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Gateway Series / Anime & Manga

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  • For the oldest American fans, Astro Boy was their gateway series.
  • Speed Racer defined Anime for a couple generations.
  • In the mid-80s, after the Speed Racer generation, but before Dragon Ball Z, came the likes Robotech, Star Blazers, or Voltron (often only intermittently available on VHS cassette tapes!) to bring a large number of Gen X (and older) fans into the industry long before the later generations had the more mainstream and accessible Toonami or Adult Swim as even a possibility.
    • The "Gateway" aspect of both Voltron and Robotech was accentuated by the fact that both were not straight-dubs. They were altered from the source material, changing story, timeline, and even mashing multiple series together (Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada for Robotech; Go Lion and Dairugger XV for Voltron) to create a broader, more Western-appealing story. It worked, especially in Robotech's case, to get fans interested in the original source anime, and then in anime in general. Macross's appeal in the west (although already quite successful in Japan on its own merits) owes a lot of that to Robotech's success (the other series didn't get catch on quite so much).
  • Virtually anything aired on Toonami and/or [adult swim] has been a gateway anime for many viewers. Of course, Cartoon Network seems to have been pretty careful about selecting shows with mainstream appeal — and clearly they've been successful. This makes it even more alarming that both daytime CN and Adult Swim have drastically decreased their amount of anime programming up until recently. Many have pointed at Cartoon Network's... controversial changes as the reason why:
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    • Dragon Ball Z is a big one, serving as a common gateway into anime, shonen, and Fighting Series, in order of specificity.
    • Neon Genesis Evangelion. A lot of otaku became interested in anime after they watched it, and also got quite a few into the mecha genre as well. (On the other hand, it had the opposite effect on a lot of people too...) A whole new generation of Eva fans has arisen ever since the series was broadcast on — you guessed it — [adult swim].
      • Actually Eva was first aired in the US by KTEH (now KQED+), a PBS affiliate in San Jose, uncensored in Japanese! Public television gives you that freedom.
      • One would think that the ways in which the series extensively plays with — and subverts — anime tropes, the notoriously confusing plot, the highly divisive characters, and the all-around weirdness of the show would make it less than ideal viewing for someone unfamiliar with the medium. It's like some personal variant of Unbuilt Trope.
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    • The pilot anime for [adult swim] was Cowboy Bebop, a series great for getting people interested in the medium.
    • Death Note was a gateway series for many into anime period, though for most it was a gateway series into a specific genre (not necessarily bound to anime either) containing darker themes, intense character interactions, strong dubbing, avoidance of the more obvious anime cliches and a decidedly Villain Protagonist, leading many people to search for more "gray-area" genre series like the aforementioned Code Geass.
    • Trigun is another common gateway series, based on the mix of action and humor, and the particularly memorable characters. This, along with the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime to premier on Adult Swim and one of the first to get a strong fanbase.
    • Before Cowboy Bebop or Trigun, Toonami brought viewers Outlaw Star, the first of the Space Western Anime Trinity. It mixes a lot of the best elements from both east and west that would help new western viewers adjust to the anime style, has a very diverse cast of extremely entertaining and likeable characters, and could almost be considered a gateway to the other two space western anime, considering it's (relatively) lighter in tone.
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    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was one of the first anime to be shown on Cartoon Network that dealt with Real Life politics, in a stark contrast to the more fantastical and superpowered plots of Ronin Warriors and Dragon Ball Z. It was the success of the late night "uncut" showings that helped start [adult swim], and the combination of giant robot action and handsome male leads introduced many young boys and girls to anime in general and Humongous Mecha in particular. Unfortunately, Bandai ended up killing the momentum Wing started by following it up with the 20-year-old original Mobile Suit Gundam, which while an undisputed classic of anime, didn't appeal to young American viewers. For years, fans have debated that had they followed up with the more contemporary shows like G Gundam or Gundam X, the franchise might have held on longer.
      • Both Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED, aired a few years after Wing, are generally acknowledged to be the two most recent gateway series into the Gundam universe, at least in the west. In Japan, on the other hand, the original Mobile Suit Gundam was popular enough to be a gateway in and of itself to the Universal Century.
      • Gundam Seed itself was made to be this. Its primary purpose was to bring Gundam to a new audience.
      • Gundam Build Fighters is also this for those new to Gundam and/or Gunpla building, or for those who haven't seen other Gundam shows and movies.
