Sometimes it can be difficult trying to find common ground with your family. I watch a lot of anime and am involved in fandom communities, but my parents didn’t grow up on classic shows like Gundam Wing or Yu Yu Hakusho like I did. Toonami and Adult Swim raised me (when I wasn’t out riding my bike or finding hidden treasures in the nearby forestry). So, I’ve attempted to introduce the Baby Boomers in my life to the wonderful world of Japanese animation, but without much luck. Yet, I persist. Here’s a list of titles that can help bridge the gap between generations based on genre, popularity, and ease of understanding.
|By Genre||By Popularity||By Complexity||Classics|
|Death Note (crime/thriller, detective)||My Hero Academia (superheroes)||Studio Ghibli (easy to get into)||Sailor Moon (magical girls)|
|Free! and Yuri!!! on Ice (sports)||Demon Slayer (the power of friendship)||Star Wars Visions (multiple styles)||Dragon Ball Z or Yu Yu Hakusho (Shōnen)|
|Promare (firefighters)||Fruits Basket (Chinese Zodiac)||Yu-Gi-Oh! (card game)||Pokemon (battle pets)|
|Cyberpunk Edgerunners (cyberpunk)||Gundam (giant fighting robots)||Fate (alternate timelines/universes)||Cowboy Bebop (space cowboys)|
There are a few lists of anime for beginners that contain well-known classics and mainstream series, which may prove useful for deciding which show to introduce to your family. However, some of them take off running and may require knowledge of the culture or themes in anime to really understand. However, if you know the kind of genres your parents enjoy, you can use that as a starting point.
Suggestion: Death Note
For those who like crime dramas, thrillers, and serial killer documentaries, I recommend Death Note. This may be a surprise for some, but I find the themes to be easily translated for fans of hit shows like NBC’s Hannibal and Tami Hoag novels (which my mother is a fan of). While it’s centered around Japan and has supernatural elements like the shinigami, it’s not so far off from modern American pop culture.
Suggestion: Sports anime
Here’s a no-brainer: if your dad is a sports fan, show him sports anime! From wrestling and boxing to swimming, basketball, and even cheerleading, there’s an anime for almost every sport out there now. Since these anime focus mostly on the players and gameplay, it can be easy for someone to watch without getting caught up in the nuance. My favorite sports anime include Yuri!!! on Ice (ice skating) and Free! (swimming), while others are also popular.
Studio Trigger made an instant classic with Promare, an anime movie about firefighters and the Burnish, people who are capable of wielding flames. It has comical moments as well as serious tones, plus an amazing soundtrack. For those who want to dip their toes into the world of anime while holding onto some reality, I highly recommend this film!
Suggestion: Cyberpunk Edgerunners
The video game Cyberpunk 2077 has an anime based around the City of Night and its cyborg inhabitants. For fans of the video game and the cyberpunk culture, this show is a must watch. It explores the versatility of animation and really hooks you onto the characters to deliver a devastatingly beautiful ending.
As anime becomes more popular and widespread, it’s become easier to introduce people to it through the current-day heavyweights. Today’s hits include My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer, and Attack on Titan. Note that older generations may have a hard time understanding some of the nuance of anime culture or find it difficult to get into these popular shows as easily as those who grew up on anime or are used to common tropes in pop culture media.
Suggestion: Fruits Basket
As a popular anime, Fruits Basket can be accessed easily through streaming platforms and does not need a lot of preamble to get into. The premise of the Chinese Zodiac is explained well enough throughout the series that watchers can enjoy the show without being too confused by the underlying conflicts. I consider Fruits Basket to be more of a slice-of-life genre, which can be easier to introduce non-anime fans to.
Everyone loves giant fighting robots in space, right? If they enjoyed Pacific Rim movies, they’re gonna love the Gundam series. This franchise has a ton of titles, alternate universes, and plenty of giant fighting robots to enjoy. It’s one of the most popular franchises in anime, and a strong representation of Japanese animation. Additionally, if your parents were or are still into building model kits of planes, you could combine both of your hobbies by watching Gundam and building gunpla together!
Anime is known for complicated magic systems and battles where the heroes overcome adversity in somewhat illogical ways (through the power of friendship) no matter what. However, if you don’t want to give a presentation on common tropes and the subculture of Japan in order to show your family anime, here are a few suggestions that are easy to jump into and understand.
Suggestion: Studio Ghibli films
I like to think of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki as the gateway to anime for the uninitiated. If you show a non-anime fan Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service, you can likely get them in the doorway. It helps that movie theaters have Ghibli Fest geared toward families. Miyazaki’s films are powerful in terms of themes and animation, but are also a great introduction to the world of anime.
Suggestion: Star Wars Visions
Star Wars: Visions explores the world of the Jedi, Sith, and everything else from the classic movie franchise in a variety of different animation styles. You’ll recognize one episode done by Studio Trigger (the same production company that did Promare and Cyberpunk Edgerunners). Each episode is a self-contained story made by different animation studios that gives a unique perspective to the Star Wars universe. For fans of the franchise, this is a great way to get into anime!
If your parents like games such as Magic: The Gathering or collecting baseball cards, I suggest introducing them to Yu-Gi-Oh! Popular as both an anime and trading card game, it’s easily recognizable and tends to explain itself fairly well for beginners and veterans alike. Then, you can sit down and have a d-d-d-d-duel!
Animation has come a long way, but some people prefer to consume the type of media that existed “way back when” because it reminds them of growing up. If your Boomer parents are like this, then you can suggest some classic anime like the original Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, as well as most series made or released during the 80’s and 90’s.
If you were big into Pokémon as a kid (and still are), then your parents are likely to be familiar with it (even if they don’t know how to pronounce the name). In terms of the anime world, Pokémon was one of the first Japanese media to hit it big in the US and has become wildly popular over the years. Similarly, there’s Digimon, where characters team up with creatures that can transform to do battle.
Suggestion: Cowboy Bebop
If the Boomers in your life like Jazz music or are fans of sci-fi space operas and want something oriented more for adults, show them Cowboy Bebop. This highly recommended series is smooth with the music and edgy with the characters. Alternatively, you can also show them Outlaw Star. Alternatively alternatively, Tenchi Muyo is another classic show that deserves some more love.
Suggestion: Yu Yu Hakusho
How can I make a list of anime recommendations without including my all-time favorite: Yu Yu Hakusho? I can’t, this show is just too good. It’s a brawling shōnen series with demons, fighting tournaments, and wise-cracking protagonists even Boomers can appreciate (because it’s set within a timeline closer to their adolescence). There’s also the new OVAs done in a more current animation style that adds some depth to the backstories of the characters.
Bonus: childhood favorites & hobbies to bond over
My mom recognizes Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z because he was one of my favorite characters growing up, knows what a Pokémon is, bought me the special DVD collection of Gundam Wing for Christmas one year, and is familiar with Yu-Gi-Oh! because I watched it when it first aired. These childhood favorites can be fun to go back to when introducing your parents or relatives to anime if they’ve ever bought you a toy or card pack based on the franchise. Plus, you can introduce them to a new hobby and bond together!
What are some of your favorite anime to watch and recommend to others? Do you watch anime with your parents or grandparents? Let me know in the comments!