I first started watching anime as a way to spend my hangover days. The stories are consistently easy to follow, they frequently transport you far, far away from your depressing reality and many have hundreds of episodes, each of which are usually about 20 minutes long. As such, however frazzled or unpleasant your state of mind, you can easily forget your sorrows by absorbing a lot of content in a short amount of time; not to mention, there will always be more. And even if you forget what the hell was happening along the way, there will almost certainly be an episode on the horizon that recaps the show’s entire plot thus far.
Nowadays, I watch anime all the time, no matter the situation, because the characters are amazing, and despite the perception that anime is just mere cartoons, the shows frequently touch on important existential themes. But since quarantine in particular can, at times, feel like one never-ending hangover day, if anime has ever piqued your interest, now might be a good time to give it a shot. And to help you do that, here are three of my personal recommendations based on how long we might be cooped up indoors…
The Short Quarantine: Mob Psycho 100
Honestly, I had a hard time landing on just one short anime, because there are so, so many good ones, and if you end up liking what I recommend, Death Note (a compelling psychological thriller); One-Punch Man (a cheeky tale of a hero who can desecrate his foes with, yes, just one punch); and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (which features mindblowing animations) are all honorable mentions in this category.
However, I have to give this one to Mob Psycho 100, a 25-episode anime that follows Shigeo Kageyama (nicknamed Mob), a seemingly inconspicuous middle schooler who has immeasurable psychic powers, which become even stronger — and sometimes, out-of-control — when he enters a high emotional state. He’s a protagonist who, because of his god-like abilities, struggles more with finding a fulfilling purpose in life than actually defeating any enemies that cross his path.
In fact, like many young ‘uns, Mob wants to live a normal life, but of course, he constantly runs into trouble, frequently in the form of psychedelically animated demons, monsters and phantoms from the omnipresent spirit world. The battle animations are dreamy and magical, and behind all of this, the show touches on the highly relevant theme of emotional suppression: To keep from losing control of his powers, Mob shackles his emotions and spends much of the story learning how to navigate them. All the while, an on-screen ticker constantly approaches the number 100, and when it does, Mob goes berserk, and the action really begins.
The show also smartly touches on the notion of occult scams, like psychics, spirit mediums and exorcisms, as Mob spends much of his free time working as an assistant to a man named Reigen Arataka, a con man masquerading as a powerful psychic. So, if you like that kind of stuff, this show is definitely up your alley.
All in all, the quick pacing is welcomed in a world where anime episodes have the capacity to drag on. The action is constant; the animations are amazingly striking — your mind will be seriously blown if you watch this stoned, which I recommend; and the moments of humor, of which there are plenty, should help bring a smile to your face.
The Medium Quarantine: My Hero Academia
If we end up in quarantine for, say, a few weeks, my suggestion is the ever-popular My Hero Academia, which has 85 episodes and counting. The story is set in a world where most of the human race has evolved to possess superpowers, casually known as “Quirks.” The main character, Izuku Midoriya, nicknamed Deku, is one of the few people born without a quirk, but a chance encounter with the world’s greatest superhuman, All Might, whose powers can be inherited, puts him on the path to becoming an amazing hero. As a part of that path, he attends high school specifically for heroes in the making, which is where the show is primarily set.
What I like most about My Hero Academia is the diversity of characters. Obviously, a school requires teachers, students and other staffers, all of whom are thoroughly developed, have unique and engaging personalities, and of course, have their own epic powers, ranging from being able to sweat ignitable nitroglycerin and create explosions to having the physical capabilities of a frog (yeah, seriously).
Like Mob Psycho 100, the themes are also impactful. As in real life, in My Hero Academia, some students are born privileged and talented, while the main character is born without a power at all — and he has to deal with that, even after he inherits a power, which he struggles to use, because he went so long without one. The villains, too, are compelling and complicated, not strictly after world domination or whatever other crap bad guys usually want. Instead, these villains are, in some roundabout way, frequently attempting to help the world, or at least expose some of its underlying problems.
In general, this is another fun anime with some really creative characters that make it feel different and more compelling than your usual, tired superhero stories.
The Long Quarantine: Naruto and Naruto Shippūden
My love for Naruto is boundless, and as I wrote about once before, it took me years to get through all 720 episodes and 11 movies. So, yeah, Naruto and Naruto Shippūden are my recommendations for the long-haul quarantine.
Naruto is so long, in fact, that it would be impossible for me to touch on all of the plots, but it essentially tells the story of a boy named Naruto Uzumaki, a young, orphaned ninja who dreams of one day becoming the leader of his village. Along the way, you watch Naruto and his companions face serious challenges, grow up and participate in epic fight scenes. Because of the sheer length of this anime, each and every character has their own fully developed, emotionally driven backstory. I was so inspired by the show — and one character in particular, named Gaara — that I actually got his face tattooed on my thigh, which should speak to just how impactful this show and its characters can be.
That being the case, if you want something that you can really sink your teeth into; something that will encourage you to connect with the characters; to care about them, to love them, to laugh with them and cry with them, Naruto and Naruto Shippūden are great choices.
And depending on how long we all end up stuck in our homes, maybe, just maybe, you can watch your way through all of my recommendations.