      • Here is a quiz that can help you find your Gateway to the huge Gundam franchise.
    • Naruto could be considered the the third Big Boom of modern anime watchers (the first being Dragon Ball and Toonami and the second being [adult swim]).
      • Also, Naruto and Bleach have introduced many anime fans into the Fan Sub industry.
    • Know someone who likes shows like CSI and Law & Order, and who thinks of anime as "kid's stuff"? Show them Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It seems to work quite well.
    • The Big O is heavily influenced by American fiction, having been called Batman with robots, so it's easy for Americans to follow. For a time [adult swim] showed it on weeknights just after Family Guy and Futurama, and it got a large enough following in the U.S. that they were able to finance a second season, showing new episodes at the front of their Sunday night lineup.
    • Sailor Moon. Best said here:
    One also has to recognize Sailor Moon's massive impact on American anime fandom. Hers was the first show that managed to draw in a measurable audience of real, live girls, who became genuinely hardcore fans thanks to shows like Rurouni Kenshin and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Which led, by a long and twisted trail, to a number of fanboys unexpectedly finding a way to lose their virginities at conventions some years down the line. They may not quite know it, but they owe you one, Sailor Moon.
    • Hamtaro was added to Toonami to attract little kids to the block. It worked and was many viewers first anime.
    • My Hero Academia is based around superheroes so it attracts fans of DC and Marvel comics who previously weren't interested in anime.
  • Anime reached France en masse at the end of the '70s, and for a good part of the '80s, almost the most programs on children's television were anime. Also, due to Animation Age Ghetto syndrome, some totally non-suitable for kids series were broadcasted. It backfired spectacularly in the late '90s (until Cardcaptor Sakura then Pokémon made their way). Let's just list the biggest ones: Goldorak, Gigi, Albator (this one being extremely well-beloved; did you wonder how Daft Punk knew Leiji Matsumoto?), Space Adventure Cobra (which main character was explicitly modeled after a French actor), Candy, Lady Oscar (there even was a movie by a famous French director), Sherlock Hound, Cat's Eye, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z of course, Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque, Minifée, Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Ken le Survivant (sadly, not kidding; the dub deliberately Macekre-d and Gag Dubbed it to tone down the violence), Juliette je t'aime, Nicky Larson, Max et Cie. And so on.
  • In Spain, the love for anime and manga followed up its boom in France quite quickly (as a matter of fact, at first many series were translated from the French version, instead of the English or Japanese). Although shows like Mazinger Z and some Studio Ghibli productions prepared the terrain during the late 70s and early 80s, the whole thing exploded in the late 80s and early 90s with two shows: Dragon Ball and Captain Tsubasa. A whole generation of Spaniard kids became obsessed with anime and manga, and nowadays it's impossible to understand Spanish pop culture without taking this medium into account. Other shows that became big getaways in the following decades were Saint Seiya (Known as "Los caballeros del Zodiaco" or "The Zodiac Knights"), Sailor Moon, Ranma ½, Doraemon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rurouni Kenshin, Pokémon, Love Hina (more the manga than the anime, though), Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach and Inazuma Eleven.
  • Latin America had gateway anime quite sooner than the US, with series such as Mazinger Z, Saint Seiya, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Space Adventure Cobra, Kotetsu Jeeg, Space Dragon Gaiking, Magnet Robot Gakeen, Candy Candy, Gatchaman, Astro Boy and many more being shown regularly after school and on the weekends. Other examples include Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball (and Dragon Ball Z), and Cyborg 009 among others like Pokémon/Digimon.
  • In Brazil, Saint Seiya(Os Cavaleiros do Zodíaco) was the gateway for many anime fans in this country. The huge success during the middle to the end of the 90s open the doors for a lot of Anime to come, most notably Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, Pokémon, Digimon, Captain Tsubasa(Super Campeões), Sailor Moon, Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shurato, Ronin Warriors, Street Fighter II V, Dragon Quest Dai(Fly).
  • To a lesser extent, Hamtaro for the little kids.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist, which boasts good animation, fabulous story-telling, great characters, and a pinch of dark themes. Even those who don't even like anime love it. Traditionally, the 2003 anime is the most popular; however, the Truer to the Text Brotherhood has become a gateway series as well.
  • You wouldn't think it, but stories abound of guys and gals who got into anime thanks to watching Rurouni Kenshin on Toonami.
