How to Get Started in the World of Manga and Anime

Want to read manga and watch anime but aren’t sure where to begin? Here’s a great guide to get you started!

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Anya Forger looking under a table and holding her magnifying glass up to one eye.

Manga and anime are so varied that it’s hard to know where to start. Not to mention other issues, like where to read, watch, and buy them, or the slow, inevitable obsession that comes with consuming these types of media. However, as someone who has been reading manga and watching anime for over fifteen years, I’m here to be your guide into the world of manga and anime. Read on to learn more.

Manga

How to Read It

A collection of manga panels numbered to show how to read them.
IMAGE VIA MANGAHEJP

Before all else, it’s important to note that manga is read from back to front, right to left. If you try reading it the way we westerners usually do, you may give away the end of the book before you even begin! It takes a bit of getting used to, but before you know it, it’ll be like second nature! The way the books are bound also makes them easier to remember.

Reading Online or Hard Copy

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it ultimately comes down to preference. Some websites let you read manga for free, such as Viz Media, which is great, except you never know when a website will be shut down. Not to mention that some sites rely on fan translations, which can be rather… abysmal. You can also buy some manga as e-books, and while you would have to pay for each volume, they would be reliable translations that you could access whenever. With both of these options, you wouldn’t have to worry about reading from back to front.

Someone holding a physical copy of a manga open.
IMAGE VIA EF

Then again, you could read physical copies, which are my favorite. There’s nothing quite like holding a book and flipping through the pages. They can be a pain to carry around, as can all books, and they need plenty of bookshelf space. But you get to show off your collection, which has to count for something.

Genres

This one is certainly true for any kind of book, but it’s still just as important. There are the usual genres — fantasy, romance, adventure, science fiction, horror, and so many more. And, of course, all the subgenres. But there are some important terms to know when it comes to manga and anime as well. Let’s get into some of them.

'Fullmetal Alchemist' by Hiromu Arakawa book cover showing ed and Alphonse standing back to back.
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While you should read whatever you want without worrying about whether you’re the intended audience or not, it is still important to know these terms because they’re used heavily in the manga and anime realm.

Anime

The Basics

A collection of popular anime characters such as Yuuji, Gojo, Tanjiro, Jotaro, Eren, Gon, Yumeko, Goku, Deku, and Eijun Sawamura.
IMAGE VIA MERISTATION

The first thing to note is that anime isn’t just manga adaptations. Anime is just a shortened version of the word “animation,” so this encompasses all Japanese animated movies and shows. So, watching a Miyazaki film is also watching anime.

Where to Watch

Because anime is so widely popular, it’s not hard to find places to watch it. One option is online, and plenty of websites let you watch anime for free. But be warned: many of them contain pop-up ads, and you may even download a malicious virus on your computer. Some consider it worth the risk, though, since the other two options cost money.

A crunchyroll poster of essential anime including 'One Piece,' 'Sailor Moon,' and more.
IMAGE VIA CRUNCHYROLL

Many streaming services have anime selections. One service is Crunchyroll, which focuses primarily on anime and lets viewers watch some anime — usually the first season of a series — for free, but much of their content sits behind a paywall. If you buy the discs, then you own them forever and don’t have to worry about paying a subscription. However, discs can get quite expensive; twelve episodes could cost up to $25. So, if a series has 120 episodes, that’s $250 — without tax.

How to Watch it

Naruto and Sasuke attacking each other with the words "Dubs" and "Subs" placed over them respectively.
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There’s a huge divide among English-speaking fans on whether to watch anime in English or Japanese with English subtitles. They’re super gung-ho about it, and there have been intense debates online about which is better. I’ll tell you straight up — it doesn’t matter, so just do whichever works best for you. Reading subtitles while watching the show is a bit of a challenging skill to master, but I still recommend trying both before making a decision. Just don’t listen to imbeciles who judge you for watching one over the other.

Recommendations

Now that you have some basic background information, it’s time to dive into reading and/or watching. I recommend starting with some of the more popular manga and anime first, as they’re more easily accessible.

Three partial shots from shows such as 'Bloom Into You' and 'Horimiya.'
IMAGE VIA THE MARY SUE

To help out, below are some recommendations based on five genres (not including the ones previously discussed). There’s one per genre, and each rec. counts for both manga and anime.

Fantasy — Yona of the Dawn

'Yona of the Dawn' by Mizuho Kusanagi book cover showing Yona sitting surrounded by swords.
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Yona is a spoiled princess whose life is turned upside down when her father is murdered by her love on her sixteenth birthday. Escaping the palace with Hak, her bodyguard and childhood friend, Yona struggles to survive while evading her enemies. She is determined to keep going, but is anywhere safe?

Isekai — My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

'My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!' by Satoru Yamaguchi and art by Nami Hidaka book cover showing Catarina in her signature villain pose with Princes Geordo and Alan behind her.
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A high school girl is reincarnated as the villainess in her favorite otome game, Fortune Lover. She is now Catarina Claes, a spoiled and selfish daughter of a duke, and her new life syncs with the game’s plot. This is terrible. In the game, Catarina is left with only two fates: being condemned to live in exile or death!

Romance — Horimiya

'Horimiya' by Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara book cover showing Hori and Miyamura standing back to back.
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Hori Kyouko is a popular, smart, and pretty girl, while Miyamura Izumi is boring, gloomy, and a “loser.” But these are only their school personas — outside of school, Hori is a plain Jane homebody while, Miyamura is pierced and tattooed with a big brother personality. Through each other and their love, they discover that each person has more than one side.

Slice of Life — Yotsuba&!

'Yotsuba&!' by Kiyohiko Azuma book cover showing Yotsuba holding a bundle of sunflowers.
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(Spoiler! This manga doesn’t have an anime.) Yotsuba is a curious, quirky, energetic girl who’s always getting into mischief. When she and her father move far away, she quickly meets their new neighbors and wanders off with one of them, despite his seemingly shady behavior. Her consistent curiosity drives the plot, and she hopes that everyone will come play with her — including the readers.

Adventure — One Piece

'One Piece' by Eiichiro Oda book cover showing the covers of the first three volumes with Luffy, Buggy, and Zoro respectively.
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Ever since childhood, Monkey D. Luffy has wanted to be the Pirate King. But that dream seemed derailed when he accidentally ate a gum-gum Fruit that allowed him to stretch his body like rubber. The problem? Whoever eats these fruits are unable to swim! But Luffy remains focused on his dream and, years later, becomes a pirate who can’t swim, searching for the One Piece, the greatest treasure of all.

So, dear beginners, I do hope this was a helpful guide. While there’s so much more to anime and manga, this introduction should help you navigate through the ins and outs. Happy reading and/or watching!


For more on anime and manga, click here.

Check out the Manga shelf on Bookstr’s Bookshop page.

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