Trapped in the past: How many gateway anime do we need, exactly?

Doing a full blog round does give me inspiration for a special post from time to time. This post is largely inspired by Eternal’s and Ryan A’s theory and opinions on gateway anime. They make me reflect to myself and other fans I’ve met and thus, this post takes shape.

I few weeks ago, I talked to one of my senpai at work and learned that he was a die hard fan of Dragon Ball Z since he was a kid and that he was still watching the old series (for the hundredth time) until now. I was so shocked that I almost fell off my chair when I realized, through further talking, that he didn’t know what ‘anime’ means (he could not even correctly pronounce the word, for god sake!). And of course he had minimal to none knowledge about other anime series, not to mention the currently airing ones. I also ran into few similar situations last year with two other people I knew; one was Ultraman fanatics and the other was Mask Rider fan. Their fandoms were limited to their childhood experience. For some reason, they never expanded their interests further and I doubted that the wide world of anime even existed to them. I was perplexed and after doing some thinking, here’s my theory.

I was so shocked that I lost all my words

Gateway anime or the anime that brings someone into the world of anime and anime fandom, in my opinion, plays a significant role in shaping up each anime fan. It affects how a fan perceives and expects from anime and eventually influence his/her choices in choosing anime whether that fan realize it or not.

For me, Doraemon is my childhood gateway anime and it greatly affects my taste in watching anime. I’ve already written about that subject in my other post. Nevertheless, I haven’t always been watching anime consistently since then. There was time when I almost completely stopped watching anime during my junior high school years. I thought I had grown up and those kiddy shows were no longer for me. Of course back then I had no idea about the existence of countless anime made for late teen and adults.

Whisper of the Heart remains one of my all time favorite

I wouldn’t have been here writing anime blog as anime fans if I hadn’t been exposed to a small group of Ghibli anime like Whisper of the Heart, Ocean Waves, Spirited Away and certain anime series such as X TV and Serial Experiment Lain. They were my second gateway anime, the anime that rekindled the fire inside me. Thanks to them, I continued my anime fandom through my late teens into my years in the university until now. It was something kiddy shows like Doraemon, Ninja Hatori or Dragon Ball Z could never have done. This is what I’m saying; we need more than one group of anime to get us through different stages of our lives. If all it took to become a long term anime fan were one or few kiddy shows, half the population of the world would now be part of our anime community.

What do you think about this matter? Please share them here.

Note: Yi and kluxorious also share their experiences on this topic on their posts. Read them!

43 responses to “Trapped in the past: How many gateway anime do we need, exactly?

  1. For a gateway to be such, the viewer must end up watching a wider selection of works. In the case of the Mask Rider and Dragon Ball Z fans you mentioned, they didn’t have a gateway. They stopped right at the gate.

    I suppose I can share about my Gundam experience. I’m a relatively new fan. I tried but could not get into the franchise (having DROPPED 9 shows) before getting into it via Gundam 00. People can find their gateway Gundam here.

    The link contains much of my practical thoughts — expressed through Mechafetish’s post, on gateway anime.

    • ‘…Mask Rider and Dragon Ball Z fans you mentioned, they didn’t have a gateway. They stopped right at the gate.’

      You maybe right. Those shows are epic and really involving. It’s no surprise that lots of people get totally absorbed by it and feel complete and satisfied. Well, I can’t say for sure cause I’m no big fan of neither of them.

      On a side note; I can’t believe this your your first comment here. Welcome!

  2. we need more than one group of anime to get us through different stages of our lives

    Oh I like that thought! It’s definitely true that various works will attract more/less depending where the viewer is in life. This somewhat goes along with what ghostlightning has always re-enforced about “being ready” to experience.

    I do think there needs to be something after the gateway period/works/singular-item, but the concept of multiple gateways is kinda interesting as well. Re-kindling! I definitely think new sparks can have great short-term affects in those who experience things; this is synonymous with “recently getting into something” though this is a unique case because it’s “inside” a medium already.

    Whatever the case, I do think sparks, whether gateway, re-kindling, or just new interests create a varied perspective, especially in the short-term. How long those effects last likely vary, but it’s probably a strength if the viewer can really define their “current” interests.


    • I’m glad you find it interesting. Thinking that long term fans must get through several steps before reaching the state in which their fandom is stable and lasting, it makes all of us around here quite…fascinating, almost like it’s fate. ^_^

  3. I remember halting a bit at Love Hina since the sort of experience it presented were those that I could empathize with, but then I dropped the medium because I thought that the story that Love Hina told was a closing chapter. It wasn’t until I watched Gunslinger Girl that I realized shows could be so much more in-depth and now, I haven’t stopped.

