Written by one of Funimation’s Brand Managers, Jennifu
With The Boy and the Beast out now (get your copy here!), one thing that we’ve heard a lot from fellow anime fans is how they’ve used director Mamoru Hosoda’s movies like Summer Wars and Wolf Children to introduce their parents or family to anime. While some anime fans were introduced to anime at an early age from their parents, many of us know all too well that getting our folks to try, let alone appreciate, Japanese animation seems an impossible task.
Here are some strategies that we at Funimation have employed to introduce our parents or families to anime—and shockingly, some of these actually have worked out!
Start small, with low commitment
Some anime fans get into the medium through marathoning 500-episode shounen epics as their first exposure, but you can’t count on it. One of the first excuses we hear from parents who dismiss trying anime is that they don’t have time, but it’s harder to say no to a 90-minute movie as family bonding time. If you’re introducing your family member to anime, make sure they know you’re not asking them to make a huge commitment—ease them in with a movie or short series first, and they’ll be more likely to give it a try. There are numerous anime lists to choose from so choose wisely.
Recommendations: Summer Wars, Spirited Away, Time of Eve, Eden of the East
Challenge their preconceived notions about anime
Unfortunately, many people who aren’t familiar with anime assume that it’s all kiddie cartoons or hardcore hentai, but we know that there’s so much in between. Make sure that your family member’s first exposure to anime is something far removed from bad stereotypes. A good bet is to avoid violence or sexuality on the first go—yes, that means cutting out tons of awesome shows, but there’s still plenty of quality family-friendly stuff, and we don’t necessarily mean kids’ shows. (Of course, if your parent was the type that took you to R-rated movies before any of the other kids were allowed to, this doesn’t necessarily apply.)
On the other hand, this isn’t even necessarily limited to adult content. If you get the feeling your family member might think anime is all bubbly pink-haired space catgirls, try introducing them to something more realistic or serious. Anime is a hugely diverse medium after all—yes, it has its tropes, but it’s full of high quality art just like film, music, theater etc. By showing a title that challenges them, you can convince your family member that anime is a respectable art form.
All Ages Recommendations: Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro or The Cat Returns, The Boy and the Beast, Barakamon, Patema Inverted
Serious Stuff Recommendations: Space Brothers, Death Parade, Planetes, Monster
And tied in to that…
Make them cry
This may feel too easy, but one of the best types of shows or films that can make someone take anime “seriously” is the tearjerker. For better or worse, we often assume that dramas and tragedies are higher “art” than comedies, which means that these titles may be more likely to make an impression on your parents.
Recommendations: Wolf Children, Your Lie in April, Anohana, 5 Centimeters Per Second
Find something in their interests
I may or may not have gotten my mom to watch all of Emma: A Victorian Romance while she was waiting for new episodes of Downton Abbey—it really scratched her English-aristocratic-period-romance itch. This opened her up to trying more period romance anime that wasn’t too far off, like The Story of Saiunkoku.
Once you get your family member comfortable with anime, there’s plenty of time to get them into That One Show that you love the most, but first, find them something with the best chance they’ll like it. Anime is so diverse, there’s bound to be something in their niche, especially if you’re looking for anime about very specific hobbies. If your mom or dad can’t get enough of cooking shows on the Food Network, Food Wars! is a no-brainer. Your sports-loving sibling has a higher chance of latching onto Kuroko’s Basketball (or Haikyu! if she wants something more realistic). And often, your family member’s favorite popular television or film franchises can be compared to anime as well. With all the superhero movies coming out, getting a relative hooked on My Hero Academia, Tiger and Bunny, or Concrete Revolutio isn’t that much of a stretch, but even popular shows like Doctor Who, The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones can be compared to time travel, zombie, or fantasy anime as well.
Recommendations: Depends on your parent
And most importantly:
Make it easy!
This is one of the most overlooked tactics. Remember the last time you tried to get your friend to watch Your Favorite Anime and he seemed really interested, but only finally got to it a year later (if that)? It’s even harder with someone who’s fairly indifferent to anime.
In the best-case scenario, try to actually watch the anime with your family. Set up a time and place ahead of time, or suggest it as an impulse move—but be prepared with a copy of it immediately accessible. If you can’t actually watch it with them, try to make sure you can physically set up the viewing for them, especially if they aren’t too tech-savvy. It may not seem like much, but the friction in the process of having to find a copy of the series itself, or having to pop in a Blu-ray or turn on a streaming service, can be surprisingly high. Take this out of the system if you can and get the showing completely ready, so that all your parent has to do is hit Play.
What tactics have you tried to get your parents to watch anime? Will you try any of these? Let us know!