  • One of the first well-dubbed series imported into the United States was Ranma ½. Having a good dub helped, but the manga was a breakout hit too. Any Rumiko Takahashi series functions as a gateway series, thanks to her impeccable skills of characterization that transcend cultural boundaries. Just look at how many people in more recent years got hooked on anime after watching InuYasha on [adult swim].
  • The films of Studio Ghibli, especially those helmed by Hayao Miyazaki, and especially those that were given wide theatrical release and a celebrity-filled dub by Disney. Major films include My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and especially Spirited Away, which gained exposure and a lot of new converts when it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
  • Genres inside a medium do it too. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Kanon, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, CLANNAD, and AIR have converted many a shoujo fan to the seinen series they once dismissed as fanservicey junk.
  • MD Geist was one of the first anime titles to break into the billboard top 10 video charts in the US in 1992 and introducing many people to both ultra violent anime for the first time.
  • AKIRA is widely credited with introducing the anime feature film to the West in the late 1980s. Alas, Manga Entertainment capitalised on this by releasing a tide of unmitigated pap straight to video which left the general impression that all anime was Legend of the Overfiend and Violence Jack.
  • An early "gateway movie" for many early otaku was the Dirty Pair movie Project Eden. Many came to it through Adam Warren's Amerimanga adaption of the characters, and it was frequently fansubbed.
  • Battle of the Planets caused many fans to look into anime when they discovered, to their surprise, that the show they had enjoyed as a child was actually Japanese (and heavily edited).
  • Initial D is something of a Gateway Series for car guys to get into manga and anime.
    • Inversely the series has also been a Gateway Series for many anime and manga fans to car scene.
    • The games too are like this. If you've never played arcade racers competitively before, Initial D Arcade Stage will help you break yourself in.
  • Kannazuki no Miko could be considered a Gateway Series for Yuri, or an attempted one, for mixing robots and the standard young male robot pilot that could get the girl...but really leading into Seinen about Schoolgirl Lesbians. It's less so in the 2010s though, as it's seen as outdated and cliche, however it was a common gateway yuri series.
  • Maria-sama ga Miteru is probably the Yuri Genre gateway series.
  • For several people, ARIA is a gateway series to Slice of Life anime. For others, the gateway into this genre was Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, K-On! or CLANNAD.
  • GaoGaiGar (or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann for a more recent example) is an excellent way to introduce someone to the Super Robot / Humongous Mecha genre.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water managed to convert many Japanese proto-fans when it aired in 1990.
  • Sci-fi Channel's initial "Japanimation Week", back in the early-mid 1990's, consisting of Casshan: Robot Hunter, 8-Man After, Project A-ko: The Vs. Battles, Demon City Shinjuku, Lily C.A.T., Galaxy Express 999, and Robot Carnival stretched across the whole week. These and a few other movies subsequently went into the channel's "Saturday Anime" rotation. And let's not forget TBS' late-night showings of heavily edited anime such as Vampire Hunter D.
  • Tenchi Muyo! or Love Hina as gateways to the Harem Genre.
  • Inverted with Eyeshield 21, where the series instead is a gateway to get anime nerds into US American football.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura is considered by many to be one of the best magical girl series of all time, not only because of its own merits, but because it was a gateway series into the Magical Girl genre or anime itself, or encouraged fans to explore Magical Girl shows beyond the Magical Girl Warrior mold.
  • The first Yu-Gi-Oh! series. A lot of younger tropers probably grew up with it before even knowing what anime was.
    • Heck, this is one of 4Kids's redeeming graces, via their dubs of the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh anime. It helps that both franchises were wildly successful as well.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne aired on Fox for a while, then got cancelled. Whether it was this or Bandai releasing the VHS tapes two years before its broadcast, no one knows how exactly, but this anime introduced a lot of fans to anime in general, and many cite it as their personal favorite because they were surprised at how different it looked from other shows. It took risks, it looked great, it had compelling characters, and it was basically unlike anything they've ever seen.
  • Many girls in Canada and the UK got into anime thanks to Futari wa Pretty Cure.
  • Over the years, The Castle of Cagliostro has been used by anime fans as a jumping-on point for the Lupin III franchise, as well as anime in general. This can get very ironic considering the titular character's actions and personality in the movie don't quite match up with any of his other incarnations. [adult swim] chose to air Lupin III (Red Jacket) episodes, which provided another surge of popularity for the franchise. Experienced fans have been able to note differences on Lupin opinions based on what another fan's gateway to the franchise was.
