This question came up when I was chatting with some mates. I went to answer, but then I caught myself, realising that I didn’t really have a good answer. Or maybe I had multiple good answers; that’s subjective, I guess. Regardless, I promised to blog about my thoughts on the matter, so here we are.
Superficially, it seems like a pretty straightforward question. You may have to go check MAL or something to confirm, but otherwise it’s just a simple, closed question. Find the series and name it. The ambiguity comes in when you get into the nitty-gritty about what “first” means in this context. I had a couple of ideas on how this could be interpreted. This is what I ended up with.
1. First Ever
This definition of “first” encompasses literally everything. Anything you may have seen at all, even in passing, be it at a friend or relative’s house, or even on display at an electronics store. For most, I imagine this would be whatever you saw on your local Saturday morning kid’s TV channel. Needless to say, I’m no exception.
I actually don’t remember what this might be, and I don’t really have a good way of finding out. Chances are I was too young for anything to leave a lasting impression on me. I remember Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh and a handful of others, but I can’t recall where they fit in chronologically. Based on the circumstances I remember them in though, I would probably say Dragon Ball Z or Pokemon Johto if I had to pick something.
2. First Intentional
When asked about the topic at hand, I don’t expect many people to answer as above. The first anime you just happened to see likely holds no sentimental value to you, even more so if you only saw a couple of odd episodes on TV by chance. Thus, I came up with this second definition: the first anime you sat down and watched solely for the sake of watching it, with the intention of actually seeing it through.
Honestly, this still goes back a bit too far for me to remember. There was one show I had on VHS that I remember sitting down to watch one evening. I don’t remember much of it other than a bit of romance, some mechas and Evangelion-looking sailor uniforms, but a bit of googling a few years ago turned up Project A-Ko. Not sure if that’s the one, but it has a couple of similarities to lead me into believing so. Maybe I’ll give it an honest rewatch one of these days.
3. First Remembered
You’re probably getting pretty tired of all of these vague non-answers, but rest assured, I actually remember what my first anime was by this definition. Here we’ll cover the first anime I can clearly remember putting on and watching. If you’re excluding things you saw in passing, this is probably a definition you’d go by.
My dad had [a-o]’s release of Prince of Tennis on a hard drive from a friend, which I did watch most of (the series wasn’t finished by then). He also got me a counterfeit Chinese DVD box set of Naruto, which I also watched but also wasn’t completed at the time. The problem is which came first, which again I don’t really remember. Kind of ironic considering I said I had a good answer this time, but I want to say I saw Prince of Tennis first. Was definitely a great trip down memory lane revisiting this with convex.
4. First Sought
Up until now, everything I’ve seen has just been passive. By this, I mean I didn’t go out of my way to find something in particular to watch, I only watched what happened to be available and within arm’s reach at the time. Thus for this section, I wanted to cover the first anime I actively sought out for the purpose of watching it.
This one I definitely do remember; the intentionality probably helps. It was Inazuma Eleven. I think I saw a few episodes of the dub on Nickelodeon and I wanted to see more, so I found some streaming site and went through the episodes on that. I didn’t finish it because again, the series hadn’t finished airing at the time. Shoutouts to my boy Eternal_Blizzard for slogging through this again with me as well.
5. First Hobby
Following on from Inazuma Eleven, I realised how easy it was to find anime on the internet, so I watched One Piece for a while too, remembering it from those morning TV shows. However, at this stage I wouldn’t say I “watched anime”, I just “watched One Piece”. So here, I wanted to give an honourable mention to the first series I watched when I actually started watching anime as a hobby.
Not sure how many this comes as a surprise to, but the award for this section goes to Angel Beats. It was shortly after it had aired, and I remember hearing about it on a forum I frequented at the time. I wanted to see some more because it did leave a bit to be desired, but there wasn’t really anything else since it was one cour. A friend recommended Clannad as a substitute, and I don’t know of any similarities other than Maeda Jun, but I started there and then saw Haruhi, Lucky Star, and all the other “classics” that made rounds back then.
6. First Seasonal
Until this point, I was only watching shows that had already finished airing. I think I might’ve been trying to get through all the aforementioned “classics” that everyone seems to always refer back to, before I started picking up seasonal shows. I also watched a few interesting-looking older shows, but that’s besides the point. Here’s where I talk about the first seasonal anime I watched. I don’t think you’d consider this definition of “first” to answer the question unless it was specified, but I may as well since I’m here.
Funnily enough, this is where my memory gets a bit fuzzy again. I don’t even really remember which season I started picking things up in. Fortunately I use a watch tracker, so I was able to narrow it down to some degree. I don’t recall watching any of Winter 2011 while they were airing, but I do remember some of Spring 2011. As far as which came first, I don’t actually know. It probably depends on the air dates and fansubs, so it’s a toss up between Steins;gate, Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai 2, Kaiji 2, A-Channel and Nichijou. I hate that I don’t remember which it was.
7. First Fansub
There are probably only a select few people have the same answer for “what was the first anime you watched?” and “what was the first anime you fansubbed?” I’m not one of them, but I figured I might as well throw this one in for the sake of it. Interestingly, a lot of people seem to think I’m a fansubber despite the fact that I’ve never gone around calling myself one. I guess it just comes with the territory if you hang around the scene for as long as I have.
That said, I have had a hand in putting English words on Chinese cartoons on the odd occasion, and the first instance of this was Hai to Gensou no Grimgar with Hiryuu. Ironically, this came about because I kept bugging Hyaku to release it and vale stalling it to eternity. Eventually, Hyaku just asked if I wanted to do it myself and I was like yeah ok. Kakegurui is also worth mentioning here. It was the first show I subbed from the beginning, also thanks to my boy Hyaku. Naine killed that dream though 😐 rip Hyaku, rip tab lesbos.
That was a pretty long-winded and convoluted answer for what was supposed to be a very short and clear question. As they say though, the devil is in the detail, and this is surely more interesting than naming a series and getting on with life. Anime is serious business, you know?