    Guess this story validates the theory that you’re putting forth in the italics section of the penultimate paragraph.

    • That sounds similar. Each anime tells different messages and for someone completely new to the medium, certain anime can lead to false generalization of the whole medium :)

  4. lol now this inspired me to write a post about it as well. And yeah I agree with what you said. Your gateway anime will influence your taste whether you realize it or not.

  5. The old man weighs in – multiple gateways, definitely and of course!

    I wonder if the opposite exists though – shows that a jaded otaku stumbles on just when they’re getting tired of anime, and that make them deside to get into something more rewarding, like Ozu films or crystal meth.

    I like that this post avoids the pitfall of assigning particular anime shows a ‘gateway status’. Gateways are like first love – eaveryone has a different one, of a different kind (unless it was Debbie Reid in Grade Seven, but that’s another story).

    • I didn’t depict any particular gateway anime because it’d be like forcing someone to enjoy what I think that one should enjoy.

      umm, maybe using the ‘gateway’ term is too narrow. There are definitely varying effect to a person(fan or newbie) an anime could cause.

  6. Hi there!

    Your conversation with this work colleague, who’s a fan of Dragon Ball Z, but seemingly ignores the rest of the wide world of animes, echoes a discussion I had a few years ago with people working in French companies specializing in anime DVDs. These small companies were started by people who had become fans of what was then known as “Japanese cartoons” (dessins animés japonais) in the 1980’s – 1990’s, during which French channels massively broadcasted such series (up to 30 hours a week). One of their aim was to redeem a form of audiovisual entertainment which had been heavily denigrated at the time, mostly as a Japanese plot to degrade young European’s minds. At the beginning, their main public were small groups of die-hard fans, who had to turn to them, when new French and European Union policies of quotas almost wiped out animes from TV screens. But as topical, digital channels developped all over Europe and began scheduling more recent animes, the business of these video publishers started taking off at the end of the 1990’s. Their niche expanded to include younger amateurs, also called the “2nd generation”, usually aged between 15 and 25. Of course, the arrival of the DVD also helped boost their sales and encouraged them to buy the rights of newer animes. With the possibilities to bring together various types of content, especially making-of and interviews with actors and producers, the DVD offered them a way to build a new kind of publics: that of anime, understood as a particular type of entertainment, coming from Japan. However, these editors expressed a major concern with the evolution of these publics, which they divide basically in three categories: the fans of “Japanese cartoons” or “animated manga” (as they are now often labeled in France) broadcasted in their youth (1980’s-1990’s), the aforementioned second generation, and a crowd of younger consumers of such big franchises as Pokémon, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. What they fear is that the first category will turn away from anime once they have collected in DVD all the anime series of their youth and that the youngest crowd (aged between 10 and 15) will only be fans of specific worldwide franchises, for whom the specifically Japanese touch is almost completely irrelevant, while the second generation is too small to keep them all in business. In other words, you’ve got a crowd of nostalgic from the 1980’s – early 1990’s animes, a small second generation of anime fans, and a large crowd of Naruto fans, Pokémon fans, Yu-Gi-Oh fans, etc…who don’t care at all for a clearly identified Japanese style. And the fact that these franchises are created for a transnational context, with the idea that it shouldn’t be appearing too Japanese, encourages even less an interest in a specifically Japanese form of entertainment. The fact that most adaptations of these products coming to Europe aren’t derived from the Japanese original, but from the versions prepared for the US market, make it even harder for their young public to realize that these are originally Japanese entertainments.

    • Thanks for the long and interesting comments!
      I think the three groups of fans concept is a logical assumption. Those three groups do really exist and I must admit that the fans that watch multiple and wide range of shows is probably the smallest portion. The case like that appears in almost every medium like movies and music or novels. I think once the number of anime consumer expands, no one will have to worry about DVD not selling well.

      Nevertheless, I believe that there are also other people who stand between the three groups and falls into none of the categories and there are also a lot of people who can switch themselves from one group to the other once certain ‘gateway’ anime comes along in their lives.

      • Hello!

        Thank you for reading and answering my comment!

        You’re right about the fact that the categorization of publics I mentioned can be easily applied to other forms of audiovisual entertainment. But the concerns for these DVD publishers specializing in animes (they don’t edit anything else) is that, as anime fans themselves who were trying to share their passion with a wider public, they feel that they might fail in encouraging the mainstreaming of these TV animated series as Japanese productions. In other words, they were hoping that people in Europe would accept to integrate in their entertainment background something as distinctively non-European as animes.