    • One tangential gateway for Lupin was the Stern laserdisc arcade game [1]Cliff Hanger from 1983. It took about 85% Cagliostro footage, 10% from The Mystery of Mamo and bits and pieces from other Lupin movies and turned them into a Dragon's Lair like game.
  • At the start of The New '10s, three shows, thanks to immense critical acclaim, became arguably the biggest catalysts for a revived interest in anime.
  • Fruits Basket introduced many people to shojo.
  • As with the Western comics and superhero movies example below, a lot of anime fans get into the manga, light novel and visual novel series their favorite shows are based on. It doesn't hurt that there's already a lot of overlap between manga and anime fandom as it is. Anime adaptions are the main reason why these media have Western interest at all.
  • Sword Art Online became a very popular anime and brought several new people into anime as well as isekai.
  • The opening and closing themes to a lot of anime are a Gateway Series to Japanese music.
  • There are a few anime fans on the internet that got interested in Idol Anime (or idols period) thanks to Love Live! and The iDOLM@STER.
  • While it might seem odd that Zombie Land Saga is another idol gateway, the series is a commentary on the idol industry that comes from a place of affection, a reconstruction that affirms the positives with full awareness of the negatives.
  • Anime and manga are common sources for page images on this very wiki. Raise your hand if you've ever checked out a new series because of a page image.
  • For anime fans, Detective Conan is a gateway series to Detective Fiction, especially the kind involving Great Detectives.
  • Sailor Moon and its reboot Sailor Moon Crystal are the main gateway works into Magical Girl Warrior series. Sally the Witch is an old gateway series for Magical Girl works in general. Cardcaptor Sakura is another 90s magical girl series that is a gateway into magical girls. People who grew up in the 2000s often have Tokyo Mew Mew, Ojamajo Doremi, and Shugo Chara! as their gateways into magical girls, while older fans often got into magical girl series through Lyrical Nanoha and Mai-HiME. In the 2010s however Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the gateway series into magical girls, but also has an averse effect as many fans of it dislike non-deconstructive magical girl series. Rival Yuki Yuna is a Hero is also a mild gateway series as well, often when watched alongside Madoka. In Japan, the Pretty Cure anime has been a consistent gateway series since the mid-2000s, but the franchise is less popular internationally and is usually viewed by people who already like magical girls.
  • Sports anime has gone through several gateway series though the ages. Hajime no Ippo and Ashita no Joe are old examples and are still popular gateway series for boxing fans. Captain Tsubasa is a 90s example for football fans while Slam Dunk was for basketball fans. In the 2000s Big Windup!, The Prince of Tennis, and Eyeshield 21 were gateways in sports anime. The genre received a resurgence in the 2010s with series like Haikyuu!!, Ace of the Diamond, Yowamushi Pedal, and Kuroko no Basuke. Free! and Yuri!!! on Ice are two 2010s series that attracted people to sports anime with their use of Cast Full of Pretty Boys and Homoerotic Subtext.
  • One Punch Man often gets recommended as a good anime to show people who don't (know they) like anime. It has a cynical sense of humour that translates well, and focuses on superheroes, a Western genre. The spoofs of Tokusatsu tropes are done in a way general enough to make sense to anyone who has ever seen Power Rangers or even Doctor Who.
  • Azumanga Daioh was a popular gateway series in the 2000s and still gets recommended. It's short, comedic, and its humour isn't "too Japanese" for viewers not accustomed to Japanese works. Unlike a lot of other Schoolgirl Series, it also isn't quite as full of anime tropes that might be off-putting for newer anime fans.
  • Yo-Kai Watch is this for non-Japanese people and Japanese mythology, more specifically youkai.
  • Girlfriends is a common gateway into Yuri Genre manga.
  • Bloody or scary anime like Hell Girl, Higurashi: When They Cry, Elfen Lied, and Another are gateways into horror anime. They're also gateway into anime in general as people become fans for the horror and then look for other series.
  • Serial Experiments Lain is a mindscrewy anime that's considered a classic in part because it was a gateway to so many in the 1990s and 2000s. It especially is a gateway into darker, oftentimes less mainstream anime.
  • The 60s anime Gigantor is a very early example of an anime that worked as a gateway for non-Japanese viewers.

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