There’s something really satisfying about finishing an entire anime series, especially a long one. But just as strong is the other feeling that comes with it. You know the one: that feeling of emptiness and aimlessness that makes you think, “What am I going to watch next?”
It’s a feeling that I both hate and love. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine investing in a new tale just after finishing a series, particularly a really great one. You get a sort of story hangover—even though you’ve left the fictional world, the feelings and memories it gave you are still there, making you wish the story would just keep on going. But then, on the other hand, there’s that feeling of infinite possibility. You’ve spent your time in one realm, and now a whole world of unwatched series is before you. You could choose anything!
So . . . where the heck do you start?
This is a recurring problem for me when it comes to anime (and any other fictional realm, to be honest). I’ve run into it often enough at this point to come up with a few ways of handling it. By no means do I have it all figured out, and I still find myself trawling aimlessly through Netflix in search of something that looks halfway decent or procrastinating on watching a series for ages, so you can take my advice with as big of a grain of salt as you wish. Regardless, here are a few of the things that have worked pretty well for me in the past!
1. Get a Recommendation from a Friend
This one is tried and true. It works best with a friend you know well, as they’ll have a good idea of what you might like—sometimes even better than you do! However, it can work nicely with a fellow anime fan you’ve just met, too. When asking for advice from someone about which anime I should watch next, I like to tell them about other series I’ve seen; that way, they might think of a series that’s similar to ones I’ve already enjoyed, but that I might not have heard of before and might like.
However you choose to go about this one, I recommend watching the suggestion as soon as you can after you hear about it Otherwise you risk procrastinating on it to infinity or, worse yet, forgetting about it altogether. (Why yes, I am speaking from experience.) Plus, that also mean you can squee about the series with your friend all the sooner, which, as we all know, is the best part of watching, reading, or playing something that someone you care about recommends to you.
2. Search Based on Other Anime You’ve Enjoyed
This concept works great for books and can work really well for anime, too, given the right circumstances. Using the aforementioned trawl-through-Netflix method can be a great way to go about this (albeit risky, as it can devolve into endless scrolling). Since most streaming services pull lists of suggestions for you based on stuff you’ve already watched, this is a great way to find more of the kind of stuff you tend to like.
There are also websites out there like animesuggestions.com that are specifically made to help your cause in this regard: just enter the name of an anime you already like, and it’ll generate a list of suggestions based on the title you entered. You can then go find reviews of any that look interesting, or just jump right in and see where a new series takes you.
3. Choose Something outside Your Wheelhouse
This tip is basically the polar opposite of the last one. It can take some extra motivation to try it—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But it can be a really good way to get out of a rut if you find yourself in one and want to broaden your horizons, and it can also be a fun way to find new anime that you would never have expected to love. Don’t really care for the artwork style? Give it a try anyway! Never been drawn to a sports anime? Check one out! Tend to avoid popular anime because people on the internet won’t shut up about them? See what all the fuss is about!
Of course, with this strategy, you risk wasting time on something you don’t care for in the slightest, or reminding yourself why you never liked a particular story aspect in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. You might be surprised at how much you love that niche genre or that new storytelling style.
Now, sometimes these tips work really well, but sometimes the best laid plans of magical mice and men go awry. You might find an anime that looks super promising, but ends up being a dud. Or you might come across one that starts off kind of slow, and you’re not sure whether it’s worth sticking it out or not. So what do you do when that happens? Well, I have a few ideas about that, too.
Give It a Set Number of Episodes
There are plenty of anime series out there that are a slow burn to start but well worth watching if you can power through the slower sections. The problem is telling the difference between those that are worth sticking with and those that you’re better off abandoning. To solve this, you can decide on a set number of episodes—three to five is generally a good number, I find—that you’ll watch through before deciding whether to quit or keep going. If, after a certain number of episodes, there’s nothing about the show that’s really grabbing you (or, worse yet, something that’s actively turning you off), you can quit it with the knowledge that you gave it a good try but found out that it just wasn’t your bag.
Read the Reviews
This strategy is particularly good for if you start watching a series because you’ve heard great things about it, but it just doesn’t do it for you at all when you start watching it. There must be some reason everybody likes it, you think, but you’re just not seeing it. This is where the reviews come in—reading other people’s thoughts on a series can be a great way to reveal a lot of things about it (though hopefully not any spoilers). They can tell you that while a series might have a rough start, it gets way better later on. They can make you consider a perspective on the series that you might not have thought about before, which might help you understand what it is about the story that pulls people in. Or, on the flipside, it might show you that what everybody else loves about the show totally isn’t your thing at all. No matter what, you’re sure to learn a lot more about whether or not a series will be worth your while.
Know That It’s Okay to Quit!
When it comes down to it, you just have to know your limits. Sometimes it’s worth giving a new series a chance, even if you’re not sold on it, but sometimes you can tell right off the bat when something’s not going to work for you. For example, as much as I love anime, one of my least favorite things about it is its tendency to include lots of fanservice or sexist elements and a hyperfocus on the male gaze. A series can be otherwise great, but if it starts off with an overabundance of this kind of thing, I’m going to be really hard-pressed to keep watching. The story elements that cross the line are going to be different for everybody, and they might even vary from show to show, but it’s important to know when something is too much and to move on when need be.
These are just a few strategies that I’ve tried and found useful in the past, but they’re not hard and fast by any means. Whether you use these ideas as a jumping-off point, or go totally rogue and find your own way through the vast and treacherous ocean that is anime, I hope you find the next great anime series that’s out there waiting to become your new favorite!