        If it is only about publishing animated series that are part of a wider franchise, embodied in a multiplicity of products like video games, card games, comic-books, movies, music hits, etc, then, bigger companies will take over and these much smaller, almost artisan-like companies, founded by passionate people, will die out. Indeed, if their specific added value, that is, their capacity to act as not just commercial, but also cultural mediators between the original Japanese producers and European publics, is becoming irrelevant because most anime consumers don’t really care about their origin and the cultural subtext they carry, then these companies simply loose their reason to exist. Indeed, simply editing content as global, “colour-less” products is something big corporations can easily do in a much more cost-efficient way.

        Well, this is a very stimulating post you wrote…I need to think more about all this! ;-)

  7. Interesting ! I was often confronted to people who thought that the world of Japanese animation was only composed by the few shows airing in tv back then (i talk like about 15-20 years ago).
    At that time i had no other choice to only watch those since internet wasn’t available.
    The problem is that a large amount of those people still think exactly the same after all these years and never reconsidered their judgment, which is a great source of tension with me. I’m passionate :)

    It’s not really surprising people don’t even think to look deeper into Animes world. After all, animes coverage (at least in my country) is nearly nonexistent so only persons who really want to know more and take the time to look after information will be able to discover how rich the Animes world really is.

    To talk about Gateway animes, mine was without a doubt, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball. They were airing one after the other and every evening those 2 episodes were my only reason to stay in front of a TV for 40 minutes :)

    Of course it happened to lost interest in watching anime but never for long.

    • I share similar situation as yours. All the people I know in real life do not know anything about anime. Only few have some knowledge about anime but theirs are too limited for further discussion. I wonder if it’s because of each person’s personality that makes the person want to look deeper into something or is it just…fate…like encountering something at the right place and the right time. :)

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  9. I agree it probably takes more than one anime to make someone a long term fan. At the same time though, I can remember one single anime that made me go out and look for more.

    Still, “we need more than one group of anime to get us through different stages of our lives.” My interest would probably have died out if I haven’t discovered several other anime at various stages of my life to continue going.

    • I’m glad you find my post interesting. Now I wonder if there will be a time in the future when I need another gateway anime to keep me going. That sounds pretty insecure…

  10. You made this post on the 11th and I only realized until now? Blurgh. If only Feeds updated more consistently and involved popups, a guy like me would be able to notice stuff <.<

    Anyhow, I've never considered there being more than one possible gateway before – an innovating thought. When I think about it, it's right; different phases of one's life requires different gateways, and different 'gateways' have different effects on different people; some stop there, others seek more. I see one's 'gateway series' as one that intrigues a viewer and causes her/him to want to seek more of the same themes and visual styles that intrigued them. Thus they explore the anime sub-culture, eventually viewing other related series and becoming a fan.

    Why is it then that fans of such series as Dragon Ball don't further seek similar series despite being charmed by it? Surely there can't exist a series so fulfilling that one would never wish to seek another similar experience ever again.
    My take is that those we know who fall into this category, those in the English speaking community, were exposed to a series so huge and westernized that they weren't sure where to look for a furthering experience. Sure, most of them know it originates from Japan, but the language, idioms and cultural references were too decisively western for them to make an immediate connection to anime, and thus there was confusion as to where to look. As such, the desire just dies out over time.

    Sure, I watched Doraemon in my childhood, but my 'mature' gateway series was Chobits, back when I was twelve. It's probably why I've grown so cynical over the years.

    • Yeah, I have the same problem about slow feed update. But then again, I’m always late and usually fall behind every body else X_X

      Despite the fact that I hardly remember any in-depth details of Dragon Ball, I think your opinion sounds logical. I suppose the accessibility to anime is quite limited the the past, though things are improving but still far from enough to get to the less than enthusiastic general audience.

      So your mature gateway was Chobits! (I wonder what would have happened to me if that anime were the gateway for me, that’s interesting)

  11. In the U.S. (and maybe most places in the western hemisphere) I can see how people my age had a hard time expanding into other anime series. I was REALLY into Sailor Moon in 5th grade, it was on TV dubbed. During junior high I watched the series that were available to me Saturday Mornings, but something was missing from the series available to me. THEN “Cardcaptors” aired, I was horrified at all the obvious editing and found the complete series (subbed) on eBay. Realizing I could read subs, and that there was such a huge world of anime out there is what solidified me as an anime fan for life.

    Things might be different these days though, for the past few years movie stores have had many shelves of anime DVDs, and bookstores had many shelves of manga. Those that grew up with that kind of access, I wonder if that significantly changed their path from the one I took?

