I’ve tried to get into anime in the past. In theory it should push all my buttons — Japanese video games and visual novels are based very closely on the tropes and conventions of anime, after all — but somehow I’ve never managed more than a fleeting investigation into the medium.
The problem, you see, is knowing where to start. Anime is not some small, little thing you can just jump into at the “beginning” and follow a set “canon” of things you simply must see. If you’re unfamiliar with the medium, saying that you want to “get into anime” is like saying that you want to “get into movies” or “get into books” — it’s not a single, simple, easily-defined thing, as within itself it carries a huge collection of genres and formats, and is aimed at all ages from young to old and everything in between.
The first time I investigated anime was back when I was still living with my parents. My brother, who was working on PC Zone at the time (if I remember correctly — it might have been PC Player. One of those two, anyway. Not that it really matters.) had been given a metric fuckton of promotional anime videos, as the fledgling Manga Video label in the UK was just starting to come to prominence, and PC Zone had run a feature on anime-themed games too. The box of videos contained a diverse array of anime ranging from the bizarre (Ultimate Teacher, the story of a schoolgirl who could only fight well if she was wearing her modest Velvet Pussy Panties rather than skimpy cotton knickers, and her quest to defeat the genetically modified teacher Ganpachi) to the horrifying (Urotsukidoji, which gave me my first taste of tentacle porn and the subsequent confused feelings said first taste tends to evoke) via titles more grounded in “reality” (Crying Freeman, a drama about an assassin who sheds tears after every kill). I got quite into some of these but also became frustrated at videos that came in partway through a series, or ones which I didn’t have any real means of finding subsequent episodes of. As such, I didn’t really pursue my investigation of the medium any further.
When I got big into visual novels relatively recently, I started following J-List on Twitter and Facebook. Peter Payne, the guy behind the site, posts all manner of stuff on those accounts at seemingly all hours of the day and night, ranging from interesting descriptions of life as a Westerner living in Japan to pics of hot anime girls (and, occasionally, guys) — and, of course, discussions of what is worth checking out in the land of anime in general.
One show that Peter mentioned recently that caught my attention was Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, a show that takes the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft (specifically as depicted in the Call of Cthulhu pen-and-paper RPG), runs it through a mangle and inexplicably decides to make some of the most horrifying of the Old Ones into moe anime characters, beginning with Nyarlathotep (aka Nyarko) and following shortly afterwards with Cthugha and Hastur. A rather large degree of artistic license is taken with these characters — Nyarko is just one of a race of Nyarlathoteps, for example, and it turns out they’re not as evil and horrible as popular opinion might have it — but there’s just enough lip service paid to Lovecraft’s work to please fans while remaining totally accessible to those who have only a passing familiarity with the Cthulhu mythos. (You’ll miss quite a lot of the jokes if you have no familiarity with it whatsoever.)
The show is hugely entertaining, and manages to get the viewer hugely engaged with the weird and wonderful cast of characters very quickly while not taking itself seriously in the slightest. There’s a lot of fourth wall-breaking, a lot of self-referential humour and some truly inspired episodes that lampoon aspects of popular culture such as the console wars and the “dating sim” visual novel subgenre. (There’s also a lot of people stabbing each other in the head with a fork as a means to get them to be quiet, for some reason.) Much like how My Girlfriend is the President consistently raised the bar on how crazy it got as it progressed — and yet somehow remained coherent, engaging and touching at times — so, too does Haiyore! Nyaruko-san. It starts with an utterly absurd premise and only gets more ridiculous from there — but at the same time it draws the viewer in with endearing, well-defined characters (most of whom initially appear to be stock characters but who subsequently tend to reveal a strong degree of ironic self-awareness) and quite a touching — if painfully awkward and immensely frustrating — romance story.
It also has the most infuritatingly catchy intro and outro songs I think I have ever heard. This is either something you will be into or something you will never want to sully your ears with ever again, so I present both to you now in order that you may make up your mind.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYlAq-NhR1w] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1qX5GsBfuI]
Basically, if you can deal with those two credits sequences, you’re in the appropriate demographic to enjoy Haiyore! Nyaruko-san. If they make you want to vomit, then perhaps you should go and treat yourself to something a bit more gritty.