless. The character arcs in the show are a sight to see. Paul, a character you love to hate from the beginning, has one of the best character arcs of the entire show and it is heartbreaking. Over the course of five seasons, each character grows in their own way.

5. Cinematic Techniques

One of the most incredible things that Orphan Black does is stitch together scenes involving two characters played by Tatiana Maslany. And I’m not talking just having two of them in a room together utilizing jump cuts like The Parent Trap (1998). These scenes have the characters fighting each other, dancing together, comforting each other and singing together; which again, as one woman playing all of the characters – that’s a feat. Tatiana did have a stunt double to work with in the scenes, who she often referred to as the unsung hero of the show – Kathryn Alexandre. Cinematically, this show would have been so much different without the use of the Technodolly. Technodolly’s memorize a scene and its own movements so that a scene can be shot multiple times then stitched together. OB’s use of the technodolly paved the way for other sci-fi shows like What Happened To Monday (2017).

6. Found Families

One of the biggest takeaways from Orphan Black is the sense of family. Sarah starts out as a misguided single mom, formerly an orphan, who is just trying to run her next scam. She falls into a wild crazy situation which she has absolutely no reason to get involved in – but does anyways. A once lonely-forgotten shit of a person becomes a sister, a mother, a lover and friend. Perfect strangers come together under circumstance to create a true family – something that they never had before. I am a firm believer in found families – families that you create based on your own needs and a shared sense of community which this show emulates perfectly.


Orphan Black can be emotionally heavy and may not be a good fit for everyone, so please watch at your own speed / emotional ability. All seasons can be streamed for free on Amazon Prime Video or you can rent them if you do not have an Amazon membership. It could also be streamed on Netflix EU, as of fall 2019.

Why “Seinfeld” is the Most Relatable Sitcom

The 90’s was the best decade for sitcoms, with Friends, Full House, Frasier, Roseanne and many other classic t.v. shows we all know and love. The best of the 90’s sitcoms though, in my opinion, is Seinfeld.

Seinfeld is centered around a group of friends in New York City, whose main character is a professional comedian (Jerry Seinfeld). Not only has Seinfeld influenced the comedy of dozens of subsequent shows, it also reveals many character traits that we all have and can relate to, even if we’re unwilling to admit it.

Let’s all look at some ways that Seinfeld relates to the worst parts of ourselves and makes us laugh at how terrible we truly are.

1. When We’re a Bit Too Cocky for Our Own Good

I’m likable, what can I say?
Can we just talk about me from now on?
No way, I’m beautiful. If someone can’t see that, it’s THEIR loss.

2. When We Take Pleasure Loathing in Self-Pity

Don’t worry, I won’t forgive myself either.
I don’t understand why I’m not rich and carefree yet.
Please don’t let there be another me out there. If so, just put them out of their misery.
Any other pain? How much time do you have? This might take awhile.

3. When We Do or Say Inexplicably Weird Things

I wonder what flies think about all day. Do they have hopes and dreams?
How many times am I going to embarrass myself this week?
I once kept a Mcdonald’s chicken nugget as a pet. Seemed normal to me.
These plates are for eating, those plates are for decoration and DO NOT TOUCH those plates over there because they’re too pretty to touch.

4. When Our Hatred for Humanity is Palpable and Inescapable

Please don’t set me up on a blind date. I already hate them, I know it.
Why is everyone in the world so annoying and stupid?
I am so much more civilized than everyone in this city. Ever heard of manners? Don’t answer that, I already know you haven’t.
I’d rather not go anywhere or see anyone but if I MUST, please do not talk to me.

5. When We’re All-Around Terrible People

I also cry to get out of speeding tickets. Do what you gotta do.
Hit ’em where it hurts!
My favorite past time is stealing things from bars.
At least I got a good story out of it, right?

Let’s be honest, no one is a saint. We all kind of suck. We may as well laugh about it! Seinfeld is the best show to help you do just that.

Underrated Shows on Netflix

In society today, we are inhaling mass quantities of media every hour, be it from social media, news outlets, streaming services, etc. But how do you sift through the mountain of data to find something truly innovative, original and noteworthy? Well internet friends, that’s where I come in. During an especially heinous bout of depression last year (or was it the year before? 2020 makes everything feel like a time loop), I consumed an almost concerning amount of media from streaming services – anything to keep the beasts at bay, am I right? I would devour a series of television like candy.

Here’s my list of hidden or underrated gems on currently streaming on Netflix.


250px-Mr._Sunshine_(2018_TV_series)
Netflix (2018)

Mr. Sunshine (2018) – I’ll be honest, this was one of my first experiences with anything in the ‘k-realm’. For those who are not familiar, the k-realm is what I call anything produced from Korea; k-pop, k-dramas, etc. All things in the k-realm are created and pushed to a new level of production value, with no expense spared. This period drama, set at the fall of the Joseon empire and before the creation of modern-day Korea, kept me on edge and engaged throughout all 24 episodes. While it does take a little while to get into and get used to the k-drama styling of shots, it’s well worth it as long as you’re cool with subtitles.

THEMES: forbidden love, honor, loyalty, tradition, war, friendship, alliances, family


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.33.21 AM
Netflix (2017)

The End of the F***ing World (2017) – This show is hands down one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m am intensely critical of any movie/show if it doesn’t have a good ending. A bad ending will ruin an entire series for me (S/O Game of Thrones). This coming-of-age dark British comedy is something I ask everyone to watch. With short episodes and a killer storyline, it’s easy to binge this two-season show. Based off of a graphic novel by the same name by Charles Forsman, this darkly humorous show finds a way to connect with you – even if you don’t consider yourself to be a psychopath.

THEMES: self-discovery, teen angst, domestic violence, love, adventure, family


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.35.29 AM
Netflix (2018)

Derry Girls (2018) – Teenagers in Ireland during the Troubles in the 1990’s. Need I say more? This quirky series follows the lives of teen girls trying to live their best lives while attending catholic school. Political pressures of the Troubles continually add interest points throughout much of the story. This is an easy to watch, binge friendly show that will leave you smiling. Intensely witty and believable, this is an underrated classic that almost anyone could relate to.

THEMES: love, teen years, high school, drinking, troubles, friendship


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.36.27 AM
Netflix (2019)

Russian Doll (2019) – I won’t lie, I’d watch almost anything if Natasha Lyonne was in it. Lyonne said during an interview that she’d been writing this story for nearly a decade before it came to fruition. With Amy Poehler writing by her side, there was no way this show could be anything less than magical. The amount of dedication that came into creating this show is reason enough to watch it. Another dark comedy with a surprisingly uplifting ending; depending how you take it. *Watch during a good headspace day.

THEMES: life, love, self-discovery, drug usage, drinking, sex, video games


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.37.21 AM
Netflix (2019)

Maniac (2019) – I try to avoid A-list celebrity movies, but this one piqued my interest as soon as I watched the first trailer. I tend to gravitate towards ‘weird’ shows and films and this one is at the top of the list. It felt familiar in the sense that it was reminiscent of a first love of mine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Following two main characters through a Matrix-like drug experiment, you will be transported into numerous worlds of make believe. This hard-to-describe limited series will leave you feeling a little weird and self-reflective. *Watch during a good headspace day.

THEMES: life, death, drug trials, self-discovery, love, medical study, desire