    • That is an interesting point you raise. The increased accessibility to anime should increase the number of potential long term anime fans nowadays. I think there seems to be more fans popping up everywhere but I can’t be sure if they will last. Nevertheless, it is quite hard to say for sure because right now, people also have better chance of expressing themselves online. Maybe it’s just there are less closet fans?

      • I hear that anime convention attendees are on the rise in the U.S. so maybe that’s a sign that less people are in the closet? Although even if a fan were in the closet…they could go to a convention and not feel too worried about exposing themselves since all the other attendees would be fans too.

  12. Hiya, I’ve been drifting from blogs to blogs then I found this post of yours. Usually I don’t comment at such posts because I do not really know how to express my humble opinions on such topic, and that I am rather casual when it comes to watching anime and don’t give much big thoughts about them (maybe I’ve become more simple minded these days).

    I never really thoguht much about “gateway anime”, because I have never heard about this term until I stumbled upon this post. I suppose those are the things that are exceptional in some ways (entertainment/being enjoyable?) that will keep one going to explore some more. For me as a person who did spend a lot of time in Hong Kong the availability of anime is quite good as there are shows that are aired on TV, or translated and localised manga that are published often, or even VCDs that we could buy from shops. I remember I first watch Doraemon during childhood, and eventually brought to some popular series in the 90s like Gundam Wing and Evangelion with my sister. Once I started to study abroad, the availability of such entertainment is pretty much near none (especially when I spend a lot of the time in a countryside), so I kinda forgot about them. In fact if it were to keep going that way I probably will still be ‘living under a rock’ and know nothing about the big series.

    Several years later (several years ago?) I met a friend from Hong Kong who has been into anime for a long time, and he introduced me more anime series and that somewhat got me back in. With the availability and resources Internet has now this has kinda got me a bit more into things, or try to explore other genres that I am not familiar with in the first place. Now thinking back, anime has become much more distributed than before already, especially with the growth of the Internet. An interesting comparison would be how some popular series back then would air in Hong Kong several years (maybe 2?) after Japan, but now we have Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood whose Hong Kong version is airing only several weeks behind Japan. Well maybe FMA:B is an exception but it’s interesting how things have become even more popular and influential than before.

    On the other hand, some people may simply move on and don’t really know much about anime in general, especially if there wasn’t much to provide them in the first place (e.g. availability or influences etc). If I were not to be re-introduced back into it by that friend of mine back then, maybe my interests and hobbies would be rather different to what it is now.

    Hm, I did type more than I nrormally do, and may not be fully relevant to your topic anyway, but I do hope it’s some rather random view from someone humble like me.

    • Looks like everyone shares a time distant from anime/manga for certain reason, yours being getting trapped in the countryside. Umm, so your friend brought you back into anime but I’m curious whether it’s your friend or any particular anime that was the real reason behind returning into anime fandom. You didn’t mention any specific anime.

      And yes, thanks to the internet god for bringing us all these wonderful anime!

      Oh! I love your comment and it is definitely relevant. I share my experience and your share yours. ^_^

      • My friend is more of a gamer, but I think it’s the type of anime that I like as well as some common interests that me and my friend share drives my interests a bit more forward.

        I have a habit of not wanting say out what particular anime series that I like (akin more like not wanting to reveal some of my info), but back then Gundam SEED and Full Metal Alchemist did get me going in the beginning. I am not a fan of anime that are comedy based or heavily rely on comedies / cheesy stuff, and in contrast I do like mecha and things that feel believable or serious (because I have a keen interest towards WWII military in the first place), which now got me to probe into the Gundam franchise.

        Most of the anime series I watched in the beginning are stuff that people recommended me or lent me to watch, so I was literally ‘fed’ to try to appreciate them. It’s only around 3 years ago or so when I started to look for series to watch myself, which was about the time when the “Haruhi boom” happen I think (spreading out like crazy when I first visited Japan just after the series has finished airing I think, followed closely by the spread by the Internet). Sure I was sucked into the Haruhi thing as well, but I think it did wear off after a year or so… But then I have also become a victim of watching some anime series just for the characters because I have ended up falling for characters like Shana and Fate Testarossa (aka Fate T Harlaown and I do like her in adult age) which got me to buy PVC or poseable figures of them in addiiton to Gundam models I have been buying and building. Ack.

        Overall, my preference on what I like/prefer to watch is still mostly on things that are mecha-driven, have a sense of realism, or believable etc, as well as not being too long (50 episodes the most). There are exceptionals of course, like sola is not my kind of thing but I still quite like it. Well basically that’s how anime is going for me, I think.

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  14. I cannot really think of any gateway anime for me… I just kinda wondered my way into a state of anime-addiction without realizing…

    That is, until I watched Haruhi Suzumia, then I became self aware.

    Also, a few of my friends were reminiscing about toonami and the old shows on that. (but some of them don’t even regard any of that as anime)

    I think if some TV channel would just show some anime regularly – the might do well.

    (I live in the U.S. by the way)

    • Maybe in your case, the love for anime might last really long because it all comes slowly and collectively, not something that comes in a flash and quickly burned out ^^

  15. Hmmmmmm, wow, this is definitely interesting and reminds me of a post I’ve been thinking of doing for quite some time now. Boy where do I start.

    In my opinion, I think a gateway anime needs to be fairly mainstream. I know a lot of people are gonna disagree with me on this one, but take into account what’s ahead.

    How many anime fans (including yourself) do you think got sucked into anime via mainstream anime? A lot. I don’t know an exact number, but a lot. Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon (maybe), YuYu Hakusho, Kenshin, you know, Adult Swim kind of stuff.

    Having watched a great show like Queens Blade, no one who hasn’t seen anime would probably watch that. Or maybe a show like ummmm Baka To Testo. FUNNY show, but anyone else would quickly write it off as a cardcaptor/pokemon/bakugan show.

    My roommate, who didn’t even LIKE anime, started liking it after Elfen Lied. Something with great violence (something anyone can relate to), then with a very dramatic effect at the end.

    I feel people only need 1, but the anime to rekindle or keep it going is endless.

    p.s. sorry if this comment jumped around, I think a bajillion things at once a lot.

    • So what you are saying is that there are many shows a fan need in order to keep being a fan but only the first one should be called ‘gateway’ anime. That actually makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing! ^^

  16. aquabluesweater

    Your gateway animes are pretty similar to mine! I grew up watching animes constantly on saturday morning. The ones that is the most memorable is always Doraemon. What a timeless classics. Other lesser ones are Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon. Yaiba. After a while though, I kinda grew apart from anime. That was until my older brother took me to the cinema to watch Princess Mononoke. That was so good. I then watched SPirited Away when it came out on dvd and never looked back:) (so Ghibli is my second gateways)

    The post was a really good read by the way. Does make me reminisce of the older animes that got me into this fandom.

    PS. Whisper of my Heart is also one of my favourite movies of all time too, anime or not…

    • I am glad to hear that!
      I bet you are from somewhere in Asia since you watched Doraemon since your childhood :)

      • aquabluesweater

        Thailand. It was always on at 8.30am Saturday and Sunday:) Just love that opening song (as nostalgic as it gets for me) and still rate Doraemon as the best friend anyone could ever have!

      • @aquabluesweater
        So we live in the same country and we are conversing in English about Japanese animation….now, that’s really weird!! o_o

  17. aquabluesweater

    The power of internet:) That is pretty neat though. Hope you are not suffering too much from what’s happening in Bangkok…

    Just like any other fandom, whatever your gateways are you do need constant amount of materials to keep you interested and coming back for more. I used to love Lord of the RIngs and used to visit a couple of fansites on a daily basis. But since the trilogies have come and gone, my interest in it has died down significantly. As for animes, I think I will be stuck in this for a while since there are so many other good series I have yet to watch!

    Also, it may not be a gateway anime that you need but a gateway anime friend! (someone who introduces and keep feeding other friends with anime goodies) It works for FaS’s roommate according to his comment above:)

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  19. I think my gateway anime was Cardcaptor Sakura (everyone my age said it was Sailor Moon but I seriously only remember watching Cardcaptor Sakura & Ultraman >__>) Yeah, re-kindling makes the person an anime otaku. How many of my friends watched the series I listed above, and I’m the only one who’s interested in anime. How it was re-kindled… was surprisingly Cardcaptor Sakura. XD (I mean, I watched beyblade and yugioh and stuff but I never knew of the term ‘anime’) Like, 6 years later I was bored and some channel aired the show, I thought it was nostalgic, watched it and was attracted to anime once again.

    You know, I think dubs might’ve made us ignorant of the term’ anime’. When I was a kid, I’d always thought Ultraman was an American series! XD

  20. Pingback: Anime Fandom Discussion Part 1: When did your anime fandom truly begin? | Canne's anime review blog

  21. Robotech. Not sure the term anime even existed then, just knew that this was unlike any cartoon I’d seen before.

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